A True Christian Friend

A true friend will be there for you when you need them. They love you and care about your feelings. Their concern for you will carry you through some dark nights of the soul. They are a blessing from God and his way of caring for us sometimes.

A true Christian friend will also tell you the hard truth when needed. They will call you out on your lies. They will confront your sin. They will tell you honestly when you are being selfish and self-centered. They will notify you when you are being immature and need to grow as a person. They will not overlook your destructive behaviors because they want what is best for you.

True friends care more about you as a person than keeping you as a friend.

Sometimes in our quest to stay connected to people we care about, we look the other way when they are being unrighteous or ungodly. We make excuses for poor behavior or ignore things they need to change.

I know it is complicated to be in any relationship, and perhaps Christian ones are the most complex, but that should not keep us from seeking the good of the people we call our friends. If fact, I think it necessitates it.

A Personal Investment

The old joke is that the pig, the cow, and the chicken were all talking about the farmer one day. His 80th birthday was coming, and they wanted to do something special to show him how much they appreciated his kindness to them. He fed them, watered them, and made sure they were healthy. Finally, the cow came up with what seemed like a perfect plan. They would make him a special breakfast on his birthday. The menu would be a tall glass of milk, a couple of fried eggs, and a big piece of ham. Rumor has it that the pig was not as excited about the plan as the other two. 

There is a difference between a little involved and totally committed. 

Giving your life to Jesus involves a personal investment, perhaps more than most of us want to share.   

Prison and Prisoners

You do not have to live in a prison created by your failures. You are not a prisoner of your past.

Admit your sin. Be honest with yourself and with God, and possibly another person.

Ask for forgiveness. First, from God and maybe then from someone you hurt.

Learn from your mistake. Take this as an opportunity to grow.

Let it go.

Move forward. 

The grace of God does not get you through a difficult season but leave you bound to pain. It is about breaking chains, opening doors, and being set free. When the son sets you free, you are free indeed. 

My Dog Ate My Homework

At some point in life, almost every young person thinks they have come up with the perfect excuse for why they do not have their homework. So they practice their story, rehearse the details and proudly inform the teacher, thinking it will end all suspicion. 

Then they are shocked when the teacher doesn’t believe them. The story seems like the ideal explanation, and every part is plausible. How could they not believe them?

Their mind does not grasp that kids have been repeating that excuse since the beginning of the school system. They are not the first child to come up with that story to explain their missing homework. Poor helpless dogs have been blamed every year of the teacher’s career, and they know it is simply a made-up story. 

That is how I, as a pastor, feel when I talk to people about their Church attendance. I ask them where they were this past Sunday, and I am bombarded with excuses. Almost every one of them is the same old lame stories recirculated. Like that child telling the story of the dog, they think the teachers believe them. Having done ministry for almost 30 years, I will tell you a little secret:  No preacher is buying your excuses.

Believe it or not, that is not what fascinates me about this process. The issue is never, “Does the preacher believe their story,” but do they believe their own excuse? Have they told their story so often that they have begun to believe it themselves? After years of missing Church, they can now spout four or five reasons without thinking about it. 

One of the first steps in building or rebuilding a life of faith is being honest with yourself. 

Long Story Short

The entire human race is created in the image of God as his beloved creatures.

Each one of us rebels against God and chooses to disobey him.

We deserve punishment from the God who formed and sustains us.

Instead, God came to earth in the person of Jesus.

He lived a perfect life and died for our sins on the cross as the Savior of the world.

Jesus was resurrected on the third day to demonstrate power over life and victory over the grave.

He ascended into heaven, from which he will one day return to judge the living and the dead.

Each of us has the opportunity to follow Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Everyone gets a second chance in Jesus, no matter what we have done.

The End. Or The Beginning. 

Quirky

Recently someone described themselves to me as “quirky.”  The word means possessing “peculiar or unexpected traits,” and their word choice was fitting. Not only did it apply to them, but it is appropriate for most of us. We each have unique things about our life that surprise others when they learn about them. 

While these traits could be considered off-putting to some, they are also the same characteristics that make you unique. The way you bite your nails, twirl your hair, crack your knuckles, or zone out when you are deep in thought. There are numerous ways that all of us could be considered quirky. 

One facet of being a part of the body of Christ is that we embrace the quirkiness we find in each other. We not only overlook how we are each different, but we see the good in our unique behaviors. We understand that there is a blessing in all people not being the same. Those unexpected and peculiar traits are like the one-of-a-kind snowflakes that paint the entire landscape white when put together.  

The people of God are from all races and backgrounds. They are comprised of both genders, all body types, and nationalities. They also include people who can seem strange at times and most definitely are quirky. But when we work together, the world is changed because we embrace one another in Jesus instead of focusing on our differences. 

Distracted

I keep a notebook of all my ideas for blogs. Each day I try to write down at least one topic or title for a future post. Some days I put several ideas into my notebook. Then at the end of the week, I look back through my notes and organize them for what I would like to write for the coming week. 

As I looked through my material this week, I noticed five times in the last five weeks where I had noted something with the word “distracted.”  I wrote, “Being distracted during worship, being distracted as a Christian, distractions to our faith, distractions from doing important things, and distracted by evil.” 

I guess God has been trying to teach me something. Being distracted is one of the biggest hindrances to a Church community and individual believers. We can easily take our eyes off our goals and purposes and focus our attention on trivial matters. 

One trick of the evil one is to get us to look at his left hand so that we do not notice what his right hand is doing. If he can get us focused on the wrong thing, then we will miss the ways he is trying to harm us. Misplaced attention will enable evil to succeed without us noticing. 

Lately, I have kept seeing the impact of distractions in every area of life. Being preoccupied with the wrong things leaves us vulnerable to mistakes we will not notice until it is too late. 

Please make a note of it. 

Letting Things Go

Recently I decided to clean my office. One of the things that required the most attention was my filing cabinets. 

In the early days of my ministry, everything was put into a file and stored for later use. If I had handwritten sermons, they went into a file. If I read a good article in a magazine, I would copy it and put it in another file. If another Church had a brochure that was well done, still another file for that. The result was two filing cabinets crammed full of papers. 

Over time, I found more and better material on the internet. I also discovered my old sermons were not good enough to preach again as I learned and understood more of the Bible. Most of those cabinets’ material was no longer useful for my ministry.  

Still, the pages were hard to throw away. Some represented hours of work. Others were the result of financial investments. A few represented achievements in my ministry career. So I held onto them year after year. That is until August this year when I decided to clean house. 

Each week I have gone through another drawer and filled boxes with old paperwork that went into the trash. As of today, I have emptied one filing cabinet and a few random boxes of the pages they contained. 

With each stop at the dumpster outside of our Church building, I feel a burden lifted as I throw away all these old papers. One less pile of stuff to maintain. One less pile to move. All the good and bad pages of the past 29 years of ministry are being purged from my life.   

This process has me thinking about my mental filing cabinets. There are thousands of pages stored there too. They are not that easy to remove. A quick stop at the dumpster does not eliminate the mental pages given to me over a lifetime. Still, most of us need to purge the mental files we have accumulated over a lifetime. 

Occasionally we need to say, “I am never going back there again.”  When that old memory pops up, we will dismiss it rather than dwell on it. When we are reminded of those past failures, we will not spend a minute of mental energy replaying them.

I am so happy that I started this project. It has been purifying to my soul and liberating to my mind. Whenever we clean the house physically or mentally, we are given a chance to start over with a clean slate.

An Extra Day Off

Today in the United States, we celebrate Labor Day, and many of us do not have to work. 

I invite you to remember that God gave us the first vacation day. The seventh day of creation was set aside for rest. The rest would then be used to refocus on God and honor him.

Please don’t use your non-workdays to dishonor our creator. Instead, take today to thank Him for all the ways He has blessed your life. Remember His work and rest in Hwwwim, knowing His mighty hand will sustain you.

A holiday that gives you an extra day off is an enormous blessing for many people, just don’t forget the ultimate source of all good things.

Weekly Reminder of Faith

Honestly, some weeks, people do not get much out of attending worship as a Church. Some weeks the music doesn’t click with our souls, the sermon is not on a topic relevant to us, and we don’t connect with other believers.

I pray these weeks are rare for you, but I understand that they occasionally happen to everyone. 

Does that mean regular attendance is unnecessary? 

One benefit of attending each week is the subconscious reminder of your beliefs. Even if there is little immediate benefit, pausing for one hour still helps you refocus on your faith. It reminds you of your commitment to God and the desire to live in his will. 

Some weeks are supernatural, as God will amazingly touch your soul. Other weeks might feel mundane, but God can use both to further your walk of faith.

And besides, you never know which one will happen this Sunday.