Archive for December 2008

New Year’s Resolutions?

December 29, 2008

Okay, how many of you have made new year’s resolutions in the past? Raise your hands.

Thanks, you can lower your hands.

Now,  how many of you have broken those resolutions before the end of January? Hands up again.

Uh-huh. I thought so. You can put your hands back down. Those of you uber-disciplined types who didn’t raise your hands might want to go out for your five mile run. Come back tomorrow.

For the rest of us who struggle with keeping long-term resolutions, I have some words of hope. Here’s what Jesus said:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”                       –Matthew 6:25-34 (New Living Translation)

You may argue that these verses have nothing to do with new year’s resolutions. That’s true. But if you think about it, there’s something presumptive about such self-promises. No, there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead or setting goals, but I think Jesus was trying to tell us that we need to focus on today, to live each day to its fullest for Him.

Maybe instead of making resolutions for the coming year, we should begin each day resolving to follow closely after Jesus today, to live in obedience today, to make wise choices today, to pray and read scripture today.

After a while, all of those days will accumulate and before you know it, you may have attained that new year’s resolution after all!

Have a happy and Christ-centered new year!

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift – Jesus!

Joy and blessings to you as you reflect on God’s love gift to the world.

The Incarnation

December 23, 2008

Supposing we found Him?

“There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ( “man’s search for God” ) suddenly draw back.
‘Supposing we really found Him
? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He found us?'”

-C.S. Lewis

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.'”

– Matthew 1: 21-23 (NKJV)

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV)


You’re Being Watched

December 22, 2008

People are watching you.

Oh yes. They are. But there’s no need to be paranoid – for many of the people who are watching you may not realize they are doing so.

“So, who is watching ?” you may ask. I’m pretty sure you could figure this out on your own, but for time’s sake, I’ll give you some likely culprits:

Your family
Your co-workers
Your class-mates
Your neighbors
Your employer
Your small group

Not all are watching you with a critical eye, mind you (though some may be). But subconsciously, they notice you. They see how you treat other people, whether you have a quick temper or a critical tongue. They notice whether you are kind or brusque, generous or selfish, humble or pompous. And, they notice if your words and your deeds match up consistently.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16.

Those of us who teach must take special care as we live out our lives, lest our actions contradict our confession. Certainly, none of us live perfect lives, but we should always keep in mind that we are setting an example for others. In fact, it behooves us to teach with humility and trasnparency – not as “one who has arrived,” but as a fellow traveler who struggles with sin and righteousness and what it means to put on holiness in a fallen world.

As the Apostle Paul put it, “Not that I have already obatained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14.

If you’re like me, you can probably think back on many times you were less than a good example. I know I’ve made many mistakes, missed many opportunities, and have done or said things that have hurt the cause of Christ. But that is no excuse for us to quit living out our faith. Satan will whisper in our ears and accuse us – “Hypocrite!” he will hiss.

Perhaps.

Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient to cover our hypocrisy. Or our critical spirit. Or our indifference. We own up to our sin, and press on. And keep pressing on.

“Be confident of this – that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6.

We’re all still works in progress. None of us have yet arrived. Let’s keep that in perspective as we seek to be  imitators of Christ – imperfect examples, to be sure – but living authentic lives of faith and encouragement.

Oh, and those people who are watching us? They’ll pick up on that, too.

To quote . . .

December 18, 2008

“Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like to be taught.”

– Winston Churchill

Essential Practices for the Small Group Leader #2: Connect with your Group

December 17, 2008

“There cain’t nobody teach me who don’t know me and won’t learn me.” – A Student

There’s an old cliche’ that goes like this: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It may sound corny, but it’s true. Your ability to effectively teach in a small group setting is directly related to how well you connect with the group.

When I say “connect,” I’m speaking of building relationships based on concern and trust.  It really takes more than just sitting with a group one hour each week to build relationships. It takes an investment of time and energy beyond the classroom. Be a friend and you’ll make friends.

Of course, some people are easier to relate to than others. When we encounter difficult people in our groups, there’s the danger of becoming ambivalent, even bitter. That’s when we have to intentionally love like Christ loves.

David Hansen, author of The Power of Loving Your Church, writes:

“The bind we face is we cannot do pastoral ministry without love. . . to overcome ambivalence we must make the choice to love like Jesus . . . We abide in Christ by loving one another in the fellowship of believers. Sadly, instead of knowing us by our love, the world knows us by our programs.”

If the people in our groups feel as if they are only participants in a church program, they will eventually drift away when they become hurt or tired or bored. If they feel connected, however, because they know that they are loved – at least by the leader – they are more likely to perservere. The group leader must do the hard work of loving his group through words and deeds – the feelings will follow afterwards. Maybe. But our growing to become Christ-like is not based on our feelings. It is based on our obedience.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:11-12 (NIV)

Did you know? . . .

December 17, 2008

According to LifeWay research, 47% of unchurched adults indicated “A ‘sit-down’ restaurant” is where they are most likely to meet and interact with a friend.