Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Joy of Simplicity

"Real art is basic emotion. If a scene is handled with simplicity - and I don't mean simple - it'll be good, and the public will know it." - John Wayne

Is there such a thing as simplicity being an emotion?  If not, it should be. In recent days what brought me great joy was listening to the joy and laughter coming from my neighbor's kids as they were down by the stream feeding the ducks. As I pierced through my patio door at their happiness of doing something so simple that brought them exuberant joy, you couldn't help but smile.
I think in today's busy culture we have forgotten the simplicity of life and what it can bring, not just to our health, but to our soul. A simple walk in the park, an afternoon sitting on a sunlit porch reading a good book, or an evening drive on a hot summer's night with maybe a quick stop for ice cream, oh the joy simplicity can bring.
Simplicity can also mean being real when everyone around you is either trying to fit in or trying too hard to impress someone else.
   And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)

It is quite hard at times to do what Paul suggests here in Philippians, especially when things are not going the way we want or we are faced with a difficult circumstance. And it's even harder to praise God when we don't feel like it or we're too busy.  I like what T.D Jakes reminds us,

"It's important to praise with your mouth even when your head disagrees."
Our soul is the part of us that is considered to be our personality. If we can get our soul to be in perfect peace and in union with God's Word and His promises, simplicity will become a part of our personality.
Have you ever noticed that people will respond more to you when you approach them as just being real?
The aforementioned quote by actor John Wayne resembles that of many of the great actors from the early years. One of my favorite movie scenes of all time comes at the end of the Oscar winning film
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The scene stars Hepburn and Tracy together for the very last time. They appeared in several movies together, but this was the final act as Tracy was dying of cancer and Hepburn knew it. Katherine's tears in that final scene were real, no acting was involved, and you could just feel exactly what Hepburn was feeling. It was a basic emotion that anyone and everyone could relate to.
It was a basic emotion that brought Hepburn an Academy Award. People responded to her tears of simply being real.

Simplicity, a basic emotion, one that everyone can readily respond to at any given moment. Simplicity, it's  how God wants us to approach life; taking His Word and living it out in the simplest manner we know and trusting Him with a full assurance. Even when everyone around us may be moving at the speed of light.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

C'mon on,God, You Owe me!

"Lord, I need your help! A teachers strike, a blizzard, a power failure, I'll take anything."
- Bart Simpson, after failing to study for an upcoming test.

 "Prayer, the last refuge of the scoundrel." - Lisa, shaking her head in disbelief at her brother's actions.

After digging through some old files on teachings I used as a Youth Pastor, I found this gem on the longest running program on television, 25 years to be exact, The Simpsons.  Surprisingly, season after season the
Simpsons have continued to pray; prayer and appeals to God are more routine and a regular part of the Simpson's family life. Now granted, some of those prayers may be selfish prayers, but there always seems to be a profound message in it. There are more prayers on The Simpsons than any sitcom in television history.
One of the producer's of the show exclaims,
 " We try to represent people's honest attitudes toward religion."

And unfortunately, that honest attitude toward God does show up within our culture.

"I need a miracle. C'mon God, you owe me!" - Lisa, before taking a test she feels unprepared for.

Most of the children's prayers on the Simpsons is what we call the bail me out theory. And who is the culprit on teaching this to the kids? Their father, Homer Simpson.

"Dear God, just give me one channel!" - Homer, when the television reception goes out.

"God, if you are really God, you'll give me tickets to that football game."

"What's the big deal about going to some building on Sunday? Isn't God everywhere?"

You see? These are just a reflection of Homer's attitude that has a ripple affect on his children. Something all parents need to be aware of at all times.

The following excerpt is taken from the book The Gospel According to the Simpsons:

When Homer is in deep trouble he turns to God and begs for miracles, but when miracles happen they don't make him into the man of faith that he should be for his children. God for him is somebody you bargain with in times of trouble, making promises to change but never living it out.

Wow! How many people do you know that are like this?

How many of you have made the resolution to live it out more for God this year? What hinders us from following out the act of living it out is either our flesh or our circumstances. And what gets in the way the most is our feelings and emotions. As we are still in the first month of this new year, it is not too late to start the year with a fresh perspective and leaving the past behind.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Prayer for Homer Simpson is not a time of intimate communion with God. But instead, something you do when you can't get what you want on your own. God does not want us to treat Him like Santa Claus nor use our prayer as a last resort. What God does want from us is an intimate communion with Him, which is what prayer and worship does. If we are going to make that resolution of living it out, we need to be active participants in fellowship with our Creator.

I have not watched The Simpsons in recent years, and I am not here to promote the show for your kids to watch; but if you can find it in reruns in your area and are able to find a description of the episodes, there are some that do have a message about God and prayer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Perception is Everything

"Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you'll see them all around you." - Jon Bon Jovi

I never thought I would see the day when I would be using a Bon Jovi quote on my blog; now that is a miracle in itself!

Perception is everything and perception can be misleading; even when it comes to sports, and in this case, the NFL Football Playoffs this past weekend: two games with controversial plays where perception played an important role.

In one game the New England Patriots tried some trickery on offense against their arch rival the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots declared two receivers ineligible on offense while keeping them in to block for the quarterback so they could confuse the defense. The Ravens perceived this trickery as illegal, but the referees declared it was within the rules of the game.

In another game the Dallas Cowboys had a 4th down and were trailing their counterpart the Packers by 5 points with 4 minutes left in the game. The Cowboys decided to go for it and the quarterback threw a deep pass to which the receiver caught the ball for a first down close to the end zone. The perception when first seeing the play was that it was a catch. The referees watched the replay to where it showed that he did not complete the process of catching the ball according to the rules.

Yes, perception can be misleading.

Helen Keller once said,  

 "Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."

As we continue in this new year and still desiring to make changes or improvements, one thing to consider:

How we perceive ourselves is more important than what others see in us.

If we are going to enter this new year with a positive impact on ourselves, we need to change how we see ourselves. Here are some daily confessions for you to consider to get yourself into renewing your mind to what God says about you:

I am born again of the Spirit. (John 3:6,7)

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. ((Galatians 2:20)

I am a new creation; the old has passed away. (2Corinthians 5:17)

I am dead and my life is hidden with God in Christ. (Colossians 3:3)

I am a new person created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)

I live and move and have my being in Christ. (Acts 17:28)

I am crucified to the world and I have overcome the world. (Galatians 6:14)

To start the year off with a new you, it all starts with you.




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Positive Reinforcement

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein

Let's face it, it's a new year and we all want to start the year off right by improving ourselves in one area or another. So... let the insanity begin! 

Over the holiday season I've been relentless in my pursuit of God, kind of reinforcing myself and preparing myself for 2015. Courtesy of T.D. Jakes, here are some positive reinforcement tactics I've found helpful to start this new year off right:

Your problems serve a purpose
Remind yourself, "Why would God take the time to mold you, if He didn't have a purpose for your life."

No circumstance can terminate a good seed
Everything you've gone through had to happen to mold you into who God wants you to be.

 Don't look at your history, look at your destiny
 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.(2 Cor. 5:17)

 You are destiny's Child
  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Jesus took my history and I took His destiny
When you accept Christ in your heart, your slate is wiped clean from your past. God never brings up your past, so why should you.

You can't take in new blessings with an old mind 
  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

If anything, I remind myself daily of these powerful reinforcement tools so that I may reach that goal of wanting to be all that God wants me to be. And, believe me, I have to do this everyday until my mind is renewed. This year my goal is to pump you up..and myself, so that we can be all that Christ wants us to be.