Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolution

It's the last day of 2011and many of you are trying to finalize a New Year's Resolution.  Lose ten pounds.  Stop smoking.  Run a half-marathon.  Pay off loans.  Whatever it is many of you have one in mind.  Resolutions that are realistic and planned out can be good things.  

However, so many times we focus so much on resolutions that we think "If this were this way, then I'd be happy."  Especially when it comes to monetary things or just money in general.  "If I made 40k instead of 25k, then life would be better."  "If I had a 46" TV instead of this 36" TV, then I'd be content.

I'm going to admit that I'm not always content.  However, look at all the great things I had in 2011: an almighty God who loves me, a job I enjoy, amazing friends, fantastic family, a great church family, a house I can afford, good meals, an opportunity to work with energetic kids and so much more.  2011 left me with a lot of things.  I'm rich beyond imagination.  Do I make $100,000/year? No.  Do I make $30,000/year? No.  But I'm richer than 98% of the world and have never been in want.  I have a great life.

But for many more money and more stuff is the measuring stick for happiness.  Let me share a quote I stole from Craig Groeschel, who stole it from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Charlie's grandpa is trying to convince Charlie not to sell his golden ticket for money when he says:

"There's plenty of money out there.  They print more every day.  But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money.  Are you a dummy?"

I have a great life.  The things I listed above as my blessings are rare.  Only a dummy would give that up for something as common as money.  I'm not a dummy.

But we idolize money.  We put money and the insatiable desire for stuff ahead of those we love and most importantly God.  In fact, the average American Christian loves money much more than God.  The average Christian in the U.S. gives about 2% of his/her income toward helping people and advancing the Kingdom of God.  (Courtesy Weird by Craig Groeschel page 86)

Go ahead and make your New Year's Resolution.  Go ahead and do something to make 2012 better than 2011, but if you haven't made a New Year's Resolution let me make a suggestion.  In 2012 resolve to be content with what you have and resolve to have an unquenchable thirst for God.  Be satisfied with the life you have been given, but don't stop running after the God who gave that life to you.

Lastly, if you don't have a relationship with God resolve to know Him.  That is the greatest New Year's Resolution you could ever had; I'd call that The New Life Resolution.

Enjoy your New Year's Eve.  Reflect with contentment on 2011.  Resolve to be content with what you have and resolve to have an unquenchable thirst for God today.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I had a fantastic Christmas, other than my sister getting sick.  I was able to go see family, Skype other family and celebrate Christmas Eve at my Dad's church for the first time.  Friday I was also able to hang out with guys I graduated with, some of whom I hadn't seen in 6 1/2 years.  It was a great couple of days.

What did you do for your Christmas?  Please comment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Re-gifted Post

Below is the second post I ever made on this blog.  I'm re-gifting it to you because it is appropriate for the Christmas season.  Enjoy Matthew chapter 1:

How many of you skip this chapter?  Seriously.  To be honest I always did because the names were confusing and who cares about a genealogy?!  When I finally studied this chapter I was floored... there is some good stuff in here.  Here's a taste of the good stuff in Matthew 1.

The genealogy can be a long list of faceless names, so I want to put a face to a few of these names.

-Abraham (read Gen 12:2-3) Father of Judaism.  God promised that through him ALL people will be blessed.  This promise is fulfilled by Christ on the cross.

-Isaac (read Gen. 22) Son of Abraham.  Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham listened to God but at the end of the story God spares Isaac's life.  God later will do the same thing but he will not spare his son, Jesus, and through this sacrifice all nations are blessed.

-Tamar (read Gen. 38) Tamar is part of what seems like a throw in story in the middle of a great story about Joseph, but it is a crazy story.  Tamar is slighted by her family and especially her father-in-law to the point where she pretends to be a prostitute in order to be impregnated by her father-in-law.  Soap Opera's don't even touch that storyline!

-Rahab (read Joshua 2) She was a prostitute who faithfully helped Israeli spies in Jericho.  She hid the spies because she had heard the wonders God had done and knew he would do another.

-Ruth (Read Ruth) Ruth's story is a great one.  In the end she still is a Moabite with the curse of the Moabites hanging over her, but God blessed her descendants in spite of this because of her faith.

-David (read Samuel 7:11-16)  God made him king and promised to establish his throne forever.  Jesus fulfills this prophesy.

-Bathsheba (read 2 Samuel 11)  David cheated with her and murdered her husband who was David's friend  yet God forgave this sin and blessed her offspring.

The genealogy is full of diverse people.  Some of the above were given promises by God, some are great examples of faith and some are the black sheep of the family that Matthew didn't have to include in the genealogy of Jesus. 

Matthew includes these people for many reasons, but one of those is to show that Jesus starts in a similar place as us.  I have some great examples of faith in my family and I've got some black sheep.  It doesn't matter.  God will prepare good works for you to do if you ask him to regardless of your family tree.

There is so much more in this chapter but don't miss this.  God loves you and wants to use your life regardless of where it starts!  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Habakkuk's Prayer

I was reading this morning and came across this prayer from the prophet Habakkuk.  It is found in Habakkuk 3:2

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy."

What a powerful and timely prayer.  This can be our prayer today!  So, if we want to be able to pray this effectively we should understand what is being prayed.

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord."

Habakkuk begins his prayer in awe and fear of God.  Habakkuk remembers what God has done in the past and is in awe of God for that.  He begins his prayer by getting his perspective straight.  If we want this prayer to be for us, we also must remember what God has done and put Him in right perspective.  As always, we start in fear of God.

"Renew them (the deeds) in our day,
in our time make them known;"

Habakkuk asks God to make Israel back into what it was designed to be.  For me, I would pray that God makes the Church back into what God designed her to be.  Habakkuk boldly continues to ask God not to do it eventually, but rather he asks God to do it while he can still see it.  Does this seem familiar?  Remember Jesus prayed, "Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  Habakkuk is basically praying the same thing but additionally asking God to let him see it happen.  What a prayer!  I want this, too.  I want to see the Church as God designed her while I'm still alive and can be a part of it.

"in wrath remember mercy."

Wrath?  Habakkuk is wise enough to realize that if Israel is going to be anything like God designed it to be there will need to be discipling first.  Israel needed to be stretched back into place and cleansed from the crud it put itself through.  Same thing with the Church.  We will need to endure some pain to change.  In fact, change and pain almost always coincide.  That is why Habakkuk pleads for God to remember mercy.  Basically, he says "Be gentle".  We need this, too.  God renew your Church through painful change, but be gentle because we are fragile.

"Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy."

Pray this with me today.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Acts 12- Multiple Pasts, One God

Acts 12 starts with the story of two of the disciples, James the brother of John and Peter.  King Herod arrested both of these men but two very different things happened to James and Peter.  James was executed.  Peter was miraculously saved by an angel.

We are left with a very big question.  Why did God allow James to be murdered and save Peter?

I'll answer this question with another question in my life.

This weekend I was able to go visit a ministry called Breaking Free.  Breaking Free helps free women from the bondage of sexual slavery and prostitution.  It is an amazing ministry but the stories that the women have lived through are sickening.  It is disgusting to hear what some monsters, who call themselves men, can do to another human.  I was pissed listening to the woman telling these stories and I asked "How do you not want to kill these men who do this?"  The woman explained that many of the men who do this were victims of sexual abuse.

These men, most of whom were sexually abused, became such monsters.  They prostituted these beautiful women.  They stole their dignity, self-worth, purity, and souls.  Much of this because of the pasts of these men; because someone had molested them.  Why would God allow them to be molested and therefore become so awful?

When I was young, about kindergarten or 1st grade I was playing with my friend Marshall.  As we were playing in my room Marshall pulled his pants down.  He then asked me to kiss his penis.  Now as a little boy I don't know why, but this seemed very strange and wrong.  Why would it seem so wrong to a very young kid?  I don't know.  But I immediately went downstairs and told my parents.  It turns out that Marshall had been molested earlier.  But the point is, why did God spare me from unwittingly doing that?  Why did He somehow let me know that it was wrong?  How would my life be different if I had innocently done that disgusting thing?

Why did God spare me, but allow sickos to make other little boys into troubled men?  But for the grace of God I could be like them.

We can't understand why God saved Peter and not James.  We can't understand why our pasts are different than someone else's.  We can't understand why one person get trouble and another gets blessing.  But we can know this: 1) God is going to end all sin and suffering 2) we can trust our God because He is in control even when we don't understand.

We have multiple pasts, but one God.  God is the God of the troubled and of those on Easy Street.  Rest in His control and remember that He works everything for good for those who love Him.  Trust Him today.