Monday, December 30, 2013

Will I Recognize People In Heaven?


A good buddy and I were texting recently when he asked me an important question:  "Will I recognize my family and friends when I get to Heaven?"  Lots of people have discussed and pondered that over the centuries.  So let's have a little fun and explore that topic today.

Here are three quick thoughts:

Number one.  In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story about a rich man and Lazarus.  Lazarus died and went to Heaven.  The rich man was able to look into Heaven and he recognized Lazarus.

Number two.  In Matthew 17, some disciples of Jesus were allowed to see a glimpse Moses and Elijah, who had already passed from Earth to Heaven.  It was a rare opportunity and incredible experience.  The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah.

Number three. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, we read these words:  "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."  I believe that Paul was talking about having improved senses and a heightened awareness (seeing and knowing) on the other side of the grave.

Now, let me share with you a general observation I've made after reading and studying scripture: God makes a big deal out of relationships.  He's into loving us, and us loving Him back.  He's also into us loving each other.  In the Old and New Testaments, God calls us to healthy bonds with all those we encounter.  So the idea of us being called to Heaven and not being allowed to recognize and enjoy people we have known on Earth seems to contradict the very nature of God.

I've said all that to say this:  Yes, I do indeed believe we will recognize and enjoy our family and friends in Heaven.  We will know who they are.  They will know who we are.  And the reunions will be mighty special.

Ultimately let us remember this:  While it will be special to see our loved ones and buddies in heaven, the greatest thrill will be to see Jesus face-to-face.  He is The One who loves us eternally, unconditionally, and sacrificially.  He is The One who paved our way to Heaven in the first place. So, seeing Jesus will by far be the greatest thrill of all.  And I really look forward to that.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

1000 More



My son and I play backyard football together.  A lot!  Usually I'm the quarterback and he's the receiver.  He loves running around and catching passes.

A couple of days ago, he decided to change the rules of the game.  This is a regular occurrence with Emerson.  Ha!  Ha!  As our game was drawing to a close, he suddenly announced, "Dad, the referees have decided that four quarters of football is not enough for us today.  So we have to play 1,000 more minutes!"  I had to smile.  See, the boy loves our time together.  I get the impression he is a normal kid who wants time with his father.

1,000 more minutes...

That instantly reminded me of a hymn I grew up singing in church.  Part of it goes like this....

"When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun."
(From the hymn "Amazing Grace")

Just think about that.  One day in Heaven we will say to ourselves, "Wow, I've been here for 10,000 years, and the cool thing is eternity is only just beginning!"  Everlasting life in Heaven will be so wonderful that we will never want it to end.  The reason for this is simple:  we will enjoy the awesome presence of God, our Father.

As his father, I'm glad Emerson wants more time with me.  It makes me feel good.  And I can tell it's a big deal to him.  

Maybe I was being blessed with a preview of what Heaven will be like for me.  I'll be so happy to commune with my Heavenly Father, I'll never want it to end.  And the neat thing is, it won't end ... not after 1,000 minutes or 10,000 years.  It will last forever, and I think it will be amazing!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013 video

 

Here is my Christmas 2013 video.  I hope you enjoy it.  Many special thanks to my sweet daughter, Lizzie, for filming and editing this.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Funeral Home Flower Van

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."  Luke 2:14

This year I worked at a funeral home in South Carolina for a few months.  Man, I loved that job.  It was an awesome experience that I'll always remember.

My boss let me try a little bit of everything.  This allowed me to get a feel for the job.  One task he let me take on was handling the flower van.

Here's how it went: When someone died, people bought flowers for the family.  The flowers would all be on display in the church or chapel when folks arrived for the funeral service.  Then, when the service ended, it was time to take everyone out to the cemetery for a graveside service.  The issue was that the same flowers in the church or chapel also needed to be displayed at the cemetery where people were about to go.  So some of us had to quickly load all the flowers in the flower van as soon as the service ended.  Then we swiftly drove to the cemetery, unloaded all the flowers, strategically placed all the flowers around the gravesite, parked the van out of sight, sprinted back to the tent where everyone was about to gather, and then stood under the tent to wait for the funeral procession to arrive.  It was a race to get everything done before the family and friends arrived.  We wanted everything looking nice, and usually we succeded.  Personally, I enjoyed the excitement that came with the funeral home flower van.  It felt good to get it done right.  And it felt good when my boss would arrive at the cemetery and give us a thumbs up!

It was vital to be in a hurry with our job.

But it's dangerous to be in a hurry every second of every day.

Bobby, my boss at the funeral home, understood this perfectly.  He expected me to hustle and give my best when I was on the clock.  But he also told me on a regular basis to get rest when it was time to go home for the day.  I always appreciated how he juggled the importance of productivity and peace.

Sometimes we all need to slow down, relax, and reconnect with God's peace.  Why?  Because He never intended for us to live in a 24/7 rat race where we constantly remain an uptight bundle of nerves.  Yes, there is a time to work hard and hurry.  Absolutely!  Especially if you are in charge of a funeral home flower van.  But there is also a time to ease off the pedal, slow down, and chill out.  Seasons of relaxation and calmness are needed in our lives.  May we maintain a healthy balance of work and rest in our lives.  A reasonable dose of both will do us all a lot of good.

My prayer is that the peace of God will cover and saturate us all during this Christmas season, and that you and I will enjoy times of rest and calmness with our family and friends over the holidays.

PS:  If you want to see the funeral home I worked at, just click HERE.

Friday, December 20, 2013

When Santa Brought Me Mr. Quarterback

10 years old.  That's how old I was when Santa left a Mr. Quarterback for me in the living room at Christmas.  And man oh man, I was thrilled!  Without a doubt it was my favorite Christmas present from my childhood.

Mr. Quarterback was this cool device that could hold and pass a football.  All I had to do was place my football in the arm, point it the direction I wanted, set the timer, and take off running.  After 6 or 7 seconds, it would make a beautiful throw, and I would try to make an amazing catch.  I used to spend hours playing ball with Mr. Quarterback in our front hard.

After a couple of years, however, Mr. Quarterback started malfunctioning here and there.  The timer was a little off, and the arm got weak.  Maybe it was the wear and tear from all those passes.  Maybe it was the occasional rough weather.  Eventually, I had to retire Mr. Quarterback.  He went up to that great toy store in the sky.

Things on this Earth don't last forever.  Our favorite possessions can be here today and gone tomorrow.  Sooner or later, their time expires and they are here no more.

I've come to realize that stuff is temporary, but God is eternal.  He has no beginning and no end.  God has just always been around, and He always will be.

So we would be wise to make Him
the foundation of our lives,
the center of our attention,
the top of our priorities,
the source of our strength,
the provider of our peace,
the Savior of our souls,
and The Lord of our everything.

Yep, God is eternal.  He will always be here.  That makes Him pretty spectacular.  And that's just one more reason why our whole life ought to revolve around Him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Empty Bag


One of my 8th graders approached me at school the other day.  "Merry Christmas, Mr. Richardson!", he exclaimed as he handed me a gift.  "Oh man, thanx!", I replied.  Then I opened it up, looked inside, and saw ... nothing.  So I glanced at the kid.  He busted out laughing and said "I got ya!" before walking off.  I stood there and laughed too.  The ole empty bag trick is one that kids have been playing for generations.

It's not such a thrill to see an empty gift bag.  But it is mega-thrilling to see the empty tomb.  Let me explain... 

We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas.  Then we remember His death on Good Friday.  But we ultimately rejoice over His resurrection at Easter.  

My Savior was dead.  He had been crucified and buried on a Friday.  He was still in that tomb on Saturday.  He was in the clutches of death.  But friends, on Sunday, the third day, He walked right out of that tomb alive and well.  He had defeated death.  Many people saw Him, and He then went back up to Heaven and rejoined His Father.  Today, He is alive and well.  Loving us, preparing a place in Heaven for us, and looking out for us.

The empty bag was a bummer.  But the empty tomb of Jesus is a blessing.  Because that tomb is empty, and because Jesus is alive, our hearts are filled with the Heavenly gifts of saving grace, everlasting joy, and calming peace, just to name a few.  And if you ask me, I'll tell you that those gifts are better than anything that kid would have given me in a bag.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Crying Girl

I just don't know what to do when a girl or woman cries.  The truth is, most guys don't.  We fumble through our words and lose all clarity of thought when feminine tears fall.

I was 20 years old, and, in retrospect, clueless.  A teenage girl started crying in the middle of a Bible study I was leading during a youth retreat in Awanita Valley, North Carolina.  While we were having a group discussion, she blurted out "I don't have any friends in this group, and nobody here cares about me."  Good grief, what was I supposed to do?  That was awkward!  All I could say is, "Ok, everyone, let's just take a fifteen minute break."  Before I knew it, a few girls took the crying girl into another room to comfort her.

After fifteen minutes, everyone came back in the room.  The crying girl was now fine, and several other girls were sitting by her side.  Things looked better to me.  "Is everybody ok now?", I asked.  Chris, one of our teen guys, quickly said, "Yeah man.  It'll be alright in the morning."  All the other kids nodded in agreement.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with the Bible study.  When we finished, I pulled Chris aside and asked, "What did you mean by 'It'll be alright in the morning'?"  He quickly smiled and said, "Just check out Psalm 30:5 and you'll see what I mean."  So I went to my room, opened up my Bible to the passage, and read these words:  "Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  Then it all made sense.

That verse still means the world to me.  It reminds me that tough times don't last forever.  Hardships are temporary.  And in the end, God's people triumph and rejoice.

If you're hurting in any way, keep the following in mind:  It'll be alright in the morning.  This tough season of life will end.  You will get through.  And God will see to it that you smile and celebrate once more!

Child of God, all will be well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Pocket Inside The Pocket

My classroom keys were missing.  As a new 8th grade teacher, I was panicking.  I checked my pockets, my desktop, my backpack, my car, and every other place I could think of.  No keys!  Then I double-checked all the same locations once more.  Still, I could not find them.  I was too embarrassed to say much about it because I was just starting the job, and I didn't want to look out of sorts to people.  Filled with frustration I searched high and low all afternoon.  No luck.

Later that night I was putting my clothes in the washing machine.  As I was walking towards the laundry room, I heard a jingle noise on the floor.  I looked down and saw my keys!  Then it made sense.  My jeans had a pocket inside the pocket.  And earlier that day I had unknowingly put my keys in the inner pocket.  Fortunately, they fell out my jeans when I was about to do my laundry.

How crazy was that?  I was looking everywhere for my keys, and the whole time they were right there with me.  Right by my side.

As I think back on that, I realize that at times I've done the same thing with God.  I've had moments of loneliness, fear, grief, and pain.  And while I was going through those times, I sometimes wondered "Where is God?"  He didn't seem near to me at all.  I could not feel His presence.  It was like He had vanished.  Then someone I knew or something I read reminded me that God was right there with me.  The whole time He had been by my side and I just didn't realize it.

Jesus made this promise in Matthew 28:20:  "I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  What a promise from our Lord!  Day in and day out, rain or shine, in good times and bad, He stays here with us.  He is a faithful companion through thick and thin.

If God seems distant or missing, remember His promise and hold on to your faith.  He is there.  Closer than you think.  And He does care!  One way or another, He will see you through.  That's just how awesome God really is.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Justin Bieber Came To Carolina


My youngest daughter, Rachel, is like a lot of girls her age.  One specific way this is especially true is her attachment to Justin Bieber.  She has his cd's and posters in her room.  It's safe to say he is kind of a big deal to her!

Now I'm a 43 year old guy.  I think a couple of his songs are pretty cool, and he is musically talented, but I really wish he'd pull his pants up and show a little more class at times.  My guess is he doesn't care too much about what guys like me think because he's got about a gazillion girls around the planet who think he hung the moon.

Anyway, Justin performed a concert in our home state of South Carolina earlier this year, and I made Rachel's dream come true by taking her to see him sing.  We arrived four hours before the show so she could see his bus pull into the parking lot.  Then I bought her some things she wanted at the souvenir table (hat, T-shirt, etc.).  Finally his show started.  My shy, quiet daughter went absolutely insane.  She cheered, cried, sang, laughed, and danced the whole night.  I had never seen her go nuts like that before.  But she loved it, and it made her happy.  That's all that mattered to me.

See, I've realized that love is selfless instead of selfish.  It thinks about other people.  And that's what motivated me to go to the concert.  It hurt my wallet and damaged my hearing for a couple days, but it was worth it.  I made my kid really happy and made memories that will last a lifetime.  Mission accomplished!

When we love other people, we will focus more on them and less on ourselves.  Actually, we will start to become a little more like Jesus when love fills our heart.  He loved us so much that He gave up His life to rescue us.  He focused more on us than on Himself.  That's pretty special if you ask me.

May Jesus help us love people the same way He loves people.  May we serve and bless them more.  And may we obsess over ourselves less.  

So I'm glad we went.  It was a special night.  I enjoyed making my child happy in good ole South Carolina.

P.S.  I still wish Justin would buy a belt and pull up his pants....  


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Don't Be A Fan Of Jesus



I've realized Jesus is not interested in us being a fan.  Not at all.  He is much more interested in us being a follower.

What helped me understand this?  Kyle Idleman's book "Not A Fan".  I finished reading it this morning, and I can honestly tell you it blessed my soul.

The author states early in this awesome volume, "The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Jesus.  They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them."  (Page 25).  This reminds me of the times Dad has talked to me about people who want all the benefits without taking any responsibility.

A fan of Jesus is someone who admires Him and thinks He is really special.  A follower of Jesus is someone who worships Him as Lord, and is willing to live and die for Him.  See the difference?  Fans are casual, while followers are committed.  

I absolutely loved how Idleman wrote this book.  He has the heart of a pastor and the mind of a scholar.  He takes deep truths and presents them in understandable language.  He speaks in layman's terms and shares practical, fascinating stories to make his point.  This book made me laugh at times, and made me reflect deeply and seriously at times. 

I can honestly tell you this is the best book I've read in quite a while.  God spoke to me while reading it, and my relationship with Jesus is different because of it.  This was time well spent.

Do yourself a favor:  buy and read "Not A Fan" by Kyle Idleman.  You'll be glad you did.  I guarantee it.

P.S.  To learn more about this book and how to order it, click HERE.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Past That


My son, Emerson, recently got in a little trouble at home one Saturday morning, and I had to have a "come to Jesus" talk with him.  He was fine in the afternoon.  But that night he got in trouble with me again.  I said "Son, you already messed up this morning, why on Earth are you doing it again tonight?"  He thought a second and said, "Well Dad, as for this morning, I thought we were past that."  I had to admit, my boy had a good point on that one.

See, our family believes that when we forgive, we leave the wrongdoing behind us, and we do not bring it up again.   It stays in the past.  God does that.  And so must we.

Do you remember your sin from your past?  Well, God has forgiven you.  He's left it behind and moved past that.

Do you remember how someone wronged you a while back?  Let God help you forgive them.  Then leave it behind and move past that.

I appreciate my son reminding me of a great truth!  When forgiveness takes place, the wrong deed is buried and not brought back to the surface again.  And most importantly, we must move past that.

Thanks, Emerson.  You're a smart little boy.  And I sure like being your dad! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Escape


I used to keep this picture on my phone.

Whenever I had a few free minutes, and when I would lie down at night, I would look at it.  While doing this, I would think to myself, "Man, I wish I was there right now.  I'd love to leave everyone and everything behind and go start a new life!"  I wanted to escape the stress points and challenges I was facing.

I wanted a small room of my own in this cozy little mountain town.  Also, I wanted a quiet, easy job that demanded very little of me.  Finally, I wanted a new group of people in my life.

Some fantasy, wasn't it?!

Now, I think a little different.  Actually, I have changed big time in how I think and feel.  It's funny how God has a way of transforming us from the inside out, isn't it?!

I've realized that regardless of where we go, and who we are with, life sometimes gets a little complicated, messy, and, yes, even stressful.  Even life in mountain towns that have beautiful scenery and a slow pace can get difficult.  It's really not possible to escape the normal stresses of life.  It comes with the territory.

So the best thing we can do is deal with where we are and who we know.  We must trust in God and learn to work through challenges rather than run from them.  In doing this, we grow stronger and wiser.  And we get to experience the thrill of overcoming obstacles.

Yeah, I still love the mountains.  And one day I hope to take Lara and the kids there with me on a vacation.  That would be so nice.

But I don't want to escape anymore.  I don't want to leave behind my family, friends, and responsibilities.  Not at all.

I want to live where God put me.  I want to love the people God has placed in my life.  I want to succeed with the responsibilities God gave me.  I want to dig deep, work hard, and overcome the challenges God allows me to face.  That's how I think and feel now.  And I'm filled with much more joy and peace because of it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dusty Rhodes In The Airport

Let me tell you about a very brief encounter I had with Dusty Rhoades, The American Dream, in the Charlotte Airport about 30 years ago.

In case you don't know, he used to be a big time professional wrestler.  He was on television about every week.  Dusty was a huge name in the business. 

Anyway, I spotted him walking towards the terminal I was leaving.  He had on a long fur coat that reached his ankles.  And he had one two gorgeous women with him.  One woman was on each of his huge arms.  All eyes were on him as he strutted confidently towards his destination.

After one of my buddies confirmed that it was indeed Dusty, I walked up to the giant of a man and asked, "Mr. Rhoades, can I please get your autograph?", as I held out a notebook and pen.  "Not right now, son," he said without even stopping.  And off he went with his expensive clothes, pretty women, and massive confidence.

As I look back on it, I can't be too down on good ole Dusty for that.  He probably was in a hurry to catch his flight.  And maybe he was thinking he would have to give every other kid in the airport an autograph if he gave me one.  So I guess it's understandable.

But the older I get, the more I realize we all need to slow down and make ourselves more available to people.  This big world we live in has a lot of hurt, loneliness, and fear in it.  If there is one way you and I can make it a little better, it is to make time for people and show them we care.  We can comfort the hurting, befriend the lonely, and protect the defenseless. 

I suppose Dusty gets a pass on refusing my autograph request.  After all, an autograph is not a life-or-death matter.  But it's not ok for us to spend our whole life hurrying past the hurting while only thinking about ourselves.

May we never say "Not right now" when someone really needs us.  Let us slow down and be there for those who are hurting.  That's what Jesus does for us.  And that's what we should do for each other. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Wife And Me


Here is a picture of my wife and me from yesterday morning.  It was taken before our family went off to school and work.  Right after this was snapped, we raced out the door in various directions.

She and I teach at different schools, with different colors and mascots, in different towns.  We have different levels of teaching experience.  And we work with different groups of people.

Isn't that marriage in a nutshell?  A guy and a girl get together, and even though they have different personalities, habits, tendencies, experiences, and mind sets, they still have a connection.  And this is a connection of love, understanding, patience, and forgiveness.

In some ways, Lara and I are different from each other.  We just are!  And I guess we always will be.  But I'm realizing that's ok.  Maybe it's a good thing we aren't just alike.  We balance each other out and we both bring something unique to the relationship.  

I've learned to just celebrate the differences.  Also, I've come to understand that in marriage we're different, but the same.  We are the same in loving God, each other, and our kids.  And since we are the same on those things that matter most, I'm thinking we will be just fine.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sound Of Music

Confession:  My favorite movie of all time is The Sound Of Music.  I first watched it in my grandmother's home as a child, and it instantly hooked me.  Julie Andrews blew me away with her singing and acting.  The kids were enjoyable to watch.  The Nazis were the ultimate bad guys.  And who can forget the Nuns?  They were humorous, wise, and loveable.  When I look back at this film, I have to say the music was amazing, the plot was captivating, the scenery was beautiful, and the overall experience was unforgettable.

Last night I watched the live stage presentation of this story on NBC.  Carrie Underwood proved  once again that she can really sing.  For a stage production, I thought it was well done.  We must be fair here:  there is no way a live presentation can compare to a movie.  Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.  But I tip my hat to Mrs. Underwood.  She showed a lot of courage to take on the challenge, and I think she did just fine.

Back to The Sound Of Music movie:  I wish more films were made like that today.  The actors had talent, class, and professionalism.  And the movie did not have to resort to profanity, sex, and violence to hold our attention.  It was just good entertainment.  Really good!

Yes, there are some great movies being made in our time.  I don't want to sound like a snob who can't appreciate the entertainment of his own generation.  But the fact remains that very few films come close to being even half as good as The Sound Of Music.  It's a classic that will be remembered for the ages.

Sin

Take a look at this word:  sin .

What letter is at the center of the word?  I .

 When we sin, we are selfish.  The only person we are thinking about is ourselves.  Me, myself, and I.  That's our only focus when we do wrong.

When we are tempted to sin, we would be wise to think about the following...

How will this sin affect God and His work?

How will this sin affect my family? 

How will this sin affect my friends?  

How will this sin affect the church?  

How will this sin affect people who look up to me?  

How will this sin affect people who have supported and helped me?

The point is obvious:  we must consider how our sin would affect the cause of Christ and the well-being of others before we do something foolish and wrong.

I'm learning that life is not about me, myself, and I.  And friend, life is not about you either.  Life is about living for God and being a blessing to other people.  There's no room for selfishness in that.

May God help us to get over ourselves.  And may God help us to look upward and outward rather than always inward.  When this happens, we will be more likely to make wise choices instead taking selfish, destructive steps in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tricking Santa

Christmas morning had arrived in our South Carolina home.  My two brothers and I were buzzing with excitement as we ran into the bedroom where our parents were sleeping.  Once our dad opened his eyes half-way, we all asked "Can we go see if Santa came?"  He and Mom slowly got up and finally agreed for us all to head to the living room.  Like race horses at the Kentucky Derby, my brothers and I took off down the hall.  Our pajamas had the old school footies on them, which enabled us to slide down the hardwood floors with glee, nearly crashing into the wall.  It was thrilling.

We turned the corner and barreled into the living room.  Santa had come!  Presents for Wyman, Condy, and me were neatly set up and waiting for us.  Diving into the gifts, we slung wrapping paper and bows everywhere.  Shouts of excitement filled our home.

After a few moments, my youngest brother Wyman said this:  "I can't believe it.  I tricked him.  I tricked Santa!  I've been bad all year and I don't deserve any of this stuff.  But I tricked him at the store and told him I was good."  I was just a clueless little kid and didn't know what he was talking about.  But I remember Dad and Mom looking at each other and smiling for some reason.

The truth is this:  Wyman had not tricked "Santa".  And neither had Condy and me.  We were just fortunate to have someone look at us and love us despite our flaws.  Even though we all had been a wild as bucks at times, we were blessed with gifts anyway.

My friends, that is called grace.

On a deeper level, God sees us inside out.  He knows when we are good.  He knows when we are bad to the bone.  But through it all, He still loves us and offers us the riches of His salvation.  We haven't tricked Him.  We've just been blessed with His undeserved goodness.

What a Father we have in the Lord!  And what a love He has for us!  Let's be thankful and rejoice in Him on this day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

First Class At 30,000 Feet


Once I was in Miami's airport.  I was about to catch a flight to Atlanta.  While sitting there, I thought about how cool it would be to fly first class that night, but I couldn't afford the extra charge.  So I just walked up to the counter and talked with a lady who was working.  I asked, "Ma'am, I have a ticket for this flight in coach, but I'd like to fly first class instead.  Can you upgrade me at no extra charge?"  She smiled and responded, "I'll be glad to check and see what I can do."  After a few moments of clicking away on her computer's keypad she looked at me, smiled again, and said "Ok, Mr. Richardson, you're all set to fly to Atlanta tonight in first class at no extra charge.  Enjoy your flight!"  You know what?  I sure did enjoy that flight!  I soared back home to Lara and the kids at 30,000 feet in comfort and peace.  Man, I'll never forget that flight through the nighttime sky.

Ok, I realize that flying first class is probably more of a luxury than a necessity.  And I must admit it was the only time in my life I've ever done that.  But my story has a point, and here it is:  something good happened to me because I simply asked for it.  I didn't demand it.  I didn't feel entitled to it.  I just asked for it.  

James 4:2 tells us "You do not have because you do not ask God."  That verse has me thinking we may be doing without some things in life because we have not asked God to provide them.  Our refusal to pray and humbly ask Him to come through for us may be the reason our lives are lacking in one area or another.

Perhaps you need a job.  Maybe you need healing from a sickness.  Possibly you are in a relationship that is in need of restoration.  Why not ask God to meet your need in these or other areas?  

Know these things about God:  He is good.  He is in control.  And He is a proven provider.  Throughout the history of mankind, God has come through for His people.  He has demonstrated His ability to meet needs, heal infirmities, and fix relationships.  
No, God is not a Heavenly vending machine that gives us everything we request.  He is not our celestial Santa Clause that lavishes us with all our wishes.  There are times God tells us "No" for one reason or another.  But that does not mean He is apathetic or disinterested in what we are experiencing.  It just means that He has a plan that sometimes may be a little hard for us to understand at the moment.

What is it that you need?  Why not just ask God for it?  Go to Him and pray about it.  Ask Him to bless you and meet that need.  After all, there is no one better to talk with than Him, and there is no one better equipped to provide for you than Him.

Just ask for it and give God a chance.  You may be surprised at how one way or another He comes through on your behalf.  And what a blessing that will be.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Different Styles, Same Point

Since stepping down from pastoral ministry last year, I've had plenty of opportunities to worship in different settings.

Some Sundays I worshipped at traditional, liturgical churches.  To be specific, I visited Methodist and Lutheran congregations.  The dress was more formal, so I wore a coat and tie.  There was a good bit of responsive readings, candles, robes, organs, and choirs.  It was really reverent and special.

Other Sundays I worshipped at more contemporary churches.  To be specific, I visited Southern Baptist and non-denominational churches.  The dress was more casual, so I wore nice jeans and a polo shirt.  The music was led by a praise band and technology was used to enhance the experience for everyone (PowerPoint, videos, etc.).  It was very liberating and passion-filled.

As I reflect on this past year with these two different styles of worship, I think the following:

1) I could easily worship with either style.  My focus was on connecting with Jesus, so the musical style just did not matter too much to me.  I was fine either way.  All that mattered to me (and still matters now) was having a meaningful encounter with God.  

2) I saw that there was room enough in God's kingdom for different styles of worship.  Some services were more old school, and some were more modern.  But all glorified God, encouraged worshippers, and made a positive impact.  No style was superior or better than the others.  They all had various ways of accomplishing the same thing.

Different people worship God in different ways.  And that's ok.  As long it's carried out in the name of Jesus, and done with respect and sincerity, I've become fully convinced that either style is just fine.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give Thanks

On this day, let us give thanks to God with glad hearts.

Thank Him...

For His provision in the midst of life's needs,

For His comfort in the midst of life's hurts,

For His peace in the midst of life's storms,

For His empowerment in the midst of life's challenges,

For His guidance in the midst of life's confusion,

For His love in the midst of life's cruelty,

For His forgiveness in the midst of life's failures.

God is good.  

God is gracious.  

God is deserving of our heartfelt gratitude on this day, and on all the days to come.

Let us all give thanks.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rejoicing In The Jailhouse

In the New Testament, we read these words of Paul:  "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"  He wrote this to a group of Jesus followers in the city of Phillipi centuries ago.  And what an important reminder it was!

But there is something vital to know about these words.  Paul did not write them from a sandy beach while on vacation.  And he did not write them from a cozy mountain cottage with a warm blaze in the fireplace.  The truth is, Paul wrote these words while under arrest.  Yes, Paul was imprisoned and he was still able to write about rejoicing.

Paul was much more interested in his Savior than his circumstances.  His relationship with Jesus mattered for more than anything else.  And that is why he could rejoice.

Always remember this:

You may be in perfect health, or you may be in the advanced stages of cancer.  Either way, you can rejoice if Jesus is your Savior.

You may have a ton of close, meaningful relationships, or you may have nobody to talk with at all.  Either way, you can rejoice if Jesus is your Savior.

You may have a big pile of money in the bank, or your checking account may have cobwebs in it.  Either way, you can rejoice if Jesus is your Savior.

You may be free as a bird, or you may be sitting in a jailhouse.  Either way, you can rejoice if Jesus is your Savior.

Joy is not found in surrounding circumstances.  Short-term happiness can be, but we are talking about something deeper and better than that.  Joy is actually found in knowing Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and Friend.

Our circumstances are temporary and will inevitably change along the way.  But the goodness and grace of Jesus is eternal.  He is here to stay, and He is filled with love for us that will last forever and ever.

Of course, we will always be aware of our circumstances, and we will want them to be as favorable as possible.  There is nothing wrong at all with trying to be healthy, financially secure, and surrounded with positive relationships.  Those are good things.  But ultimately, we must realize our deepest joy is not found in them.  Why?  Because they can be here today and gone tomorrow.  Our deepest joy is instead found in a connection with Jesus.  Knowing Him and making Him known is really what life is about.  And it is in that "sweet spot" you and I can rejoice day in and day out.

I can picture Paul now.  Chains on his ankle, a smile on his face, and joy in his heart.  All because he focused on what mattered most:  Jesus.

Rejoice today, my friend, if you know the Lord.  No matter what, you're going to come out on top with Him when it's all said and done.  And all will be well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

When We Are In Need

God met one of my needs yesterday.  And He did it in a cool way.  I woke up this morning still buzzing with excitement and gratitude.

So that inspired me to write this a few moments ago:

Are any of us in need right now?

If so, let's think on these two Bible passages:

Psalm 24:1- "The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it"

Psalm 50:10, 12 - God says about Himself, "every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills ... the world is mine, and all that is in it"

So let's think this through.  If we are in need, and if God owns this entire world, including all that is in it, then what should you do?  I'm not a rocket scientist, but I'm thinking we should go to Him and ask Him to please meet our need.  

The apostle Paul, who was an AMAZING missionary years ago, wrote the following about God in Phillipians 4:19 - "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus."

God can, and does, meet our needs.  He loves us and wants to take care of us.  Looking out for us is a big deal to Him.  No, God may not always grant us our WANTS.  At times He does.  But not always.  And that's a good thing in some cases.  Sometimes what we want is really not good for us.  It's understandable that God is not going to lavish us with everything we want.  But when the chips are down, and we are in need, God takes care of us.  How awesome is that?! 

God is good.  And He is more than generous.  So when we are in need let's just go to Him in prayer, thank Him for what He has already done in our lives, and humbly ask Him to please meet the need we have at the moment.  Then let's have faith, be patient, and wait for Him to come through on our behalf.  That is what we ought to do, and I have a feeling that is exactly what He wants us to do.

May God bless you today and meet your needs.

Friday, November 15, 2013

They Don't Care

I was a pastor for 16 years.

Currently, I am not.

When I was a pastor, all I did was hang out with church people.  That was the bubble in which I lived.  Nothing else outside of church mattered much to me.

Then I stepped out of pastoral ministry.  I still went to church on Sundays.  But during the week I began working regular jobs and spending much more time around unchurched people.

I began to see the way those outside the church felt and talked about those inside the church.

Do you know what I learned?  They don't care about A LOT of things that church people get worked up over.  They really don't.

They don't care if you use Lifeway materials or some other brand.

They don't care if you wear a suit or jeans to worship on Sunday.

They don't care if you prefer AWANA or RA's and GA's.

They don't care if you put your offering in the middle or the end of the service.

They don't care if you sing the doxology.

See my point?  The things I've seen church people get all worked up over really don't matter to those who are outside the church.  Not much at all.

The reason this is important is simple:  Jesus called us to reach those people who are outside the church.

I've realize that people outside the church care about things like...

1) Will you welcome and accept me in your church?

2) Will you live during the week what you talk about on Sunday?

3) Will you show me practical ways that God is relevant to my every day life?

4) Will you be real and authentic with me?

5) Will you let me ask you questions and express my doubts?

6) Will you constantly preach about what you are AGAINST, or will you tell me what God is FOR?

See my point?  Folks outside the church are thinking about things very different from what church people obsess and even fight over.  It's a different world out there, folks.

I know this:  If God ever lets me step back into pastoral ministry, I'll focus on things a lot more important than what I used to care about.  I'll focus on preaching Jesus, loving people, and reaching out to those who are hurting.  I've got a feeling and a hunch that's what ought to be happening inside the church anyway...


Thursday, November 14, 2013

When You See Them Wander

It happens.  People sometimes wander away from God and their convictions.  In the process, they make a real mess of things.

When you see people do this, here is how you can respond....

1) Stay humble.  Remember you are no better than them.  We all are sinners and we all are capable of wandering away.  So don't get cocky and say, "I would never do what he did!", because you don't know that for sure.

2) Pray, and then pray some more.  Ask God to grab their attention and change their heart.  Ask God to rescue that one who is caught up in sin and not thinking right.  And don't give up on praying.  Just keep lifting that person up to the Lord.  Amazing things happen when people pray.

3) Reach out in love.  Contact that person, and let them know you still care about them.  Obviously, you don't like the sin.  But you should still like the sinner.  Tell them you are concerned.  Tell them you are willing to help them make changes.  Just go after them and try to help.

4) Celebrate their changes.  When they come back to the Lord and get their life back on track, be happy for them.  Rejoice!  One of your brothers or sisters has returned, and that's a wonderful thing.

5) Be their friend.  People who wander away and then return do need relationships, just like you do.  They need people who care about them.  So if at all possible, be a friend to them and give them some of your time.  That will be a wonderful gift they treasure

May God help us handle properly those who wander away...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When You Hit Rock Bottom

When you mess up and hit rock bottom, remember these things...

(1). You're not the first person to make a mistake.  Lots of people messed up before you did, and lots more will do the same after you're gone.  It happens.  Everyone has some bad days.  Read the Bible and you'll see story after story of people who royally blew it.  The world is full of sinners.  So don't think you're the first one, or the only one, to make a mess of things.

(2).  You're about to find out who your real friends are.  It's easy for people to like you and hang out with you when you're doing well and riding high.  But when you hit rock bottom, just accept the fact that some folks will disappear from your life and have nothing more to do with you.  They will declare your life too messy and your sin too bad.  And they will no longer reach out to you or spend time with you.  It's sad.  It's wrong.  But it happens.  Your real friends will stay with you.  Just be thankful for those who stick around, and invest in those relationships.  It's a good thing to have people who stick with you through thick and thin.  Hold on to them!

(3). You're in a position to learn now.  When you hit rock bottom, let it be a time to grow in wisdom for your future.  Learn from your mistakes.  Figure out what to do different down the road.  Ask God to teach you how to do a better job in the days, months, and years to come.

(4).  You're not done.  God still has a life for you to live.  There are people for you to love, projects for you to complete, areas for you to serve, and places for you to go.  No, your life is not over.  There are still things for you to do, and differences for you to make.

(5).  You're loved by God.  On your worst day, you still are precious to Him.  God's love is unconditional.  It will be there regardless of what you do right or wrong.  As someone once said, "There's nothing you can ever do to make Him love you less.  Nothing".  Some people may not care for you anymore; however, God loves you tons and bunches.  And there's not a thing you can do to change that.

(6). You're supposed to forgive yourself.  There's no need to beat yourself up forever.  Once you've felt the shame and learned the lesson, you need to let it go.  Don't keep punishing yourself.  When God forgives you, it's over.  So forgive yourself and move on.  Leave the past in the past.

If you or someone you know is at rock bottom, hold on to these truths.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Heart Filled With Thanks

If you have a roof over your head ... Give Thanks.

If you have food to eat and water to drink ... Give Thanks.

If you have clothes you can wear ... Give Thanks.

If you have at least one friend or family member who loves you ... Give Thanks.

If you have God's amazing grace poured into your soul ... Give Thanks.

Be grateful for the basic, fundamental blessings of life.

If you have these things, you are fortunate.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Governed By Feelings

Here is one thing I've learned:  it is a mistake to be governed by feelings.

If we base all our decisions solely on how we feel, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.

Why?  (1) Our feelings may not be based on what is true or right.  People can lie to us or manipulate the way we feel.  (2) Our feelings can change in a split second.  They are not always reliable.  (3) Our feelings can become misdirected when circumstances are not good.  When we are tired, lonely, beat down, or suffering, we may feel like doing some things that we normally would not feel like doing.

Sometimes we may feel like doing one thing, but we have to make ourselves do something else.

I may not FEEL like exercising today, but I will go walking anyway.
I may not FEEL like apologizing to someone, but I will man up and do it anyway.
I may not FEEL like listening to someone's story, but I will be kind and hear them out anyway.

It seems to me that we all would be better off if we lived by PRINCIPLES instead of feelings.  Principles are truths, guidelines, and ideals that ought to direct our lives regardless of how we may feel.  Principles are right, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Examples of principles are:  Be loyal.  Be productive.  Be forgiving.  Be kind.  Be good.

All I know is this:  When I look back on the best decisions of my life, I ultimately followed my principles.  And when I made the worst decisions of my life, I ultimately followed my feelings.

Yes,  God wired us with feelings.  We are emotional beings.  And our feelings should be acknowledged and considered.  How we feel DOES indeed matter.  But, our feelings can not have the ultimate, final say in how we live.  Principles handed down to us from God must be the guardrails used to direct our lives.  And when we allow these principles to govern us, our lives will be much better off as a result.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Comeback

Last night, I, along with a gazillion other people, watched with amazement as South Carolina pulled off a stunning comeback on a football field in Missouri.

The Gamecocks were losing 17-0 and nothing was going right.  Mistakes were made and opportunities were blown.  But then, in the 4th quarter, something happened.  Something I'll never forget.  Quarterback Connor Shaw led Carolina to 17 unanswered points to tie the game.  Then, in dramatic fashion, the Gamecocks won the game 27-24 in double overtime.

My 8 year old son, who was sitting by me on the couch in his pajamas, went NUTS with me when it happened.  We jumped around the living room, shouted "yeah!", and celebrated.  We tried not to scare my wife and daughters, who were in other rooms.  But we could not stop or contain our celebration!

This has me thinking....

Sometimes in life, we get behind.  We make mistakes.  We blow opportunities.  We just royally make a mess of things.

I've done that.  Big time.  How about you?  My guess is, we ALL have.

When that happens, it's comeback time!

If we are losing in the game of life, let's whisper a prayer to Him above, shake off the disappointment of our mistakes, start over, and press forward.  Some people may think we're done and our cause is lost.  But that doesn't matter.  Let's think positive, dig in our heels, and get to work.  Let's start doing the little things right, one by one.  When that happens, the chances are good that positive results await us!

Maybe you've messed up and blown it.  I know the feeling.  Just remember this:  your life is not over.  Things can change.  So keep your chin up and hang in there.  Your comeback could be right around the corner, and you can still celebrate like a champ!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  When we experience a comeback, let's be mindful of those looking at us from above.  They're probably rejoicing for us and celebrating with us.  And my guess is that's quite a party!  :)

** If you want to see a short highlight video (minute and a half) of last night's amazing comeback, just click here .

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Links And One Invitation

I want to quickly share a couple of links with you ...

[1]  "God's Not Dead" is a film coming out next spring, and it looks like it will be worth watching.  A friend pointed me to the trailer yesterday.  To see the film's trailer for yourself, just click here .

[2]  I have decided to join the world of Twitter.  I figured I could have some fun with this.  To visit my Twitter page, just click here .

Here is an invitation ...

Feel free to leave comments any time on this blog when you read a post.  I'd love to hear from you.  And I'll respond too.  Whether you agree or disagree with what you read, it's ok.  So you're invited to comment and interact with me anytime!

Thank for checking out my online home.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Disappointment Of Sin

What is the wrong thing you are tempted to do right now?

The lure of sin is calling out to you.  It looks harmless.  It seems fun.  It feels justifiable.  But deep down, you know it's wrong.

Before you take the plunge and go for it with sin, remember this: it will be a massive disappointment to you in the end.

The Bible says...

Sin will not satisfy you :  You may get a little happiness for a short while, but you will ultimately find yourself unfulfilled.  It will be a colossal letdown and leave you with an empty feeling inside. Proverbs 13:25 says "the stomach of the wicked goes hungry."

Sin will not calm you :  You may feel relaxed for a little bit, but you will inevitably deal with regret, fear, and pain.  You will wish you had not done it, you will be paranoid over getting caught, and you will hurt when you have to suffer the consequences.  Isaiah 48:22 says "There is no peace...for the wicked."

So, what are you temped to do right now that you know is wrong?  Whatever it is, please don't do it.  Just walk away and turn to God instead.

God can satisfy you.  God can calm you.  God can bless you in ways that sin never, ever will.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Flat Tire

"give thanks in all circumstances..." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Yesterday I was sitting in my living room and reading a great book.

My phone rang.  It was my oldest daughter.  She had a flat tire and she needed me to come help her.  I told her I will be right there.  So I got up, told my wife I had to go help our child, and I left.

I must make a confession.  While I am always ready and willing to help my kids, for a moment I had some less-than-positive thoughts running through my head.  Things like this: "Oh great, I just got cleaned up and now I'm going to get dirty all over again.  And I was really enjoying that book."  I was not upset with my daughter at all.  It was not her fault.  And I love that girl!  I was just thinking about the not-so-favorable circumstances.

I found her, gave her my car so she could leave, and changed her tire.  Then I drove it up the road to get a new tire because the old one was shot.  Then, shortly after that, I was back home and on the couch relaxing.

You know what?  As I sit here this morning, I am thankful.  Here is why...

(1) My child was not hurt.

(2) The tire went out only a quarter of a mile from our house.

(3) She had a flat on a slow road in a neighborhood with a bunch of houses around instead of on a lonely highway with nobody around.

(4) She was able to stop the car under a shade tree that kept the hot sun off me while I changed her tire.

(5) A buddy was driving by, saw me, and gave me a hand while I was changing her tire.

(6) I was able to get the car fixed up with two new tires on the front.

(7) When she needed help, my daughter called me instead of calling someone else. 

Now I can smile about the whole experience.  I am thankful for several things as I reflect on the flat tire adventure.  Gratitude fills my heart this morning.

The Apostle Paul wrote centuries ago to "give thanks in all circumstances".  He was telling us to slow down and look for the good in things.  And he was so right!

There is always something to thank God for.  Always.  Regardless of what is going on.

May we see the positive and lift up our gratitude to Him on this day.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Kitchen

Last night was a fun Friday night with my youngest daughter, Rachel.  Everybody else in the family was doing things, so it was just her and me.  We decided to get in the kitchen and have fun together.

I fried up some bacon and eggs.  She fixed tasty biscuits.  While all this was going on, I pulled out my IPad and turned on music.  To make it fun for her, I let her pick out the tunes.  We sang along to music that she likes and danced.  We also talked and laughed a lot.  It was a really special time.  Then when our meal was ready, I took her by the hand and prayed with her.  I thanked God for giving us a fun night together and asked God to bless our meal.

You know, it reminded me of the importance of one-on-one dad-kid time.  Each child needs to feel special and loved.  It's a big deal to them, and it's really good for us!

It also reminded me of the importance of getting into the world of our kids.  I listened to her music.  I listened to her stories.  In a cool kind of way, I got to know my Rachel a little better last night.  We need to listen to our kids and get to know them.  That's so vital!

Goodness knows, I'm not a perfect parent.  Far from it.  But I'm learning.  And I do love the four that God gave me.  

Being in the kitchen with Rachel reminded me of what a great privilege it is to be a Dad.  And with the help of God, I seek to get better at it.  After all, there are not many more important things than loving and raising the kids who have been sent our way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Secret

In Philippians 4:12, Paul writes, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation".  He then talks about going through times when he had a lot, and times when he had very little.  In other words, Paul had seasons of comfort and seasons of poverty.  And during both seasons he was ok.  He was satisfied.  What was the secret Paul found to being content, regardless of his circumstances?  Well, he gives the answer in verse 13:  "through him who gives me strength".  This "Him" is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Paul learned that in a relationship with Jesus, he found everything he needed.  That was the secret to his being satisfied.  Man, what an awesome discovery!

This has me thinking.  I've had times when I've had some extra money in my pocket, and I've had times when my wallet and bank account have been empty.  I've spent some nights having a blast at Disney World, and I've spent some nights at home, on my couch, watching a dollar rental movie on tv while eating a bag of microwave popcorn.  Through it all, I've realized I can be happy either way.  See, God has been teaching me that all I really need ... is Jesus.  In Him, I find joy, peace, strength, hope, forgiveness, purpose, and everything else required to satisfy my heart.

Paul was so right.  The secret to being content is closeness with Jesus.  When it's all said and done, that's all that really matters.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

43

Today is my birthday.

I was born October 16, 1970 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Wow.  43 years ago.

So this morning I'm thinking about time.

Time flies by.  It seems like every year goes by a little faster.  And older folks tell me it feels like that more and more with each birthday.  That's because life is short.  The Bible says our life is like a vapor.  Here today, and gone tomorrow.

Time is unpredictable.  We never know what will happen tomorrow or next week.  Nothing is guaranteed.  One of the few certainties of life is that it is ... uncertain.  I have no clue what the next year of my life will be like.  And neither do you.

So, life flies by and is unpredictable.  What do we do about that?  Well, what comes to my mind is this:  Make each day count.  Maximize each moment.  Live each day to the fullest.

That's what I'm going to do this year.

My guess is we all should do that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Positive

One thing the world needs is fewer negative nellies.

You know what I'm talking about, don't you?  Pessimistic, doom and gloom, defeated kind of people.  Folks who think the glass is half empty and this is never going to work out.  Individuals who whine, complain, moan, and groan.

I used to be like that at times.  If I couldn't sleep good one night, I'd say in the morning, "Well this day is already ruined."  If I tried to accomplish something and I ran into a problem, I'd throw up my hands and walk away saying, "What's the use?  It can't be done.  I quit."  If I ran into a couple of setbacks at the same time, I'd say, "I just can't get anything to go my way."

I'm not like that anymore.  Not at all.  Now I'm a positive person.  And what a difference it has made!

Now when I get up in the morning, I tell my wife, my kids, and myself "It's going to be a great day!"

Now when I run into a problem while working on a project, I say to others and myself, "This won't beat me.  I can do this!"

Now when I go through a couple of setbacks at the same time, I tell my family, friends, and myself, "This is just for a season.  Things are going to get better!"

You know what I've noticed since my change?  Being positive encourages others and myself.  It gets us all in the right frame of mind and helps us all move forward.

It is really important to say this:  my being positive is based on my faith in God.  I believe He is here and He does care.  I believe He can do all things and He will see us through the dark days.  I believe He is big, wise, and perfect.  And I believe that in Him, I will be just fine.  So that's why I'm positive.  Not because of me.  I'm positive because the awesome God of the universe is more than capable of doing anything and He wants what is best for me.

So if you don't already do this, give it a try.  Keep your chin up.  Smile.  And be positive.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I've Been Thinking Lately


My name is David.

I'm a 42 year old guy.  Married for twenty years.  And a father of four.

My life has had some ups and downs.

Here is what I've been thinking lately...

Family is the most important group of people I know.  Lately, my wife, kids, parents, brothers, and their families have come to mean more to me than ever before.  I've met a lot of people over the years, and I'm sure I'll meet plenty more.  Also, I have some awesome friends that really do mean a lot to me.  But at the end of the day, it's family that matters most.  I'm understanding and appreciating that more and more.

God's forgiveness is an amazing thing.  I've come to appreciate on a deep level how God takes all my sin away, cleans me up, and makes me whole.  I am not perfect.  But I am forgiven.  And for that, I am thankful more than words can express.

What matters is where I'm headed.  Not where I've been.  Sometimes I reflect on my past.  The good things and the not-so-good things.  It's becoming increasingly clear to me that none of that matters now.  Yesterday is over and done.  Finished.  What matters is where I'm headed today and tomorrow.  So I choose to look forward way more than I look backward.

God must be the center of my life.  Everything and everyone needs to revolve around Him.  He is the reason we are here.  He is the One who saved us.  He is bigger, strong, wiser, and better than we will ever dream of being.  He is what life is all about.  I'm thinking if He is the center of my life, then my life makes sense.  And if He is the center, He holds everything together.  So I'm seeing the high value of enjoying His presence, following His lead, and doing His work.  My point is, I'm seeing on a deeper level that life is not about me; instead, it's about God.

So that's what I've been thinking lately.

God is good.  I am blessed.  And my life is moving forward in a positive, healthy direction.

         

Beginnings - A Look In Genesis. Part 3

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  Genesis 1:27

Isaiah Thomas, a former professional basketball player for the Detroit Pistons, once talked in an interview about the rough neighborhood he grew up in as a child.  Gang violence was a huge problem in his community.  One of the things he mentioned is that gang members would leave a nickel on the foreheads of people they killed.  Leaving that nickel meant the victim's life was worth five cents. 

Life is not viewed as sacred or special by many in today's world.  Not at all.  It's viewed as cheap and expendable.  However, when I read the Bible, I see that life is actually the exact opposite of that.  In reality, every human life has immense value and is sacred. 

In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth.  Then He fills the heavens and the earth with all sorts of spectacular sights, plants, and animals.  Finally, it is time for something extra special : human life.

God makes a man.  Then, He makes a woman.  And He brings them together.

Let's just reflect for a moment on this scripture...

[1]  Human life is sacred because it is a creation of God.  The value of men, women, boys, and girls is sky high because we all are the result of God's workmanship. He made us and put us here; therefore, we are valuable.  Contrary to the gang members I mentioned earlier, we are worth much, much more than a nickel.  (Wow, THAT may be the understatement of the millennium.  Ha!  Ha!)  We are worth a great deal because we were fashioned by an amazing Creator.

[2]  Human life is sacred because it is fashioned with a resemblance to God.  God made us "in His own image."  In other words, we were made in some ways that are a reflection of Him.  On a much smaller scale than God, we were equipped with the capacity to be creative, show love, extend forgiveness, and lead others.  Don't get me wrong.  We are not gods.  And we are not equal to God.  Not at all.  But we are wired by Him in some neat ways to resemble Him. 

[3]  Human life is sacred, regardless of gender.  Notice that God made man in His own image, and woman in His own image.  That's pretty cool, if you ask me!  There are certain things about men that resemble God, and there are certain things about women that resemble God.  Both genders are valuable and unique because both genders highlight certain qualities of God's greatness.  Neither gender is superior to the other.  Men matter and women matter. 

[4]  Human life is sacred because it is given purpose by God.  When He fashioned the man and the woman, He did not throw them into the garden without anything to do.  He did not tell them, "Ok, y'all just need to entertain yourselves and look for ways to stay busy!"  (I know God doesn't say "y'all", but it just sounded good to me!)  The Creator gave the creation purpose.  In Genesis 1:26, He assigned the duty or ruling over the animals.  In Genesis 1:28, He assigned the duty of reproducing and filling the planet with more people.  Right from the beginning, God gave men and women things to do.  He gave them (and us today) purpose.  A reason to get up every morning and to live every day. 

That's just four reasons human life is worth a great deal!  And that's another reason why the creation story of Genesis is so special.  Our worth as human beings is found in knowing that we are here because God put us here.

God views life is sacred.  So should we.  May we look at people today and realize that all of them are precious because they are the handiwork of the one, true, living God!!   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beginnings - A Look In Genesis. Part 2

After I mow our lawn at home, I like to step back and check out how everything looks.  When I do this, I'm making sure I did the job right.  It may sound weird to you, but I even check to see if the lines left from the lawnmower are straight and neat. 

On a far greater scale, God stood back and saw all of his creative work in Genesis 1.  According to the scripture, God reflected on what He accomplished in forming the heavens and the earth, and He "saw that it was good."  Actually, He did this several times along the way.  (Check out verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31 of Genesis chapter 1 to see for yourself.)

He had every right to feel good about His work.  God's creative labor was executed with perfection.  Everything He fashioned was done so brilliantly. 

What do you do on a normal day?  Maybe it's work at an office, plow a field, teach a class, mop a floor, wash a pile of dishes, look after a baby, pay bills, or fold piles of laundry.  Regardless of who you are and what you do, work in such a way that you can end every day seeing "it was good."  God could honestly feel good about the accomplishments of His days.  Can you?  Can I?

We want to be able to say at the end of every day that "it was good".  So let's just give our absolute, very best at whatever we do.  When we pour our heart and soul into our work, we can know we will feel good about what we have accomplished.

I've always liked these words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

Thanks be to God for His creative work being good.  We get to enjoy the benefits of His handy work.  Because He did so well, we get to live in a beautiful, breathtaking creation.  His labor ended up being a blessing to us.

Let's follow His example.  Let's find inspiration in His excellence.  Let's work diligently and passionately so that we can stand back at the end of the day and be able to honestly say this about what we accomplished:  "it was good."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Beginnings - A Look In Genesis. Part 1

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1:1

If you're a "Bible rookie", that's the first verse in the book.  It kicks off the whole story.  And what a verse it is!

Before there was anything or anyone, there was only God.  Just Him.  I know people like to ask, "Who created God?"  Nobody created God.  He has always existed.  His nature is eternal, with no beginning and no end.  Yeah, that's kind of hard for us to wrap our finite brains around.  Difficult to figure out.  (Even tougher to figure out than how the last person off the school bus closes that funky front door!  You ever wondered about that?)

Notice this:  the central character in the first verse of the Bible is ... God.  And that sets the tone for the rest of the book.  The story of the Bible is about God.  Who He is.  What He does.  How He operates.  It's a book that is inspired by Him and is all about Him. 

So, when we look at the start of our story, what do we see?  Well, we see God creating.  He is at work.  The Divine Artist is making something spectacular.  The heavens and the earth are brought into existence by His perfect craftsmanship.

Here's what makes this extra cool.  He created all of this ... out of nothing.  There was not a stack of supplies sitting off to the side, waiting to be used, when God created the heavens and the earth.  He made something ... out of nothing.  If you ask me, I think that is mind-boggling.

God is flat-out, 100% amazing!  He has always been here.  And He created this planet we live on, along with everything we see up in the sky.  Can I give you a suggestion?  Say a prayer today, and compliment God on a job well done.  Tell Him how awesome you think He is.  He more than deserves some praise, doesn't He?!  So let's give Him some today.  If we can applaud some college kid, who we don't personally know, for scoring a touchdown on Saturday, then surely we can praise God, who we DO know, for making this beautiful universe we get to call "home". 

Finally, remember that God still creates!  His nature never changes.  If God created in the beginning, He can still create today.  He can take struggling, dysfunctional families, and create happy homes of love and peace.  He can take addicts of any kind, and create new lives of freedom and joy.  He can take stuffy, weak, hurting, divided, dying churches, and create vibrant, healthy, passionate congregations that are powerfully turning their communities upside down with the gospel.  You see my point?  If something is not right with you, your family, or your church, there is still hope.  God creates!  Best of all, God creates a new us, when we let Him.  He takes out the old, brings in the new, and makes us right.  This is what David meant when he wrote in Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a pure heart, O God..."   

Wow!  What a God He is.  Let's praise Him for what He has created.  And let's trust Him if we need Him to create something new today.