Monday, November 30, 2009

Where is our joy?

Circumstances in life can many times take the wind out of our sails.  They can get us down, they can beat us up, they can wear us out.  People can sadden us with their decisions, people can hurt us with their words, and if we let them, these things can all pile up to derail our joy.

But where does our joy come from?  At times, we can find joy in life's circumstances: the birth of a child, milestones in life, encouraging words from a friend.  While we may find joy in these things, we had better not make these things necessary for us to have joy.  All of these joys also can be reversed: death of a loved one, events we'd rather forget, hurtful words from a friend.

The Bible is clear that our joy comes from God.  He is the source, and when we find joy in who God is, what He has done for us, what He is doing in and through us, and what He will do for us, then nothing will be able to derail our joy.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 
- Romans 8:35-39

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Thoughts

It has been over a week since I checked in here, and it's been a fairly busy week at that. Since my last post, we were able to get a tri-axle load of logs to split with our neighbor for firewood. All of our poles are cut up, and most of is is split and stacked and ready to heat the house in a few months. From my half of the truck, I ended up with about 10 face cord of fire wood. We also purchased a grain mill and have begun grinding our whole wheat to make flour for breads, cakes & cookies. It takes a little more time than scooping out of a store bought bag, but quicker is not always better. A week after leading to the destruction of the toilet, 2 of my children cut the pull strings on a mini blind, rendering it useless. The repair took slightly longer than the toilet, but I was able to re-string the mini blind with string I had around the house.

In the middle of all this business, I managed to injure myself. On the first truck load of firewood to be brought back to the house (first of six), I managed to bruise (or crack) my ribs trying to get the tailgate unstuck on the truck. I had my dad and a man from the church helping, so I couldn't call off the work day, and I'm not one for standing back, so we worked for about 5 hours that day. I'm not the best at letting things heal, I tend to be fairly active, but my body lets me know when I've overdone.

In the midst of this, I have found much to be thankful for. I am thankful for a wife who is willing to wait on me when necessary. I like to do things for myself, but I appreciate the service my wife has given over the past week, especially. I am thankful for family and friends to help make large tasks manageable. Just 8 days after the wood was delivered, it was all cut up! I am thankful for the endless variety in flavors of food that God has given. We have enjoyed the flavors and textures of fresh milled grain and have realized that all the convenience food we have at our disposal is not so much a treat or a good deal. I am thankful for being able to fix things. No plumber, no new mini-blind, just some labor in putting things back together.

And I am thankful for all the blessings God gives. Even when life isn't 'perfect,' God has given us all that we need to thrive in life.

"In everything give thanks,
for this is the will of God in
Christ Jesus concerning you"
- I Thessalonians 5:18



Thursday, November 12, 2009

One of 'Those' Days

I suppose the title is somewhat misleading. My day wasn't terrible, it was just one of those days. It started off well with being able to collect the firewood I had cut up on the hill and bring it back down to the house for the winter. I'm pretty sure that I have enough wood to burn until probably mid February now, depending on the weather. I also was able to get the rest of the wood I need lined up by splitting a tri-axle load of wood poles with my neighbor. Those should be coming in the next few days so there will be time to cut, split and stack the wood to dry out during the early winter months.

So, pretty good day, except . . .

I had cut myself short on time for a Wednesday with preparing for Prayer Meeting because I was hauling wood in the morning. Wednesday's message was taking longer to finish preparing than I anticipated (you figure out what to do with Numbers 5!). It was a day off for the local public school which meant that every child in the neighborhood with a fund-raiser (all of them - school budgets are hurting) showed up at our door to sell something. This week I have bought 4 poinsettias, and a tray of chocolate covered caramels. (We try as the small town pastor not to turn anyone away empty handed.) And finally, with two hours to go before dinner, 3 of my children conspired together to flush a small baby food jar down the toilet. And it went down the hole! Not all the way down the hole, mind you. It got stuck in the built in trap in the toilet. I guess that's a good reason to call it a trap. Anyway, having drained the toilet, and taken it apart, I was able to push the jar out of the trap with a piece of hose and clear the problem. I was happy the problem was solved and proceeded to put the toilet back together.

First I had to flip it back over carefully. Carefully being the key word. Just tapping the front of the toilet on the ceramic tile floor caused the front of the toilet to crack. Yup!, One of those days.

I will have to admit that my first response wasn't to rejoice in my circumstances. It hurt that my schedule kept getting tighter and I was running out of time. It hurt that the toilet has only been in use for 2 months, a brand new toilet. It hurt that I cracked the toilet by not being careful enough. But God is good.

I can rejoice because we had a brand new toilet sitting in the barn (been there for 3-4 years now) from when we changed the other fixtures in the downstairs bathroom. It just never got installed, and didn't get used when we put in the addition. I can rejoice because my children that were involved took up an offering to 'fix' the problem they caused. It was $1.06, depending on the exchange rate with Canada (I dislike Canadian coins - I mean seriously, couldn't they make their coins not look like ours?) And I can rejoice because Numbers chapter 5 shows us that our sin cannot be hidden before a Holy God. It was probably my children's 'hidden' actions that helped me to see the meaning in Numbers 5.

If you're having one of 'those' days? "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." - Psalm 34:8 No matter what type of day you're having, God has a good and blessing filled day waiting for you to "taste ans see."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mini Vacation

Having just gotten home from a vacation less than a month ago, we've just barely gotten back into normal life, much less caught up with everything that needs to be done. We each have chores that we are getting to, slower than we should, but progress is being made. With all the pressures of the day, it seems like getting chores like wood done, children's clothes changed over for winter, and finishing canning will never get done. We've been chipping away at the list, but there is always something that upsets the schedule and gets us off a little.

Monday, it was Jen's chiropractor visit. It's only a two hour drive to the closest chiropractor that practices the method that Jen has found helpful, and, of course, a two hour drive back. We all load up because Jen doesn't like the drive into the Buffalo area, and if I go, we all go. Instead of it being a chore that ate up 4-5 hours, we made it into a little get away. On the way home we stopped in and surprised my parents in Cherry Creek. Grandma and Grandpa were glad to see the kids, and we don't make it out that way as often as we should. Grandma made us all some fresh cookies (homemade frozen cookie dough is a great idea) and we decided that we should go out for Grandpa's birthday (from two weeks ago). We left at 9 in the morning, and didn't get home until 6:30, and didn't get all of our errands run in town, but Monday worked out to be a nice relaxing day.

You might be questioning what this has to do with the purpose of my blog? I don't know for sure, but I do know that God has not made us to go 7 days a week without rest, and often a little piece of extra rest that can be carved out in a week is a necessary refresher in life. Sure, the chores still need to be done. There's wood to stack in the basement, more wood to bring home, and probably more wood to cut just to be ready for heating this winter, but Monday's opportunity for rest and fellowship with family was worth the detour.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thanksgiving (before the post-Halloween shift to Christmas)

I know, Thanksgiving is still almost a month off, but as Halloween is only a few days away, we will immediately shift in stores, sales, advertisements, and music to Christmas. I am thankful that Thanksgiving is not highly commercialized, but we all tend to shift gears with the changing of displays in Walmart (or higher end stores if you so desire), and Thanksgiving tends to get skipped.

I was given an advantage yesterday in the Thanksgiving season. I received a call inviting me to speak at the local Bethany Fellowship Thanksgiving's Eve (actually Thanksgiving's Eve's Eve) Service in Jamestown. So I began to think about preparing a message on giving thanks.

So often we approach Thanksgiving with a "let's reflect on what I'm thankful for" attitude. A home, a job, our families, our church, our friends, etc. The more honest kids come up with the list of toys, games, and yummy treats. When we have a list like that, it doesn't necessarily make us 'thankful', because who wouldn't be thankful for something that brings them immediate pleasure? Other times, people will practice thanksgiving by looking at the "it could be worse" side of things. Well, I lost my job, but at least I still have "xxxxxxx". What happens when that thing you cling to is lost?

David often gave thanks in the Psalms. He gave thanks in difficulty. Sometimes after difficulty was resolved, but often in the difficulty itself. Why? Because he knew his God.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
- Psalm 95:2-3


God's Word tells us to give thanks in everything. I can choose to be thankful in lean times because Jehovah Jireh - The Lord provides. I can be thankful in stressful times because Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is my peace. I can be thankful when men revile and persecute me because Jehovah Nissi - The Lord is my banner. I can choose to be thankful in times that make me feel weak and insignificant because the Lord is my strength!

We had a series of years where our vacations brought car trouble. Flat tires, wheel bearing, overheating, . . . In those years God taught me that he was good when things went wrong. People often pray for no mechanical troubles while traveling, but I have learned that Jehovah Jireh applies to providing what we need even when far from home and away from familiar means.

Rather than ask what you are thankful for this year. What will you be thankful for this year? I've been convicted in the area of my schedule, so I plan to be thankful in interruptions because Jehovah-Palm Pilot, The Lord is my Scheduler.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Invisible People

Have you ever noticed how many invisible people there are in the world? Probably not. People are invisible because we fail to notice them. Case in point, this past week in Erie, police discovered the body of a woman, in her home, who had passed away in April. You might think 5 months is a long time for someone not to notice this 'invisible person', and you would be right. Yet this lady passed away in April of 2008. 17 months ago! Her utilities had been turned off, her mail had been returned to sender and they canceled delivery. If she lived in Chautauqua county, her property would have already been listed in the newspaper on the delinquent tax rolls. Her husband had passed away several years before, and with no children of their own, and being among the last of her peers, no one noticed when she simply 'disappeared'.

The shut-ins at church, the elderly neighbors, the people we see week by week but never seem to notice (cashiers, tellers, attendants, etc.) - these are the invisible. They are off our radar, and often out of our thoughts and schedules. Many times, we can be invisible to those around us. We can feel alone even though we interact with many people throughout the day.

I see in scripture that the invisible people in his day were important to Him. Matthew 5 starts out with what we call the beatitudes.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

Blessed invisibleness. I guess when we feel invisible, it is good to know that God still knows our name and watches over us. But I also think that there are many blessed people out there that we might not consciously avoid, but maybe we ought to start consciously looking for. It is hard to feel invisible when you can make a difference in someone else's life. Empathizing with someone else helps avoid empathizing with (ie. feeling sorry for) ourself.

Keep looking up! He's coming soon!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Living Up to a Legacy

This past week, a dear friend of our family passed away. He leaves behind a wife, 7 children & their spouses, and 25 grandchildren. I say passed away, but only his body passed away, and he'll get another one of those that doesn't have the limitations that his previous one had. We know from scripture that his spirit has been promoted into the presence of the Lord. He was a godly man and a definite follower of Christ.

The funeral was this past Tuesday, and through the magic of Facebook status updates, pictures, and even some of the words that were said, I was able to enjoy the feeling and content of the funeral. A common theme was that the children desired to live up to the legacy that their father left them. They want to be children that bring honor to their father by living out the faith he lived out and taught them from an early age.

It got me thinking about being proper children. The desire that is there to live up to the expectations and example of our parents often drives some of our decisions and especially at a time of loss encourage us to make good decisions. God's Word tells us:


But I say unto you, Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven:
for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
- Matthew 5:44-45

Talk about a legacy! When we see the sun shinning, it should remind us of the living legacy of our heavenly Father. When we see the rain falling, it also should remind us of our heavenly Father's living legacy. I guess that takes away our complaints about the weather. If we thought about how each natural gift of our Father is given on the good and the bad, and each sought to emulate that pattern in our lives, we would grow more and more toward living up to the legacy of our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to the Future

Whether it be Science Fiction or popular movies or prime time television, our world seems to be obsessed with the future. Paid advertisements claim to be able to give you a look into the future to help your investment strategy. Science Fiction dares us to dream of a time when transportation will be clean, cheap and effortless. Television and movies prompt us to consider what we would do if we knew what the future held.

Two examples really stand out in my mind - "Back to the Future," all three movies make us ask the question "what would change if I knew the outcome?" In the first movie, Marty sees the results of his temper and is able to overcome it. In the second or third movie, Biff knows the results of every sporting event and is able to make it rich betting on games. In another example, a new show is being advertised where the whole world passes out for 6 minutes and sees their future. While I have no plans to see the show, the plot it seems has to do with 2 things. First, can I make secure / avoid the future I saw, depending on whether they liked it or not. And second, is it possible to take advantage of the glimpse of the future to benefit mankind (or any particular man)

While interesting, the premise of both the movies and this new show are not "way out there." We can see the future of certain tendencies and behaviors - where they will lead us to, and we can chose to change them and modify our behavior to achieve a more desirable outcome. We can also make sense of the future to help us "bet on the winning team" or take advantage of the future we know is coming.

Perhaps you've already figured out where this is going. I've been reading in the book of Amos - Prophetic material telling Israel what they could expect, why they could expect it, and how they could turn the tables of judgment into blessing. "For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:" (Amos 5:4) Do we not still have God's promise of blessing, growth, and benefit when we follow him? We can chose what response we receive from God.

I'm also preaching through the book of Revelation. Having just finished the messages to the seven churches, I'm entering into chapter 4 - "Come up hither, and I wil show thee things which must be hereafter" (vs. 1b) Not simply the outcome of every major sporting event, or just a snapshot of my life in 6 months or a year, but a fairly complete picture of the end of the world. God is still on His throne, a look at where people end up based on their response to God in this life, and even God's final plan of how He seeks to get man's attention. Everything we need to know to make wise choices today.

Maybe, like Marty McFly, all you need is a glimpse of the future God has in store for those who reject Him - to change your thinking and therefore the outcome of your life. God is not willing that any should perish, He wants all of us to come to him. Or maybe you are a Christian and yet the cares of life, the pleasures of this world, or just pride have pulled you away from God and you are experiencing his correction as Israel in the book of Amos - the solution for all of us is to "Seek the Lord"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September?

Well, it's official! When it comes to blogging, I am a slacker! I've passed the one month of no posts mark. It was a busy month, but certainly one that was full of opportunities for learning, and looking up. Yesterday was day 71 of work on the addition, and the last day for the contractor. He has 'finished' the project. With all the contractor stories that I have heard over the years, I would have to say that we are among the fortunate ones. I have not always felt fortunate in the process - the list of undone things and steps I 'helped out with' along the way so that some things actually got done has been staggering at times.

My biggest lesson over the past 71 days? The reality of joy in the life of the believer. Joy is not a reaction to circumstances in life, joy is a choice based on God's work (past, present and future) in our lives. Firstly, we have joy because of what Christ has done for us - made us acceptable to God through his shed blood on the cross. Second, we have joy because we know that God is working things for our good, perfecting us through joy and trials in life. And finally, we can have joy because of what we know is coming. Eternal life in heaven with all the blessings that go with it, certainly. But on this day, the future joy that stands out most to me is in Philippians 2:6:

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"

This is one long term construction project going on in my life. But the joy? When God is done, the work will be finished! No floors to polyurethane, no doors to repair, no walls to patch and paint, no trim to fix, no furniture to move, bars to put up, shelves to install in closets, . . . well, you get the point. God has His 'punch list', and it is complete! He will not forget or miss anything, His work in us will be accomplished according to His plan, and right on schedule.

Joy? It's a choice. Some days are joyous because of the circumstances that come with them, but all days are joyful for the believer because of what Christ has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. To God be the glory for His great gifts!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Loving Children

I was listening to a good sermon this morning, a sermon on discipling children. I found it to be a good challenge to me in many ways. I probably don't agree with the speaker at all points, but I appreciate his 'shoot from the hip' style of speaking on family matters. I also appreciate that he agrees with me on a lot of the family issues - which made the challenge even more of a challenge, I couldn't dismiss him out of hand for not having a proper view of the family. You can listen to the sermon here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=5209234630

I may have it easy in part of this aspect, I have always loved children, and for the last 10-12 years have been convinced that biblically, the number of children I would have is not up to me, but up to God. For this reason, Jen and I have not, and will not practice any form of birth control. We have heard comments from many about "Well, what if you have 8 kids?" (Only two to go, then!), or "But we have a responsibility to not have more children than we can afford" (Even though we live in one of the wealthiest nations on earth - afford? Really?) We haven't broadcast our views on the subject, so often have heard "Have you figured out what caused it yet?" And I'll have to admit, the comments have, at times, soured my view of children.

My main point today: I want to encourage you to have a positive view of children. God's Word tells us children are a blessing from the Lord. We pray that God would bless us, we pray that God will bless our church, we hold out our hands and sing "Showers of Blessing" at church, but then we turn our noses up at one of God's most precious gifts. How many other things in Scripture are directly called a blessing or reward from God? Children must be one of his best. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone should have 20 kids, I'm just saying that I think most of us could use a biblical attitude adjustment from time to time and should ask God to help us see children for the blessing that they are. When we do, we won't be counting how many children we have, or worrying about the expense of another pair of sneakers, we'll be basking in whatever blessing God brings our way - whether in our own family, or in families around us.

"Except the LORD build the house,
they labour in vain that build it:
except the LORD keep the city,
the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is
vain for you to rise up early,
to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows:
for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
and
the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
they shall not be ashamed,
but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."
- Psalm 127

Monday, July 6, 2009

Success in Marriage

I know, coming up on my 10th anniversary this year, I don't have a lot of experience to share, but I can share what I've learned from others. You see, last week we celebrated my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. All of us kids got together and had a banquet to honor our parents with a nice meal, family togetherness, and sharing with them what the strength in their marriage has meant to us.

When each of us kids got married, our dad picked a verse to go with our wedding day (He got the idea from Ron Smith in Wappingers Falls, NY) For example, I got married on August 7th, 1999 - and my verse was Song of Solomon 8:7 -
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."
So I spoke about the fact that I have seen in my parent's marriage the strength of their love for each other. Through illness & injury (most of the injuries were mine), through blessing and trial, through the good and the bad their love has stood unquenchable. But love does not just happen. At times, the feelings can come in waves of joy and gladness, but at times love means doing that extra something for your mate, and love always means sacrificing ourselves to our mates: husbands in a sacrificial love, and wives in sacrificial obedience. When love involves giving, it cannot be quenched.

There were other characteristics shared as well. Contentment with "such things as ye have," and contentment with the "wife of your youth." Godliness - which has value in all things. And the priority of putting God first - seeking God early and often.

Our parents have been faithful to one another for 40 years. Not a ground-breaking landmark, but certainly a good opportunity for us to honor them, their faith, and their success in the marriage God has blessed them with.
Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rules and Variances

I have recently been forced to think about rules and variances. A variance is basically permission to break a rule. Growing up, I think I took advantage of many variances, either granted by someone in authority (parent, teacher) or self-assigned. I was good at the self assigned variances. Then again, I think we all are. We all tend to let ourselves off with a lesser judgment than we use on those around us.

Anyway, the reason for my most recent thinking about variances is that we have started the process of adding on to the parsonage that we live in. The first step (so I thought) was to get a building permit - ah, but Dept. of Health has to sign off, you need drawing, and oops, you may need a variance. Practically, a variance will mean that the code enforcement officer will send letters to all my neighbors explaining that we want to add on, and ask them if they have any objections, and set a date for a public hearing on the matter. (I know, how official) The reason for the variance is that the parsonage sits on a sub-standard lot by size. I guess 1/2 an acre isn't enough - if the farmer who donated the land would have known this 130 years ago, this wouldn't be a problem today, he simply would have deeded the church more land. Oh well.

Some people cringe at the idea of needing a variance. Why can't the code enforcement official just make a decision? To me, it seems that the variance process is just another example of the democratic principles that make our nation great. Rather than the power resting in one individual, the power rests in the community. A hassle, but in principle, I agree with the idea. It really makes you think twice about being a good neighbor.

So you may be wondering, there is usually a sermon in here somewhere. Here it is, simply: I am so glad that God doesn't work using variances. When it comes time for judgment, He won't say, "Well, you've broken my rules, let's see if we can get you a variance. We will ask everyone who ever knew you if they think you should get into heaven." What a nail-biter that would be for many. God made a new rule. For those who had broken His law (everyone), His new rule is:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Christ paid the penalty for us, and since he did, the law is no longer broken, and no variance is needed.

Still hoping no variance is needed for the house, but always grateful that a variance is never needed with God.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sabbath Rest and Trust

All through the Old Testament, we see God's repeated emphasis on a Sabbath rest for His people. What amazes me is how few times it is mentioned that there is a great deal of trust that goes into enjoying a Sabbath of rest.

In Leviticus 25, God details for His people the Sabbath rest required every 7 years for the land, and every 7 sets of seven years a 50th year celebration of Sabbath rest was held. That made for 2 years of trusting God to provide without tilling, or pruning, or harvesting the land. On top of that, they had to trust God to provide enough to see them through planting season the following year!

There is a principle at work here that we see through scripture. God's blessings are available to those who trust in His promises. There are many who can't make themselves take a day off in the week because there is too much work to be done, or their needs are so great. They often look down on those who take their weekly day off as simplistic, or envy them for their 'blessed' circumstances. Not only in Sabbath rest, but in all areas of Christian blessing, what we often view as 'lucky' believers are simply believers who have chosen to trust God in that area of their life, and have reaped the abundant harvest of God's blessing. The same blessing that is available to all who would take God at His Word and put their trust in Him.

I trust each of you will choose to trust God for His blessing.

"And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eight year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store." - Leviticus 25:20-22

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Being Part of a Family

This week we have had the pleasure of having Jen's parents with us from Wednesday through Sunday afternoon. There is just something special about people with similar values and many shared experiences. We can feel comfortable talking about many different topics, or just sitting quietly in a room together. There is the added benefit of having people to play with the kids during the day more, enabling Jen and I to get much more done. Particularly appreciated as Jen was in charge of the ladies brunch at church this morning.

Anyway, the wonders of family are compounded by the love that God had for us in giving us the adoption of children! God not only included me in His family through faith in Jesus Christ as my savior, but I have a much larger family in the family of God - His church. Now, no matter where we go, we can worship with those who have many similar values and many shared experiences, even if we've never met before. In some regards, it is an artificial family, but in the spiritual sense, it is the only true family we could be a part of.

It is a joy to be around our physical, genetic family, but what a blessing to consider what joy God has given us when He made us part of His family!

"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." - Romans 8:15

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cutting Ourselves Off at the Knees

A common desire among Christians is to be more like Jesus Christ. I guess that should be an obvious statement, or should be reworded as all Christians should desire to be more like Jesus Christ. Why don't more Christians have the desire, or why isn't the desire stronger in us?

I've noticed an interesting trend as I have been eating healthier the last few weeks - the less candy I eat, the less desire I have for it. Oh, that's not to say that I wouldn't love to eat a Hershey's bar (or two or three), but the longer I go without one, the less the thought of a Hershey's bar comes into my mind.

What does this have to do with being Christlike? Well, Romans 7:11 talks about the deceptiveness of sin: "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew [me]." Sin is deceptive: it tries to get us to think that we are missing out on something. "If you stop watching CSI, you're not going to know what happens to the characters." So What! "If you don't see this movie, you're missing out on some great entertainment." "You don't know what you're missing out on." Sin's lie from the beginning. Satan told Eve that she didn't know what she was missing out on by not eating from that one tree. He neglected to tell her all the negative aspects she was also missing out on, just as sin neglects the negative today. Sin doesn't tell us "CSI will make you have a cheaper view of human life, of marital relationships, of holy living in general." Sin doesn't tell us "That movie will strengthen your flesh and weaken your relationship with God." Sin doesn't tell us that we are 'missing out' on many things we would like to miss out on.

As we listen to the deceipt of sin, it dulls our senses for the spiritual. It dulls our appetite because we've filled ourselves up on spiritual junk food, and don't have the hunger for God that we should have. By filling up on junk, we can easily sabbotage our efforts at godly living. We can effectively cut ourselves off at our knees.

"The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" Proverbs 9:10

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Serving God on His Terms . . .

Have you ever noticed that many times in life, there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. I mean, you look at what you have to do, and how much you have to do it with, and you come up short.

I've always been a bit of a budget person (ok, since graduating from college), and I remember when Jen and I were anxiously anticipating our wedding day. We had plans to get jobs and start off on our own. I got out the budget, and started figuring how much money we would need to live on - tithe, housing, car, food, insurances, gas, clothes, gifts, and added it all up. It came to slightly more than I was currently making as a waiter. Then, we made our job search trips and applied for jobs at two Christian Schools, and got offers from both schools for each of us. The problem was, my income was not quite up to the level I had figured I needed. Jen's income was going to pay off her student loans, and we were going to live off of my income.

I've come to learn that God enjoys these moments in our lives - those moments when we look and say "I can't do it!", because God likes us to know that He is the one who 'does it' and makes things work in our lives. Think of Gideon with his 32,000 men. God said "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own had hath saved me." (Judges 6:2) God reduced Gideon's 'army' to just 300 men, a group that could easily fit in most church sanctuaries, against a foe that were "like grasshoppers for multitude."

Knowing this is helping me in learning that when we don't have enough, it should not discourage us, it should encourage us that God is looking to do a work that we cannot deny His hand in. When it comes to serving God on His terms, cherish those times when "you can't", because those are the times that "He will!"

"And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opening Blog

Hi all! (Yes, both of you)
OK, I realize that may be a bit presumptuous, but "Hello Me" sounded rather pathetic. At any rate, Jen and I are just a pretty average couple, living in a pretty average town (that we absolutely love, by the way), serving a great God. We understand that this world sometimes leaves something to be desired, and want to remind ourselves (and both of you) that those who have received forgiveness of their sins through Jesus' work on the cross should be looking up, because we're moving on up! (My apologies for those who now can't get the Jefferson's theme music out of their heads)
I'm the pastor of a small, country church, the husband of a wonderful woman, and the father of 6 (presently) wonderful children that God has blessed us with. I suppose I am a lot of other, different things at different times, but everything I am always comes back down to the fact that I am a child of God and am seeking to please Him!
Well, I hope this isn't my first and only entry, but it is definitely the first.
"this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:11b