Monday, January 30, 2006

just one day

Imagine with me a new reality show for TV. It is a show where cameras follow ordinary Christians (like you and me) around to highlight the authenticity of our faith as it is lived out in our homes and workplace environments. Viewers would have a statement at the bottom of the screen representing what we believe while they are entertained by watching how we live in comparison. (Yikes!) Maybe let’s not be so imaginative today.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 15:9

On a more real note, (no pun intended) I am seeking to live just one day (today) without being a hypocrite. Public and private the same. Beliefs and actions the same. A genuine faith lived out for an entire day. Impossible? Maybe.

Today I desire to love each person I come into contact with sincerely. I am going to try and walk as Jesus did, at a pace where I can pay attention to what is going on around me. I want to tell the truth in every situation. I want to truly care about people and be sensitive to God’s Spirit during each encounter. I want to look into eyes and hearts and pour into thirsty souls the life of God.

I choose not to allow anything evil into my life. I want to discipline my eyes and and my heart to look for what is good. Then I won’t have to pretend I’m good when maybe I’m not. I want to treat people with honor and respect. I want to put their good above my own. I do not want to use people in any way. I want to see the best and believe the best about others for just one full day. I want to be like Jesus.

Jesus’ life was always about people. He treated them with such sincerety and honor. His life was good and he called evil what it was when he saw it. He was devoted to His followers until the day He died. He was passionate about what God wanted Him to do. God wanted Him to show us what He had in mind when he created us. What God had in mind looks like Jesus.

The LORD is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3 (NLT)

The LORD despises the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue godliness. Proverbs 15:9 (NLT)

Since God is watching me and I am aware of it, I choose to watch myself too. I want to monitor and regulate my personal hypocrisy today. I want to maintain an awareness of what I believe and then attempt to live it out in each situation as the day progresses. Maybe this could be the beginning of a new Christian reality show on TV. (What a disaster that could be.)

I wonder if you might join me in this pursuit. Could we all just become as real and like Jesus as possible for one day? Let’s offer our hearts to God completely and ask Him for strength to live amazing lives. Let’s live lives that make a difference for our families and friends. They need the real life of Jesus to shine through us and upon them. Let’s light up their lives and warm their hearts with the hope of the Gospel lived out in our lives.

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. II Chron. 16:9

Keepin’ it real for one day,

Friday, January 27, 2006

life people

…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

I have been thinking a lot about my abilty to be something less than genuine (a hypocrite). And I think I’m discovering the absolute antidote. People-real people that know the real me. I know, your going to say it’s not safe. You are right! It is not totally safe. Some people don’t know how to handle the real you. They don’t even know how to handle the real them. So what’s the option, never let anyone know the real you? We know that can’t be it.

I want to be alive. I also know that God’s life design for us is that we give and receive life in our relationships. If we don’t receive this life, we will turn to sin. We will be decieved into thinking that this world’s pleasures will truly satisfy. We will busy our lives with everything but what we truly need to grow and become like Christ.

We need other followers of Christ to encourage us. We need them to pray with us, or for us, to just listen or share their struggles as well. We need each other in order to keep it real. If we isolate ourselves from meaningful relationships with other believers we will not see the truth about ourselves. We inevitably become “plastic people” and begin to die spiritually. We need to see the truth about ouselves and embrace it. Good or bad. We need to deal with it and allow it to challenge us to grow and become more like Jesus.

To be without christ-focused friends that are commited to my well-being is Satan’s goal for my life. He knows that if he can keep me from sharing my story and hearing the stories of others, he can make me think I’m the only one who deals with this kind of stuff. Thus I wear the mask and play the part. I live as though I’m something I’m not. Like it or not, I need you to be real. I need you to encourage me and help me see my blind spots. (I’ve gottem for sure) I need you to help me be my best and truest self. I need Jesus’ followers to help me follow Jesus.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

At New Community, we seek to create these kinds of friendships. The kind of friendships that can grow over the years and be inspiring and uplifting to our hearts. People who help build us up and put energy into our spirits. We want to create environments where you can be yourself and talk about life the way it really is. We call these environments “Life Groups”. For those that take advantage of these groups I see tremendous encouragement and growth taking place in their lives. It really is the church in its most authentic expression. It is people caring for each other and seeing to each other’s hopes and dreams as well as wounds and hurts. Life upon life.

These groups are not perfect, but they are life-giving. They have real people just like you desiring to walk a real walk and talk a real talk. They can help us keep it real. They meet in homes at various times during the week. Some meet at day and some at night. The structure is very simple. Whatever was shared in the weekend services is discussed in the group. Members share their stories (if they want to) of how they are trying to live the life of Jesus and they encourage each other. No preaching. No unwanted advice giving. Just friends helping friends to know Jesus a little better. There is prayer at the end for whatever needs praying for and then we go home. Pretty simple huh? Simple yet powerful for those who partake.

Life Groups are forming now and a list will be provided this weekend in our services. It will be posted on our website as well. Please consider being a part of giving and receiving life at New Community. Join a Life Group.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

Trying my best to keep it real,

Thursday, January 26, 2006

embrace the hypocritical self

And so the Lord says, "These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote. 14 Because of this, I will do wonders among these hypocrites. I will show that human wisdom is foolish and even the most brilliant people lack understanding."
Isaiah 29:13-14 (NLT)

Yesterday we talked about the amazing, authentic life of Jesus. He is the “wonder” that God has done to change our plastic hearts. Jesus makes us new and real.

Do you want to feel better about yourself? Do you want people to respond to you differently? Would you like to be more influential and effective in life? One of the things that made Jesus so compelling to those around Him was that He had zero integrity gaps. He was exactly what He claimed to be and people could not help but be drawn to Him. He changed everything.

When I look at the life of Jesus, I see someone who had a secure understanding of who He was. He did not allow fear or pride to cause Him to act inconsistently with who He really was. The people who happened to be standing in front of Him at any given moment were not intimidating so as to draw out of Him the need to impress or put on airs.

As we become more like Jesus, we are not guided by the external opinions and influences around us. Rather, we are guided from within, from the still small voice of God’s spirit who leads us to be more purpose centered. Life lived centered on a God-given purpose contributes to feeling better about ourselves. We begin to transcend our own hypocrisy; closing the gap between who we say we are and the behavior that says we are something else.

In this process of victory over self, we feel more integrity, and we feel more whole and thus, more like Jesus. Our values and behavior are becoming more congruent. What is going on inside of me matches how I act in my life. And that connects me with a sense of confidence and stability few experience. I become less self-focused and more others-focused. Selfishness begins to subside and I begin to put the good of others ahead of personal interests or preferences.

What happens next is I begin to feel even better about myself. What does this do? It makes me even more capable of being genuinely concerned for others and thus even more like Jesus. I sense the freedom to be more transparent and authentic. My relationships increase in meaning, trust, and caring. I am now receiving even more energy from God. If I continue on this path, I believe grace and strength from God keep spiraling upward and lift me to new heights of personhood.

What I see around me is largely influenced by my own state of being. When I change deeply and become more like Jesus, I see a different world. I behave differently and the world around me begins to respond differently. I am no longer hypocritical and others sense the authenticity which gives me influence and the possibility to do them tremendous good. If I am judgmental or critical it only accentuates my weakness and results in a loss of respect for who I am.

But when I monitor my own hypocrisy, (not everyone else’s) I can use the conviction the Holy Spirit provides as fuel to change. I can confess my sin, be forgiven, completely cleansed, and choose to close the gap in my integrity. If I don’t hide the hypocritical self, (trust me-other’s see Him if you don’t) but embrace the truth about my hypocrisy, I can not only be transformed myself but also be a powerful agent of change and inspiration to others.

May our courage and integrity replace our cowardice and hypocrisy. May our new Christ-like self serve as a catalyst of change for those around us. May they sense the real life that you give in our daily lives as we live them for you. May the wonderful life of Jesus be lived through us today.

Keepin it real,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


A couple of weeks ago, I sang a song at our wekend services called "Happy Plastic People". It has been a while since I’ve gotten such a reaction to a song. I wonder if it it because we can all connect to the whole idea of not being real. We want to be more authentic but fears, insecurities, and pride cause us to put on masks that hide who we really are.

A recent survey indicated that among the top reasons people choose not to go to church is that there are too many hypocrites there. I have come to learn from my own life, as well as many others, that this survey speaks more truth than we might be comfortable with.

Did you know that among the teachings of Jesus, the subject of hypocrisy was one of his more common topics? Why? I guess it is because He ran into so many of them.

Jesus seemed to have incredible amounts of compassion and mercy upon those who were aware of their own brokenness and weakness. He reached out to them. He touched and changed their lives. But he was relentless and almost without mercy toward those who acted as if they were something they were not. He seemed to be very angry about this problem.

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, esp. one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

Lately, I have been asking myself some tough questions. (Yes, I sometimes talk to myself.) I have been desiring a more authentic life. I know that sometimes I am fake. The trouble is with what I believe. What I know to be true is so difficult to live that I fall short. Sometimes I say I love when I really don’t. Sometimes I act holy when I’m really not. (Which if you think about it is being holier than thou.) So I guess I am an honest hypocrite.

Jesus was continually slamming the religious leaders for their plastic lives. He would tell them they looked good on the surface but inside they were totally messed up. The problem wasn’t that they were messed up, it was that they tried to act like they were something they were not. They were hypocrites.

I see myself being more and more like Jesus and less like a hypocrite in the future. His life was truly amazing. In the Gospels, "The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law" (Mark 1). Why were they amazed? Because when Jesus spoke, His words matched His life. And people can sense it when we are real. People pick up signals from us that either ring true or they don’t. Jesus was full of "grace and truth" and they could feel it. I wonder if sometimes people think I'm full of it? (Know what I mean?)

I want to give you a quote from a book I’ve read,

"Here is a surprising point: recognizing our hypocrisy is a source of power. When we become willing to monitor our hypocrisy, we discover that intense personal shame drives us to close our integrity gaps. Accepting the truth about our hypocrisy helps us to transofrm ourselves and others." "Building A Bridge As You Walk On It"

I’ll talk more about his tomorrow.

I am becoming more willing to monitor my hypocrisy. I want to be real with you. I want those who know me to respect my real life. I am purposing to take off all masks and emerge more like the true me-more like Jesus as well. I believe this will ultimately honor God.

How about you? How do you feel about showing us the real you? Does that sound scary or what? Write to me and tell me what you think.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

shine baby!

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together…those who look to the Lord are radiant” Ps. 34:3,5

A couple of weeks ago, Michelle and I were having dinner with some friends. I kept noticing that our friend Jerri’s face was glowing. Her countenance demanded my attention. Life was coming from her eyes that seemed to come from a true center. I finally had to make comment and we all celebrated the joy of her relationship with Christ as she shared how He had been showing Himself to her.

Her husband Kirk went out of the room for a moment and then came out with what looked like a business card. It had the scripture I mentioned above on it. It had been a continual prayer that he was praying for her during a time of trial in her life. She looked beautiful, radiant, like a bride!

As we talk about a fresh attitude toward worship, we need to recognize one of the great benefits-I get a facial! Do you know how much money is being spent by countless people trying to change or at least improve their faces? Cosmetics, creams, lotions, potions, face lifts, chin tucks, you name it.

Well, I’m here to tell you that God is in the business of changing faces. A vibrant, shining face is the result for someone who has been with God in worship.

Think of Moses (Exodus 34) when he had been with God for an extended time. He had to cover his face because it shone so brightly with God’s radiance.

Steven, (Acts 6-7) caught a glimpse of the eternal, and his face glowed like that of an angel.

Jesus, in a moment of pure worship, encountered God and “his face became bright like the sun” (Matt 17).

Max Lucado writes “God invites us to see His face so He can change ours”. I love that! Our face is the most seen and recognizable part of our bodies. Our face says so much about our life. God wants to take our face and make a statement! He wants my face to say how good he is. My pie hole becomes a powerful apologetic and the greatest evidence of his existence. He wants to use my face to change the face of the world! Can others see God on your face?

So how do you make this happen? You need a magnifying glass. That’s right. You need to magnify the Lord. He must be seen for how big, how awesome, how amazing He really is. You might say, “I’ve got big problems!” Yes, and I bet your face reflects it too. In fact, you face is reflecting whatever you are magnifying. Do you see God as being bigger than your problems?

I want you to join me this year in magnifying our great God! Let’s all get the ultimate face lift. Let’s brighten up our world with the life of Jesus pouring out of our eyes. If the eye is the window to the soul, then I want people to look into my eyes and see God. Oh God! I can’t believe you are letting me live this life!

All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (MSG)

O soul, are you weary and troubled?No light in the darkness you see?There’s a light for a look at the Savior,And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace

"The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." ' Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)

Shine baby!

Monday, January 23, 2006

a beautiful thing

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 (NIV)

I woke up and worshiped God this morning. It was a beautiful thing.

I have spent the last four days at Zion Canyon in Utah. I have been resting my body and praying through some changes that I believe God would have me make in my life and our church.

I went outside as the morning sun had just come over the mountain. I was uneasy and needed to hear from God. I desire more and more to be like Jesus, and God is showing me the cross as a means of dying to myself. I just sat there and allowed the sun to begin to warm my body. I felt stress as all kinds of thoughts began to flood into my head. Things that I cannot control demanded my attention and sought to choke my heart as I sat ther hoping to breathe in God’s presence. Decisions that needed to be made, people needing direction, calender planning, prioritizing, crises, and other stuff just kept running around in my head. Does that ever happen to you?

What I did next was so simple but very effective. I surrendered. I just sat there in the Sonshine and gave in. I did not know all the answers nor did I need to. I needed to resign my position as general manager of the universe and allow God to be who He is and remember who I am. I am His son. He is my Father. He loves me and cares about my life. He has answers and He will give them when He is ready (or maybe when I’m ready).

I began to release myself to Him in that moment and offered myself to Him. "Here I am God. Take me, all of me". I meant the pressure but not just that. I meant all of me--my dreams and desires and hopes-all of me. I want to mean this more authentically, but I feel myself partially holding back. I even feel a little fear sometimes about the whole surrender thing. Do you connect with this?

Worship is surrender and I am in the process. I guess this is a journey I am on. Continuing to learn that I can trust Him if I offer more of myself and the things I have become attatched to. I believe that God is good and He has good things for me. I am finding out that as I let go of control, He can handle things and He proves Himself faithful.

Offering yourself as a "living sacrifice" is not easy. In fact, it is very hard. As I die to my idea of life, God then gives real life-His life-the life of His Son Jesus becomes all the more true in me. I’m finding this is a painful process. The cross is here in this place.
I want to keep surrendering to you Father! Help me!

I woke up and worshiped God this morning. It was a beautiful thing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

new song

When I was a little boy, my mom got me a 45 LP record player. It was yellow and closed up like a lunch box. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing on earth. (It was a little different than the slick MP3 player I’ve got now) I bought some new singles by the “Electric Light Orchestra” AKA “ELO”. There was one song that I played over and over. I think I wore the record out. These days I’m singing a new song.

"Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy" Psalm 33:1–3.

When you think about God, what images or words come to mind?

Think about this for a moment. Don’t brush over this question too quickly. Whatever happens in your head in relationship to this question will determine the quality of your experience in worship.

"Cheer up…! Don't be afraid! 17 For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song." Zeph. 3:16-17

I think of One who is for me. Who loves me without fail. One who looks upon me with favor. The One who understands me better than me. The One who has compassion for me in my weakness. He knows the stuff I’m made of because He made the stuff I’m made of. When I think of God, I think of the One who knows everything I have ever done and will do. He utterly gets me. He knows my story. He has authored it.

This allows me to move with Him. Yes, I move with not against Him (I am trying anyway). He has a rythm and I’m feeling it. He has a beautiful song and I want to sing it. It is a new song that has a whole different feel than the music most are listening to. It is the song of the restored heart. Somehow, this song stays new and never gets old. New verses and dynamics make it continually fascinating to me. How can I keep from singing?

Will you sing with me? Will you sing out loud? This definitely is a song worth singing. God is worth it! We get our word worship from the word worth. Worship then is simply acknowledging how much God is worth to us. Let’s do it! Let’s do it now! Let’s do it forever! And let our heart be filled with absolute joy!

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Protect them, so all who love your name may be filled with joy. Psalm 5:11


Thursday, January 19, 2006

in awe

About a year and a half ago I received a phone call. It was the chief of the Clark County Fire Department. He asked me if I would like to meet the president. I said, “The President?” He said, “Yes, George Bush, the President, he is speaking at the convention center tomorrow and I can get you a personal meeting with him”. I told him that I would like to do that (a slight understatement).

I remember that day: I chose my clothing carefully; I was a little nervous (another understatement); I also thought about how I would address him in advance. When he arrived, we had been waiting in a back room for about 45 minutes. Suddenly, everyone stood up and in filed the presidential cabinet. First, Andrew Card, then Karl Rove, Scott McClellen, Karen Hughes, and others. Then someone said, “The President of the United States”. In he walked. I was called by name and introduced to the president-you had to be there. It was awesome! He said, “It is good to meet you pastor”, and I forgot what I was going to say. I was standing in the presence of the most powerful man in the world! I’ll never forget that.

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been really impressed with someone? Did you anticipate being able to meet them? Did you prepare for the meeting? How did you behave when you were in their presence? What was your attitude?

Over the next week we will talk about adopting a fresh attitude toward worship. Specifically, the time when we get together on weekends to “have church”. What on earth are we doing anyway? Who are we doing it for? Why?

I am convinced that many people who attend weekend services seldom truly worship, and they probably don't even know it. In Evelyn Underhill's words, worship is "the response of the creature to the Eternal." Simply put, we make God the center of our attention. We come before Him to offer our praise and gratitude, to confess our sin and confusion, to offer ourselves, full of love and wonder, vulnerable to God's desires for us. As we come, God responds to us, too, assuring us of forgiveness, comforting and healing us, embracing us, teaching us, and sending us out to serve.

After all, He is God right? Is that impressive to you? I think we either never really grasp who he is, or we lose sight through familiarity. Sad. No, tragic. Tragic that we have such an amazing opportunity to gather together and experience God’s presence in our midst and we many times miss it. It does not have to be like that any more.

I am seeking to adopt a fresh attitude toward worshiping God. I want to be thoroughly impressed. I want to anticipate our times together in His presence with high expectations. I also want to take more time to be prepared for those moments when we get together so as to make the most of them.

I ask that you let me speak to your heart about this matter for the next few days. We will also discuss this in our services this weekend. Be open to some fresh insights that can lead to some new attitudes toward worship. This could lead to some powerful, transcendant, life changing experiences with God. When was the last time you truly experienced God?

We were intended for God’s pleasure-to warm His heart-to be an object of His desire. Let’s take a fresh look at worship and allow our lives to be lifted and inspired like never before! May we rediscover or truly discover for the first time just how awesome God is. After all, he is really the most powerful being in the universe and for some reason He is interested in having a personal meeting with us.

And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him Heb. 11:6


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

feed your heart

I have lost about 30 pounds over the last few months. One of the things I had to learn to do was look at labels on food before I purchased. You know, the nutrition facts listed on the side of everything we buy now. If you pay attention you can eat food that is good for you and you can get your weight under control and be more healthy. I hate those labels!

We have been talking about a fresh attitude toward health. I would like to discuss with you today your diet. Do you monitor what you take in? What kinds of nutrients are you giving yourself? Are you watching what you give your heart and mind? Listen to God’s word:

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Prov. 4:21-23 NIV

Again in The Message paraphrase…

Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! 22 Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health. 23 Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts. Prov. 4:21-23 Msg.

We are encouraged to take a close look at things before we permit them in. There are good things that we definitely want in and there are bad things that we certainly want to keep out. Health depends on what we are allowing in. Have you thought very much about this?

I can tell the difference when I am watching too much TV and the wrong kinds of shows. I used to like a show called “The Shield”. I thought it was cleverly written and very realistic to what might actually be happening in police environments and on the streets of LA. But each time I would watch my wife would say “I’m not watching this”. Then I would continue to watch and I felt like maybe something was wrong but would shrug it off . Later I would feel negative and synical. The content of the show tends to glorify violence and police corruption. A steady diet of that kind of intake impacts my spirit. I no longer watch that show or others like it.

I could give a dozen other examples of things that I no longer watch but that really is not the point I want to make. I would like to suggest a focus on letting the right things in, not on just keeping bad things out.

I am saying that if we will have a diet of Christ-centered relationships, good books, inspiring stories, and expose ourselves to God’s word regularly, we will feel a whole lot better. Your mind, emotions and spirit will flourish if you will be careful and feed your heart well. I encourage you to take a close look at your family’s diet and guard their hearts. Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out!

There is so much good stuff out there. We just have to look for it like we would look for treasure. The cool thing is that healthy, inspiring things are everywhere for the one who really wants them. Don’t settle for a junk food diet. It may taste good up front, but it is going to kill you later.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

The God of peace be with you,

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

stormy hearts

May the Lord of peace himself always give you his peace no matter what happens. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thes. 3:16

Let me ask you a question, what does peace mean to you? Do you feel that you are at peace? Do the storms of life destabilize you emotionally? For me Peace or Shalom is a major part of being healthy in this life.

Shalom is not defined in terms of absence but presence. Peace does not mean the absence of any irritations or problems. It means the presence of God. When I am aware of His presence, I can experience life the way God intended-peacefully. There is a real problem with this for me, in my awareness I often get so lost. Sheep are only lost in relationship to the shepherd, not their current location. If he is not around, they are lost, nervous, insecure, and afraid. So, my conclusion is that I cannot be emotionally healthy apart from knowing that God is near, that he cares.

Jesus once spoke peace to a raging storm in which his disciples were experiencing fear for their very lives. Think back to the night on which Christ was born. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” was the declaration. The Lord, who gives peace, because He Himself is peace, was born to command peace to our stormy hearts. It is the same peace of which Jesus later would say to His disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you" (John 14:27). "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Personally, I think it is far easier to speak to a storm than our anxious hearts. Jesus says that peace is found in Him. Yet we try and find it every other conceivable place. Then we wonder why we get ulcers and gray hair. We are not thinking clearly! We need to finally just accept the fact that apart from Jesus there is no real peace. Jesus has given His followers a very important gift-His Spirit to guide us through this difficult life. We only need to turn to Him and ask Him to speak to our hearts. He will simply do it if we learn to ask Him in faith.

I am learning this fresh and new. Believe me; I have plenty of opportunities to lose my peace and my mind. I face enormous challenges at times. I deal with personal heartbreak and pain more than I care to admit. There are few days in my life where I am free from pressure. I have realized that I need to experience the presence of Jesus or ministry will crush me. I am turning to Him and finding peace for my heart that is real! I am being renewed day by day by the love of Christ and I feel new health as a result. He is very present to me.

I pray that you would know God’s peace for you that is found no where else but in His Son Jesus. I pray that you would simply turn to Him right now for life and peace. Allow his Holy Spirit to direct your thought life and reveal the fact that God is near and He does care.

If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. Rom. 8:6

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6-7

Be healthy today as you experience His peace,

Monday, January 16, 2006

health and peace

`May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.' Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT)

I bet the one who has this has health. It would be difficult to have this and not feel real good.

Yesterday after attending church, my wife and I went to eat some lunch at a restaurant. As we sat there I began to look into her eyes. I began to have all kinds of feelings. I felt God’s blessing on my life. I know that he has given to me a good woman who only wishes me good. Her heart for me is blessing and I know that God gave her that heart. It did me good to have that realization and I felt great because of it.

She has always been my strongest support and defender. She has stood with me in the toughest of times. God has used her prayers to turn back the tide of Satan’s attacks many times. She has defended my heart to those who wished me ill. I can only say to you that yesterday I looked into her eyes and felt a sense of safety and security knowing her love is unconditional. I knew my heart for her was the same. We would endure battles together in the future and we would win. I felt God’s protection in that moment.

I told her in that moment that I loved her and was so glad to have her as my wife. She smiled. It was a great smile too. It was the kind of smile that comes from deep within when life gives you something good. It was and is the smile of God. It was the favor of God. God had been gracious to me and His grace in that moment became tangible, edible, and we partook. I felt warm energy and life in my body and in my heart.

A peace that can only come from God was there in our special moment and we became just a little healthier than we were before. Nutrients from heaven entered our lives and life was the way it should be-the way God intended for it to be-healthy. Shalom was our experience. (Little Sam was a big help as he just sat there quietly the whole time and ate his corndog!)

This is what I want for you today. I desire for you to know God’s blessing. May you turn to Him each day and receive from Him each word that you need to know His heart of blessing toward you. I want you to experience His blessing and join me in seeking to bless our city and to give this healing to the entire valley.

May you walk so closely to Him that you feel His presence. Your fears will melt away under the shadow of His wing. May your enemies be powerless to harm you in any way.
May you be near Him so as to feel His smile upon you and experience His favor toward you. May your life today be attended by His peace and may you become strong and healthy as a result.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 1:2


Friday, January 13, 2006

do you want to get well?

And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He * said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus * said to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." 9 And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk. John 5:5-9

Do you wish to get well? What kind of question is that? Who doesn’t want to be healthy, right? Or do we? I have come to see, not only in my own life, but also in the lives of many others, that sometimes many really don’t want to be well, much less be completely whole.

There is so much illness in the world today. Disease is common and a constant reality for some. It is possible to be “not well” and be so familiar with it, that you settle for it, even think it is now a normal. It is also possible to be afraid of doctors so much that you won’t get help. If you are like me, you won’t even go get a check up. It is also true that being “not well” can be an excuse for some to mooch off of others or underachieve in life. In fact, our culture breeds some who earn a living on “being sick”.

Let me ask you a question: How do you feel? Does God have more for you? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? So much hurt. So much pain. We self medicate; we vacation; we eat, but we don’t get better. We get worse. Some quietly suffer in silence.

These days I truly believe that He has more for us. Much more. I don’t think we should settle for less.

Jesus stands in the midst of us all and asks the question, “Do you want to be well?”

For me, I’m saying yes! I want to be healthy. I want to be whole. I am now looking at life desiring more. I am not saying that I should never be sick in any way, but I believe that Jesus is leading me to experience His power and to make me whole, to truly reflect His life.

I am trading in my stress for His peace and rest. I am slowing down a little and appreciating more. I am guarding my mind. No junk gets in! I am forgiving people and not sweating the petty stuff. I am re-engaging my wife at a completely new level. I am enjoying my son. I am being inspired by great stories and good books. I am seeking to be a good friend. I am yielding my spirit to God and He is filling me. I am coming alive! God is reassuring me about who I am and where He is taking me in this crazy life.

I am willing to face the Truth, the Way, the Life and let Him touch my wounds and my hidden hurts. Yes Lord, I think I do want to get well!

Come this weekend and hear the message: “A New Attitude Toward Health.”

May God bless you with His life today and may you share it with others.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

another satisfied customer

On every Lord's Day each of you should put aside something from what you have earned during the week, and use it for this offering. The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn. I Cor. 16:2

Today is our last day on fresh attitudes about money. I hope you are growing as a result of what you are learning. Two days ago I wrote about finding a starting place in giving and then grow from there. I received this e-mail from a new member and he said I could share it with you. Here it goes:

We came to New Community and when we first walked in, fear came over me saying Oh no, what have I done, I'm going to have to give my money away! But before the offering, we were told if you are a first time guest to just give the connection card I thought I was off the hook! But then that voice in my head that said the money I brought for today? You need to leave it. Knowing that God says Try Me, I gave my first $20. I work at a deli where I make a living off of tips. So after that first $20 I noticed a small increase in my tips. You know in the bible where it says you reap what you sow. I'm here to tell you it's true! Because I wasn't tithing, I was making only enough to get by. So I was reaping what I was sowing. Then I began giving and noticed a small increase in my earnings, not much but enough to notice. Then the next week I gave $25...I'm rolling! Ok maybe it's not 10 % maybe more like 3 %. But again I noticed a small increase. So the following week I gave holding tightly $30. And again I noticed an increase in my tips. This went on for a couple weeks and we had to go to Arizona when my mother fell ill and we didn't think she would make it. ( Personal note to you Chris and the staff of NCC, thank you for your prayers in this matter, because I know that it is what helped my mother have a full recovery. Thank you and God bless the staff of NCC)

So needless to say I did not tithe that week, if you want to call what I was giving a tithe. However I did keep the $30 for the tithe and next week I had another $30 to give for a total of $60. I let God know this was two weeks in one and not to expect this every week. A little voice said ya right. So after giving the $60 I delivered a very large catering at work, my tip was $130 WOW!! I started seeing a pattern. So I made a vow to God that I would always give $60. I heard that little voice again saying I'm not through with you yet, you still have 4% to go. Then something Pastor Chris said in a service about debt, " think of it as a mountain. You can either climb it alone, or trust in the one who created it. Don't get me wrong God didn't create my debt, but He did create the principles on how to get over the mountain, if you trust Him." That really convicted me. So I went out on a limb and said I'm going to give 10%!

The pattern I noticed here is not the amount, but the willingness of the heart. God says in 2 Chr. 16:9 that the eyes of the Lord are searching the whole earth to show Himself strong to whose heart is perfect toward Him. And In Jer. 17:10 it says that He is searching the heart and trying the reins and giving to every man according to his ways and according to the fruits of his doings. Why is God looking at our heart? Because it controlls my emotions. And when my emotions are in line with the word of God, it becomes my hope and answer in all things. I am now an over 10 % tither and God is blessing me above and beyond my expectations. I don't miss the 11 % although, there is another voice that tries to tell me that I do, I choose not to listen, but to trust in the voice of truth. Lance Rogers

Tomorrow I will begin and new discussion about another fresh attitude I am adopting for 2006.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

sowing seed

2 Cor. 9:6-12 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. [7] Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. [11] You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,

Last month I was audited by the IRS. Can you believe it? On December 22nd I went in for the dreaded examination. They wanted to go back a couple of years because they thought I had too many deductions. Here is what happened.

A couple of years ago our congregation was experiencing financial difficulty. We had just expanded our facility and remodeled the building in expectation of numerical growth. We had also increased our staff to be better prepared to minister to those who would be coming in the near future. Money became very tight for a season and I felt God leading me to give back my salary. So I did. For three months I took a part time job making next to nothing. Each month, I would receive my salary from the church, deposit it in my account, and then turn around and write a check back to the church for the same.

So, over the next three months I gave thousands to the church. I learned a new lesson in God’s faithfulness. I had never seen anything like what I was about to experience. We bagan to receive gifts from every conceiveable direction. A previous mortgage company owing us a good size some, partner churches sending us gifts, friends giving money, I could go on…I began to go out to the mail box during those three months looking for what God was going to do next. I wrote down each time something would happen. The list grew longer and longer.

When the church came through the difficult time and it was ok for me to start receiving my pay again, I added up all that God had provided during the three months, it was more than I would have earned had I not given my salary back. Shortly after that, we were offered to buy a friend’s house that was moving to Georgia. They thought that they were selling it to someone else but then the deal fell through. They called me and offered me the house at a great price for a quick sell. I agreed and sold my house in two days. What I did not know was that I would make $100,000.00 profit throught the appreciation of my house.

I could tell you more but I think you see my lesson. God says that our giving is like sowing seed. Sow it in faith. Sow it in love. If you give generously, your Father will bless you for it. I have seen this over and over again. May God bless you as you give to Him.

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Psalm 37: 25-26

By the way, remember the IRS? The guy sat there going through all the checks that I had written over the years and I waited and waited, He added and added. He left the room and then finally came back. He said, “Mr. Bennett, we owe you money”. Great Christmas present huh?


Monday, January 09, 2006

the heart of the matter

You must give 10 percent. Is this the teaching of the New Testament? It is clearly taught in the Old Testament.

Let me be very clear! I'm not suggesting we try and give less. I am not saying that tithing is unbiblical. I do it and I recommend it. Instead, I want to take a fresh look at the "New Testament's" tough-yet-fair starting place for giving.

Please know that I have always given, and will continue to give "at least" 10 percent of my income as my guideline for obedience. But the more I study the New Testament, the more I see a different standard. It deals, not so much with amounts, as it does the heart.

Jesus' teaching on tithing is limited to two comments. One was to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 also recorded in Luke 11:42, where Jesus criticized them for tithing but not practicing justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus did not suggest that the Pharisees stop tithing. Instead, He attacked a self-righteous heart motivation for tithing.

Jesus also mentions tithing in Luke 18:12 where He mimics a Pharisee, saying, "I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." Once again, He does not speak against tithing but rather says that self-righteous activities do not add up to pleasing God.

Peter, Paul, and James don't even mention tithing in their letters. So, if the New Testament is silent on tithing as the "guideline", does it offer another?

It may be tucked away in Luke 21:1-4, the familiar story of Jesus observing "the rich" and a "poor widow" putting their gifts into the treasury. Jesus said the widow "put in more than all" the rich givers even though she gave only "two very small copper coins." Why? Because "she gave out of her poverty" whereas the rich gave "out of their surplus". Jesus blesses giving that is sacrificial and from the heart, no matter what the amount. If we give "only" out of surplus, we may be missing the point.

If 10 percent is the "only" goal in giving, then consider what happens to someone I know who earns $1200 per month, or $14,400 per year. To tithe, he would give $120 each month, leaving $1080 to live on. His rent for an extremely modest apartment is $650 per month. It's tough to raise two kids on that income with or without tithing. This person, like all of us, is commanded to give sacrificially. But for him, giving even $80 a month "might" be a sacrificial gift. Will God bless him if he tithes? Yes! I have seen Him do it over and over for those who do. I’m just saying that a "full tithe" may not be his starting point for God to bless him. It also would not be his stopping point as he grows in his giving. Growing in generosity is the point, right?

Another friend earns $250,000 yearly. Like the other person, he is a growing believer who wants to honor Christ in his giving. If he gave 10 percent of his income, that would leave $225,000 for living expenses.Do you see my point? Is my $250,000 friend "off the hook" if he tithes? No. Most of us would say he could do more and should do more. By the way, I know he does. But many more well-to-do Christians don't.

C.S. Lewis put it well when he said, "I'm afraid biblical charity is more than merely giving away that which we could afford to do without anyway." I agree and I believe Jesus does as well.
Paul had opportunity to teach giving 10 percent, and as a former Pharisee we would have expected him to. But in 1 Cor. 16:1-4, "about the collection for God's people" at Jerusalem, he does not mention tithing. Instead, he commands believers to set aside gifts "in keeping with their income" on the first day of every week.

Paul is even more insistent on heart-felt sacrificial giving in 2 Cor. 8:3 when he encourages the Corinthians to emulate the Macedonians who gave "as much as they were able, and even beyond." In 2 Cor. 8:7, he exhorts the Corinthians to "excel" in giving. Again, instead of setting up tithing as the standard, Paul, like Jesus, seems to have a broader, more far-reaching standard in mind.

So, if the New Testament does not focus on the 10 as a prescribed fixed percentage, then how much? I say, give "out of your heart," not merely your surplus. And grow or "excel" in your generosity throughout your entire life. I believe this pleases God.

-Today’s thoughts adapted from an article in Discipleship Journal

Friday, January 06, 2006

secret to happiness

Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. 7 After all, we didn't bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. I Tim. 6:6-10

I have been thinking a lot about the concept of contentment lately. Did you know that if you and I, and the rest of this great country we live in, were to stop buying things we don’t need, with money we don’t really have, our economy would suddenly crash? Our entire economy is based upon us not being content. I am bombarded each night with television commercials telling me over and over how much more I must have in order to be happy.

Well, I have learned that stuff doesn’t make me happy. Or have I? Some once said that the secret to real happiness is wanting what you have. Jesus taught us not to worry about trying to get stuff. He said for us to trust our Father to provide for us what we need. Yet we live in a culture that tempts us at every turn to buy, buy, buy. Of course we can really afford it so we are graciously given credit. You know, the little friend in your purse or wallet that enables you to buy stuff you don’t really need with money you don’t really have.

According to USA Today: 55% of divorces are about money; Biggest personal stress factors on people are money; 63% of all bankrupcy are credit cards; 1.5 in 2001 filed bankrupcy and has gone way since; the average balance in 2005 was $10,000 per card; Sears processes 700,000 credit aps per month; Citi bank spends $100,000,000.00 on marketing to high school & college students a year; 1.5 trillion is the debt now on credit cards held by Americans.

I personally believe that a force is at work against our lustful hearts. I believe that we are involved in a struggle beyond what most are aware of. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12
I believe that we have an enemy trying to bring us into slavery and bury us so deep that we can’t even think of being like God. Yes, I am talking about being like God. And what is God like? He is generous! Many cannot truly be generous because they are buried.

It is time for us to open our eyes and see the deception for what it is. Let’s face it. We have more stuff and we are more miserable than ever. It’s funny that the word miserable comes from our word miser. This is because the real way to be happy isn’t to get a bunch of stuff. A famous man once said that it is more blessed to give than receive. He is so right.

This is a year for me to learn to be more content. If I do I wonder if I will be happier? Lord, I love You more than money.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

true riches

Luke 16:11 (NLT) And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?

I’ve been talking about fresh attitudes for the coming year. Today, I am beginning a discussion about my attitude toward money. According to Jesus, my attitude about money reveals not only my heart but my ultimate reality as well.

Jesus tells an interesting story concerning money, and at the end of the parable he makes the above statement. I have thought a lot about this statement in the past. I used to think about it in terms of giving the ten percent tithe check each pay period. I would then consider myself trustworthy with worldly wealth, but now I am seeing more.

First, he speaks of being trustworthy with worldly wealth. What does that mean? I would suggest it means at least what I mentioned before but, more than that, I think it is talking about the other ninety percent as well. How does God view being faithful with the assets and resources that he entrusts to me? How does this relate to how I shop for groceries, or at the mall, or even Wal-mart? What about eating out? Giving to people in need outside of my giving to the Lord’s work at the church comes into play as well. There is more to be said about the “ninety” than the “ten”. I know this sounds radical but I believe that it is important to God.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to say that you should sell everything you have and give it to the poor (even though a famous man once said that). But I am suggesting a broader discussion about money as it relates to being counted trustworthy. I am now reflecting upon the amount of debt I am carrying, the rate of interest I am paying, and other choices I make with my so called “disposable income”.

Why am I doing this? Because I want to be given true riches, that’s why. Don’t you? Jesus meant what he said, didn’t he? I believe that choices I am making now are in some way determining the blessings and experiences that I will receive from God in eternity. I do not claim to totally understand how this will be evaluated. I am just saying I believe that God is very interested in my financial choices and will reward me according to whatever He considers to be “trustworthy”. I do not even claim to know exactly what true riches are. I just know Jesus said that there are some, and I want to be in on them whatever they are. I could take you on a journey through scripture and show you a lot more, but then this e-mail would get way too long.

Have you thought about your “trustworthiness” lately? Do you expect to receive “true riches” one day? I am seeing myself grow in this area in ’06. I am excited about pleasing God more in this area. I believe there is one core issue that He wants to settle in my heart. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

inspiring friends

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. Heb. 10:24-25

What would life be like if you had at least two maybe three people thinking about how to stimulate you spiritually? What if you had others cheering you on in living a life of love and doing good to others? Would your life be different if you could get together regularly and simply be encouraged by a group of friends? If that could really happen, what changes could be possible for you? No friendship is as satisfying as one in which Christ is mentioned often. I don’t know about you, but I need some people to help me grow, to inspire me to really live out this amazing life in Christ.

Inspiring friends pray with and for one another. Friends who never pray together miss one of the finest ingredients of a Christian friendship-an ingredient that is thoroughly established in Scripture. Jesus taught that prayer is both private and corporate-alone and with others. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven" Matt. 18:19 When did you last pray with a friend or a smaller group of Christ-followers?

Having fun is what inspiring friends do as well. They seek to enjoy one another and create situations where laughter is common and gentle teasing can take place. Real joy is only found in the context of relationship. God created us to give and receive enjoyment from one another and our joy is made full as we lighten up, laugh a bit, and allow our God-given senses of humor to develop with our friends. I think this is far too undervalued in Christianity today. We need to laugh more-until our faces hurt and tears come to ours eyes kind of laughter. We need this badly!

At our church we have an environment designed to do all of this. It is called a life group. Our groups are reforming over the next few weeks and will be meeting through Easter until our Spring Break. If you attend our community, let me strongly encourage you to join one. Groups meet weekly, discuss life issues, pray, and build faith in each other’s lives. If you do not attend our church, I hope you can find an atmosphere that offers these things. People who commit themselves to groups like these find the support, encouragement and inspiration to face life and overcome obstacles. I don’t know, maybe you don’t need friends like these, but I do. May God give you some great friends. May your life be lifted and new wind be at your back. And may you know the joy found in one of God’s special gifts-inspiring friends!


Monday, January 02, 2006

rewarding relationship?

What is your most rewarding relationship?
Is it your wife?
Best friend?
According to Jesus, it could be someone you would never think.

Having a heart for some people hasn't come naturally for me. It's something I have allowed God to develop in me, and I believe it's the biggest lesson God has been trying to teach my wife and me over the years as we have lived and pastored in different places.

It has been my experience, and I have seen it also in others, that the most challenging, rewarding, fulfilling, and fruitful objective we can have is to give our lives away to others. Yet because this is so important, it is also the most difficult and potentially discouraging thing we can ever do, and the most tested thing. It is not an easy task, and it is a most costly lesson to learn.

Jesus always valued people and not just those who would enhance or benefit Him personally. To be like Him is to love difficult people, marginalized people, and even those who make themselves to be enemies to us. Jesus said…

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Matt. 5:44-46

Jesus speaks of reward concerning the most challenging relationships-enemies, the poor, the least of these. Jesus possesses the greatest heart for people, and he wants us to feel as he feels, convinced of the paramount importance of giving our lives for others-all of them.

We will be tested in this continually. We will think, “Is it worth it to give my life for people? The cost is just too high.” But if we commit ourselves to this, he will allow us to go through the necessary experiences to build our endurance. He wants to make us like Jesus, so he allows us to go through all kinds of struggles in order to mature us.

For those who learn to love like Christ, God will reward them. That is what I want for you and myself. I want us to live a rewarding life. I am glad that Jesus loved me while I was an unloving, ungrateful, undeserving enemy. Now I am challenged to love in the same manner. I am actively seeking to be like Jesus in this.

Do you have a challenging/rewarding relationship that you need to adopt a new attitude toward?


Sunday, January 01, 2006

fresh attitude

I have been talking a lot about attitudes lately-fresh attitudes that bring new energy and depth to our lives. Here is a verse that shows me a fresh way of approaching my relationships this year.

"For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus" Phil. 1:8

I want everything in my relationships with my friends to reflect what Paul says in this verse. When I'm thinking about others, I don't want to be critical, judge them, and tear them down in my thoughts. I want to think of them and long for them with the love of Jesus. When I pray for them, I want to pray with the affection of Christ. When I spend time with them, I want to show Christ's affection for them.

When you read Paul’s letters, you can see the priority that he placed on his relationships. He valued them greatly and he built them over years and through the ups and downs. He longed for his friends when he was separated by miles or circumstance. I wonder if in today’s culture, Paul would be distracted by all of the current “entertainment allure” and devalue his relationships. Would he be able to keep his friendship focus? I confess that in the midst of daily pressures and temptations, my desire to love others with Christ's affection often wanes. I have often allowed my affections to be turned toward selfish interests instead of really loving like Jesus did.

In the coming year I see myself choosing a better attitude. I want to take the initiative to stay in touch, even when others sometimes fail to do so with me. I want to ask friends what issues they are struggling with, and listen carefully as they respond. I’ll share my struggles with them and tell them how God is at work in the midst of them. I want to take off my own masks and be transparent and encourage others to do the same. If possible, I would like to feel as strongly about them as Christ does. I also want to pray for my friends more. To me this is the attitude of a good friend. It seems like the attitude that Jesus had as I read about his life in the Bible.

Have you thought much lately about how good a friend you are? Are you giving your best effort in your relationships? Are you allowing Jesus more influence in your heart? Can people sense more of Him coming through as you interact with them? I want to encourage you to make loving others with the affection of Jesus a top priority in ’06. Sit with God for a few moments even now and ask him to give you this incredible heart for your family, friends, and co-workers. May your heart come alive for others today and may you have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus. May you be a great friend this year!