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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forgiveness

Last Sunday night I preached a sermon about conflict.  Conflict is going to happen.  The closer the person that you have conflict with, the more difficult the conflict is going to be.  Ugly things can be said.  Hurtful things can be done.  Sometimes months or even years of silence follow as a result of conflict.  Conflict destroys opportunities for personal growth and it also destroys relationships with others.  Most people focus on themselves during conflict, but conflict impacts and influences several other people around you as well.

Conflict almost always carries with it an opportunity for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is tough.  When I find it hard to forgive someone (especially someone who doesn't deserve it), it's helpful for me to remember how Christ approaches me.

Check out what King David writes:

Psalm 32:5 
"Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”  And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone."

Remember what John writes:

1 John 1:9
"If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."


God loves us so much that He approached us with a solution for the conflict our sins cause.  He is willing to forgive!


So here's some advice from the apostle Paul:

Romans 12:17-19
"Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD."

 Ephesians 4:26-27
“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil."

Colossians 3:13
"Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."

Bottom line, don't throw away the plans God has in store for you because of conflict.  Make every effort to love folks around you like God loves you.  Who can you approach today?  Who do you need to forgive?  Don't waste the time God has given you to be a light for Him by allowing conflict to remain.  Forgiveness can be a powerful gift that you give during this holiday season.
Love Him.  Love others.  Stay strong.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good Character Part 2

 The Josephson Institute established a youth ethics program called CHARACTER COUNTS! that teaches 6 foundational pillars of character.  They are:

Trustworthiness

Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country

Respect

Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements

Responsibility

Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others

Fairness

Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly

Caring

Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

Citizenship

Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer

Some great stuff to consider and remember.  Stay strong.

Good Character

This past Sunday was the closest finish for the championship in NASCAR history.   Thirty-seven races (not including the All-Star race) over 10 months, and the top two guys ended up tying!  Tony Stewart ended up winning the championship because he won the race, which was the only possible way he could have run since the points leader, Carl Edwards, finished the race in second.  Carl Edwards had a 3 point lead on Stewart going into the night, and had the best average finish over the past 10 races (4.9...9 total top ten finishes out of 10 races) ever.  Carl would have won every Championship in NASCAR history...except this one.

1.306 seconds.  That's how far back Carl Edwards finished to Tony Stewart.  For the last 37 laps of the race...Carl Edwards did everything he knew how to do.  He pulled out every trick he could to try to catch and pass Tony Stewart, only to finish 1.306 seconds behind him...1.306 seconds away from a championship.  This is what 1.306 seconds looks like:
Here is Carl Edwards response after the race:

“I told myself, I told my family that the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to walk back to that motor home, win, lose or draw, and I’m going to be a good example for my kids and work hard and go be better next season,” he said. “I feel like personally, I passed the test. I didn’t fall into the trap of the trash-talking – I didn’t change the person I am to go compete at my highest level. I felt like I did it my way, and I’m proud of that.”

Last night, I was on the phone with a good friend who was in a very important golf tournament a week ago.  The stakes were pretty huge, and this was something he had been practicing and working towards for years.  It was a four day tournament, and he had three good rounds, but ended up missing the cut by 3 shots.

One hole.  He described to me that he had one nightmare hole, and it cost him everything.  He hit the right clubs at the right times and told me that everything felt right...it just wasn't.   Total disaster was the result.  One hole...11 shots...tournament over.  One hole.
He said he apologized to his caddy and the other three guys in the tournament right there when he finished that hole and then finished out the round.  At the end of the day, he again apologized to the other three guys he was playing with that day.  Instead of being angry with him for taking so long to finish out a hole, each one of the guys complimented him on how he handled himself during the nightmare.

"Character" can be defined simply as, "reputation."  You either have good character or you don't.  I believe pressure situations bring out a person's true character.  Winning doesn't show who someone truly is...losing does.   

1.306 seconds...3 shots.  Reasons for anger, frustration, choice words, out of control behavior, etc.    Winning championships (or even just winning) can cause people to do pretty terrible things, especially when they lose.  Neither Carl Edwards or my friend ended up with the win they were hoping for, but they both walked away with something much more important:  Good Character.

"You must have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had."
Philippians 2:5

Who will you be remembered as?  What is your reputation going to be?  Only you are in charge of the answer.  Consider your character before you speak or act.  Stay strong.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Worship

worship |ˈwər sh əp|

noun
the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity : the worship of God | ancestor worship.

verb ( -shiped , -shiping ; also -shipped, -shipping)
show reverence and adoration for

A couple weeks ago my wife and I had a chance to be up in the New England area and spend time with Heather's brother (Kirk) and sister-in-law (Maura).   It was an incredible time.  We spent a lot of time laughing together and enjoying each others company.  We were also able to spend a good amount of time outdoors hiking and seeing some beautiful fall leaves.

Two Sundays ago, Kirk, Heather and I drove up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire so we could do some hiking.  He found a great hiking loop that would take us over the top of two mountains (Welch and Dickey).
It was a great hike...not too technical but definitely challenging for the legs of a Florida boy used to flat, sea level ground.  It was a little chilly (37 degrees) at the bottom of the mountain, and during the 4.4 mile loop that took us over the top of Welch and Dickey Mountains we climbed 1,694 feet up and back down.  We were able to see some beautiful views and see patches of snow and ice (rare in South Florida...fun to see) while feeling the muscles in my legs remind me that I live in South Florida.  One of my favorite views was from the top of Dickey Mountain where we were able to look back down to the top of Welch Mountain that we had just ascended as well as the rest of the valley.
All day long, we were treated to incredible views.  The more I hiked, the more I felt surrounded by God.  The crisp breeze...the sound of the birds..the chipmunks and squirrels...the views of the valleys, mountains, trees, snow, ice...the beautiful blue sky...they were all constant reminders of a God that surrounds me, provides for me, and loves me.  

Psalm 19:1-4
"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
  Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
  They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard. 
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world."

I wasn't in a church building, at a convention, summer camp, or large retreat.  I was simply outside, and yet that Sunday was an incredible day of worship for me.  Everywhere I looked, I couldn't help but think about and thank God for His amazing creation.
 Thank you to my brother in law and wife for being awesome hiking partners.  It was an honor to spend the day with both of you in the middle of this beauty.

Next time any of you get a chance...get outside spend some time.  You might be surprised how close to God you can end up feeling.  Keep pursuing Him.  Stay strong.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

History & Passion

History is an awesome thing.  Yesterday, I had the chance to tour arguably the most historic ballpark in all of America...Fenway Park.  I learned a lot of things about Fenway.  I've always known and respected the Green Monster (the giant wall in left field), but that was about it.  I didn't know things like it's the third smallest ballpark in all of MLB, the Green Monster was built to keep unpaying fans watching the games from the roofs of their houses and buildings, Ted Williams hit the longest homerun in the ballparks history (502 feet) into the right field stands and the seat where it landed is commemorated by a red seatback (http://www.boston.com/sports/redsox/williams/stories/in_right_field_its_a_true_seat_of_power.shtml), the five streets that surrounded Fenway when it was built in 1912 are the same five streets that are there today, the curse of the Bambino (when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees) also involved a sell-off of over 20 top notch players that made the Red Sox go from champions to bottom feeders for decades to come, the Yankees were the first team the Red Sox beat in Fenway, the first 10 rows behind homeplate are closer to the batter than the pitcher is (very intimate park...everyone seems close to the field).
It was very cool to stand inside of Fenway and soak in the history.  Our tour guide was a lifelong Red Sox fan and it was evident.  He loved his team.  He loved his park.  He loved his job.  He really knew his stuff.  It was his life!  It was refreshing to spend time with someone who was that authentic!  He respected everyone around him no matter the team they rooted for (even for the 3 or 4 Yankee fans that were on the tour), but there was no doubt that he was part of the Red Sox nation through and through.  He knew them.  He shared them.  He loved them.  He lived them.  

Mark 12:30, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."  

Love is the foundation of everything that is God.  He is love.  He commands love.  We (Christians) are set apart from the world through our love...at least that's the theory.  Love is a command found everywhere in the Bible...Old Testament (Deut. 6:5) and New Testament (see above).    Is love for others the foundation of your life?  Does it define you?  Do you know it...teach it...display it...live it?  Let love be your passion and your life.  That's the history and power of God that should be evident through us!

Thanks for the passion Red Sox nation!  Go Tigers!  Stay strong!
video

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Friends

The people you choose to surround yourself with will shape who you are and will become.  Are you being purposeful in choosing to surround yourself with people of character, grace, mercy, love?  Not satisfied with who you are right now?  Take a look at who's around you.

Do you have people that put you first?  Do you put others before yourself?  Check out these guys:

Luke 5:18-19,"Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus."

These might be the best friends of all time.  They literally carried their sick friend to the one person who could heal him.  When they got there, the place was packed.  There was no way they were getting in.  Time to go home, right?  WRONG!  Time to climb up onto the roof of a guy you don't know, haul your lame friend up there, and then dig through the roof (interrupting the teaching time of the Son of God) so that you can lower your buddy down in front of Jesus.

What are the people around you willing to do for you?  More important question...what are you willing to do for those around you?  Are you willing to be that friend?  Are you willing to do anything it takes to get people to Jesus?  Are you willing to have tough conversations?  Are you willing to ask them to come to church?  Are you willing to put your schedule second to show love and build quality relationships?  Are you willing to dig through someone's roof?  That's pretty extreme, but that's literally what happened!

At the end of this story, Luke 5:26 says, "Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”

Amazing things...No KIDDING.  You listened to the Son of God, Creator of the universe talk.  You watched some dudes dig through the ceiling and lower in a guy who couldn't walk.  Jesus then forgave the guys sins.  Everyone disapproved, so you watched Jesus prove His Authority by healing the man!  All this because some dudes loved their friend so much that they left the excuses at home and proved they were true friends.  

How about you?   There are plenty of excuses out there.  Will you let them stop you or will you step up and be a friend to someone like these guys were?! 

Never stop showing the love of God to those around you.  Stay strong.