Glorious!

Glorious:                                                                                                                 delightful; wonderful; completely enjoyable;                                                 conferring glory;                                                                                                          full of glory; entitled to great renown;                                                             brilliantly beautiful or magnificent; splendid

Very few things in this world are truly ‘glorious‘, but we occasionally do find them:

A glorious sunset; the glory of the miracle of birth; the glory of true love.

 

However, there is One who is glorious in everything He does--The God.

When He intervenes in the affairs of earth, it’s usually ‘glorious’.

At Christmastime, we think of one of the most ‘Glorious’ events in human history–the coming of God to earth, in the form of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. We read about it in the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 2:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:1-16)

Can you imagine?

Imagine, for example, what it would have been like to be those shepherds–loners, looked down upon, considered ‘ceremonially unclean’–and here was an angel breaking through the night sky to announce the birth of the Savior–God in the Flesh–to them!

angel-and-shepherds

Then the whole sky filled with angels giving ‘glory’ to God!

What a ‘glorious’ night that was!

As Linus Van Pelt says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”!

May we–today–get a glimpse of His Glory at Christmas.

 

Higher!

Grow Deeper, Go Higher.

That is what I shared as a challenge at KCC last week.

Here’s an explanation, in brief:

If we want to ‘Go Higher’ in our faith, it will only happen as we ‘Grow Deeper’ in our relationship with Him.

I know, it’s not ‘rocket science’, but stop and think about it:

What would it look like in your life if you went ‘higher’ in your faith?

Would you finally be able to have real peace–based in trust in your loving heavenly Father? Would you finally have boldness in faith to make ‘that step’ that He’s been moving you to for some time? Would you go ‘all-in’ with your generosity of time and money, not holding back out of fear or ‘worldliness’?

What would it be for YOU to ‘Go Higher’?

I mean it–stop, pray, and answer that question. I’ll wait…

 

Ok, now, let me ask the next one: Why haven’t you been ‘going higher’ like that until now?

I’m pretty sure it has something to do with your relationship with God.

Some of us are just trying to have a relationship with God on our terms–at our schedule, to the level that we decided, etc.

Others are simply too distracted with the concerns of this life. We’re too busy, too stressed, etc.

Here’s the thing we need to know: ALL of those distractions are examples of us ‘settling for less’ than the beauty, power, impact and holiness that we we designed for.

We are too easily convinced that the short term/temporary ‘stuff’ of this world is the best there is. We ‘know’ it’s not, but we ‘function’ like it is.

CS Lewis wrote, in his book, The Weight of Glory,

cs-lewis“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

You have to know–deep down, in every fiber of your being–this one truth:

GOD wants you to ‘Grow Deeper, and Go Higher’.

He wants you to know Him more. He wants you to worship Him more fully. He wants you to experience His power, His provision, His ability to work miracles, His transforming work, His peace, His guidance…you get the idea.

Your heavenly Father LOVES you and wants the best for you!

The only way you get that is to ‘grow deeper’ in your relationship with Him.

David wrote,

“Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

God wants you and I to be like “trees planted along a riverbank” (ie, with a continual source of refreshment, nutrients, etc.), “bearing fruit in each season” (ie, continually growing in our faith and producing the ‘fruit’ of that faith in our lives). He actually does want us to “prosper in all we do”.

THIS is part of the ‘Full Life’ that Jesus promised in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have Life, to the full!”

Today. I mean it–TODAY!

Have the courage and wisdom to ask yourself the question: What does “Higher” look like for me, and how can I ‘Grow Deeper’ enough to get there?

Pray on these things!

The Power of Gratitude

As we head into our Thanksgiving weekend here in America, I have a question for you:

Why should You be thankful?

Seriously–I’m not looking for the ‘churchy’ answer here, I’m really asking you to consider: Why are YOU thankful this year?

It seems to me that our culture has become a cesspool of negativity, and that it is very popular (even encouraged) to complain.

Some can complain about the election…others complain about the reaction to the election!

Some complain about their jobs, and others about their lack of a job.

Some complain about their finances, their health, their relationship status, their schoolwork…the list could go on!

So, let me ask again: What do YOU have to be thankful for this year?

My sense is that, if we stop ourselves long enough…push back from the News and Social Media, and get alone with God, we’d start to remember…

We’d remember that He is the Source of all blessings, and we’d thank Him first.

James 1:16-17:Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

We’d remember that the biggest and best blessing ever: The promise of Eternal LIFE comes from His loving heart to us by faith in Jesus.

We’d remember that we are sinners, not ‘deserving’ that Life…but we’d sure be thankful for His grace toward us!

We’d remember again His many general blessings–especially in this nation–the freedom to worship Him and live our lives according to His Word; the beauty of His creation, along with the blessings to see, hear, smell and experience it.

We’d remember the blessing of family–our ‘family of origin’ and our current family. We’d be thankful for the memories, and thankful for the opportunity to love each other still.

We’d remember our relationships in general, and be thankful that God put those people into our lives.

We’d become aware, again, of our physical bodies, and thankful for the abilities He has given us to do whatever He calls us to do.

We’d be thankful for His provision–through our ability to earn a living, along with the generosity of others.

If we continued to spend time with God, asking Him to help us be aware of our blessings, we’d be thankful, again, for our country. To be sure, a country with problems, a country with some regrettable history, but a country where freedom, liberty and the power of the individual to choose their life’s direction is still true.

Again…the list could go on almost forever!

So here’s the choice we have: Will we give in to the power of negativity, complaining, gossip, division and ultimately, hate?

Or, will we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us with thankfulness, appreciation, gratitude and ultimately, Love?

One of those roads leads to destruction and death–both individually, and as a nation. The other leads to blessing and life.

I choose life! I choose thankfulness! I choose gratitude.

Don’t get ‘sucked in’ to the negative vortex and ‘downward spiral’ of complaining. downward-spiralInstead, lead people around you upward, toward blessing, life and generosity of spirit!

Philippians 2:14-15: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”

You and I can be some of those who realize that we need to get off the ‘negativity train’ and start to be a positive force of blessing in this world. We can do that consistently if we start with gratitude based on the blessing of the Lord!

I hope and pray that you have a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving, and that you see the Source of those blessings–God–every day!

The ‘Why’ behind the ‘What’

Why do you do what you do?

What is your motivation?motivation

Our work or school, for example: WHY do you do it? Is it just to get a paycheck or a report card? If so, what is the eventual goal–a car? A house? A good job?

IF you have motivation, you can go places!

If you don’t, you won’t.

If you don’t have motivation–a ‘Why’–then you’ll never do your ‘What’ very well at all. You’ll simply go through the motions, and the end product–the job you do, the grades you get, etc.–will reflect that.

 

For Christ followers, there is a WHY inherent in every What.

The ‘What’ is that which God calls us to do–through His Word (the Bible), and through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

However, if all we know or focus on is the ‘What’–obeying, forgiving, sharing, etc.–without knowing the ‘Why’, then we’ll simply be ‘going through the motions’. In that case, we’ll look very ‘religious’, but not very ‘Alive’.

So…what is the Why?

Why is it that God calls us to do these things? Why does He call us to pray to Him, to read His Word, to serve others, to be generous? Why?

Because He loves us, and knows what is best for us. He knows that, as we get closer to Him, our lives begin to orient around Himself, and then our lives get better–not without challenges, but more ‘God-centered’. When then happens, then we begin to experience the promise of John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

WHY does He want us to experience ‘Life to the full’?

Because He loves us.

Why, then, should we obey, pray, serve, give, etc?

Because we love Him, and willingly desire His work within us to make us more like Jesus. “…And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The question is, WHY does it matter?

It matters because God knows us, God loves us, and God wants the best for us.

But it also ‘matters’, because He is GOD, and He deserves our worship, our obedience, our service, our praise. He is worthy to receive all of that–even more than we understand.

He is perfect, holy, loving, and gracious. He is righteous, powerful, sovereign and wise.

…consequently, that absolute Best, most sensible, most logical thing we can do is to worship and serve our Creator.

It also happens to have the added bonus of being the most fulfilling thing we can do.

God has ‘wired’ us so that we are most fulfilled as we turn to Him in faith, and allow Him to fill and guide us. This is helpful, because we are in desperate need of Him.

He loves us so much that He made a way.

A Way for us to be forgiven; A Way for us to know Him; a Way for us to give Him glory; a Way for us to share Him with others.

Jesus said “I Am the Way, the Truth and The Life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6)

Why’d God send Him?

Love.

Why does He want us to follow Him?

Love.

Why does He want us to share Him with others?

Love.

 

LOVE is the ‘Why’ behind the ‘What’!

So…if you’re a Christian, and your faith and the focus of your life seems bland, uninspired, or apathetic,  maybe it’s because you’ve lost your ‘Why’.

Delve into God’s love for you more.

Ask Him to help you Love Him more.

Ask Him to help you Love others more.

#RTB, yes…but also #STL

If you’re from Kalamazoo, or anywhere near western Michigan, or if you’re a WMU Bronco, or even if you watch ESPN and pay attention to national football news, you know that there’s something special going on with the WMU Broncos this year. 

WMU, under coach PJ Fleck, is 10-0 for the first time in school history. They are currently ranked 17th in the nation, according to AP, and 21st in the national college football playoff rankings. 

Pretty amazing, for a school that was 1-11 just a few years ago!

PJ Fleck has come in and changed the culture. He is a fiery, inspiring Head Coach, and it is virtually impossible not to be motivated when you hear him speak.

One of Fleck’s main motto’s is “Row The Boat”. row-the-boat

It’s a reminder and rallying cry to keep pushing, be willing to sacrifice, and to surround yourself with ‘Elite’ people who are going to positive places. It is also shown with the hashtag, #RTB.

When he first came in to Kalamazoo and started this, I admit (as a WMU Alumn) to making fun of it. After all…Broncos and Boats have nothing to do with each other! However, when I heard the story behind it, I corrected myself. It is a great ‘rallying cry’ for the team, and the community of Kalamazoo, as well as a great reminder to challenge ourselves to ‘go higher’. 

So, what’s this have to do with me? With you? With church or Faith?

Well, some of you may know that a pretty big event happened this week in America when Donald Trump was elected as our next President of these United States.

Some cheered, others jeered. 

Honestly, for the first time in my life when the party I voted to won…I could not cheer. I am disheartened that these were our choices. However, that’s what they were, and we had to choose (I’ve written a lot about my feelings about this election–you can read past blogs if you’d like).

However, here it is: We have had an election, and now we are in the ‘transition’ phase. One thing that has always set America apart as unique is our ‘peaceful transition of power’ from one President to another…often from one political party to another. I hope and pray that this particular ‘transition’ is peaceful. 

So, what are we to do now?

I want to suggest–especially for Christ followers–that you and I need to Shine The Light!

#STL

Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

As Americans, we have–for years–bought into the idea that, ‘If we can just get Our Person elected, everything will get better.’ 

Even the Church in America has bought into this–much to our shame and detriment!

Politicians–no matter who they are, or how ‘godly’ they’ve been, have never been our hope. America’s hope has been found in her people–especially those who are also ‘citizens of heaven’ by faith in Jesus Christ–loving others and putting others first. 

Unfortunately, today America largely rejects Jesus and the influence of the Church. This election is not going to change that.

The only thing that will change that is if the ‘people of God’ in America experience a ‘Revival’ of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and begin to live it out again–not in politics, but in love, compassion, service, forgiveness…

In other words, it won’t happen unless we start to “Shine The Light” of Jesus in tangible ways.

It’s not ‘news’ to anyone that this election has not been hard to take…for many, the outcome is producing fear, anxiety, anger, etc. 

I don’t believe those feelings are warranted, but I understand them, based on what President-Elect Trump has said in the past. 

The question for us–who are Christ-followers to answer is, ‘Are we going to wait for the President to do what God calls US–as His Children–to do?’

I say no!

It’s time for all of us–red, yellow, black, white, brown, purple, chartreuse… ESPECIALLY those of us who call ourselves Christians…to come together and ‘Shine The Light’!

#STL

I Cannot Vote for EITHER Candidate!

I just can’t do it. I can’t support either of these two individuals. Both of them are SERIOUSLY flawed–personally and professionally–and I can’t stand the idea that either of them will be leading our nation for the next 4 years. I cannot personally align myself with a narcissistic, egotistical, self-centered, brute of a man, but nor can I align myself with a egotistical, conniving, disingenuous and at-least-incompetent, more-likely-criminal woman.

I have seriously and prayerfully struggled with the concept of simply ‘not’ voting for anyone for President, rather than voting for an individual I cannot support.

Yet, these are our two choices (and please don’t talk to me about any of these 3rd party candidates).

So, what will I do?

First, I will pray…for my own wisdom, for the collective wisdom of the electorate in America, for the will of the Lord, and for each individual. I will pray for Donald and Hillary, that the Lord would show them their need for Himself, and that they would humble themselves and seek Him as they try to lead well.

Second, I will consider who they surround themselves with. Who is the person who’s their Vice President? What is he like? Is there anything more positive about them than about the leader of the ticket? What do I know about their other advisers?

Third, I will consider their party’s platform–what they (as a group) are declaring to be their priorities in policies, laws, etc.

I will try to view all of these things as I try to view all of my life–from the perspective of my faith, based on the Word of God.

None of these –people, parties, or platform–will be perfect…far from it.

 

When I consider the first point, I have been praying, and will continue to. Some of my friends tell me that Donald Trump has become a born-again Christian. I hope and pray that is true, as I hope and pray that Hillary Clinton will do so. Honestly, so far, I do not see any ‘fruit’ of that. Yet, I have been praying for them…as Paul wrote, I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Secondly, when I consider who the candidates have surrounded themselves with, I think Mike Pence is a great guy. (I actually wrote him a letter 5 years ago urging him to run for President. I’m sure that letter had no impact on him–pretty sure he never saw it)…but I think he is a man I could willingly, enthusiastically support. When I also think of others that are around Mr. Trump, advising him…Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich…I like these guys and this is a great positive. I pray that Mr. Trump, if elected, listens to these men.

Thirdly, when I consider their party’s platform, I think of our Constitution. It was unique in history, laying out a system of laws and limitations on government, so that the American people would be free to ‘be the best they could be’. It is a unique document in history, and I believe it should continue to set the tone–including limiting government’s interference into our lives.

I believe in the first Amendment–the right to Free Speech–especially with respect to the ‘free exercise’ clause for religious belief. “The government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion–nor preventing the free exercise thereof”. I am convinced that this right– to believe, teach, preach and live by my faith–has been under constant assault, and that will increase in the near future if Hillary Clinton gets elected.

When it comes to the 2nd Amendment, I do not own a gun (yet), but I am a supporter of the right to “keep and bear arms”.

When it comes to moral issues–I support the right to life. I understand that things can get very difficult in some cases, and I understand that ‘the life of the mother’ is perhaps a valid exception, but the reality is that our society has allowed this to become far too commonplace, as a means of birth control…even to the point that some will defend the practice till the very end of the pregnancy–long past the ‘viability’ threshold. As a Christian, I simply cannot support this.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, I believe that we need someone who will nominate ‘Originalists’–those who view the Constitution as a document to be held to–as opposed to ‘Activists’–those who view the Constitution as a ‘living document’ in need of change.

For all these reasons, I–personally–have made the decision to vote Republican tomorrow.

I do so with no amount of fanfare and celebration because of the man at the head of the ticket…but make no mistake: The ticket, the Party Platform, and the future of the Supreme Court causes me to make this decision.

I do not assume that you will follow, just because it’s me saying this. In fact, you must not do that! You must pray, read, and consider that God would have you do.

I will vote republican, trust God, and move forward in faith!

…and I will pray (as I shared at church this past Sunday–listen to my blog (Link below)…that The Church in America would “…humble themselves and pray, and seek His face, and turn from (our) wicked ways”…so that He “will hear from heaven and will forgive (our) sin, and will heal (our) land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15)

 

http://www.mykcc.org/content.cfm?id=213&download_id=3

 

‘Issues’, Grace, and the Love of God

I admit it: I have issues.

I’m certain this is not a surprise to anyone, especially my family, but I need to say it ‘out loud’ and confess: I have things in my life which really trip me up and leave me feeling regret, guilt, and a desire to ‘do better’ in the future.

Truth be told, there are several ‘issues’ like that in my life.

One of them caused a problem for me…again…the other day.

I worked through it, but I thought: Maybe others can relate, and my sharing can help you.

Are you wondering what my ‘issue’ is?

Are you trying to ‘fill in the blank’?

The reality is that I could share my struggles with many things, but the one thing I am willing to share publicly–at least right now–is my SUGAR issue.

I love sugar.

Are you disappointed? Did you hope I was going to ‘confess’ something more sinister?

Sugar, for me (and HUGE numbers of Americans) is a SERIOUS issue–with serious health implications.

Here’s just one article on sugar and it’s contribution to many ‘inflammatory’ diseases: https://experiencelife.com/article/sugar-breakdown/

Here’s the thing: This issue has SPIRITUAL implications as well!

 

NOTE: If you’re reading this thinking I need to ‘relax’ about this, think of the     pattern…

In some ways, it’s similar to almost any other temptation: It promises something good, when in reality all it can deliver is bad.

In sugar’s case, it promises the quick taste and jolt of energy, but ultimately it leads to increased cravings for more, a sugar ‘crash’, and a need for still more energy assistance. Thus begins a ‘downward spiral’ that can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, digestive issues, skin problems, and many others.

In that light, a cookie or ‘fun sized candy bar’ just doesn’t seem worth it, does it?

From a Spiritual standpoint, it stomps all over the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ that is Self-Control (see Galatians 5:22-23)

…and in that sense, it is like alcohol, lust, greed, etc.

In my case, the other day, sugar got the best of me.

October 31st started out strong. I had some fruit (natural sugar) for breakfast, some peanuts as a mid-morning snack, a light lunch…doing fine, despite candy and cookies all around.

Then, as the afternoon progressed into evening and I started to give out candy to trick-or-treater’s, I decided that I ‘deserved’ one of my favorites…then another…then another. Soon, the cookies were out, etc.

By the time I went to bed, I was feeling bloated, discouraged, with irritated skin, upset stomach…and the feeling that ‘I gave in…again!

And as I lay in bed, praying about my day, the one thing I was very happy for was the Grace of God!

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

That’s the great news–because of the compassion of the Lord, in His grace, there is always a new day ahead!

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, those who’ve acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior can have sins–any sins (even repeated ones) forgiven and have the slate wiped clean!

1 John 1:9: “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.”

Again, you might be thinking, ‘Lighten up Dave! You’re talking about SUGAR!’. However, I know that for myself, this is an issue of self-control, which the Holy Spirit convicts me of. I know that, giving into these cravings–like any other kind of craving–is spiritually unhealthy and damaging. For you, it might not be an issue…but for me, it is.

And it’s a relatively ‘safe’ way of illustrating important points.

We all have ‘issues’ that trip us up. Sins that promise freedom, but only deliver enslavement. We have cravings…lusts within ourselves which, when followed, can lead to our spiritual, relational, physical, financial, personal, even vocational destruction.

In contrast to that, Jesus says that He has come to give us “Life, to the full” (John 10:10)…and this is a MUCH better promise than the promise of a cookie!

So, next time you’re tempted to give in to that craving/lust/temptation, think about the implications. Don’t give in, but instead choose to move toward the Lord–His grace, His promises, and His heart for you is much, MUCH better than the promise of your ‘issue’.

Great is His faithfulness!

His Love NEVER fails!