Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Better with age

40 years old-that is what I am looking at today. How does this feel? I’m not too sure. My thoughts seem sort of random about the whole thing (maybe that is what happens at my age). They say 40 is the new 30 right? Maybe I’m like a fine bottle of wine- I’m better with age! More likely a like an aging block of stinky cheeze.

You know, when you are in your 20’s you think you know everything. As you move through your 30’s you start to realize that you did not know as much as you thought. Then you hit 40 and realize you didn’t know anything. I wonder if by the time you hit 50, you have really started to figure some things out. 60! Man-now that’s got to be the beginning of wisdom! 70-I don’t want to think about it right now.

One thing is for sure, life does a lot to a man through the years. A lot of it can steal your joy for life if you let it. It is the fight of a man’s life to see hope throughout his days-to continue to believe the best in people and hold on to God. It is a major challenge to focus on the good when so much can (and often does) go wrong.

I believe the Apostle Paul had this challenge as he attempted to navigate the uncharted waters of his life. He had many significant “heart punches” along his way. People turned on him, hurt him, and abandoned him. He had major set backs and disillusionment like the rest of us. He writes in Acts 20:

“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Paul understood that the ultimate concern of his very challenging life was to simply do God’s will. He knew the secret to inner strength and joy was to make sure he fulfilled his mission to share the great news of what God had done for him in Jesus Christ. As he moved up in years his focus only seemed to sharpen on this purpose.

What I connect with is Paul’s determination to do life with joy. I do not have control of what is in front of me, but I do have control of what is inside of me. I choose to do life with joy! In the end, all a man has is the joy of knowing he has done (or has tried to do) God’s will for his life. I intend to “finish my race with joy” and spend the rest of my life telling others about who Jesus Christ is to me. I want to run harder (hopefully smarter) and even more determined to make a difference in the Kingdom of God.

Let me tell you how I am going to choose to feel about my 40th Birthday today-Thankful! My best days are still in front of me (now that I am getting a little smarter). I am married to a fantastic woman, my son is barely two years old and continuously floods my life with joy, I have a great group of friends to do life with, and I am privileged to pastor a great church filled with awesome people. Yes, life could be a whole lot worse for a guy like me. I have so much to be thankful for today. Thank You God! Thank You for letting me live this life!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I can't afford to forgive that!

Last weekend I spoke from Matt. 18 about a King who forgave a man an astronomical debt simply out of compassion. But the man went out and refused to let another man who owed him only a little off the hook. The king heard about and threw him in prison to be tortured. Jesus said, “So shall my heavenly Father do to each of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

That is some tough stuff huh? Jesus often said hard things.

Hey have you ever just sat and meditated on how much you have done wrong in your life?

Today, I have an awareness of the enormous mountain of sin that has been in my life even since I was a little child (even yesterday!). It must be so repulsive to Him. Some of the choices I have made in my life must have just broken His heart. Some, I’m sure have made Him furious! Our Father has been moved with compassion and absorbed our gigantic debt. His broken heart and fury over our sin has been dealt with at the expense of His only Son and our King-Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

The sacrifice of Jesus must at some point brake my heart. Not just because He suffered, but because it was because of my deliberate sinful choices that caused Him to suffer.

I believe the reason that some people don’t find forgiveness in their heart for others is because they don’t have any. You have got to have some to give some. If I truly believe this good news of forgiveness and receive it, I find it so much easier to release others from my little prison cells I have built in my mind for them. In light of the things that I have done throughout the course of my life, that God has truly forgiven (by hurting Jesus), how can I not find it in my heart to forgive others for hurting me?

The reason people can’t find it in their heart is because of unbelief. They simply have not truly and thoroughly received the unbelievable forgiveness that God offers.The only other option is not forgive. I hold on to the offence. I keep my debtor in prison (my mind). I get to relive it over and over in my mind. Sounds like torture to me. And that is exactly what it is.

The reason many find themselves returning to the same place of relational brokenness again and again is because we are doing a life sentence with the torturers. They will be with us for the long haul if we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive from our hearts those who have hurt us.

You might say, “I can’t afford to forgive that”. That’s right you can’t. This kind of forgiveness is too expensive for people like me and you. But God our wealthy King is “rich in mercy” and will give you all you need and more.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

for those who have been hurt

Wounds are a part of life. They are going to happen. Abuse, divorce, betrayal, misunderstanding, abandonment, criticism, failure. We experience self inflicted wounds and wounds from others. The truth is that we will all eventually wound others and be wounded. It it also true that the deepest wounds in life can come from those we love and trust the most. The question is, “Is there hope? Can my wounds ever really heal?” Can I ever really be free? Can someone I have hurt ever forgive me? Will God forgive me?The answer is a resounding yes! Our bodies and our hearts were created by God to heal. He has designed us with an amazing ability to recover and expand as “whole” human beings through His process of being forgiven, healing, and then forgiving others.
But there are some wounds that run deep. There are wounds that go down and touch the innermost parts of who I am-my identity. These kinds of injuries are normally not inflicted upon us by strangers, but by those we know and love. People like fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, close friends, bosses, even or especially spouses. These kinds of wounds require attention and care. They don’t just go away. These are wounds that leave scars and they require a healing process. They also involve help from others. Most importantly, they require the healing that comes from a loving God who understands us and cares for us deeply-more deeply that our deepest wounds. Do you have any wounds?If you are like the rest of us you have had your share. Have they healed? Are you doing like so many of us-just pressing on as if you can handle it. “I’ll be alright” you say, or “That was so long ago, it’s not affecting me now.” I’ll let you in on a secret that I have learned (am learning ) the hard way. The past lives again in the present if it hasn’t been healed. This is an unfortunate fact of life. But there is hope.

God’s forgiveness is a healing balm that flows over the willing and receptive heart. But “flow” is the key word. I must be willing to walk in forgiveness in order for His forgiveness to keep flowing over me and through me.

For those who have been hurt I promise some great news: You can recover even better than before!

Join us this month as we talk about FORGIVENESS-the real “f” word.