Sunday, December 26, 2010

Had a great Christmas day with the family. We spent all day together - opening presents, playing games and doing a bon-fire. The day ended with watching a movie or basketball. All in all, it was a great day.

My children are older now so they are able to earn their own money and purchase their own gifts for us. It was fun to see them prepare, purchase, wrap and watch as their siblings and parents opened their gifts - the gifts that they had bought with their own money.

I have noticed that, as a family, we seem to enjoy giving gifts and giving to others. Watching the excitement in my kids eyes as I opened the gifts that they had purchased for me, confirmed that the joy of giving gifts is something that is deep in our souls.

On Christmas Eve I was thinking about gifts and giving. I know that a portion of Christmas has been distorted by materialism - by the desire to receive. However, I believe that one of the essences of Christmas is giving. John 3:16 confirms this: for God so loved the world that He gave..... Christmas, at one of its roots, is about giving. God giving. Jesus giving. Mary and Joseph giving. Paul reminds us of the words of Jesus - it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). He adorned this virtue with His whole life.

The joy of giving is a reflection of God that is written within our souls. We experience joy when we give because we are reflecting His character, His actions, His image. When we give, we feel joy. We pursue that. We earn money, spend time thinking about what someone would like, drive around shopping and getting the gift - because we desire to see the joy of watching our beloved open the gift, seeing the joy in their eyes, experiencing their joyous hug. It is a great feeling!

I think that this is a joy that God feels when we receive his gifts to us. I believe that He wants us to feel this. I believe that He wants us to give us away so that we can feel this. It is part of His nature that He wants to become part of our nature - giving.

PS - It is not his intent that we seek the feeling of joy - it is a by-product of an action, not something that we should seek in an of itself. It is His intent that we give ourselves away and in giving, experience the result: joy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Was reflecting this morning on the life of Jesus. Being Christmas, we are focused on his birth; his advent from the presence of God to earth; his beginning as a child of poor parents. All this is definitely worthy of reflection - the wonder of it is beyond comprehension.

What entered my mind as I was thinking of his birth, was his life. He lived thirty years of life before he started his public ministry. He grew up with his brothers and sisters, probably went to the local school (synagogue), helped his dad out with chores around the house, washed dishes with his mom - grew up as a kid. Yes, there is one "breakout" that are recorded about his childhood (his parents leaving him in Jerusalem at a feast and him reasoning with those in the temple), but other than that, we don't have much.

It appears that he was quite a student. He was referred to as "teacher" a few times in his public ministry and was even allowed to read in the synagogue on a Sabbath (usually reserved for traveling rabbis). Not much else is known or recorded about his life - which means to me that it was pretty ordinary as lives go.

Thirty years. Thirty years of growing in favor with God and man. Thirty years of walking in obedience. Thirty years of learning more about his Father in heaven. Thirty years of understanding how to listen to the Spirit of God and follow. Thirty years of dealing with bullies, talking to hurting people, playing with his friends, listening and counseling to his neighbors, teaching the younger kids around him about God - living life.

And then. And then there was a break out. And then he started his public ministry which lasted less than three years. Thirty years of growing up; thirty years of investment and then a few short months of ministry. (Mind you the most important ministry in the world, as humanity hung in the balance.....)

The ordinariness of Jesus life, the obedience year after year, the growing in faith and knowledge - struck me. So often I separate normal life and ministry. So often I look for that "one big thing" that I am to do with my life and I look over the preparation. I believe that I am, that we, are being prepared for ministry (think Esther....). Perhaps it will be a huge "break out", perhaps it will a point in time when someone crosses our path that needs us to minister to them: I don't know what it will be. However, I do know several things:

1. It will happen. We have been commanded to minister and the opportunities will present themselves.
2. It probably will not happen on my time frame (especially mine because I am impatient).
3. I need to be ready when it comes.
4. I need to be watching, no intently looking, for opportunities and seize them when they come.
5. I need to be about the work of preparation - KNOWING that an opportunity to minister is going to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I still am having a hard time getting over some of the language that Paul uses in his letter to the church at Ephesus. A good chunk of chapters 4 and 5 speaks to our relationship with others in the church and our relationship with those outside the church. In this section, he uses pretty emphatic phrases such as "let no" (4:29) "there must not be a hint" (5:3), "be very careful" (5:15; vs. be careful); coupled with a whole lot of "do not"s.

One of the points he is trying to make here is the distinction between those that call themselves children of God and are part of His family, and those that are not. Basically - if you call yourself a son of God, if you have been adopted into the family (chapter 1), then you should behave in a certain way. The behavior of a son of God should be distinct from the world around you.

Potential pitfall: Paul is not saying behave this so that you can be identified as a child of God, he says behave this way BECAUSE you are a child of God. This type of behavior is a natural artifact of being a son of God (see Gal 5:22-25 for the evidences of the Spirit being in us).

Here is my challenge.......... As I look through the instructions of Paul relative to how I am supposed to relate to the world around me (not partner with it; v. 7: expose darkness; v. 11) and how I really relate to the world, I see a disparity. If I am honest, there are times, lots of times, when in some way I "partner" with the world and fall into the deception that it will give me something in return (5:6). It is hard work to ferret out all the ways that I am entangled - even just a little bit - in the ways that the world says to behave vs. the way God wants me to.

The more I am entangled, the more I do not behave as "light". The more I am entangled, the less I look like a son of God. The more I am entangled, the more I look like the everyone else in the world and the luster, the glow, the radiance of God is not evident in my life (which means that others cannot see Jesus in and through me).

Paul is challenging me to do the hard work to see where I am entangled, repent and seek forgiveness from God and seek to change. Join me?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas shopping at the mall. Need I say more?

Well, maybe I do. I loved watching the people. I loved watching the joy on some peoples faces; hearing the laughter and some of the weird Christmas music at American Eagle.

I am trying to work really hard during this season to keep a proper focus. It is hard for me to not move into being a Scrooge when I see what has happened to the season. Perhaps The Grinch said it best - "oh the greed, the avarice". Trying to buy presents for people who really don't need anything is hard work....arghhhh.

I am going to choose to look beyond that this year. I choose to look at the smiles on people's faces which comes from giving to others. I choose to hear the laughter that comes from the joy in peoples hearts. I will pray that the joy that the season brings will help people to understand that giving is an example that Jesus gave us and joy is the Godly result of giving. I pray that people will not just see the Jesus in a manger, but will see the Jesus that wants to give them.

Choose joy with me!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I am an engineer. Sad commentary and statement to some, but true. I think with the left side of my brain, I like things orderly (cue the Monk episode), I love straight lines (why waste time and money on curves), I try and optimize every process in life (try it - it will drive your wife crazy) and I love things symmetrical. OK, it is off my chest.

There is a lady in who attends our church - an artist named Glenna. She is not an engineer. She is right brained and loves curved lines. She talks to me about all kinds of weird stuff like colors and shapes and moods set by environments. It really is crazy talk - my left brain doesn't comprehend!

The beautiful thing about Glenna is that she is persistent in her message. After observing her art work and listening to the stories of those who attend our church (which has a kid friendly atmosphere), I now understand (and value by the way) what she is talking about. I understand that when a kid walks into a place that has trees, park scapes, benches, tastefully bright colors: something will happen in their spirit (as well as their parents). They will intuitively understand that they are valued, that someone is thinking about them, that this just might be a place where they will learn some fun things. It opens the door for them to learn.

The physical atmosphere is only a part of the total package - the relational atmosphere is huge! If you do not have people that care, if you do not have people that are excited, if you do not have people that take the time to develop some sort of safe relationship, the physical atmosphere is all for naught. Kids and people will flow to care and be ready to learn.

I believe that atmosphere is also important for parents. They need to understand that you value them and their children. The parents will understand that you will really care for their kids if you really care for the environment they are in - the two go hand-in-hand.

Think of going to a restaurant that has a great atmosphere and lousy service/food - you don't go back. Think of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that has GREAT food but is dirty and greasy - you won't be back.

Environment is important. It is not the message, but is sets the tone for the learner to hear the message. Take it from an engineer.....