Archive for August, 2009

25
Aug
09

seasons

leafI heard someone say recently that the trouble many Americans are having right now is that they are having to adjust from an “upper middle class” lifestyle to a “middle class” lifestyle. I’m not going to try to define what those terms mean or where we all might fit into those categories, but it is safe to say we are facing a new season and adjustments are having to be made. How’s that going for you?

The truth is seasons come and go in our lives just like they do in nature. The excitement of spring, the leisure of summer, the reflection of autumn, and the harshness of winter are all a part of life. The problem is the seasons of life are not as predictable as nature. Sometimes we see the changes coming and have time to make the necessary adjustments. There are other times that life happens so quickly that our breath is taken away. How do we deal with the changes of seasons in our lives?

First, we must recognize that it is normal and everyone must face these changes. Solomon reminds us, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) He goes on in the next seven verses to describe the normal (whatever that is) seasons of life.

Second, we must be willing to adapt to those changes. Once again, it was Solomon who wrote, “A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 22:3)

Third, we must not make rash decisions based upon the current crisis we are facing. Proverbs 19:2 tells us that hasty and rash decisions often cause us to “go the wrong way.” As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” When it does, it would be good if no bridges have been burned or situations created that are going to limit or hinder our ability to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

Fourth, we must never loose sight of the fact that God is aware of our circumstances and He is using whatever life throws at us for our benefit (see Romans 8:28).

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17
Aug
09

good news?

broken_chain_ivI have heard it said that the one thing believers and unbelievers have in common is they both hate evangelism. Whoever came up with that idea is at least half right. Based on research data from Lifeway Research, “82% of the unchurched are somewhat likely to attend church if invited… yet only 2% of church members invite.” Makes you wonder why we call the message of Jesus “The Good News?”

I know from my own experience where the disconnect often occurs. For me it came about when I moved past the message of grace and appointed myself as “keeper of truth.” Why do we do that?

Before anyone gets too excited, I know the importance of genuine truth. I know that Jesus is the truth and that the Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us into truth. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the “truth” that leads us into constantly condemning others who have either not grown in “the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) as much as we have, or have outgrown us and are enjoying a freedom and liberty that drives us crazy with jealousy! (Isn’t it amazing how we constantly try to make people like us rather than pointing them to Jesus?)

I’m convinced that this is where our distaste for evangelism lies. We somehow forget that Jesus said, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:16, 17, The Message) Now THAT’S good news, and if we could ever come to believe this for ourselves, being reporters of the “good news” would be a natural outflow of the grace we have experienced for ourselves.

11
Aug
09

stop the world, i want to get off

58384093.bbHave you ever thought to yourself, “I really thought life would have gotten easier by now?”

There are a lot of influences that contribute to our belief that things should be getting better. The feeling that we have “paid our dues” is one. Another would be the illusion that other people don’t seem to be struggling the way we are. We are also constantly inundated with advertising that is very effective in convincing us that if we invest with the right broker, wear the right jeans, or even drink the right beverage, everything will be great and we will truly enjoy the “good life.”

But it never seems to work out for me that way. What about you?

Let me take this opportunity to remind you of what Jesus said in John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Jesus reminds us that we are living in a fallen world. People lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, and take advantage, and that’s on a good day. Before you start feeling too persecuted let me remind you that, due to our fallen nature, you and I have also been a source of disappointment, confusion, and hurt to people in our lives. Due to the sin that is in the world, Jesus assures us that experiencing difficulty is something we better be prepared for if we want to live our lives effectively.

The other thing Jesus assures us of is his victory over the godlessness of this world. I think Jesus already made it clear that just because we are His followers it does not mean we are exempt from these difficulties, but rather, we can be “unshakable and assured” and possess “deep peace” in the middle of the difficulties we are facing. Why? Because we know that He has “prepared a banquet table for us in the presence of our enemies” (Psalm 23:5) and He is “causing everything to work together for our good” (Romans 8:28).

04
Aug
09

i know

IMG_2552 My wife took this picture in a small town on a recent motorcycle trip. It just struck her as funny.

We all know that the sign indicates there is some type of information center ahead, but those of us with any life experience get the humorous metaphor communicated by the sign as well- “Where am I going? What should I do? When will this end? How can I be sure? Why is this happening?”

We all face questions that fit into the template of those I’ve mentioned. Because of the uncertainty and, in some cases, anxiety they create, we want assurances and guarantees about life. We want to know for sure that we are making the right choice, doing the right thing, going the right way. However, the reality is those kind of assurances just don’t exist; but we keep searching for them anyway. We try to box God into a corner by manipulating Scripture, demanding that He give us some sort of a sign. We even try prayer and fasting (when we get really desperate) hoping that God can be coerced into acquiescing to our point of view as a result of our “penitence.”

And then there are the people who would have us believe that if we are living the way God wants us to we will never have times of uncertainty in our life. They tell of grandiose experiences in which God has given them clear and explicit instruction on how to handle the situation they are faced with. We feel guilty and second rate because we haven’t had that kind of experience. But notice what the Apostle Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”

So, if life is filled with such uncertainty, what can we be sure of? Again, I will borrow from Paul, “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” 2 Timothy 1:12