Monday, December 29, 2014

December 29, 2014 - MAD New Year!

I loved a story that our pastor shared last week in church; he talked about trading/selling baseball cards when he was a kid. In the story he shared about looking up what a card was worth in the Beckett’s card guide only to finds that it didn’t always agree with what someone was willing to pay for the card.
Moral of the story: Value is determined by what someone is willing to pay!

In a couple of days people will write out personal resolutions for the new year; most will revolve around ways to make one feel of more worth. They will be based upon how the person feels about himself… and often based upon what culture has determined will give one value.

May I remind you, as our pastor did us, that your value is determined by what someone is willing pay for you; and the God of the universe thought you worth His only begotten Son’s life! (John 3:16) That is where you will find meaning and purpose!
“Your significance is not based upon your successes but on your Savior!” (Pastor Matt Brooks, LifePoint Church)

I’m not saying that one should not make resolutions that improve health, etc. But if it is with the underlying thought that it will somehow add more worth/significance to your life then you are missing the big picture.

The Biblical picture of resolutions should bring us to focus on God and on others (you know the “love God… and your neighbor” commands from Jesus.) I did a graphic for some messages a couple years ago that stated that my resolutions were “i will focus on U!”

I want people to know that God loves them and that I love them. This is shown by what I am willing to “pay” to reach them. I want to invest in people… God did!

Will 2015 find you giving of your time and resources to let people know they matter? Invest in others! Go MAD! (Make A Difference)

MAD New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 22, 2014 - Breaking The Press

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks… in the air there’s a feeling of CHRISTmas.”

I find it interesting that in the hustle and bustle of the CHRISTmas season even popular songs relate the “feeling of CHRISTmas” with “busy sidewalks.” This time of year is always full of traffic jams, heightened frustrations, and emptied bank accounts (which will lead to more frustrations.) Is that really the “feeling of CHRISTmas”?

Life seems to always be “played at a high pace”; but the holiday season seems to put it into a “full court press.” It gets us out of rhythm. We leave our driveways with every intention of just accomplishing our tasks and somehow end up caught up and flustered (and at times “committing turnovers” by blowing testimonies.)

As a coach when my team was being pressed I had to watch and see if my team was flustered. (The old Coach Wooden phrase: we wanted to be quick but not hurry.) We had gone over press-breakers to teach our guys where they should go and what they should do; but honestly when the other team was long, athletic, and active I often had to call timeout and try to calm the situation. I had to choose the right player to handle throwing the ball in; had to choose the right guys to be in position to receive the pass and then make good decisions. In the midst of all the chaos each player had to stay calm, seek out the teammate he was supposed to pass to, and make the right play…

The true “feelings of CHRISTmas” that we were promised are joy and peace! (Isn’t it funny that we sing “Silent night… all is calm” during our present day season?) These are not feelings that come from a new religion that calls for people to try to impress God; but instead from a God that “called timeout” (literally splitting the calendar) and sent His Son “into the game as the Substitute!”

My encouragement to you this season is to stay calm and seek Jesus! Let Him “break the press” for you! If you have never accepted His offer of joy and peace then Know that He came for you; He was born as the Savior to ultimately die to pay for your sin and rise again to offer you new life if you will simply place your faith in Him!

If you have trusted Him as your Savior do you realize that He brought you peace? You can rest this season in His promises.  Seek Him more than all the other stuff! Maybe take time to share His promises with others? Maybe talk more about His goodness and promises than you complain about traffic or money or unsaved people having the audacity to tell you Happy Holidays instead of Merry CHRISTmas… (Somehow their sentiment seems more joyful than demanding our rights????)

Yesterday our pastor reminded us that Jesus was born largely in obscurity. (I think of the old Truth song that said “there were no fanfares played, no jubilant display, isn’t it amazing how He came?) The shepherds, in the midst of the crazy and chaotic world, were invited to seek and meet Jesus. But the pastor reminded us of all those around that missed the event…

Don’t miss Jesus in the midst of the CHRISTmas season! Don’t let those around you miss Jesus during the CHRISTmas season!

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while He may be found. Seek Him while He is near.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15, 2014 - G.O.A.T.

I was just reading through some of the statistical categories for the NBA. It was triggered by seeing a headline about who the frontrunners are for the MVP (even though the season is only ¼ of the way through.) This is something every year that is debated by sports enthusiasts; each offering opinions on why one is good; usually followed by opinions as to why someone else’s choice is a bum. How silly fans are... as they tend to belittle other great players in order to build up their favorites.  (Of course it is not just the MVP race being debated; we also saw Kobe pass MJ on the all-time scoring list… sparking discussions of who the G.O.A.T. [greatest of all time is].)

Well I won’t waste weekly devotion time to debate the basketball MVP or  G.O.A.T. (even though I do know the correct answer to the MVP and the G.O.A.T.)… Instead we will look at life’s G.O.A.T…

All over the world there are religious opinions based upon religious leaders claiming to have the answers. Throughout the centuries mankind has expressed its view of God or the gods, and leaders have expressed their ideas of how to appease God or the gods.  Yet in a very dramatic change, a completely different message came forth a couple thousand years ago that literally divided time…

The Biblical message of the angel appearing to the shepherds is a drastic change in religious thought. Instead of a proclamation of what man must do, the angel proclaimed that God has come to be with us. (Immanuel = God with us) But this wasn’t a message of God visiting in order to crush man but instead it is God visiting, in the form of a baby, in order to bring peace and salvation.

Luke 2 tells us very clearly that the “good news” is the fact that God has saved the day! The G.O.A.T. is Jesus! He split time! He played a “perfect game”! He paid for sin on the cross of Calvary and rose again to offer new life – victory through His finished work.

I don’t care what you think about Kobe, MJ, or LeBron… it is ultimately what you do with this Jesus that matters! His identity is at the core of the Christian message. From the announcement to the shepherds that he is the Savior, the Messiah (Luke 2)… to Him coming to His own and only some receiving who He is (John 1)… to asking Peter who people say He is… all the way to Pilate asking who He truly is and dying due to His claim of deity, this is the core issue to believing in His finished work for salvation!

CHRISTmas is the celebration of the entrance of the Greatest Of All Time into the game of life. He came as a babe proving He is approachable… not just for an autograph but to be embraced! How about if we talk more about Him than our sports heroes during this CHRISTmas season (and beyond)? How about if we don’t just talk about Him but instead invite people to meet Him… just like the angel did to the shepherds? Remember it is “good news that shall be to all people!”

Merry CHRISTmas!

It's a special time of year when we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Immediately upon His birth the angel appeared to the shepherds and proclaimed salvation through Christ, the Messiah! The angels met Him and became witnesses of Him... we are continuing that evangelistic mission! Would you consider a gift to end the year that will help up propel us into the 2015 season?

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014 - Playing In the Presence Of Royalty

Yesterday I was reading an ESPN story about LeBron James. This is a guy at the forefront of fame… known all over the world; and yet the story was about the fact that today he would be playing basketball in front of British Royalty (Prince William and Kate.) He went as far as stating that he hopes to “get the opportunity to interact with them a little bit.” How about that? King James wants an audience with Prince William…

Fast forward to tonight and as I read the recap of the Cavs victory over the Nets I noticed that the game was tied at 61 when the royal couple entered the arena; and at that point LeBron began “putting on a show” and Cleveland “cruised” to victory. James upped his game in the presence of royalty.

Last week I wrote about the lowly shepherds that went from “last pick to first” as the ones that God chose to introduce first to His Son. This week (as we continue in the CHRISTmas theme) I want to remind you that no matter where someone is on the social ladder, no one is bigger than God!

The CHRISTmas story (the Jesus story) is the Immanuel story (Matthew 1.) Immanuel means God with us… do you get that? The God of the universe chose to come mingle with us! Yet unlike most royalty, that visit was without fanfare and bright lights but instead humble and meager. He didn’t come to just sit courtside for our “game”; He entered “the game” and served us, even to the point of death on a cross! He provided a way for us to be royalty (King’s kids)!

I am beyond humbled to know that the King didn’t just watch me play to judge my worth but instead He gave me worth! He gave me an audience with Him and interacted with me. I belong to and am in the presence of Royalty. Therefore I want to “up my game” in honor to Him!

I hope you will pause today and think about the things we take for granted: Immanuel, God with us, is the very message that sets CHRISTianity apart from religions and allows us to be in a relationship! Many years ago I fell in love with a song written by Mark Harris. The group TRUTH sang it and then we covered it in our college group. The song always hit me hard emotionally, but especially so when I saw one of my dear friends, who was going through a very difficult time in the game of life, worshipping while listening to the song with tears rolling down his cheek. The lyrics put in perspective that fact that we should be in awe of Jesus this CHRISTmas season (and always.) Here are the lyric to Isn’t It Amazing How He Came:

Just To Think Such Royalty
Would Come The Way He Came
In A Dusty Little Town
Born In Such Humility Upon A Bed Of Hay
Certainly He Laid His Glory Down
Who Would Think This Little Child
Would Be The Promised One?
Would The Messiah Really Come This Way?
And Certainly This Was No Birthplace
For The Son Of God
Isn’t It Amazing How He Came?
Isn’t It Amazing The Way He Came?
No Crown, No Throne No Big Parade
There Were No Fanfares Played, No Jubilant Display
Isn’t It Amazing How He Came?
Isn’t It Amazing?
I Can’t Believe That I Would Be The Reason Why He Came
I Can’t Believe He Left His Mighty Throne
He Became A Pauper So That I Could Be A King
He Denied Himself And Then He Made My Heart His Home

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1, 2014 - From Last Picked to First

Do you remember your younger days when everyone lined up in gym class or on the playground to choose teams? There was so much pride (arrogance) in being one of the first chosen; knowing that you were the one being counted on to deliver victory; knowing that you “da man.”

But think about those that were perpetually picked last… Can you imagine how they felt every time the teacher said to “line up?” It was a constant reminder that in the wide world of sports they were outcasts and screw-ups. They knew that most of the time it meant they would be standing around and never entrusted with the ball; and if given the ball they knew expectations were that they would turn it over. And in this world of misplaced priorities, that can sometimes cut to the core of a people’s identities – as though their self-worth is determined by their athletic prowess (or lack thereof.) Or their success (or lack thereof) in any endeavor for that matter… academics, the arts, looks, etc.

The reality is that we live in a culture which has based self-worth on the wrong things!

Let me go back a couple thousand years… at that time there were social norms that led to a very definite social class order. At the bottom of that social ladder were a group called shepherds. These people spent their time out in the fields protecting the flocks and basically only talking with each other. They were considered so low that when they did venture into town other people would not associate with them (including the religious leaders.) These folks had basically no worth in society and thus basically zero self-worth.

When it came time to announce the birth of the Savior, God the Father took a look at His line of people and went all the way to the end of the line… and chose some lowly shepherds as His first pick to hear about and meet Jesus! Are you getting this? The very ones that others neglected and ignored are the ones that God’s angel met with and made a promise to… a promise that was “good news to all people”; a promise of “a Savior”; a promise of “peace” and “good will.” (Read the story of the birth of Christ in Luke 2)

And the cool thing that happened is this… the shepherds found self-worth not in wins and losses but instead in the fact that God cared enough about them to approach them; in the fact that they had met the Savior; in the fact that their ultimate acceptance was not based upon what they accomplished but what would be accomplished through Jesus!

These “first picks” of God were so empowered by this truth that they went right back in the midst of all those that ignored and excluded them and became God’s spokespersons…  not based upon their own merits but instead on the attractive offer of peace and good will for men with God!

All of this to remind you that God loves you and wants to use you as His spokesperson. You matter to God! It is not based upon how good you think you are or if you deserve it; it is not a message of trying to get others to be good enough to deserve it; it is good news that has been entrusted to us that Christ is sufficient! In Him you have worth… and so can everyone else that places his faith in His finished work!

Merry CHRISTmas!