Three Trees

3 TreesThree sunset maple trees. All bought at an end of the year clearance sale. I planted the two best trees in the strip between our sidewalk and street and the scrawnier tree in the side yard. This week, three years after planting them, and while enjoying the colors, I noticed two things about the trees. First, the two trees near the street had brilliant red leaves while the one planted in the side yard had more golden-brown leaves. Second, the two trees in the front were now smaller, their trunks not as thick and branches not as high. The tree that was once scrawny was now much taller and thick. What produced the difference? Soil and water. The trees planted in poorer soil had taken in less water. While their color was brilliant, the smaller overall growth was evidence that they were getting less water. The tree in the side yard, where the soil was richer and water more available, showed growth; its roots had grown deep and its branches higher. What is true of trees is true of Christians. Where we are planted and how much spiritual nutrition we take in, is important. Jesus talked about the importance of soil, of being in the right place spiritually, in His parable about seeds. Paul said where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, or growth. May I suggest that where we plant our life is important. Here are a few suggestions where to plant your life. In His Word. In His presence. In a place of prayer. In His House. Get planted in the right place and watch your life explode in growth and brilliant color.

Modern Christianity. A mixture of Christ and Carnality

fuzzy-faith.jpgThere’s been a shift in what it means to be a Christian. Once being a Christian meant being Spiritual. It meant desiring to live godly and holy. It meant seeking after God, scouring the Bible, weeping as we learned more about Him and seeing how we had fell short. There was a desire in Spirit filled people to be led and controlled by His Spirit. Conviction would send us to prayer in tears. Today’s Christianity is filled with watered down feel-good intentions and warm fuzzy moments. It’s a verse posted on Instagram instead of devouring His Word in hunger to know Him. It’s a praying hands text, instead of hours of interceding for change in us or a situation. Most have no concept of the principle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Today’s Christianity is a mixture of Christ and carnality. We exhibit our faith on Sundays but live by our feelings the rest of the week. In Acts there are many people we should emulate. Two in particular are Stephen and Cornelius. In Acts 6 we are introduced to Stephen. He’s a man full of faith; a man full of and controlled by the Spirit. In Acts 10 we discover Cornelius. He’s a devout man; a man of continual prayer, who idolized, honored and held sacred things that God valued. These men were not just Christians, they were Spiritual men. It’s a wonder that there is so much angst and rejection of Christianity. When Christianity is watered down it is worthless. As we end the Month of the Family, I challenge you to become more than a Christian. Dedicate to making your home and family more than passionless spectators. Let’s be Spiritual. People who are full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit.

A Pastor’s Heart

coffeeI make no claim that pastors are perfect people. We mess up. Most pastors I know are genuine, faithful followers of God. They’ve learned that the work of pastoral ministry carries heartache with it. Here are some of the aches of a pastor’s heart:

 

  1. We mourn when marriages fall apart and grieve at the pain divorce causes.
  2. We hurt when young people make decisions that lead to future difficulty. We understand that too often we cannot stop them.
  3. We beat ourselves up when a sermon wasn’t nearly as effective as we thought it should have been. We’re usually are our own worst critics.
  4. We grieve the sin of others more than they do. We know we can’t bring people to repentance, and it’s agonizing watching them moving toward the world and ruin.
  5. We ache when we must deal with difficult issues and carry out church discipline.
  6. We struggle when the churches we lead aren’t growing spiritually or numerically. We genuinely care that people are lost.
  7. We hurt alone when we see the loneliness and struggles of our families.
  8. We grieve funerals for persons who showed no evidence of Christian conversion.
  9. We wrestle with loneliness that comes along with ministry.
  10. We feel guilty even expressing any of these thoughts.

Your pastor and their spouses are men and women who care deeply about your soul and eternal future. While they cannot be at every event or solve every issue in your life, they want what is best for your life and family. For most, pastoring is not a job, but a passion. Make it a priority to keep them in your prayers regularly.

* Edited article from Charles Lawless,
Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary

Family First

fam.jpgOctober, Month of the Family at Life. We kick things up a notch and fill the month with lots of activities and special services. Why? Because family is important to God. In fact, when we look in Genesis, one of the first things God did was create family; Adam and Eve. What makes for a successful family? Pretty simple, make His priorities the priorities of our families. What values should we make important this month? First, make the Word of God the foundation of our home. The Word of God is our instruction manual, road map and the final decision maker in all we do. Second, elevate prayer to an essential part of our family’s culture. Spend time as a family praying together; share your needs and success with one another and God. Make Community Prayer and Saturday at Seven a significant part of your routine. It is in these environments that our kids sense the power and value of prayer. Third, understanding the value of regular church attendance is critical. It is in His house where we learn to worship, experience faith, see miracles and grow in relationship with God. Finally, I encourage you to make spending time together an intentional action this month. We must make “together” one of our highest priorities. Personal devices, social media, gaming, and entertainment will mercilessly steal time from our spouses and families. Play games, ride bikes, take walks; be imaginative, but whatever we do, make creating memories a priority. Let’s make this year’s Month of the Family one that changes the culture and future of our lives.

Take a Sabbath

relaxFor six days God created. After six amazing days of creativity, God takes a day off. He rests and reflects on His work. It seems that He enjoyed His day of rest so much that when He met Moses on Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, He includes rest as one of the commands. The Sabbath, God’s blessing and gift to man, a day of rest. The concept was simple. Whatever your daily job was, take the day off, celebrate God’s goodness, relax and reflect. Years pass and the simple blessing becomes encumbered with rules. Don’t help a sick animal, don’t move furniture and don’t travel more than a mile, just a few of 39 extensions added to God’s original idea of rest. How tragic is it when men burden God’s blessings with rules? It steals away what was meant for our good. As a result, people walk away from God and the wonderful blessings He designed for us. The idea of a Sabbath is nearly forgotten. The principle and blessing is no longer celebrated or lived out. Instead our lives are over-taxed, filled with anxiety and stress and we have little time for our family and friends. The idea of resting, relaxing and reflecting rarely comes to the landscape of our mind. Instead we are constantly looking for something to bring us enjoyment and peace. I suggest that maybe it’s time to schedule a regular Sabbath. A day when we stop and chill. A day when we celebrate and worship God. A day when we take a nap, a walk or bike ride. A day when we enjoy a hobby or simply relax and celebrate what we have accomplished. Be intentional. Take back your Sabbath!

A Biblically Focused Life

focusA life with a closed Bible is basically the same as a life with no Bible. When we live our lives without including the scripture as a daily part of our life, our lives run dangerously parallel to someone who doesn’t follow God at all. Calling ourselves a Christian, attending church weekly, yet living a life that doesn’t search out the scriptures is dangerous. When we read the Bible, it teaches us how we should live our lives, what pleases God and what actions bring His favor and blessings. The strength of the disciples and Apostle Paul was their knowledge of God’s Word. Christians without God’s Word as their compass live to please themselves and are more image conscious than God conscious. Christians that regularly live in the Word of God tend to be more peaceful, live humbly and are more focused on pleasing God than themselves. Christians that are Biblically focused live lives like John the Baptist who said, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” A Christ focus person understands that it is not drawing attention to themselves but reflecting Jesus that is important. Passionate Christians are like Paul who said, “that I may know Him.” They understand that becoming like Jesus is a life priority. The real danger in modern Christianity is not a lack of worship but a lack of the Word. Without Biblically centered lives and home, we become religious, empty and shallow. We have no ownership of beliefs, values or convictions and simply live to please our flesh. As a person who is trying to live as an authentic Christian, I challenge you to make your Bible a daily priority.

Don’t Stumble on Things Behind You

IMG_5983I recently read a sign that said, “Don’t stumble over things that are behind you.” Obviously, it was not referring to physically stumbling, but mentally or emotionally stumbling over something in the past. Looking through a physical perspective, there are only two ways we stumble over things behind us. First, we stumble when we turn around and go back to obstacles we have overcame. Second, we stumble because there might be someone or something that causes us to be afraid or have anxiety, and being overwhelmed, we begin backing up, forgetting what was behind us. Building on these physical principles, I suggest this is why we stumble spiritually. We go back to what God brought us from. We forget how broken, abused and empty we were. We turn back to what once again looks enticing, forgetting how empty it left us. We forget that God is with us and God is for us, and overwhelmed in the moment we think, I can’t do this. Secondly, we stumble because Satan uses fear and intimidation against us. We come against a big problem, people who hurt us or we are reminded of who we were before Jesus came into our life, and we tend to back up. We forget that greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. We forget that we are equipped with the armor of God and the gifts of the Spirit, so we retreat. My words today come from Joshua who says, “be strong and courageous!” From Paul who said, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”  Tempted to quit, don’t stumble, stand and see the salvation of the Lord. He is for you!