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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Serve

On Saturday, April 26, 2008, the Central Washington Wildcats were facing the Western Oregon Wolves in a women’s fast-pitch softball double-header.  Sara Tucholsky was a senior for the Wolves.  She had played softball all through high school and college, and was known as a small-ball, line drive kind of hitter.  However, in the second inning of the second game of the double-header that afternoon, she hit a ball further than she ever had.  HOME RUN!  She had never hit a home run...ever!  In her excitement, she forgot to touch first base.  She turned to go back, and she heard and felt a loud snap in her right knee.  The pain that followed immediately caused her to collapse, and she pulled herself back to first base, hugging the bag.  Her ACL was torn, and her game, as well as her career, were over.

As Sara lay they are on first base, everyone wondered what would happen next.  She obviously couldn’t continue.  According to the umpire, if her teammates helped her round the bases, she would be out.  They could sub in a pinch runner for her, but it would only count as a 2 RBI single instead of the home run since she only made it to first.  Nobody on the Wolves team seemed to know what to do.  But Mallory Holtman did.

“Can I help her around the bases?” Mallory asked.  The question shocked the umpire, because Mallory was the power hitting, veteran first baseman for the opposing Central Washington Wildcats.  He thought a minute, and then agreed.  Mallory motioned to the shortstop Liz for help, and they came over to first base.  

“We are going to pick you up and carry you around the bases.” Mallory said.  Sara nodded and said, “Thank you.”  Mallory and Liz carefully picked up Sara, and carried her around the remaining bases, pausing at each one for Sara to touch the base with her good leg.  “Thank you,” Sara said again.  “You hit it over the fence,”  Mallory replied.  “You deserve it.”  Mallory sacrificed to do the right thing.  The Wildcats lost the second game 4-2, knocking them out of the playoffs.

Sara’s coach was quoted as saying, “It’s a great moment when someone has character to step up and do the right thing at the right time.”  I couldn’t agree more.  As Christ taught us, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

Consider those whom Christ surrounds you with this week.  Simply put, will you serve them?  Remember Christ's example of humility. 

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitudes should be the same as the of Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 2:3-5)

Stay strong.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mountain Dew

I used to drink this wonderful nectar of God by the gallon.  Actually, a more accurate description would be by the 2-liter.  Morning, noon, night, if I was thirsty, it was a Dew. I was averaging somewhere between 10-15 16oz bottles a day.  Do the math, that's a lot.


Several years ago, I had lunch with my wife, and made a decision.  It was a hard decision, but it was wise for my health as well as our finances.  I gave up Dew.  Right there, that day, cold turkey, no more Dew, period.  So, for the past 9 years, I haven't taken even a sip of that glorious beverage, and my kids have never had Mt. Dew.


Fast forward to Easter a couple weeks ago.  After church, we went to share some fellowship with a lot of good friends.  They had Dew there, and my youngest son Jude asked if he could have some.  I started to say no, but figured, "why not?" and then said he could have a small glass.  I was interested to see what would happen since he's never had any, ever, and his normal energy level is, well, above average.


His face lit up after the first sip, and a loud, "MMMMMMMMMMMMMM!" escaped his mouth as a smile grew across his face.  I chuckled and continued chatting with some friends.  After a couple minutes, I went to check on Jude.  He was out in their backyard, all by himself, running laps.  Yup...he was running laps.  Their backyard isn't very large, so he was pretty much running in a large circle.  


I asked him what he was doing, and his response was, "I'm using my new energy to build muscles!"  This was said as he continued to circle the backyard.  I smiled, and then turned around and went back inside to let Jude continue his workout.  It lasted awhile.


I don't know what gets you going.  I'm talking about something deeper than your daily physical self.  I get wiped out spiritually, and sometimes, I need a boost to get it going again.  For me, being outside in God's beautiful Creation is a huge help.  Being in the Word is a must.  Serving someone else around me is another booster.  


I don't know what gets you going spiritually/mentally/physically, but I would recommend finding your "Mt. Dew" as quickly as possible.  Think and pray about it.  When you find some things, purposefully incorporate those into your life on a consistent basis.  Guard them...don't let busyness drown them out.  


In John 7:37-38, we read, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."


Sounds pretty good, huh?  Life is tough.  We all need our "Dew" on a regular basis to keep us focused and energized.  Jesus invites us to drink up.  Stay strong.




Monday, April 2, 2012

Thanksgiving in March

A week ago, hundreds of folks gathered at a park close to our church.  We shared an afternoon of food, beanbag toss, horseshoes, football, redneck golf, volleyball, stories, great weather, laughter, and smiles.  There were a lot of things that made us different:  our sizes, ethnicity, background, places of residence, likes/dislikes, languages spoken, etc.  There was one central reason that we were together though:  

KINGDOM WORK

Everyone at the picnic was there because they serve as a volunteer somewhere at Community Christian Church.  What an incredible gathering of servant-hearted folks.  Thank you all for your love and compassion for others.  Thank you for considering others before yourself.  Thank you for sharing the same attitude of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.  You all are the heartbeat of Community (except for Jesus, of course).  Without you, programming could not happen like it does.  Your sacrificial attitude helps others see Christ week in and week out.

To quote the apostle Paul, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Philippians 1:4)


I love serving the Kingdom with you all every week.  Never stop.  Stay strong.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Prayer

Prayer can take many forms and is commonplace among many different religions.  Here are a few different kinds of ways that people commonly use to approach God:
  • Petition/Supplication:  this is asking God for something (wisdom, health, victory...).  Petitions are short.  Supplications are usually longer.
  • Intercession:  this is praying for another person (sickness, spiritual health, tough times/decisions...)
  • Thanksgiving:  this is simply thanking God for whatever (this should be consistent, but is often overlooked, especially when times get tough)
  • Faith:  this is boldly proclaiming a truth out loud!
  • Committal:  this is dedicating yourself to God...letting Him be first.
These are a few examples of prayers, and if you google search different types of prayers, you will have the joy of searching through over 3,700,000 results.  There are plenty of different types of prayers to search through, study, evaluate, and try.

I remember Vacation Bible School at Fellowship Baptist Church in High Ridge, Missouri.  A main focus of the week was memorizing Bible verses for candy and prizes.  Well, at least I thought that's what it was for at the time.  Turns out I still remember a lot of those verses and they are foundational in my life today. Go figure!  Anyway, one of the passages I memorized taught me about prayer.  It reads like this:

"This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us today our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, 
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen'."
Matthew 6:9-13

It's simply called "The Lord's Prayer."  Of all the prayers around the world, I figured this would be a good one to learn since God's Son is instructing us.  He's a pretty good teacher.  I love the simplicity as well as the order that Jesus' prayer in Matthew 6 reveals.  
  • Start with God.  It's all about Him.  Spend some time recognizing His Name.  Honor who He is.  Ancient Hebrews wouldn't audibly pronounce the name of God out of reverence for who He was.  I think that's cool.  
  • God's Kingdom:  do you think about it often?  Does it dominate your thoughts?  Are you existing to serve His Kingdom or just go through life with your agenda?  God's Kingdom should be on our minds all the time.
  • Bread.  Daily bread.  God always provides.  Creation.  Freedom from exile.  Manna in the wilderness.  The Promised Land.  Jesus.  The church.  God has and will always provide our needs...not necessarily our wants.  Contentment is key.
  • Forgiveness is absolutely necessary.  If we want our sins to be forgiven, Jesus challenges us to have a forgiving spirit.  We are asking God to forgive us according to how we forgive others.  Challenging and powerful.
  • Temptation isn't a sin.  Giving in to temptation is.  Just because you are experiencing temptation doesn't mean God has gone anywhere.  Remember, He's always bigger than Satan.  Always has been and always will be.
  • A closing reminder that God's Kingdom is where real life is found.  Serving others like Jesus served.  Having His attitude...that's a life that's worth living.  Be thankful for such an opportunity.
Pretty cool stuff.  Some great, practical thoughts Jesus throws out here.  Then, later on in the New Testament, we come across this verse:

"Never stop praying."
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Really?  Never?  What about when I'm driving?  How about after I'm done praying and starting to eat?  Do I have to keep praying as I shovel food into my mouth?  What about my evening prayers?  Do I just start in and keep going till I fall asleep?  But then I've stopped, unless I dreampray?  Would that count as a real prayer?

Paul is writing about prayer, but he's challenging us to not just pray with our words but with our lives.  Look again at the Lord's prayer.  

What would it look like if you focused on God all day...in all you do?  What if you had a forgiving spirit about you all the time, not just the couple of times a day you pray?  What if you constantly depended on God instead of just admonishing your need and dependance on God a few times a week or before you eat your meals?  What would it look like if your life was driven and reflective of the Lord's prayer?  

Serving God is an amazing privilege.  Don't take it for granted.  Focus on God often and live for Him always.  Have a great week living a prayer-led life.  Stay strong.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Prom or...?


Prom season is close.  Instead of spending hundreds (if not more) on dresses, tuxedos, limos, etc. for an evening that often ends in temptation and disappointment, why not make an eternal difference by donating that money to an organization that saves lives?

Rapha House (www.raphahouse.org) exists to help save young ladies from sex trafficking.

Active:Water (www.activewater.org) exists to bring clean water and sanitation projects to needy communities around the globe.

There are plenty of great organizations out there.  I'm sure if you took time to look you could find some great ones locally as well.  Food shelters, house building projects, special olympics...the list goes on an on.

I'm not trying to give anyone a guilt trip about attending prom, but ask yourself this, "In 10 years, will it matter that I went to prom?"

Will it be an evening that honors God?  Will you help people see the love of Christ on that night, or will you be surrounded by temptations and end up making bad decisions?  How can God use you?  How can you make the biggest impact for His Kingdom?  The answer to that last question is what will matter.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

Stay strong.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Every Tuesday I have the privilege of going to Piper High School and meeting with the students who run their 1st Priority Campus Ministry.  It's a student led organization that exists to spread the message of Jesus to school campuses. (http://www.firstpriority.cc)

Last Tuesday was Valentines day, so I had prepared a message that touched on God's love that I was going to share with the students.  Well, God had other plans, and as usual, they were awesome.  

It turns out that two of the high school students in the 1st Priority club had spent some time in prayer the previous week.  They prayed for God to give them an idea, a practical way that they could show and remind Piper High School that they were loved.  

The weekend before Valentine's Day, instead of going to the beach, hanging at the mall or going to parties, these two young ladies made over 100 valentines that read, "Happy Valentine's Day.  You are loved.  From your First Priority Club."  Then, on Valentine's Day, they spent every extra second they had in between classes handing out their homemade Valentine's Day cards to every faculty, staff, and teacher at Piper High, regardless of their belief.  

So instead of sharing what I had planned, last Tuesday's 1st Priority meeting was spent hearing stories from these girls and from other faculty members about what they experienced on their mission of love.  I heard story after story of how thankful teachers, custodians, coaches, and even the Principal was to receive these reminders of love.

I don't know what doors these two girls have opened, but I know I can't wait to get back to Piper High School tomorrow afternoon and hear some more incredible stories of what God is doing through the lives of teenagers who are willing to show the love of God in simple, practical ways. 

Thank you Catherine and Ashleen for putting the Kingdom of God first and showing His love to those around you.  

"This is My command, 'Love each other'."
John 15:17

Stay strong

Sunday, February 12, 2012

DWR: Do What's Right

David is an amazing dude.  In the book of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to him in chapter 16 as a boy watching sheep.  From there, he simply puts his faith in God and does what's right for the next several chapters.  That list of right includes:
  • Protecting sheep by beating down the bears and lions that tried to take them
  • Providing food for his older brothers in the military
  • Beating down a foreign warrior champion who dared trash talk his God
  • Calming a distressed and anxious king with some sweet harp-work
  • Leading military regiments to victory after victory
  • Eventually leading a group of mighty men to ridiculous amounts of victories
  • Serving a king that didn't make sense
  • Obeying his rulers...especially his God
In 1 Samuel 19, King Saul (now focused on himself instead of the God he was supposed to be serving) tries to kill David.  This goes on, even though David has done nothing but serve King Saul and bring honor to him.  David is mistreated, but he doesn't stop doing what he knows is right.

1 Samuel 24 is incredible.  Saul is now so miss focused and driven by jealousy that he has ordered his army that should be guarding the nation and battling the enemy (Philistines, Amalekites, etc.) to pursue and kill his loyal servant David.  David is literally running for his life with a loyal company of soldiers (still winning victories for the nation of Israel and King Saul) while King Saul and his army pursue him!  In 1 Samuel 24, David and his men are hiding deep in a cave, and Saul and his army pass by.  King Saul goes into the cave that David is using to hide in order to relieve himself.

Now was David's chance.  Saul was a tough warrior, but talk about being vulnerable!  David was an elite and highly skilled soldier.  This was an easy kill.  Saul had taken him for granted, mistreated him, and tried to wrongly kill him on numerous occasions.  Now was his chance for sweet revenge...for justice...time to end this stupidity once and for all!

Even David's loyal warriors were encouraging him to end this ridiculous wild goose chase.  They were tired of running...tired of hiding.  They knew who was the better leader.  They knew who was worthy of following.  They had made their decision, and now they all chimed in, encouraging their warrior leader to end this dance and take his rightful place as king.  They even offered to do this for David.

1 Samuel 24:7, "So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul."

David did the right thing.  Even though everyone around him was telling him to do something that made sense...even though Saul was a selfish puppet-king who had rejected God long ago...even thought he had every reason to kill Saul...David did what was right.  He honored God and showed mercy, grace, and love in the face of reason.

This week, all of us will face choices.  Some will be simple.  Some will be tough.  Will we listen to what the world says or display the love of God to those around us?  Will we simply choose to do what's right?

David had plenty of advice.  He followed his heart and obeyed God, even when it didn't make sense according to the world around him.

Choose to Do What's Right (DWR).  Honor God.  Stay strong.