No Roomba In The Inn

Christmas. The time of year when we think we have to buy a present for every person we know, bake all the cookie recipes known to mankind, completely redecorate the house (including risking life and limb on our roof just for the neighbors’ amusement!), and mail a card to everyone we’ve ever met. How do we stay sane, and how does God want us to deal with it all?

Let me tell you a Costco story. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t include a “missing person’s report” from the Costco Christmas Craziness!) A friend of mine came home from Costco with this cool little new gizmo called a “Roomba”. Have you seen these things? It’s a little robotic vacuum cleaner that goes around and vacuums on its own! So my friend (not the most patient guy) pulls it out of the box. And even though his wife – while plugging in the docking station – mentions that they should charge it first, he just sets it on the carpet and turns it on. Apparently it had a little juice in its battery, because just like the commercial – “beep beep beep” – it starts to magically move around the room sucking up whatever it deemed worthy of being eaten… for about 3 minutes. That’s when whatever power was in the battery hit empty. Then it does something even more magical – “beep beep beep” – it turns right around in its tracks, and heads straight for the charging station, which the wife had placed in the corner! It scurried right back and docked itself on the charging station because it knew when it was out of energy!

You know what? That little Roomba might be smarter than most of us Christians! When it was nearly empty of its charge, power, and energy, it was smart enough to realize that’s not a useful condition to be in. It recognized that not only is “running on empty” a bad idea, but it knew enough to go home, re-dock, recharge, and refresh.

Christmas is a RUSH. The mall. The church services. The school play. The parties. However, we’ll be at our best when our batteries are charged. We’ll survive all the busyness of the season if we’ll give God time every day. Come home to Him. Connect to Him. Dock to Him. Charge up in Him. Get His word in our heart. Spend some time in prayer. Then, when we’re recharged, we’ll be at our best in every other setting and situation. Moral of the story, let’s try to be smarter than a $300 vacuum cleaner. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

Thankfulness

It seems every year, the Christmas “season” starts earlier and earlier! Stores stock up their aisles of decorations, Snuggies commercials are everywhere, and the Hallmark Channel has those cheesy holiday movies back to back to back! I even saw a neighbor hanging Christmas lights the other day! However, I want to make sure we don’t pass up a really important thing that’s coming up before Christmas: National Cashew Day (jk). Of course, I’m talking about Thanksgiving! As we get immersed into the extended Christmas season, may we take time this week to welcome the attitude of giving thanks. As we look around with that thankfulness attitude, our eyes are opened to all of the gifts that God’s given us. These gifts could be as small as having warm socks on our feet, or as large of the love that God has for us!

There are many gifts that are easy to receive, and sometimes slip our mind to be thankful for because they’re familiar. The gift of clean water to drink, a warm bed to sleep in, fresh veggies to cut, heat on a cold day, a stranger’s smile, the list goes on and on.

However, not all gifts come in these nice packages. Some gifts are hard to receive because they’re actually tough times with blessings in disguise. In the “gift” of hard times, God comes close to those who are hurting, and offers an opportunity for His children to grow closer to Him. Your darkness has an opportunity to turn into new life! If the Bible has any theme, it’s that God loves to create new life, and use that life for His purpose, especially in the darkest of places. If we embrace these times with an attitude of thankfulness, a new perspective and a new light will shine on these dark places!

When we give thanks to God, it’s like we’re opening our hands and accepting whatever it is that He chooses to give us. We’re recognizing those gifts and showing that we trust Him. Thanksgiving builds trust. So before we “get all Christmas-ed up in here”, will you join me in giving Thanksgiving the focus it deserves, and then continue to give thanks for all of the gifts in our lives- the easy gifts, the hard gifts, small and large?

Finally, let me close by telling you that I love you, I’m praying for you, and I’m THANKFUL for you. This week (and all through the holiday season and beyond), may you bask in the truth that our God LOVES you completely and perfectly each and every day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s Talk / Date To Mate Series

handsFirst Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…

We live in a world where it’s difficult for a husband and wife to catch their breath. The work inbox, maintaining the home budget, the meetings, the kids’ sports and activities, the office politics, a few minutes on the elliptical… it’s so easy to come to the end of the day too exhausted to spend time, focus, and energy on our most important human relationship – our marriage!

A Jesus-centered marriage is one of the most precious and joy-filled things in life. But it’s no secret that a marriage relationship can (will!) face seasons of challenge. After all, a wife and a husband are still human. Feelings can get hurt, communication can break down, bitterness can creep in, and it may feel like the other person’s just on a different page. It’s during these fragile times where the relationship can either head south, doomed for failure, or can be strengthened in a time where both parties are able to grow closer to the person (and couple) God made them to be. Let’s go deeper than the classic “love verses” (1 Cor 13) or even the “sex verses” (1 Cor 7:3-5) A relationship that’s founded upon putting others before ourselves is where the successful marriage really begins. Philippians 2:1-4 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

So how do we protect our most important human relationship during fragile times of conflict? The answer lies in the Bible verse above. We have to put our spouse before ourselves, even at the cost of our own feelings. “How is she feeling? How may I have hurt him? Why is he feeling the way he does? Is there other stuff going on in her life?” If we approach the communication with our spouse through the lens of grace, rather than approaching it with a closed off and easily offended heart, it opens up an opportunity for the healing to happen.

If you’re married, then your challenge during the upcoming “Date To Mate” series is to think of your spouse as you listen to these nine special Talks, asking God to show you how to approach your relationship with grace. Pray for me, and I’ll be praying for you!

Seasons

As summer hits full-August-throttle, I’m reminded how thankful I am for seasons. As soon as it hits triple digits here in TX, the recent memories of spring with its new beginnings quickly fade, and the reality of the sweat, sunburns, and brown lawns set in! Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of a burger at a friend’s BBQ, the feeling of jumping into a cold pool, the victory dance on the 18th green after breaking 90… but when we’re on what feels like our 90th day of 90+ temps with 90% humidity, I can’t help but start to wish that fall would hurry up and arrive!

Isn’t this the same thing with our spiritual seasons?

We go through seasons of saturation in God’s presence, where our hearts are full and excited to worship the Lord, and then seasons of dryness where we feel like God’s far away. We go through seasons of trial and seasons of celebration. But no matter what the current season we’re in, we can fall into the trap of looking forward to the next season (you know, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence). This is especially the case in our seasons of dryness and trial. We even start to feel bad for ourselves, maybe even angry at God and end up missing the beauty that the current season holds. It’d almost be like if I were to complain that it was too hot to do anything, I’d miss out on the pool parties and summer sunsets!

Each season holds beauty, only some seasons you have to choose to look for it. 

Let me say that again, you have to choose to look for the beauty in each season.

James 1:2-4 says, “ Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Just as the calendar moves from one season into the next, so will our spiritual seasons change to the next. So this week, I challenge you to join me in assessing the spiritual season that you find yourself in, and then choose to be content in this season, looking for and discovering the beauty that God’s waiting for you to find!

Mission Possible

While growing up, like most boys, I would play secret agent. I’d imagine being assigned a special mission (which I always chose to accept!) that required fancy gadgets, fighting evil, and cool uniforms. The thrill of danger, intrigue and adventure excited me. Well, as I grew in my faith as a Christ follower, I realized that I’m also on a real-life mission. My ultimate mission is to glorify God by seeking His kingdom first and to make disciples.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

To be honest, sometimes I can get distracted from my life’s mission by material things, the “stuff” that can get in the way of what’s really important. Another type of earthly distraction can be focusing too much on accomplishments. Or even getting lazy in my personal time with God in study, prayer and renewal! All of these things have the possibility to get in the way of the mission that God’s called us to.

You and I were created for the mission of God. When our lives are over, we want God to look back and know that we’ve completed the mission that He had for us. You and I were created for His mission. Our skills/gifts were created for His mission. Our singleness/marriage was created for His mission. Our family was created for His mission. And since all we are and do is devoted to His mission, we must live that way! “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

We have a mission to make disciples, to make Heaven more populated! It’s time that we re-center our lives on living out that mission of God. Will you join me this summer in asking Him to refocus our lives back onto this mission? Then ask yourself, “What steps do I need to take to live out God’s mission in my day-to-day life?”

Spring Cleaning

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. There’s just something about the way that new life stems from green blades of grass, blooming flowers and blossoming trees. Our winters in Dallas aren’t typically very harsh compared to other spots around the country, but here as well, everything’s been dead all winter season. So it’s exciting to see all the green, knowing that a new season’s here! Springtime’s so fresh and new. But there IS something that I don’t like about this time: spring-cleaning! It’s so hard to deep clean (especially when it’s nice outside!) after having a season where we let things pile up.

But just like when we take the time to deep clean our house, we also need to take time to deep clean our heart. Stuff gets piled up in our hearts. Maybe it’s sin, or busyness, or brokenness, or unforgiveness… but our hearts get stuffed with all of this junk, and if it’s not taken care of, it’ll keep us from God. So this Spring can also be the perfect time to do our spiritual spring-cleaning. Why? Because as our early Easter a few weeks ago reminded us, God’s depth of love for us is immeasurable, and because of that love, Jesus painfully took upon all of our sins on the cross, and then gave us the hope that we continue to celebrate today when He rose three days later! If He went through all of that pain for us so that we could be purified and live forever with Him in Heaven, don’t you think that we can take the time, no matter how painful it is, to clean out our own hearts for Him?

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. “ James 4:8

It’s time my friend, to do some heart-spring-cleaning. Are there things in there that’ve been taking the place of God? Maybe it’s shopping, social media, Netflix, food. Perhaps it’s even deeper than that- drugs, alcohol, gambling. Might there even be secret sin that needs to be laid before the cross. It’s Spring. Time to bring our “heart-junk” into the light, time to let repentance show, to let healing grow, to let forgiveness flow. It’s time to let God back into being the King of our life!

How does your heart need to be cleaned this Spring? Will you join me in asking God to meet us where we are, and to help us deep-clean our innermost being, so that we can see and hear Him more clearly? Then, as our hearts are cleaned, new life will bud, stem and grow us more into the people who God has created us to be!

“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.” Isaiah 1:16

The Lion and the Lamb

You’ve probably heard the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” As we’re in the Easter season, I wanna take a minute and share two spiritual perspectives you can pull out of this saying (spoiler alert: weather forecasting is not one of them).

“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”  When we learned this phrase growing up, we were being told that storms early in the month were predicting better weather later. We shouldn’t be downcast just because the weather was overcast. If anything, we should be encouraged – we see the clouds and rain, and know that the sunshine was coming. Current storms are the proof! In Matthew 26, Jesus tells his disciples that He’s about to be betrayed and handed over to the Romans. Right before He walks to Gethsemane, He says, “But after I am raised up, I, your Shepherd, will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.” Imagine that! Jesus is saying that, as surely as His betrayal and death will take place, He’ll meet up with them again right here on planet Earth. I hope that the disciples, in the midst of the unimaginable three days they were about to go through, were able to – at least in the back of their minds – see what Jesus had said was coming to pass and interpret it as proof that the REST of what He said will also come to pass (namely, the hopeful part!). Maybe that’s true for you right now too. Just like it was for the disciples, trials come in like a lion and hit you head-on; but like storms early in March, they can be viewed as proof that God’s working on the other side. The peace of God and restoration in Jesus is coming like a lamb, one way or another!

“March comes in like a Lamb and goes out like a Lion.” Easter’s typically in April, but this year it’s in March. So since that’s swapped around, what if we swap that phrase around too? In like a Lamb and out like a Lion… There’s another great reminder here! Think about Good Friday; Jesus died and was buried. That’s “coming in like a Lamb” to me. Not only as a sacrificial Lamb, but in a position of weakness – God becoming weak like us. Of course, weakness and sacrifice are only the first part of the story. Jesus sure went out of the tomb like a Lion – bold, strong, a conqueror!

This Easter, let’s remember that, just like it was for the disciples, trials come in like a lion (overwhelming and sudden) and can go out like a lamb (the peace of God wins out). Let’s also celebrate that, although Jesus may have gone into the tomb like a Lamb (sacrificial and weak), He sure turned eternity on its head when He burst out like a Lion (a strong champion)! Jesus himself and the community of faith around you are right by your side either way.

In short, have a happy Easter – He is risen!

Beginnings

Every new year, as January’s thrust upon us and the gym gets more crowded than ever, people are attempting to make good on their resolutions lists. Lose 20 pounds, call Grandma more often, make more money, stop drinking soda, the lists goes on and on. Now, there’s nothing wrong with self improvement or being healthier (in fact, it’s encouraged!), but I want to challenge you to also make some spiritual goals that’ll impact you for eternity. These are goals that’ll bring you closer in your relationship with Jesus and help you grow in your faith. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to grow in my walk with God this year?’ Maybe it’s in fellowship, in prayer and quiet time with God, in serving, in reading and living out the Bible, in discipleship, just to name a few.

Here are some spiritual goal ideas to get you started:

-Wake up 20 minutes early and spend those 20 minutes in prayer.

-Choose 12 books of the Bible to really STUDY (one per month).

-Find a home church and serve.

-Join a small group.

-Set aside time every day to read the Bible and pray.

-Volunteer in the youth group (the kids will LOVE you!).

-Memorize 1 verse a week.

-Have a family devotional together twice a week.

So pray and ask God what realistic spiritual goals He wants you to set this year. And overall, choose to commit this year to seeking out God. Here are 3 of my favorite slices of scripture about this topic:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:1-5)

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”  (2 Peter 3:18)