Saturday, December 30, 2006

Virginia Tech

As a graduate of Virginia Tech all of my attention is on tonight's Bowl Game against Georgia. So, I want you all to be praying that Tech wins!

Does that seem a bit crazy to you? Should we really pray for our team to win a game? Are there no Christians associated with the other team? And, if there are, whose prayer should God answer - theirs or ours?

The Bible says God does not show favorites, but it also says pray without ceasing and to pray about everything.

Here are my thoughts - I don't think God really cares about who wins the game tonight - but He still loves for us to invite Him to join us as we cheer. Prayer is not a way we manipulate God, it's the way we enjoy a relationship with our Father.

Honestly, whether Tech wins or loses won't really affect my life one way or the other - but the relationship I enjoy with God has eternal benefits.

So, should we pray for our team to win? Sure, but it's about loving God and making Him part of your day. And our team’s winning or losing is not a reflection of God's love for us - it's just a game. But, the relationship we build will reveal His love for us in incredible ways throughout this life and the next.

Go Tech...and Go God!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Promise To Tell The Whole Truth

We’ve all heard that before – “I promise to tell the whole truth…” I’ve said, “If it’s not the whole truth, it’s not the truth.” Now, I have a question – Is this always true?

This Christmas has been one of a couple of “surprise” gifts. I love being a part of surprising people with good things that make them happy. However, the whole nature of a “surprise” is that it must remain a secret until the time comes for it to be revealed. This leads to… well… many “almost” the truth, but not the whole truth, type of conversations.

Is that wrong?

Somehow I think there is a danger of legalism here in that we cannot ever have fun and surprise people based on the need for always telling the entire truth. But, certainly there are many other times where there is no surprise involved, we simply don’t want to deal with the whole truth.

I guess it depends – some may call this “situational ethics,” but I do not believe that’s a fair label for this situation. In the end, the half truth is for the other person’s benefit (a fun surprise) not trying to save our own tail because the whole truth would reveal wrongdoing on our part.

So, have fun! Surprise others and make them smile. Don’t be legalistic and miss the spirit of the principle. The truth is – we know when we need to tell the whole truth and when we can keep a secret for the benefit of a surprise.

I hope some of you had some great surprises this Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas Day!

Be safe and have a great night.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reality Check

This is actually three days ago as our internet has been down...

Okay, so I’m feeling pretty good about getting more involved with my community this Christmas Season. Helping people I haven’t helped before – being more aware of the less fortunate around me and thanking God for using me in this way this year. And, if I’m honest, feeling a bit proud of myself.

I’m headed out to an appointment this morning, feeling a bit hurried, facing a 45 minute drive to a client’s office. I merge into an open lane and the car in front of me merge’s over into the same lane – and then proceeds to hit his breaks slowing way down. I hit my brakes so as not to totally ruin my day and I figure he’s going to change lanes. Nope, he hits the brakes again. My thought process was, “Oh, they must be lost – poor people – I’ll patiently wait for them to decide what they want to do.” Yeah, right. No, I’m thinking, “What’s this idiot doing!” So, I pull around them on the passenger side and raise my hand with that look that says, “Hey buddy, what’s your deal.” And hit the gas.

It’s at that point that I recognize the passenger as one of my friends who is working with the new church start. Wait it gets better. Remember I just hit the gas. I turn to see the light turning yellow and then red as I speed through the intersection.

Now I’m wondering – who was driving the car my friend is in. Probably a co-worker who he’s been telling all about this great church we’re starting, right? I can hear him explaining – “Oh, yeah, well that’s Dave – he’s one of our Pastors – he’s a real nice guy. Just ignore everything you just saw.”

REALITY CHECK!

Thankfully, the driver was his son who I’m sure will have a great time retelling this story – I used to be his Youth Pastor – uggg. I’m really glad I didn’t give him the “#1 driver” sign (I haven't used that in probably 15 years and I'm really glad I didn't start then).

By the way, my cell phone rang a few seconds later. Of course it was my friend just letting me know how proud he is of me for running the light.

Actually, I’m grateful it was them. I think God was using them to show me how quickly I can become self-centered again. It was His way of saying, “Dave, I’m glad you’re starting to see what I want you to do with your life, but there’s still some rough edges we need to work on.”

Another great lesson on the road of life.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

When You Hit Rock Bottom and the Bottom Falls Out

I had a wonderfully horrible experience this week. I know that’s an oxymoron, but here’s what’s happened…

I met a guy while I was pumping gas. I was heading to lunch with a friend at a restaurant across the street, so I invited him to join us. We shared lunch and conversation for about 2 hours. I learned so much about him and we shared our own life highs and lows. In the end we prayed together and said goodbye. My new friend picked up his bag, got up off the curb (where we shared lunch together) and headed back into the woods…

That’s where he lives.

You see my new friend has been homeless for about four months. He’s struggling with a lot of life issues, emotional issues and spiritual issues (aren’t we all). The really hard part is he’s a really smart guy. He has a family (broken, like many, but a family). Yet, as we head into the coldest months of the year, he chooses to live in the woods. I asked him why – I’ve become a pretty direct person. He said he’s too embarrassed and ashamed to get help. I did my best to explain how there are places close by that WANT to help (he’s been to some of them already), but he simply won’t go.

I think the really sad part is he’s made so many bad decisions in his life he feels like that’s all he will ever do – continue to make bad decisions – he told me so. The truth is, he may be right, and only he can determine if that will come to pass.

The day we met was pretty warm, but it was soon to get very cold. That evening I took him some more water and a sleeping bag and a small book that I prayed he would read and God would reveal the truth to him. I’ve seen him a couple times since then and he’s using the sleeping bag, but it just doesn’t compare to real shelter.

My heart breaks for him, but I cannot make any decisions for him.

What I’ve tried to tell him (but he doesn’t believe) is how much his life has helped me. You see, for some reason I decided to care about this guy I’d never met. Honestly, it’s not me (I explained the real me in my last post – self-centered), but I’ve recently read a book by Rick McKinley called This Beautiful Mess and Rick has helped me put into practice some of the things that until now have just been head knowledge. What I mean is - I’ve known for a long time that God cares about the poor and the widowed and the homeless. I’ve known that my heart should break for the things that break God’s heart. But knowing about things and feeling them take place in your heart are two very different things.

I cannot tell you why I decided to get to know a man I normally would have been friendly towards, but quickly moved away from – accept to say I believe God’s transforming my heart to break for the things that break His heart. I’ll never fully get there. And it is painful – this man has been on my mind almost constantly as I wrestle with what I can do for him without enabling his poor decisions. But then God never said loving people would always be easy – yet He desires for us to love anyway.

I read a quote a while back that said, “You only love Jesus as much as the one you love the least.” I also just read an article (in a pastor’s magazine) that essentially said, “We need to worry less about gaining more knowledge and learn more about how to love people.” Both of these are filled with rich truth about what it means to truly be a Christ-follower.

Where will my friend end up? I really don’t know.

Does it hurt to see him huddled under a sleeping bag in the morning after a very cold night? More than I can explain.

Can I save him? Can I fix him? No – but I can love him; I can choose to see him as God sees him – one made in His own image – truly loved.

I know God wants so much more for my friend, but He never forces us. God allows us to make our own decisions. So, if God respects his decisions, so must I.

I’m beginning to see the world differently now – I’m beginning to be willing to acknowledge all of the brokenness (the Mess), but along with that comes the realization that God wants to break into people’s lives, and reveal His love for them (through us) and when that happens, it’s Beautiful. This world truly is a Beautiful Mess.

Christian Faith - Part 2

So, here’s how I see it – a lot of people I talk with say that life has them feeling…

…tired
…weary
…hurt
…confused

Yet, Jesus said He came to give us life – real life – abundant life. He said His burden was light and that He came to give us rest. He’s called the Prince of Peace.

So, what’s the deal?

Could it be we’ve really lost sight of what matters most? Here’s what I see when I take the time to be honest with myself. I won’t say this is you – I may have never even met you – but I know me pretty well. As for me, I like what I like (profound, you’re thinking, but stick with me). Therefore, I typically do what I like to do. I go where I like to go. I eat what I like to eat. I act the way I like to act.

As you read that did any of you begin to count the “I”s? I focus most of my attention on ME. But that’s kinda ridiculous because I cannot promise myself life, or rest, or peace. If I could I’d have all that – but I can’t – hence I don’t have it – when I’m all about me.

How about you? If you had to account for everything you do, how much of what you do, say, think, etc. is about YOU and what you like?

Here’s the deal – if Jesus is the One who promised life and rest and peace (and many other great things) it only makes sense that if we want that in our lives we need to have Jesus in our lives. To have Jesus in our lives requires that we take the focus off of ourselves and put our focus on Him.

The 64 million dollar question – how do we do that – focus on Jesus?

This is the really unbelievable part – Jesus was happy to teach us how to focus on Him and how to receive these things in our lives – in fact, He wrote it all down for us. That book (actually group of books) we know as the Bible. The Bible isn’t here for us to try and make it all work on our own. The Bible is here for us to discover all that God has already done for us and how we can get credit for all of His work. Seems too good to be true – but why not check it out? What have you really got to lose…your weariness? Your hurt? Your confusion?

One final thought - Jesus’ teachings are the only “religious” teachings that show us that we do NOT have to earn what He has to offer. Every other world religion teaches you have to do something to earn God’s favor – talk about tiring, not to mention impossible. That’s why no other world religion will say you can know for sure that you have received God’s favor – tragic!

Here’s the difficult truth – we must swallow our pride (the thing inside us that says I have to earn it) and surrender to Jesus and then allow Him to transform us – and give us life, and rest, and peace.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Cheer / Pain

As many of you know, my family and two other families are in the midst of starting a new church. We also have a whole crew of people who have committed to pray for us as we take this journey.

I send periodic updates and prayer requests. After re-reading an update I sent out last night, I decided this was something some of you may benefit from as well. So, I know this isn't part of the Christian Faith discussion, but in many ways it is. Here's a portion of the e-mail I sent:

This week we made a list of all of the things we are currently working on and need to start working on in the near future. While there’s some overlap, the bottom line is there are about 35 “items” we are doing regarding developing Relevant Community Church. Please be in prayer that God will help us prioritize and be efficient in (but not rush through) each of these areas.

As were in the middle of this incredible time of year – remembering our Savior’s birth, I also pray that all of us...will take the time to SLOW DOWN and truly thank God for the indescribable gift of His Son.

I know this can also be a difficult time for many – my own family shares great grief from past losses during this time of year – but we have made the decision to not let the difficulties of this world overcome the majesty and sovereignty of God. We still feel the pain – that’s normal and natural, but we don’t allow it to overcome us.

If this time of year is typically difficult for you – I pray that the God of all comfort would truly bring you the peace that only He can give and that His peace will allow you to refocus on God’s love and mercy.


If any of you have a specific prayer request you would like for me to be praying for, you can e-mail me at Dave@RedoingLife.com. I'll keep your request confidential unless you ask me to share it with others.

Merry (even if sometimes painful) Christmas!

Christian Faith???

There are so many questions and so many answers regarding Christian Faith. What is it? How do you get it? How can you keep it? How do you live by it? On and on. I'm sure at some point I'll comment on all of those, but I want to go back to the quote from my last post - "The Christian faith is NOT an attractive set of ideas or a nice avenue to follow."

I believe many have this view of Christianity - that if I can just do enough "right" things, then I'm "good to go" [as the pre-Ecoli restaurant commercial said]. But the author of this commentary makes the point that - doing the right thing isn't the main point. It's not that doing good things is bad - obviously they wouldn't be called "good" things. It's just that that is not the be all and end all of the Chritian faith. The "good" we do as Christians should be the by-product of something much more significant - our relationship with Christ.

If you're not a follower of Christ, I have no intention of trying to alienate you or make you feel bad - not at all - in fact the opposite is true! I simply want to point out that a vast majority of the people who live in the USA consider themselves Christians - but is that based on having a relationship with Christ or because they generally view themselves as "good"? The difference is critical - and if you would consider yourself in the latter (good person) group this insight may bring you a ton of relief.

I find myself doing it both ways - living out of my relationship with Jesus some days, and other days I fall victim to trying to "live right" in my own strength. So, when I say I know how hard it is to try and always "do the right thing" I have plenty of experience. Do you find it hard to always "do the right thing"? It's really tough! Now here's something interesting - Jesus said [rough paraphrase] "Come to me all of you who are tired and worn out and I will give you rest." Yea, Jesus said He wants to give us "REST" and who couldn't use some of that!?

He also said His burden is light. What does that mean?

Well, I think this post is long enough, so ponder those thoughts and we'll pick it up from here next time!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jack Frost & Ephesians

I love Jack Frost's hair in Santa Cluase 3. I'm not sure why - I just want hair like that.

What got me thinking about ole Jack was the fact that this week I've been partially sidelined by a cold. By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate winter.

Anyway, the cold has given me some time to slow down (by default) and think. Currently, I'm still medicated and tired so this will be short - but more to come.

For a while I've been drawn to the Letter of Ephesians in the Bible. It's one of those real practical books and talks a lot about how the Christians and the church should behave. Since I'm in the middle of starting a new church, you can see why this would be so interesting to me.

Anyway, here's a quote from a commentary I'm reading: "The Christian faith is NOT an attractive set of ideas or a nice avenue to follow. Rather, it is so deep an engagement with Christ, so deep a union with our Lord, that Paul [the man God used to write the letter] can only describe it as living in Christ."

I know there some Christianeze in there, but that is a very powerful thought!

I'll have more on this in future posts. For now, ponder that thought and see what you think it really means.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Real LIFE

Hello All! I have a war raging within me today. No not emotional or mental (okay maybe I've always got a mental war - but that's a subject for another day). This one is physical - the healthy thingies are fighting with the unhealthy thingies... I've gotta cold. So, if this post makes no sense at all, I'll blame the drugs :-).

What's real life?

I believe there's a huge difference between existing and living! So many times we seem to choose the former over the later - to just "get by." Now, I know we all have our off days - but that's not what I'm talking about. I see so many who day after day seem to settle for just getting through another day.

I know this world can throw some pretty rough stuff our way. Yet, I see examples of people (almost weekly) who face far tougher situations then I do and yet they have learned how to truly live. They have made the choice that regardless of what life gives them - they are going to live life to the full.

Jesus talked about this kind of life (it's one of my favorite Bible verses - John 10:10). He said one of the reasons He came to earth was so that we could have real life. So, what does that look like? Well, people have written entire books on this subject, but let me boil it down to four words (I don't claim that I've summed up the meaning of life with these four words, but it's a start):

L ove
I ntegrity
F orgive
E ternal

Love is a decision more than an emotion. When we learn to truly love others, we will build relationships that will see us through the good and the bad days of life.

Integrity is also a decision. It's choosing to do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. This gets at being authentic - admiting when we're wrong, when we need help, when we need forgiveness.

Learning to forgive others is incredible freeing for you. So many people walk around with the smoothering weight of unforgiveness against others who don't even know there's an issue. Our unforgiveness "kills" us and has little to no affect on the other person. Learning to forgive removes our burden.

The best life I could imagine is one without all of the garbage of this world, and goes on forever - eternal life. The only way I know to have this is through a peronal relationship with Jesus. Here again, there's so many things I could say to try and convince you of this truth, but that's not really my point. You'll either believe this part or you won't. I'm just sharing how I've discovered real life and since I believe this is all true it would be rude of me not to share this with you.

There you have it - at least a starting point towards having a real life!

Want to see an example of guy who could have let the "trials" of life get him down, but instead choose to have a real life? Check out the videos from Nick Vujicic...

http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/media.htm

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More on Motives

Jeri posted a comment about how when we judge someone else's motive it really allows us to react the way we want to react. There's a lot of truth to that statement. The reason I doubt someone else's motives is based on my feelings towards them.

Often times what appears to have taken place may simply be a misunderstanding. I know we could all come up with examples of people who really are just mean, but a vast majority of the time we seem to get hurt by those we thought were friends (which is why it hurts so much).

The reality is, we may simply have misunderstood them. The antidote to this disease is communication. When we preceive someone has done something to hurt us our first reaction should be - "Wait a minute, that doesn't seem like something they would do or say, I need to give them a call (or visit)." Too many of us get most of our exercise by "jumping to conclusions."

I'm the first to admit that I do not always communicate clearly, so there's a pretty good chance I don't always hear clearly. One of the best ways to avoid needing to attempt to judge someone else's motives is to reduce the amount of conflict to begin with by giving them the benefit of the doubt until you have a chance to make sure you really understand the situation (and that understanding comes from talking to them directly - not someone else).

By the way, if it seems like everybody is out to get you, maybe you need to evaluate your own motives and ability to communicate well. The real problem maybe staring back at you in the mirror. I don't mean this as a cut - I mean it to help you see the truth and make things better. And the reason I know this could be true, is beacuse I'm sometimes the guy in the mirror.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Judging Motives

This is one of those ideas I have thought about often and I believe it to be true, but difficult to do. The principle is that we simply cannot judge other people’s motives – and we shouldn’t try. Obviously, this usually only surfaces as an issue when someone we do not trust attempts to do something good or nice for us.

When this happens to me my initial reaction is pretty much always a question – what’s the catch? In other words, I don’t trust you, what are you up to?

I do believe that it is normal and healthy to have this reaction, but here’s the problem. As a Christ follower I know God expects me to forgive others – after all He has completely forgiven me. However, I’m certainly not God and so I find that standard hard to live up to. Yet, that’s still what I know is the right thing to do.

How can others seek peace with me if I don’t give them a chance?

Again, let me be very clear, I do NOT have this one all figured out and do NOT practice what I’m “preaching” as often as I want to. But it is still true – if I want to heal relationships with those who have done me wrong in the past I must allow them a chance to do the right thing (you can see how this ties in with my post earlier this week).

BUT – what if they mistreat me again? What if I’m right and their motives are wrong?

This is the hard part of this idea – because too often their motives are still out of whack. I believe we need to approach these situations with caution – I do not believe we are called to be “doormats” for people to continue to hurt us. This is why we must have another relationship that we know is always solid. And the only One I know who always has my best in mind… is God. It is the security of that relationship that allows me to be willing to risk being hurt by others, because my sense of self-worth does not come from my relationship with other people – it comes from knowing who I am in God’s eyes – lived out in a daily relationship with Him.

My guess is some of you (maybe all of you) – regardless of your current relationship with God find this post a bit challenging to buy. Will you at least take some time to think about it? Consider it a Christmas present to me (and to yourself), to consider how you may be able to restore some old relationships that went bad for some reason or another. If we could all work on treating others better and giving more second (and third and fourth…) chances, what a much more merry Christmas would be.

If you know you’re the one on the end of this deal that “did someone else wrong,” go back and read “It’s Never to Late to Do the Right Thing” post from earlier this week.

Okay, that’s enough for one post. I’d love to get your feedback – so leave me your comments.

Here's one of the best songs I know that talks about who I am because of my relationship with God through Jesus...


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Strength

ESPN has started using a song I recognized from way back to advertise their Monday Night Football. They only play three lines from the chorus which are:

Give me love
Give me hope
Give me strength

I remembered the rest of the chorus goes:

Give me someone to live for
I need it now
I need it now

I was able to find the song and the band – it was The Alarm and the song is called Strength.

I can’t say for sure what the band was trying to say, but what I think they're saying is –

Give me a reason to live – actually they come right out and say give me “someone” to live for. Sounds like they are really searching.

Other parts of the song say, “I need someone I can depend on,” “I don’t know if I’m living or dying,” “I can’t control what I’m going through now, will you light the fire that I need to survive.”

They also talk about the pain of this life.

Which brings me to why I am so glad I’ve found Someone to live for. In fact, we’ll celebrate His birthday in a couple of weeks. Can you relate to this song – the searching – the needing – the desire to have a real purpose for living.

Maybe this Christmas, for the first time, you can truly celebrate the miracle of this Season – God becoming a man to bring us… well… love, hope and strength. If you could use some of these things this Christmas (and for the rest of your life) why not consider finding Someone to live for? Why not come to really know the Christ of CHRISTmas.

If you want to talk more about this you can e-mail me at dave@RedoingLife.com.

Here's another song about searching...

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's Never Too Late To Do The Right Thing

This is a principle I heard some time ago – unfortunately, I do not remember who said it.

It’s so true – It’s never too late to do the right thing!

I have my fair share (probably more than my fair share) of things I wish I had not done – poor decisions, poor timing, poor comments, poor thoughts, poor actions. And, there usually comes that time when you realize that what you have said or done was not the right thing to say or do. The question is – How do I respond when I realize I’ve messed up?

Usually, I want to make it right – I want to fix it. Okay, then why, more often than not, do I NOT fix it?

I believe we deceive ourselves into thinking it’s too late to fix it. You know all of the clich├ęs: The horse has left the barn; the water’s gone under the bridge…

But is that really true? I admit, the hurt cannot be erased, the consequences for poor decisions still must be dealt with, and it will take time to rebuild relationships…but is it ever too late to do the right thing?

Let, me dig a little deeper. Do we ever make it too late for someone else to correct what they have done to us?

Is there a point in our relationships with others where we would hold up the stop sign and say, “Sorry – it’s too late for you to make this right”?

What I realize is that as bad as I am in correcting my mistakes with others, I’m probably worse at drawing the line with others and saying – you’re too late.

I read recently that the only way we are able to maintain a perspective that allows others to come to us and find forgiveness and healing from us is when we keep in mind the ultimate forgiveness and healing we’ve received from God through Jesus Christ. Even with this relationship in my life, I sometimes find it a tough sell to allow others to “make it right” with me.

I guess what it boils down to is the reality that we will (probably more often than we like) find ourselves on both sides of this deal. Sometimes we need to go and make it right, and sometimes we need to allow others to make it right with us. If we remember that Golden Rule from pre-school – we’ll find our relationships will improve considerably. Sure, we’ll still blow it…and so will the guy or gal next to us…but I’m finding the more I practice this principle (from both sides) the better my relationships get and the LESS I need to practice this principle.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tired

Hello all - sorry I have not posted much this week. This has been a busy week with seminary and work. I'm pretty beat right now, so I'll simply wish all of you Happy December. Yep - it's already December - wow!