Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Wonderful, God Given Life

There is a famous Christmas movie about a guy named George Bailey.  George Bailey dreams of leaving the small town he grew up in and exploring the world.  George never fulfills his dream because the circumstances at his family business wont allow it.

At one point, the family business gets into financial trouble.  George panics and feels trapped.  He has sacrificed a lot for the Building and Loan and, all of the sudden, it looks like it might be lost too. 

At the depths of disappointment, George meets an angel.  The angel shows George what his small town would have been like if he had never existed.  George realizes how meaningful his life is.  The change in perspective gives George a new outlook on life.  He appreciates all that he has been blessed with and recognizes how wonderful his life is.

We all can learn from George Bailey.  The disappointments and challenges that come our way discourage us too.  We forget what God is doing through us with co-workers, children, spouses, and on, and on.  We need a messenger of God to give us a perspective check and remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.
The Apostle Paul gives us that kind of perspective check.  Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, telling them to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, look for the good in every circumstance and thank God for it.

As you enjoy this holiday season, be on the lookout for all the amazing ways God is using and blessing your life.  Pay attention to your children and how they bless you.  Remember neat things that God has done through you in your work place.  Look for, take note, and thank God for the good things that are going on in your life.  As you do, you will realize that God is indeed at work in your wonderful life.

Gets me every time...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Voter Registration, Aggressive Drivers, and the Grace of God

There is a woman in Arizona who thinks it is very important to vote.  She thinks it is so important that she ran over her husband for failing to do so.  Wow.

This is how it happened: the woman’s husband admitted that he hadn’t participated in this year’s election.  The woman got mad, her husband fled the scene, and she followed in her car.  Police caught up with the couple and found the husband pinned underneath his wife’s vehicle.  He told the officers that his wife ran him because of his “lack of voter participation.”

We laugh at that odd news story, but how many of us behave that way in our spiritual life?  Someone does something that is bad (worse than not voting) and we go after him or her.  We point out the sin, describe how wrong it is, and then park on it.  We want the person to pay the price for the mistake and we are happy to enforce it.
The sad thing about that approach to sin is this: it robs people of the opportunity to change.  So much damage is done in emphasizing the sin, we never get the chance to mention God’s forgiveness or redemptive work.  Basically, we ruin our chance to point to a real solution.

The Gospel of John says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  Jesus came to forgive people of sin so that they might be changed for the better.  Jesus came to offer a solution.  No car chase needed.

As you go through the coming week, see how grace opens doors for real change. Don’t get offended by a problem and park on it.  Be gracious and tell people about a God who forgives and redeems the broken.  You’ll find that focusing on the solution is way more effective than focusing on the problem.  And, it will be a lot easier on your tires.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jesus...Redeem Me

Last month, the New York Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs.  Though they are well known for their lineup of hitters, the Bronx Bombers had a hard time connecting with the ball.  They lost close, low scoring games.

People are quick to point the finger when consistent winners like the Yankees lose.  Third basemen Alex Rodriguez was one of the players fans blamed first.  Rodriguez batted poorly throughout the playoffs.  Because he draws a large salary, many thought Rodriguez was particularly responsible for the team’s poor performance.

I read an article this week that noted a symbol of the fans’ blame.  During their last series, a frustrated fan painted a sign for Rodriguez.  He stood in the stands at Yankee Stadium and held it high for everyone to see.   It read, “A-Rod…Redeem Yourself.”

That fan’s sign represents a common mindset in our society: we need to redeem ourselves.  In the case of the Yankees, a few more hits, a few more RBI’s will fix everything that went wrong in the past.  Redemption is a swing away.  If we just work harder and do a little better, we can fix it.

There is an obvious spiritual parallel to the message on that sign.  Humans feel like we need to redeem ourselves from the brokenness of our past.  Many are trying.  We are doing our best.  We are working hard to do the right thing.  We get frustrated because it isn’t producing the results we want.

The Apostle Paul suggests that it will never produce lasting results.  Paul writes to the church in Ephesus: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  Redemption is not something we earn by performing better, but a gift given to us by God.

As you go through the coming week, call on God for grace.  Stand in the bleachers of your life holding up a sign: “Jesus…Redeem Me.”  The good news is that Jesus will.  By calling on Jesus, and getting to know Jesus, we will be set free from the strikeouts of the past.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Storm Warnings

A couple weeks ago, super storm Sandy hit the east coast.  Days in advance, officials pleaded with residents whose homes were in the path of the storm to evacuate.  The Governor of Connecticut pleaded, “Get out before you can’t.”  The Governor of New Jersey told residents that they were responsible for themselves if they chose to stay.  Residents along the north Atlantic Coast were warned well in advance.

People stayed.  The day the storm struck, people were seen jogging.  Some walked their dogs.  Others stopped by their favorite local bistro for a coffee and bagel.  They were living life as usual.

As a result, those folks witnessed the storm first hand.  Sandy destroyed homes and took lives.  One couple was killed by a falling tree, while walking their dog in the park (during the storm).

While I'm not saying Sandy was an act of God's judgement, God does give us storm warnings in our spiritual lives too.  God gracefully warns us time and time again that sin leads us into danger.  He said it at the Garden of Eden.  He sent His Son to look us in the eye and tell us.  He sent His Holy Spirit to empower His church to proclaim the same message: “Sin will lead you straight into the eye of a deadly storm!”

Like super storm Sandy, we go on living our lives as if the warning never existed.  We act as if we are immune from the heartbreak sin inevitably brings.  When sin leads to the pain and frustration we were warned about, we are genuinely surprised.

As you go through the coming week, heed God’s warning.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  Turn from the things that will harm you and find life abundantly in Christ.  Though His warnings are age old, His ways will save us from the storms that threaten today.   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jesus on GameDay

Alabama played Ole Miss about a month ago.  Several Alabama fans didn’t want to miss the game.  Let me be clear: they really didn’t want to miss the game.  So, they chartered a small plane to fly them from Fairhope to Tuscaloosa (the home of Alabama football).  About twenty miles from Selma, the plane had trouble.  Within minutes, one of the engines stopped and the plane went down.  The fans began to worry and prayed to Jesus for dear life.

The pilot made an emergency landing on a rural road, clipping both wings on treetops during the descent.  The plane came to a stop in a cotton field, allowing the passengers to exit.  The fans got on their knees, thanked Jesus for saving their lives, and then checked the time.  They still had time to make it to the game.  As any self-respecting ‘Bama fan would, they abandoned the plane in the field and hitched their way to Tuscaloosa.  To restate my earlier point: these fans really didn’t want to miss the game.

It is easy to make Jesus a priority when life hangs in the balance.  Things go really bad and we call on Jesus for dear life.  But, when things get better, we are tempted put Jesus back in his place.  We pay Jesus our respects in route to the real business of life – like football.

Jesus insists that He is in fact the real business of life.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  According to John, Jesus isn’t a part of life we dust off when things are bad.  Jesus is someone who gives life, sustains life, and then defines life.

As you go through the coming week, devote your life to Jesus the way Alabama fans devote themselves to football.  When you realize you have another day to live, look at your watch and say, “I’ve still got time to serve Jesus.”  He is the one who makes every part of life truly worthwhile – including game day in Tuscaloosa.