My Grandson Played a Game Against I-Slam

This past Saturday, what should have been a light-hearted, fun loving experience of watching five-year-old kids and grandkids play basketball became a much more emotional game than it should have.  We were laughing and carrying on before the game until my son-in-law noticed that we were playing a team called I-Slam.  He recognized that it was a play on words.  Remove the dash and it became the word “Islam.”  It was obvious by the ethnicity of the other team that it was indeed meant to be Islam.  The current world environment took over this simple little game.  All of a sudden it became “American” kids vs. “Islam” kids!  Both sides became way-over- the-top into the game.  Of course, the “America” side started noticing that we were substituting which meant our “star” players were not on the court half of the game.  However, the other team never substituted for their one “superstar” player.  I know, I know…these were five-year-old kids and we as adults were acting childish.  Both sides needed an adjustment.  As irony would have it, the game ended up an 18-18 tie. 

During the game, as a Christ-follower, I began asking myself how I should behave.  My emotions had gotten swept up in the moment.  Here is the candid answer that came to me out of God’s Word.  Matthew 5,14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  We don’t’ pick and choose when light should shine.  Christians, 24X7, should be shining our light to others for the glory of God.

So, after the game, I walked up to a couple parents on the other team and simply said, “What an exciting game!  Your team was very good and your son played really well.  I know you are proud.”  At first, they seemed to be caught off guard but then responded to me warmly.  As I talked to them a brief few moments, I noticed that a couple of other parents began listening in actually smiling at me.

You know what?  It is a complicated world that we live in.  Let’s never forget a straight-forward, clear statement that the Apostle Paul makes to us as believers in Jesus Christ about our world.  Ephesians 6 declares, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Let’s not get caught up with people and comprehend the churn in this world is produced by the “prince and power of the air”, the devil.  He relishes chaos.  As Christians, we are called to be lights to our world no matter where we are.

Don’t You Hate Driving on Empty!

Driving in the craziness of DFW traffic is bad enough even with a tank full of gas.  However, driving in the multi-lane environment with the constant threat of an accident jamming up the highway is especially worrying when your car is setting close to empty.  Furthermore, having very little gas in the tank in rush hour takes the emotionally intensity to another level.  I find myself constantly looking at the gauge that notifies me how many more miles I have to empty and hoping the gauge is accurate!  What if it isn’t?  Talking about nerve racking, when my wife is in the car with me wondering out loud why I did not fill up with gas earlier is not fun!  So, admittedly driving on empty in DFW is dreadful!

The Bible tells us that all of us are living-on-empty until we choose the redemption of Christ.  1 Peter 1:18&19 states this clearly, “18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  All of us are born into this world in an “empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.”  We are all sitting on empty.  And, this verse states that we cannot fill our tank up as much as we may try with “silver or gold” referring to the things of this world.  All of our personal efforts end up on empty.

You will discover there is only one way to fill up your tank!  You must choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior allowing the “the precious blood of Christ” to redeem you from your sin and the empty way of your life.  He fills you up with His Spirit and you begin walking in a newness of life with your tank full.  2 Corinthians 5:17 describes this beautifully, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

It is time for you fill up for the first time or to return to His redemption if you have walked away for a while living an “empty way of life.”  Life is so difficult and dreadful while you are living it sitting on empty.

Celebrate

At the start of this holiday we celebrated the coming to earth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and willingly died for our sins. He did this so that we can be in the attendance of our Heavenly Father, free from condemnation, free from guilt and shame, and free from fear of what the future holds, which for those without Christ is death, and forever weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So this is the time to think about what Jesus means to you, your family, and friends. This is a time of giving, not receiving, at time of reflection on the blessings that God has continually poured out on us, even when we don’t see them. So with that, I want to leave you for this next two weeks, with a declaration. It is my prayer that each of you have a very blessed and special Christmas with family and friends. Celebrate how you will, but remember the very reason for your celebration. The world wants to turn this time of year into a secular holiday with no religious meaning to it whatsoever. They can try all they want, but this holiday is but for one reason, and that’s to celebrate the greatest gift of all time. The giving of God to the earth of a plan of salvation. A gift that cost Him dearly, as He would give His own Son for the ransom of many. So let’s go to Scripture today in 1 John and read our declaration:
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life – that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us- what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  1 John 1:1-6   I know that there are lots of fears these days about the things that are going on in our country, and that we feel persecution is increasing, and what will the future be for our children and grandchildren.  But let’s draw strength from the Holy Spirit who comforts us in those times of fear and anxiety. Let’s remember the truth of Jesus, who tells us that He will never leave or forsake us. Let’s take our eyes off of what the world is doing and fix them on Jesus. Let’s go to Scripture to see the hope in those words like Hebrews 12:3-5 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.”  It’s a time for lifting our voices up in praise, and celebrate the fact that God cares so much for us, that He would go to the extremes that He has to keep us to Himself. These are times of praise and drawing closer to Him, not farther away, so go ahead draw close to Him and He will draw close to you. Honor Him with your worship and with prayer. Let’s let Him know how much we love Him and give Him the honor He deserves. Pastor Andy

But I Tell You Who Hear Me

“Love your enemies” is a common scripture, theme, and concept to most Christians and is even familiar to many non-believers.

Prior to giving us this command Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the blessings, then warned us that following him would not be easy.  Then Luke 6:27 follows when he says: “But I tell you who hear me: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Luke 6:17-19 sets the scene. Jesus is in a very public setting surrounded by a large crowd from all around the region who had come to be healed and to listen to him.  He starts with: “But I tell you who hear me” in verse 27a.

The word for “hear me” is akouo which is to physically hear but also to understand, perceive, learn and comprehend.  Remember this scene is a large crowd who have come from near and far to be healed.  This is a very public event, a happening.

And he in effect says to them, to those who really get this, who really understand and comprehend me I am telling you to love outrageously.   To love in a very non-sensical way.   In Luke 6:28 he says to love your enemies, bless those who “mistreat you” and “hate” you.  In effect he is saying “don’t follow the crowd and get wrapped up in the healing and this public spectacle.  Rather this shows that I want you to love people in supernatural ways”.

He wants people to “really” get this.  To not get too wrapped up in the event, but to really perceive and understand the message behind the event.  A message to love beyond human ways.  And he is singling out those who really “hear me”. (Lk 6: 27)

He says if you do this you will be: “sons of the Most High”. (Lk 6: 35). You will be the true descendants of God, the real family members, the real followers.

This next year let’s really see Jesus with 2020 vision.  Let’s catapult off the decorations of Christmas and New Years celebrations and really “hear” Jesus’ message as he breaks into our world.   The message to go beyond the natural to the supernatural.  To love as he loved.  His miraculous birth, points to his miraculous love.  We are to love because he first loved us!  Hope you had a Merry Christmas and will have a great 2020!

I Am a Recovering Sugar Drunk

One of the big challenges for me during the holidays is not to binge on sugar.  As the title of this blog states, I am a recovering sugar drunk.  Once sugar enters my body, my neuro receptors crave for more.  And, I allowed myself to be overpowered by this addiction again.  Being a part of the recovery community, I immediately reached out to a dear Christian brother who has the same problem.  Why?  He would be empathetic and candid holding me accountable to say “no” to worldly passions.  Then, he would point me to the cross and God’s desire and empowerment to live a life free from fleshly desires.

When I reached out to Dave, he already had the Bible verses in mind that would give me the strength and enlightenment needed.  Titus 2:11&12 are awesome, “11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”  Let’s look at these verses clearly:

  1. For “the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation.”  This verse focuses me on the “grace of God” recognizing that I am bankrupt when I try to live the Christian life in my own power.  Because of His grace, I can surrender my life to Him receiving salvation not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.  Ephesians 2:8&9 are clear, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  So, I have chosen to live by faith in His grace, a gift, and live in His strength.
  2. After I re-focus on His grace then Paul the Apostle states for me to choose to say “‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.”  In my own strength, I cannot do this.  My addiction overwhelms me.  But, being focused on His grace, I can.
  3. Then, Paul tells me what God greatly desires for my life, “to live a self-controlled, upright and godly life.”  Don’t be enslaved by worldly passion but be
    • Self-controlled (not out of control)
    • Upright (not uptight)
    • Godly (live like Jesus)

If I do the above, my life becomes free not enslaved by this world.

This is my story.  How about yours?  Are you being overpowered by something that is “ungodly” (e.g. drug or alcohol addiction, sex/porn addiction, overcome by jealousy, envy,  control issues or co-dependency)? If so, the model to freedom is clear:  Christ, commitment to His Word and community. 

I pray 2020 will be a year of growth and joy for you and yours!

Just Say “No”

Some of us have a difficult time saying, “No.”  It may be that we are fearful of rejection and co-dependent on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.  Co-dependency on others can lead to harsh realities.  For example:

  • You may end up in a difficult marriage because you were afraid to break the relationship off even before marriage when you saw warning signs yet feeling manipulated by another or others.  Some of these misguided advisers may have been relatives or “friends.”
  • You may find yourself in a compromising situation yet do not want to experience the wrath of another or others because you are unwilling to follow along.
  • You may discover that you are working for a boss who is expecting results even if it means you do something unethical or hurtful to others to be successful.  You may be hearing, “Dude, you gotta do what you gotta do to get the job done.”

There are a myriad of hurtful, fearful relational environments that Jesus followers find themselves because they feel powerless to say “No.”

Never forget that God has called us to be “peacemakers” not “peacekeepers.”  Peacekeepers “go along to get along.”  These folks do not want to create adverse waves that lead to rejection.  Once you closely observe the men and women in scripture, you discover that God does not want us to be peacekeepers

However, being a peacemaker is a totally different thing.  Peacemakers recognize that we as Christians are called to be straightforward, honest, loving people, “speaking the truth in love.”   As a result of that “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” Ephesians 4:15.  Peacemakers may find themselves disapproved by others but recognize that we are called to honor Christ first.  The two qualifiers of our speech are “truth” and “love.”  You learn to speak truth and love in a humble, non-judgmental manner and trusts the results to God.  God makes this promise to us in James 3:18, Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Remember these two verses always as you live out life…Titus 2 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Night after Christmas

As I was reading this morning, I came across this by Chuck Swindoll:

I’ve decided that during the holiday season we should change the mall’s name to “maul.” I’ve never seen such mayhem — kids running, parents screaming, people impatiently standing in long lines — all to the music of “Joy to the World” in the background. Good grief! The irony of it all seemed somewhat humorous. (But not really.)

And if you decide to head to the “maul” the night afterChristmas, you’ll see more of the same chaos — a rush of returns in exchange for even…more…stuff.

So in honor of those days after Christmas, I’ve decided to try my hand at rewriting Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas classic. Here she goes. (Ahem.)

‘Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house,
Every creature was searching (both me and my spouse),
The stockings, the drawers, we looked everywhere,
In hopes the receipts for our gifts would be there.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the house to see what was the matter.
When, what to my wondering eyes should I see,
But my neighbor, too searching, his trash on the street.

More rapid than eagles he looked, but in vain,
And he shouted his creditors, and called them by name:
“On VISA! On MASTERCARD! On DISCOVER, I’m appalled!
I’ve thrown cash away! Cash away! Cash away — all!”

He’d splurged once again; he knew it too well,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my head,
A gentle reminder from what he had said.

I, too, was as guilty, from my head to my foot,
My conscience was tarnished like ashes and soot;
I focused, this season, on presents and things,
And not on my family, my friends, and my King.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
Ran into my house (I’d been such a jerk!),
Right up to my wife I came with a hug,
And kissed all my kids, right there on the rug.

“The night after Christmas is better,” said I,
“Than never recalling in Christmas is Christ!
The best of all gifts, which to us has been given,
Is Jesus, who died for our sins…and is risen!”