Tag: Jesus Christ

Not Fooling Anyone (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i1.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and more importantly….

Live what I believe.

Advertisements

The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

To be able to pick a piece of fruit from the tree and eat it is one of the great experiences of life.  

I remember, years ago, when I lived in Oak Harbor, Ohio and experiencing the thrill of picking cherries from our trees in our back yard.  I still remember climbing those trees and sitting high up on one of the branches and picking and eating fresh cherries by the hand full.  I still reflect in amazement that was part of my childhood.  I surely did not appreciate the experience at the time.

I am not sure that I can ever remember eating cherries in my adult life that were as fresh and sweet as those I picked back in those days.

Fresh fruit is the ultimate sign of life from a fruit tree. It tells you, without any doubt, this tree is alive!  And because of that life we enjoy the fruit.

There is one more thing I think about when my thoughts wander to this topic of fruit-  fresh fruit has a sweetness to it.  It’s as if one of the great evidences of fresh fruit is a sweet subtle taste that makes you want more.

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

What tells the world, as they walk by, that you are alive in Christ?

It’s the fruit!

Here’s how Paul describes the fruit that comes from us when we are alive in Christ,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The thing about this kind of fruit is that others should be drawn to it, there’s a https://syntheticgospel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/good-tree.jpgsweetness about our lives that should make them want to be around us.  The fruit of the Spirit coming out of our lives should draw others to us and ultimately to Christ.

It’s the same thing that happened when Jesus was here… people loved being with Him.

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

So this is what I am pondering today. In clear self-evaluation, I am wondering if the fruit that I produce is pointing others to see Christ in me?  I want to be recognized by the fruit of the Spirit.  However, I am reminded of the times that no one could see Christ in me because I was too full of myself. 

There was no room for fruit to grow.

Too often, I was caught up in the throes of the dogma of religion and not in living in the freedom that being alive in Christ brings. 

As I reflect, my challenge to you, is for you to evaluate what is the evidence of the life of Christ in you?

Does the fruit of your life have the sweet taste of God’s presence or the bitter taste of self and religion?

Is there evidence that you are alive in Christ?  How does it taste to those around you?

Dear Santa… This Is All I Want For Christmas

With some trepidation, I decided to publish my personal letter to Santa this year.  All of my life I have kept my communications with Santa private in fear that it might hurt my chances of having my wishes fulfilled. Though my last 50 plus attempts have failed, at this point I don’t feel I have a lot to lose.

Dear Santa,

I think I have been good this year, or at least I’ve tried very hard to be good.  Ok, in all honesty, I could probably say that I have not been actively bad,  or at least I have not been actively bad “all that often”.  That being dear-santasaid, I guess I could use some clearer definitions on exactly how “you” define good.  That would be helpful in my future endeavors.

I’ll keep my list short because I know you’ve got to fill the stockings of all those so-called “innocent” children who are in fact riddled with dark, primal impulses and conditioned and overwhelmed by commercialism and the media.

Let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on your years of marketing skills. (Yes, I am kissing up to you. You probably get that a lot this time of year) You must be very proud of the product you’ve sold each year. 

Over the years, you and your staff have done a wonderful job in “selling” Christmas to the masses.  As a matter of fact, stores have put up Christmas displays as early as September and you have even convinced radio stations to play Christmas songs as Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.comearly as October. Not to mention the endless loop of Christmas movies that play on the Hallmark Channel. 

Again kudos!!!

But I see trouble on the horizon and I understand that my previous letters to you have been unsuccessful and probably unread, but I am holding on to my wishes and remain hopeful that this year you will make an exception and read this one. 

After all, being a kid is a lot of fun even without Christmas, but being an adult is seriously not-fun most of the time.

I know you might consider that accepting a list from me would be setting a precedent that you do not want fulfill, but, in my opinion, the whole Christmas project needs to be radically re-envisioned. I don’t know if you’ve looked at your traditional client base lately, but they aren’t exactly filled with believers.

I hope you have a nice Christmas, but if you don’t turn up this year, I’m prepared not to believe in you anymore, and frankly, you need all the followers you can get. Trust me, I know a lot of people who are having serious doubts. If you do exist, you need to re-target your market to include a more mature demographic. Because in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not the kids that keep you in business. It’s adults. And it won’t be hard to find someone else to put on a red suit, stick on a beard and work one day a year. Get what I’m saying?

There are a lot of movies that allude to the fact santathat you don’t exist. But I am holding on that you do indeed exist even if it is somewhere deep in the confines of my imagination.

So, Nick – if I may be so familiar – I was hoping to keep it real and talk man-to-Santa.

The things I really want for Christmas cannot be bought.  Like the Grinch, who learned that Christmas doesn’t come from a store, I am not asking for anything to be bought specifically for me. I am at the point in my life that if I want anything that can be Christmas Morepurchased, I will buy it myself.

That does not mean that I am not asking for some things for me.  Honestly, I am not asking out of selfishness but out of a desire to be a better man tomorrow than the one I am today.

I learned a long time ago that Christmas means a little bit more than most people consider. No offense, but one thing is for sure, it’s not about you. More importantly, it is not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ.  It is really only about HIM… but I’m sure you already know that. 

On that note, let me share with you my Christmas list this year.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to help out this year.

This year, in no particular order, I am asking for…

  • The ability to turn on the news without seeing acts of mass horror and terror.
  • That every person would truly understand the gift of grace that God offers to each one of us.
  • The good sense to be gracious for life and health.
  • The ability to live my life so that others see Christ in me.
  • The opportunity to make things right with those that have found fault in me.
  • An understanding that life is too short to worry about what everyone else is saying and doing. 
  • The opportunity to rid myself of selfishness, love of money, pride and rebellion.
  • The ability to humble myself before God and before others.
  • A deeper appreciation for my employer and the career I have been allowed to be a part of.
  • Knowledge to see the wealth in life that goes far beyond material things.
  • The closeness of true friends.
  • Thankfulness for the comfort of the home my wife has made for me.
  • Good health for all of my family.
  • Continued growth, health and protection for my grandsons.
  • The ability to lose any bitterness in my life.
  • That my heart will know nothing but love, forgiveness, and mercy for others.

So, in closing, Santa, that is what I am wishing for.  I could go on but I realize you are on a time constraint and it may take few hours for you to pull this together for me.  Again, if you choose to not visit me this year I will try to understand.

At the end of the day, please do your part to “Keep Christ in Christmas”.  It is important that you not forget this.keepchristbb350

In a time of multiple tragedies, fear and terrorism, we need love, mercy and compassion more than we ever have. Now is not the time to dwell on material things.    

Santa, if you can take anything from all of this, it would be that the things of this earth are not permanent and they will perish; if you are spending your whole life building it off of material things and not on the meaningful things, you will always find yourself missing something.

So if you’re celebrating Christmas this year, please remember all that our Savior has done for us and to make an effort to reciprocate that into the world around us.

No matter what you celebrate, or even if you don’t, Merry Christmas, and I wish upon you the utmost love and peace that only Christ can give.

Best Regards,

David

Drop Your Stone

Because of recent events, I have to admit my hands have been full of rocks.

hand-holding-stonesI’ve wanted to throw them at certain people for quite some time now.  Every night after spending a short time scrolling down my FACEBOOK wall, I was adding names to my list of people who I felt needed a stone chucked in their direction.

I was getting rather upset.  My hands were packed full of rocks and I had quite a pile of them at my feet just waiting for me to pick up. To say that I was ready to begin catapulting them across the wide spectrum of people I disagreed with would be an understatement.  Many of my rocks were destined for those I have serious differences with. Particularly with those that have different beliefs than me. But some of these rocks I held were intended for some fellow believers.  Specifically those fellow believer’s that are part of  the ill-defined segment known vicariously as “Christian Millennials”.  Many of whom choose to take an opposing side of issues that are not in line with how they were raised.  Many turning their back on the very foundational principles that their parents taught them and then they spend most of their time and thoughts on bashing (throwing rocks) at this same foundation.  Many taking joy when a fellow believer fails in their Spiritual walk.

Defined as those that are 24 to 36 or so, depending on who you read.  They’ve been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine.  There is a common belief that they feel “entitled” by just about everyone.  The bottom line is that these “millennials” believe they are right on just about every question of life.  Even if they do not think they are right, they just know that you are wrong.

And they are leaving the church in droves.

Now it would appear that I am making too broad of a statement and painting a picture that all people in this group are the same… they are not. Many are searching for the truth and the church truly does need to find common ground with them. Also, before I come across as just throwing judgmental hand grenades at them, please read this to the end.

It is said that 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s.  One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no belief in God or at least not the God they were raised to believe in.”

So there are 80 million millennialists (give or take) in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to the church.  But most of the proposals I’ve read fall into two camps.

The first goes something like this:  The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach, but it is clear they do not want their parents church.

Others demand a more fundamental change. They insist the church soften itjesus-thumps-up1s positions on key doctrines and social issues. They say, our culture is secularized. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. Let’s marginalize God and/or Jesus Christ as simply our “buddy” to help us out (with a wink and a smile) when we are in trouble and that everyone can live their life as they wish regardless of eternal consequence.  They believe we must abandon core beliefs and restrictive moral teachings of the traditional church. They believe the Bible is intended as a guideline, not necessarily absolute truth. They tend to question every story found in the Bible. It surly could not have happened the way the Bible said it did and if you do believe the Bible as fact, you are a racist, bigoted, hypocritical, uneducated homophobe.  More importantly… you are just plain wrong.

They really believe that Christianity must “change or die.”

I have issues with both approaches.

I want a pastor that is relevent and up to date with the issues of life for all members of my church. I want him to be aware of current events but he doesn’t have to look like me.  He shouldn’t have to look like them either.  Chasing just the “coolness” factor at church won’t work.

I have horrible memories of a pastor lecturing me at summer camp when I was a teenager about the evils of a rock band that had not put out an album in 10 years. He came to the “service” dressed like me and tried to use language that he thought would relate to me. He had no clue and more importantly he was trying to relate and be “cool” but failed miserably. 

In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 5 years ago.  No one wants to see a 60-year-old pastor acting like he is 25.  It never comes off well.  Does this mean that a pastor is “done” in his ministry in his 50’s or heaven forbid his 40’s? What will be “cool” when these “Christian Millennialist’s”  turn 50?  Will they be as relevant as they present themselves today?  I think not. What will these, all-knowing (but have no real life experience) people do when the next generation comes along and has a different way doing things and have their own version of being “cool”? Will they see error in their ways? Or will it be too late to even matter?

The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their attendance. When the premise of your take on Biblical accuracy of truth starts with “God couldn’t have” or “God didn’t” it is a slippery slope to complete unbelief.

In addition, I think  that in solely conceptualizing God as a nice, kind, “Jesus is my best friend,” lover of kittens and puppies way that we have, we lose some of the reverence for the righteousness of a Holy God. Make no mistake, there will be eternal consequences for the way we live our lives.

While I am still coming to terms with how to exactly handle my inner feelings in dealing with them, I still believe that people like me and those of the church need to find common ground with those that carry these beliefs.

Now back to my hand full of rocks…

throwing rocksI had enough. I was tired of seeing these people getting away with throwing rocks at other people who I felt did not deserve the bashing they were receiving. It was now my turn.  As I scrolled down my FACEBOOK feed and I was picking up more rocks and taking more names to receive them. I was going to respond to every post I disagreed with. Everyone was going to know what these people were really like.  I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted retaliation. I wanted to prove them wrong.

I threw a couple of rocks at a few of them.

But as I raised my arm to sling another of my well-deserved, verbal judgemental stones… a still small voice in my heart said:

“Before you throw another one… Maybe we need to have a little conversation as a reminder?”

Arguing, I began to tell the Lord that I was justified! They were wrong and I was right and it was important that everyone know!

As I thought about justifying my argument to set people straight, I was reminded of the story of a woman caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning.  Jesus faced this mob that was eager to stone this woman. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge: “anyone who has no sin in their life should step forward and throw the first stone”.  Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!”

Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin.

Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. 

Reminding myself of this story, I let a few stones drop from my hand.

I’ve never molested a child or shot anyone or taken something that didn’t belong to me, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot.  I am not perfect and I need grace and forgiveness.

I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you?

A few more stones fell from my hand to the ground.

I pondered three Biblical truths:

  • No one is without sin. (Romans 3:23)
  • Treat others as you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.  It’s not my job.

Regardless of my “feelings” or “thoughts”, it is not my job to stone those who I think are wrong.

Maybe this is the common ground we need to have.  Instead of feeling like we need to throw stones at those we disagree with maybe we all need a reminder of our own sin. It is impossible to be self-righteous when you recognize the sin in your own life. I think we will struggle to judge others when the grace that covers our sin is front and center on your mind.

I dropped the remaining stones to the ground.

I am going back inside my glass house now.  First to wash my hands, secondly to wash my windows because it seems I haven’t been seeing things clearly.

Again, I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.

Throwing stones…why does it seem as if everyone is guilty of doing this? Why are we so quick to judge?

Whatever you’re thinking of throwing… just don’t.

Drop your stone.

 

Questions For God

I have heard people often say, “When I get to heaven I’m going to ask God…..”  and what follows is their pressing question, their unanswered prayer, or their pain from when it seemed God wasn’t there.  

questions-for-godOften it has been, for them, a stumbling block in their walk with God.  Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Why did He let my child die? Where was He when……?

All of those unanswered questions can shake our faith or at least make us wonder about the plan and goodness of God.  And yet,  in the midst of the unanswered question, we know there is an answer, and it nags at us that God has left us with a question mark, an empty place, a doubt.

Why didn’t He?  How could God allow that to happen to me? 

My experience is that most often we blame God for something we actually caused!  

We go where we know we shouldn’t.  We make bad choices.  We basically ignore God until we are in trouble…then we blame Him for not protecting us from our own choices. 

So why didn’t God make people so they wouldn’t sin? If that were the case, we would be like robots with no will of our own.  God did not make us that way. He gave us the ability to choose. So when we look at the tragedies in our world, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us and ask why God allowed it, we find the answer by looking at a very similar question that was asked of Jesus.  

Apparently a tower had fallen on a group of Gentiles, and some were suggesting that it happened because it was God’s judgment. But Jesus said, “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too” (Luke 13:4–5).

Effectively, Jesus was saying, “Look, guys. People die. Bad things happen. We don’t always have to say that it was God’s judgment. This happened, and it doesn’t always make sense. But listen. You had better get ready, because you could die, too.”

Death will knock at every single door. No one is exempt. It could happen to any of us. It could happen tonight or tomorrow. The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of every one person will die. You can’t escape death. We all have an appointment with it. Job said, “O God, remember that my life is but a breath” (Job 7:7). And the Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).

We don’t want to talk about death. We don’t want to discuss it. But we can’t avoid the inevitable.

So here is my question for you: What will happen to you after you die? According to the Bible, therquestion marke are two options. There is heaven, and there is hell. There are no other choices. Maybe instead of asking the why question, then, we should be asking the what question: “What do I do now?”

The answer is to turn to Jesus Christ. No one ever suffered like Jesus did. Though He was God, He also was fully man. And when those spikes went into His hands, He felt pain just like you and I would feel. Real blood coursed through His veins and spilled to the ground as He hung on the cross and died for the sins of the world. It was real rejection that He felt as His own, handpicked disciples turned away from Him for the most part. It was real loneliness that He experienced as He hung on the cross.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me” (Philippians 1:21–23 NLT).

I don’t think Paul was saying that he was looking forward to dying. Rather, he was saying that he knew what was on the other side. He knew what he had to look forward to. I think he also understood that in heaven, all of his questions would be answered. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then all of your questions – all of your whys – will one day be answered, too.

So here is the proposition for the day-  if you could ask God just one question what would it be?

Life Is A One Time Offer, Use It Well

Depression took another life yesterday.  Robin Williams is no longer with us.

Who can pretend to understand the brilliance like  Robin Williams had?  Meteoric, volcanic, fast, furious and funny.

Perhaps there is a price for such brilliance.

As I read about his life today, it is apparent that Robin Williams had lived for a long time with a darkness at the periphery of his vision.

I could not help but reflect on the fact that life is sshort-life-quotes-1hort.  

The Bible says repeatedly that it’s like a vapor, a mist that is quickly gone.  We are here for just a few years and then…..we are gone. 

Doesn’t seem fair but that is the way it has been since the beginning of time.

Robin Williams obviously was dealing with more than I can understand but what I do know is that all of the success and fame did not bring him the happiness and contentment he was looking for.  He was searching for something more than what he accomplished.

What do you think he was looking for?

I have lived long enough and have experienced enough loss that I am keenly aware that this life is a one time offer, use it well.  I am also at the point in my life that I am looking towards the next phase in my life and I realize that many of the options I had in life I once considered possible are not.

So… life is short…  what do you want?  What do you want to do?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want to accomplish?  

I think, if we were honest, most of us would reply, “I DON’T KNOW!”

Our simple answers of wanting happiness, success, significance and other words freely spoken in our culture just don’t get to the real heart of the question.  Many philosophers have asked this and tried to answer it from their perspective.  It begins with “Why am I here?”, “What’s my purpose?” and ends with ultimate destiny, but let’s not goFigure-Out-What-You-Want-to-Do-With-Your-Life-in-8-Easy-Steps there today.  I would rather get to the heart of the question.

These are questions I’m pondering as I enter this next phase of my life.   What do I want?

It’s a hard question!  I could easily respond, I want to be happy.  I want to be remembered.  I want to do something significant with my life, but honestly…maybe too honestly…none of those are in my control.  

They are the things I hope will happen, but I can’t pursue them.  It just doesn’t work that way.

How about you ? What do you want?  

At the core of who we are comes down to the fact that we all want meaning. We all want to know our lives are not a waste. We want to matter.

Built into us as humans is a desire for something more than food and comfort.  We want to matter!  That’s not an animal instinct.  That comes from our Creator.  He made us to ask this question. God made us with a desire for more and it’s not success, a title, a name that’s remembered, a lot of money, a nice house or car.

It’s none of these things.

I personally believe that true contentment in this life can only be found in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

As we ponder the death of a celebrity that was as gifted as Robin Williams,  we have to accept the fact that all of his success was still not enough for him to feel content in this life.  I have my personal opinions on where he will spend eternity, but I am not going to judge Robin Williams… like all of us, he will have to give an account of his own life when he stands before his Creator.  For all of his talent and for all of his success he will still need the very same grace that we all need to be reconciled back to God.

My prayer is that for anyone reading this will accept the gift of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.  Find your contentment in this short life through that relationship with Him. 

Because this life is a one time offer, use it well. 

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty

It’s the day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

empty-crossThe cross is empty, He no longer hangs there suspended between heaven and hell. The tomb is still holding the body of Jesus Christ.

Many people were celebrating His death, they were happy that this man who had claimed He was God’s Son was gone.   However, there were a few people who were not so happy that Jesus Christ was gone.  They had witnessed the miracles and they sat under His teachings and now they were confused as to what was going to happen next.

I try to imagine what it was like for those who were so close to Him after they  witnessed such an atrocity.  Imagine the isolation and hopelessness that all those close to Jesus felt on that day so many years ago. I am sure seeds of doubt were sprouting in their minds and hearts.

The shock of how quickly it happened, they just had dinner with Him a few days ago and now He is gone.  I imagine their fear.  With every unknown  noise they would hear where they were hiding would be the sounds of them coming to get them and they too would be next to experience crucifixion. 

Everything they had hoped for was gone. They were now in hiding. They were scattered and their plans were shattered. They had given up everything for a man that was now gone.

What now? Where do we turn? How do we begin to rebuild? All they had left was their thoughts and their fears.  They spent this day all those years ago in reflection.  Remembering the words of Christ and wondering what was going to happen next.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had days similar to this as well.  My hopes came crashing down.  How I thought things  would be turned out to be nothing but isolation. In this life, there will be days like that. There will be moments when nothing seems to be as it should and I wonder what is going to happen next.

What those that were in hiding the day after the crucifixion forgot was that the death of Jesus Christ had paid the debt of sin for all of mankind.  No other sacrifice was needed. God was in control. He had a plan and Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and we were given a way to have our sins forgiven and be reconciled back to God. Welcome to the day of Grace. We received a gift we didn’t deserve. We were given the opportunity to find grace.  All you have to do is accept it. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  – Ephesians 2: 8-9

To find this grace all you need to do is acknowledge that you are a sinner. You need to believe that Jesus Christ was your substitute when He died on that cross.  You have to believe that thgracee blood that was shed, his death, burial and resurrection were for just for you.  Confess with your mouth that you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and you need forgiveness of your sins.  Ask to receive Him into your life as your Savior.  That is how you find salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is what He did on the cross that provides this grace and salvation.  All of your good works mean nothing.  We cannot work our way to heaven.  Again.. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.  This opportunity to receive this salvation is because of the grace that was given at the foot of the cross. 

I accepted this grace on November 7, 1970.

Make today the day of salvation in your life.  A new start… a new day of hope… a new way to live your life.  All given because of God’s Grace.

I have taken a journey through some deep personal thoughts this week.  As I sat in church last Sunday I felt like it was what I needed to do.  Grace was needed for my salvation but that did not make me perfect.  I still sin.  I still have struggles. I needed to spend this week reflecting on grace that was poured out not only to me but to all mankind.  I needed to reflect on how I walk as a follower of Jesus.  And as reflected on the years of my life, I found that I’m not as good a follower of Christ as I need to be.  When it comes to me giving grace to those who I need forgive, I am not amazing.  But as I begin to feel the weight of my failure and sin,  I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

The reality is that I have a pile of failures in character.  I have a pile a mile high of my failures in extending love.  Words can’t describe my pile of sin.  It’s not pretty.  Not pretty at all.   When I reflect on the story of my life,  I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see.   I’m not talking about appearance, that ship sailed long ago.   I’m talking about the mirror of my heart.  I’m talking about my mind and what it thinks.  I’m talking about my eyes and what they see.   I’m talking about my ears and what they hear.   I see the heart and what it should beat for and what it rarely does.  When I look in the mirror, I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

Today is a day of reflection. If you’re like me, I reflect on all that I’ve listed above. That list was nailed to a cross that wasn’t his.  If you’re reading this, it wasn’t just mine, it was yours too. Because of that sacrifice, each of us  that have accepted His grace and salvation can stand in the court of God and hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

We still need to ask God to forgive us for our sins… because God’s grace declares us not guilty for the penalty of our sins, we still need to make sure our relationship is where it needs to be with him.  We have to continue to work on being the believer He wants us to be.  We will never be perfect and we will always have something to work on in the quest to be a servant that God is please in.

On Sunday morning, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate His victory over death.  For those that have accepted Jesus Christ into their life will know that hope and eternal life is captured by this resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

But today is the memorial and the reflection.  Take the time to consider what your relationship with Jesus Christ is. Today can be the day of salvation for you.  If you know Him than prepare for the remembrance of His victory over death. 

Hold on friends.   Tomorrow is the celebration.

Sunday is a stone’s roll away. 

Because of our Savior’s death on the cross…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

And that truly is Amazing Grace.

Finding Grace at the Foot of The Cross

Let me start off tonight’s posting on grace with a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I admit that I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll explain in a minute.

Second, I have issues with feet. I am not a fan of bare feet. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me.  I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things.

Forgiveness and feet are just two of the MANY things I have issues with.

I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should.  I’m working on it and God’s not done with me yet. 

Now what do these two issues have to do with grace?

In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable.

He is just days away from dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world.  He’s with his closest frithe-last-supperends eating dinner. He knows them… He know what is going to happen.  He is with the very men that will soon scatter.  They won’t have His back.  One will betray Him outright.  Another will deny he even knew Him.

If these people were in my life and I knew that they were going to walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?

As if the meal wasn’t enough, He goes far beyond the call of duty.  He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet.

He washed the feet of friends that would bail on him.  He washed the feet of the man that would betray Him.  He washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing Him.  He knew exactly how it would all happen.

These men didn’t deserve the forgiveness of the Savior.  They didn’t deserve the act of humility given to them by having their feet washed by God’s Son.  No…  they did not deserve these things but that is what Jesus Christ gave them.

That is Grace.

When I thinkfeet-wash3 about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive.  I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations.  Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with?  Could I even do it?  Could I wash the feet of those I need to forgive? Is an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” a modern-day version of that?  Could a phone call be like filling that basin and kneeling before those I need to forgive?  I think so but I am not sure. 

This I do know… I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.  That needs to begin this week.

Jesus was placed on the Cross for our sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you accepted His grace?  Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that is found at the foot of the Cross.

“…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado

That is Grace.

Storm Warning

Last night, as I drove home in the midst of the 3rd winter storm in the past two-weeks. I found myself complaining out loud in my car. I was giving Mother Nature a tongue lashing.  I am sick of the storstorm-warningms and I am already tired of this winter.  As I drove my car through the drifts of snow, I realized that all my complaining and tongue lashings were not going to help.  I was complaining to God about something He already planned to happen. I believe that God allows storms in our life to teach us. Storms are an intended part of our lives.

One author said, “we are all either just leaving a storm or about to enter one.”

So why are we so surprised by their presence in our life?  No matter how much we prepare for them they always seem to be unexpected, unpredictable, unwanted, and they always produce fear.  The only answer I can think of that addresses the question of why we are so surprised by them is because the storms in our life remind us that we are not truly in control of our lives and that scares all of us!

I am reminded of a story found in the book of Mark, chapter 4. It is the story of a storm in the lives of the disciples.  A storm that was planned by God to teach them, help them and illuminate them.  It’s a fascinating story and there is so much in the story that captivates me.  As I read narratives like this I imagine I’m in the boat with them, wet, afraid, struggling, and then I look to Jesus and He’s asleep!  How could He be asleep?  Doesn’t He realize what trouble we are in? Doesn’t He care?

We all feel this at times in the midst of the storm.  When storms come in our lives, just as Job asked in the midst of his storm, we all ask, “God, don’t you care?”  What they missed (and honestly we miss it too) is that God was in the boat with them!  If they go down so does he!  Doesn’t it strike you as strange that Jesus was asleep?  Don’t you wonder at times in your own life, “is God asleep, has He forgotten about me, doesn’t He care?”  You may have actually said it out loud, 

“God, WAKE UP!  I’m in trouble.”  

But what we and the disciples miss is that God is with us.  Do you realize how big those words are? God is with us.  It means He’s in the boat too! It means He’s invested in you, in your life, in your storm.  It means “He’s got this!”  It means, if you are in the storm and He’s with you, it’s part of His plan.

Ok, so I ask as I write that, how can a storm be part of His plan?  Because in the storm our senses become alive, StormSignsharp, focused and we can see more clearly than we ever do in normal days.  In this storm the disciples feared the storm, but in just moments their fears were redirected to Jesus.

Storms bring clarity.  They focus our passions, our desires, our lives on what’s most important.  In a recent storm in our area the news crew interviewed a woman who had lost everything in a fire in her home.  As she stood in front of her devastated home, nothing left of all she had, she said, “we are so blessed, no one was hurt.”  And suddenly clarity comes to her life.  The stuff can be replaced and in that moment, in the midst of losing everything, we discover that we have actually lost nothing at all!

As you face your next storm realize two things, 1. God is with you.  This didn’t happen without His presence or permission, and 2. He has a plan and purpose in the storm for your life.  

In the midst of your next storm will you discover it?  

Will you see that all of life is about knowing Him and trusting Him?  

Will you discover that He has never left you, He’s with you….even in the midst of your storm.

Finding Purpose in Life

As I pass the five-year anniversary of this blog, I have taken some time to reflect over the topics I have shared since I started writing.  I have covered just about all aspects of my Christian walk and along the way I have told some personal stories from my life.  It is hard for me to write about someone or something that I do not have a connection with.  I have tried to be open and be “real” in the sense that most of the advice and experiences I’ve shared are things that actually happened to me.

I’ve talked about some things that I am not proud of and I have shared most of my failures and even some of my victories. If you take the time to go back and read the archives of the posts from when I started writing you would find me in a different place in life than I am today.  A mere five years ago, I was still very bitter and unforgiving of those that I felt turned their back on me when I struggled in life and my Spiritual walk. 

I struggled with losing my ministry and I struggled with the realization that I was the only one to blame.  I could not find peace and I could not forgive myself for the damage I had done to my kids, not to mention what I did to my relationship with God. 

Many people never really find their purpose in life as it pertains to their relationship with God.  They spend their life trying to find it and they viewed their “purpose in life” as something that they would find in their future. I found “my purpose” very early in life.  As a believer, when you were right where you were meant to be, doing exactly what God had intended for you to do it is easy to know what your purpose in life is.finding-your-lifes-purpose-3 Lose that and your life is suddenly in a free fall. This is what happened to me.  I lost my purpose and I experienced fifteen years of really dark times in my spiritual walk.  

I had lost my purpose in life as it related to my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I remember desperately longing to know my purpose and wondering if I was ever going to find it again.  For years, I couldn’t relax in my life (and otherwise) for fear that I was so off course and somehow I would never be used of God again. 

That is when I found my pen again.  I say “again” because years ago I would write and share my ramblings and perspectives of a young man trying to find his way through this life.  I have stashed away dozens of  those notebooks from that period of my life.  I have made sure that they will never ever re-surface or be read again… at least not while I am alive.  

Whether or not people read the words I write is really not that important.  God knows the words I write because they are the words that reflect my heart.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have no doubt that writing this blog was what I was supposed to do over these past five years.  It was my purpose in life.  It was what I was supposed to do and more importantly it was a way I could still share my faith and have a part in a ministry that could help others in their walk with Christ. 

What I have learned is that in spite of the failures in my life, God can still use me.  I have failed a thousand different ways over the years and when I came back to Him, He was faithful and true to forgive me and though I cannot be used in the same way He did years ago.  He still has a purpose for my life.

Probably that is the underlying theme of this blog.  It has been about trying to find “what the purpose in life” is after you have failed in your Christian walk with the Lord.  Can you relate?

How can you know and find life’s purpose?  I don’t suggest that you follow my lead in your journey trying to discover it because I know that God had a different plan for me and I am the one that took the detour from the original plan He had for my life.

But this is the truth I have discovered. The phrase, “What is my life’s purpose?” is one of the least helpful questions you can ask yourself. Why?   Because here’s the thing – it’s unanswerable. We’re obsessing over a question we don’t have the capacity to answer.  It is no wonder why people struggle with finding it. Purpose in life is not something that is found in the future.  Rather it is found in your words, actions and thoughts that you have today.

There is a better question for all of us, one that will help focus our efforts on today and lead us where we belong tomorrow.  We need to ask ourselves, “What is my purpose for today?”

This is the real stuff that makes a life. What is my purpose…today.

Today… am I passionately pursuing the things I know to do?

Today… am I listening to the stirring from God inside me that’s calling me forward? 

For years I was so worried about what my future “purpose” was going to look like that I missed what it was supposed to be today.  Will I have a great future moment in history? Probably not.  Will I do or say something someday in the future that will change the world?  I doubt it.  Do I know what my “future” purpose in life is? I have to say no. How could I?

What I do know is that I have to write this post today to release when I am done as planned.

Will I feel like I’ve “arrived” by having accomplished any of these things?  Will trumpets sound; will I receive an award? No. But by completing my purpose for today, I’m setting up myself for tomorrow. And by completing my purpose tomorrow, I’ll set up myself for the next day.

now is the timeIt may seem obvious, but look around. How many people in your life are waiting for some big revelation before they’ll start doing something for God? As we do the things we know to do (especially the hard things), we stumble into things we could never plan and in the process, we change our world in a thousand ways.

You have an ultimate purpose, and in the scheme of life, I’ll bet it’s something that God will be pleased in. Your purpose “today” will get you there.  How do you know what your next purpose is?  I can’t say for sure, but it starts today… not tomorrow.  Tomorrow never comes.  It starts with the needs of those who are directly in your life. Seems like a worthy place to start to me.

So maybe it’s time to give up trying to solve the unsolvable, time to give up what’s unknowable. Time to stop focusing on things that are unseeable.

Maybe it’s time to ditch the question, “What is my purpose in life?”

And replace it with, “What is my purpose for today?

For those of you that have played along over these five years and have witnessed the progression in my life, I want to say thank you and I hope that you find God’s purpose for your life … today.