KLEENEX Please

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

   Do you remember the 2006 movie The Ultimate Gift?  James Gardner, Red, was the deceased grandfather who left his spoiled nephew, Jason, the family fortune.  Grandpa assigns twelve apparently simple tasks called “gifts” – of work, money, friends, learning, problems, family, laughter, dreams, giving, gratitude, a day and love – challenging the grandson to a journey of discoveries. He meets a leukemic girl, Emily, and her mother, that changes his perspective of life and money, making him a better man, receiving the ultimate gift of a FULL LIFE from his wise grandfather.  A wonderful flick to place on your holiday viewing list, I would rate it a 3 out of 4 KLEENEX movie.

   Elizabethtown (2005) is another movie I’d recommend.  It’s PG-13 for a reason, but the story rates 2 KLEENEX boxes.  Another meaning of life movie.  Remembering what makes life such a gift.  Living in the day that is given, each day.  The Holiday (2006, PG-13, 1 KLEENEX), Serendipity (2001, PG-13, 1 KLEENEX), 13 Going on 30 (2004, PG-13, 1 KLEENEX), Must Love Dogs (2006, PG-13, 1 KLEENEX), Sweet November (2001, PG-13, not for children, 3 KLEENEX), Big (1988, PG, although more like PG-13, 1 KLEENEX), and OF COURSE, Elf (2003, PG, ½ KLEENEX), just to list a few more MUST-SEE movies for your holiday.  There seems to be something about that 2001 to 2006 era of movies, a time for remembering what life is all about!

   I can distinctly remember each of those movies, the first time I watched them, reaching for KLEENEX, for sure (yes, I’ve seen them all more than once).  You finish the experience and just ponder what your own life is all about.  Am I living the life I’m meant to live?  Have I kept focus on the aspects of life that are truly important?  Am I living life to the fullest?  Jesus’ promise, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

   Re-read John chapter 10.  Jesus is describing to the Pharisees who he is.  He is the “gate.”  He is the “shepherd.”  And then in verse 30, BAM!  I and the Father are one.  That statement ruffled some feathers and was said to divide those that were listening.  Some believed, others conspired to stone Jesus.  That’s the never-ending plot to The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, G). 

   What, a G rating?  That’s crazy.  The events of this 5 BC event have been told in a book, the best-selling book OF ALL TIME, the Bible.  Wikipedia says that 277 movies have been made about the message within the Bible, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  My holiday….. yuck, that’s just wrong…. my CHRISTmas question for you:  do you live a full life, believing the story, while celebrating every day as the ultimate gift from God?  I remember the moments of my life when I met Jesus, better understanding the personal story and how it affects me (4 out of 4 KLEENEX for sure, some even need mops when this encounter occurs.)  Does every day feel like you’ve just watched a movie classic that has returned your heart and mind to the real focus of life?  As cancer victim Jim Valvano stated, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” Do you find opportunities within every day to celebrate your relationships with God and others?  To laugh?  To think?  And, to cry?

   I’m reminded of one other Christmas movie that is MUST-SEE!  How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000, PG, ½ KLEENEX).  Are you a Grinch?  Compare your schedule to his.  “Even if I wanted to go my schedule  wouldn’t allow it. 4:00, wallow in self-pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me – I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing… I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?” CLASSIC!  Remember, in the end, Cindy Lou Who’s love for life and Grinch changed his focus on life, and his heart grew three sizes that day. 

   Let’s live the FULL LIFE!  Available to you, TODAY!  Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, and proclaim the resurrected Jesus as Lord of your life (Romans 10:10).  Careful, your heart will fill your chest, the KLEENEX box will be shredded, and you’ll have the desire to sing at the top of your lungs, spreading Christmas cheer for all to hear!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing!

Shad

 

Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your GENTLENESS be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Philippians 4:4-5 (NIV)

   A King James Bible defines REJOICE as:  To make JOYFUL; to gladden; to animate with lively  pleasurable sensations; to exhilarate.  This Philippian scripture encourages our heart and spirit to be in constant celebration in the knowledge that we are a child of God.  PLEASE, read that previous sentence again!  I’ll let you ponder that for a moment.

   Why do we do what we do?  For whom do we do what we do?  What are our expectations for the things that we do?

   This past week I’ve had the pleasure of working side-by-side with my sister, Sarah, from Buffalo, as we drilled wheat.  She jumped right in there after a 20+ year hiatus from farming.  Filling the drills with the seed of next season’s crop.  Checking the seed placement for appropriate “seed to soil contact.”  Experiencing the joy of changing a shredded tire and rim during one of the moves to another field.  Drilling her own field for production.  Enjoying the exhilaration of the morning and evening “sky-scapes” that God designed for our week.  The week was full of “lively pleasurable sensations” for sure!  Truthfully, it didn’t seem like work, in the common use of that word.  It was just spending the day with a good friend, doing an activity that we mutually love.  The butcher’s sign had it right. “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  My sister said it this way, “It filled my cup!”

   Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  I underline gentleness to give it special attention, just as I underlined joyful in the definition of REJOICE.  Tough question coming here: do you live in a gentle and joyful manner?  Is the presence of God, the fruit of His relationship, evident to by-standers?  Joy and gentleness are indeed qualities of a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever heard a great horse described as a gentle beast?  An animal with great power that could be untamed, yet is guided and trained to restrain from its use unless appropriate.  The Holy Spirit within us is such a power, to be used in a gentle manner, yet to stand strong and firm against opposition to our faith, to be evident to those who do not yet believe. 

   The joy of the Spirit is evidenced when times are tough.  The verses following Philippians 4:5 are well-known, encouraging us to give our concerns to God in exchange for a PEACE that surpasses understanding.  PEACE, another fruit of a Spirit-driven soul.  In John 14:27 Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  A faith (more fruit) in the risen Son of God will produce an evidenced, outward expression of the very qualities of Jesus himself.  Christ’s PEACE given to us for the sake that others may see Him in us so that He might win their soul’s through us.  WOW! READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN, SLOWLY.

   TO US, IN US,  and THROUGH US!  Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  It is in God’s gift of grace, it is in a belief in Christ, and it is in the power of the Spirit that I can live and work in JOY, PEACE, and GENTLENESS!  If you don’t feel the need to rejoice in your life ask God and he will give it to you.  God doesn’t promise you health, or income, or a life on easy street.  He promises you LOVE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, and SELF-CONTROL….  to ensure you can live a life of full rejoicing in whatever the circumstances of life.  When the Lord is near you’ll never be without REJOICING a day in your life.  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).  Is the Lord near? 

   If no, then here is instruction: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).  How do I turn my life into a joyful, gentle, demonstration of God’s love?  Seek, ask and knock.  God wants you in relationship with him.  Look for Him, invite Him into your heart, don’t wait on the opportunity to rejoice today and forevermore just KNOCK on the door!  Yes, the gift of God’s grace is as simple as that.  Believe in your heart that Christ is the Savior, while declaring that Jesus is Lord of your life, and the joy of life will result in you rejoicing, in all things, so that others may come to know Christ, through you.  That’s rejoicing.

God be Praised, Hallelujah!

Shad

 

Whoever Has Ears

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  Matthew 13:16-17 (NIV)

   Kyle Idleman teaches a bible study called Not a Fan. Search back to your November 2013 newsletter where I described this bible study’s concept, which challenges believers to “step up their game” and become true followers of Christ, not simply cheering fans that are on board as long as the team is winning.  New Testament scriptures were written with the hopes of a heart transformed by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  A transformation from Fan of Jesus, to Follower of Jesus.  It’s this complete transformation that Idleman is challenging.  Are you ALL-IN o r just a fan?

   2 Cor 5:17 explains that a heart transformed results in a new creation.  A sinner becomes convicted of their sin, turns their life over (repents) to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and simply can’t be the same “in-Christ” as they were when defeated by sin.  Pretty heavy stuff here, but an easy concept to follow.  After transformation the butterfly is totally different than the caterpillar that is was before the change.  That’s the idea.  We are different and changed permanently when we’ve gone ALL-IN for Christ.  What we used to do as sinners we no longer choose to do.  No more profanity (Col 3:8)!  No more taking God’s name in vain (Ex 20:7)!  No more crude or immoral jokes (Matt 15:11)!  No more “character bashing”. Instead we should edify and build up (Eph 4:29)!  No more cheating, or lying!  No more wondering what I’m getting out of church, instead wonder how I can be a useful tool in the service of God’s people (Titus 2:7-8).

   And how do we transform?  Romans 10:10 says to believe in your heart the Gospel message (John 3:16) and declare with your voice “Jesus is Lord”.  Live a life in which your words and actions proclaim the Lordship of Christ over you (1 Peter 4:11).  The Bible brings the Christian life to print, showing the examples through stories and teachings.  My Life Application Study Bible has a section of over 200 Life Lessons from Bible People.  Examples:  God responds to Ehud’s cry for repentance (Judges 3); or, power brings Herod neither peace nor security (Matthew 2).  When we read or hear the word of God from scripture, we’re to learn the lessons being taught through the experiences of the characters within scripture.  Psalms 12:15 says a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  An un-wise man listens, but goes about “business as usual”.  Jesus warns that many will profess to know Him, but are just going through the motions of religion and never really transform their lives (Matt 7:21-23).  In Luke 9:23 Jesus provides words of instruction, And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”.  Transformation requires DAILY submission to God’s will in our lives.  We can’t hear the words on Sunday, at Bible Study, in small group, and then go about the rest of the week “business as usual”.  We MUST hear the words, and let the Holy Spirit work within us to live out the words in Christian action and voice, DAILY!

   In Holy revelation, John was given Christ’s words to bring back to the churches.  Seven sets of instruction that all churches should read and hear.  Each church letter is closed with, “whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says!”  We, the Church at Leoti, need to take heed of the instructions given to the Churches mentioned in Revelations.  The lessons of life they learned, written in scripture, so that we might learn and live as a transformed Church.  Ephesus had forsaken its first love.  Smyrna would suffer persecution.  Pergamum needed to repent.  Thyatira had false prophets.  Sardis had fallen asleep.  Philadelphia endured patiently.  And poor Laodicea… they had a lukewarm faith, not totally transformed.  Their fate… God spit them out.

   In Matthew 13:16 Jesus blesses those who see, hear, and live the Christian life.   “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”  It is in seeing and hearing that we then choose to speak and serve through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our transformation continues as we seek God’s counsel in scripture daily, and as we hear from God’s anointed preachers and teachers.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says!

Grace and Peace!

Shad

 

Lunarcy

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. Genesis 1:16-19 (NIV)

 Talk about lunacy, (or extreme folly, foolishness, stupidity, silliness, idiocy, madness, or craziness (Webster’s Dictionary)), how about that LUNAR ECLIPSE?  Looney over the lunar eclipse = LUNARCY!  I enjoyed the eclipse as I was driving back and forth while sitting in a tractor, watching the event unfold on the Weather Channel, live coverage from Oregon to South Carolina, and into the Atlantic Ocean.  Yes, agreed, that whole last sentence has elements of lunacy as far as that goes.  But, the point, people went crazy for the eclipse.  The lengths and money that people went to to be in the path of “totality” was mind boggling.  TOTALITY, the 80 mile width in which the moon would eclipse the sun, perfectly, allowing a person to look directly at the event, no protective eyewear needed.  The coverage started in Oregon where the field reporter was so moved by the “day turned to night” experience that she cried with emotion as she was reporting, live to the world.  In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, people travelled from around the world at a chance to see what one viewer called “the most amazing thing I’ve EVER seen.”  A family with three small children paid a cruise liner to haul them, and 4,000 others, into the Atlantic Ocean for a chance to see, and they were already planning a family trip to Peru in 2019 to see an eclipse from South America.  LUNARCY! CRAZY!!!

Now the science of it all was fascinating.  I enjoyed the portion of coverage that laid out the details of this particular eclipse.  The scientists proudly offered their take on the matter, explaining how millions of years ago the dinosaurs would have seen a larger moon and a smaller sun.  And, how in another million years the moon, which is drifting an inch further away from the Earth every year, and the sun, which is aging and expanding in the process, well, in a million years the sun will be larger than the moon during an eclipse.  BUT not on this particular day, they were a PERFECT FIT.  Same size, TOTALITY, never seen before, pure LUNARCY!  They explained that in the final seconds leading into TOTALITY, you could see “beads”, the indication to remove your eyewear.  The beads were the hills and valleys of the sun’s surface.  AND THEN, the crowning moment, TOTALITY and the CORONA DEL SOL.  The crown of the sun was spectacular!  With the sun’s surface covered, we witnessed energy leaving the sun, shooting out into the solar system.  The sun’s surface is 10,000 oF. That’s hot.  As the energy is released to light up the world, it goes through an amazing process that elevates the temperature to 1,000,000 degrees.  The solar corona that is created, only seen in TOTALITY, is a crown of fire, energy released for the 8-minute trip down to Earth so that we can have daylight. 

Through the entire LUNARCY event not one single mention of the Holy accounts from Genesis 1.  I cried both for the majesty and splendor of God’s creation and the LUNARCY by which man is driven.  I thought of Louie Giglio’s mashup of the whales and stars singing “How Great is our God” and I cried.  I thought of how science has blocked the mind of many as they attempt to find the meaning of life, and I cried.  Over a span of two minutes people in TOTALITY witnessed the Crown of the Son, a display of God’s grandeur and power, a light given to the world so that man could see…. and they MISSED IT!  If God wasn’t present in that moment, what will it take to make Him visible to those who didn’t see?

The singer Toby Mac says maybe it’s not so hard.  “I wanna magnify Your light, I wanna reflect the sun. Cut like precious diamonds, With the colors by the millions. This is the only world we know, And for now this rental’s our home. If we gonna be a reflection, Gotta make this third rock glow (Just so you know) Lights shine bright everywhere we go!” It’s time to let our LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHT!  May we not miss the chance to share the power of the light to everyone who is looking, but fails to see it: the glory of God in everything we do for God, through Christ, so that all may see the light.  Let’s magnify, reflect, and glow everywhere we go!  God made two great lights – and God saw that it was good. Lights shine bright!!!!

To Him be all praise, honor and glory!

Shad

 

God is Within You

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”  Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)

             Nothing like time on the harvest field to sit and contemplate life.  You can’t help but remember the bible’s many stories about wheat.  God’s first task as an employer of men was to create a dependable farmer to till the ground, Paul Harvey style.  He warned Adam of the stickers, goat heads, kochia and bindweed.  Sadly, some of my fields are representing the “Garden of Eden” in that regard.  We did find some wheat.  Going through the grain sample you see the chaff and “trash” that was also collected with the wheat.  God says there will be a day when they are separated permanently.  Not on this day, or in this combine.  Cracks, shriveled and broken made up way too much of the sample in our bin.  The story is told of Boaz requesting that wheat be left behind so that the poor can come “glean” the field, for their needs to be met.  Well, again sadly, those who have the patience to pick wheat off the ground could certainly gather numerous bushels if you’d like to know the field locations. 

But, let’s not forget the bountiful stories of the wheat field.  One seed of wheat produces many in return.  Matthew 13:8,  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” The disciples were just like us.  They heard the story and didn’t understand the meaning.  Jesus ends this segment with the instruction, “He who has ears, let him hear.”  What is it that we are supposed to hear from this story?

The view from the combine tells the story.  The wheat at harvest has a look to the farmer like no other scene.  The “wavy wheat” stands before the harvester ready to be taken.  A job well done, now complete, bowing in reverence in its maturity.  Time to be thrashed, separated, and taken away by the one who planted, watered, fertilizer and cared for it.  The one seed, had produced many additional seeds to be gathered.  Well done my good and faithful seed!  BUT WAIT!  The time for harvest is not decided by the seed.  What should we do until that moment of gleaning?  Think about it…… we’re to LIVE obedient and faithful lives!

I recently heard a sermon describing what Heaven is going to be like as best can be understood through John’s writings in Revelations: pearly gates, streets of Gold, no pain, sickness or politics.  What a glorious picture.  BUT THEN, I read Luke 17!  THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU!  We, like the wheat, don’t determine the harvest schedule.  We are instructed to live our lives with the fruit of the Spirit in full effect.  Living in LOVE, living in KINDNESS and FAITHFULNESS, exhibiting SELF-CONTROL, JOY and PEACE.  Heaven on earth.  Stand tall in the field of all believers.  Protect your “soil” from the evil one.  Encourage others who have developed more slowly.  Be Christ to those who are looking for a better way in life.  WHATEVER YOU DO… .don’t just sit around waiting for the END!  Be fruitful, and MULTIPLY!  30, 60 or maybe even 100 times!!!!  “He who has ears, let him hear.”

Grace and Peace

Shad

At the Cross, You Beckon Me

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

              Always be prepared to give an answer!  In theological speak this is called an apology.  Bible.org defines apologetics: “the defense of the Christian faith.”  In other words, always be prepared to give an answer to defend your faith.  Connie and I spent Easter in Kearney, attending Joshua’s church, listening to the final installment of a sermon series on the apologetics of the Christian faith.  Easter Sunday was spent defending the belief in a resurrected Jesus.  The usual defenses were given: 1) Joseph of Arimathea is a real Jewish man, with a real tomb, that was found empty that morning; 2) the years following the resurrection gave ANYONE who could disprove the storied accounts adequate time to expose the hoax, but they didn’t; and 3) those disciples closest to Jesus chose to be martyred for their belief in the resurrection story.  Would YOU die for a LIE?  With each of these apologies, you are required to have faith, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).  At times blind faith, if you will, can be a challenge to defend.  It was the fourth apology presented Easter morning that has occupied my mind.  The resurrection story is TRUE because…. of the difference Christ has made in my life!  That difference IS the reason for the hope that I have.  Bill Gaither explains it this way, Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives!

And that, my friends, is life in the fruit basket.  For me, all roads lead back to the market.  All scripture leads to the new creation of a heart won over by God, transformed by Christ, and matured by the Holy Spirit.  Because He lives, I have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  Christ-like attributes granted to those in relation with the Trinity.  This is my APOLOGY, my defense for the resurrection story, my answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for the hope that I have.  Jesus Christ has radically changed my life.  In faith, I believe in the resurrection, therefore I am saved (John 3:16).  But it is my new life, as evidenced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that leads to 100% conviction that the tomb was empty that Easter morning.

At this point, however, I need to leave the market place.  Let’s consider the opening statement of 1 Peter 3:15, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  So many people desire the fruits of the Spirit, yet are unwilling to place Christ as Lord over their lives.  Please pause now and read 1 Peter 3:8-22. 

What did you take from the reading?  This chapter encourages believers in the ways of righteous living.  Those “in Christ” live with a different motivation then the “world” offers.  Submission…. compassion…. humility….. do good…. seek peace…. suffer for what is right, if it is God’s will (last month’s newsletter).  Verse 18 clearly identifies your role in the process…….NONE!  18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  Jeremy Riddle sings this chorus in has incredible song, Sweetly Broken. At the cross, You beckon me. You draw me gently to my knees. And I am lost for words, so lost in love. I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.  Please call it up on YouTube and listen to the song. 

At the cross He beckons us to BELIEVE in Him, for through His death our sins are FORGIVEN.  God forgives us for bringing Him to trial through our sin.  God forgives us for whipping Him, and driving the nails into His hands and feet, as we choose to live self-centered lives.  The point is, not until we revere Christ as Lord, understanding that the sin in our lives separates us from God, not until we are sweetly broken (tears of joyful submission) and have wholly surrendered, not until THEN are we called out of death to sin, and made alive in the Spirit.   It is then that the message of the cross becomes the power of God (1 Cor 1:18) and we are empowered to live in a manner that clearly gives an answer for the hope that we have.  Yes, I believe the tomb was empty that Easter morning.  You want proof?   And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us (1 John 3:24).  That’s proof enough for me.  His Spirit, given to His followers as a testimony to the truth that the tomb was empty that first Easter.  Our “fruitful” lives are the proof that He is Risen!  He is risen indeed.

Halleluiah!!

Shad

1 Peter 3:8-22 (NIV)

Suffering for Doing Good

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—  to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

 

If it is the Lord’s will….

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15

              MARCH MADNESS!  It can be said that I spend too much time watching the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament.  There’s just something about the conclusion of a 5 month season that begins with the craziness of a Thursday through Sunday binge on college basketball.  It is truly MADNESS!  The fact that I could have been productive doing important items during this 48 hour marathon is not the point.  The real question is: How do we become so compassionate, so consumed by a sporting event?  Second question: Why can’t my spiritual life exhibit that same passion and dedication? 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”   Refresh your memory of verses 2-8, verses made famous by a movie about a bunch of kids who just want to dance, Footloose.  Each verse gives opposite extremes of some condition, i.e. weep/laugh, mourn/dance, keep/throw away, tear/mend, war/peace and love/hate.  The ups and downs of life on Earth.  The summation of one’s life experience is stated in verse 2, a time to be born and a time to die.” 

This my friends is THE SEASON!  Our physical season of life on Earth, marked by our birth and death.  But, it’s how we live in the bell curve of this condition that leads to a spiritual March Madness celebration of our own, ONE SHINING MOMENT.  In this moment, we are spiritually re-born and die to our own personal needs.  THY Kingdom come, THY WILL be done!  James 4:15 states, Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  The moment we give our lives to Christ we choose to act on God’s will for us, our families, our health, our wealth ….. our very human lives!  Previous, in James 4:13, we are warned about making plans for the future.  You know, that goal-setting exercise we’re sometimes asked to do.  “What are your 12 month goals, 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year goals?”  Write them this way, “If it is the Lord’s will, my 12 month goals are…….”  If it is the Lord’s will protects your heart from becoming prideful.  Otherwise your prayer sounds like this, “Lord, please bring moisture to our area.”  Do I believe that the Lord will bring me rain just to satisfy my banking needs?  That’s pretty prideful!  However, if it is the Lord’s will that rain will fall, praise be to GodIf it is the Lord’s will that we experience drought, praise be to God

Hypothetical question:  If God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are spiritual beings that care about a spiritual relationship that will lead all who believe into an eternal praise and worship service in Heaven…. and, if for that reason, the physical elements that we commonly pray for bring nothing to the eternal banquet and celebration (think about it, we don’t take our crops, our money, or our human bodies to Heaven) ….. should we not be praying more for spiritual rain, spiritual healing, and spiritual protection against the evil one than for physical needs?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:17)  Our time on Earth is limited.  God provides the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might live in His will.  What is God’s will for you?  God’s will is that you would live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23), just as Christ exemplified during His time on Earth.  These are spiritual qualities gained from a relationship with Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ!  Believers don’t have to wait till the “tournament” is over to celebrate.  The victory has already occurred.  Even in sickness, we’re winners.  Even in drought, we’re showered with blessings.  Even in poverty, we have riches.  Even in death, we gain life.  Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:3-9).”  In review, blessed are those who live in the Spirit and have been anointed by the fruit of that spiritual relationship.  If it is the Lord’s will………….AMEN.

To God be the Glory,

Shad

 

Dear Younger Me

Dear younger me, where do I start, if I could tell you everything that I have learned so far?  Then you could be, one step ahead, of all the painful memories still running thru my head. I wonder how much different things would be, Dear  Younger Me.

MercyMe (2014)

     What do you do on the 4th round trip drive to Lincoln, NE (760 miles), in 5 weeks?  Well, first question to answer…. Why go to Lincoln, NE every weekend?  Connie and I go to watch Joshua perform at indoor track meets at UNL.  Next question…. what do we do on these 6.25 hour one-way drives?  Well, this past Friday we left Leoti with MercyMe’s song playing over the radio, Dear Younger Me.  The lyrics posed the question: If you could go back in time and give yourself the best advice based on what you now know, what would that advice be? 

     For Connie and I, and for the sake of passing time, we asked that question in regards to four aspects of our lives.  #1 our Faith.  #2 our family, in consideration as to how to raise young children.  #3 our academics and our choices of vocation.  And #4, because we were driving crazy distances for the sake of athletics, our advice, looking back, as to how we should have approached our athletic careers.  Not the “Glory Days” type of looking back, re-living the best moments.  More the critical side as to how we could’ve given more to be the best of our capabilities.  This conversation lasted pretty much to Wakeeney and breakfast at McDonalds.dear-younger-me-mercyme

The discussion was interesting as we generally could pick out a few aspects of these four categories and come up with advice that we would have given ourselves.  Now I don’t know if a younger Shad would have listened to the wise counsel of an older, mature Shad, but it seems like it would have been “good medicine” if a younger me would have actually heard the advice.  By definition, I would be handing down proverbs to myself.  Def: proverb – a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.  Solomon wrote a whole book of advice that presents general spiritual and behavioral truths.  For an example read Proverbs 15, the whole chapter.  There’s some great advice in there!

Next, I’m going to ask you to get out a piece of paper and make a section for each of the following topics: bible study, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, and stewardship.  These are Spiritual Disciplines or activities designed to draw you into a deeper relationship with Christ.  The first thing we’ll do is define, as best we can, our understanding of what each is and how we might think God would want us to practice these disciplines.  Next, the hard part, evaluate your current practice of each discipline.  Lastly, it’s time for proverbs.  Conclude this homework with short pieces of advice TO YOURSELF that could be used to further develop your spiritual disciplines.  I’ll give it a go here.

Evangelism: Evangelism means to spread the Gospel message to anyone who will listen.  I suppose the Gospel message can be told both verbally, through the telling of His story, and physically, by living out the Great Commandment and its follow-up requirement to love others as ourselves.  Evaluation:  When called upon to speak I don’t hesitate to tell the Gospel story. I pray that my behavior exhibits God’s love, through me, to others.  Truthfully, I’m a little uncomfortable to just bring up Jesus in a conversation if it’s not currently the topic.  Secondly, there are still some people that I find it uncomfortable to be around.  PROVERB:  Shad, it’s not about you.  Shad, as sure as God has changed your life’s priorities, so too does God want to do that for everyone.  Shad, if you truly have PEACE like a river, LOVE like an ocean, and JOY like a fountain, then these bodies of water will overflow out of your life and into the lives of those people around you.  Tell them why you are like you are!  Give an account of the hope you have in your faith!  Declare with your lips and the actions of your life that JESUS is LORD over you.  In doing so God will be glorified and lives will be changed.

Okay, that’s EVANGELISM!  Now it’s time for the other disciplines.  Time to evaluate and provide advice to a younger you!  Be open, truthful, and a little critical!  When completed, apply this uncovered knowledge to the practice of those activities that will draw you closer into a loving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Grace and Peace to you as you move forward in this relationship.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.  (Proverbs 12:15)

To God be the Glory

Shad

 

Ifs, Ands, or Buts

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel —   Ephesians 6:19 (NIV)

To know God, and to make God known.  I believe I’ve stumbled across God’s will for me in my life.  To know Him and to make Him known!  Should I do that as a teacher or a farmer?  Doesn’t matter God says. Know Me, and make Me known.  If…. I were in a relationship I think I could follow God better.  NOPE. Simply know ME and share Me with others.  And……. God knows that I come from a broken home, right?  Yes, He does.  He calls you to seek Him so he can restore your spirit, so that you might bring the Gospel message to others who are seeking and in need.  But….. I don’t have enough money….. I pray for a better job.   Doesn’t matter,. Know ME, and I will provide for you, that which you truly need. 

The origin of “If ifs, ands, or buts were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas” is unclear and its meaning up for debate.  Whether they are prepositions or conjunctions isn’t really the point, either.  What we can derive from the saying is that there are so many excuses made for things that were both done, and not done, that if we turned them into something beneficial and good the world no-ifs-ands-butswould possibly be a different place.  Catch that?  If we turn our excuses into positive actions the world could be radically changed. 

What is the greatest THING that has ever happened to you?  In other words, what ONE thing that has changed your life is so amazing and important that you simply need to tell others?  I would challenge that a Christian should answer, “A relationship with Jesus Christ!”  If, oops there’s that word….. if a New Creation (2 Cor 5:17) was not the result, then I would challenge, you really haven’t given your life to Christ yet.  Proverbs 3 explains what a life in Christ resembles.  It’s one who is obedient to God’s commands (v1).  It’s about being faithful and loving (v3).  Trust (v5), humility (v7) and reverence (v9) are core components of living a life in the spirit.  Being mold-able through life’s trials and God’s discipline (v11) leads to a wisdom which produces peace (v17) and blessings (v18).  Your sleep will be sweet (v24) as God protects you from the wicked one (v26).  And then, verse 27 changes course.  “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  Be it spiritual or physical provision, DO NOT WITHHOLD!  When it is in your power to act….. ACT!

I’m reading a lot into the words, but, what if the WHEN part of when it is in your power, means once you’ve been provided for spiritually.  Once you’ve given your life to Christ then give away the knowledge of how that is done so that others might become wise to the power of God.  The only excuse that would relieve you from this calling is if you yourself haven’t fully excepted God’s truth in your life.  If that’s the case, please seek God, talk with a spiritual advisor. Now is the time to commit your life to Christ.  For those who know that the message of the cross is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18) it is time to share!  No IFs, ANDs or BUTs!  No excuses, NOW is the time to act.  Don’t tell someone who is seeking, “Wait for tomorrow.”  If you have IT, share IT (v28)!  Live at Peace with others (v29), don’t gossip (v30) and don’t envy what others have (v31).  The Lord strengthens the honest (v32), blesses the righteous (v33) and brings favor and honor to the humble and wise (v 34-35).

Pray, as Paul did, that God would give you the words to fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.  The GOOD NEWS!  Don’t hide it under a bushel…. NO.  Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).  Know God, and make God known.  Love God, and love others.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet. 3:15).  This relationship is too great to keep to yourself.  It is time to shout it from a mountain top.  NO IFs, ANDs or BUTs!

To God be the Glory,

Shad

 

An Outward Expression of an Inward Belief

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12 (NIV)

Tis the Season to watch movies……. Fa la la la la…..la la la la!  What is your favorite Christmas or Holiday movie?  It’s a Wonderful Life?  Charlie Brown’s Christmas?  The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?  A Christmas Carol?  Maybe….ELF? 

I recently watched Elf….AGAIN, and found myself chuckling in all the same places.  Taking gum off hand rails!  Around and round and round in the revolving door!  The BURP! (Did you hear that?)  However, towards the end of the moving there’s kind of a sad part in the story.  Christmas spirit is at an all-time low.  Who knows why?  Maybe the age of Amazon.com and instant gratification has removed any thrill of a one day gift exchange.  Perhaps we have gotten to a point where Everyday Can Be Like Christmas!  Regardless, Santa’s engine has fallen off his sleigh, and Santa explains that in the olden days the sleigh was powered by Christmas cheer alone.  The thrill of the season was enough to elevate the sleigh along Santa’s path.  Sadly, on this night, with the engine off its mount, Santa is stuck on the ground.  Buddy’s step-brother, Michael, encourages Santa to walk out of Central Park, head to the nearest populated area, show people that Santa was still around.  This, he hoped, would give Christmas cheer a shot in the arm and Santa’s sleigh a chance at continuing his flight on Christmas Eve.  Santa replies, “Michael, Christmas Eve is about believing, not seeing.”  The famous words of Jesus to his young disciple Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

blessed-are-thoseAs we head into 2017 what do the actions of your life demonstrate about what you believe?  The “cheater notes” of Matthew 3:4 ask the question, “Could people discover what you believe by observing the way you live?”  This note is in reference to John the Baptist.  He lived differently than the others.  Different clothes, different diet, different focus to life.  It didn’t require much people watching to pick up the beliefs of John the Baptist.  He lived what he believed!  What about you?

A study on generosity asked the question, “What are your base principles when it comes to being generous?”  The respondent answered, “I really don’t have any.”  The instructor answered, “Yes you do.  I only have to watch you over the course of time, observe your patterns of spending, and I can tell you what your principles are.”  Whether generosity comes first, or last, regarding your income, it is witnessed by how you spend your money. 

Observing the way I live, what do the patterns of my life witness about my relationship with God?  What does my life say in regards to the Fruits of the Spirit; Love, Joy, Peace, Patient, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self-control?  Am I different in the way I live my life, through Christ?  Like John the Baptist, do I live like I believe? 

Call it New Year’s resolutions, or God’s bucket list for my life, which attribute(s) of Christ living in me am I lacking or have no base plan for?  Performing a 53 year “dietary recall” of my fruits of the Spirit, what areas in my life still lack Christ’s total control?  My patience?  Eh…..yeah!  Joy and Peace in my life?  Well…… kinda.  Kindness and Goodness in the form of generosity?  I’m working on that.  The faithfulness and self-control that is required to daily surrender MY desires and MY plans.  Why is that so difficult?  If I don’t exhibit these traits am I actually “in Christ”?  Tough question!

What comes first?  BELIEVING!  Just like in ELF!!  If we want to live like someone who believes in the truth of Christ we must believe in the TRUTH OF CHRIST!  Believe in the saving grace of God’s love through the Christmas gift of His Son who conquered death and pardoned our sins so that we may LIVE, both now and forevermore.  If you cannot believe you cannot live the life in Christ.  Need help?  Ask for BELIEF!!  “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:6).”  When you believe, when you become a child of God (John 1:12), your faith will be witnessed through your life.  You will be the Holiday Cheer-meister (Grinch) as your heart becomes strangely warm (John Wesley) and grows in size.  Remember, the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!  An outward expression of an inward belief.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).”  Praise be to God.

Grace and Peace

Shad