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I heard someone say once that he had two principles that governed his life. Number one was, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” The second one was, “It’s all small stuff.”
That’s a pretty good way to live. I’m not sure how much you stress over little things, but it’s never worth it. Except that how we handle the small things in life pretty much determines how successful we are with the big stuff. In fact, in the big picture it really isall small stuff.
Think about it. How many of us have ever been bitten by a lion or tiger, or stepped on by an elephant? Very few, I imagine. On the other hand, how many have been stung by a bee, bitten by a mosquito, or harassed by a fly? If you’ve ever spent the night with a mosquito hovering over your bed, you know how powerful small things can be.
Until a few years ago, there was an enormous pine tree that grew in the mountains of Colorado. It was only half grown when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. A close study revealed that it had been struck by lightning 14 times and survived centuries of Colorado’s bad winters. Fires didn’t kill it, nor did rumbling earthquakes. Many came to believe the old tree was indestructible.
Then it happened. It was done in by a bug–a little pine beetle that was so small you could crush it between your thumb and finger. A tiny insect proved more powerful and destructive than “earth, wind and fire.”
One of the reasons small things are so important is because they lead to big things. That principle applies in so many areas, be it relationally, emotionally, professionally, financially….and spiritually. Life is basically made up of a series of small things–“it’s all small stuff”–that, combined together, make much bigger things. How you handle the small bites of life will determine how you handle the big stuff.
The truth is, if you want to do great things in your life, you have to start with the small opportunities the Lord gives you each day, and do them in a great way. That may be simply sharing the gospel with a neighbor or co-worker, spending a few extra quality minutes playing catch with your son in the yard, offering a word of encouragement to a friend in need, or serving dinner to the homeless men at the Firehouse this week. Whatever the opportunities, however big or small, do what you can with what you have where you are.
Jesus said it this way: “Whoever can be trusted with very little things can be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10) I hope you’ll be trustworthy with the “very little” things God gives you to do this week, and that He’ll bless you with “much.”
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” –Lucy Van Pelt (from Peanuts, by Charles Schulz)
It was the Beatles who, more than 40 years ago, sang that “all you need is love.” Of course, everyone from Barry White to Barry Manilow to Barry Gibb has been weighing in on the subject ever since, just as they were singing about love long before John, Paul, George and Ringo came on the scene. Everybody, it seems is singing about love, but like the weather, few people are doing much about it.
I bring this up as the day of the year approaches that is focused on “love” more than anything else: St. Valentine’s Day. You can usually tell when the day is drawing near even without the benefit of a calendar–just check out the sweat accumulating on the brow of most married men who have no idea what they going to do for the big day. It’s truly a Maalox moment for a Hallmark day.
The truth is, most people have no idea what they are celebrating when they talk of St. Valentine’s Day. In reality, there is lots of confusion about the history of the holiday itself. We do know that there were two early Christian martyrs–both named Valentine–who were killed in Rome, supposedly on Feb. 14. In AD 496, Pope Galasius I named Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.
Actually, like many other “Christian” holidays, Valentine’s Day was probably a replacement for a pagan festival already in place on that date; it was called Lupercalia. That festival was intended to ensure protection from wolves. During the celebration, young men struck people with strips of animal hide. Women took the blows because they thought that the whipping made them more fertile. Now that’s romantic!
So in 15 centuries, we’ve moved from that…..tothis. Obligatory cards, flowers, candy, dinner reservations, and romantic weekend getaways, all for a price. I think some of us would just as well go back to the Lupercalia festival and make sure we keep the wolves away. Except for that part about the fertility.
The point here is–and yes, there is a point–that we shouldn’t have to have a special day to celebrate and remember the love we have for one another, either sweetheart-to-sweetheart, or Christian-to-Christian. Jesus even said that it was love that would be the distinguishing mark of the genuiness of our commitment to Him.
“They will know you are My disciples by your love for one another,” He said. Well, do they? May I suggest that in all of your Valentine’s preparations this weekend(and yes, guys, it’s time to start preparing!),you remember first how Jesus showed love, and that was by giving of Himself. That’s what real love is all about.
So, have a blessed, love-filled St. Valentine’s Day–and the other 364 days of the year as well. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
A man was stranded on a proverbial deserted island for years. Finally one day a boat comes sailing into view, and the man frantically waves and draws the skipper’s attention. The boat comes near the island, and the sailor gets out and greets the stranded man.
After awhile the sailor asks, “What are those three huts you have here?” “Well,” the castaway answered, “that’s my house there.”
“What’s the next hut?” asks the sailor. “That’s where I go to church.” “And what about the other hut?” the sailor asks one more time. “Oh, that’s where I used to go to church.”
That would be funnier if it wasn’t so sad. We do live in a generation of church-shoppers and church-hoppers who are prone to switch churches at the drop of a hat, for one reason or another. Perhaps they were offended by someone, or disagreed with a decision made by the church body. Or maybe they didn’t like the pastor, or the music, or the color of the carpet (or, in our case, the concrete floors). Whatever the case, it’s pretty easy in our consumer society to think it’s normal to move on when we don’t like the “product” that’s offered.
The difference is that church is more than the local franchise of God’s larger corporation. It is a family, a connectedness of relationships, melded together by the Holy Spirit into a holy community that is the local expression of the body of Christ. Like any family, there will always be disagreements and conflict, which provides a great testing ground for seeing how our faith and Christian character operates in the real world–among other sinners like us. And the big truth most of us discover eventually anyway, when we do pack up and move, is that the grass is rarely any greener on the other side of the fence.
The reality is, there’s something about commitment and faithfulness that not only reveals our character, it grows it. God calls us to persevere in tough times–and even in times that aren’t so tough but aren’t terribly exciting either–and to serve Him faithfully where He places us, even when we might just as well go somewhere else. No, that doesn’t excuse complacency, nor does it give cause for just going through the motions, but it does remind us of the truth of the old cliche: “Bloom where you’re planted.”
The Church at Shelby Crossings, like any other church, is not perfect. We will always have our struggles, and we’ll probably butt heads now and then. But God has supernaturally and sovereignly called us together to serve Him, and, in effect, this is where He has planted us together.
I want to encourage each of you to dig your roots deep into the soil of God’s word, and to start blooming! You are an integral part of our minstry’s fruitfulness, and I hope you’ll commit to being faithful in our fellowship as we seek to carry out His will in this community.
There’s not another church in this world that I would rather be a part of, or that I would rather have the opportunity to shepherd. I do count it a privilege to be your pastor. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
I will admit up front that what I write to you today reeks of boredom. Actually, I came across an article recently on the subject of….boredom. It wasn’t a terribly exciting article, as you might have guessed, but it did have some interesting facts on the topic, as well as some theories from some boring experts. Oh wait, those were boredom experts.
It seems that several authors have written books in the past few years about the dangers of boredom in our contemporary society. They claim that boredom fuels everything from extramarital affairs and drug addiction to coronaries and car accidents.
Curiously, boredom seems to be a modern ailment. The word didn’t exist in the English language until after 1750, notes Patricia M. Spacks, author of Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind.“If people felt bored before the 18th century, they didn’t know it,” she says. But, once the concept had a name, it became universal. Philosophers ruminated over it. Teenagers whined about it. And psychologists churned out lots of research.
One of the more unexpected findings is that the best cure for boredom might be more boredom. Folks today have a lot more diversions at their disposal–DVD’s, MP3’s, PDA’s and Internet access everywhere. But we might not be any better off. One of the great ironies of modern life is that “in an age when we have more entertainment available to us than ever before, there seems to be an epidemic of boredom,” writes psychiatrist Richard Winter in his book, Still Bored in the Culture of Entertainment.Winters and other commentators believe society is so saturated with movies, TV, video games and advertising that people are losing their sense of wonder.
So, what is a Christian response to boredom? To begin with, as children of God, we should neverbe blamed for being bored, or for that matter, boring. Jesus said He came to give us life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). That doesn’t sound boring to me. Though many people have the impression that a life of faith is mundane and excitement-free, I would beg to differ. Jesus’ call to committed discipleship is an invitation to a life of daily challenges and change, to incredible opportunities and possibilities, and to connect with the supernatural God of the universe. And that is anything but boring!
However, if you sometimes wonder if you’re catching the epidemic of boredom, let me suggest a few faith-focused solutions, for some real-life “boredom busters”:
1) Enjoy the mundane.The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord, always. And again, I say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) Boredom is a state of mind, more than it is circumstantial–and so too is enjoyment. Jesus said He came to put His joy in us, and that our joy would be complete (John 15:11). Learn the secret of contentment (that Paul explained later in that same chapter of Philippians): it’s what’s inside, not what’s outside, that counts!Enjoy the simple pleasures–family, conversation, even eating! Which leads to…
2) Simplify your life.Have you noticed that more gadgets, toys and information don’t satisfy your longings? The more you have, the more you want, and the more your dissatisfaction is magnified. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the trap of thinking the world owes you constant entertainment, and don’t just hurry from one activity to another, missing out on the meaning along the way. Take stock of the “wonder” in and around your life. “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)
3) Serve somebody.There’s always something else to do, somebody else to serve. My kids know to never say, “I’m bored,” because they will get one of two answers. One is, “It’s not our joy to entertain you.” And the second is, “If you need something to do, we’ll find you something to do!” If you are complaining that your life is boring, I doubt you’ve looked very hard for something to do. Jesus said He didn’t come to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28), and He called His followers to be servant-minded like Him. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t imagine Jesus ever whining about being bored. And neither should we who call Him Lord ever be bored, as long as there are people to love and serve and reach out to in the world around us.
I hope and pray that as a child of God, you’ll never get bored with your relationship with Him, or of your involvement in His church. I pray also that He will pour out His abundant blessings on your life, from the inside out. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
Today marks the 37th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. Since that time, on Jan. 22, 1973, more than 50 million innocent children have lost their lives, a horrific figure that swamps all of the world’s natural disasters combined during those 37 years.
I would consider myself pro-life, in every sense of the word. I have marched in the streets for the cause of life, I have voted for pro-life candidates, and have given my time and money to ministries that are on the front lines every day, fighting for the unborn–and their mothers. So, you might expect me to use this space today to rail against the evils of abortion and to say that it is time that we as the comfortable American church get on our faces before God for our nation.
However, I hope you don’t mind if I use the occasion of today’s anniversary to go in a slightly different direction. We are often naive when we deal with the subject of abortion, as if it is an “us and them” discussion. That is, the typical evangelical Christian who takes a stand in the public arena forlife, and againstabortion, often acts as if it’s the church against the world, the conservatives against the liberals, Republicans against the Democrats, or whatever other category of opponents you prefer.
But the giant reality is that often, we are….them. The person working in the cubicle next to you may be living with a hidden secret. Your neighbor across the fence may have made their own “choice.” The friend sitting next to you in worship or in Bible study on Sunday morning may themselves have been one of those statistics.
The truth is, most every one of us–in the church and out–have been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy of abortion. You may know a friend or family member who was faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and did not choose wisely. Or, perhaps it was you, or your partner, who made that decision at an earlier time in life and have lived with the unspoken regret and grief and pain from which you feel you can never recover.
To each of you, the message of God’s word is clear: His grace is sufficient for you, too. Regrets are normal, and grief is to be expected, but forgiveness is real, and God is still the God of second chances, no matter the sin. The apostle Paul said in Romans that “even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ He even died to pay the penalty for the sin of abortion.
I do hope you can get involved in taking your stand for the unborn–whether it be in the political arena, adoption, caring for unwed mothers, or praying for God’s deliverance for our nation from the scourge of abortion. I hope you want back down from speaking up for what is right, to be the salt and light in our culture He has called us to be, even on “uncomfortable” issues like abortion.
But I also hope you’ll be one to reach out with compassion to all the victims of abortion, even if they are victims of their own choices. No sin is outside the scope of God’s grace and love.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we gather together to celebrate the sacred gift of life (and life eternal) that God has given us. Have a blessed weekend.
Perhaps that title caught your eye, in light of the recent meteorological disappointments in our area of predicted snow that did not come to pass. No, I haven’t had any occasions myself to wander in the snow myself of late, but I did come across a story that I found particularly intriguing, if only because it didn’t turn out like I expected.
Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field.
“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.”
Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life. “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”
If you’re anything like me, I suspect you’d already jumped ahead and figured out the “moral” of Wright’s story, or at least you thought you had. How we should determine our goal and go for it, not letting anything get in the way. How we should be focused, prioritized, and intentional. Purpose-driven, we might say. But that’s not what he learned, and in many ways, we would all do well to learn a lesson from the lesson Wright himself discovered on that snowy day.
Sometimes in your pursuit of a goal, a dream, a vision–or even “God’s will”–you miss what He is doing in you life along the way. In fact, we often get frustrated by the “detours” we are forced to take because they are keeping us from going where we think we are headed, insteading of experiencing God and His blessings in the midst of our “wandering.”
He’s at work, even now, in your life. Have you noticed? I’m praying that you do see His hand at work in your life this week, wherever you wander, and that you see His fingerprints (if not footprints) all over your situation.
One other note: please continue to pray for Haiti, and the recovery efforts underway there even today.
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.
I do enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. What’s not to enjoy about special times with my family, holiday traditions, lots of Christmas goodies, fireworks and football, and, of course, a few days off. It’s a fun time of year, for the kid in all of us.
But what I dislike the most about the holidays is how much life is put on hold. Because of the busyness of the season, we tend to put off everything during the holiday season, until “after the first of the year.”
I bet I’ve heard that expression a few dozen times since Thanksgiving, and I’ve used it at least that many times myself. With all the distractions–holiday activities, people traveling out of town, etc.–we’ve all learned that it can be fairly frustrating to try to get much done during the last few weeks of December. And so, our whole world is put on hold and we become unproductive while we wait till “after the first of the year.”
Well….after the first of the year is here! No more excuses, no more procrastination. It’s time to get back in the swing of things and start living intentionally again.
It may be that you want to get a consistent quiet time with the Lord again. Or maybe you’ve planned on getting involved with a small group, helping out with the children’s ministry, or serving at the Firehouse. Or, on a different level, perhaps you’ve planned to go on a diet or exercise program, a financial budget or reading plan. There’s not a better time to start than now.
As a church, it is my desire that the New Year will bring a new momentum for ministry, as we seek to live out our faith and reach out to our community with a new zeal and passion for Christ. That will not happen passively, however. It will happen because we choose to become who we say we are, and because we set in motion the things that constitute living God’s will for our lives.
So I say, “Happy New Year” again to each of you. And welcome, 2010, the beginning of “after the first of the year.” I believe God has great things in store for us, individually and collectively, as we serve Him in the year ahead. May He truly bless you and prosper you, and continue to grow you up in Him as He grows us deeper in our fellowship.
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.
It’s that time of year when a lot of folks make promises they can’t keep. We call them New Year’s “resolutions,” because we are supposedly resolved in our hearts to change our ways, and improve ourselves as the fresh start of a new year approaches.
Or, you may be one of the many who have finally given up on making resolutions. I read this week that only 37% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions any more, and that means that almost two out of three people are either satisfied with the way they are or don’t want to fail again in 2010.
Of those who do make resolutions, they are usually pretty predictable. The number one resolution people make is to get control of their money. Next is to stop smoking, followed by losing weight and exercising more regularly.
It’s not hard to figure out the general theme of all those typical resolutions–discipline. And perhaps that’s why 63% of us don’t resolve to do anything different, because we realize it requires discipline.
May I make a suggestion for a good New Year’s resolution for 2010. Choose to take seriously the Scriptural call to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, NAS). Or, as the NIV translates that verse, “train yourself to be godly.” In other words, make up your mind and resolve in your heart that by God’s grace you will make the effort to get your spiritual life under control in 2010. I have a feeling that the other areas of your life will follow if you do.
It all comes down to getting your life in order, beginning with the priority of your relationship with God. That’s the kind of resolution that can cause a revolution in every area of your life, and in the life of your family.
I pray that you’ll make a renewed commitment to follow Jesus in the year ahead, and then follow through as you walk with Him day by day.
Have a safe and blessed New Year. I’ll see you Sunday.
On February 24, 1948, one of the most unusual operations in medical history took place in Ohio State University’s department of research surgery. A stony sheath was removed from around the heart of a 30-year old man named Harry Besharra.
As a child, he had been shot accidentally by a playmate with a 22-caliber rifle. The bullet had lodged in his heart but had not caused his death. However, a lime deposit had begun to form over the protective covering of the heart adn gradually was strangling it.
The operation was a delicate one, separating the ribs and moving the left lung to one side. Then the stony coating was lifted from the heart much in the same way as an orange is peeled. Immediately the pressure of the heart was reduced, and it responded by expanding and pumping normally. “I feel a thousand percent better already,” said the patient soon after the operation.
There is a parable of life here. It is so easy for our hearts to develop a hard protective coating because of accidents and incidents and injuries in our life. They are coated by the deposits of a thousand deceits and disappointments, hardened by the pressures and problems of circumstance. Inevitably, they become smothered and insensitive, choked out even to things divine.
Ever so gradually we find it easier to sneer than to pray. It becomes simpler to work than to worship. Self-satisfied, proud, often cynical, our hearts need a spiritual operation that only something so refreshing as Christmas can perform when we dare to surrender our hearts’ burden before the cradle of Bethlehem. There’s something about meeting the innocent babe in the manger that softens our hearts.
I am reminded of the story ofHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Dr. Seuss cartoon story which we’ve been watching since 1966. Why the Grinch was such a “mean one” and hated Christmas was up for much speculation in Whoville, if you will recall. It could have been that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could have been that his shoes were too tight. But we knew that the most likely reason of all must have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
For all of us, in this busy and stressful time of year, we can miss the wonder of Christmas if we allow the trappings of the season to make our hearts hard, or even to shrink a few sizes too small. Here’s hoping you have a big-hearted, joy-filled Christmas this year, with plenty of opportunities to be a cheerful giver and share the hope of our Savior with the world around you.
“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them; and they were sore afraid.”(Luke 2:9, KJV)
Have you ever been so fearful that it made you sore? I’m not sure if that’s what the King James translation of that familiar verse about the Christian shepherds really means, but I do understand about being afraid. Perhaps you do too.
One particularly dark and stormy night, a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, “That big sissy!”
We all know what it’s like to be fearful. Psychologists now list several hundred fears that officially qualify as “phobias.” These include claustrophobia, the fear of closed places; acrophobia, the fear of heights; hydrophobia, the fear of water; peladophobia, the fear of baldness; and porphyrophobia, the fear of the color purple.
If this little exercise in psychological definitions bothers you, you may be suffering from calyprophobia, the fear of obscure meanings. Or maybe you’re afraid of being afraid. In that case, you may have phobophobia, the fear of fear itself. (Apparently that was a weakness of FDR.)
The Bible is full of people who, like us, were afraid. Afraid of death, persecution, failure, embarrassment…or in the case of the shepherds, afraid of glowing angels appearing in the midst of their sleepy sheep in the middle of the night. All through the story of the “first Christmas” it seems, there were fearful people. And to each, the message was simple: Fear not.
To those shepherds, the angels proclaimed God’s great cure for fear: the Gospel. “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
Good news! That was the point of Jesus’ coming, you know. A Savior was born, Christ the Lord. And because we now have our Immanuel–“God with us”–we never have to be afraid again. Joy to the world!
I must say this Christmas season that I count it such a joy to be your pastor. I pray that you and your family have a blessed Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. I hope to see you on Sunday.