New Year, New Sense of Purpose

As we are just a few days into the new year I am not sure we are past the point of making new year’s resolutions. Maybe, you have already failed in some of your new year’s resolution. Or maybe, you are like me and you made one to cut back on desserts for the first three weeks of January to compensate for the last three weeks of December (It is easy to not fail at a resolution if you make it for just a few weeks and you use words like “cut back” instead of “cut out!”).  Either way, my prayer for you and I this new year is a rather simple one to pray and not so simple in terms of living out. The prayer is this: “In this new year may we have a deeper faith.”

It is easy to make a resolution about having a deeper faith, but the hard part is living in ways to make that happen. Our sermon series to start the year has been on stewardship. In other words, how have we managed our time, our gifts and abilities, and our money? I could write quite a bit on each of these items, but I wanted to focus in on the issue of time.

Time is the one resource we cannot replenish, we can earn more money and we can learn a new skill, but we cannot add more time to a day. We cannot go back and change the way we use time. We can determine how we will use our time as we move forward.

Maybe you are like me and you often feel like there is not enough time? I could use about five more hours per day. I want to make sure the church/my job gets my best, but I want to make sure my family gets my best. I need to go work out or else I need to eat less (that’s unlikely to happen). I almost forgot I need to spend more time in prayer because my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I need some alone time so I can think about all I need to get done. There is just not enough time!

Paul writes about a few ways to view time in Ephesians chapter 5 when he says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” Paul begins with a statement that we should not miss. He makes the statement that we are to live as wise people. This seems simple enough, but I believe most of us never ask ourselves if what we are doing is wise or if it is unwise.

Andy Stanley in a sermon used a line that has stuck with me for years and the line is quite simple, “In light of my past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing for me to do?” This question gets to the heart of what we value. If growing in a deeper relationship with Jesus is a value for us then this question will help lead us in a direction that takes us to a deeper relationship (I am not discounting the work of God’s Spirit, but am assuming we are recognizing the Spirit is always working). If growing in a relationship with Jesus is not a value then Paul’s words still have some value for us.

Finally, Paul says we are to “make the most of every opportunity.” Are you? Am I? Am I making the most of every opportunity with my wife? My children? My friends? My job? The church? Jesus? This is a question we can ask in terms of nearly every aspect of our life. This is a question that I believe we will all look back one day and hope we can see the answer to this as a “yes.” Let’s not waste another moment.

If you and I will ask ourselves these two questions: 1. In light of your past decisions, your present circumstances, and in view of your future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? 2. Am I making the most of every opportunity? We will see God work in our lives and when we look back we will not say we wasted our time, but we will find that we will have been wise and we will be able to say we made the most of every opportunity. Join me in this new year in asking these questions!

(Previously Posted in 2016)

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Generosity

Generosity is a word we like to use, but the implementation is not always good. Sure, we are happy to throw the change in our pocket in the red Salvation Army kettle as we walk out of a store. We are happy to give gifts in gift exchanges. We are willing to buy a nice gift card for someone who has done something special or who has taught our child.

How often do we really practice generosity? The kind of generosity that is planned and executed throughout the year, not just because someone is ringing a bell. The kind of generosity that may even hurt a little financially.

The kids of our church are learning about generosity right now and it reminds me to evaluate my generosity. Just like you, I only have so much time, so much money, and so many other resources. The question you and I must answer is, are we living generously? Do I plan to give? Or do I just give occasionally so I feel better about myself? What about you?

Have you ever stopped to think how the Christmas story is the story of incredible generosity? Somehow, the God of all, came to Earth as a child. I know that picture is hard to swallow.

The birth of Jesus says so much. It says that God wanted us to know He is with us. It says God’s intention was never that we were alone in the world. It says that God’s intention has always been and will always be to be in relationship with us. It says God empathizes with us. It also says God loves us.

The birth of Jesus ushered in, in a new way, what all the Scriptures point toward…a loving God who relentlessly pursues people. The gift of Immanuel “God with us” is generosity in flesh. The eventual death and resurrection of Jesus and the message of God’s grace are models of generosity and gifts of grace.

My prayer for you and I is that this holiday season we may go further than just throwing our lose change in the red kettles. My hope and prayer is that you and I would evaluate our lives and learn to live from gratitude which leads us to generosity. Maybe the saying really is true, “it is better to give than to receive.”

Love and Fear

 

On Sunday, November 5, 2017 there was a group of people who gathered as a community of faith at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. At some point in their morning service there was a shooter who entered the church and 26 people died. This epitomizes evil. If people are created in the image of God, this is the devaluing of God as well as a low view of the value of human life. The responses that have been shared range from grief, anger, shock, and fear.

What is to be the response of followers of Jesus in light of the third deadly church shooting in the United States in the past 3 years? Should we be afraid to attend a church? Should we be cavalier with a call to armed defense? Should we ignore and assume it will never happen to “us?” What if the Scriptures are pretty clear on what our response should be?

What if the words of Jesus are to be our words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.?”

I know, it looks easy to say that from the outside. I wasn’t there in Texas. I pastor a church in another state. My kids are okay. Unlike the pastor of that church who has to bury his daughter, I will tuck my kids in tonight. But, does that lessen the call for us to not let evil win?

My heart breaks for the pastor of that church, I have cried and prayed for he and his family. He and I are co-laborers in the same cause, pronouncing hope and life in the face of evil and death. He and I both proclaim the same message, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changes everything! His resurrection conquers even death itself! We proclaim the same thing: sin, evil, and darkness do not have the last word.

How then are we to respond? As loving, communities of faith. With the words of 1 John 4:18 ringing in our ears, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We are called to be a part of communities of faith, a part of the great Church, that is to be defined by radical love.

We will continue to gather, week in and week out, not out of fear, but out of love. We will “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)We will gather as a reminder that hope wins. We will gather as a reminder that love wins. We will gather as a reminder that perfect love drives out fear. We will gather as a symbol that ultimately life wins. Death does not have the last word, because we have hope in the One who conquers the grave. As a community of faith, we will not bury our head in the sand, but we will find our hope and strength where we have always found it, in Jesus. Love Wins.

“The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name”

The ancients saw the wind and waves as chaos. They were uncontrollable, volatile, violent, destructive, awe-inspiring, forces of nature, and they were to be respected, but even when respected the wind and waves could wreak havoc on their lives. The truth is, the wind and the waves are still chaos today. Sure, we can use wind for energy, ride waves, and enjoy the way a nice breeze along water is peaceful, but when that wind turns violent or the waves crash into something, the chaos is still there.

This chaos has been apparent to me the past couple days as I have watched the wind and the waves crash into the lakeshore. We have been staying at Katie’s aunt and uncles house on Lake Michigan and the past two days have seen 8-10 foot waves, 20-30 mph winds and an awe-inspiring storm. The “fort” my kids and I have made has been washed away, and the shoreline is missing some sand. This has reminded me of a line to a song we have been singing in church together “the waves and the wind still know His name.” The writer of the song titled “It is Well” wrote this line after a time he had been crying out to God and sensed God say to him, “the waves and wind still know my name.” In other words, “in the chaos of your life, the thing that is uncontrollable, the moment of great despair, don’t forget that I am here. Don’t forget that when my name is spoken, peace comes to the chaos.”

This has left me asking some hard questions of myself. Do I trust the chaotic moments of my life to God? When I am in despair, when things seem uncontrollable, where do I find my hope? What would it look like if you and I began to find our hope in the one of whom we can sing the line “the waves and the wind still know my name.” What if rather than seeing the world as awful, being driven by fear, or lamenting the “chaos” in our lives, we began to find hope in the one whose name can calm the wind and the waves.

When the storm ends and calm comes again, we know that there will be other storms in the future. We can only control our response to the storm. We can learn to lean in on the one who speaks peace in chaos and we can learn to sing the other lines of the song because of that hope.

Through it all, through it all, My eyes are on You, It is well with me, Far be it from me to not believe, Even when my eyes can’t see…So let go my soul and trust in Him, The waves and wind still know His name…It is well with my soul.”

My prayer for you and I, is that we would learn to trust wholly in the one who brings peace. The One “the waves and wind still know His name.”

More than Words: A Lesson From Grandma

Do you ever feel alone? Do you ever wonder if you are loved? Do you sometimes feel like a relationship with God is one-sided? Maybe it feels like you read the Bible, you pray, and you hear nothing. Maybe you don’t read the Bible, maybe you don’t pray, and maybe you still don’t hear from God.

What if the way that we approached the Scriptures had an impact on the relational aspect of God to us? What if the Scriptures come alive when we read them having approached them prayerfully? You see I know in my life that the Scriptures have most often been God speaking back to me when I have approached the Scriptures from a place of openness and intentionality.

The Bible is a collection of books written by many different authors over several hundred years. There is allegory, poetry, and several other literary devices seen throughout its pages. Every author was trying to paint a different picture with words. When we look at small parts of the whole it really is hard to follow. What if we began to read all of Scripture in light of Jesus? What if we approached all the various stories and read them through the lens of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection?

You see all the various stories are not written in some type of chronology, but are written as more of a mosaic with all the pieces coming together to tell one overarching story…the story of God’s relentless love towards people. Maybe the Scriptures become for us one of the ways that The Divine speaks into our lives, but maybe we need to prayerfully approach the Scriptures as a part of God’s grand narrative and not just a textbook. If we approach it in this way, I believe that my grandmother’s words may then become more and more alive for all of us.

Today is a great day to give Thank to everyone But God should come first WE should always be ready to give thanks  for what we have As I was having my  

devotions  I read Psalm’s 100    it spoke to me so I read it several times  I like  the quote It is God who made us, and we are His  I like to think I am . also  I liked 

For the Lord is good and his love endure  forever When I am lonesome and feel that no body cares   I go to my Bible  there I find that someone does love me 

I love reading the Bible and finding out how much God does care  if I just trust Him  I will be praying for your service in the morning while  I am getting ready to go to church I pray that you have a great service tomorrow God Loves you and so do I  Love  Grandma Ola

July, 30, 2017

 

My grandmother may be 94 years-old, but there is a wisdom that comes from her that is worth us all hearing. She knows the One that is redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all things. The One that does this work in us personally, in our relationships with one another, and the whole cosmos. The role of the church then becomes the people who embody God’s redemption seen in the love of Jesus. The church is to be the people that understand the Scriptures together and then live out the call of Jesus in those pages to be God’s people, a people of hope, faith, and love. It is the church that is to point out what my grandmother points out for us: we are his, and knows us and wants us to know Him. Do you know Him?

Wisdom from Grandma

Every week that I receive an email from my grandmother I am more and more impressed with her. She is a woman who did not grow up with a typewriter or computer and yet each week there is an email in my inbox. What is more impressive is the meaning behind the words.

Good morning Aaron , this is the day the Lord has made for us  lets us rejoice and be glad  I am praying he will bless you and encourage you . I am sure that your people needs to be encouraged  so giver them an encourage word this morning .Pleasant words are a honeycomb,sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 16/24 God loves you and so do I   Keep trusting God  Love Grandma Ola

-August, 16, 2015

Do we wake each morning believing that “This is the Day the Lord has made?” The reality for most of us is we wake up, hurry to the shower, the coffee pot, the car, and maybe grab a banana or granola bar on the way out the door. If we are lucky maybe we have a bowl of cereal and it is not a mad dash to our car. This is usually the start to a day and the rushing does not slow down. We hurry from activity to activity. Maybe, your days don’t look as rushed as this, but mine often do. This then leads to a day when I can be short with people, I can be quick to be defensive, I can be slow to have compassion for others. I am sure for some of you reading this that is true, but for others it is not.

However, the mornings I get up a little early, spend time in prayer, the Scriptures, and reading, I notice that I am slower to feel rushed even if I am hurrying. I notice that I am kinder, slower to get angry, I have more patience, and I am quicker to offer a hand and a smile. What if we not only thought different internally, but what if it defined our outward presence by loving acts and kind words.

This proverb that Grandma Ola mentions here is something that all of us need to remember, if we use kind words in a world full of unkind words, then it truly is sweet to the soul. If we add a smile, if we add encouragement day-in and day-out, in the busyness of our lives then others and ourselves may see “this is the day the Lord has made.”

Hopefully, you and I can become a people who offer more and more encouraging words. A people who encourage one another and others to dream big dreams. Encouraging words have a way of inspiring, offering hope, and leading to God-sized ideas, dreams, and moments. We never know what a word of encouragement may do. We never know the impact our words can have. May we speak wisely and may we recognize the gift and opportunity every morning lays before us.

Words of Wisdom From Grandma

Almost every Sunday for the past few years, my now 94-year-old grandmother writes me an email with a prayer for me or a word of encouragement. The truth is, often her words of wisdom for me are words of wisdom for all of us. That being said, I want to share Grandma Ola’s wisdom with others. I will copy and paste the emails as I have received them and add a brief thought after her thoughts.

Father in Heaven, this morning is a brand new day ! Filled with bright new opportunities! Isn’t this exciting!

If you begin your day that way and if you end your day that way, chances are that in between your,re going to have a lots of positive emotions,  because the Holy  Spirit of God will come into your life, guide you and lead you and direct you The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young   But it never to late to ask for his forgivness Today is note to late  Love you Grandma  Ola”

-April 3, 2016

Do we begin our days with Jesus? Do we end our days with Jesus? The truth is, you and I do not likely see each new day as an opportunity to know Jesus more. We probably don’t see each new day as an opportunity to sense the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life. But, what if we did?

What if you and I began to embrace the simple faith of my 94-year-old grandmother? What if we truly embraced God’s forgiveness in our lives, and we gave forgiveness the way he does? Can you imagine what the world might look like?

Do you and I realize that if we allowed God’s Spirit to direct our lives and we lived as a people of forgiveness, we would change the world? I don’t mean changining only our own family, but I literally mean to change the world!  If you and I would live as a people who recognize the depth of our forgiveness, we would be so much quicker to forgive others. We would be much more gracious. We would live with an infectious love for other people that the Spirit of God would be evident in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live every day with the belief that it is filled with new opportunities. I don’t know about you, but I want to live everyday being forgiven and forgiving others. I don’t know about you, but I want a life of purpose that is filled with excitement in knowing the One who offers me forgiveness, salvation, and hope. Maybe you and I should embrace the words of Grandma Ola…”it’s never too late.”