Friday, November 29, 2013

Advent 2014

I do not recall if I have ever been intentional about celebrating the advent season. I am not saying I have not been intentional in celebrating the birth of Jesus, but I have not been intentional in working through some sort of material the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. I hope that changes this year.

John Piper has released Good News of Great Joy, a daily reading of devotionals meant to lead and guide someone during this advent season. This short booklet of short devotionals is available for free Desiring God website in a digital format or you can get a fairly cheap paperback over at Amazon. I plan on spending time in these devotionals each day leading up to Christmas, starting on Sunday, December 1st. David Mathis, the executive editor at Desiring God, has this to share about this little book.
"Advent is for adoring Jesus. At least that's our angle on it at Desiring God. Advent is an annual season of patient waiting, hopeful expectation, soul-searching, and calendar-watching marked by many churches, Christian families, and individual followers of Jesus. There's no biblical mandate to observe Advent. It's an optional thing--a tradition that developed over the course of the church's history as a time of preparation for Christmas Day. Many of us find observing Advent to be personally enjoyable and spiritually profitable . . . Our prayer is that this little devotional might help you keep Jesus as the center and greatest treasure of your Advent season. The candles and candies have their place, but we want to make sure that in all the December rush and hubbub we adore Jesus above all" (i-ii).
And then John Piper shares a very specific goal he has for this short book.
"What Jesus wants most for Christmas is that his elect be gathered in and then get what they want most--to see his glory and then savor it with the very savoring of the Father for the Son. What I want most for Christmas this year is to join you (and many others) in seeing Christ in all his fullness and that we together be able to love what we see with a love far beyond our own half-hearted human capacities. This is our goal in these Advent devotionals. We want together to see and savor this Jesus whose first 'advent' (coming) we celebrate, and whose second advent we anticipate" (vi).
Would you consider joining me this Advent season as we look to marvel at the glory of our King Jesus? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'm Sad We Need A Thanksgiving Holiday?

I know, I know. I tend to look at things from a pessimistic point of view. This holiday is one of them. Don't get me wrong, any holiday that consists of family, turkey, dressing, pie, and football is not something that gets me down. I love it. It is probably one of my favorite holidays of the year. It's just that I don't think we need it. Or . . . we shouldn't need it. But unfortunately, we do. Let me explain.

In many ways, I feel we have reduced Thanksgiving to a holiday instead of a lifestyle. Many good things happen today. For one, many people will sit around a table full of food thinking about all the things they are thankful for. There is no doubt that #Thanksgiving or #Thankful will trend on Twitter. But the question I always ponder on this day is why does it take a special day for me to express my gratitude? Why do I only tend to tell people I am thankful for them on this day? Why does it take a calendar event for me to reflect on what God has done for me? Shouldn't this take place every hour of every day? Didn't the Apostle Paul say we should "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18)? Shouldn't this be something I am consumed with every day of the year, not just on special occasions?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday.

These are things I think every year at this point. And then the next year rolls around and I wonder why I didn't give more thanks during the year. Why didn't I express my gratitude to those I work with on a daily basis? Why didn't I tell my wife how thankful I am for her gracious love and support and forgiveness each day? Why didn't I tell my kids how thankful I am that they are my children? Why didn't I tell my church and small groups how thankful I am for their investment into my life?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I need it.

What would our lives look like if #Thankful trended on Twitter everyday of the year? What would it look like if we told at least one person every day how grateful we are for them? Do we think it would change anything about us? What if we praised our Father in Heaven every day for His special gifts of grace and love and salvation? Would that give us a different perspective?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I hope it redirects my path today.

As we all sit around and update our Facebook status, Tweet special Tweets about how thankful we are today, tell people we love how much they mean to us . . . let us do it tomorrow. Let it be a reminder to us to be just as thankful on December 12, February 21, June 15, or any other day this coming year. May my heart; may your heart be overflowing with thanks this coming year. 

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I'm Thankful we have one!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Greed and Thanksgiving

I am studying this week for a new sermon series I will start on Sunday on the concept of Greed. As this date has approached, I have been overcome by the irony of starting it the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Why? Because if you think about it, they are polar opposites. The Thanksgiving Holiday began because our ancestors were thankful for all they had. Greed lies to the heart telling it doesn't have enough. One has to do with being content. The other, never content. Ever. It always wants more.

In the process of my studying, I came across a blog post by Matt Walsh on the concept of consumerism overtaking Thanksgiving. His point is that if you shop on Thanksgiving Day, you are part of the problem in our consumerist America. Your greed is why thousands, probably millions, of Americans will not be able to spend time with their family giving thanks for all they have. They will be trying to help serve you in your pursuit for more things that will simply end up in a dump someday. There are many insightful things he says in this blog and I would encourage you to read the entire article. Here is just a sampling.
"For a while, Black Friday and Thanksgiving coexisted. We thanked God for His blessings on Thursday, and then jumped into the consumer mosh pit at Best Buy on Friday. But this Black Friday-Thanksgiving marriage was tenuous and rocky from the start. It was doomed to fail. Thanksgiving offers tradition, family, and contentment; Black Friday offers smart phones at drastically reduced prices. In America, we all know who wins that battle. So Black Friday, like a black hole, violently expanded; it absorbed the light that surrounded it and sucked everything into its terrifying abyss, where all substance is torn to shreds and obliterated. Black Friday could not be contained to a mere 24 hours. It is Consumerism. It wants more. It always wants more. Nothing is sacred to it; nothing is valuable. So, now, Black Friday has eaten Thanksgiving alive. Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured its soul, but we barely noticed. It's hard to hear anything when you're wrestling 4,000 other people for buy one get one free cargo shorts at Old Navy." (Read the entire article HERE)
What will the next four days say about who you are? Are you a coveter? Are you moved by Greed? Are you thankful for what you have?

Please do not understand me, there is nothing wrong with shopping this weekend. I bought a stove and microwave a few weeks ago and still go the Black Friday specials. I am not saying "don't spend money." But what I am asking is that you use this weekend as a opportunity to evaluate your heart. Why do you spend? Answering that question honestly might just expose some things in your heart you won't want to know. As James, the brother of Jesus, says . . .
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (4:4)
What does your desire for more say about your desire for God?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Care & Maintenance of Your Preachers by Dr. Jack Hughes

The church I used to minister in while in Kansas, Grace Bible Church, was blessed to have a difficult word preached to them last Sunday by Dr. Jack Hughes. He preached two messages on a topic he claims he has heard very little preached on in the past: The Care and Maintenance of Your Preacher. 

His thought rings true. Not many preachers take time to preach on how people should treat them. And for good reason. Most truly gospel centered preaches are very leery of giving any thought to people that they are in it for the money or support. And because of that, they avoid the topic. The unfortunate result is that many people do not understand their calling to support those that labor at preaching and teaching. 

In these two sermons, Hughes gives 11 thoughts to the people of a church on how they are to care for their preachers. If you have every wondered what your responsibilities are to your preachers, I would encourage you to listen to these two sermons.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christian Biographies: Where to Start?

I shared yesterday that reading the stories of people's lives is good for our Christian faith. There is something about reading about the successes and failures of other people that make our life a bit more exciting and normal. They have run the race before us and set an example that it is possible. 

But who has time to dig into 300 page biographical books. I might be able to read one every once and a while, but I tend to invest more of my reading time to other types of genre. And so I have found a few resources that have been helpful for me as I try to gain a glimpse into someones life. These are shorter books or articles that give the highlights of those that have already run the race. My faith stands on their shoulders in many ways. Here a few places I go to read some biographies.

The Swans Are Not Silent by John Piper
This is certainly one of my favorite series of biographical sketches. Every year at Piper's Desiring God Pastors conference, he takes time to do a major biographical lesson on a father of our faith. Many of these have been turned into books, but you can download all of them at the Desiring God site for free. 

The Puritans by Tim Challies
Several months ago, Challies posted some really helpful and thoughtful summaries of the lives of Puritans. If you are interested in spending five to ten minutes reading about the life of some man your pastor usually quotes, check out his list of biographical sketches. He recently has moved to a series on Christian Philanthropists that is really interesting as well. 

Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr
Over at my wife's blog, she raves about these biographies from Carr. While these might be designed for younger readers with great graphics, my guess is that many adults can learn a lot of things from these books. My wife has reviewed her book on Lady Jane Grey, Athanasius, Augustine, John Owen, and John Calvin.

Hall of Contemporary Reformers by Monergism
If you are looking for some very short biographies of guys who are still alive (only a few of these guys have passed away), then this is the place to look. From John Piper to Tim Keller to Mark Dever, and many others, the guys over at Monergism have collected short biographical information including their publications. For some, like John MacArthur, this is a very long list.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christian Biographies

There is something that tugs at our heart when we hear stories of people who have stood where we are standing. Maybe it is just the encouragement that they accomplished it, maybe it is the blessing that they are not perfect either, or maybe it just helps us relate to others when we hear they went through similar trials; but there is something that moves us when we hear the stories of other people's lives.

We see this modeled in the Scriptures. We see the lives of individuals explained in detail. Sometimes they are given just a verse or two; other times their lives are explained in entire books. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly of God's people. We even have an entire chapter of the Bible dedicated to recounting the highlights of many people. 

Hebrews 11 has traditionally been called the "Hall of Faith." It reminds us of the story of men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and countless other followers of God. Their faith in their God is not something that is meant to be static in our life. It has been written down to moves us. To change us. To impact us. As you move on from Hebrews 11, we are told that their model of faithfulness should be a motivating factor for our faithful commitment to Jesus in this Christian race (12:1-3). We run this Christian race with them in the crowd cheering us on.

But this "cloud of witnesses" is not limited to the people mentioned in Hebrews 11. It includes those who have run and finished the Christian race before us. It is those whose shoulders we now stand on to promote the name of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether they lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago, our Christian faith has been influenced by those who have run before us, even if we do not recognize it yet.  

Reading the stories of other Christian's lives can bring great encouragement to your walk with Christ. It can be motivating and humbling to see how God used other men and women in the past. And it could be exciting to see how He could use you as well. Reading their stories can change us.

Unfortunately, I believe most Christians are unaware of those that have run before them. We have become a culture that cares not for those who have gone before us. We are ignorant of church history and of those who have impacted the faith we say we have today. I wish this would change. 

Tomorrow I will share some of the places I go to find short biographical stories of the great men and women of the faith. I hope these resources might be helpful if you choose to start learning about the men and women who have shaped Christianity as it is today. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spurgeon on "Gnashing of Teeth"

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon on the Terrible Judgment parables. At the end of time, God will separate the righteous from the wicked and the wicked will be sent to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Parable of Weeds & Net in Matthew 13). It was heartbreaking to think about the eternal destiny of those that do not know Jesus Christ.

While I was studying, I came across a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon called Heaven and Hell. In this sermon, Spurgeon articulates, as only he does, one aspect of what he forsees it means that there will be gnashing of teeth. This is painful to read.
"What is it that the lost are doing? They are "weeping and gnashing their teeth." Do you gnash you teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth. And do you know why? There is one gnashing his teeth at his companion, and mutters, "I was led into hell by you; you led me astray, you taught me to drink the first time." And the other gnashes his teeth and says, "What if I did? You made me worse than I should have been in after times." There is a child who looks at her mother, and says, "Mother, you trained me up to vice." And the mother gnashes her teeth again at the child, and says, "I have no pity for you, for you excelled me in it, and led me into deeper sin." Fathers gnash their teeth at their sons, and sons at their fathers. And, methinks, if there are any who will have to gnash their teeth more than others, it will be seducers, when they see those whom they have led from the paths of virtue, and hear them saying, "Ah! we are glad you are in hell with us, you deserve it, for you led us here." Have any of you, to-night, upon your consciences the fact that you have led others to the pit? O, may sovereign grace forgive you. "We have gone astray like lost sheep," said David. Now a lost sheep never goes astray alone, if it is one of a flock. I lately read of a sheep that leaped over the parapet of a bridge, and was followed by every one of the flock. So, if one man goes astray, he leads others with him. Some of you will have to account for others' sins when you get to hell, as well as your own. Oh, what "weeping and gnashing of teeth" there will be in that pit!"
May thoughts like this move us to share the gospel with more people. May we not be comfortable in our life when those around us are destined for an eternity apart from Christ.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why An Elder Retreat

This morning, I posted over at our church blog a petition for prayer for our elders as we meet together this weekend for our our annual retreat. I'm sure in many places, elders have a bad name. Maybe simply because they are leaders and people do not naturally respond to leadership. Certainly in some cases people do not respond well to their leadership because their leaders have abused their positions. I'm sure if we thought about it long enough and heard from enough people, there are many reasons why godly elders seeking to lead a church begin with an uphill climb. 

As I was thinking about our elders retreat and this potential scenario that others approach church leadership with tentativeness, I thought I would share one passage of Scripture that has helped me dramatically.
"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:1-3).
Peter gives several commands to the elders of a church. This is why we are meeting this weekend as elders for a time away to pray, plan, and think about the future.

First, Peter says that elders are to shepherd the flock of God. Certainly there is a lot wrapped up in that statement. But the one I want to point out is that a good shepherd cares for His flock. He loves them. He feeds them. He makes sure they are doing well. One of the reasons for this time away will be to pray for the people God has placed in our care so our hearts are drawn towards them to care more deeply for them.

Second, Peter says that elders are to exercise oversight. This is leadership. Part of our time is going to be evaluating where we have been and planning where we see God taking us. We want to give oversight to this growing ministry. We want to set goals, evaluate how we are doing with those goals, and seek ways to impact our church and community for the glory of God.

Third, Peter says that the elders are to be examples to the flock. Part of our time this weekend will be to evaluate our own hearts. We will spend time as elders talking with each other about things we see in each others life. We need humility. We need grace among each other. We need to help each other be the examples of Godly men. 

There is much more I could say about this, but time does not permit me at this moment. Would you pray for us? And if you are not part of CBC, I would urge you to pray for your leadership today. I'm sure they have made mistakes, but I hope they are quick to seek reconciliation when they have. Spend time today praising God for your leaders and asking God to continue working in their heart. 

All for His glory and your good!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Calling All Fathers

Hey Fathers, do you ever question your importance in the home? Think again! Watch this!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo has often been defined in this way: "Something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else." Unfortunately, this is how many people live their lives. I know I struggle with it. When my wife is loving and pursuing me, it is much easier for me to love her. When my kids obey and run to me when I walk into the door at night, it is easy for me to want to spend time with them and give them things. It certainly is easier to study for my Sunday sermon when people compliment me on my sermons. The only problem with each of these scenarios is that they are natural. 

The Christian armed with the gospel is called to be supernatural. It is not this for that, it is this for nothing. That's what Jesus did in the gospel. One of my favorite gospel authors, Tullian Tchividjian puts it in these terms:
"As much as we might wish the world--and we ourselves--didn't operate according to debits and credits, there is always a cost to what we do. We are conditional beings living in a conditional universe. 'I called you last time, now it's your turn to call me.' 'If you lie to me, there must be an apology before we're good again.' The condition must be met, the cost must be paid--'either I swallow my pride, you say you're sorry, or we never talk to each other again.' But the debt has to go somewhere. Christianity alone affirms that the God who makes the demands also met those demands for us in the person of Jesus. That God would design to reach us in a way that both acknowledges and resolves these fundamental realities is not juvenile or overly abstract/economic--it is both gracious and miraculous. We are both fully known and fully loved." (One Way Love, 95-96)
He is saying we are free to forgive and be wronged because God not only gave the demands, but also met them on our behalf. I would challenge you to think deeply of how this issue of Quid Pro Quo is abolished because of the gospel in your life (or at least it should be). 

It is supernatural for me to pursue my wife when there is nothing coming in return. It is supernatural for me to give to my kids when they despise me. It is supernatural for me to study for the Sunday sermon when people hate my preaching (although, there is probably much more to it than that).

How do you see Quid Pro Quo in your life?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Difference A Day Can Make

"If you don't like the weather, just wait 24 hours and it will change." I am sure you have heard this statement before. It is likely you have said it. It is a statement I have heard people say in every state I have lived. Everyone seems to think they live in the state with the most rapid climate changes. In reality, maybe just about everyone experiences this. Well, the past two days in Ohio has been a living example of this statement.

This picture above was taken Monday morning at 7am when I was getting ready to take my son to school (sorry for the grainy picture, I took it through my front window and the screen). As the sun began to rise through the empty trees, it gave a glow that radiated the skyline. Trust me, this picture does not do justice. As Spurgeon said, the sun really is God's traveling preacher. It was incredible!

But things were different this morning, just 24 hours later. During the night, the temperature dropped, a band of snow off of Lake Erie rolled in and we received a few inches of wet snow.

The result of this snow was a beautiful example of God's handiwork as it stuck to the branches of those empty trees. We get a lot of snow up here in NE Ohio, but when it is like this, it is beautiful. As I looked out of the window this morning, it looked like a canvas had been painted by an incredible artist. Of course it was. God's creation is amazing!

What's the point? As I was driving to work this morning, I couldn't help but think about the difference a day can make. It can go from sunny to snowy in 24 hours. It might go back for us in the next 24 hours. Things can change quickly in life. But let's just ponder for a second how things can change for the better for you today. 

You may have had the worst day yesterday and things could be better today. You may have struggled with that sin again yesterday, but His grace is new again this morning. You may have hurt and offended someone yesterday, but it can be forgiven and reconciled today. No matter what happened yesterday, today can be different. 

Today can be a day for the Lord. It can be a day of change. It can be a day set aside for the Lord. I challenge you to take this simply physical example the Lord gives to us as a reminder that what once was can be changed. And you don't even need to wait 24 hours. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nefarious, Merchant of the Soul

A few weeks ago, some people from our church and some outside of our church, used our Ministry Center for a day to raise awareness for the increased problem of Human Trafficking. One of the resources they used was a documentary called, Nefarious, Merchant of the Soul. This is the synopsis of this movie:
"Modern slavery. It sounds like a paradox. Hasn't humanity progressed? Didn't we leave slavery dead on the battlefields of the American Civil War? Didn't social reformers like Lincoln and Wilberforce legislate against such cruelty over a hundred years ago? So we had thought. But, with over 27 million enslaved people in the world, human trafficking is once again the battlefront of the century. 
Regardless of nationality, victims are systematically stripped of their identity, battered into gruesome submission, and made to perform humiliating sexual acts on up to 40 strangers every night. Most are held in dingy apartments and brothels, forced to take heavy doses of illegal drugs, and monitored very closely. Victims are often thrown into such ghastly oppression at 13 years old. Some are abducted outright, while others are lured out of poverty, romantically seduced, or sold by their families. 
Nefarious, Merchant of the Souls, is a hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends in modern sex slavery. From the very first scene, Nefarious ushers you into the nightmare of sex slavery that hundreds of thousands experience daily. You'll see where slaves are sold (often in developed, affluent countries), where they work, and where they are confined. You'll hear first-hand interviews with real victims and traffickers, along with expert analysis from international humanitarian leaders. 
From initial recruitment to victim liberation--and everything in between--the previously veiled underworld of sex slavery is uncovered in the groundbreaking, tell-all Nefarious, Merchant of the Souls."

I have not seen the entire movie yet, but plan on it very soon. I have posted the trailer so you can get an idea of what it is about. You can also find the first five minutes of the movie online. One word of caution. Even from the trailer and the opening scenes that I have watched, this is for very mature audiences. It deals with a very difficult and sensitive subject. I will reserve my full judgment on the appropriate age of the audience until I have seen the entire film, but from what I have seen, I would not show it to any of my kids yet.

Certainly there has been someone out there that has seen this film. What were your thoughts? How did it impact you? What has been the result of it in your life?

Human trafficking is still a big deal. It is one issue that should at least be on our radar.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So Far As It Depends On You . . .

I was talking with someone the other day about being a peacemaker. You know, seeking to keep the peace with people. Being in a good, healthy relationship with other people. Making sure any conflicts are taken care of and restored quickly. Pursuing others with the goal of restoration. Certainly there are some people who like conflict, but I believe most people want to be in peace. Or they want to avoid the conflict. They do not want problems. But honestly, sometimes this is not possible. 

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it does not shy away from our experience. Our experience is that sin has so pervaded people that sometimes the ideal is not possible. Peacemaking is an ideal, but sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes, seeking peace only makes things worse. In Romans 12, we are given this encouraging word from the Apostle Paul:

"If possible, so far as it depends of you, live peaceably with all." (vs. 18)

So far as it depends on you. That means, you may seek peace with someone and it may not come. It may not be possible. To have a peaceful relationship, it takes two. Both parties have to be willing to be at peace with each other. 

Now, some people respond to this with relief, as if they are off the hook. But I wonder how many could read this and stop short of seeking peace. Paul is telling us to worry about ourselves in the peacemaking pursuit, but that we can't change others. We are responsible for ourselves, but not the other party involved. In the immediate context, Paul also gives several ideas of ways "so far as it depends on you" should be worked out. Let me offer just a few of them.

1. Do not be proud, humble yourself in that relationship
2. Never repay evil for evil.
3. Do the honorable thing.
4. Leave revenge for God.
5. Overcome evil with good.
6. Kill your enemy with kindness.

We could probably keep going on. Seek ways to make restitution with those that you have conflicts with in your life. Pursue them. Don't be so proud that you think you never have to apologize, even when you think you are not wrong. If they are doing evil to you, refuse to retaliate. Maybe don't even respond until you can respond rightly. Let God be the avenger. And then do good to them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. If they are hungry, give them food. Paul says that doing those things will "heap burning coals on his head." 

Do all those things and more with great patience and hopefully, peace can be found. But then again, it might not. So far as it depends on you . . . pursue the peace. But it may never come. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Released from Performance

I shared yesterday that the one book I spent time reading during my staycation was One Way Love by Tullian Tchvidjian. I should finish it soon and hopefully will find time to write a review on this book. I love the writing and ministry of Tullian. He so adequately explains the freeing nature of what Jesus accomplished through His perfect life, horrifying death, and glorious resurrection. It is one topic that I need to continually keep in my mind.

What I love about this book is that he writes against performancism. He tries to show how the gospel cures the need or desire to perform so that God would accept us. That thought is two-way love, not one-way love. But the gospel says that He pursues and releases us from the need to perform. That's comforting in my life. 

This short quote really summarizes what this book is all about. I particularly hope his articulation of the gospel helps release you like it does me.
"The idea that there is an unconditional love that relieves the pressure, forgives our failures, and replaces our fear with faith seems too good to be true. Longing for hope in a world of hype, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the news we have been waiting for all our lives: God loves real people like you and me, which He demonstrated by sending His real Son to set real people free. 
Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves. 
The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you're free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you're free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you're free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you're free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you're free to fail. One way to summarize God's message to the worn out and weary is like this--God's demand: 'be righteous'; God's diagnosis: 'no one is righteous'; God's deliverance: 'Jesus is our righteousness.' Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. In the place of exhaustion, you might even find energy." (36-37)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Back from a Staycation

I know I have been M. I. A. over the past several weeks. The reason is because I have been on a Staycation. Yep, this is a word which appeared in our vocabulary several years ago which is for a vacation that is taken at home. There are several reasons why a person may take a staycation, but probably many of them boils down to money or kids being in school. For me, I am thankful for some time off and here are a few things that happened (or learned) while I was away from the office.

First, I enjoyed the time with my wife. It has been over 15 years for us together and I still enjoy spending time with her. I pray that our relationship grows stronger and deeper in ways I can't understand yet. I realize that while I get a vacation from my responsibilities, she did not. In fact, her responsibilities probably increased as she had another kid at home to take care of . . . ME!

Second, I spent time with the kids. We wrestled on the floor. We played games. We did some hitting in the batting cage (did I mention I put an indoor batting cage in my garage?). I loved every minute I had with them this past week. 

Third, I did a little bit of reading. Not as much as I had hoped or wanted to do, but I did spend a little bit of time reading. I have sort of been in a weird place when it comes to reading the past several months. I have not read as much as I normally do. I have several books that I am most of the way through, but haven't felt the urge to finish them. The one book I made most of the way through on vacation is One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian. Great book, very encouraging. Review coming soon.

Fourth, I did very few home projects. I wanted to do more, but just wasn't motivated. Yesterday, I did more than the previous week combined. As I was working outside yesterday, I thought to myself, "I wish I would have done this earlier in my staycation." Anyone ever feel like that before? Yea, I bet.

Fifth, I realize I love television way too much. It is way to easy for me to sit and watch TV shows upon TV shows when I have nothing else planned. Add in Netflix and it is a bad combination for me. But I guess if you are going to be lazy, a staycation is the time to do it.

Sixth, I am not sure I know how to relax. Everyone kept asking me if I was relaxing. I'm not sure what that means. Honestly. I guess I could imagine a situation away from everyone laying on a beach with a book in hand while the waves gently crash upon the shore. But apart from that, I'm a bit unsure about relaxation. I guess it has something to do with no distractions. But my mind hardly ever shuts off, which is a battle. I guess for me, there is a fine line between relaxing and laziness. If you define it lazy, then yes, I relaxed.

Seventh, I turned a year older. Yep, I hit the big 40 on Friday. I think I did better handling this birthday than I have with others in the past. Hopefully, the Lord will give me grace upon grace in the coming years as I try to serve Him more passionately. Thank you for all the birthday wishes, cards, and gifts.

Eighth, I didn't shave. #NoShaveNovember is in full swing.

Today I'm back at work. I will be trying to catch up with what happened the past week. Meeting with people. Planning the next several months. Studying for more sermons. Praying for people. In some ways, I'm glad to be back. I do love my job. I pray God uses this week, and the coming ones, to sharpen my resolve and heart for Him. 
"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith--to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen." (Romans 16:25-27)