It doesn’t have to be big….

In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. — Luke 2:8

There are extraordinary days in the Christian life, but most of our walks of faith are filled with ordinary moments and ordinary days. But, it was under ordinary circumstances that Jesus was born. Common days can bring that most glorious moments.  God can “show up” any place and any time!

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Standing in the Gap

The prophet Ezekiel gives us the words of the Lord in Ezekiel 22: 30

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

Although this verse deals with the sins of Jerusalem, I believe that we can apply it directly to our lives. It is a sad verse because Jerusalem was in a bad and horrible state and the Lord was saying through the prophet Ezekiel that He was searching for someone who would intercede for Jerusalem and do what was necessary for her salvation. When He looked He found no one who would intercede for the nation and the city.

There are times when we know people that are struggling. Because of circumstances in their lives….we need to prayer for others. We need to hold them up and encourage them. They might not be able to pray for themselves because of their situation. That is when I believe God calls Christians to especially pray on behalf of others. This kind of praying requires commitment on the part of the person doing the praying. It is not just a quick one time prayer, but rather a request that is brought before the Lord many times until the person being prayed for sees results.

I consider it an honor and a duty to be able to stand in the gap for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to pray for themselves. It is my hope that you will take very seriously the honor that you have of standing in the gap and praying for other people. Stand in the gap for your wife, for your children and for others.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

It is what you call it…….

I was looking back through old posts.  It is one of my favorites…..

I was backpacking with my wife. It was rainy, cold and windy. We climbed to the top of Shining Rock in the rain. We stopped to make hot chocolate behind a rock to avoid the wind. It could be placed in the top 10 messy backpacking mornings that I’ve experienced. I am sharing it with you because it is in the top 10 most favorite memories with her.

It would have been easy to focus on the negatives of that morning, but instead we saw past all of that to appreciate the moment that God had placed us in together. It was amazing to stand on top of Tennent Mountain and look over the mountains around us.

It boils down to what you call it. Believe that it is miserable and there is nothing redeeming about a situation…..and that is exactly how you will experience it. If you chose to view everything around you through the way God perceives it, then you might begin to see everything in a different way. Instead of focusing on the rain, cold and wind…..I fell in love with her again every step of the way.

Acknowledge the beauty around you through every circumstance. Remember….God makes all things beautiful.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

Not What You Expected

“We were hoping the doctor would release him.”

“I thought the job was in the bag.”

Words painted gray with disappointment. What we wanted did not come. What came, we didn’t want. The result? Shattered hope. What kind of God would let me down like this? The foundation of our world trembles.

So tear-filled are our eyes and so limited is our perspective. It’s not a lack of faith, but a lack of vision. Our petitions are limited to what we can imagine—an earthly kingdom. We roll in the mud of self-pity in the very shadow of the cross. If we would just remember the heavenly body that awaits us, we’d stop complaining that he hasn’t healed this earthly one. Hope is not what you expect—it’s what you would never dream!

Have faith.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

8 Deadly Sins…well…actually a few more

We know about the seven deadly sins:

Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath.

I don’t want to talk about them.  I would like to talk the smaller sins that we tend to overlook, but shouldn’t ignore.

Selfishness

How often did Jesus call out the Pharisees in the New Testament? All. The. Time. And it was always for self-righteousness or selfishness. If you must compliment yourself on something good you’ve done, then you aren’t doing it right. So many of us like to display our faithful acts so that others will know what good Christians we are. Christ doesn’t care what everyone else thinks of your generosity. He cares about your heart and your motivation. If you need other people to know about the good things you do, feel, or think to feel validated, then you need to re-evaluate.

Fear & Worry

Jesus is very clear about worrying. He flat out tells us not to worry. Faith requires trust. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . .” God is love. He loved us enough to send his son to die to atone for our sins. His love is perfect; therefore, we should have nothing to fear. I know fear is inevitable sometimes. It can be difficult to not worry about things. We are not perfect, but fear and worry are not part of the equation with Christ. These attitudes that imply a lack of faith. All we can do is remember that God is sovereign and always in control.

Pride

We talk about pride all the time in church. We consistently discuss how detrimental and dangerous it is, but it seems like we don’t recognize what pride is. We don’t realize that every time we refuse someone forgiveness we are acting in pride. Every time you argue with a friend, family member, or spouse and insist that you will not be the one to apologize first then you act out of pride. Remember the grace that Christ extends to you and try to extend that same grace and forgiveness to others.

Gossip

We like to talk about other people’s lives as if we live in their heads and know everything about them. This is something “church” people are constantly accused of, and is often the result of a judgemental attitude.  Isn’t a purpose of church to bring those that are far from God closer? It might feel nice to escape our own issues by talking about someone else’s for a while, but let’s try to remember to speak with grace and that our sin is just as sinful as anyone else’s.

Hatred

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what we already know – that murder is wrong – but he follows that up by saying that anyone who has harbored hatred towards someone has committed murder in his heart. Hatred is connected intimately with fear. We fear people we don’t understand and that fear causes us to hate them irrationally. The general attitude towards all Muslims based on the acts of a small sect is a perfect example of this.  We also tend to harbor hatred against those who have hurt us. We constantly need to be searching our heart and monitoring our thoughts and feelings.

Judgment

This one is the kicker. This is what will be the death of our faith and our influence. I know that Paul tells the churches to expel sinners from their midst. He encourages us not to indulge someone in sinful behavior. We use those verses to justify judgement of others and I believe this is a gross misinterpretation of scripture.

The truth of Jesus is in our equality. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Christians have accepted Christ and avoided condemnation based on faith and the grace of God. We do not avoid condemnation based on our own actions. Every time we think less of someone else, we forget that we are also sinners. The only way to avoid this sin is to acknowledge our own weaknesses and to embrace humility. In fact, that could help us avoid a multitude of sins.

Black Friday (or Thursday if you are Walmart)

Christmas season starts even before the Halloween leftovers have been marked 50% off. It doesn’t end until we have quietly returned all those unique items that we don’t really want and stocked up on the clearance items.

Guess what happens right in the middle – Black Friday and the new shopping holiday….Gray Thursday. It is a time where mentally questionable individuals pass on long-weekend snooze time and plan to spend the early morning hours fighting (or sharing the feelings of Thanksgiving together) for the few items that are available at the door buster prices!

I’ve read articles that talk about boycotting the Black Friday gluttony and focusing on our spiritual growth. It makes sense….a spiritually oriented response to the commercialization of the Christmas season. I am all for spiritual growth, and the suggestions the blog makes for that are good ones, but I take issue with the automatic assumption that the commercialization of Christmas is a bad thing.

What do we even mean by “commercialization” anyway? That retailers use it as an excuse to run more sales and get more people into stores? Look at it this way: it’s the Fourth of July sales. Let’s say suddenly everybody descended on the mall and started buying the place out, and the local TV station sent a reporter to find out what what going on.

Let’s say that the reporter interviewed a bunch of people, asking, “Why are you here buying all this stuff?” And the people all responded, “I’m buying it to give away! To family and friends and co-workers! I’m even giving some stuff to people I don’t even know–a name I drew out of a hat at a party… an underprivileged child I heard about, whose day will be brightened by just getting a little gift.”

We’d watch this news report on TV and, wiping a little tear from our collective eye, we’d say,  “What a beautiful example of love and generosity! This should happen all the time!”

When it really does happen around Christmas time, we say, “we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas!”

When you see all the news stories about all the people lined up at the stores buying stuff for Christmas, remember, those people are buying stuff to give away to others. And whether you think the stuff they’re buying is worth having or not, they’re buying it as a symbol of love for the gift’s recipient. It’s true that sometimes gifts are bought and given with other motivations–pride, as a demonstration of the giver’s wealth or taste; or peer pressure. But if you think that accounts for the bulk of gift giving at Christmas, I’d say you have an unreasonably low opinion of your fellow man.

So I say to everyone on this Black Friday and for the rest of the Christmas shopping season, go forth, buy stuff, and give it all away. That’s what I will be doing with my wife. See you at the stores….just get in line behind me!!

Be Strong.  Shop Like Men!

Thanksgiving….Day after Day

Thanksgiving Day after Day
by Barbara Rainey

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. PSALM 50:23

Has it ever seemed surprising to you that God made the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years just for grumbling and complaining? My kids may have spent 30 minutes in their rooms for griping, but 40 years? That’s some severe discipline!

One thing is crystal clear from this biblical account: God is obviously not pleased with grumbling, ungrateful hearts. And we should not tolerate grumbling either—in ourselves or in our children.

Being grateful is a choice that we readily and ritually express on Thanksgiving Day. But what do we do on other days of the year when the mood is less festive or the atmosphere is more ordinary?

I like the contented way the Pilgrims approached life. They did not allow their feelings or circumstances to determine whether or not they would exercise gratitude and thanksgiving. They believed that God was in control—”providence,” they called it. Following this belief to its logical conclusion, they responded to challenges with a perspective that said, “God has allowed this for our good.” They chose to believe—rightly so—that their dependence on a holy, faithful God was well placed and that even though much was against them, there was always much more for which to be grateful.

Developing a heart of gratitude is essential to growing a stronger faith. As John Piper stated in his book A Godward Life, “If we do not believe that we are deeply dependent on God for all we have or hope to have, the very spring of gratitude and faith runs dry.”

Make the choice today to take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, gratefully acknowledging who God is and what He is doing. Deny yourself the right to complain, embracing instead the deep-seated joy of thanksgiving . . . in all things.

A grateful heart pleases God.