Friday, December 31, 2010

Yet Will I Hope In Him

In almost twelve hours, 2010 will come to and end and we will usher in a new year.  As we prepare to leave this year, it would behoove us to reflect on the past year and the challenge for the year.  The challenge was "Yet will I hope in Him" taken from Job 13:15.  The challenge was for us to emulate Job when difficulties and struggles came our way during the year.  Rather than giving in to self-pity or frustration or anger or "fix it" mode, we were to put our hope in the Lord.  Not the kind of hope which says, "I hope it all works out", but the kind of hope that says, "God is still in control and I will trust Him even when circumstances turn upside down."

Look back on 2010.  Take a moment to mentally list those circumstances, struggles, issues, relationship, etc that caused you stress, anxiety and/or fear. 

Now that you have listed those, think through your response to each of them.  What was your first response?  That initial response usually is not the response we should have.  It may take a few seconds or a few months to realize our response has not been that of Job or a faithful Christ-follower.  What would need to change in your mindset for you to have Christ as your first response?  You see, our minds guide our emotions.  What we believe about a situation dictates how we will feel about a situation.  If we believe our line in the store should move just as fast as the other lines, when our line moves slower, we feel impatient and treated unfairly.  That is why being in God's Word every day is so important:  It prepares us to change our mindset and think God's thoughts (Which, I have found, always go opposite of what I think is fair and I deserve).

Now, think about how God has been gracious and generous to you in the past year.  He gave us so many unexpected joys and blessings which we didn't ask for and certainly didn't deserve.  He has been patient with us when we were impatient with Him and with others.  He has provided for us in so many unseen and unappreciated ways.  Now would you turn that list into prayers of thanksgiving?  Praise the God who watched over Job and was proud of Job's response even when Job's friends and wife told him to give it up.  That same loving God is watching over you and proud of the way you are trusting Him. 

May this Sip from the Well refresh you as you remember the goodness of God!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Those of you who were in church on Sunday heard a letter written by one of our youth who has made some bad choices and and as a result of those choices is in juvenile hall.  I think his letter was very courageous and it deeply affected me.  We have all made bad choices and have done things we regret.  The focus should not be on the mistake we made, but on what we will LEARN from those mistakes.

I remember being at a similar crossroad when I was a youth.  I, too, made some bad choices and it got me arrested, put in jail and standing before a judge.  I was not tried as a juvenile, but as an adult.  I was only seventeen years old, but this crime was going to be on my record for the rest of my life.  I was broken by my sin, embarrassed by what I had done and ashamed that my parent's name was involved.  It was a very dark period for me as I found myself quite alone and friendless.  I missed out on the events my classmates and friends were experiencing because of my crime.

Every criminal is given the opportunity to make restitution by the courts.  That restitution may involve serving time in prison, a fine or community service.  Restitution does not mean that we make the crime go away.  It means that we do our best to make up for the wrongs we have done.  We face up to our responsibility and pay society back.  My restitution involved a financial obligation, curfew, driving restrictions, jail and other responsibilities.  It was the turning point in my life.  Up until then, I had been playing the church game:  Act like a Christian at church and live like everyone else the rest of the time.  I knew I was a hypocrite and embarrassing Christ, but I was too foolish to change.  So Jesus gave me the opportunity to change.  He confronted me with my foolishness and left me with two choices:  Continue the way I had been and waste my life or allow Jesus to be Lord of my life and have meaning and purpose.  Fortunately, I chose the latter of those two options and my life has never been the same.  Please know that the restitution was painful, embarrassing and very beneficial.  At the end of my six months of restitution, my record was expunged (Which means I don't have a criminal record).  I also learned to value and treasure my family more than I had ever done in my life.  Most of all, I learned that my problem was not with the law, but with God.  I drew closer to Him than I ever had in my life and began to personalize my faith.  There were many nights when Jesus was my only friend and that friendship has lasted my entire life and grown stronger.

We need to pray for this youth in our church family.  If you would like to write this youth, send me an e-mail and I will send you his address.  We need to encourage our youth to live for Jesus and not play the game.  We need to set an example for our youth and live for Jesus, not playing games. We don't need to be perfect, we just need to be real and a reasonable fascimile of Jesus.

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus tells us we have two choices.  One is easy to find and most people we know are on it.  The only drawback, this choice leads to death.  The second choice is harder to find and only a few are on the path.  The benefit of this choice is that it leads to life.  The best choice is the narrow way, which means following Jesus without reservation.  The worst choice is the broad way, which means continuing in our present direction.

Which road will you take today?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Inside of a Cookie

Teaching 5th & 6th Grade Sunday School allows me to learn new and exciting things in my life.  Take this past Sunday for instance.  My class was making cookies for the rest of the Sunday School as a project to encourage people to support our International Missions offering.  When I think it is time for the cookies to be done, I take a pan out of the oven and use a spatula to test if it "looks" done.  Not very scientific, but you go with what works for you.  Two of my students, Kailah and Margarita asked me what I was doing, so I told them I was checking to see if the cookies were ready.  They lovingly informed me that the way I was doing it was incorrect.  The way to check whether cookies were baked, they assured me, was to take a toothpick and stick it into the middle of the cookie.  If the toothpick came out clean and dry, the cookies were ready.  So we found some toothpicks and ran their test.  Sure enough, the cookies were ready and quite delicious!  We passed the cookies out to the Sunday School classes, but the thought of how we check the inside of the cookie would not leave me.

I began to realize that this is a wonderful parable for our life in Christ.  So often, we try to look like we have it all under control and we are strong in our faith.  We say the right words and always have a smile on our face at church.  We try to fool people by putting on a good front.  But inside, we have anxiety, stress, sin, loneliness and a host of other issues.  We keep that part closed off from everyone, sometime even from God.

But the Bible will go straight to the inside of our lives.  It's like a toothpick in the middle of a baking cookie:  The Bible reveals whether we are "done" or not.  Jesus knew that mankind is prone to put on a happy face when the inside really needs a little more cooking by God.  In the sermon on the mount, he makes us go beyond our actions and look to our attitudes.  Just because we have never committed adultery doesn't mean we aren't having trouble withe the heart.  So Jesus reminds us that if we look on someone in lust, we have sin equal to adultery. Ouch!  We look around us and take solace in the fact that we can't be as messed up as so many others because we have never murdered anyone.  So Jesus reminds us that if we have been angry at anyone (Even if that anger, in our eyes, is "justified"), we have sin equal to murder.  In the 5th and 6th chapter of Matthew, Jesus just slowly and methodically breaks down our self-righteousness as we hide the evil in our hearts by trying to act good. 

It boils down to this:  God cares more for the inside of the cookie than the outside.  He wants to make sure we are being transformed daily.  He doesn't just want us to be people who mindlessly do and say the right things while having an attitude of anger, resentment or lust.  He wants to transform the heart.  That is why being in the Bible each day is imperative for us.  The Bible is like that two-edged sword:  It cuts deep, but it also brings healing.

So did you spend time in the Word today?  Did you carve out time at the beginning of the day to be still and listen to God?  What transformation is God bringing about in your life today?  Open up the inside of your cookie to the toothpick of God which will transform your life.