Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John 9 Coming to Jesus

This chapter shows some interesting attitudes that people bring to Jesus. At the beginning of the chapter, we see his disciples asking an honest question based on what they have been taught. Because they came to him with an honest question that they wanted answered Jesus healed the man and showed them they had been taught wrong. When we come to Jesus with an honest, open attitude, miracles can be accomplished. We are letting him do his best work because don’t consider ourselves equal with him and his abilities. With that attitude we recognize that he has the answers and we need to go to him to get those answers.
By contrast the Pharisees think they have the answers and therefore question the man about his healing. They end up arguing amongst themselves and throwing the man out. They even go back to the old standby, “You were sinful at birth, so you were blind.” How often do we get caught up in the rules and forget to listen to what God is really telling us? “Drinking is bad, so how dare you go to bar to witness to someone.” “People sin and break the law. So they deserve to go to jail and rot there. No one would in their right mind would think of witnessing to a criminal. They are too far gone.” Etc., Etc. I’m sure there are tons of examples of things Christians just aren’t supposed to do. Sometimes these are good general rules, but we can’t get so caught up in rules that we forget to listen to God telling us to reach out to people. Jesus even tells them that they are responsible for their sins. If we are in church listening to people talk about God and Jesus, at Judgement we have no excuse to say we didn’t know.
The blind man himself comes to Jesus with yet another attitude. He doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah immediately upon his healing. He recognizes that he is a good man and that he has been blessed with gifts from God. Jesus comes to him again and speaks with him. Jesus shows him who he is and talks with him and the man believes. Some people need to be presented with Jesus more than once before they believe. They aren’t anti-Jesus, but they just have more questions that need to be answered. They are open to the possibility of Jesus, but they just need to know more before they believe.
And finally we have the man’s parents. They confirm the man is their son who was born blind, but they will not say that he was healed by a miracle. They are too afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue to affirm what they know. Are we like this? “I know I need to get saved, but what will my friends think?” “I know God is calling me to seminary, but what will my family think?” “I know God is calling me to be a missionary, but I can’t leave my life here.” “I know God is calling to me to talk to that guy/lady I work with, but what will they think of me if I talk about God?” Are we more concerned with how people will perceive us or how God perceives us? Are we more worried about the temporal things of this world or the eternal things of the next?
What category to you fall into? What attitude are you coming to Jesus with and how can you affect people you know that fit into other categories?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Long Weekend

We haven't had a free weekend in awhile.  We finally had a free weekend and we made some plans.  We hung out with some friends Friday and Sat. night.  Saturday during the day we planned to put up Christmas decorations, vaccuum the house, go to the dump, do the recycling, mop the floor, sort Ben's old toys and get rid of some, and those other fun adult things.  We also planned to take Ben to his gym class for the first time this month.  Friday night we couldn't go to the restaurant we planned, but there was another one close by, so that was okay.  Ben did wonderful and sat/stood between us and played great during the movie.  The two poopy diapers from the sweet tea he drank weren't great.  (We didn't want to give him tea, but he didn't scream during dinner that way.  We did switch him to water.) 

Saturday during the day was nothing like we planned.  It started out so good.  Ben slept in and I got to get on Facebook and play around a little bit.  We got ready and took him to gym class only to find there was a meet and there was no class.  I didn't actucally go in.  When I couldn't park, I figured there was no class.  We went home slightly disappointed, but I figured we could go to the mall to play.  So Drew mowed over the leaves after jump starting the lawn mower.  (Yes, the lawn mower battery was dead.)  We went to the mall, had lunch, and took Ben to the play center.  He loved it of course and was well behaved.  They even had the first "snow" of the year with soap suds.  It was super cute!  Then visted PawPaw and dropped him off with Nana for a nap and some play time while we cleaned and decorated.  Drew got a pleasant and unexpected phone call from our landlord saying they were taking $200 off our rent this month because we were good renters.  Yay! (Tithing really does pay off.)  They asked if everything was good with the house and we said yes.

Then we got home and went to the basement.  There we discovered it was raining.   Well Drew discovered this, came upstairs and told me not to freak out.  So of course, I was ready to freak out.  One of the pipes was shooting out water.  We called the landlord and she sent someone right over.  Drew tied a rag around it and we started moving boxes.  The freaking out didn't really come.  We just got to work.  I started sorting and thorwing away while Drew and the landlord's dad thought of ways to fix it.  Some boxes of things I looked at and had no problem tossing them out.  And some boxes I looked at were miraculously dry or dry enough to save.  Those were the important things.  I say miraculously on purpose.  God is in the miracle business and he performed one on Saturday.  Neither Drew nor I freaked out and the important stuff was saved.  What's more impressive, Drew and I had been saying for a couple months that we needed to get down there and toss stuff out.  God had been preparing us for it even though we didn't know it.

Sunday was realtively normal.  Thankfully!  I even had time to sort through Ben's toys.  Wed. I'm off and now that will be a busy day with Christmas pictures, Christmas shopping, getting blood drawn, cleaning the house, going to the dump, and Christmas decorating.  That's a good kind of busy though.  Isn't it amazing how God works even we don't know he is working?  Praise God for the long weekend that we had!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coffee With a Sparrow

I received the below devotional yesterday by email. Very rarely do I participate in chain e-mails -- especially those of a Christian variety -- mostly because I completely agree with the author's last 2-3 sentences of the devotional I've posted below. Even though there may be a wonderful message in said emails, I strongly resent the notion that often accompanies them suggesting that Christ's love has strings attached to it or that His blessings can be manipulated in any way. So the chain normally stops with me. But this, I got such a blessing from this yesterday on a day that I truly needed one, that I couldn't resist sharing. I hope you enjoy and receive a blessing yourself:

THE SPARROW AT STARBUCKS

The song that silenced the cappuccino machine.

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square.

Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to
send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.

For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right.

Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure gig - I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in.
During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.

"No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?" To my delight, she accepted my invitation. "You choose," I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"

"Well. ... do you know any hymns?" Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."

"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."

"Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one." She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing, "Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?"

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.

"I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free.
For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me."

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.
Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!"

But the ovation continued.. I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"

"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.

"Why is that?"

"Well . .." she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."

"Really!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual.. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence.
"Are you going to be okay?"

She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine." She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it. God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.

The next time you feel like GOD can't use YOU, remember,

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer...
And Lazarus was dead!


No more excuses now!! God can use you to your full potential. Besides you aren't the message, you are just the messenger.

God bless. Pass this on to someone else, if you'd like.

There is NO LUCK attached.
If you delete this, it's okay:

God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Advice

Probably the best advice I ever got in my life was from my dad.  After camping one weekend, we were picking up our campsite and he asked me to pick up some trash.  My response was that it wasn't mine, so why should I have to pick it up. He told me that we should "leave it better than we found it."  These words convinced me to pick up that trash, but also spoke to me much deeper than simply in that moment.  He gave me words to live by.

I can't say that I always live this out, but I try.  I recycle some (not as much as I should) to try to leave the Earth better than I found it.  I try to educate my students about Spanish and also about the world in an effort to leave them better than I found them.  I'm working on reading my Bible every day and praying every day in an effort to leave this world, my family, my friends, etc. better than I found them.  I am honest with the youth in our youth group about my struggles, my past, etc. in an effort to leave their relationship with God better than I found it.  I am an active member of my church in an effort to leave it better than I found it.  So I guess the purpose of this post is a little thank you to my dad for such great advice.

John 6:68-69

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”


While these are only a few short verses in a long chapter that could bring forward many questions and comments, I find these verses speaking to me.  Yesterday in his sermon, Pastor Scott mentioned some of the things the disciples gave up to follow Jesus:  Comfort, Careers, Possessions, Position, Family, and Safety.  When you consider all that they gave up, Peter's statement becomes much more powerful.  They could have gone back to family, their jobs, their houses, their businesses, etc., etc.  However, they didn't consider any of these a possibility.  They knew that real life was held in Jesus' hand.  They put Jesus so far above everything else that they saw no other option, but to follow him.


How does this relate to us?  Do we see other options?  Do we keep our backup plans around?  I would venture to say there are several of us out in the world, who see Jesus as an option.  If he doesn't work out, then I can always go back to my family, my business, my car, my house, etc., etc.  Jesus doesn't want to be an option.  You can't simply take a little of him to make sure you life goes better.  He must be your only option.  What is standing in the way of making him your only option?  Is he really worth giving up EVERYTHING?  This is the cost of discipleship.  Can you say you have no where else to go?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Labels

Just a few quick thoughts on this Monday.  I hope I can clarify these jumbled thoughts.

Whether we like it or not, our lives are filled with labels.  We label ourselves one way or another to belong to one group or another.  Other people label us based on their perception of us.  How often do we group labels together as if one automatically assumes another? How often do we define ourselves based on previously assumed labels?
I am an American Christian.  I am a Christian American.  I am a Democratic Christian.  I am a manly Christian.  I am a manly American.  I am an American man.  I am a Christian man.  I am a womanly Christian.  I am a womanly American.  I am an American woman.  I am a Christian woman.  The list could go on and on and on.  Do these labels have to go together or should they be separate ideas?
What are your labels? What should be your labels?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus Calling

In this passage, we see Jesus calling his first disciples after a miraculous catch of fish.  In many ways, this may be a story we have heard many times.  We might marvel at the catch of fish.  We might focus in on the words, "fisher of men".  We might even find it amazing that Simon and the others just followed.  While all of these things are good to notice, there is still so much more in this passage. 
A few other things to notice:

1. Simon allowed his boat to be used by Jesus when it was needed.  Are we making our boats, houses, cars, money, talents, time, etc. available to Jesus when they are needed?

2.  He was a professional fisherman, but he put aside his pride to listened to Jesus when he asked him to do something radical.  He followed through and was rewarded with an enormous catch of fish.  What radical thing is Jesus asking us to do?  Maybe we need to talk to that family member about Christ.  Maybe we need to get up earlier in the morning to spend more time with him.  Maybe we need to turn off the TV/cell phone/computer a little more often and spend time with Him/our families/our friends.  Maybe he's calling you to go back to school.  Maybe he's calling you to join a ministry at church.  Maybe he's calling you to start a ministry at church.  The list could go on and on.  What rewards are waiting for us when we follow obediently?

3.  Peter's immediate response was one of humility.  He recognized he was not worthy of the blessing Jesus had bestowed upon him.  Way down deep in our hearts, are we really that humble?  Do we think we are worthy of those blessings?  I wish I could say I was this humble.  I think I often take his divinity for granted.  He is the God of the Universe.  Why do I deserve anything he has given me?

4.  Jesus' repsonse to Simon's humility was to call him into a totally new direction.  I think Simon Peter could safely say he never expected that for his life and he wouldn't have traded that life for anything either.  Do we get a little "homesick" for our old life?  Do we look back at what might have been?  Or are we pulling our boats to shore, leaving everything, and following him?  For Peter, it was all worth it.

Where do you find yourself in this story?  How are you going to move to the next level?  Let's not leave this as a nice story about Peter.  Make this story personal.  Find yourself in this story and move forward. 

Halloween

I have seen several Facebook statuses and a few blogs about Halloween and Christianity.  Some very anti-Halloween, some in the middle, and some "taking back" the holiday with a Fall Festival.  Maybe this is just me and I could be all wrong, but our intent towards the holiday seems to be more important than the origins of the holiday.  We all know the origins of Halloween are pagan and a little bit of Catholicism thrown in there for good measure.  I don't think what it was matters as much as what it is.  Today it is a festive holiday where kids get to play dress up, visit neighbors, and eat candy.  Of course this is not all that goes on at Halloween, but by and large this is the holiday.  Is this in and of itself bad?  I don't think so.  Ben participated in the Fall Festival at church and the Trunk or Treat.  He loved running around and visiting with people and kids from church.  Our intent was for him to eat candy, run around, and look cute.  He did.  We were also able to visit with a lot of people in the community in an non-threatening, non-intrusive way.  We gave their kids candy, complimented them on how cute they were, and spoke to them about our church.  My God is big enough to be able to use anything as a way to honor him and show his love.  That is what we were hoping to show with our participation in the Fall Festival and the Trunk or Treat.  If we had hired a psychic to predict the future of the children and talk to departed relatives, that might have been cause for concern.  But playing some games (fishing for ducks, find the pumpkin in the haystack, bean bag toss at a pumpkin), getting some candy, and playing dress up don't seem to be a cause for concern to me.  Let's not worry so much about what we call it and worry more about why we are doing it.

Just my 2 cents for the day.