December 27, 2017
The season of generosity, Christmas ! The Bell Ringers, the Angel Tree, Charlie’s coats, Bayless kids, helping at The Food Bank, a goody for the postman, a cup of hot coffee for a policeman. ‘‘Tis the season to be generous.”
What happens now, “ A long Winter, nap ?” God makes us a clear promise in II Corinthians 9: 10-15, we will be enriched in every way by our generosity. What God can do through us when we live in His obedience is unfathomable. “The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
God’s generosity with us knows no season. The concept is woven through the Bible. A guidepost to Christians to live a full and abundant life in Him. And He is a giver. When we follow His example, we give for the pure unselfishness of our love for our fellowman. He has set an example for us of unconditional love, out of our “ comfort zone” acts of kindness.
We worry about not doing enough, not having enough, not saving enough, and on and on. But God makes us a clear promise in ll Corinthians 9:10-15. We will be enriched in every way. He will provide us with continual blessings, but those blessings are not meant to keep to ourselves. They are meant to be given. We should never worry about the things of this life when we put our trust in the one who has all the answers for a life well lived in His word. When we trust, as in ll Corinthians 9:13, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the Gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”
A new year approaches. Once again, as tradition dictates, we clean our “slate.” We look back at our accomplishments, our mistakes, our joys and our disappointments. We look forward to a new beginning. We are reminded of the easiest, but often overlooked commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. I personally plan to take my big calendar in my office and plan at least one new kindness for each week of the year. I will try to reach new areas of love and service. Join me and keep a journal. We will be the ones that will be blessed .
December 20, 2017
Walking in the Spirit
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Rom. 8:14 NRS)
Let’s first get our theology straight, and then we will talk about how that looks in everyday life. Life is a dance; let the Spirit lead and learn how to follow!
Walking in the Spirit is not an option for Christ followers. Being “spirit-filled” is not an add-on experience to following Jesus. Being led by the Spirit of God is, and always has been, God’s fundamental tool of inspiration, empowerment, and alignment with the heart of God. Paul even states in Romans 8 that if we don’t have the Spirit, we don’t belong to Christ. Put in positive terms, God invests his Spirit inside each of us on the journey of faith, and that Spirit is waiting, poised, ready for us to let Him lead. Because when we let the Spirit lead us, we are hitting our purpose and living into our heritage as God’s children. Spirit-led Christian action constitutes kingdom praxis.
Our culture trains us to be self-determining, to push for our dreams, to reach for all we can get, to do what feels good or right. But to live by the Spirit, is to let the heart of the God set our calendar, shape our dreams, and show us how we can impact our world with the good news and its benefits. Living by the Spirit often works counter culture, but the truth is, God is working toward culture. God is working toward the culture that is beaten down, oppressed, and “least” in the world’s eyes. His hope is love, deliver, and include them.
And God is working toward those lost in self-centered protectionism, toward those lost in extravagance, and toward those who are driven by ambition. We have to be broken from what has become our security and drive if it is anything other than God. Money, possessions, power, social assets, position, accomplishments (the list goes on) can become our operational security and what fills the calendar until there’s little time left to even go to church let alone be “led by the Spirit.” Zacchaeus was finally broken, and the Spirit led him to change how he operated as a tax collector…sounds like an oxymoron—Spirit-led tax collector!
Now, what does Spirit-led look like? Starting each day with a reminder that we are children of God…that’s our identity! No matter what else is on our to-do list, what does God need me to do today? How would God have me live out love, mercy, justice, and holiness in front of clients, customers, friends, family and strangers. How do I balance working to improve my resources with intentional giving to demonstrate God’s love to those in need? Where can my gifts, my resources, my service be deployed that has more to do with what God is doing in my community than it does to make me look good?
Walking in the Spirit begins with spiritual formation (remembering our identities in Christ and that the Spirit dwells in each of us), and it ends with Christian action (living and loving in such a way that our world cannot but feel the love of God through us). In betweenis the struggle between our will, our need, our old self and His will, love’s possibilities, the needs of the lost and the least, and our true self and purpose.
Prayers for our common struggle; but how exciting the outcomes when we align ourselves with Love itself! That’s what Jesus thanked his Father for after his disciples began to learn how to do that and returned with stories of ministry success. He dreams for those Spirit-led moments in us! Life’s a dance; let the Spirit lead!
December 13, 2018
The Illusion of Control
“You’re not the boss of me!” If you have younger siblings, you have probably had these words thrown in your direction at some time. As a child with a little brother or sister, you had the illusion of control.
How much control do we really have in our own lives? The paradox of having free will and yet knowing God is in control has always been discussed and debated. I believe the best explanation is the simplest: God is in control, but not controlling.
We laugh at ourselves for being control freaks. Most of the time, hopefully, we don’t really cause harm! But let’s see what happens when the desire for control goes to the extreme. For example, the Pharisees. They were the picture of control on steroids, having a demanding list of rules of what the church had to do to get it right, they used those rules to dominate. Then along came Jesus who called them snakes and hypocrites. The characteristics of their control – and of anyone who pushes it to the point of harming others – are pride, fear, pain rage and emptiness. God in control has none of those characteristics. He controls with mercy and goodness.
When we consider the sovereignty of God as described in the following scriptures, it seems foolish indeed to believe we are in control.’
Daniel 2:21 He changes the times and the seasons.
1 Chronicles 29:11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You.
Job 23:13 But He is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?
When we accept the love of God through Jesus Christ, we have no desire to dominate or control others and we understand how very limited our ability to control our own lives. Our control is an illusion. God’s control is life’s blessing.
Yours in Christ,
December 6, 2017
Keeping Christ in Christmas
The tones of most of prophecies in the Bible do not sound pleasant and they are rather strong and harsh. God has promised blessings if we would listen to what he has commanded to us, but has also warned us to destroy us if we are not obedient to Him.
However, we often think God’s blessings are too distant even though we follow God’s commandments and obey God’s words. In our real world, our situations are all different, but we all have problems and struggles that could hinder realizing near blessings.
The lives and stories of the people in the Bible are real and true. Even though they lived in different eras, and even though they did not have advanced transportation and technical devices that we have now, they had the same problems and struggles with which we are dealing now.
Jacob who became a father of 12 tribes of the Israelites had to labor for 14 years at his uncle’s house. Joseph who became Egypt’s prime minister spent 13 years as a slave in Potiphars house and in prison. David who became a King was fleeing from King Saul for 15 years. Job lost everything he had and everybody close to him left. Daniel who was ever faithful to God was thrown into Lion’s den. The list can continue on.
If the stories end like that, it is quite discouraging. Some might protest to God why we would have to go through those difficulties. God wants to show us His love and grace through those real people’s stories. Importantly, God shows His abundant grace when we repent for ourselves and our people.
According to Job 42:5-6- I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. According to Daniel 9:20: While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God.
When Jesus started his ministries, the first words he delivered publicly were “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 4:17).” One of the most important messages that John the Baptist proclaimed in his ministry was also “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 3:2)”
There are more Bible verses that remind us to repent. 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal thier land.1 John 1:8-9 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
As we anticipate the arrival of our promised Christ, our broken hearts can be prepared and healed through repenting. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statues and be careful to observe my ordinances. – Ezekiel 36:26.” As we experience our God through repenting, we will be renewed and able to receive the heart of flesh that our promised Christ provides.
Henri Nouwen’s quote might encourage us for our Advent journeys: “our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and guide.” Lastly, the following hymn lyric often reminds us of our Christ as “Emmanuel”: Be still my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Director of Traditional Music Ministries at FUMC Lubbock