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Archive for August, 2008

A Question To Ponder

We know Christ is always with us. He always right there with us. But here’s a question:

Would you do some of the things you do if you could see Him standing there next to you?

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God Completes

Probably one of the more famous movie lines in cinema history comes from the movie Jerry Maguire where Jerry (Tom Cruise) says to Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), “You complete me.”

Completion is also part of what God has for us. God has never and will never start anything that is not going to be finished. That’s great news for a believer.

As I have promised to God that I will start to commit my life more fully to him, I was hit with pangs of doubt about my own salvation not more than a week ago. I couldn’t remember that exact moment – that exact date and time when I stepped across the line of faith and accepted Christ as my Savior as so many other people profess. They tell those stories and suddenly, I realized I didn’t have that story to tell. And that scared me. These doubts started to fill my mind.

Thankfully, I have people around me that know more than I do and these people were able to counsel me in a way that helped me to feel more confident about my own faith. I know I am saved and I know that salvation won’t be taken away. There have been some things I have read and listened to that I know have been brought before me so that I can have that confidence. The first was a podcast by James MacDonald, of which I wrote about previously. He was continuing to talk about worldliness vs. holiness. And he said:

“Either you love the Father, or you love the world. Now I’m not saying that as a follower of Christ that I don’t feel the world snapping at my heels. I’m not saying that sometimes I don’t struggle or even fail in worldly temptations. But now I’m asking you. Look at the landscape of your life. Do you love the Lord? Or do you love the world? Because if you love the world, you’re not saved. You can say, ‘But I prayed a prayer. I was in Awana. I was nine years old and I said these words. Someone wrote them on a card and…..’ – Big deal. “I walked forward at a service and …’ – So what? Jesus didn’t say, “If they have a story, I know them.” Jesus said by their…..fruits…Matthew 7….you will know them.”

Emphasis mine. Something else I read was in book, “What Was I Thinking” by Steve Brown. He talked about completion and said it was written in Philippians 1:6

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

He went on to explain:

What this means is: what God begins, he always completes; so just the fact that of its beginning is the absolute promise of its completion.

Wow. That’s all I could say. That’s all I can still say.

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War Within Me

My Life Group has done two studies by James MacDonald. The first was ‘Gripped by The Greatness of God’ and the second was (and still is!) ‘Downpour.’ MacDonald is a powerful speaker and preacher and his teaching comes straight from the Bible. I’ve been listening to his daily podcast lately. You can find it at his website. They are less than 20 minutes long and well worth the listen.

The one I listened to most recently had to do with worldly things and how Christians had to avoid getting caught up in worldly things to the detriment of our faith. He read from 1 John 2:15-17:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

He said a better translation of ‘lust’ is ‘desire’ as lust often has a sexual connotation to it. He then went on to specifically say it wasn’t the ‘world’ itself we should be concerned about, but the things in it. What are some of the things in the world that Christians struggle not to love?

1. Money
2. Travel
3. Hobbies
4. Sports
5. Entertainment (Movies, Television, Internet)
6. Substances (Food, Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs)
7. Exercise (Fitness, Body beautiful)
8. My home, possessions, stuff
9. My career
10. My position

He pointed out the above is not action sin but attitude sin. Things that aren’t inherently bad, except they often crowd out better things.

We have to decide. Do we love the Lord? Or do we love the world?

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Joy

You don’t often hear men use the word ‘joy.’ Can you imagine if you were watching a football game with your buddies and you said, “Man, if the Giants score right now, I will be filled with such joy!”

You’d probably be kicked out of the house.

But it’s not a word men should be afraid to use, especially with regard to our faith. What is it that brings me joy? I play the drums in one of our church praise teams. It’s not an easy thing to do, and that goes for any member of the praise team. We routinely give anywhere from 6-8 hours of our time every other week to that ministry. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s rehearsal on Tuesday that lasts anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. We arrive at church on Saturday at 4:30 to rehearse and we’re there for two hours. Then we come in at 8:30am on Sunday and we’re there for four hours. Giving that much time to ministry in the church is pretty significant.

But to me it doesn’t matter. There is no greater joy I have at church than helping to lead people in worship. It is so much fun. And in that, not only do I get to lead people in worship, but I also get to worship at the same time. When I play, I am playing before God. In addition, I have the privilege of serving in a church where the Pastor and Worship Pastor are willing to step outside the box with music. Some of what we play would be unheard of in other churches. We have members now who think we’re playing music that is nothing but “noise” and there are people who would think that such music would not be pleasing to the Lord. I completely disagree. 1 Chronicles 13:8 says:

“Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.”

All their might! That’s an amazing thing and I am blessed to play with all my might every Saturday and Sunday.

There is a joy in all of it for me. What helps me so much musically is that I am surrounded by people much more talented than I am. Of course, God is always there for me. I am thankful that no matter what happens on Tuesday, God helps me work things out over the weekend.

Psalm 5:11

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.

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It Isn’t Easy

In a previous entry, I wrote about how the excuse of “not having the time” to spend with the Lord is bogus. It’s true. Of course, saying and doing are two different things. It’s not easy making a commitment to do something and then sticking with it. People always say that when you commit to something, the hardest part is the beginning. When you commit to doing something, you have to push aside other things. So I’ve made this list of things that I want to commit to doing and I will share that with you. This came as a result of my Pastor’s message one week (he’s doing a series on the book of James). In that message, he talked about things that we should be doing that we’re not. At the end, he asked people that felt they needed to do the things they’re supposed to but not, to stand so he could pray for us. I didn’t hesitate to stand up. I didn’t care if people saw me or not.

That was August 3rd. My birthday. And on that day I committed to do the things that I should be doing. As a Christian. As a husband. As a father. I’ve made a list of some of those things and I wanted to share it:

1. Being in the word on a daily basis. Like I said earlier, getting a desk of my own has helped me tremendously. It’s in my bedroom and each night, I close the door and read God’s word. But I’m not just reading. I am studying it. Though some of it will take years and years for me to understand, I still want to try and understand it as best as possible. For example, James 1:4 says, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” A person would read that and think, “Perfect? How can I be perfect?” Well, in the commentary it says that ‘perfect’ means “spiritually mature.” I’m not there yet either, but at least I understand what James was saying.

2. Reading. This is not related to the Bible, but just reading in general. When I used to work in New York, I read books like crazy. When you commute, there’s nothing to do on the train but listen to music or read. So I blew through newspapers and books. I could finish a 200-300 page book in a couple of days. But then my reading slacked off. Badly. I would do some light reading during business trips (James Patterson, John Grisham, etc) but now I don’t travel as much as I used to. So my reading took a hit. Granted I often read what’s on the Internet, so if you want to know about current events, politics, technology, etc., you can ask me because I’ll know about that. But regular reading is something I am going to keep doing.

3. Praying – This is a weak area for me. I know that we can pray at any time, but there are times when we need a quiet time to sit there and pray, not only for ourselves but those around us. This is one area where I need encouragement, so for all three of you reading, give me all the encouragement you can…and pray for me.

4. Time management – This is an area I struggle with more than anything else. First off, I’m a big time procrastinator. Second, I jump from thing to thing, getting all of them done, but not in an efficient manner. I’m looking for a good book on this one.

That’s where I’m at. Moving forward.

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Stay Outside The Box

I’m a self admitted tech geek. People talk about how they’d like living in the 40’s and 50’s when times were simpler and it wasn’t always go go go. Bah. Not me. I like the age I am living in and having information available to me at my fingertips is great. Do I sometimes get caught up in too much? Definitely. I have a Blackberry like many people and like many people when that thing vibrates or makes noise, I am always quick to see who emailed me and about what. The don’t call it crackberry for nothing.

Blogs, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are all tools that can be used for social networking. There are people that I’ve ‘known’ on the Internet for nearly 10 years. Some of them I have never met in person. But we stay in contact and a quasi sort of friendship has built up. I really don’t think people can be true friends without spending time with each other on a personal level, but it wouldn’t be out of line to say that I have ‘friends’ I’ve met online. The Internet is also a way for people to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The information is easily reachable by anybody with an Internet connection. It’s great.

But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on the net and I think it is something that people need to reconsider. Christians too often are quick to create an “alternative” to a particular site. Granted, openly public sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. are going to have some objectionable content and as Christians we should be aware of that and be careful about what we post, read, and what people we add to our ‘friend’ list. Of course, there are sites now like GodTube.com and YourChristianSpace.com that are “alternatives” to the other sites. There are plenty of others as well.

The question is: Why?

If all we do is keep ourselves in a Christian cocoon (for lack of a better word), then what benefit does our testimony have? If you’ve used the Internet for any length of time, there have been a number of times that you’ve probably ‘stumbled’ across a great website. One that you reached merely by clicking through other sites. A person going through YouTube or MySpace isn’t going to ‘stumble’ upon anything people have to say about Christ if we’re all huddling with ourselves on Christian websites.

We don’t do this on the outside world. When churches hold functions that are used to witness to others, do they restrict access only to other Christians? When churches send out mailers to inform people of special kind of service to the public, do they target only Christian homes? Of course not. What good would that do? We don’t want to be an echo chamber. We want people to hear the Gospel of Christ and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior.

What does the Bible tell us? In Matthew, the Pharisees were stunned to see Jesus and his disciples sitting down to meals with tax collectors and sinners. It would be like today sitting down with pornographers and drug addicts. What did Jesus say to them in Matthew 9:12-13?

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

What did Jesus tell us in Matthew 28:19-20?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

Jesus doesn’t tell us to go and make disciples of people who are already believers or to restrict ourselves to where other Christians will be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying as Christians that we throw caution to the wind. We need to be diligent in our faith that while watching videos on YouTube and browsing around MySpace or Facebook that we don’t give into the temptations that we’ll come across. But we can’t successfully witness to others about Jesus Christ if we cut ourselves off from where the sick are.

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Good Friends

I love my children with all of my heart. But I will be honest when I say that sometimes they drive me crazy and there are times when parents need time to themselves. Gary and Vicky, good friends of ours told us they would take our kids for pretty much the entire weekend. They come to our small group on Friday’s, so the kids went home with them that night and we didn’t see the kids again until Sunday.

That gave us Saturday all to ourselves and we took advantage of the situation. We went out for breakfast. We then took a ride to St. Augustine where we walked around as I scouted spots for a photo project I am working on. Then we went to a few stores and to lunch. After lunch we went home and relaxed for awhile. Then we went to church and we then went and ate dinner. We spent the rest of the evening at home alone, enjoying each others company.

Good friends are a blessing from God. The thing is, making friends in church really relies on two different things:

1. Being part of a ministry. When you’re involved in ministry you work closely with people whereas at church it’s mostly, “Hi how are you?” kind of talk before and after the service. You don’t get to actually know people.

2. Being part of a small group. We met Gary and Vicky at our small group and they’ve been a part of it ever since. Being part of a small group gets you connected to people in a great way. Friendships are born out of these groups and I can easily say that the best friends Sylvia and I have made at the church were friendships forged in our small groups.

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