Reflection

Embrace The Truth

Truth.  We want to know it and yet so often ignore it.  The truth hurts.  Believe me, I know.  I was just reflecting on my early days of preaching and the feedback I would incur.  Of course nothing is quite as convincing as listening to the recording and realizing that their criticism is right.  But we need to hear and apply truth.

In John 18 Pilate is seeking the truth from Jesus until he finally looks at Jesus in verse 18 and says “What is truth?”  The then walks away.  Why?  Why not wait for a response?

I think that Pilate was getting a little too close to the truth for comfort.  Maybe if I don’t know what the truth is, I can live life however I want.  But Pilate then goes to the crowd and asks them what he should do.  Isn’t that just like the human heart?

 

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What is the truth?   

In our homes we have the Word of God and direct access to God through Christ.  We have no excuse for not knowing and living the truth.  But where do we go?  Popular opinions.  We go to the hot topics of the day and rather than applying Biblical truth to our lives, we look for ways around it.

As we come to Resurrection Sunday this week, may we be surrendered to the truth and embrace the truth.

Jesus, after all, said that He is the truth!  

 

If only….

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Keep walking….don’t go back

If only….

Those two words can capture much regret, disappointment, and sadness.  If only I had said something else.  If only I had not acted on that impulse.  If only I was able to go back and change that moment.  Scenes get replayed and wounds get opened again and again.

Isn’t it interesting how the human heart works?  One moment God is clearly leading you and you are rejoicing, but the moment a challenge comes, you wonder where He is.  Have we really gotten so weak that resistance of any kind makes us retreat?  I guess it really isn’t new, though, is it? In Exodus 16 Moses had just freed the people from slavery.  This was no vacation in the Caribbean; they were slaves.  But the minute it got hard, they complained.  The grumbled.  They criticized their leader.  I mean, really?  Listen to yourselves!   They even fantasized about going back!  They remembered the food they ate there forgetting that it cost them their freedom. (and probably wasn’t as good as they claimed)  They longed for their chains because at least they knew what was next.

But this is not the journey that Jesus Christ calls us to.  The Christian life is not one of ease and luxury.  It is a life of sacrifice and trial.  There will be pain.  There will be challenges.  Your character will be attacked for no reason.  What do we do?  We do not go back to the chains.  The freedom that He bought for us broke those.  Instead, we keep walking hand-in-hand with our Savior.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Do not go back to slavery again.

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!

Surrender or Drown

I have trust issues; I think we all do.  It is not that I don’t believe God will do what He said, I do.  My problem is in being too impatient to really wait for it. Well….no, that’s not entirely true either.  Let’s couple that impatience with a desire to be in control and maybe we are getting closer.  No matter how you describe it, at its core,  it is a lack of trust.  I guess I was convicted by my own sermon yesterday because as I sang the closing song I thought “Lord, I have held so much back out of fear or as the result of past hurts.”  Fear and trust apparently don’t like hanging out together because when fear is around trust shows up only in shallow ways, not the deep, abiding way we are desperate for.

The song we were singing “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” Hmmm….I can’t imagine anyone can really say that they have surrendered ALL. Some, sure.  Most, maybe.  But to surrender all is much more costly. And so I sang that song longing to surrender all, with the realization that fear and doubt are always ready to make me start to grab onto things.

The picture I get in my mind is this: 

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Trust is easy when things are calm

Let’s say you are out in a canoe and you have all of your fishing gear there with you. This is not just any gear either, this is the best gear you own.  You are floating along when all of a sudden you run into something, turn sideways, and flip over.  In that moment it would be difficult not to try to grab your gear before it floats down the river.  But do you know what is better?  Surrender.  Surrender those things to the river because if you don’t, you will drown trying to save them.  If you make an attempt to gather all of your belongings, you have made a choice that those things are more important than your life.  But what good will that stuff be to you if you are dead?

 

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It doesn’t take very long for life to flip you into the water.  The question is:  what do you do when that happens?  If you are to trust in Jesus with all your heart, then you will grab onto Him and surrender everything else because life in Him is far more valuable than grabbing onto things that will drown you.

 

 

Stop Killing Time

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Time is not worth wasting

I have a confession to make.  It seems that I have killed a lot of time in my life. There is no way to measure the amount of time that has been slaughtered by my carelessness.  I have been a killer of time and I am not happy about it.  You see, time is a commodity that seems to become more and more important the older that one gets.  When I was in grade school I looked forward to the day being over.  I looked forward to the weekend, to summer, and to that vacation my family had planned.  I looked forward to getting to high school, getting my license, and finally getting out on my own.  All of those things came quickly though and now time seems to be moving along faster than I can watch it fly on by.  It bothers me because I know that one day I will look back and wish that time I murdered when I was younger is able to be brought back to life.  It bothers me because I keep getting these things on my Facebook feed reminding me of how quickly my kids are growing up.  I have no time to waste!  Every minute actually matters.  Every second must actually be savored as the most important moment of life.   It seems to me that life was meant to be lived right now, not for something in the future — an idealistic dream world that never actually comes anyway.  So then I wonder how it is that we can talk about how busy we are in one moment with no time to spare and then spend an hour “killing time” waiting for our children to finish their event, or our plane to board.

Stop killing time and start living your life purposefully.  Wait with purpose.  Meet new people.  Take up a new hobby.  Read a book (an actual one with paper).  Do something for someone else.  Pray.  Turn off the notifications on your phone. Find something to do.  Just don’t kill time.  It will be gone before you know it and you have none to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

Joy, Pain and Christmas

The season of Christmas has such interesting dynamics to it.  On the one hand, it is really fun.  I mean who doesn’t love seeing their kids dressed like sheep and angels?  It can be fun to have time to catch up with family or friends. My daughter was giving me the details on how many sleeps it is until Christmas and the order of events.  To say she is excited about this Christmas is an understatement.  But in all of my preparation this week for two services,  and time with my family I have been thinking about the amount of suffering that people are going through.  Does that seem strange?  Well, keep in mind I am a Pastor of a church and an EMT in the local community.  I have seen some suffering.  I know we sing songs about how wonderful this time of year is and declare “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.”  But what about those who are not experiencing so much joy

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Christ is the hope of Christmas.

this year?  You can’t just sing it and make the pain go away.  Some people have experienced more loss this year than at any point in their life.  Suicide.  Depression.  Alcoholism.  Abuse of all kinds.  Stress.  Anger. Anxiety. Financial Challenges. Illness. I mean, can we just be honest and say that for some people this season does not make pain get better, it just amplifies the issues.

So what difference does this baby make for those who are hurting this Christmas?  Micah 5:5 says that this ruler who was to come out of Bethlehem would be our peace.  Peace is something we talk about and strive for, but can’t seem to achieve.  But if Jesus is our peace, maybe we can experience it.  Maybe this one we celebrate can actually enter into my mess and help me.   And of course the answer is emphatically “yes!”  You are why He came!  You are why He left the comforts of His heavenly home and entered our world in an insignificant town surrounded by insignificant people on some insignificant day in a very insignificant way.  In doing so, however, He did provide for us something we were so desperate for: hope.  Hope says that while right now things are a mess; one day things will no longer be that way.  Why?  Because Jesus has come and is coming again.

Do you have some questions?  Yes.  Do you have some things you are hoping to see resolved?  Yes.  But there is comfort in knowing God was not content just telling us how to live; He needed to send His son to demonstrate His love for us.

So if you are in a good place right now and you know someone who isn’t, it could be a real good idea to encourage them in some way.  In fact, I think it is exactly what Christ demonstrates for us in His birth.  He showed up in our mess in order to save us from it.  I  have showed up many times just to visit with someone who was really having a tough time.  Those kinds of things mean the world to people.   It reminds them that God has not forgotten them — the very heart of the Christmas story.

Oh, and get to it because there are only 3 more sleeps until Christmas.

 


Want to hear more about what Jesus Christ has offered to us?   Check out my Christmas Sermon Series on our Church Website.