Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dirty Windows or Blurred Vision?

I read a story about a business owner who constantly complained about the dirty windows of his competitor’s store, directly across the street from his own. Perhaps it was just his pet peeve, but the storeowner complained continually to other business owners in the community about how his competitor’s dirty windows were a disgrace to the community, and how it could reflect poorly on his own business.

Another local shopkeeper, tired of hearing the owner’s ongoing complaints, suggested that he set a good example and wash his own store windows. The storeowner took the shopkeeper’s advice and washed his own windows. The following day, the two met for coffee and the storeowner, remarked, “You were right. It worked! As soon as I washed my windows, my competitor must have washed their store windows also! This morning I noticed from my store that they were clean and shining!”

The storeowner had simply suffered from blurred vision. He judged his competitor wrongly! When he cleaned the windows of his own store, he was able to see that his competitor’s windows were also clean!

Sometimes, we look at others with blurred vision. We see things in other people’s lives that we don’t think are right or acceptable and find fault with them. We judge them. Sometimes, like the storeowner, we complain to others about the faults we think we see. But, too often when we find fault in others it is simply because our own vision is blurry. I know, for example, when I find fault in others it is often regarding issues I have in my own life. I find that I have a tendency to project real faults in myself – onto others – who most likely don’t have those faults at all. Jesus warns us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1) and addressed the issue saying, “...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

Today, when you are tempted to judge or complain about someone, take a moment first to see if it is only your own vision that is blurred. Wow, how eye-opening. I really needed to read that!

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ever feel inadequate? - Don't!

I had been having a less than stellar few weeks. In a conversation with a friend, he stopped me and said, “You know, since we’ve been talking you’ve used the word ‘inadequate’ a half dozen times when talking about yourself. Why?” I realized I’d been having a hard time seeing what God sees in me.

Ever been there? Ever been in a place where you felt inadequate, incapable, centrally flawed? Ever had the feeling of just not being able to move past something that is haunting you? Ever been in a place where you just felt so far from being anything God could ever love?

It seems that at the heart of the inadequacy issue is a deep sense that we just cannot freely embrace the person God sees in us. Why is it that we struggle with being loved?

The reality is that we are loved and have value, not because of what we do, or even could do if we wanted. We have value and are loved by our Creator merely and essentially because we are His. Much like parents love and value their children – not because they are obedient, but merely because they are – so it is with God and us.

You are God’s creation – embraced, loved, valued, cherished, even delighted over. Nothing will ever change this fact. No amount of obedience will change it. No amount of disobedience will change it. This is grace. This is love. The reality is that when we embrace life in Christ we actually are made new again, made whole again, made holy. The old has gone. The new has come.

I find it fascinating that when Paul addresses the communities of Jesus, he never opened his letters to them calling them “sinners.” Instead, he calls them saints.

So I guess the challenge for us is to be what we already are: holy, loved, made whole and free. These are not things God merely sees us as…they are things we actually are. You are loved. You are valued. You are cherished. Is this not the Good News?

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You can't hide from God!

God Pursues Us When We've Sinned--------

David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

2 Samuel 11:27

The Scriptures contain more than the stories of nice people who always do the right things. I’m glad for that. Since the Bible contains the whole continuum of human reality – from all its ugliness to all its beauty, I can better make the connection between the real stories recounted in Scripture and my own life with its raw reality.

One of the Bible stories that both most puzzles and comforts me is the story surrounding King David’s sin with Bathsheba. David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba (she then found herself pregnant), tries an elaborate cover-up to hide the affair. This doesn’t work and David ends up orchestrating and ordering the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. From there, it looks like David essentially moves on with life. He marries Bathsheba as soon as possible after Uriah’s death. The son is born. Life is back to normal. But, where’s the remorse? There is none to be found. All this from a man the Scriptures refer to as “a man after God’s own heart.” This is the part that puzzles me about David.

Now here’s the comforting part: God doesn’t give up on David. He doesn’t let the issue disappear. What must be at least a year later after trouble started, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David. David is so far past the whole sordid situation that when the prophet shares a parable about a similar situation, David has no clue to whom the prophet is referring. When David remarks, “The man who did this deserves to die,’ Nathan replies, “You are the man.” David finally faces his own sin and repents.

Why should this story bring us comfort? None of us are more immune to overlooking our own sins than David. We all can get caught up in justifying and rationalizing our own sin to the point we don’t even think anything is wrong. We just go on with life as usual. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. We have a God who won’t let our sin go. God pursues us when we’ve sinned because He loves us and wants us to clear out the junk in our lives.

Just like David, it may take some time, but rest assured God will challenge you with the truth. And, when we are confronted, it provides us with the opportunity to seek forgiveness, sweep out the junk and move forward in our pursuit of, and growth in, following Christ.

Friday, April 23, 2010

God does his best work in Caves...

Discouragement is a common emotion to us and is one of the great enemies of the Christ-following experience. It is an enemy of personal drive and vision. It is a cancer that will pull enthusiasm and joy right out of you. But it is also a test, because how you respond to discouragement when things are not going well is one of the most important challenges that you will ever face as a person who loves and follows Jesus.

During the reign of King Saul, a prophet of God, Samuel, anointed young David as the future king of Israel. Even before he became king, the people of the kingdom fell in love with David. Everything he touched turned to gold. He was victorious over one of Israel’s most feared enemies, Goliath. When King Saul struggled with emotional issues, David was there to comfort him. If there was ever a guy who was on a roll, it was David. It appeared that nothing could go wrong for him. Then, one by one, the tables turned. Look over this litany of loss in David’s life:

• He lost his job. He went from shepherd boy to acclaimed warrior to fugitive.
• He lost his popularity, status and income.
• He lost his wife when King Saul gave her to another man.
• He lost his mentor when Samuel died.
• He lost his best friend Jonathan.
• He lost his home. The Bible tells us that he eventually ran to Gath, the land of Israel’s enemies.

After all that David went through, he ended up in the cave of Adullam. He expected a palace but got a cave! Devastating!

Does a cave sound like a place you’ve visited before? The Cave is where you go when all the props, crutches, and all that hold you up gives way; when suddenly, things don’t work out as you’ve envisioned. Maybe you’ve lost a job, financial security, spouse, dream of family life, mentor, friend or health. We’ve all been there. The truth is, sooner or later, everybody logs some serious time in The Cave.

The Cave is where God does some of His best work. God molds and shapes us in The Cave like nowhere else. When you end up in The Cave, I encourage you to embrace it. Why? Because when all you’ve got is God, you quickly come to the realization, that He is enough. Mother Teresa once said, “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you’ve got.” He is able to transform discouragement into encouragement. He transforms fear into confidence. He is able to bring new life out of the most desperate of circumstances. Are you in The Cave? Look for Jesus.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Basics Are Important

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

2 Peter 1:12

The story has been told of an old ship captain. Every morning the captain would walk into his office, approach a locked desk drawer, take a key out of his pocket, unlock the drawer, take out a book, read and then replace the book and re-lock it in the drawer. He would then go about his duties for the day. For years, the captain’s lieutenant watched him go through this daily ritual.

Upon the captain’s retirement, the lieutenant was promoted to become the new captain. As part of the changing of the ship’s command, the old captain handed over the key to the desk drawer and said, “Guard your ways well, sir, that you follow the advice given in the book. If you do so, you will succeed.”

The new captain couldn’t wait to see what the book contained that had so inspired the old captain and provided so much wisdom all of those years. He anticipated finding the words of another great sea captain, perhaps those of a great philosopher or even the wisdom of the Scriptures. So he rushed right away to the office, unlocked the drawer, pulled out the book and opened it. In the book he found only one page with writing upon it. On that page were two sentences:

“Port is left.”

“Starboard is right.”

This story is a simple reminder of how some of the basic things in life cannot be overlooked. Living as a Christ-follower is no different. While the Scriptures do challenge us to move towards maturity in our faith, the call to remember the basics is also found. There are some very basic components of the Christian life that we should remind ourselves of repeatedly in order to make sure that we don’t forget and move away from important areas like simple, loving devotion to Christ.

Today, reflect for a moment on how your life might be different if every day when you wake up you remind yourself of the basic truth that you are dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. This kind of daily reminder might just make a world of difference!

By Jim Liebelt

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Three Trees

Oops, its been awhile. My parents flew to Atlanta for Easter and I got a little caught up in enjoying them and didn't really spend any time on the computer. Back @ it today though....

Here's a great story and life lesson to always remember. You gotta read to the end for the the "moral."

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty."

Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."

Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter" ... and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree so I'll take this one", and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for. The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time. Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined. We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.
(by: Author Unknown)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are You Stuck In the Past? Or Are You Anxious About the Future?

Are you living in the past, present or future?

Many of us are burdened, if not caught up with our past. More than the consequences of our past actions, we let the memory of the past drag us down. We like to hit the rewind button in our memory and lick the wounds of long ago. We open up one painful memory and then a sudden flood of other unpleasant memories comes rushing in. And downward spiral we go.

We spend most of our time entertaining our bitterness, pains and disappointments of yesterday. We even spend countless hours just imagining the day we will get our vindication or even vengeance from past hurts. As we waste our time dwelling in our past, our present is wasted as well. And the sad thing is that our today is our tomorrow’s yesterday. Wasting the present now is just adding up to our wasted past. And the vicious cycle continues.

Many of us are also so anxious about our future. While our bodies reside in the present moment, our mind has time traveled years from now. We spend much time being worried and gloomy to things that has not happened yet. We are so absorbed in the “What Ifs” that we forget the “What nows?”

Our present also affects our future very much. To have a better tomorrow is to have a better today. Our actions today will greatly affect our future, good or bad. To waste your time today being anxious about tomorrow is to waste the opportunity to improve your tomorrow.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Mt 6:34

To live life is to live in the present moment. The past is dead and the future is yet unborn. The key to healing the past and having a hopeful future lies to what you will decide to do NOW. Now is the only thing we really got. If you waste the present moment by dwelling in the past or being anxious about the future, you end up loosing everything.

The past belongs to God’s mercy, the future to His Providence and the present to His Love. To live in the present moment is to accept and experience God’s love here and now.

Today is your tomorrow’s past.

The way you live today will make your tomorrow better or bitter.

Today is where you are.

Are you there?