Thursday, December 18, 2014

A King and a Peasant Girl

Isn't it amazing that the creator of the universe chose to come into our world through a young peasant girl? Out of all the people in the world He chose someone who was virtually unknown. At the time of Jesus' birth, Mary's world had been turned upside down because of this "unplanned" pregnancy. I wonder what her dreams of the future were and what aspirations she had. All of a sudden her life comes to a screeching halt and takes a drastic turn. She endured the scorn of others, perhaps even by her own family, because they assumed she had conceived a child out of wedlock with a guy named Joseph. This brought shame on her family. When the time came for Jesus to be born they were on the streets and had no place to stay. They had no money, were all alone and had a bleak future ahead of them.

God planned it that way. He chose this way to show you and I that He reveals His glory to us when we are at our worst. He didn't show up in pageantry and fanfare. He came in quiet simplicity so the world would know that He comes to us just as we are - right in the middle of our struggles; in the midst of pain and suffering; in despair and hopelessness. He doesn't wait until we have life all figured out. He steps into our brokenness so that His redeeming grace can bring wholeness.

This Christmas season don't look for Him in the tinsel and lights or in the spectacular musical productions and programs. His glory is revealed in the day to day reality of life away from the displays and pageantry. He is found in the midst of us trying to figure out how to make it to the next paycheck; in the bad news from the doctor' in the struggle to turn our marriages around. If you look You will find Him there and He will bring His peace in the midst of it all. It's a peace that lasts long after the decorations are taken down and the lights go out.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Gift of His Presence

christmas present
When Christ was born his birth announcement came in the least likely of places, out in a field to a bunch of simple shepherds in the middle of the night. I'm sure this surprised everybody, especially the shepherds. I imagine the religious leaders had been preparing the people to look for his anticipated arrival. They probably were expecting it to happen in a very public way for all to see, perhaps in the temple or at the home of the High Priest. They missed it because they were looking for his arrival in all the wrong places. The glory of the Lord was revealed far away from the lights and the crowds.

Where are you looking for His glory in your life? The Church is feverishly looking for Him to show up in the midst of our carefully choreographed worship services, skillfully articulated sermons and our spectacular revivals. I wonder sometimes if we are not much different than the religious leaders back then. I fear that we get so caught up in creating an atmosphere for His glory to appear that we don't realize that He isn't there at all. We mistake our man-made glory for the real thing. I'm finding that God shows up in the quiet moments of desperation; in the middle of bareness; in our darkest moments just like He did at His birth. Isaiah 9 prophesied that the people walking in darkness would see a great light. Light would dawn on those living in the land of the shadow of death. That's where He chooses to shine His glory, right in the middle of our darkest and bleakest moments in life.

This Christmas season may the glory of the Lord shine upon you. May His presence and countenance rest upon you and your house.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Psalm 23 - The Key To A Transformed Life

kneedling at the cross
Psalm 23 is undoubtedly the most well known chapter in the entire Bible. I can think of no other verses that are quoted more. The words of this chapter have brought great comfort to many in times of adversity and trouble. It is a powerful declaration of God's promised comfort, care, and protection for his children. However, the real intention of this Psalm is not what God will do for us but what we must do for him. The benefits described in this chapter are simply a result of something much bigger. To read Psalm 23 correctly we must come to the understanding that the focus is not what we will get from God but what we must give to God. With that said, take a moment and read that chapter in that context.

The Lord pointed out to me recently that we have been reading this the wrong way. Look at the first sentence: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Do you see the comma? That one little character puts the wrong emphasis on this entire chapter. Now, see what happens when we replace that comma with a period: "The Lord is my shepherd." Period! That punctuation mark changes everything.

We tend to focus on everything after that first phrase. We want the prize but overlook the requirement to receive it. We tend to focus on the gifts rather than on the Gift-Giver! We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy striving after getting our needs met, finding green pastures and still waters, a restored soul, peace and courage in the valley of the shadow of death, confirmation of his presence, comfort, anointing, abundance, peace with our enemies, goodness and mercy, and finally, eternal security. What we fail to do is spend our time making him our Shepherd. The focus of Psalm 23 is the first five words with a period after it. Until we make the Lord our Shepherd, the sole focus and guide of our lives, we will never truly experience the rest of the chapter.

I hope you are beginning to see this Psalm in a brand new light. You see, Psalm 23 is not about us. It is about Him! The goal of this chapter is not the things we get out of it. The goal is making God the true Shepherd of our lives. The rest of the chapter is simply a byproduct of that. Those things are the fruit of a life led by the true Shepherd. This should be our declaration as we begin each day: "The Lord is my Shepherd! That's all I need."

Who or what is directing your life? You, circumstances, or is God truly your Shepherd? Make it your sole purpose today to make him your one, true Shepherd. It will literally change your life!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

How To Make Thanksgiving A Monument Instead Of A Relic

give thanks to the Lord
Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6-7 (NASB)

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land the Lord instructed Joshua to choose twelve men to take twelve large stones and place them at the place where they crossed over to serve as a permanent memorial to God's miraculous provision to his people. This was to ensure that all future generations would know about God's faithfulness to his people. These stones were much more than just a memorial to God's past faithfulness but served as a constant reminder of his continuous faithfulness to all generations.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today it is important that we not view God's faithfulness as a relic of the past but as a monument to the future. God's faithfulness yesterday must always point us to look forward to the promise of his faithfulness tomorrow. Our children and grandchildren need to know that because God has been faithful to us, he will be faithful to them and will be faithful to their children and grandchildren.

I remember hearing stories of God's miraculous provision to my grandmother as she survived the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and later the Great Depression of the 1930's. I also remember the many stories told by my parents of how the Lord displayed his faithfulness while serving as missionaries in Bolivia in the late 50's and early 60's by delivering them from harm and danger many times, keeping my mother and me as an infant safe during an earthquake while my father was in Argentina, how I was miraculously healed of severe burns to my foot after stepping into boiling water. To this day I have no scars or memories of that horrible accident. I also remember countless nights sitting at our dinner table listening to guest missionaries share their own eyewitness accounts of how God healed blind eyes, opened deaf ears and even raised people from the dead.

All of these accounts and many more were always more than just stories of God's faithfulness to others in the past. They have always stirred in me a deep faith that if God could do that for them, then he would certainly do that for me. I have revisited those stories countless times in my life so that I would never forget God's promise that he will be faithful to me today and tomorrow. When I have faced seemingly impossible circumstances I recounted these stories to remind me that nothing is impossible with God. The stories of God's faithfulness told to me as a child have become memorial stones that have not only reminded me of the past but continue to point me to God's future provision.

As we sit down to gorge ourselves on a bountiful feast and enjoy friends and family today let's take this opportunity to build memorial stones with our children and grandchildren by sharing stories of God's incredible faithfulness to us and then join hands and thank him for his promised future faithfulness. This will ensure that God's faithfulness will never become a relic of the past to our children but serve as a monument to his continued faithfulness in the future. That is what Thanksgiving is really all about.

Here is a video of a song I wrote to serve as my own personal memorial stone to God's faithfulness to my family and a testament to his promised faithfulness tomorrow.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Did You Forget Something?

string around finger
As I was reading Psalm 103 the other day I was struck by the phrase in verse 2 that says, "...and forget not all his benefits." I like how the New Living Translation says, "...may I never forget the good things he does for me." Remembering God's acts of kindness to us is a critical part of worship. Forgetting is failing to allow the reality of what he has done shape how we understand and feel about life. I think of it as wearing prescription glasses. We can manage without them but our vision is blurred and distorted and we miss important details. David is reminding us to put on our glasses so that we always view our lives through the lens of God's goodness.

I remember a conversation around the dinner table at our home a few years ago when our son was a teenager. If you have a teenager in your home I'm sure you have had the same conversation. As we were getting up from the table, my wife informed him that he needed to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. He immediately complained about the unfair workload his mother and I burden him with. I think his exact words were, "Why do I have to do all the work around here?" I am thankful that my wife will not allow guns in our house because I believe she would have shot him right there in the kitchen. Before any violence could erupt, I simply asked him the following questions: "Who made dinner?" His mother did. "Who went to the grocery store and bought all the food we just ate?" His mother did. "Who worked to earn the money to buy all the food?" We did. "So, what did you do?" Nothing. He lowered his head and did the dishes and has never said that since. The simple fact was that he had forgotten the good things his parents do for him.

Sometimes we all act like that with God. We go through life with all of its demands, frustrations, trials and pressures and our vision gets distorted. We get tired and frustrated, angry and depressed. We see God as harsh, uncaring and distant. That is when we need to put on our glasses so that we can see clearly and be reminded that he is good and his mercy endures forever. If you ever find yourself forgetting what God has done for you, read Psalm 103. David lists them for us so we won't forget. Always remember that no matter how bad life gets, it will never overshadow the greatness of God's goodness towards you. You may need to take a moment and reflect on some of the great things he has done for you. Write them down. Say them out loud so you can hear them. As the sun rises and sets recite them so that you will never forget. Remember, God is good ALL the time!

Below is a YouTube video of a song I wrote, "You've Been So Good To Us." Let it encourage you as you are reminded about the great things God has done for you. It will give you a renewed reason to be thankful.

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