Archive for November, 2007

Grace – lived out

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What is it about grace?  Why can we so easily run to Jesus and accept His grace for our lives but in the next moment fail to extend the same grace that we have received to others around us?  Grace is unearned favor.  By God, it is freely given.  By us, for some reason we regularly feel like people have to earn it.  Why do we put ourselves in a higher position than God?  How can we justify being self-appointed judges of who deserves grace and who doesn’t?

One of the best known parables is that of the Prodigal Son.  It is also one of the best examples of Jesus talking about grace.  Imagine your child taking their inheritance, long before it’s due, and squandering it all.  Then imagine that same child running back to you because all the money was gone.  How would you respond?  Jesus finishes the story by explaining how the father saw his son coming from a long way off and ran to meet him.

That is grace.  That is the same way that Jesus meets us every time we fail, fall apart, backslide, or self-destruct.  He runs to us.  He sees us coming back to Him with our tail between our legs and He runs to us.  Since we have been so graciously extended this type of acceptance why is it so hard for us to do the same to people around us?

I understand that there is a tension between Grace and Works.  I understand that Paul talks about how we are saved by grace and not by anything we could possibly do to earn our salvation.  And yet James goes into the aspect of faith without works being dead.  By works James appears to be addressing both acts of charity and those of righteousness that come through our salvation.

Bottom line – if we are saved by grace and it is a freely given gift we must respond to others the same way.  We must be grace-filled people.  Too many times I have seen Christians in the name of Jesus bring harm to others due to a lack of grace in their lives.  May we be known as people of grace.  May we freely give because we have freely received.  May we walk all the days of our lives in the grace that Jesus gives and at the same time help others to see what that can look like for themselves.

Rob Bell Tomorrow Evening!

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Tomorrow night I’ll be heading down to Boston to hear Rob Bell speak.  I’ve got 4 other guys headed down with me.  I’ll post some thoughts about what he speaks on sometime on Wednesday.  If you haven’t heard of Rob Bell check out nooma.com for some short video clips of some of his stuff.  Rob is the teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan.  He began the church with about 200 people and for the first two years only preached out of Leviticus.  Two years later there were over 5ooo people.  Strange church growth method, I know, but I have heard him speak before.  He brings things out of scripture that make you hit your head and say, “now I get it!”

Unplugging (as often as possible)

I have found myself falling into a trap. Technology has made it very easy to be available to anyone and everyone at a moments notice. My cell phone gives people access to me 24 hours a day. My laptop keeps me connected to the world via email and internet virtually wherever I go. Whether checking email, receiving text messages or just wasting time surfing the web – I have caught myself consuming large blocks of “my” time.

hammock.jpgThis past weekend Pastor Peter spoke about returning to Jesus. Reconnecting with Him daily so that we can be refreshed and renewed. So many times I catch myself checking my email before sitting down to talk with and listen to what God may be speaking to me. I find that I have created the expectation for most people that if they send me an email they will get a response back within minutes because my email is always on. I have decided to make some changes in this pattern in my life.

On weekends I will only check my email twice a day (on Mondays I may not even check it). When I am in the office I am going to be shutting down my email and only checking it during scheduled times. There are far too many times that I can recount when I have been in the middle of a project and then been sidetracked because of the infamous “ding” of an incoming email. I can only imagine how much more productive I will be with putting this practice into place.

I am also shutting my cell phone off when I arrive home. If people need to get hold of me I have my home phone. There are too many times when I am in the middle of something with my family and I get torn away from them because my cell rings.

While there are many benefits to being connected in this digital world I have seen the undesirable looks from my wife and kids too many times as they are playing and I am typing away. I am learning to live in the moment – each moment. When I am in the office I am fully in the office. When I am at home I will now be fully at home. By putting this into practice now I will have one more burn-out protectors in my life.

Hold me accountable. Ask me how I am doing with this. It won’t be easy for me…

Burn Out Bright

At Impact we’ve been talking about slowing down.  So many of our lives are non-stop, fast-paced, running on empty traps that lead us to the point of brokenness.  This week (the 28th) we head in a different direction.

If we only have one shot at life we should be making the most of every opportunity.  Some would look at this as a contradiction of the whole series that we are in right now.  That’s not the case.  Making the most of every opportunity also means enjoying the downtime that God makes available to us.  It means that, for me, I spend time playing with my girls (even when all they want to play with is Barbie!).  We need to live in the moment and find joy in those times.  When my life comes to an end I don’t want to look back with regret.  I want to be pleased with the time that I had with my wife and kids.

May you live in such a way that you find joy in what you do.  May you live with no regrets.  May you burn out bright!

So Blessed!

So we’re all seated and chowing big time during Thanksgiving dinner when my mother-in-law walks out of the room and then returns with a card in her hand. She walks over to me and hands me the card with a big smile on her face. I’m a little confused but figure that they just want to get an early start on my birthday (by the way, it’s December 12, mark your calendars and start budgeting for what you’re gonna get me – Starbucks giftcards are my favorite!). So I open the card and everyone around the table has the same goofy grin on their face. Again, confusion. The card is for Christmas and it was signed by everyone there. I smiled and said, “Thanks!” to everyone thinking that maybe the check that was in the card fell out and was under the table (what else am I supposed to think!?) They then lead me downstairs and out to the garage.

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Yeah Baby! 9.5 horsepower, 28 inch clearing width! Throw away the shovels, I’m blowing snow this winter! What a huge blessing and an even bigger surprise! Kim and I have talked about getting a snowblower for the past 5 years but it has never been in the budget. As I sat there thinking of all the things I was thankful for it was less about the snowblower and so much more about God’s faithfulness to us not getting trapped in financial debt. Because we deferred our own desire for a snowblower that we couldn’t afford anyway God was able to bless my in-laws and brother-in-law through the blessing of giving. This has been a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Bring on the snow! This year I am ready for it and will not complain.

Blog Sabbath

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In honor of Thanksgiving and the fact that I have 2 days out of the office I am taking a blog sabbatical.  I’m going to enjoy the next 2 days with my girls, eat some crazy amounts of food, watch some great football games, drive to Massachusetts, shop like a fool at an hour that is much to early on Friday, then relax and digest…

May your Thanksgiving day give you time for soul refreshing.

Thankful

LET’S SEND A MILLION THANK YOU TEXT MESSAGES TO OUR TROOPS FOR THANKSGIVING! HERE’S HOW:

Beginning at 6am EST on Saturday, November 17, and ending at midnight, PDT on November 22, Thanksgiving Day, Americans can text a message of thanks to 8-9-2-7-9 and within a matter of seconds, the sender will receive a reply on their cell phone from America Supports You. The reply message will come from a member of the Armed Forces who is currently serving, expressing his/her appreciation for the support, both personally and on behalf of others who are serving.

All of the major mobile wireless providers-AT&T Wireless (Cingular), Verizon, Sprint (Nextel, Qwest), and T-Mobile are providing access to The America Supports You Text Message program. There will be no upcharge.

Looking Ahead

I am looking forward to this week.  Yes, there is a big fat turkey waiting for me on Thursday (and this year we travel to the in-laws so I don’t have to do any of the cooking!) but aside from the self-induced food coma that I will be putting myself into I am looking forward to this week.

We have no adult cell meeting at our house tomorrow evening.  I love this new group that has been meeting at our place for the past month but it will be great to head home from the office tomorrow and just relax.  No making coffee, no printing worship lyrics, no setting out extra chairs for everyone – just home with the family.

We canceled Impact on Wednesday night.  As our sermon series has been talking about rest and slowing down I felt it very important to live out that message by having no Impact this week.  I’ve been preaching about taking time for family and friends for the past 4 weeks – now let’s live it out.

Rest may refer to:

  • To relax or take time off; see leisure, nap
  • Rest (music), a pause in a piece of music
  • Rest (fitness), a period of relative inactivity to allow recovery and growth

In all of these examples rest is a stopping point.  It is an ending point.  There may still be more to do but it will have to wait for another time.  This week is a week of rest.  I’ll be in the office Tuesday and Wednesday but the pace will be a bit slower.  I will use some time to get ahead for the next sermon series that begins in December (it’s gonna be a good one!), catch up on some reading that has been laid aside for a while (I was able to read one complete book today!), and  I want to spend some time planning a few events we have coming up in 2008 with the youth.

I love weeks like this because I end my time in the office feeling very accomplished.  May you all have great weeks with frequent times of rest!

How I Relax

This is what Sunday afternoons/evenings are made for!

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now, if I could get a break with my fantasy team…

Stop or Break – you choose.

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I spent the day down in Londonderry speaking at Hope Chapel. They were having a “youth Sunday” this week so of course, who else do you have come and speak? The topic was Affluenza. I posted a little about this subject a while back. The topic fell right in line with what we have been discussing at Impact for the past month so I greatly enjoyed this time with Londonderry. During my message I shared about how 3 years ago my life was running at a frantic pace. I didn’t know how to say “no” to anything or anyone, my schedule was a jumble with no margin, and I made no time for rest in days. All of this culminated one evening as I spent the night in the E.R. having a stroke. 32 years old and I was having a stroke!

With no margin in our lives and an ever-present striving for more, bigger, and better we will burn ourselves out. I wasn’t creating any slow down time so my body decided to shut down on me. That is the wake up call that I needed. That is the extreme that needed to take place in my life for me to get the message to slow down. Since that time I have made great changes in my life. I workout regularly, have an “out” time set for my office hours, schedule time away from everything to just BE with God, and ensure that I have focused family time. I have learned what matters most in my life and I am becoming very protective of those things.  I pray that as you are reading this it won’t take that kind of an extreme for you to slow down…

Kim and I were talking in the car on the way home.  This was the first time that I have been able to publicly share about the stroke (2nd, Kim wasn’t at Impact on Wednesday when I shared this with the youth)  It took me some time to come to terms with this.  I was invincible.  Nothing was going to slow me down.  I’m sure that you feel the same way some days.  Understand that if there is no margin in your life it won’t be long before you break down.  You can only run on vapors for so long before you are forced to stop.

Do you get upset easily?  Do you find frustration to be your best friend?  Can you not understand why you feel like crying for no good reason?   Are you lonely?  Depressed?  Chances are you are one moment away from a break down.  Stop.  Allow time for refreshing to happen in your life.  Get away with God and let Him renew your passion.