Life

General Life Topics

So, now what?

Now what?

Easter Sunday came and then this morning Monday arrived right on schedule.  All the excitement that went into getting dressed up nice for church yesterday and having a nice meal with family has now left and Monday has showed up.  So we get up and live our lives.  Work needs to be done.  Bills need to be paid.  The kids need to be fed and bathed.  Life continues.  So, now what?

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday

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All dressed in my Sunday best — ready to hunt for eggs. 

The truth is you can experience the same anticipation every Sunday.  Why?  Because every week we celebrate that the tomb was empty.  We celebrate that unlike any other ‘god’ ever conjured up by the minds of men, Jesus Christ is the only one without a grave stone to go visit.  He is alive! We don’t have a memorial day to remember Jesus, we have a Resurrection Day! This makes Him the only one able to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life.

The bigger question then is why?  Why is it that so many people get so excited about this one day every year and the rest of the year forget about Jesus, or at least get indifferent toward Him?  Why is it that the same people who were enthusiastic about singing “He arose!” this past Sunday, won’t be back next week to sing praises to the very same God?  God hasn’t changed.  He is still alive and we are still just as desperate for Him.

Knowing Jesus vs. Knowing About Jesus

It all comes down to knowing Jesus Christ.  In John 17 Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life:  that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” (v3)  We need to know Jesus Christ, as in have a personal encounter with Him in our own lives.  Having knowledge allows us to answer questions correctly.  Experiencing Jesus Christ allows Him to touch every area of our life.  Have you experienced Jesus Christ in your life?

I remember what happened when I met Jesus.  I had gone to church and heard the stories.  But I did not ever feel like there was any real connection with God to be had.  It seemed like God was distant and cold and I was just supposed to sort of do some good things and figure it out.  But when I met Jesus Christ, everything changed.  Suddenly there was a hunger in me for more of Him.  I enjoyed singing His praise and wanted to be in Church on Sunday to proclaim that He was alive!  I lived with this new understanding that I had been saved not by my works, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross for me.

So, now what?

So, now what?  Now is the time to grow closer to Jesus.  Now is the time to give Him a chance to show up in your life and change you.  Now is the time to bring all your doubts and fears out and ask Him to answer the questions that you have.  Show up to church worship services.  Get involved in the life of a local church.  See what it is all about and position yourself in a place where God is free to work in you.  Try it out and see what happens.  I know from my own experience that if you let Him, He will change your life.


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To Know Jesus

The issue of church growth seems to haunt every pastor at some point.  Why?  Because so much is being said about it.  I was at a conference this weekend where during one of the break-out sessions I was told all kinds of methods about church growth.  I must be honest; I struggle with that.  I have a real problem with the methods when I read what Scripture tells us.  Listen to this:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8

It seems to me that by far the greatest thing I can offer someone is Jesus Christ.  We must share the Gospel.  He is the draw.  He is the need.  Knowing Jesus is the goal of life!

If we get sidetracked, we start to look a lot like the Judaizers Paul was referring to in Philippians 3.  They worked very hard to earn God’s favor. But let’s be honest, any attempt at cleaning up our own sin just smears it.  It is like all of those times I have sent one of my kids to the bathroom to clean up after eating something sticky.  Sure they try hard, but they get it everywhere else.

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Let Jesus clean up the mess!

Would you say that your heart considers everything else a loss next to knowing Jesus?  If not, what needs to change?  

Listen Without Complaining

It appears that hardwired in every child is an ability to never quite hear what their parents say.  It is almost as if everything that is said to a child must be immediately met with “what?” even if they physically heard what you said.  The struggle to communicate to them and see results is quite intense.

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I am sorry, are you talking? 

I have lamented this many times to people and never really thought it applied to me anymore.  Certainly I have grown up, right?  Then I read Numbers 14.  In Numbers 14 Moses is leading the Israelites along after freeing them from Egyptian slavery.  One might think that they would be willing to listen well to God because He has powerfully showed up. He rescued them.

Instead they complain.  They grumble against God.  They wish they were back in Egypt.  They even decide to vote in a leader to take them back!  Basically they look at God and say “yes, I know you are demonstrating your love for us, but I don’t really think you love us.”  They are in one sense hearing and seeing God act out a radical love for them and in the very next breath complaining that they aren’t slaves anymore.

I have been guilty of this.  I have had times when things just weren’t going my way, and even though I saw God minister to me in His grace during those times, I still complained about it.   I still questioned God there.  I guess adults are just older kids.

When Jesus hung on the cross, people around him mocked him and even cast lots for his clothing. In a most dramatic fashion, they did not hear what was being said.   Even though He had shown the kingdom of God to them in the flesh, they just did not listen.  They would rather do things their own way and in doing rejected the only means of freedom.

The challenge is this:  Do not get so caught up in religious tradition that you miss the message of Christ to you.   I pray that as we enter into this coming season leading up to Easter Sunday that we would hear loud and clear the voice of God “I love you.”

 

A Day at the Beach

Winter in Minnesota can be feel long.   It actually is the same time as anywhere else. It certainly is not as boring as those warm places.  But we needed to do something different, so we went to the beach.

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It looked a little different than it does in the summer.  We managed to only fall a few times on the ice. There were no injuries.  We then went for a hike.  I noticed that my son was still in his pajamas. Well, at least he had a jacket on.  For whatever reason they do not want to wear jackets anymore.  Perhaps a resolution for the new year.

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The trail is just as icy as the lake.  But it was a brisk walk (literally)

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We did see some deer.  Actually there were like 10 of them here.  They didn’t seem at all threatened by us.  We had lulled them to sleep with our calm.  (we were in the pick up)

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So for those that wonder how we manage to survive here.  I would say, we do more than survive.  We even go to the beach in February!

 

The Most Important Thing Now

To the untrained eye it might look like dad is being kind and letting his daughter win.  If that is what you are seeing, then look a little closer.  Actually what you are seeing is dad lose back-to-back games of Candy Land.  The game is all about how the cards are stacked. (or in our case pile up since they are so bent) But, yes, I get it.  There is no real skill involved in this game. But is it possible that my 5-year-old daughter actually has skill in this?   There is another game she likes to play called Spot It.  You spot things on cards and then you get that card.  She will win those too.  I think I am easily distracted or just too slow.

img_0627The other morning she got out Chutes and Ladders.  I was making breakfast, so I couldn’t play.  That didn’t matter to her.  She just grabbed her toy dog, Max, and played with him.  She would move him over to the board, spin for him, and then taunt him when he was not winning.  Where does she come up with this stuff?  I am fairly certain I would have lost that game also.

img_0629Kids have a way of slowing life down a bit.  They want to stop and look at the caterpillar on the road.  They want to slow down so we can look at the deer.  They don’t have the same pressures on their time that we do.   “Hey, dad, do you want to play Candy Land?” is a hard thing to turn down. And do you know what that does?  It allows me to enter her world for just a little bit.  The truth is I have things I need to get done.  But what is the most important thing right now?  I think I need to lose another game of Candy Land.

If you are alive today, you have opportunities to enjoy life.   What is the most important thing right now?  It might not be what you think it is.

 

When It Rains….

It occurs to me that those who say “when it rains, it pours” have never actually seen it rain because it more often than not does not pour when it rains. What a mess it would be if it always poured when it rained!  But what do we remember?  We remember the times that it poured.  The water comes down so hard that puddles form in our yards and anyone that was caught outside looks like they were dunked in the lake.  And then the next time there is a hint of rain we think it will happen again.

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When it rains…..

There is something about the human brain that processes those negative things in a way that gives them more of an impact.  We remember them.  We dwell on them.  We relive them.  This is why I remember my times of discouragement vividly, even though I have been encouraged on more occasions.  I have more good days than bad days.

I was reading through Exodus and it turns out this is nothing new.  Moses was told by God to deliver the Israelites from slavery.  You would think that when God told him that He would accomplish this and go with him that the people would be excited.  They have been in slavery for a while now and would no doubt appreciate the good news.  Well…not exactly. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to hear it, they just couldn’t.

Moses reported this to the Israelites but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.” Exodus 6:9  

Discouragement is a powerful emotion.   Despite what God had told them and even the history lesson he gave them to prove it to them, they still could not see any sort of hope in their circumstances.  The pain was just too big and real.  Have you been there?  Do you know anyone there today?

Who can you encourage today?  There are people in the midst of their own person downpour right now looking for hope.  Can you offer some encouragement to them?  Remember that often the most helpful thing you can do is be there.

Are you discouraged?  Look for hope in your life today.   Listen to what the Lord says and be encouraged:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Remember that in the story of Moses, God did accomplish what He said He would do.  God has not left you. He has not ignored you.  He is not sick of you.  Look to Him today and realize that sometimes when it rains it doesn’t pour.

Loving When the Camera is Off

I was looking through some boxes in the basement when I came across an old video camera.  Do you remember those?  They actually had tapes you put inside of them in order to record something.  My grandpa used to video tape all of our family events and then we would need a special adapter to watch them in the VCR.   Having the camera took effort and planning.   We then moved on to the digital camera, which was more convenient to use, but still involved extra steps to take the video and upload it to a computer.  Oh, the good ole’ days!

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Camera or not, someone is watching.

Now we have instant access to video because most of us carry a camera at all times in our smartphones.  Things like Facebook live makes it possible for anyone to stream what they are doing at any given moment with almost instant feedback.   This only feeds into the narcissistic society we live in today.  The cry of the world today is “look at me!”

The Bible talks about how people will be lovers of themselves even more so as time passes. It says that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud…..and the list goes on.  (see 2 Timothy 3:2-3)  This creates a problem for the church of Jesus Christ because we are called to love people bringing glory to Him, not us. Except our flesh says “look at me!”   That means we need to be very careful about our motives for the things we do.  Are we demonstrating kindness because people are watching or are we doing it because we love Jesus Christ? Are we reaching into our community because we love people or because we want to feel like we are doing something?

What our communities really need are people who are the Church.  That is what brings glory to Christ.  We are the Church no matter where we are or what we are doing.  That means that whether the camera is on or not, be the Church.  Love the poor, broken, and lonely. Pray for people.  Pray with people. Share about the hope you have.  Be kind to people.   Involve yourself in the workings of the local community and be a witness for Jesus there.  Feed the hungry.  Visit the sick.  Care for the widow.  Make the community a better place because the church of Jesus Christ is there!  This is what being the church is all about and it has nothing to do with whether the camera is on or not.  People are watching anyway.  Let’s bring honor to the name of Jesus today!