Tuesday, June 30, 2009

God Gives Us Hope

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"---- Alice in Wonderland

In the film Phoebe in Wonderland, Phoebe is a 9 year old girl having trouble fitting in with her classmates and feels that there is no hope for her. And even though her mother continuously tells her "I Love You", she still feels hopeless.

She notices the next school play is one of her favorite's,Alice in Wonderland, so she signs up to play the part of Alice. The drama teacher notices some talent in Phoebe and gives her the lead role, much to the dissatisfaction of the other girls.

As Phoebe begins to feverishly practice her role, the imaginative characters come to life in her presence, giving her tips and providing her with courage. The drama teacher has her own tactics to instruct these kids as well: the very first rehearsal she lets the kids do it on their own with no supervision,she also has them play a game called Trust Falls, which teaches them to trust each other. Smart tactics that work well when the teacher is dismissed after some misfortunate events. As Phoebe gains hope and confidence through her imaginary friends, she gets the whole cast to continue on with rehearsals without any drama teacher to instruct them. And the show successfully goes on as scheduled.

At one time or another some of us may have felt like Phoebe: trying to fit in with the other kids, or maybe even with our co workers, or a small group at church. We may have felt all is lost and hopeless. But, thankfully we have a loving God that we can put our hope and trust in. One who never fails:

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom.5:5)

We are refreshed and strengthened both physically and spiritually when we place our hope and expectations in Him.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb.10:23)

This act of confessing our hope comes by: standing on God's promises, speaking out everyday that which we are in hope for, and thanking Him in advance for that answered prayer.
Faith is just not believing, it's understanding. It's understanding the hope that we have
in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Half Empty or Half Full?

One of my favorite illustrations has always been the old "Is the glass half empty or half full?"

A glass half full of water(or in this case, juice) is perceived by one person as being just that, half full. Where another person will see the glass as half empty. And so it is with each of us in our faith: one will perceive himself as having great faith, another may see himself with little faith. (see Romans 12:3)

But ,we have all been given the same portion of faith to start with. Each of us our responsible for our own faith: how it grows, how we use it, and how it develops through trials.

The true value of our faith is how we put it into play in our everyday lives. There is no way we can be a benefit to others spiritually if we do not trust and put into action that faith that we Christians already possess.

,that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-

to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph.3:17-19)

The greek word for fullness is pleroma, which means: the full complement of. So if we are indwelled with the fullness of God, that means all of Him is within us. We have the complete package! All we have to do is choose to live by faith,and begin to act, think,and walk in that mindset.

What defines our character in Christ is our faith. It doesn't matter what others believe. What matters is what you believe. When Jesus was looking for disciples He said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mth. 4:19)

Notice He said, "Follow Me", He didn't say follow after a certain church, or to follow after a certain religion, He simply said, "Follow Me". The other point He is making here is that when we do choose to follow Him, we are allowing Him to do a work within us so that we may reach others to Christ. This takes faith. You may think that you have no faith or are lacking in faith, but if you've chosen to follow after Christ, you have faith. The Apostle Paul says to :

"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (2Cor. 13:5)

The best way to test our faith and acknowledge that Christ does live inside of us, is by living and walking it out in our daily lives, for,

He who abides in Him ought himself also walk just as He walked. (1Jn.2:6)

Monday, June 22, 2009

For the Love of the Game, For the Love of God's Word

Everyone in the world that knows me knows my love for football. We're talking training camp, games, the draft, the fan convention, the whole 9 yards.

Yesterday was Fathers Day, as I'm sitting in the living room in shorts and sandals, we are all watching the tv. Showing on theNFL Network is a rerun of the Bears game from last December, which was the first game I ever took my dad to. And, it was the third COLDEST game ever played there. The temp. was a balmy 10 below zero. Oh, and the game was played at night. Just watching it on television made the room feel like it was 10 below. As we're watching the television set, all through the replay all I could think about was HOW COLD I WAS during that game. To make matters worst, the game went into overtime,but my dad and I toughed it out. I am so glad the Bears won. If they hadn't, us and about 65,000 others would have been more than upset. To sit out there in the frigid cold air and to come away with a loss, nope, wasn't gonna happen.There might've been blood shed!!

So..what makes us sit out there in frigid temps to watch a game that you can sit in the comfort and warmth of your own home to watch? You have to really love the game. Which I most definitely do! The only sport that I am passionate and enamored with.

In men's Bible Study yesterday the conversation came up about people who read the Word of God, know many scriptures, yet still struggle with faith. We all came to the basic conclusion, it is more than just knowing the Word of God, you have to love the Word of God. You have to love the Word so much that you want to apply it to your life.

It is just like my love for football. I love it so much that I am willing to apply it into my life by sitting out there no matter how cold it is.

When it comes to the Word of God, heart knowledge is just as important as head knowledge. In fact it actually supercedes head knowledge.

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work (word), this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)

If you love the Word of God, apply it to your life, apply it to your circumstances, and you will be blessed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

World's Greatest Dad

As I was looking for a Fathers day card the other day I saw a card saying "World's Greatest Dad #9,000,000,000". Yes, each of us have the right to claim our dad as number one. This reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry gave his dad a t-shirt that said #1 Dad!

His dad was so proud of that shirt that he would not take it off. He wore it everywhere. Then he meets Izzy Mandelbaum who quickly exclaims,

"What the heck is that shirt? You think you're the number one dad?"

Jerry's dad proudly claims, "This was a gift from my son!"

Later,Izzy Mandelbaum outdoes him by wearing a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt and boasts, "My son made this shirt for me. Which now means I'm better than number one!"

As a youngster growing up there were times when I didn't hear my dad verbally say that he loved me, but I knew and perceived it through his actions: making sure there was food on the table for us to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over our heads, took us to the doctor when we needed it, made sure we got an education, took us to church. These are all acts of love.

Even though we may not hear our Heavenly Father vocally say "I Love You",we know and can perceive it through His actions: His Son dying on the cross for our sins, the grace He gives when we make a mistake, His providing for our every need.

For you did not receive the Spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father". (Rom.8:15)

In modern Hebrew the word Abba means daddy.

I am sure my dad won't be angry with my claim that, "God is the World's Greatest Dad".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A $20 Say So and An Angel With a Gas Can

It wasn't going very well a couple of days ago when I set out to do some errands, so I put 'em off for a day. Lo and behold, it was a blessing and God saved me $20. As I went to get gas after work Tuesday I noticed the dreaded nail in the tire. I contemplated going across the street to get it fixed but decided to try my luck and go do my errands near home then go to the Firestone where I had previously bought my tires. Once inside to get my tire fixed, they informed me that the tires I had purchased had a repair warranty, so.. they took care of it for free!! Way to go, God!! I love it when he even takes care of the little things. This in no way compares to the following car story:

One winter evening my grandfather was driving home from Bible study, it had been snowing steadily for a few hours and getting colder out. On a desolate farm road a few miles from home the car ran out of gas. He sat there for a few minutes and prayed. As he began to get out of the car, he was met by a man carrying a gas can. The man helped fill his tank with gas. As my grandfather proceeded to get back into his car, he had realized he hadn't even thanked the man. He turned back only to find the man was gone! He looked around but couldn't find or see anyone. My grandfather believed it was an angel.

For the hundreds of times I heard him tell that story or mention it in his sermons, it never changed. It always stayed the same, word for word. And you could see it in his eyes he was telling the truth each time he told it. Such a simple story, but it speaks volumes about trusting in God and asking for favor in any given situation. He took the worst of circumstances and put his faith in action with a simple prayer.

So what stops us from having a spiritual encounter or a miracle like this? In simple terms, it is our faith. In Romans 12:3 it says that, we ought not to think of ourselves as more highly than another, for God has given each of us the same measure of faith. We've all been given the same amount of faith, it's how we put that faith into action that produces results.

The Apostle Paul says his message and preaching were not with wise, persuasive words, but a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and the power of God.

God can use anyone of us, in any situation, as long as our faith rests not in human wisdom, but in God's power.

For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1Cor.4:20)

As a little kid I was fortunate enough to hang around my grandfather alot and see God perform miracles through him. It definitely felt like I was following Moses, or Peter, or Paul.

Earlier today I had a momentary lapse of faith. What 's most important is that I knew it. And I had to stop for a few minutes, pray, and ask God to forgive me for my lack of trust in that moment.

I could say I still have a long ways to go on reaching that level of faith that my grandfather had, but, once again, I have been given the same measure of faith. It's how I decide to use that faith. Today, I don't even look back and try to figure out what happened that night of the car running out of gas. I just accept and believe that it happened.

Right now I'm just trying to figure out why my next door neighbor has a goat in his backyard!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sundays are Preparation Days

I consistently follow the same routine on Sunday mornings: I need to be at church by 8:30 am for men's Bible study group, so I skip breakfast, go to Dunkin Donuts for the usual medium coffee (sometimes extra large!!) and then stop by the post office to drop in the mail my latest netflix movie. Next to the post office is the fire station. Every Sunday morning the firemen(and women) are outside doing their regular maintenance check ups on the hook and ladder and the hoses and all the other equipment they handle. Basicly, what they are doing is preparing themselves for that week's duties,the honorable duty of putting out fires and saving lives.
In a somewhat similar fashion, as we go to church every Sunday, we are not only worshiping God, but we are preparing ourselves for what lies ahead of us for that week. We may have to put out fires of a different sort, or may be saving lives in the spiritual sense,or praying for people who are sick or in distress. The preparation of the heart is important so that we may do what God has called us out to do.
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (v.14)
that the man of God may be complete , thoroughly equipped for every good work. (v.17)

As I was leaving church today the song playing on the radio was by Switchfoot:

This is your life, Are you who you want to be?

This is your life, Are you who you want to be?

This is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be?

When we leave church each Sunday,this is what we need to ask ourselves: Are we who we want to be? Are we who God wants us to be? Are we prepared for this coming week to do what God has called us to do?

I love going to church, it is who I am, it is who I want to be. Are you who you want to be?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thou Art Happy

Cassie, the guinea pig, loves coming out of her cage to explore the environment of the house. As long as Francis the dog doesn't get to her. When you hold Cassie in your lap she likes to chirp. Or is it a purr? Or maybe it's a murmur. Anyways, when they make this sound, according to guinea pig language consultants, this means they are happy and content.

In the feel good movie New In Town, Renee Zellweger plays Lucy, a high paid consultant from Miami, who gets sent to a small town in the arctic of Minnesota in the dead of winter. Lucy is sent there to improve production of a local food plant her corporation owns. As soon as she arrives, in her executive suit, skirt, and high heels, the culture shock hits her big time. And not just the frigid weather.

Once she meets one of the employees who happens to be her new assistant, it's "Let the Mocking Begin". After a few of Lucy's jabs, the assistant gets angry and tries to explain to her that their just normal people like everyone else, except:

"We talk funny, we ice fish,we scrapbook, we drag Jesus in to regular conversation. This is who we are."

After many cultural mishaps, Lucy begins to adapt to her surroundings. She also learns the people of this town are happy with who they are, where they live, and how they live. In the end, when she gets sent back home to Miami, she ends up missing that small town flavor and the guy she eventually fell in love with. And, as any good story with a happy ending goes,Lucy moves back to the small town she at first hated.

I came across a quote the other day by Aristotle, which said:

"Happiness depends upon ourselves."

We all have different likes, dislikes, and things that make us happy. For me, it's a good cup of coffee to start my day, or a really good haircut. The simple things in life!

When we know who we are in Christ, and choose to live that way, and are at peace, the joy of life becomes more simplified. I remember a friend of mine who created his own t-shirt with the slogan:

Life is Simple: Eat, Sleep, and Praise God!

Ahhh....the joy of living abundantly in Christ!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Words of Wisdom From Pastor Freddie

I love a great quote or saying. Here are some of my favorites that my Pastor often uses:

1. But without faith it is impossible to hang with God.

This one really needs no explanation, it speaks for itself, but here's the scripture:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb.11:6)

2. Don't pray about them, pray for them.

This is my personal favorite, an important lesson I've learned. Sometimes we do get caught praying for God to fix that person (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, brother/sister, friend, co-worker, boss) instead of praying for that person. The one that may need the fixing is the one doing the praying. If you really care about that person your praying for then pray like you care for them.

3. I worship God with the lawnmower.

And my Pastor "REALLY DOES!!!" He's been teaching us alot about worshiping God wherever you are, whatever your doing. God is worthy of our praises continuously.

4. Stop being a spiritual sissy!

In other words: "Can't we all just get along!" Especially Christians. Stop getting offended by every little thing your neighbor does or whine about how they hurt your feelings. There are more important things in the world. We are to exemplify Jesus in all that we do.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev.19:18)

5. You need to go to Menards and get yourself some wood, build a bridge, and get over it

This bears reference to the last scripture: holding a grudge on somebody else.

6. You need to have a Bugs Bunny type of faith.

Bugs Bunny had no fear when it came to his foes. He'd look straight down the barrel of that shot gun of Elmer Fudd's and simply say, "What's up, Doc?"

For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.(2Tim.1:7)

So now you can tell..I do pay attention in church!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Fresh Morning Fragrance

I was only into my first sips of my morning coffee at work and this flower was completely closed. I let some sunlight into the room, put on the usual worship music, and began some paperwork. After I worked my way through about 3 praise songs I noticed a fully bloomed, elegantly fragrant flower. Amazing what sunlight can do!

It's also amazing what sonlight can do. When we open up our hearts to the Lord with praise,He opens up a whole new fragrance into our lives for that moment. And that moment can carry us throughout an entire day.

Sometimes we take it for granted that we are going to wake up to start a new day. And when we do wake up for that new morning, it is God breathing new life into us, granting us another day of life. I think this is why our morning worship is more important than any other part of our day. It is us saying thank you for giving me this day to honor and worship you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Purpose of Man-Designed to Worship

I am at breakfast Saturday morning, reading A.W. Tozier's The Purpose of Man-Designed to Worship, sitting at the table across from me are some teens and their basketball coach. As they are waiting for their food, the coach is giving them some last minute coaching instructions, as they are about to play a game at the nearby gym. He tells them all he wants to see from them is dribbling and passing, don't be selfish and take a stupid shot, be patient and work with your teammates to get the best shot available. In other words, he was teaching them discipline.

Tozier's whole ministry was about us disciplining ourselves into a real, worshipful relationship with our Creator. Tozier says:"If you major on knowing God and cultivate a sense of His presence in your daily life, practice the presence of God daily and seek to know the Holy Spirit in the scriptures, you will go a long way in serving your generation for God."

He also remarks that:

You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically and as empty as one spiritually."

Basicly what he is saying is we have a choice: either we can know about God just through the scriptures, or we can have the whole package. To know God so intimately we can recognize His voice when we need to hear from Him.

Our goal should be what Tozier's life was about:

Don't settle for the satisfaction of the needed appetite only, but to something bigger,

grander, and more eternal, that we might worship God and enjoy Him forever.

I recently saw the film Yes Man. Jim Carrey plays an unhappy, down on his luck guy. Upon the suggestion of a friend, Carrey goes to a self help guru's seminar called "Say Yes", in order to change his perspective on life. At the seminar he makes the sacred covenant of having to say yes to everything. Soon as he leaves, a homeless man asks him for a ride to the park. Carrey obliges. The next thing you know he is giving the homeless guy his cell phone to use and money! After he drops the man off, sure enough, his car runs out of gas, and his cell phone battery is now dead.

After trekking a few miles to the gas station, he meets the girl of his dreams. And so it went throughout the story. Everytime he said yes, no matter how bad it might have been , something good happened to him afterward.

When we say "yes" to worshipping God, and serving Him (even when it may look like it's a bad situation to get involved in) good things are bound to happen. Because it is a great, and mighty God that we serve. None of our actions will go in vain. As Tozier put it:

"Only cunning works of silver and gold should be offered to God."