LATJ: The Life of the Party

5 11 2009

party-balloons“It’s not about you.” Rick Warren starts off his wonderful book “The Purpose Driven Life” with that heart-piercing statement. What’s so wrong with wanting it to be about me? The world tells me it should be all about me. But as Warren says in the opening chapter, “Apart from God, all the things we use to try to fill our lives will always run out and fail to satisfy.” This is so true. So often we see that the things we thought we could count on turn out to disappoint us or fail to last. Even fame itself is fleeting.

We make idols of all sorts of things in our lives — celebrities, sports figures, jobs, cars, and all kinds of stuff. While it may be okay to hold certain people and things in high esteem, remember that they are all temporal and will someday be gone. Many times we look to those idols to distract us from the things going on in our lives. We try all sorts of things to make our life meaningful. But Warren reminds us that “our best human efforts at making life meaningful will always fall short of God’s plan to give our lives true meaning.” Or as my pastor once said, “false idols always fail.”

If you want real, life-sustaining purpose and meaning for your life, purpose that will outlast anything that you could ever think of, keep your focus on Jesus, the author and sustainer of life. “Everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.” Col 1:16b


God With Us

5 11 2009

I was listening to Mercy Me this morning and this song started playing. It’s one of my favorite Mercy Me songs and I just needed to stop and praise God for all that He has done in my life. God is certainly good!!!

LATJ: The Big Picture

4 11 2009

Jesus is KingIn this chapter, Jack tells us that “everyone focuses on different things, seeing things from a unique perspective.” That explains why two people can experience the same event and yet describe it with completely different details and interpretations. Both descriptions are probably accurate — they are just told from different perspectives.

At one point in His ministry Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15b) He asked this because others were confused about who Jesus was. They weren’t seeing the big picture. When you read the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) you may get a little confused because the accounts seem a little different. But they are different for a number of reasons. Each of the Gospels was written for a different purpose and from the perspective of the author. That is important to understand when you read them. The main purpose for each of the Gospels was to show different attributes of Jesus:

  • Matthew: Jesus as King
  • Mark: Jesus as servant
  • Luke: Jesus as the perfect man
  • John: Jesus as the Son of God

Re-read each of the Gospels from the perspective of the author and with the understanding of its purpose. You should then be able to answer Jesus’ question in the same way that Peter did. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16b)

LATJ: Behind Closed Doors

3 11 2009

failing-grade1Failure is a certainty! If you have never failed at something you’ve tried to do then you will at some point in your life. There is nothing wrong with failure — in fact, failure can make you stronger. There is a huge difference between failing and becoming a failure. The difference is in your response and your attitude.

The company 3M is known around the world for its innovative products. I remember reading years ago that there was a saying around 3M that if you weren’t failing 10 times each day then you weren’t trying hard enough. Now I’m not suggesting that you should try to fail on purpose. Each effort to try something new should begin with the thought that you are going to succeed. When failure does occur you can choose to give up or choose to learn and grow stronger for the next attempt.

In the same way, Jesus understands that we are going to fall short of the mark. That is why He came and died on the cross for us. But it didn’t end there because we know that He also rose again, defeating death. Whenever I talk to kids about what God is capable of doing I always ask them if there is anything that God can’t do? Is there anything that is outside of God’s control? There is a real simple answer. I point them to Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” With that statement we can see the awesome power of God and what He is capable of — everything!

We see it again in Mark 4:39 when Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea: “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” Notice the command that Jesus issues in the midst of the turbulence — Peace! Peace is comforting and available to each of us through Christ. Turn to Him, lean on Him, and He will give you peace.

Phil 4:7 – “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

LATJ: Life’s Tough Calls

21 10 2009

todolistI am reminded of the story my pastor told one morning in church about a husband and wife. The husband was very demanding and some might say uncaring. He had made a list of things that he wanted his wife to do around the house and told her that she had better make sure they were done. She lived in constant fear of forgetting to do something on the list and the wrath that might follow. She was miserable.

Years later after her husband had passed away, she married a godly man that showered her with love and respect. They had a wonderful marriage and she was joyful. One day while she was putting some things away she found a box of her first husbands things. In that box she found one of his ‘lists’. As she looked over the list she began to realize that everything on the list that she was told to do she was now happily doing on her own for her second husband. She wasn’t doing them because she was told to do them but because she loved her husband and wanted to do them.

Our hearts should be the same. God desires the best for us and we should desire to give God our best. At the heart of all of it is love. We should do the things of God not because we have to do them, but because we love God and have a desire to please Him. But how do we know what He wants us to do? He has told us in His Word. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us. And through a relationship with Him He will speak to your heart and tell you.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Is 30:21

LATJ: Work in Progress

20 10 2009

under_constructionRuth Bell Graham was a faithful woman that walked with the Lord. She kept many journals of her travels and experiences. In one of her entries, she wrote “I once saw a highway sign on a strip of highway that was under construction. I would like to have that sign copied onto my gravestone. It said, ‘End of construction. Thank you for your patience.’” We all need to look upon our lives and the lives of those around us as a work in progress. We should be striving to become more and more like Christ, but also realize that we are not there yet.

God says to us “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Lev 19:2. Wow! That’s a pretty tough assignment. But God knows that we can’t do that on our own strength. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit — the helper. And we must also remember that becoming holy is not an event, it is a process. Ruth Bell Graham went on to say that she always found it irritating to be painting a picture in art class and have someone criticize the work before the painting was finished. Yet how many of us are guilty of criticizing God’s unfinished paintings? Be patient and endure, knowing that God and the Holy Spirit are constantly at work in our lives — “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Phil 1:6. We can have confidence in this work because we know that God always keeps His promises. As was said of Abraham, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:20-21

LATJ: A Legacy of Peace

19 10 2009

peaceIn his seminal book, “Peace with God”, Billy Graham says this about peace: “One of the characteristics of the Christian is an inward joy that does not depend upon circumstances.” I recall an experience at work from years ago. I was working at a startup company where we had been really hitting it hard for 9 months to develop and release our first product. Throughout that period there had been many challenges, a lot of successes, and some conflicts. Near the final push to get the product out, one of the engineers came into my office and made a very poignant statement. He said to me, “You never seem to get upset or agitated. You always seem to be at peace.” That statement has really stuck with me through the years. It made me realize a couple of things. First, that people were watching. And second, that I was actually witnessing to people by the way that I reacted to situations around me. There should be something different and recognizable about a Christian. I’m not saying that I have it figured out. In fact, I know that I still a have a long way to go. But I am certainly conscious that how I deal with situations is a reflection of the peace that I have in Christ.

In 1873, Horatio Spafford wrote a wonderful hymn in response to overwhelming tragedy in his life. This hymn, “It is Well with My Soul”, begins with a reprise of what it truly means to understand peace.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My life verse is 1 Thes. 5:16-18. I’m not sure if I read this verse before or after I became more at peace, but nevertheless it speaks to a heart that understands the peace that Jesus gave to us:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:16-18