Monday, January 26, 2015

The Disappointing Truth

Disappointment. It happens to all of us. Sometimes it is over silly things like our team not wining or the cake not baking correctly. Sometimes it's over life changing things like not getting a certain job or a rebellious child. Regardless of the level of disappointment, we all must decide how we are going to handle those times when life does not go as planned.

Early in the story of Jesus we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Luke 1:5-7 tells us that they were righteous in God's eyes. This couple loved God and followed Him with immense dedication. But they had a great disappointment in their lives. They were childless. A big deal to almost every married couple. Here we have two fully devoted followers of God who are living with great disappointment. Does that seem right to you? I am often tempted to think that if I follow God then all will go well with my life. My guess is that you think this as well. The problem is that this type of thinking is greatly flawed and causes many people to fall away from loving and knowing God.

It would serve us well to be reminded of a few things. First, Christians are not immune from pain, suffering and disappointment. Yep, we already know that. And yes, we forget it as soon as something bad happens to us. Second, lack of intervention by God does not mean God does not love us. God loves us and He is always intervening. Say this out loud. "God is always intervening on my behalf." Here is the tricky part. He rarely intervenes in the way we want or expect Him to. But He intervenes. One more thing to remember when life is disappointing. We must know the difference between hope and a promise. Many of the things we think are promises from God are actually hopes. We hope God will heals us from a sickness. He does not promise that. And if He does heal in a miraculous way we still will face death one day. You do realize every person Jesus healed eventually died. God promises to love us and always be with us. Almost every other promise by God is directly related to eternity. Yet we are constantly obsessed with the here and now. Maybe that is the root of all our problems.

How do we handle disappointment? This is a critical question. After all, isn't every disappointment in our lives the direct result of God saying "No". Henry Cloud gives us this relationship test. "A good test of a relationship is how a person responds to the word 'no'. Love respects 'no'. Control does not."

Do we love God or are we trying to control God? How we handle disappointment will gives us our answer.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Resolutions rarely work.

It is that time of the year when we think about changing. We want to change all kinds of things. We promise ourselves we will exercise more, eat less, read more, watch less TV and overall be a better person. We want to change. The truth is that 'want' is free. Wanting something never cost anything. But getting something can cost plenty.

We 'want' to change but in reality we don't change. Why? Because change is difficult. And we are not built for difficult. Another reason we don't change is because we try so hard to change and we burn out. We just can't keep fighting so we quietly slip back to the old habits.

I find that I am guilty of trying to change all by myself. I believe the lie that I don't need any help from God or anybody else. I'll just change. It never works. I'm also guilty of thinking that God will do the changing for me. He doesn't. For some reason He gives us a role to play in this change thing.

How do I get better at changing? How do I extend this desire to be better beyond the first two or three weeks of the new year? A helpful tool for me has been choosing one word that keeps me focused on the changes I want to make and the person I want to become. Check out for a guide on how it works. It doesn't make change easy but it helps. Try it. What do you have to lose other than a list of resolutions that you want keep.

Further reflection read: Galatians 3:3; Philippians 2:12; James 1:22-25

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Complicated Days and Noisy Nights

The line in Silent Night that grabs my attention the most is "sleep in heavenly peace". That sounds terrific. I long for the nights when I sleep the entire night. No waking up at 2:30 a.m. with a mind racing about life and all its complexities.

Rest. True rest. Peace. Heavenly sleep. Silent nights. Oh! Please sign me up.

The good news is this heavenly peace is available. Rest for my soul is possible. It is possible because of what Jesus accomplished. Not just His birth that we celebrate at Christmas. Not just His death and resurrection that we celebrate at Easter. But also His life in the in-between. I think we sometimes forget that Jesus lived a life. A life full of all the same pressures and joys as ours. Jesus modeled simple days and silent nights for us. Jesus says yes you can have rest for your soul.

But we are stubborn. We reject the offer of Jesus. The offer of rest. Peace. Healing. Salvation. Instead we try to impress people in our lives by doing and having every thing. By trying to stay up to date with every new thing introduced. We live in a constant fear that we or our kids are missing out on life. So we run from one thing to the next. We are consumed with NEXT!

All the while Jesus is saying "come to me and I will give you rest." We continue to ignore him. We need pills to sleep and caffeine to wake up.

Heavenly peace is available, because of Jesus, but I don't have it because I'm not obedient.

This Christmas season try leaving your phone at home on purpose. Create a 'not to do list'. Schedule 'no media' days. Go for a night hike in the mountains, on the beach or by a lake. See "keep the Sabbath day holy" as a command and not a suggestion. Practice asking 'Is this good for my soul?'

Heavenly peace is available, because of Jesus, but I don't have it because I'm not obedient.

For more reflection read Hebrews 4

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Brad Pitt and a Tank

How do you watch movies? Do you leave your brain at the concession stand? I know you leave your diet and retirement fund at the concession stand. No! I do not want two gallons of Coke for an extra 50 cents. 

I watch movies for entertainment like we all do but I also watch with life lessons in mind. Last night I went to see "Fury" with a group of friends from church. It's a story about a group of guys fighting in WWII Germany as part of a tank brigade.

Watching movies with intent and thinking about what they can teach us about life is a discipline we should practice. Truth is everywhere, even at the movies.

"Fury" has me me thinking about:

1. Freedom is not free. Seeing it fought for is sobering.
2. Obedience to authority is necessary for success.
3. Friendships are complicated.
4. Sacrifice is rare.
5. What am I capable of doing given the circumstances?
6. Death forces everyone to think about Jesus in one way or another.
7. Surrender accompanies compassion and grace.

I understand movies like "Fury" are not for everyone and my point for writing this is not to say go see a certain movie. What I am saying is practice using everything in your life to see God's truth. 

I have found learning from a movie experience is more fun than learning from a lecture.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Wanna Know

It's a secret. Nothing captures our attention quite like a secret. There is something within us that wants to know. And when knowing involves information that is limited then we get excited. We feel like we are in "the know".

Knowledge is powerful. Knowing the right things and the right people makes for a good life.

What is the most powerful thing you know? Go ahead and think about it. Did you? Or did you just keep reading? What's the answer? What is the most powerful thing you know?

My answer is my identity. Way to go Marty. You know your name. You are such a big boy. No. I am serious. The most powerful thing I know is my identity. More specifically my identity in Christ. Knowing who I belong to is the most powerful thing I know. Paul tells me in Colossians 3:1 that I have been raised to a new life as a follower and believer in Christ. Think Messiah. I have a new identity and a new reality. I now belong to God. I have been adopted into His kingdom. When I know my identity then I know my reality.

May you know your true identity.

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand." Colossians 3:1

Monday, November 3, 2014

Long Time Prayer

I never want to pray. That is my honest confession. I know I need to pray. I know I'm suppose to pray. I am always glad I prayed after I pray. Praying is like exercise. I never want to exercise but I know I should. I guess that's why prayer is a discipline. Why can't eating doughnuts and drinking chocolate milk be a discipline? I'd rule that one.

Because prayer is difficult, I need all the help I can get. The following prayer has been part of my prayer discipline for over a decade. It goes like this:

    Cover my life with the blood of the lamb
    Circle my life with the light of the cross
    In the name of Jesus
    Let me fall into no sin this day
    Nor run into any kind of danger

I am not sure where I read this but I wrote it in my journal and it has stuck. Here is why I like it so much.

    Line one: reminds my of my salvation.
    Line two: reminds of my witness.
    Line three: reminds me that Jesus is the 'true' center.
    Line four: reminds me that I have a sin problem.
    Line five: reminds me that I need God's protection.

If you're like me and struggle with prayer, try praying this on a daily basis. One last thing. You can replace 'my life' with a friend's name, family member, business, church etc.

Pray on. And be sure to pray before you eat your doughnuts and drink your chocolate milk. I am.