Seasons

File Sep 30, 9 39 51 PMFall is a beautiful time of year.  The transition between summer, where plants are alive and temperatures are uncomfortably warm, and winter, where plants are dormant and temperatures are uncomfortably cold, is a window of pleasantness that can inspire the soul. To see the trees go from green to yellow to red and watch the animals scurry along getting ready for the bleakness of winter is, in many ways, rejuvenating.

This weekend I went up to the mountains to see the colors of the aspens and scrub oaks in all their autumnal glory. My family and I saw such colors and many deer and even a bear. We witnessed the grandeur of new places with majestic views and rushing streams.  We saw waterfalls and quaint towns. And everywhere was the feeling of fall – that transition to get ready for another busy mountain season.

Normally, such a trip this time of year into the mountains would provide opportunity to go where we want to go with comfortable (borderline chilly) temperatures and dry roads inviting us to explore the kaleidoscope of color that awaits.  This year, however, we were greeted by mountains capped with snow and temperatures that were downright cold.  The roads that usually invited us were wet and slick.

Yet we would not be undone by this unexpected change.  Instead of retreating and waiting for a better opportunity, we trudged forward and welcomed the unexpected.  Because of our boldness for adventure, we have pictures of mountains vibrant with color yet capped with snow.  We were even snowed on in one expansive valley above 11,000 feet on the last day of September! Coming down the mountain to return home, we were surprised by a magnificent rainbow at the summit of Molas Pass looking back toward the Animas River Valley.

It was totally worth it to brave the cold, wet weather to see what we had never seen before.

All this exploration of the change of seasons made me think about our lives.

We set things up so that we can live a certain way, and unexpectedly, God allows an abrupt change in our lives.  Some people have unexpected children.  Some have unexpected job changes.  Some even have unexpected changes within themselves.

Everything changes.  Everything is supposed to change.  Someone once said something regarding business that relates to all of life, “Change or die.”

But are you ready for change?  Do you handle change smoothly like the changing of the seasons, or does change feel like the severe storm that blows through and leaves you in a different time zone?

Some people resist change.  They want everything to be great, like it always has been, but they don’t realize that it hasn’t always been great.  There are always struggles.  There will always be struggles.  There is no possible way for things to remain the same.

So, the only logical option is to accept that change is coming and jump on board.

Within our very lives, change is expected.  Jesus loves you no matter where you were when you met him, but he loves you too much to leave you there.  He wants you to be changed. Daily. He wants you to become like him.

You have a choice.  You can joyfully embrace and seek after the change expected, and in doing so become the beautiful transition like fall in the mountains. Or you can resist. That resistance will not bloom like flowers in spring.  What usually happens when we resist change is we become more bitter and resentful.  Our trees begin to wilt and die.

How will you encounter the changes in your life?  Remember, you don’t have to face change alone. God has said He will never leave or forsake you.  Jesus said He would be with you always. You don’t have to be afraid of change.  Embrace it.

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What Would Jesus Do?

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What Would Jesus Do?

When someone asks you, or your ask yourself this question, consider that overturning tables, beating people with a whip of cords, and yelling at people is an option.

Seriously.

Do you remember the story of Jesus droving out the money-changers in the temple courts? Some scholars believe the stories recorded in the gospel represent not just one event, but two. Imagine that. Jesus, meek and mild, got so beside-himself-mad that he disrupted the church money-making schemes and people’s businesses.

This does not quite fit the idea of Jesus being the Lamb.  If He’s the Lamb, He’s the Lamb who roars like the Lion of Judah.

These religious leaders were allowing outright corruption in the temple courts.  People were having to be fleeced in order to worship according to the Law of Moses.  Church services were overshadowed by immorality of the greedy kind.

Greed is called idolatry in the scriptures, and yet, here it is in the temple courts.

Is this a place you would want to give generously to?  Imagine a church like this.  Would you want to contribute to the work going on there?

Now think of another story.

Jesus gathers his disciples to the side of the temple courts watching the passers-by. Many rich people are coming with buckets of money.  Jesus isn’t impressed.

Then a widow comes, and when Jesus sees her, he tells his disciples to watch.  She barely put anything in – two small coins. Yet, this was all the money she had.

This woman just contributed everything she had to a system filled with corruption which is in complete denial of the presence of the Messiah. If I were Jesus, I might have stepped up and encouraged her to make her donation to another god-fearing charity (if such existed). It’s a good thing I’m not Jesus.

No, Jesus didn’t stop her.  In fact, he praised her.  He loved her heart of generosity and dependence on the Lord.

Would the temple use this money appropriately? Did they believe and teach the right things? No! In many ways, no.  In fact, many of the leaders of this religious movement would crucify the very man praising the woman for donating to the corrupt system.

Does the integrity of the system give value to the intent of the giver?

Many people want to get a list of all the good things being done with the money in the church treasury before they feel comfortable giving.  If a church isn’t teaching to their liking or doesn’t include the program they deem necessary, they threaten to withdraw their tithe. This currently culture seems to have a strong sense of wanting to know what the money is going toward before the wallet is loosened for giving.

Giving with expectation is tyranny in the same way that love with expectation is tyranny.  Giving with expectation is a form of blackmail. Generosity is a form of love, and love is not self-seeking, so how can one justify not giving because they have no control over where the money goes?

You may not know everything the church does.  You may not even agree with everything the church does.  Are you giving to the church?

When the offering basket comes around, are you giving to people, or an idea, or a cause? Or are you giving to the Lord?

Give. Generously give.  Gratefully give.

You haven’t been perfect in the ways you’ve spent the blessings of God, and you have sinned in spite of the love He constantly showers on you. You then, though you are imperfect, will you expect an organization full of other imperfect people to be perfect?  Will you seek to be in control of “your” money?

The next time the plate or basket or bucket is passed, give according to how you’ve been for-give-n. He has truly blessed you, and you are giving in response to Him – not anyone else.

 


The Distraction of Expectation

Casey Jones has struck out.

I thought this would be the year I would finally kill my first elk, but here I am the day after my hunt with no meat to show for the season.  Yesterday I walked out of the woods with my head hanging low in disappointment.  Sometimes we get so fraught with expectations for ourselves or the situations we find ourselves in, and when these expectations are not met, it crushes us.

Yet, here I am, the day after the hunt, still a bit sad, but reflecting on the experience.

I got to spend hours upon hours out in the woods with nothing but bird song, bugs buzzing, well locations thumping, trees rustling, and the occasional jet passing overhead.  I saw numerous varieties of birds, wild turkeys, coyotes, deer, elk, and even a bear. I even saw mountain lion tracks.

I walked miles upon miles, exploring the countryside, gaining much-needed exercise.  I saw storms in the distance, heard thunder, watched lightening, witnessed rain falling like diamonds, and learned to grin and bear it as I got drenched but couldn’t move.

I saw elk.  Boy, did I see elk! I watched them and heard them and smelled them. I was surprised by them and surprised them. I learned how to pattern them, and I did take a few shots, but it was not meant to be.

In the end, I didn’t get the prize. What a disappointment!

Or was it?

I learned so much over these last two weeks.  It would be foolish of me to think that the money I spent on gear and gas and food was wasted simply because I did not bring meat home.

Here are some of the things I learned this year:

  • Spending time, before season, patterning elk is imperative to the success of a hunt.
  • Spending copious amounts of time shooting your bow is imperative as well.
  • The sunrise is my favorite display of the sky.
  • There are many fascinating species of birds in NM.
  • Deer are super quiet. Elk are not…unless they want to be. Then, this massive animal can turn into a ghost.
  • I’m not too bad at tracking…but I still have room to grow.
  • The wind direction is more important than how little you stink.
  • I can go a long way on foot in a day.
  • Elk and deer will almost always go a way you don’t expect them to.
  • Hiking in the dark with no flashlight is great, unless you’re wearing torn-up sneakers in a field with cactus.
  • The sound of elk bugling is one of my favorite sounds…ever.
  • My family still loves me, even when I fail.

If I simply focused on the disappointment of my failure to bag an elk, this would be a terrible outcome for the hunting season, and I would likely not try again.  Parts of me want to give up and simply buy meat. But I probably won’t.

When life hands us disappointments, we have a choice.  We can focus on the immediate issue that consumes our minds, or we can choose to look at what we can learn from the situation and grow.  This second option is the one recommended to us as Christians.  The Hebrew writer tells us to consider hard times as discipline (Hebrews 12:7).  God is training us for future things like a dad trains his son. If we get so caught up in the disappointment, we will completely overlook the ways in which we can grow, and even find joy, from the experience.

May you find ways to shift your perspective, and may you grow as you do.


Shhhhh…

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Is your average day like mine?

Kids, Peers, Cars, Music, Food, Air Conditioning, Chores, Cleaning, and so much more?

Each day we get swept into the routine we have voluntarily set for ourselves as we motor from activity to activity spending so much time on the go that we forget.

We forget to listen.

It’s hard to hear the silence.

Through the bustle of every day we don’t even take notice of how loud our world has become.  Even as I type this in my office, alone, I hear the swamp cooler on the roof and the click of the keyboard and the laughter of children in the building outside my door.

I have taken silence for granted.

Have you ever been introduced to something so refreshing that you cannot imagine how you ever lived without it?  Think back to life without cell phones if you can.  We didn’t know what we were missing, yet now we can’t imagine life without them.

When we went into the Grand Canyon for our rafting trip I expected grandeur and excitement and new compadres.  What I didn’t expect was the quiet.

There were times when I could hear nothing but the sounds God created into the world: the trickle of water, the buzzing of insects, the wind in the reeds, and the bird song. In those moments, with no deadlines and no expectations, I found peace.

Now that I am back I struggle more than I used to with all the noise.  I crave silence and solitude.  I crave the inner peace that comes from true communion with creation.

Can you relate? Jesus could.

Even he often withdrew to lonely, quiet places to pray – to be with His Father on a mountain or by the shore.

God may be whispering to us, “Here is peace.” Yet we are so busy, distracted by the noise, that we miss His peace.

I want to hear the silence again.  I want to hear His creation again.  I want to hear Him.

Do you?


Inventory


It’s time to take an inventory.

Take a moment to inventory your friends list. Not the one on Facebook full of people you barely know; I’m talking about your friends you communicate with regularly. Do you have it? 

What are they like? Do they function at a similar economic level as you? Do you frequent the same places for fun? Do you have similar moral and religious beliefs? Are you roughly the same age?

When was the last time you spent an extended period of time with people vastly different than you? 

Some people hesitate to surround themselves with people of questionable morality or intentions. They are afraid that doing so will be a sign of condoning such behavior. Some are afraid that doing so will cause them to fall into sin (a worthy concern). Yet who did Jesus spend time eating and fellowshipping with? 

Over and over we see Jesus with people who aren’t religious. They aren’t moral. In fact, they are the people looked down on by others. They are the people with bad reputations. They were the people used as examples by the religious leaders. Yet Jesus went directly to them – not to preach at them, but to love them.

But how can we love someone so blatantly different than us? 

Matthew 9:36

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He didn’t look down on them in pity. He saw them as lost and helpless, and he hurt for them. They needed love first – then guidance. They needed acceptance – then deliverance. They needed true interest from him – then transformation. 

Jesus wouldn’t have been the great game-changer of history if he had gone around lambasting everyone for their blatant disregard for the law of God. No one would have listened. Instead, he loved people. He loved them in spite of their anger, lying, fornication, ignorance, betrayal, distrust, immorality, etc. He loves us in spite of our humanity. Maybe he loves us because of our humanity. 

Maybe you need to hang out in a place that is uncomfortable for you. Not just once. Hang out there often enough for people to get to know you and you to know them. And just love them no strings attached. 

It’s hard sometimes. 

When you’re surrounded by drunks it’s hard. When people are spewing immorality it’s hard. When someone walks up displaying their alternative lifestyle it’s hard. 

But it’s right to love them. 

Sometimes the hardest thing isn’t being there. Sometimes the hardest thing is keeping your mouth shut when you want to get preachy and share some superior moral wisdom. 

But when they see you genuinely love them, you may have more than ample opportunity in the future to share the love of Jesus with words because they saw his love in your actions. 


Worry is Lord

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“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8)

Worried, Anxious, Nervous, Concerned. Fearful.

Why do we deal with such emotions?

As we walk through life there are many unknown. We don’t know about tomorrow or even the next minute. We don’t know how our children will turn out or what may happen to them. We can’t control the government or the weather.

We have influence in our lives as to their outcomes, and this little bit of influence goes to our head in the form of perceived control over the outcomes of our lives. Are we really in control?

We say Jesus is Lord, but we worry like we are.

We say we trust God, but we are nervous about whether He may or may not act.

We say the Holy Spirit is alive, but we live like He is imaginary.

When we look at the scriptures, we see that God has PROMISED to take care of us, and Jesus had PROMISED to provide for us, and the Holy Spirit has PROMISED to guide us. Do we believe this?

How can we keep from worrying so much?

First, we need to recognize that we don’t own anything – even our lives. Maybe we need to wake up each morning and speak this truth out loud: This life is Yours. These Kids are Yours. This money is Yours, This job is Yours. These hands are yours. These feet are Yours. This day is Yours. Everything is Yours.

Next we need to be willing to follow the ways of Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This will require bible reading/study and prayer. It will include wise counsel from other faithful followers of Jesus.

Finally, upon succeeding to recognize each of these concepts, we begin to actually have faith when we live out our trust for the One who gives life. We live with the understanding that everything that happens is covered by Romans 8:28 and Matthew 6:33.

We should be people of peace, but when we live under our own power and guidance, then worry about the unknown becomes a controlling force.

This isn’t easy to fix; it may take years to get better, but once you are able to focus on the Kingdom of God and His provision – taking each moment as a gift – you can find peace in His presence as you walk in life.


A Biblical Memorial Day

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This coming Monday is Memorial Day, a day in which we, as a nation, stop to remember those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have in this country. It is an honorable day whether or not you believe in what the government is fighting for.

Did you know that the Bible actually recommends that every day be memorial day in our lives as Christians? Look at Hebrews 11. This chapter is full of names of people and examples of how they lived and died to bring about examples of righteous living and spiritual success. Towards the end of the chapter it even talks of those who have died as examples to us that we should learn from their dedication to the gospel of Christ.

The greatest memorial is mentioned in chapter 12, however, as the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus. It is because Jesus died that we have freedom. Jesus serves as a reminder that we have not yet resisted temptation or persecution to the point of shedding our blood for the gospel.

I cannot help but think on this week about Christ, though. He lived his life perfectly and was killed anyway. He died a cruel and unjust death after an illegal trial. Then he rose from the dead on the third day. All of this, he says, is to bring us forgiveness and real life here and in heaven beyond. But most of all, it says he did this to set us free.

Galatians 3:22 declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin. If you’ve sinned (and you have) then you are in bondage to the consequences and continuation of a life in bondage where the warden is the evil one. Romans 6:23 says that once you sinned, you deserved death. Such a life is no life at all.

But then, the passage in Romans says that through Jesus, we can have eternal life. This picture is not a life in bondage, but a life of joy and freedom in Christ. So many people think that Christianity is a religion that restricts its adherents from being able to have fun and live life to the fullest. On the contrary, Jesus said that he had come so that we might have life to the fullest..abundant life. In fact, in Galatians 5:1, we are encouraged with these words:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

When I understand the extent to which God sacrificed his love and very self for me, then I want to give my life in return to him. I do not live in bondage in Christ, I am free. There are actually only two laws in Christianity: Love God with everything you are and have, and love your neighbor as yourself. By the way, that is WAY fewer laws than we have here in the US.

If you truly want to have a life of freedom, it should be found in Christ as you see what true freedom really is.

So remember all the soldiers who have died…we all know so many personally and honor their lives and deaths this week. But don’t forget the One who gave you the truest freedom: Christ. And remember that you truly are free to live life to the fullest in Him.

If you don’t have that life of freedom from sin yet, then please contact me. I would love to tell you more about how you can be rid of the sin that holds you captive and separated from God.


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