A New Start – 2020

It is always refreshing to start something new. To be able to begin with a clear mind and conscious on a new white sheet of paper with unlimited possibilities. Our biggest challenge is to actually start with the freedom that we have in front of us without letting the past color too much of our new start. Of all the strengths from our relationship with Jesus Christ one of the most powerful is that of forgiveness. Each day becomes a new opportunity in our lives to live out and share God’s love in our lives with others. If this were true in our lives then why do we struggle so much with the freedom of a new life?

Could it be that our old life had some advantages to us ? We were comfortable, everyone knew what to expect, no explaining to do, no different actions to take. People appreciated and accepted us in our flawed state and we were all good with one another. Wow, I am glad we got that aligned I thought this was going to get complicated for a minute …… We are all comfortable in our flawed lives and living at or below the expectations of others and to ourselves not to mention God.

The rich young ruler in Mark 10 – lived his life to the best of his ability and sought Jesus humbly to determine how he might obtain eternal life but his real motive was of human intent in that he wanted an eternal life with the qualities of this life? He calls Jesus good and the next statement is often taken as just that a statement that by itself is true and right but it can also be a question that Jesus poses to the young man to gage the seriousness of his intent.  

Mark 10:18 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.

Does he believe he is talking to God or simply a teacher that has an answer he knows he cannot get answered anywhere else? If he feels good about his life up to this point then certainly he has less left to do in attaining eternal life than many others right ? Jesus knowing his heart confirms for him what he must do and the young man confirms he has kept the commandments to the best of his human ability for most of his life – the text VS 21

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him.  says that,

and told him he had one thing he had not done – go and release all that he had but the text says he had many possessions and he could not part with them on faith alone. Jesus uses money once again, though not the real topic here, to illustrate the physical and spiritual struggle we have in our day to day lives when we reflect. The good comes thru and the things we have neglected or failed at we would rather skip but these are the very things God wants us to focus on and give from our spirits beyond our physical selves.  Time, money, energy, talent …… still not enough because the spiritual requires an acknowledgment of God being first – dependence on Him.

If we can reflect and plan forward giving him control of our lives then we can accomplish many things that are not physically possible today because we have not allowed God to make them possible for us.

Mark 10:26-27   26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.  But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”   

Year End Reflections

Luke 22:61 New Living Translation (NLT)

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

The end of another year provides an opportunity for us to look back over our past year and take account of our positive and negative experiences in this year.  Reflection on our lives is a vital part of improving our future direction and purpose in life. Luke 22:16 may not be the first text that comes to mind when we think of a motivational reference for looking back on our lives. We often prefer to focus on the positive areas and with good reason; they have a good direction for us and we feel successful in them and look forward to building on them. While that is for sure an  important part of our purpose God often prepares us for our greatest purpose from our failures. To look at a year and leave them out would be to ignore the larger hand of God’s spirit moving in our lives to teach us a larger lesson that we can use to help others in a way we may have not even dreamed of in the past.

I have to wonder how often Peter reflected on this failure in his life? How did it weigh on him that he got not one but three warnings that his heart was not committed to what he professed and that no matter how he looked at it he failed Jesus. He could always look back on his Good Confession that Jesus was “ The Christ, the Son of the living God” or walking on water but this failure could never change. If failure were the only perspective for Peter then he would not get the complete message God had for Him in the events of the night before Jesus died on the cross. We too often get so bogged on the failure we don’t look at it in the reflection of God’s perspective on our lives. Peter’s denial wasn’t a surprise to Jesus only to Peter and Jesus saw it because he used the opportunity to show Peter that there were no limits to His love and ultimately His forgiveness. Just a short time later Peter would use the strength and wisdom of this time in his life to share this Love and Forgiveness with others on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit Jesus promised came to His believers in this life.

We would do well to reflect over the past year and prepare from where God has allowed us to be, whether in success or failure, for the future and purpose he has placed inside each of us.        

Advent 2019 – Week 3 JOY (2)

We too often think of Joy in connection to our happiness in life. The Bible is clear in its reference to Joy that it is a state of mind and a part of our character that is founded only thru our faith in God. Our view of Joy is usually an internal perspective on our own lives. It has us looking at our station in life as Joy while the Bible asks us to look at our results in life, a Fruit of the spirit, and how we live and serve others as our basis for Joy. If Joy is a visible quality when Nehemiah says “ The Joy of the Lord is our strength” it brings us to the question of how can we see God’s Joy in our lives. The most obvious is in God’s works –

Romans 1:20  

20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

God provides a reminder for us of His Joy in how he begins and ends each day. The sunrise and sunset both contain bright pink, pale pink, rose pink all painted into them by God. Like the shades of God’s joy our joy and expressions of joy can be different. Joy can be exuberant when we experience the faithfulness of God, it can be a calm confidence in His sovereignty, or a simple feeling of faith in Him everything will be ok even on days when we cannot see the sun.

Advent 2019 – Week 3 JOY (1)

Webster’s defines Joy as a noun and part of our “happiness”. Paul turns this thought upside down and brings us Joy as a Fruit or an “action” of the spirit toward others. A servant of God in Jesus Christ finds Joy in serving others. It is a servant’s heart that looks out not in for true Joy that abides in our spirits regardless of circumstances. Happiness is not a part of that Joy, only a love for others built on a foundation that God loved us not because we first loved Him but because we needed to beloved. Our confession of faith in Jesus provides us mercy in freeing us from sin and the Grace of the promise of our resurrection into an eternal life in heaven. It is in that Joy that we find both Hope and Peace in times of struggle, it is in that Joy that we reach out to help others when we are need ourselves and it is in that Joy that our hearts are filled with the presence of Gods truth and feel it guiding our lives. We come to find Joy as an action where our lives are an expression of Joy that we cannot quite define or explain but only know that how we live from our faith is the measure of Joy in our lives.  

Advent 2019 – Week of PEACE (2)

Many of the translations of this verse use “word” or “message” where PEACE is used here. The translations being different allows us to see how God’s message for us is accomplished regardless of our interpretation of the wording. The writing that God allowed us to record in our human language, with his spiritual revelation, is to tell the story of His love for us. We continue to strive to discover the spiritual significance of God’s Word in the Bible and how to apply it in our lives. This text is a great example of opening our hearts to God’s Word. The Peace of Christ can only come to us from our confession of Faith in Jesus Christ and we cannot get to that without knowing God thru His Word – Romans 10:9-10  (NLT) 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

For the “Peace” of Christ to rule in our hearts God’s “Message” thru His “Word” must be a part of our daily lives. We tend to look for more rigid or earned structure to guide us in life than to think of a free gift as being able to guide us. God’s love thru Jesus not only provides the free gift of salvation but that same gift is the day to day guide of peace that lives in our hearts each day.    

Advent 2019 – Week of Peace ( 1 )

Mark 4 brings us an interesting series of events in the life of Jesus and his friends. After teaching His Word to crowds of people Jesus invites His friends to get away for a while to the other side of the lake. The text says other boats followed and soon a fierce storm came upon them. Jesus was asleep resting after His day of teaching until, at the point of fear for their lives, His friends wake Him up the scripture says by shouting at Him “ don’t You care we are about to drown”.

Jesus woke up and simply said “peace be still” and there was a “great calm”. We often focus on the miracle as that is what we pray for in our lives and the lives of our friends. The value however, in our day to day lives is found in the text before the miracle.

How often do we go about our lives in a normal day moving along with the crowd and taking the day to day flow as a “peaceful” existence? Then thru some circumstance we are separated from the crowds of comfort by a storm in our lives. We do all we can but can’t get out of the storm and at some point, realize we can’t do it alone so we shout at God – “hey look at the mess I am in, don’t you care that I am in trouble and about to drown”? We are unable to see that God’s plan separated us from others so He could get our focus back on Him. The storms are often part of our lives to bring us closer to God. Jesus question to His friends is the same for us today – “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no Faith?” The storms bring us back to God and the Peace we find in God strengthens our Faith and that provides us a promised, Peace of Heart, Mind and Spirit. That is the Peace God wants us to have in our hearts and share with others in our day to day travels through life.

Advent 2019 – Week of HOPE (2)

Hebrews 6:19  (NKJV)

19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

This verse from the writer of Hebrews brings us to the purpose and promise of Hope. If Hope is a certainty of our spirit and character that centers in our souls it can provide a foundation or anchor to hold our lives in place in midst of our day to day circumstances. This is the same Hope that Paul references in Romans 8

Romans 8 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

Hope resides in our spirit and keeps looking beyond the challenges we find ourselves in today and to the promise of a better tomorrow. Hope is greater than the mere chance or odds that tomorrow will be better than today. Hope rests in the power of the Holy Spirit as Paul conveys the promise that Hope in Jesus Christ can save our souls. We have not seen the resurrection, but our Hope is in our faith that Jesus lived, died for our sins and was raised by God’s power on the third day. That is our Anchor, our Cornerstone, our Faith and our Hope. Until Jesus death the hope of the people was carried by the high priest into the Holy of Holies behind the temple veil to take a sacrifice to God on behalf of the people for forgiveness of their sins. Matthew 27:51 records that at Jesus death the veil of the temple was torn into from the top to the bottom so that it could not have been done by human hands. In Jesus death every individual gets direct access to god with no need of anyone to go to God on our behalf. That direct connection is what the writer of Hebrews and Paul in Romans are defining as our Hope and the anchor of our Faith.

Advent 2019 – Week of HOPE (1)

The first week of Advent is opened by Hope.  Paul writes to the Church in Rome on the power and certainty of Hope. It is the light by which all other parts of life today and tomorrow are illuminated from thought to possibility to reality. Emily Dickinson said, Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”
Hope is discovered as a fruit of our spirit through perseverance in life that builds our character. If Hope, then is a byproduct of our experience and our character it is a state of mind and spirit not an emotion. It is a promise of God granted to us with the Holy Spirit as a part of Gods power and glory and it is always available to us. While our lives may be impacted daily by circumstances we can always rest in the Love of God in Hope for tomorrow. When the darkness of today seems to overwhelm us, Hope is the lamp to a better and brighter tomorrow that God has planned for us.

Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)

5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Advent 2019 – Great Expectations

We are entering now the season of Advent leading us into the celebration of Jesus birth at Christmas. The word Advent comes from the Latin “adventus” – the coming or expectation. The season and time of Advent is exactly what it translates to in the 4 weeks prior to Christmas is a time of celebrating the coming and expectation of the world at Jesus birth as well as our current expectations of His return. The season is symbolized by the Advent wreath and five candles that are used each week in observance of a point of significance for the season. The wreath is a symbol of the never-ending circle of life and the Character of God in that he has no beginning or end but is the very beginning and end for us. 

Revelation 1:8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

The green of the wreath speaks of the newness and eternal promise of life through Jesus Christ.

The candles are usually 3 Purple Candles – representing HOPE, PEACE and LOVE, 1 Pink Candle  -representing JOY and the White Candle for Christmas representing Christ. We light a candle each week to highlight the spiritual expectation that it represents.

We will be releasing a post on each Sunday of Advent and a few posts each week on the promise from that week – HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE and CHRIST.

Stewardship – Blessings and Harvest

Post 6 – Time

The areas of our stewardship in our lives that we have looked at so far are pretty straightforward. God deserves a return of thanksgiving from us for the blessings that He has provided us with. It is often good to look at our stewardship to see if our gifts back to God come from our surplus or our sustenance. It seems simple that our giving be connected to God in a way that what we give comes from our best to serve others in the best possible way. The scriptures are clear that God does not desire our left-over offerings. From Cain and Able in Genesis to the widows’ mite in the Gospels God recognizes gifts that are given from the best that we have. It is not a hard measure to determine our faithfulness and unlike a financial tithe it does not require a formula. We need to only think about how we go about our normal day. We are often so busy in surviving that we miss a lot of the opportunity for true stewardship. What it looks like is this; after we have had a busy day, or week and someone calls us with an opportunity to help in a fundraiser for our kids’ class or with a local civic group and our first response is that we are too busy. Later in the conversation we realize that we need to help so we offer to make a financial donation or perhaps we provide them some advice on the event. The challenge if we are not careful is that we feel like with our busy schedules this is a solid contribution. While sometimes this can honestly be the case, but if it becomes our regular response then it can communicate to others that we will give of our money and our opinion but just don’t ask me for my time. Time has become the most valuable commodity in our lives. With all the demands that are placed on us we learn to guard our time very closely and we very much risk being too selfish with this blessing. Let’s take a look at time, how we value it, and how we might better view stewardship of our time.

At one point or another in our busy lives we have all most likely said “I need to manage my time better”. In reality, it is not possible to manage something that is fixed and unchanging like time? It would be like trying to lasso the wind and tie it to a fence post.

We all tend to miss this at first because we are under the illusion that with better technology will come better time management – The advent of email, cell phones, Facebook and Twitter will give us more and more free time only for frustration to set in because we are busier than ever! We have allowed the technology to own us, and drive us into more and more activity with little or no more actually getting accomplished.

If time itself then cannot be managed, what then can we do? Only the activity that takes place in the time we have each day is manageable. Activity can easily be prioritized according to how we choose to live our lives. It has been said that life is 10% of what happens to us ( circumstances ) and 90% how we deal with it ( activity ). It is our activity after-all that others see and is therefore an area of continual stewardship for us. The stewardship in activity can be best seen in how we take ownership and responsibility for the circumstances in our lives. For example lets say you are having a bad day, ( good days can allow us to take some activities for granted )  the clock didn’t go off – power blinked and you just haven’t gotten around to putting in the batteries for back up – just too busy, you are having a bad hair day and to top it off you have a flat tire on the way to work or Church or the Dr’s Appt – How do you view that – darn clock, crazy hair, worn car tire …………………. Regardless of how many things affected your arrival there are only two things that matter now 1) Your late 2) no one cares about the rest – you are late. Dont lay out the reasons you are late, you are just late. DO NOT give away your power to control your activity to the clock, your hair, a tire ……………….  Do we see ourselves as accountable to God for how we spend your activity? Do we own the activity that takes place in the time we have or do the activities own us?

One final thought on time. Our habits in our activities will be passed down to our children. Are you 10 minutes late everywhere you go. If you are continually 10 minutes late for work, you know you may not have a job for long. You recognize that you are accountable to your employer and you respect them enough to be mindful of this time and activity. We only have today and no guarantee of tomorrow so may we see God as the owner of all of our time and may the activity that we participate in be a good use of the blessings he has provided us.

James 4

 13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”