What is bigger?

18 05 2013

I heard about a great website, iamsecond.com.  It has videos of a variety of people who declare “I am second” with God being first.  The videos are powerful and for those of us who are Christians they make perfect sense.  For those who are not Christians, I think the site does a great job of building a bridge and encouraging people to consider the possibility of being second.

When we look at the world, we see the ugliness of sin.  The escape of three women who had been held captive for a decade is one extreme example.  Each one of us have personal stories that make us cry or make us so mad we want to scream at the world.

That is where I found myself Friday afternoon.  I sat with a group of leaders wrestling with an ugly situation involving some of our people.  There was sorrow, anger, frustration…and the big question “why did this happen?”  Good leaders take it personal and look in the mirror to see if it was something they did or didn’t do.  They blame themselves and desperately want to fix it.

The easy answer is to tell everyone to become a Christian.  Of course the recent story of a Christian musician being accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife might make some skeptical.  I prayed Saturday morning needing answers and thankfully God nudged me.

When we are focused on something larger than ourselves, we seem to get it.  If some catastrophe hits a city there are two choices.  Those who chose to focus on their community come together and great things happen and amazing stories are told.  Those who chose to worry about themselves loot.

I have a bias.  Jesus perfectly demonstrated what it meant to live a life focused on something bigger. It is amazing to mediate on the idea of God making our well being bigger.  Jesus didn’t have to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  He lived a life saying “not my will but your will be done.”  Even non-Christians are humbled by his life and point to his example.  Everyone can agree he lived for something bigger than himself.

When do Christians get it wrong? When we start worrying more about ourselves and stop caring about those around us.  When our needs and sadly often our wants become bigger.  We need to remember the one we follow.  He set the standard and promises to help us meet it.

This seems to be a universal principle.  I played through a variety of situations.  When we are focused on something bigger than ourselves, we act appropriately.  When we are focused on ourselves, we hurt others.  You can apply this to marriage, work, friendship…any area of your life.

Monday morning I will have the opportunity to sit back down with this group of leaders and offer my contribution.  It will need to be something that can be understood by everyone regardless of their faith.  It will need to be tangible.  I think I have the seeds of something good.

For those of us who are Christians, the world desperately needs to see that we are “second” and we are focused on something bigger.  For those who are not Christians I would ask you to consider what is bigger in your life.





Pure Joy

29 01 2013

Have you ever had a bad day?  I know.  It was a silly question.  We all have bad days.  Some have bad weeks and others face years of struggle.  The longer we live the more we understand that life is not fair and suffering is a reality we must deal with.  Most people intellectually understand we need to respond well during difficult times.  To help us feel guilty we see stories of someone who has it way worse than we do but handles it with much more grace and dignity than us.

To increase our guilt the Bible seems to support this high standard of handling difficult situations with a positive outlook.  Take a look at what James said in his letter:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,a whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2 NIV)

I did a study of the verse and while the translators who wrote the NIV used the word “pure,” if you look at the original Greek the letter was written in you could also use the word “all.”  Imagine having a perspective of all joy while facing a trial.

So if you are a “good” Christian you walk around with a fake smile and praise God for the trial you are going through.  But what if the Bible is right?  What if there is this joy that is all-encompassing you can have as you go through a trial?  I believe that level of joy is available and waiting for us.

To get there we need to take two steps.  First, we have to believe this was not the way God wants things to be.  For proof just look at his reaction in Genesis Chapter 3.  We live in a fallen world.  This is why one of the pictures we use is the picture of God redeeming us or saving us.  This is why we look forward to Jesus returning.  We don’t expect Jesus to just stop by Wal-Mart on his way to Jerusalem.  We expect Jesus to bring an end to this fallen world and restore creation to God’s original plan.

Second, we need to see God’s response was to become personally involved and face suffering directly.  Jesus faced a wide range of pain and suffering before ultimately facing the cross.  Bottom line God gets it.

That’s when it hit me.  Those moments of all-encompassing joy happen in those intimate times of prayer when I am crying out to God and he hugs me and I know he understands.  The hug feels like a deep inner peace wrapped in compassion.  It is powerful.  In that moment my perspective changes and I am able to have a joy that puts things into perspective.  I am also reminded that Jesus’ death was not the end of the story.  He conquered sin and death and put suffering on notice that it’s time is limited.

I know there are a wide range of responses to what I just said.  For some they fully agree and have experienced those hugs.  For others they have lost that sense of connection with God or are angry with God and the last thing they want is to have God hug them.

Books have been written on this topic and a short devotional will not answer everything.  I would tell you that trials are the point where theology (our understanding of God) and practical life meet face to face.  We are forced to come to terms with what we believe about God and ourselves.

For those of you who have experienced those hugs I encourage you to spend some time thanking God.

For those who need a hug I encourage you to take a systematic theology class….not really.  I encourage you to not give up and to seek God in the midst of your trial.  It may mean talking with someone about what you believe and adjusting your understanding of God.  You may have to wait a little longer with confidence that at just the right time God will give you that hug.  The peace is amazing, the compassion is phenomenal and the love in incredible.

God is good.  I believe it.  I have experienced it and I hope you will too.





Finding my voice

12 01 2013

As I look back on 2012, I am disappointed in my number of blog posts. I know I am suppose to be writing. God has clearly impressed that upon me. It is also discouraging to only have 28 followers and I hate looking at my stats page which usually is single digits.

I know all of the spiritual answers:
-If it helps just one person it is worth it
-It is not about numbers, Jesus had large crowds but few followers.

I also understand the writer’s burn, where you feel the pain of not writing.

So here I sit between a rock and a hard place: Needing to write but being discouraged by the number of people reading what I write.

Will you help me? Can you recommend my blog to others? I have a personal goal of getting to 100. It would be an encouragement to me and help me be motivated to write.

I always love feedback. It helps me get sharper.

In addition, I have updated the discipleship curriculum. Please take a look and let me know what you think.  You can find it on my Discipleship/Mentorship page

As far as the content, I am really mindful of writing what God leads me to write but sometimes God is silent and I am willing to write on topics of interest or issues you wrestle with.

Since the world did not end in 2012, I look forward to making this blog a valuable tool in 2013.

Thanks.

PS. Immediately after this post I will be posting a new post. Today you get a 2 for 1 special:-)





Happy Thanksgiving!

24 11 2011

“Thank you” is a simple statement.  We use it when someone holds a door for us or gets us a drink.  We also use it when someone saves a life or makes a great sacrifice.  It may be simple but it slows us down and shifts our focus from ourselves to the contributions of others.

I appreciate Thanksgiving.  It gives us a day to focus on thankfulness.  There are stories highlighting people who serve the community.  Articles are written to capture the spirit of the day.  People will talk about focusing on what they are thankful for in spite of difficult circumstances.

I want to jump on that bandwagon.  There is a story told in Luke 16:11-19 about Jesus healing ten lepers.  Only one came back and said thank you.  Jesus asked about the others but they were like us most of the time.  They were so focused on themselves they did not slow down and give thanks for the gift they had been given.

The twist in the story is that the man was a Samaritan.  Jesus referred to him as a foreigner and asked about the other nine.  I will assume the other nine were Jews.  They grew up as those who could freely go to the temple.  The Samaritan would have always been looked down upon and seen as an outsider.  When the ten of them got leprosy, they would have all been declared unclean and would have been unable to worship at the temple.  There was a procedure if they could prove they were cured where they could once again enter the temple.  The nine would have been comfortable with the process.  The Samaritan would have been excited when he heard those amazing words from the priest declaring him clean.

While people will debate the state of Christianity in the United States, the reality is that we are use to it.  We have a basic understanding of the structure and expectations when we go to church.  Those who are active in church can even become more comfortable with the environment.  We can become so comfortable we forget just how amazing the gift we have been given is.

This Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent.  It is the time of preparation in church tradition for Christmas marking God stepping down into humanity.

I invite us all to be like the Samaritan.  Lets look at the rituals and the ceremonies that will happen with new eyes.  Lets get excited about the opportunities to gather and worship.  When we take communion, lets pause and let it touch our hearts.  For those exploring Christianity, I am especially excited for you.  Enjoy the time of discovery and I hope you have moments of awe as you see the depth of God’s love.

My hope for each one of us is that over the course of this week we will all have a special moment with God and be able to say “Thank you.”

God bless,

Chaps





Avoiding the Mediocre Life – part 1.

20 09 2011

“So King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” (Acts 26:19)

This was said by Paul later in his ministry. The vision he was referring to was given in Acts 9. God tells Ananias, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Fast forward to chapter 26 and Paul is before a Gentile king. He was living out the incredible life God had envisioned for him.

One of my mentors connected the dots for me on this story. He pointed out that while we often look at our current circumstances or dwell on the past, God is looking to the future and sees how we will be. In Acts 9 Paul was a persecutor of the church. Ananias tried to remind God of Paul’s past and why Paul was on his way to Damascus in the first place. God understood who Paul was but God was looking at Paul faithfully standing before King Agrippa in the future.
How does this apply to you and me? We don’t have to let our past or our current circumstances derail the plan God has for us. God has a vision of us being a great friend, a faithful spouse, a terrific parent and for some leaders in the church. Our part is to trust in God’s vision.

The first step in trusting God’s vision is to remember God is more concerned with who we are than what we do. Often times we bog ourselves down with creating a huge “to do” list for God hoping that if we finish all the items on the list then God will be happy with us. This is a part of our accomplishment driven culture. We naturally define success by what we have done. Now if we apply this logic to a one year old child, it falls apart. What can a one year old accomplish other than looking cute and making all the people in the room talk funny? We don’t hold the child accountable for what the child has done instead we enjoy the child for who he or she is. Compared to God we are at best one year old children.

I want to dig into this idea a little deeper. Think about the last time you were with a child. What was your focus? First, if you are like me, you want to check out their toys. Kids give us a great excuse to play and some of their toys are pretty cool. What was your focus when they did something wrong? For the most part you focused on their character. You guided them on how to share or play fairly. You taught them cheating is wrong and pulling hair is not an effective conflict resolution strategy.

If we can see that God is focused on our character and who we are as a person, then we start to focus on the right things.

This week I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and ask God about your character. What are those areas you can celebrate because you are strong in them and what are areas you need to work on? Working on those areas is a matter of praying, reading the bible to get God’s perspective and often times having someone holding us accountable to help us change.

Now you might be wondering how this ties in with my title “avoiding the mediocre life.” I am glad you asked. This sets the stage for what we will talk about next week. As we see God molding who we are, the stage is set for us to have an incredible impact on the world around us and have a life that is anything but mediocre.

God Bless,
Chaps