Friday, October 21, 2011

Important Things

What is important to you?  Can you name them?  Starting with the least important, what are they?  It probably would take awhile to come up with the list if you had to begin with those that are least important.
What if you had to narrow it down to the top 5?  Try it.  Count them off on the fingers of one hand.  The top 5 most important things in life.  I have to say...don't give me the Sunday School answer.  Be honest, after all, God knows what they are; you can't fool him.

I'm telling you, this is harder than it sounds.  I had a hard time figuring out my top 5!  There were several items that didn't make it that should have.  I suspect that even my stated top 5 may not really be my top 5.  Why do I say that?  Because as a friend once stated, our powers of self-delusion are strong.  I easily delude myself.

What would it take for me to instantaneously determine what was really important to me?  What would happen if suddenly I knew that I only had one hour to live?  60 minutes.  3,600 seconds.  Tick-tock.  Tick-tock.  The seconds are ticking away.  59 minutes left.  Then 58.  Soon I'm down to 50.  In the time it takes to get a shower, get dressed and get out the life is over.  I doubt very seriously that I would continue to watch the latest episode of Law and Order SVU or even my favorite football team in the playoffs.  The yard work would stop.  The internet surfing would be really unimportant (though I could see me hastily typing a goodbye to all my face book friends).  I doubt anyone at the end of their lives ever regretted not watching more TV or not arguing with their spouse more.

What would you do in your last few minutes?  What ever you would do is probably really important...the unfortunate truth is that you probably don't give those enough focus now.  I would guess that most of us would focus on one, our relationship with God, and two, our family and closest friends.  The question is, is that where our priority is this minute?  I say that God is the most important part of my life, but do my actions bear that out?  Would those who know me best, agree with that?

Think about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Tribute to Karen Brown Ferguson and her son, Cole.

What do you say to someone who has just lost the love of their life?  What do you say when a child's life is tragically ended?  What words matter when a wife, son, brother, daughter, friend and mother are with us one minute and gone the next?  How can you make sense of this?  Don't feel bad for struggling to know how to react... we are with you in that!  Over the last week, as people responded from literally all over the U.S., we struggled with these very questions ourselves.

Jesus, in John 10:10 says this:  The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy.  

I was convinced prior to the events of Monday, October 10, when my sister-in-law, Karen, and my nephew, Cole were taken from us of the truth of this statement.  I have seen the effects of the thief in my own family, my friends' families and in lives of people in our church.  I have witnessed the destruction of marriages, relationships, and careers.  I have seen hopes and dreams disappear like a cold glass of water in the middle of a drought.  All at the hand of the thief.  I have even preached about it.  I am convinced of the truth of this statement even more now.

Some would rather blame God.  Everything happens for a reason, they say.  God doesn't make mistakes.  As if it is preferable that somehow God had some purpose in mind for this tragedy.  I still say that God didn't do this.  Who did then?  The thief did.  He is known by other names: Satan, devil, accuser.  The trigger-man may have been someone who walked among us, for sure, but the thief was there, nonetheless.  He tempts and twists and plants seeds of hurt and blame and condemnation that take years to cultivate and grow.  And just like James says, when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:15).

By the way, I do think everything happens for a reason.  That reason is called free will.  The thief knows that.  And he uses it against God and against us.  I think one day that we will understand the importance of free will to the nature of God.  I believe at the very least, it is the only way love as a concept and as a reality can truly exist.  God has to allow free will for me to have the opportunity to respond to him in love.  Free will has to exist for you to love God in return for the love he has shown you.  God wants us to choose to love him because he knows that is the best thing for us!  His love is best!  David said it this way:  your love is better than life!

Here is where we pay tribute to Karen and Cole.  They had already chosen to love God back.  Years ago.  The thief did alot of damage.  He hurt them and he hurt our family.  He cut us deep.  There are scars that will forever be visible.  But he didn't destroy us.  He may have taken their physical lives, but he couldn't touch their souls.  Those belong to God.  He may have watched their last physical breath leave their bodies, but Jesus had already guaranteed their eternity.  You see, they had free will also.  And their exercise of free will was to honor God with their lives.  Hope, faith, commitment, and love was the path they chose.  Praise God for that!  Mourn their passing, but know without a doubt that the thief was limited in what he could do.  We will never forget their examples.  Examples of hope, faith, commitment and love.

God loves you, too.  Do you love him back?  He will allow you to choose.  He will never force you to choose HIM over the world.  He isn't that kind of God.  I thank him for the examples they lived out.  And I believe we will see them again.

Thank you, Karen for being the mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend that this world needed to see.  Thank you, Cole for being such a godly young man, when it must have been so hard to take what life 'dealt' you.  You did so, oh so courageously.

We love you and miss you already.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Calling

Can you imagine getting a call with an offer for your dream job?  It would be such a rush to name your salary, pick out your company car, and otherwise thoroughly enjoy all the perks.  Of course, that probably isn't going to happen and even if it did, it wouldn't bring happiness.  Some of the most miserable people in the world are the most wealthy.  I've seen poor Hondurans and Indians smile just as brightly as the most spoiled American kid on Christmas morning.  Money and things do not guarantee happiness.  If so, Americans would be deliriously joyful...we are among the top 20% of the wealthiest people on the planet.  No, money can't buy happiness.

The wealthiest man that ever lived was named Solomon.  Even he complained that chasing wealth (and many other things!) was like chasing the wind.  Of course, God has given us many gifts.  In Ephesians Paul refers to God's offer as 'a calling' (Ephesians 4:1).  What that word means is simply, an invitation.
It's an invitation to a feast or a marriage, according to Jesus' teachings.  To Paul it was an offer of adoption.
God planned in advance, before the world was even formed to adopt us into his family, through Christ
(Ephesians 1:4-5).  We are called to family!  This family has a Father, a brother and comes complete with a promise of God's Spirit to live within us.  Read the first three chapters of Ephesians.  God's calling is so much greater than any job or career.  God calls us to life!

And we get to choose.  We must choose.  Can you imagine turning that dream job down?  Not many would, but sadly, most will not choose to accept God's offer.  Remember Jesus' words about the narrow gate and the wide gate?  Many will rush down that wide road, looking for happiness in the world and they will instead find destruction.  A few will choose the narrow path, looking for happiness in God's calling.  And they will find it.  An eternity full of it.

We are being called, invited...will you choose life?  Family?  It isn't too late!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who Lives in You?

Quite a few years ago I was a Star Trek fan...I know, I don't really fit the profile, do I?  Actually I really enjoyed following the NEXT GENERATION series.  Some of you might remember a phenomenon in this series of Star Trek called 'trill hosts'.  A trill host was someone who prepared for many years to be joined with another species...they willingly became one being, sacrificing their 'autonomy' for the blessing of becoming one with this other species.  It was considered quite an honor to be accepted as a 'host' for this process.  For those of you who dislike science fiction, this doesn't do much for you...I understand.  It doesn't interest me all that much either, these days.

However, there is a 'joining' process that isn't just fantasy, at least according to God's Word.  Scripture teaches that God wants to live within us...all of us.  It's part of God's revelation to us that is perhaps the most fantastic sounding, but absolutely true.  Jesus promised that God would send the Holy Spirit and that he would guide believers, convict the world of sin and be a 'comforter'.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are 'temples of the Holy Spirit'.  You have to think that God must really want to save humanity.  Think about the lengths to which he has gone to get our attention and bring us into a relationship with him.

First, to send his prophets to preach for hundreds of his people many opportunities to repent.

Second, to send his only Son...and have the very people he wanted to save, ridicule and kill this representative of his.

Third, to send his Spirit to live inside of his that (GET THIS) so that he might, through the sanctifying presence of his Spirit, continue his attempts to save the world.

Don't take the gift lightly. There will not be another Son sent from heaven.  There will not be another Spirit sent from God.  He has already been more patient than we deserve.  He has already been more merciful than we could have expected.  Take the gift and be thankful, letting His presence sanctify you and those He would minister to through you.  Be aware of this truth this week.  God is within you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Be Still and Know

Have you ever wondered what God would say to you, if he suddenly appeared?  Do we imagine that somehow God would pass out wishes, like a genie, freed from his bottle?  Most of us would be satisfied with one wish, forget about expecting three wishes!  The truth is that we all have problems.  We all have issues.  We all long for God's hand in the resolution of that which bothers us most.  IF God did suddenly appear...what would he say or do?

Would he really be concerned about what we fret over most?  Not that we don't have some legitimate worries, but hasn't he said, 'Don't worry'?  And he said that regarding some pretty important things like food and clothing!  What if he said something like this:  'Be still and know that I am God'?  What would he mean by that?

Here is what I think he meant when he said those words in Psalm 46:10.
                 Relax.  Rest.  Quiet yourself.  I am God.  Not you.  Not your boss.
                      Not your husband or wife or neighbor.  Not the Dow Jones.
                                                         I am God.

In verse 11 of that chapter he says: I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.  You see, God is God.  I know that sounds like circular logic, but that is the whole point.  There is no other like HIM.  There is no other being with which to compare him.  There is no other.

So, in whose name do we trust?  In whose name do we rest?  Where does our help come from?  The answer is right out of the Psalms.  Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth!
Rest in that.  Be still and rest in that.  For me, to learn to rest in that is to constantly remind myself of who I am and WHO HE is.  He is God and I am not, to quote the lyrics of a Steven Curtis Chapman song from a few years ago.  He is above all things.  His power is supreme.  And this gives comfort to me.  Why?  Because I am his child and he loves me.  It isn't always easy to 'be still' when the winds of life are howling or the waves of circumstance threaten.  But it is the right thing to do.

'Be still and know that I am God', says the LORD.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Loving God

2011 has been quite a year for us.  A year of growth.  A year of being sustained by God.  A year of watching one son become mr. married guy and two other sons become seniors and yep, the little miss graduated from L.E. (lower elementary) to M.E. (middle elementary).  Quite a year it was.  There is a thought that has stayed close for the last few months.  Those of you who worship with me have heard it a few times already.

Here it is: do I really love God more than anything else?  I know that I am supposed to.  I know that Jesus said that to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment.  My honest answer to that question keeps coming up short.  No matter what spin I try to put on it...there is no way I can say that HE is my NUMBER ONE.  Maybe number 3, or 4 or occasionally even 2.  I'm not proud of it.  But I am trying to be honest about it.  What about you?  Do you proudly take HIM into every situation and let HIS values and principles guide you?  Do you lie awake at night, craving HIS presence?  Do you spend time with HIM every day?  Is HIS Word your favorite read?

My goal for what is left of 2011 is to make more of God.  The funny thing is that is completely up to me.  I don't have to go get more training or pass another exam.  It isn't dependent upon any earthly measure of success.  If God is my heart's desire, I can have it, or rather, HIM.  Can I challenge you to join me in this prayer?

Father in heaven,

I know that I am supposed to love you more than anything else.
I want to love you more...  Would you please grant me the strength 
to pursue you ?  I want the desire for more of you to well up inside of me.
Help me to surrender all of me so that I could have all of you.

In the name of Jesus,

That doesn't have to be your prayer...but pray nonetheless.  Pray for more of God in your life.  More of Christ.  More of His Spirit.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Make an Impact

What kind of church are we?  We recently talked about four kinds of churches.

1. A church that is in the city.
2. A church that is against the city.
3. A church that is with the city.
4. A church that is for the city.

The first is a church that simply exists in the city.
The second is a church that pits itself against the city, as in, we are good, they are bad.
The third is a church that is unable to influence...because they care more about fitting in with the city.
The fourth is a church that wants to influence the city for Christ and seeks to love and serve it.

Without a doubt, we want to be a church that is for our city.  How do we do it?  It has been suggested that we seek it's welfare, as God told Israel to seek the welfare of Babylon when deported there.  Could it be that we are too focused on ourselves?  Maybe.  How many of our programs and ministries are aimed at building up church members and how many are aimed at reaching those outside our building?  We need to love on one another, but we need to remember the mission focus that Christ passed on to us.  Read Matthew 28:18-20 for yourselves and answer this question: has the American church in general been faithful to that charge?  I don't think so.  One way to demonstrate this is to take a look at where the resources for most churches are spent.  This is a sobering reality.

Could we rethink this?  How can we seek the welfare of our city?  Our community?  Our country?  Our world?

One way is by churches deciding that they will make an impact through greater investment in missions.  Would you pray for our Missions Sunday, scheduled for March 6?  Would you pray for your sacrificial gift on that day?  The Columbus church wants to make an impact in the spread of the gospel.  This is an opportunity to touch the lives of people we will never meet face to face.

A second way is by realizing that while we are the church, corporately, as a group, we are also the church individually.  I am not just a part of a whole.  I am the face of the body of Christ when I walk into our community, whether at the grocery store, work, school or a ballgame.  I am a representative of the whole every time I am given an opportunity to interact with anyone in our city.  Jesus has given us the ability and authority to make an impact, in his name.

The point is, that we need to seek the welfare of our city programmatically as a church and individually, as representatives of the church.  In fact, we are not just representatives of the church, we are the church, both individually and corporately.

It seems to me that we need to think differently about this.  If we want to make an impact on our city and the world, in ways we have not previously, we must think of intentional ways to accomplish it, both personally and corporately.  What do you think?  How would you propose that both the whole church (corporately and programmatically) and the church individually could do a better job in seeking the welfare of our city?  Let's dream and pray!