Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes...

I've really been struggling with the whole "work life balance" thing since starting my new position. Seems there is not enough time to learn everything I need/want to learn and still maintain margin for home-life. Last night was particularly difficult as I struggled to get home before 7:00. The kids were already done eating and getting ready for bed. I walk in and though I was excited to see them, had very little energy to go along with it. Then there is Nicole, who's been with them all day and has no energy left herself and is just looking for me to give her a bit of a break and perhaps some notion that she is still important to me.

So we proceeded to finish up bath time and continue with our Bible time. The kids love this time and if for some reason we are out late and try to cut it out, they often ask for Bible Time because they love it so much. So last night we were talking about how God protects us. We used Moses in the basket as the example of how God protected Moses. Each of us shared times when we've known God's protection for us. Then I asked the kids to pray and thank God for His protection.

Owen loves to pray. He often says the best prayers and I learn so much from listening to him. He talks to God as if God is His best friend (shouldn't we all); He keeps his prayers simple and to the point. So last night while he was praying he was thanking God for protecting him during a recent fall on his bike... and went on to ask, "help us remember that nothing is too hard if you help us."

I'm not sure where this came from other than by divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit. It didn't seem to fit with the prayer, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Nothing is too hard. And God used my son to remind me of that. Not this job, not this life, not a bike spill, not any challenge. What an awesome reminder and refreshment to my soul.

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise"
Psalm 8:2

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holiness is a journey ... not a destination

My last post was on December 23. As you can tell a month has passed since I've even taken time to record my thoughts. Busyness has taken over. I have been consumed with my new job and the chaos of learning new stuff. Leaving little margin in my life for hearing God's voice.

Lately in my study I've been studying Leviticus and becoming increasingly convicted about the holiness that God requires. In Leviticus it was of the newly established priesthood. Yet the same holds true today in the priesthood of all believers... including me.

This is where it gets dangerous. In Lev 10, we see two priests losing their life because their worship was unauthorized. So while I've been going through the motions, I'm positive that my worship has not been with the same standard of holiness that God demands and deserves.

I usually jump into things expecting perfection immediately... I must continue to remind myself that holiness is a journey... and God will use all things in my life - including a new job - to bring about holiness in my life. I cannot expect it to be a destination. Please dear Jesus, don't give up on me yet...I'm still trying.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Integrity at its finest

Ok, so I'm one of the few souls who have exhausted all of their vacation early in the year and now find myself in a desolate office just 2 days before Christmas! I joked to a fellow co-worker today that we were playing "survivor" and we were going to see who would be voted off at tonight's tribal council as things were getting rather isolated here.

But today, I noticed something. While not everyone is here there is one person here that is extremely telling. This individual is retiring from our company after 42 years of service. She's been an administrative assistant her entire career and has worked her way into a very prominent role supporting our Vice Presidents. Her last official day is December 31 but because we are on company shut-down between Christmas Day and January 5, tomorrow is her last day in the office. AND she is still here. Working away, tying up loose ends, tidying her workspace...

What makes this remarkable is that her boss is gone. He's been gone for nearly a week now. In Montana of all places, so there's not much chance he's going to pop in for a surprise visit. There's really no one else around either who would need anything from her. So she really is here just cleaning up. AND she stays.

Why? Well, she is a true company person - why else would she have stayed with the same employer for 42 years? (our company is only 53 years old). She just is that kind of person. Someone who wouldn't even think about abusing the privileges we've been given. Someone who wouldn't even think about lying or cheating. Someone put in charge of little and given much!

This person has taught me today as I watched her go about her work the value of integrity. Doing what you ought to when no body is watching....
But isn't that what we're all doing here on Earth? We've been given the chance to do what we ought to when Jesus isn't here in the flesh. But how many of us are doing this? How many of us are just "getting by" hoping that no one sees? How many of us have knocked off early from work to squeeze in last minute Christmas shopping hoping to avoid the crowds???

While we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, we also celebrate His life here on Earth. The first time he was here, no one really understood what King of Kings meant. So unabashedly men went about their life with little regard for Him. And here we are in the period of time with no visible representation of Him on this earth. And we're doing basically the same thing. Going about our life without regard for Him. . . But there is coming a day - and Praise God for this - when He will return and everyone will know what King of Kings means... and how we long for that day.

So my friends, as you read this today and as you prepare to celebrate Christmas - think of my friend and c0-worker here in the office - going out her duties diligently and respectfully in the absence of the boss. And please do the same. Live today for Him. Celebrate tomorrow and Thursday not just with gifts and food, but with the joy that comes from knowing the King of Kings is alive and will return again to call you by name. Bow before a manger scene somewhere this season and thank God that that Baby knows your name and willingly came to earth, went to the cross and is coming again, just for YOU!

Because you know... just like the fact that I saw my friend from afar going about her work... He sees you from afar even now as you read this! And he's watching... and waiting to call you by name.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Calming the Whirlwind

OK.. at the risk of sounding really old... and also negating my promise to never sound like my parents... I'm about to make a profound statement.

I can't believe Christmas is next week! It has come out of nowhere it seems.

I know literally it has not. The 25th is the 25th every year... right after the 24th and right before the 26th. Yet, as I get older, it seems that the whirlwind of life gets faster and faster. It started on Thanksgiving when our baby was hospitalized with respiratory problems. That took 3 days out of our season and seemed to put us "off of schedule." As a family, we've been rushing from event to event since, preparing cards, presents, etc... no different than most families at this time of year I suppose.

Yet, I'm seeking forgiveness right now... I have rushed through the season getting from event to event without regard for THE event. We've not purposefully created space in our life to reflect on the miracle of the season. We've not proactively educated our children on the miracle of the Messiah's birth. We've only been showing the kids that Christmas is a busy season.. and not a Birth Season.

That is until an event late last week caused me to stop in my tracks and take note. In the middle of my preparations and chaos I was offered a new opportunity at my workplace to take responsibility for a different team of individuals with a completely separate set of responsibilities from what I've been doing for the last 4 years. The kicker was I had about 24 hours to make the decision. In all honesty, I didn't realize how bored I'd become with my current role. I loved working for my boss - who is a great mentor and friend. I loved the people I worked with... I loved the work I had done... There was (and is) a lot of my current role that I'm not ready to leave behind.

Yet, the propect of something new awakened something in me. I realized how scary something new was. But yet in the scariness, something came alive in me again. I realized I would have to depend on God again to help me manage the ambiguity of the new position and I would have to create space to listen to Him again. Even as I type this, I recognize how arrogant it sounds... but you see the truth of the matter was that I had become dependent on myself in my old role. I had realized I could do it and I was relying on the talent God had given me and not upon God. I was growing but only in the areas I wanted to grow in... and not where God was pushing me.

So I have accepted the new responsibilties which will ultimately go in effect in January and I feel totaly inadequate but yet totally at peace with this decision. You see this is where the two parts of this blog post come together....

We can go through Christmas preparing for the event... and yet miss the EVENT. The whirlwind of life is profound and we all can fall prey to its suction. AND we can go through life and miss LIFE itself. Life was not meant to be lived in comfort... for in comfort we find only ourselves. The Miracle of Christmas is that "unto us a Savior is born." And not only at Christmas do we need to take time to marvel at the manger... but daily we need to realize our dependence on the Babe to help us really experience life.

So for this week, my actions have been to stop preparing to celebrate... and truly celebrate. Because God has opened my eyes up - AGAIN -to my dependence on Him... and that is the most peaceful place I can hope to be... even if there is a whirwind around me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Raised to New Life...

Last Sunday I had a very humbling and yet thrilling experience when I was asked to peform the baptism of a new believer. It was truly an awesome experience. I was humbled because you never know what role you play in showing or sharing Christ's love with somone else. I had met this young man at "The Porch." It is an area within our church where people can come to talk to someone else about what the Spirit is stirring within them. This guy came out and felt that God was telling Him to follow in obedience. He'd studied the scriptures and recognized that there was always a pattern between confession and being baptized. That day there on The Porch, he confessed Jesus as Savior and decided to wait until the following Sunday to be baptized. What an awesome day it was and what a celebration was occuring in heaven as one of God's children had officially come home.

It caused me to reflect on my own conversion experience. I could remember when I was baptized as a child. I remember my parents letting me make this choice. Yet I did it with all the wrong intentions. I knew it was a requirement to join the church to have been baptized previously. All of my friends were joining church at the allowed age, and so I wanted to as well when I turned that age. Thus, I decided to be baptized. This was merely an outward expression and there was no inward decision that had been made. I no more knew Jesus as my personal Savior than I knew the President of the United States as a friend. To me both were just figures in a story of life.

Fast forward to college. After the death of my brother I began to really question the meaning of life. I looked in many areas for that meaning. Many of them were dead ends. Most were unfulfilling. And at such an appointed time a person from Campus Crusade from Christ that I had gotten to know, pulled me aside in the library and really questioned me about whether I truly knew who Jesus was. He asked some very pointed questions that left impressions - and at the time - some deep wounds as I thought it to be offensive.

Yet, in those wounds it forced me to confront the deeper questions I wasn't facing. Then I really began studying the Bible and truly listening to the words of some of the old hymns that I realized I hadn't confessed and I hadn't obeyed. You see, I confessed to Jesus that I needed him when I was a teenager. I remember exactly when it was on the floor of my bedroom after a Christmas Eve service at church. But I had never told anyone of this decision. After realizing the words of Amazing Grace - were for me and that I hadn't told anyone about "the hour I first believed" I decided it was time. I studied the scriptures and found for myself that confession always comes before baptism in the Bible. Not the other way around. So at the age of 26, I was baptized on October 11, 1999. I remember repeating the great confession that day. Being lowered into the water and being raised out of it feeling completely free and loved. (It was extra special that my precious wife decided to be baptized that day as well so we have that special memory to share for ever as well.)

So as I was preparing to perform the baptism this last Sunday, I was praying and thanking God for the conviction of the Spirit and the strength to obey. I prayed with my new Brother in Christ before the baptism and asked God to help him remember this day for eternity and also to feel the awesome freedom and unconditional love that comes along with our confession of faith. As we stepped into the baptistry it really hit me -the awesomeness of this moment. That God would chose a sinner like me to become his own. And now through this ministry on "The Porch" I had the opportunity to introduce others to my heavenly Father and to be a part of their baptism.

Just to be clear, let me make certain that I do not believe the act of baptism confers salvation on anyone. There is no scriptural evidence to proove this. Yet, confession of Christ is what saves. And the Biblical order of this is confess and be baptized (See Matthew 3:6 for an example). So one is the commitment and one is the ceremony of that commitment. Yet this ceremony is so important. Because it is our chance to publically confess and show others our commitment. There is nothing like public confession to keep us accountable.

As I was lowering this young man into the water, I recited the phrase,
burried in death" and saw the water completely wash over his face. I realized again what that statement actually means. Burried ... forgotten... forgiven... Then I raised him out of the water, I recited, "Raised to new life in Christ" and I saw that as the water rolled off of his face, a huge smile replaced it... and I knew he was feeling this freedom that comes with our obedience.

Why can't we all feel this freedom? This forgiveness? The answer is - we can. Yet many have chosen not to. I urge you, if you don't feel it or if you can't remember - please don't hesitate. God might just be calling you to follow him. Don't wait...

In this season of Thanksgiving... the most important thing you could/should be thankful for is your salvation in Christ. If you haven't already, won't you make this the most memorable Thanksgiving already by telling someone else you've confessed Jesus as Lord of your life?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

They're seeking... are you ready??

I mentioned in my previous post about how in the last 4 days, it seems more people are wanting to talk about the Election... but not about the politics but about its significance. This election has provided an opportunity for us all to look deep within us and to challenge what we believe. Whether there were biases about skin color or whether there religious implications to our votes. It seems that everyone has had to challenge something in this election. Regardless of who would have won the election, there would have been nearly half of the country that would have been upset and would have had to find a way to "live with the results" and make peace with the decisions of the people.

Just in the past few days these conversations have centered around several questions. More than once, I've heard people remark that they thought they would feel more relieved than this. When I asked about it, they said they were feeling so much anxiety before the election and thought it was because of all the media hype and constant negative campaigning going on. They had anticipated that once it was over, it would be all better. But it isn't... they are still anxious. (And this was from a few of my friends who supported the winning candidate!) The way I look at it is that we have not been willing to call the "anxiety" we were feeling by the right name. You see we are living in a battle. A battle is going on all around us between good an evil. Let me be very clear, I'm not suggesting one candidate was "Good" and the other "evil." These are human beings and we know that all have fallen short of God's glory. Yet there is a war going on between the goodness of God and the evilness of Satan. As the world's heart grows further from Our Creator's this vacuum becomes greater. How can one deny that things are not getting better when compared against God's goodness? With that said, I think it is important to realize that no election was going to end this battle. It will exist until Jesus returns for His church. I found it humbling how many people outside of the church have never really heard of this and I also found it amazing how calling something by its rightful name often puts it in its place. Evil is evil and can only be defeated by the Blood of the Lamb.

I've also been asked more than once since the election (and ironically never before the election) if I thought God would hold us accountable for our vote. My response to this has been to ask a question and find out what that individual thinks their vote represents. Most people will recognize that a vote is nothing more than an outward sign of an inward decisions or commitments. And then I ask, "Do you think God holds us accountable for our decisions?" This has proven to be an interesting question. Too many people in our world have never truly thought about this. But isn't it true, every day He gives us a chance to decide on things. Some our trivial and some are major issues. Yet each decision gives us a chance to demonstrate our view of the world and our understanding of God. You have a choice to show you're growing and learning with relation for God's plan for you life. So while I sense the question many are really asking is this, "Do you think some people are going to hell because they voted for a certain candidate?" My clear response to this is emphatically, "No. People are going to hell because they have never made a decision to accept Christ to cover their sins." God's Word tells us that. Yet we have a chance to show repentance and allow Jesus to change our worldview and ultimately our outward decisions reflect our inner commitments to Him. So, I do believe God will hold us accountable but it is not our outward vote. It is our inability to recognize our sin that He'll hold us accountable for. Yet I also know that in His Grace, He gave me a way to avoid my destiny by repenting and accepting Christ into my life. We need to be a people of repentance on behalf of our personal and national sins. This is what needs to change first before we have any hope of our government changing.

The other question I've been asked is this, "Aren't you worried about the future?" (This was more in relation to the economy rather than the election.) I cannot lie. I AM concerned. I wonder how many people in the world will go hungry. I wonder why we continue to take away farmer's rights in the US to use technology and modern production practices when we know that there is not enough food to feed the world with the current rate of population growth. I wonder what the world could be like if we would seek relationship instead of religion. I'm concerned that there are people who have a false sense of "goodness" and have not truly experienced God through Jesus. Yet I can honestly say I'm not worried. I know that my faith is secure in Christ. I recall the day I asked Him into my life. I tell others about it regulary. I know He is in control. I know that He has always protected and provided for His Church even in difficulty.

So friends, as your friends are seeking - are you ready? How do you answer the question, "Are you worried?" Where is your faith; in self,or in The Savior? Take care of your own response first... and then be ready because there is a world of confused people out there who are asking questions and need to know the Answer!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our response...

Already just a few short days after Election day, I've realized some of the amazing things that are coming about from this election. (I'll make this the focus of this and future posts.) I've talked to several people and have been contacted by friends, co-workers and family members and it seems that everyone has something to say about the recent events. This is a monumental time in our history as a country. I'm thrilled that we can collectively take pride in the fact that we've risen above many of the prejudices that have divided us for too long.

One thing I'm very excited about is the chance that this provides us each to talk about our positions, our dreams and our aspirations. What a positive thing it is to find out really what is on the hearts of those we care about. In just a few short days, I've had a chance to share my "faith story" with many people. It seems for whatever reason (perhaps the election, perhaps the economic recession, and most likely because God is ordaining these conversations) that people are hungry to hear what God is doing in our world. I have to admit not all of these conversations have been productive or uplifting. Some people have been holding so tightly to their bias that they are unwilling to entertain someone else's position much less to pursue a relationship with them. This is what saddens me the most. Because we know truly that all division amongst us comes from The Enemy and not from God.

I'm saddened that so many of my Christian friends are walking around with their heads held low. I can understand that the winning candidate stands in opposition to God's laws in many areas - but God ordains all leaders and our hope is in so much more than a candidate or a president.

I'm saddened that others are behaving as alarmists and already to proclaim God's judgement on our nation. True we do know that standing in opposition of God has never worked in the past but we also know that no one is more powerful than God. And we've also seen from our 2 centuries of democracy that nothing moves quickly in government.

I'm saddended to say that even some of my Christian friends are holding so tightly to their bias that they are putting rules in front of relationship with others as they are talking with them. What we must realize in this hour is that religion will never save the world. The more we hold to doctrinal differences show division amongst the Church, the more people stumble who are truly searching for something stable in the source of strife. We know ultimately that the only thing that will provide this stability in someone's life is a relationship with Christ. Yet, if we don't seek relationship first and only hold on to religion or rules, we will never have a relationship with others and likely they will never see Christ. Just in the last few days, I have been told that this church or that denomination is right and this church or denomination is wrong. I've been corrected for studying the Bible incorrectly. I've engaged in conversations where people have given up on the Church completely. This breaks my heart and I'm sure it saddens Jesus when His children are divided.

Think for just a moment how much more effective it would be if we were to rejoice that in today's world there are still people searching for God. They are opening their Bible out of willingness to hear from Him. They are willing to step up to serve Him in a world that rewards serving only self. Rather than telling them they are studying incorrectly, we could praise God for what they are learning, pray for the Spirit to be their counsellor and guide, and seek relationship with them instead throwing denominational differences in front of them. If we continue to hold to our "rules for religion" we are no better than the Pharisees that Jesus chastised ...

Matthew 23:27 , "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."
Today in these turblent times, I think it is more important than ever that we as God's people stand united and continue the everlasting mission of the Church; to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior of the world. This can only be done by way of relationship... not by way of rules.
Today won't you seek relationship in stead of being a stumbling block for someone else finding Christ?