Saturday, September 14, 2013

Asking Why....

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hid your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?
...But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
(Psalm 13: 1-2, 5)
My Grandma Hilbert was 94 years old when she passed from this life to the next one, and she used to say that God forgot about her. She said it was because she was so ornery. I used to tell her that it was because God still had more for her to do.
Do you ever feel like God can’t see you – or that He forgot you?
The feeling is pretty common when you are going through a difficult situation or struggle.
Why would a good and gracious God allow you to endure strife?
Doesn’t God know you need Him to intervene?
In David’s 13th Psalm poses these same questions…thousands of years later each of us is struggling with similar obstacles to grace that David faced. None of us is that different from a king – a man after God’s own heart – who sought guidance and protection from God. A king who faced struggles, defeats, anxiety, depression, chaos, hatred, abuse, illness, death, pain….nearly every difficulty a human being could face.
 If you compare your situation to David’s – how different are you?
Have you faced something David hasn’t? Likely, not, but what makes you different than the shepherd boy who became king?
David was brave enough to go before God and ask Him, “Why?
All too often, we are afraid to question God – to ask him when He will intervene – when He will take the struggle – the pain – away.
 We fear questioning God for a few different reasons:
1.       The answer. If we ask God, “Why aren’t you helping me through this? Why aren’t you solving my problem?”, we may hear Him say, “I’m not solving the problem because you need to press through this difficult time so that you will be prepared for a more difficult situation down the road.” Well, no one wants to hear God say that the problem you are facing today is just preparing you for a bigger problem in six months, six years or six decades! We live in a culture of quick fixes and microwave meals. We don’t want to hear we have to work through a problem – but more often than not – that is exactly what we need to do.
 2.       The consequence. Sometimes, the difficult situation we find ourselves in is as a result of a poor choice we have made. And God allows us to endure the punishment to help teach us not to make the same mistake. A bummer – I know – but the mess you make is the one you have to clean up.
3.       No answer. When we seek the “why” we aren’t guaranteed that God will respond. Perhaps you aren’t ready to hear the answer. Perhaps the answer to why is another tragedy. Perhaps the why is simply – because…not a great answer. As a person of faith, you need to be willing to be okay with no answer. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep asking – God is okay with the questions  - because it means you are seeking a relationship with Him – but you must also be okay with silence as your answer.
“In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)
“I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. (2 Corinthians 12: 7-8)
Trials are a part of this life. You can’t get away from them. You will always have difficult situations, but you can be assured that God will be with you:
But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
 God created you…
He created this world…
He allowed the bad to happen…
And He WILL rescue from it…In His time.
So…what can you do to wait for your salvation?
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13: 5-6
GUMY Challenge:
Mustard Seed
Don't forget to collect all 14 answers and bring them with you next week for GUMY....
You will need them.
GUMY is Sunday September 22nd!!!!!
BRING A FRIEND (or seven!)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Finding the Soil...

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
RoberH. Schuller (Theologian)

Seeds are a miraculous thing. From this teeny tiny speck, a flower or a plant or a great tree will grow. Everything that grows in the ground starts from a seed. But unfortunately, not every seed grows.
Jesus shares a parable with his followers about some seeds. The seeds were thrown by a farmer as he walked along. Some of the seeds fell on along the path, some in shallow soil, some amongst the thorns and some in good soil. The seeds which fell on the path were snatched up by the birds and the seeds which fell on the shallow soil shot up quickly, but were burned by the sun. The seeds which fell amongst the thorns grew, but were quickly choked out by the thorny bushes. But the seeds which fell in the good soil grew and flourished, producing much fruit.
This parable is an image of how different people will perceive the Gospel.

 Some fell along the path...Some people completely ignore the message of hope and love of Jesus. They are like the seeds which fell on the path. They have hard hearts towards God and choose to live their lives for worldly pleasures rather than opening up to what God has to offer them. They have closed hearts and closed ears. And yet, we are called to love them in spite of our differences. You may not be able to change the person of the hardened path, but you can still share God's love with him or her.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil... Sometimes, when we share the Gospel message with someone they are on fire with the love of Christ. This person will go out and buy the t-shirt, the bumper sticker, and the necklace, professing a 180 degree life change, but the changes are only surface deep. This person is like the seed which falls on rocky or shallow ground - he or she gets a taste of the love of Jesus and is excited about the high of the unconditional grace offered, but when it comes time to truly change his or her life - to turn away from the path he or she has been following - this person can't let go and the enthusiasm once felt for Jesus withers and fades. And just like our friend with the hardened heart, we are called to love the people whose faith is shallow - not to judge them.

 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain....Life is hard and as human beings we face man obstacles. These obstacles can bend and nearly break us for the difficulties they present. This is what happens to those who are like the seeds which fell amongst the thorns. People can and will allow their trials in life, or the pressures of others around them to choke out the life giving love of Christ. This is a choice. They have chosen to allow the pain of the world to override the peace offered by Jesus. At times, you might empathize with someone in this situation; maybe you have felt like giving up or giving in a time or two. Empathy is will help you to love these persons and try and share the light that Christ offers through the darkness of the thorns.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times... This is who we want to be as Christians. Creating good soil in which our seeds can grow begins with our commitment to Christ. We must put Him first, every day. By focusing our hearts and minds on Him we will begin to nourish our soil in His life giving light. We next need to fertilize the soil through the study of His word and His teaching. This fertilizer will help our seeds grow stronger and fuller - producing more fruit. And finally our seeds need to be planted by other seeds in like soil. We need the support and encouragement of other Christians to help us grow and weather the storms of life. 

Seeds are life giving, but they can only grow with the right nourishment. Begin by tending your soil and then look for opportunities to help others to grow.

 (click on the link below...not surprising it is the parable of the soils)

Fun Fact:

The most grown crop in the world is wheat as it is cultivated in all continents except Antarctica. Rice is second. Corn is Third. Potatoes and bananas are numbered four.

So, I guess if you want to bake some bread in Antarctica - you are going to have to bring the flour with you....

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

GUMY Challenge
Answer: Clue #13 - Jesus's last words on the cross were: "It is finished"

Clue #14 (LAST CLUE): What is the smallest seed that grows into a bush on the planet?
Hint: Jesus said it was like the Kingdom of Heaven. (And it is used to make a condiment for Hot Dogs....)

Only two more weeks until GUMY kick off sure to be collecting your will need them on September 22nd!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Whom Much is Given....

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 12:48
When you think about your life...what thoughts run through your mind?
Do you consider yourself blessed or cursed?
I consider myself extremely blessed.
Even if I hadn't been born in a country that was free, or to a family where I was adored, or with advantages I would still consider myself blessed - because I know Jesus.
Everything else - my job, my family, my education...even my country would be nothing if I didn't have Jesus.
But knowing Jesus - being in a relationship requires constant attention.
Attention to my relationship with him as well as attention to the incremental blessings he has given to me.
Recently, I heard someone say that the blessings in my life weren't just for me but they were for everyone I encounter.
I consider the blessing of my relationship with Jesus - as well as the other multitude of blessings -  to be a blessing to share.
Each day I wake up, I have the privilege and responsibility of representing Jesus to the world around me. How I share him and his blessings often is how those around me perceive Jesus - right or wrong my relationship with Jesus is a bridge to help others find a relationship with him.
Some days, when I think about the duty of sharing Jesus with others I get all tangled up inside:
What if I say the wrong thing?
What if I snap at someone?
What if someone I talk to doesn't like my hair - and then doesn't like Jesus?
I know...a little crazy - but honest.
I take the responsibility of sharing the love of Jesus very seriously...
To Whom Much Has Been Given - Much is Required.
I have been given much - I have been give the eternal love of a Savior.
And I am motivated to share that love with everyone I meet so that all of those someones might be given the same gift - and mission.
You have been given much....what will you do with it?
One person can make a difference and every person should try.
John F. Kennedy
Answer to Clue #12: Gold
Clue #13: What were Jesus's final words on the cross.....

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ignoring the Holes to Focus on the Whole

Don’t grumble against one another
James 5:9
When was the last time you fought with your brother or sister?
How about a friend...your mom....a teacher?
Have you ever complained about something in your life not being fair?
Well...if you have you are in a very large with about 7+ billion members.
As humans, we complain. We tend to focus on what we don't have rather than what we have. We see the holes in  life rather than the whole of life. We compare and contrast ourselves to the lives we see around us.
I want a bigger car...
Or I want to be liked like she is...
Or I want to stay out past my curfew....
Or I want the latest iPod...
Or....I want...
Most of our grumbling and dissatisfaction comes because of comparison....because we live in a world where we want to "Keep Up with the Joneses".
We look across the yard and see someone else's life and we begin to see that we want what we don't have...
Not because we need it...but simply because we don't have it.
This desire for things and wants and wishes outside of our lives causes us to step outside of our faith - to pull away from God.
When we begin to grumble or complain about our lives - we are complaining about the gifts God has already blessed us with.
When we fight with our parents because of a perceived restriction; or when we disagree with our siblings; or we want something someone else has  - we are essentially telling God that what He has given to us is not enough.
Complaints - whining - is telling God "Your doing it wrong Big Guy".
Do you want to be the one to tell God He's doing it wrong?
Do you think you have the right?
Instead of focusing on what you don't have, focus instead on the blessings of today.
Even in the midst of the most trying times and the darkest of hours there are specks of light and joy that can be discovered. Sometimes you may need to dig deep in your soul to see them - but I promise those gifts are there.
By focusing on the blessing - you will be given the great gift of patience.
Patience isn't a natural human condition. Patience is something that must be earned through practice and discipline.
By turning from your grumbles and focusing on what is good in your life today you will find that waiting - showing patience - isn't that hard.
Your life is as it should be. The challenges you are enduring are preparing you for something in your life that you can't yet see - but God can. The holes in your life will be filled but something better than you can even imagine.
How do I know?
God knows the whole of your life...I guarantee He will fill in the holes - if you are patient and let him.
“Oh, mansion shmansion. Did Gandhi's house have the largest outdoor trampoline in the tristate area? Did Jesus have a two-acre remote-controlled car track, with mountains to scale and a little village that lit up at night? Not in his Bible.”  
George Saunders
GUMY Challenge
Answer to Clue #11: GOD
Clue #12: