Sunday, March 29, 2009

GOOD Judgment

Today, Chad continued the “Things Above” series by talking about the BEMA seat judgment (the GOOD kind of judgment). Last week, he had talked about what happens if you didn’t accept Christ when you were alive. Now, he talked about what happens if you did!

For starters, those who are in Christ are not condemned (John 5:24, Romans 8:1). They aren’t standing before the Great White Throne Judgment which determines eternal punishment. The judgment that those who have accepted Christ’s salvation receive is the judgment at the BEMA seat. Christ’s judgment to believers is one of reward!

We all are going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for all the good and bad things we have done (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10-11). The Bible also talks about a book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16) which Chad talked about as being a record of our deeds. He said our deeds will be put to the test by fire as stated in these verses in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15:

“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Chad illustrated this with a fire pit. He placed a large rock foundation (resembling Christ) on it and then put some “gold” (rather, gold-painted lol) bricks on it, resembling the good stuff we have done. Next, he added some hay to resemble the not so good stuff. He set it on fire, and showed that the only thing that remained was the “gold.” All that stuff is weighed and tested by these things:

Motive: 1 Corinthians 4:5 says that God will bring to light what is in the darkness and expose the motives (good or bad). If we are like the Pharisees who do what we do for the praise and approval of others, that’s not a good motive and it will be burned away.

Source: John 15:5 says that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We can’t do anything apart from Him. Whatever we do without Him isn’t going to matter. Oprah comes to mind. All the good deeds in the world aren’t going to save her soul. She may be a “good person” in most peoples’ minds, but she isn’t doing any of it to glorify Jesus (and in fact, denies that He is the one and only way as John 14:6 states).

Risk: Matthew 25:14-28 talks about the parable of the talents. We have lots of opportunities to use our gifts and make a difference. Are we “risking” and making the most of those opportunities? How many do we miss? Those “missed” opportunities will factor in that fire test.

This was a though provoking and interesting message. It’s something that I think about a lot already because I am always wondering about what the fruit of my works is going to yield when it is judged. I know that I’ve done (and am doing) what I can to serve and glorify the Lord, but I always wondering about those three areas and if I’m falling short and taking away from my reward in heaven. I think about my motives, source, and risks a lot. One of my biggest fears has always been whether or not I am humble and pure enough and am giving the glory to God. What if I deep down am wanting approval from others. Am I wrong for liking feedback/encouragement/comments on these blogs? Maybe that’s just Satan trying to get me to doubt my motives or the fact that I screwed up and missed and opportunity to do good somehow. If it’s one thing that I still struggle with, it’s the “what if” factor. What if I had done (or not done) “that”? What if I spent too much time doing things that I thought was good, but was really apart from what God truly wanted me to do? What if I totally miss my purpose? Am I missing the mark?

I’m not sure what to think about all this sometimes, but at least I know that I’m assured heaven and that I am going to be rewarded (whether it‘s a greater or lesser reward than I think)! How about you? Do you have the same assurance?

Grace and peace to all of you!! Have a blessed week!!

BAD Judgment

Last week, Chad started a new series: “Things Above” (Colossians 3:2). We who are on Earth should definitely learn about “things above (in other words, heaven) so we know what to expect when we get there.

Chad says that knowing a glimpse of what’s ahead can (and should) change how we behave in the present. They way you approach each day will change the more you can foresee how it affects the future (and more importantly, eternity). It kind of makes one think about Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”. After seeing his past, present, and future, it definitely compelled him to change his attitude and behavior. Likewise, when we ponder the things in our lives, we can better gauge what our future will be like (and how we can make our lives better by changing the things in our lives that need changing).

Therefore, Chad thought it was important to extend that view into eternity. The Bible gives us various glimpses of what that is going to look like. Hebrews 9:27 says: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” So, since death is an absolute certainty for every single person (and we’re all going to be judged after we do) we need to know more about that. Though, understandably, judgment is a scary thing for people to consider. After all, who likes to be judged? Well, there’s good news and bad news about that. The good news is that if you are in Christ, there is no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1). The judgment you receive determines your REWARD in heaven. The bad news is, if you didn’t choose Christ while on Earth, your destination is eternal separation from Him. YOUR judgment is determined by your deeds as well, but it’s to determine your PUNISHMENT in Hell. Rewards vs. punishment. Plain and simple. The difference between the two is Jesus Christ. Your judgment is based on the answer you lived out in your life; the answer to the question “is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” Calling on HIS NAME and saying “yes” to Him is what puts YOUR NAME in the book of life and exempts you from eternal punishment!! Hallelujah!!

Chad used a typical heaven stereotype to try to illustrate the point. He had a bunch of people standing in line waiting to get to heaven. They had a person checking for their names in the book of life and if it was found, they went to heaven. If not, a trap door opens and they go to Hell. It doesn’t matter if you were a “good person” or not (or even if you’re a Colts fan - as one of the guys was dressed up as……he went to heaven by the way. ;) LOL). No one is righteous (Romans 3:10). What matters is Jesus. Chad said he didn’t want anyone to have to be “waiting in line” thinking “I wish I would have known!!!” You only have a lifetime on Earth to decide. If you’re “waiting in line”, it’s too late! There’s no purgatory. Either your name is in The Book or it’s not.

If you’re reading this, you still have time to choose Christ if you haven’t already! If you’re on the fence, what are you waiting for? How much time do you think you have?! Life can be stolen from you in an instant. You never know what day is going to be your last! The longer you delay an affirmative answer, the more you’re risking an eternity in Hell as time ticks away on the timer of your life! You only got the dash between the dates on your tombstone to live. Make the most of that dash and answer the question wisely, because the dash determines the eternity you’ll have forevermore!

I know I have shared this video before, but it’s just as powerful and true now as it ever was!! It’s a video by KJ-52 called “Life After Death”. It’s thought provoking and the message is right on!!! Watch it, think about it, and if you’ve never said “yes” to Jesus, PLEASE do so!! Feel free to talk to me about it! I care about where you spend eternity!! Through Christ, you can escape BAD judgment!

Grace and peace to all of you!! I’ll be sharing today’s sermon momentarily (and it’s also on judgment - though, the GOOD kind of judgment!). God bless you all!

The Beauty of Painful Praise

A couple weeks ago, Tony Chaney gave the message at church. I regret that I didn’t get around to blogging it sooner, but I will try to recall as much of the message as possible (I had gotten to church late on top of that as well).

Tony was talking about how to get through the tough stuff and how to praise God when it hurts the most. It reminded me of how Jeremy Camp talked about how he lost his first wife to cancer and God had instructed him to give Him praises there at her bedside after she had taken her last breath. He said it was so hard, but he did it anyways and it was such a beautiful time of worship and comfort.

Jeremy Camp wasn’t the first (or the last) person to experience a terrible loss and then be expected to go on with his faith. Long before any of us were born, there was a man named Job. I think most of us know his story (and it’s all chronicled in the Bible). Tony used Job’s story to drive home the point of making a sacrifice of praise because it’s in those times that it is the most crucial and powerful time to do so (like with Jeremy). Tony said there is great spiritual victory in praising God when we are hurting. We just lay it all down at His feet and in those moments of brokenness and surrender, we heap burning coals on Satan’s head. Can you imagine how frustrated and angry Satan must have been when Job, Jeremy, (and anyone he thinks he’s got broken down beyond repair) praised God and gave Him glory anyways? Satan had had to ask God permission to even touch Job. When God decided to allow it, Satan just had a hay day! Yet, none of Satan’s misery could make Job “curse God and die” (and he can’t make me do it either! ;) LOL).

Tony reminded us that God is so awesome!! Just as God reminded Job in chapter 38, He is sovereign and in control of all things. Regardless of what we THINK we know or understand, there are greater things and a bigger picture that we don’t always see or know about. Often, we don’t understand the purpose of our suffering (or the sufferings of others). God assures us, however, that it will work for good (Romans 8:28).

Regardless of if things are going good or going bad, give God the praise! Tony reminded us to embrace that because praise opens doors for many things. An attitude of thanksgiving and praise goes a long way - why else would the apostle Paul remind the saints to encourage each other, and give thanks and praise to God so often? Praise is powerful (it reminds me of the short little book “Prison to Praise” by Merlin Carothers. Check that one out!).

The message ended by sharing the testimony of a guy many of you may have heard of. His name is Nick Vujicic and he was born without limbs ( you can learn more about him on his website: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/). He’s a great example of one who has embraced a life of praise by embracing the difficult circumstances he has to deal with. Weaknesses can become strengths if we allow ourselves to accept and deal with the “hard stuff” that happen to us and then glorify God through it all!! I see it every day at my house as I watch Casey deal with his hearing loss. Like Nick, his “disability” is just part of what he has to deal with, but they don’t treat their losses as a handicap. They have both found ways to turn unfortunate complications into strengths and they glorify God and bless others with their lives because they refuse to be bitter and angry about their situations. I can’t even begin to tell you how inspiring they both of them are to me and how my heart melts and the tears well up whenever I think of the beautiful testimonies that they are living out!! Even now as I sit here in tears after watching Jeremy’s video testimony (I cry every time I see it!) my precious Casey is standing by my side and literally wiping away every tear that is rolling down my face. He asked me, “Mommy why are you crying?” and just proceeded to hug my neck, kiss me, and walk to one side of my chair and then the other to make sure he wiped away any tear that he might not have seen. His heart and his compassion blows me away! When he does things like that, it’s like I am actually seeing and experiencing the heart of God; as if God Himself reached out and touched me through the hands and heart of my six-year-old. Father, THANK YOU!!

In closing, remember to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 which says: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing.” As hard as that may be sometimes, it’s something that will richly bless our hearts (and the hearts of others) if our souls are overflowing with prayers of thanksgiving and praise!! Grace and peace to all of you!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Mute Piano

I’m feeling inspired today; inspired because someone (without even knowing it) inspired me first:

After having lunch with two dear friends today, I decided to browse the mall for a while. Nothing was out of the ordinary, that is, until I heard something while in one of the stores. It was the sound of a piano playing. It’s a piano that just sits there in the mall with a sign on it saying that the “player piano” was a “gift” to the mall and not to touch or play it. Yet, I don’t remember a single occasion in which I have ever heard that piano make a sound (other than when rambunctious kids go up and occasionally pound on it impulsively). So, I was surprised and moved by what I heard. It sounded so beautiful!! At the time, I was in “The Icing” (it’s a girly accessories store for those that don’t know lol). I hadn’t found anything that I liked and was rather bored. So, the sound of that music captured my attention and greatly refreshed me. I smiled and put down the little shopping basket that the salesperson practically pushed on me for my “convenience.” I walked out of the store and stood there alongside a few other people who were watching and listening intently to the man who dared to sit down and play the untouchable piano that was so graciously gifted to the mall. He seamlessly played one piece of music after another; all by memory. He seemed to be right at home; as if this was something he always did. It was a blessed moment and it stirred my heart!!

I didn’t want to stand around staring, so I started to walk. As I did, I saw people on the mall benches gazing his way. They were smiling and they looked peaceful and content. In fact, the whole mood of that corner of the mall seemed noticeably different. I observed the distinct difference between his music and the music of the store I just entered (whose music was faced paced and blaring). It was a sharp contrast from the environment I had just exited. Their “music” drowned out the blissful melodies of the piano. I don’t think anyone in the store even knew what was going on just outside their entrance. It was just “business” as usual in there and the impact of that exquisite music hadn’t reached them. Man, were they missing out!!!

I left the store to see if I could still see and feel the difference; and I could! People were still listening and watching. I even think I heard someone singing! By that time, however, I was walking towards the mall exit to get to the parking lot (my feet were killing me and I was aching to get home!). I only wish I could have stayed longer!

I don’t know who that guy was, but he gave his audience a beautiful gift. He boldly defied that ridiculous sign and shared his talent with the world - on a piano that was meant to be played! I don’t know if he’s a believer, but he certainly was salt and light (Matthew 5:13). He illuminated that mall with his gift, and people were clearly enjoying it and thirsting for more. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, he created a sense of peace and joy. People stopped, paused, and listened. He shared his gift with them; even though he was “forbidden” to do so by the sign on that piano. He seen the piano, knew what it was for, and was bold enough to use his talent to make it come alive and be the delight it was made to be! If that piano is truly a “gift” to the mall, then it should be used for the purpose it was created for! Sitting there just to be admired and looked at, but never used, is an abomination! What a tragic disgrace to have a beautiful “gift” sit there without serving its purpose!! It made me think of the servant that buried his talent in the ground (Matthew 25:18). A gift that is given is meant to be used to profit the Kingdom; and we ALL have gifts (1 Corinthians 12).

His gift inspired me to use mine. That’s the beauty of God-given gifts; they have a multiplication factor!! He was blessed with a gift, used it to bless me (and others), and now I am passing it on further. Hopefully, this story will stir you as much as it stirred me to experience it. Ponder these questions: What is your gift? Are you using it to be salt and light to the world; and to bring glory to God’s Kingdom? Or, are you only bringing glory to yourself? Or, maybe you aren’t using your gifts at all (or haven’t bothered to discover them). Why? Are you fearful like that servant? Are you burying what you have, or are you just simply afraid to dig up what’s never been discovered in your heart? Is the world using a “sign” to shut you up and stifle you? What’s preventing you from using your talents to “make music” to someone’s soul? There are lots of people in “noisy stores.” They need to be enjoying the real music instead of the tasteless kind that they are currently “enjoying” in their world. Will you take your music to them? Who on this Earth will be singing in heaven because of what you brought to the world?

You were created with purpose!! You were meant to leave an impact on this world!! You were never created just to take up space. Just as a piano was created to be played, YOU were created to make some noise as well!! Will you? Are people going to pause to watch, hear, and enjoy what you have to offer the world? Don’t be a mute piano! Make the beautiful sounds you were created to make!! Grace and peace to all of you as you pursue your “melody.” ;) God bless you!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Met MIKE HUCKABEE!!!! :)

That’s right! I finally met Mike Huckabee!! This die-hard Huckagirl finally got to meet the man who should have been the Republican nominee for president (and in the white house right now cleaning up the mess that Obama is continuing to make worse!). Here are the details!!

Getting There; Getting Lost; Getting Surprised

After finding out through a HuckPac e-mail that Mike Huckabee was going to be in Elkhart to tape a special edition of his show, Mitch and I knew we had to be there!! It was the chance we had been waiting for! Even though Papaw and Mamaw weren’t available to watch the kids, we decided we would go anyways and take them with us (and PRAY that they would behave - especially Gianna!). So, at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, we piled into the van and headed to Elkhart! We got as far as Goshen when I realized that the Google directions were wrong - AGAIN (this always seems to happen! What is up with Google?!! We need a GPS!)!!! Good thing I have an Indiana map and was able to navigate ourselves the rest of the way! Though that still didn’t help us find the RV/Motor Home Hall of Fame once we got there! We had to stop at a 7/11 to get some help after driving around aimlessly for a while (good thing I included the “lost” factor with our travel time! LOL). A customer inside was gracious enough to give us directions and let us follow him towards the direction we needed to go!

The parking lot was set to open at 12:30 and the taping was to be at 2:30. I hoped that getting there at 11:30 was early enough!! Thankfully, it was!! Even despite waiting in the wrong area, they still let us in!!! So, we stood around outside (yeah, didn’t know it would be outside!) for a couple hours. Needless to say, the kids didn’t handle it too well - primarily diva Gianna! For some of the time, Mitch graciously volunteered to take them back to the van to watch movies on the DVD player. So, I got to stand outside the whole time and make new friends in the crowd; one of which was a myspace friend of mine whom I recognized as we were waiting around!! What a nice surprise! So, I got to meet Pam for the first time, as well as some friends of hers and so many others (including my county coordinator for HuckPac).

The Show

It was so exciting to see Mike Huckabee and be one of the many attending the taping of his show!! As always, he was witty as well as light-hearted. One of the lighter moments was when he asked for the two ladies who had been waiting since 6 or so in the morning to get in. He had promised them seating and wouldn’t you know it, they had front row seats!! He said that’s why no one wanted him in politics because he actually keeps his promises! Huck yeah! Gee, wouldn’t that be great right now?!! Poor America! Look what you’re missing! You passed over true treasure and voted for fool’s gold! That was smart!

In addition to Huckabee’s honesty, reliability, and friendly persona, he actually has common sense and knows how to talk facts (get a clue mainstream media!). He understands what this economy crisis is all about. He emphasized the fact that even though Elkhart has the highest unemployment rate around, they have what it takes to rebound and reinvent themselves!! Barack Obama may have visited Elkhart and pretended to care, but Mike Huckabee actually does! He highlighted the true spirit of Elkhart, and this nation. He allowed the residents of Elkhart to speak loud and proud. He also talked to local government and businessmen about stimulating real growth; and not through Obama’s ridiculous “stimulus” bill which gave precious little to the hardest hit town in the nation (how’s that for caring? If you’re going to throw OUR money around, why don’t you make good use out of it?? Put our money where your mouth is Obama!). Everyone talked about what they were doing to make Elkhart better and the overall tone was very positive and encouraging. Elkhart will rebound, and so will this country; but not from the efforts of “Uncle Sugar” (which is the term Mike Huckabee used to reference the federal government) but by US banding together and doing what WE can to make OUR lives better!! It’s “We the people” who are making the difference; not “they” the government.

Rockin’ Out After the Show

The show was great! I only wish that I could find it in its entirety online so I could see how it turned out (we don’t have cable or anything and I don’t know anyone who taped it). They got camera shots of everyone, so we were more than likely on TV. ;) I did find a few clips. In the first one, Huckabee is talking about his visit to Elkhart (and I was standing a few feet in front of him as he was doing that segment!). You can even hear my daughter’s voice in the background. She was getting tired and irritated and was saying “no” while impatiently waiting around. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear her at the part where the gal who’s talking to Huckabee is talking about how Elkhart “happened to be the town” where Obama talked about his economic stimulus plan not too long ago. The other video clip I found is one of Mike Huckabee rockin’ out with the “Little Elkharts” (comparable to Huckabee’s “Little Rockers” lol). I also uploaded a clip to YouTube of Mike Huckabee and the band doing a sound check before playing their songs. After they played, I screamed “I LIKE MIKE! WOOOHOO!!” and he smiled graciously as we all applauded and cheered!!

The High Point of the Day

Finally, the high point of the day came!! Several people were approaching Mike Huckabee after he had finished all the taping for the day. He was getting pictures taken with people and signing autographs. He was just about ready to call it a day and go inside to the Hall of Fame Museum when a lady I had been chattin’ it up with told me to be assertive and push through and get my turn. I told her I never have problems being assertive; just with being rude. ;) I didn’t want to pretend like I was more important than everyone else who was wanting the same opportunity. But, as he said good-bye at the last second, I impulsively called out “Mr. Huckabee,…Mr. Huckabee, PLEASE!! I came all the way from Bluffton!” as I ventured forward towards him. He immediately turned around and came right on back and said, “sure!” and Mitch took a picture of he and I as he asked how far the drive from Bluffton was. The rest is a blur because I was awe-struck and excited. I remember telling him that I had campaigned hard for him during his presidential run and that I cried so much when he dropped out lol. I can’t remember what all else I said (and in my flustered state, forgot to ask him for an autograph) but I was all smiles and everyone around me was smiling and taking pictures (including Pam!). Then, I gave Mike Hucakbee a big hug as I noticed the state troopers behind him. It was then that I was hoping that I didn’t somehow cross a line by giving him a hug lol. I just don’t think about those things - I’m a huggy person and I had just met a guy that I had always hoped to meet, greet, and thank!! Ha ha! Anyways, it was no problem! Mike Huckabee was all smiles! Everyone was warm, friendly, and in good spirits. That’s the kind of atmosphere Mike Huckabee always brings with him (we even caught him saying “ya’ll” LOL). He’s just as fun, friendly, and personable off camera as he is on!! People are priority to him - truly!! He’s the nicest guy you’d ever meet and he has a real heart for others!! He even bent down and said hi to Casey when I attempted to bring him forward to say hi. I told Casey to say, “I like Mike Huckabee” and he did! It was so cute!!

The Huckabee Afterglow

After finally meeting Mike Huckabee, I was just bouncing with boundless energy as the new friends I had encountered smiled, hugged, and congratulated me and said their good-byes. It was such a good day of fellowship, friends, and fun!! I was so excited to share it all with everyone! If I had had a way of blogging right that second, I would have LOL!! Instead, I called my parents and left messages on their machines. Later, when I came home and checked my machine, Mom was on there saying she couldn’t understand me because I was talking too fast (yes, Saundra, one of my “90 mph phone calls - or maybe even faster than that! LOL Don’t know, didn’t have a radar gun!).

It has been a long day so far, but we were still in the mood for some fun!! We had seen a Penguin Point restaurant and Mitch and I agreed that we had to eat there since we no longer had them in our area anymore. Oh, the nostalgia!!! However, on our way to finding it once again, we took a different route and missed it. We saw the sign to South Bend and thought, “why not, we’ve never been there! Let’s check it out while we’re up this way - just for good times!” So, we drove through South Bend and then through Mishawaka. We didn’t find anything neat, but we drove around in suburbia for a while before giving up, getting back on the highway, and driving back to Elkhart to find Penguin Point!

We finally made it to the restaurant and got something to eat. We were so hungry! I even got the classic “wedges and cheese” - something my Grandma always got when she and I were traveling about together when I was younger and we still had that place in our area (I took a picture of it for her lol). We also met some sweet ladies there who were from nearby Goshen. We just met all sorts of cool people that day! Indiana is the place for friendly folks and good times (so there Amy!! LOL).

Of course, what would all that celebration be without the kids finally getting some time to unwind. So, we had to go to the McDonald’s they saw that had a big Play Place. We went in, got them some ice cream, drank some coffee, and let them play a while. The silliness continued as they scampered around and Mitch and I took goofy pictures with the statue of Ronald McDonald sitting on the bench lol. The kids had their turn too; after Casey stopped crying and found his way out of the little rocket looking thing in the play area (the rocket moved and wobbled when you went inside, and it freaked him out!). We applauded him for being a big boy and making his way out; despite his pleas that we come get him. We nearly did, but knew that he was strong enough to conquer his little fear and be proud of himself for doing so! It’s just one of the moments where you know you have to let your child grow up a little bit and allow him to gain some confidence and assurance in knowing that he has what it takes to conquer a fear (ok, the “Wild At Heart” book that I just read rubbed off on me quite a bit! LOL). It was nice to see the look of surprise on his face as he overcame his fear and climbed out of the rocket unassisted. Then, he scurried through the tube, down the slide, and with a few tears still wet on his face, told us how he didn’t like that rocket! LOL

That’s All Folks!

Well, that pretty much it!! It was a grand adventure! We had a great time in Elkhart, and we are hoping and praying for their economic recovery (as well as the rest of this nation and all those that are hurting right now). I hope you like the links and videos. Feel free to check out my pictures from the day as well (I’ve also included pictures from Casey’s Chuck E. Cheese party on Friday - and I have this video clip from the party too!). Take notice of the t-shirts we were wearing (and be sure to get one for yourself to wear during pro-life t-shirt day/week!). I got a lot of feedback on that shirt already!! People are asking questions and how they can be involved!! Praise God! Awesome!!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Remember, God is in control and better times are on the horizon!! Let’s stick close to each other and close to God!! “Uncle Sugar” isn’t the savior, but JESUS IS!!! Seek and find the answers in HIM!! God bless you all!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Saint Patrick's Day Is AWESOME!! :)

Time sure flies! It seems like the new year has just begun, yet we are in the middle of March already!! Daylight savings time is in effect, Spring is arriving, and today is Saint Patrick’s day!! There’s always something going on isn’t there?

As always, we sometimes lose sight of WHAT we are celebrating. I am going to guess that most people don’t have any idea who St. Patrick is or why we have a holiday in honor of him. It is yet another “holiday” that we celebrate every year and commercialize to no end!! We wear green, the “kiss me, I’m Irish” buttons, drink green “shamrock shakes” (or for some, green beer), and joke about leprechauns. I don’t think these things are necessarily bad. In fact, it can be a great source of fun, fellowship, and meaning. Though, it‘s those “meanings“ behind these things that have long since been forgotten. Even the holiday itself is nearly being renamed. I’ve even seen cards and party supplies that say “Happy Shamrock Day” on them!

So, why is St. Patrick’s day a big deal? Well, in short, Maewyn Succat (St. Patrick’s original name) was a boy kidnapped from his home and taken to Ireland where the society was pagan. His faith comforted him, and grew over the six years that he was a slave. Then, one day, he felt God telling him that his time was done and he escaped home to England. However, he never forgot the people of Ireland. In fact, he had a dream that they were calling him back. Eventually, he did return, and he preached the gospel to the pagans. He even used a Shamrock to illustrate the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (one God, three persons).

St. Patrick’s day is a day to wear green in honor of Ireland. Moreover, it‘s to remind us of the kind of love and compassion St. Patrick had for the people there. St. Patrick is a prime example of love in action. He lived amongst the lost and broken people who had no hope or truth in their lives and even CAME BACK for them; just as Christ is coming back for us!! He CARED about whether or not they would spend eternity in heaven or hell. He told them the good news about Jesus and many heard and believed! Now THAT truly is something to celebrate!!

What I have shared is but a fraction of the details of St. Patrick’s life. Feel free to google for more information! Additionally, you might want to watch this funny and inspiring video on YouTube. It’s a Veggie Tales story about St. Patrick (and how I first learned the history behind St. Patrick’s Day). Oh, and just for fun, I took some pictures today if you want to see: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8BZNGbls0bNa8

So, go ahead! WEAR GREEN! May it indeed honor and symbolize new life and the kind of passionate pursuit we should have for evangelizing to others! And feel free to spread the love and joy with kisses (whether you are Irish or not!). After all, whatever happened to greeting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with a holy kiss (2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Peter 5:14). Also, I hope you will think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the next time you see a shamrock! I hope it will be a reminder to reach out to the lost and show them in whatever way possible that Jesus loves them and died for them! May we all live our lives as a living example of Christ’s passionate pursuit for our hearts!! Grace and peace to all of you!! Have a wonderful day of reflection, fellowship, and joy!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Word No One Wants To Hear In Church!

Last week, Chad talked about a topic most people don’t like to hear mentioned in church (or at all for that matter). Chad’s wife, Brande, hated the thought of it when he told her what he was going to preach on. He said that she was like, ‘and they are just starting to like you.’

So, what’s this dastardly topic that makes people cringe and Chad’s wife beg him not to preach? Care to take a guess? I’ll give you a hint: it’s something that everyone wants their hands on, but is in very short supply these days (unless you are the diluted Barack Obama with a so-called “plan” to create more of it). That’s right!! We are talking about MONEY!!

Ok, before you roll your eyes, groan, and forget you ever seen this blog, humor me and continue reading (this isn‘t MY favorite thing to talk about either! LOL). In fact, humor was also the route Chad decided to go in starting off his sermon. Ladies and gentleman, please treat yourself to this "rap video" in which three Life Church homeboys give you the 411 on money and tithing. Though, it was much funnier and entertaining when we watched it live; but I’m sure you’ll love it just the same!! (THANK YOU DAVE for getting it uploaded - by the way, he’s the dude in the Colts jersey in the video!). Great job Rick, Tyson, and Dave!! We loved the old skool moves!! Rock on!! LOL




Now that we’re warmed up a little bit, please continue reading…… ;)

Chad reminded us (in case we had forgotten - as we often do) that God is the Creator and everything is His. As he once said before, “my stuff is not my stuff.” We are just the managers and stewards of what God has graciously given to us and entrusted us with. In the beginning, God created everything, and then He created Adam and put him in charge of managing it.

The tradition continues today. Though, we often miss the point of what it’s all about. So often, we work and toil just to accumulate. Though, as Chad said, “what you call yours today, a stranger will call theirs tomorrow.” Nothing we have goes with us when we die; it just gets passed on and divided up. The only thing that lasts is our legacy. Therefore, as Jesus wisely told us, we should be storing up treasures in heaven. It’s there that true wealth accumulates; moth and rust can’t destroy it and no one can take it from us (Matthew 6:19-20).

Though, that’s not to say anything we own or work for is bad. We just need to keep it in perspective. Solomon realized that too much toiling under the sun for stuff that doesn’t last is “meaningless.” What REALLY has meaning is if every “work” is an act of worship to God (Colossians 3:23). You may be working at a “job” but treat it as if you are working directly for the Lord. Maybe then, your attitude would change towards that nasty boss that doesn’t appreciate you, or your negative co-workers, or whatever struggle you may be facing in a job you may not like. Regardless, give thanks for that job that God has provided for you (and especially in a time like this!) and “work it” for Him!

I am reminded of a story that Tony Chaney once told us in a sermon a long time ago. He talked about how his kids love McDonald’s french fries. He said that one time, he went out with his kids, got them some fries, and sat down with them. I think he said he just got himself a coffee; wasn’t really hungry. However, he casually reached over to snitch one of his daughter’s fries - just to see what she would do. If I remember correctly, he said that she exclaimed “nooooooooo”, pulled them back, and hoarded them from him. LOL His point was that he really didn’t want or need her fries. In fact, he could have just went to the counter and got his own. What he really wanted was for her to be willing to share with him what he was kind enough to give her in the first place. He wanted to have that fellowship and interaction with her; to delight in her gratitude for being so generous to her by giving back and sharing with him.

That’s what God wants from us. He doesn’t “need” our money. What is money to God anyways? What he REALLY wants is our act of worship; or what Paul more precisely calls “cheerful givers” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He wants us to give from our hearts as an act of acknowledgment and thanks to Him. Jesus made that point clear as well when he frowned upon the Pharisees for following “the law” without the attitude of love behind it.

I know some may say that tithing is “old school” or under the “law” and does not apply. I have read some blogs that have actually condemned tithing (or even just using the word!). I’m not going to do that here. Like Chad said, there’s a few places in God’s Word where tithing and giving to God is mentioned (in both the old and New Testament). Malachai tells us not to “rob God” (Malachai 3:8-10) and Jesus said to “give God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). And personally, (just like the song in the video said), I don’t think moving the decimal point and giving 10% is all that hard to do. Is it really that painful and difficult to share a few “french fries”? Are we really stingy old scrooges; closing up our wallets (and our hearts) screaming “noooooooo…..it’s mine…….all mine!! Muah!!” God gets ten, you get ninety. That’s doable. I’ve done it since my first job when I was in the 8th grade. God has always taken care of me (and still does!). And, what I/we give helps God’s Kingdom advance as that money is put to use in all the various areas (church maintenance, missions, ministries, outreaches, etc.). Chad breaks it all down and explains it a lot better than I can!! Check it out on the website when the audio is uploaded: www.missionoflife.com

See,…..now wasn’t that painless? LOL That wasn’t so bad was it? Nah, piece of cake right? If it was hard to swallow, maybe it’s time to really take an “audit”. Not a literal kind of audit, but just as our former pastor Rick Fiechter used to say…..you’ll know where your heart is by looking at your checkbook. Where does all your money go (Wal-Mart right? LOL)? He said that when he gets paid, he makes sure that the “tithe check” is the first one he writes - so that it’s never the “I’ll give God what’s leftover” check. We do the same. It’s that statement of faith: “God, You come first! Thank You for all You’ve given us. Our stuff is not our stuff!” Though, as Chad also said, this isn’t about giving just so you can “get back” from God. This isn’t a big “prosperity gospel” like some pastors preach and use. Like he said, it’s not really about the money. As always, “it’s all about the heart.” Be a cheerful giver and give what God calls you to give!! Even the widow who gave out of her meager money was more blessed than all the rest who gave out of their wealth!

May you all continue to be blessed with all that God has given you! Grace and peace to all of you!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Important Information

I just learned of the details for the upcoming pro-life t-shirt day (and t-shirt week!). I got a postcard in the mail from Heritage House. Pro-life t-shirt day is APRIL 28th!! They are selling t-shirts for $8.00 (plus s&h) on their website. I have included two links to the shirts. One is a regular t-shirt and the other is a “women’s cut” t-shirt. Both say the same message on the back (the date is on the front): “If he’s not alive, why is his heart beating? If he’s not a human being, what kind of being is he? If he’s a living human being…why is it legal to kill him? Choose Life.” Please, check out these shirts and get yours ordered (I just did!). Here’s a promo code for you: V10T

Also, American Life League has their pro-life t-shirt day shirts as always. AND, they have decided to extend the event to pro-life t-shirt WEEK!! It’s April 28th - May 4th (mark your calendars and particpate!). Their shirts are $6.50 (plus s&h). I ordered those too! ;) I got a closet full of pro-life tees, so I will definitely be able to wear them all week!! I will wear the Heritage House tee on the 28th, and the all.org shirts the rest of the week.

Can you imagine if we were all wearing these t-shirts with the pro-life message all at the same time (and for a whole week?!). What a way to spread awareness and get the opportunity to share the message with others! I can’t even begin to tell you how many people come up to me and ask about my shirts, how they can get one, and what it’s all about. Some of them are down right amazed when I tell them about things like FOCA (freedom of choice act), Obama’s agenda, and also how Planned Parenthood is in the business of promoting promiscuity and exterminating children (especially minorities). Obama/Planned Parenthood THAT IS DISGUSTING!! The way you market killing really does sound like a bad car salesman pitch (as Steven Crowder illustrates).

We all need to have attitudes like that of this 12 year old girl. Her video that wisely and courageously defends life speaks volumes (and has begun to go viral - PLEASE, pass it on!!!). It’s a shame that a girl so young even has to plead for the lives of innocent people that shouldn’t have to die in the first place. Amercia, who are we?!! How long will we have to explain abortion to our children? I don’t want to have to explain it to mine (remember the video I posted last year?)!

On that final note, please remember to participate in the next call for life this Friday. It’s so simple, and it REALLY can (and will) make a difference if we all work together!! The small things really add up to a lot!! Remember everyone, we are called to stand for life, not snuff it out (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 6:16-17). Silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly!! If we passively let this continue, we will have blood on our hands. Please, no more lives lost! No more pain, regret, and torture for women!! This has got to stop!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread"

Last Sunday, Craig Cortright spoke about a very common question that everyone has: “Who am I?” Do you define the question by your occupation? Your status? Your stuff? Are you who you think you are (or who others think you are)? Who are you?

The answer to the question depends on where your focus is. Do you identify with the world, or with Christ? Do you chase after the wind, or do you chase after God? Only one pursuit leads to life and joy. The other is merely a dead end.

If we want to know who we are, we got to passionately pursue that question in the right direction. What actions we take in knowing and pursuing our purpose will hinge on who we believe ourselves to be. Craig gave us a good example. He told the story of the guy that founded Upwards Basketball. He wanted to give every kid a chance to play, and the chance to hear and know that they are a winner and that Jesus loves them. To make a long story short, the program just started booming! It got to the point where they ran out of space and had to put kids on a waiting list. It was soon pointed out that if any child had to be put on a “waiting list”, they were pretty much being told to go to Hell. When the creator of that program realized this, he knew he had to do something. So, he made more room and saw to it that ever kid got to play. When they were once again out of room, the next step was to expand the program and get more churches involved. Now, we have the Upwards program (basketball, cheerleading, football, soccer) in churches nationwide (in fact, my son participated in basketball for the first time and the end of the season awards ceremony is tonight)!

If that man didn’t know who he was and what he was purposed to do, he could have very well been beaten down by the fact that he was shamed and criticized for the “waiting list” he had had. However, he didn’t get “offended” and pick up his stuff and move. He decided that he was going to listen to what was said and do something about it. He KNEW in His Spirit that that was the right thing to do because just as he knew his own worth, he knew that every child was worth it too! Therefore, he had to make sure no one was left behind!

How can we learn from this? Well, Craig pointed out something rather amazing. He showed us that in Matthew 26:26, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples. He alluded to the fact that we are “bread.” We are God’s children (John 1:12) and we are blessed as such (Galatians 4:7, Ephesians 2:8). Though, what good is bread all by itself? Bread is meant to be broken, shared, and used for nourishment. Can bread do all those things if it stays in the basket? Do we just “get saved” and that’s it? No, we are meant to share ourselves with the world by fulfilling the purpose for which we are created! Every talent and trait we were given is to be shared with others for their benefit and nourishment!

The key element that Craig wouldn’t let us forget is that before bread can be shared and given for the benefit of someone, it HAS TO BE BROKEN! I know, it’s painful. Being broken isn’t exactly “desirable”; but it’s necessary!! How would the hurting ones get help if not for someone who had already been “broken in”? We who have experienced pain (and subsequent deliverance) can readily share that brokenness with others that are broken. In my case, legalism, self-worth, and food addiction would be but a few of the “broken” things that I have to share with others who are broken by the same bondages. How would I be able to relate, share, or help others through those things if I hadn’t experienced them myself? It wouldn’t be the same! It’s kind of like when women (and men) share their abortion stories with me. I feel for them, and I pour out my love and compassion on them, but I have not been where they have. I can only go so far. However, my other friends who have been through it can minister to the hurting ones even MORE because they have that same pain in common. They have walked in their shoes and therefore, they have those scars to bear and share with others that are marred by the pain (my kudos to those brave friends of mine - you know who you are!!!).

What’s your pain? What brokenness do you have to offer the world? Craig said we discover that brokenness in prayer with God when we are all alone. Then, we place that brokenness under the blessing of knowing who we are. It is then that we will know what to do with all those broken pieces. God will reconstruct them into something more beautiful!! It’s kind of like a mosaic; the jagged and broken pieces come together for a much bigger picture. The broken becomes beautiful!!

I leave you now with a song that most of you probably know. It’s by Mark Schultz entitled (what else?!) "Broken and Beautiful". Be bread everyone!! Discover your brokenness in your time with Jesus. Then, allow Him to make the brokenness beautiful as He distributes you throughout His Kingdom to bless and nourish others!! Let your testimonies be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, you know what I mean! ;) Grace and peace to all of you!!