Lifestyle

We Are What We Eat!

Have you ever immediately regretted the decision to upgrade your meal to a medium or, dare I say, a large?

Yeah, me too!

93FF5ECD77Courtesy of Stocksnap

My body feels the weight of the grease and the smell lingers on my clothes.  My “I want it hot and now” mentality gives way to genetically modified potatoes and something that resembles chicken…or beef…or maybe pork?

A truly sustaining meal, however, would require time, planning, and preparation.  It would require patience, discipline, and effort.   I would have to learn how to bake, grill, or “skillet” this meal.  I would have to invest time, precious time, into the art of cooking.

Time is precious so the first thing that is sacrificed is my health.  I would rather take the quick fix than the slow mend.

How often do we treat our worship of God the same way?  One hour on a Sunday becomes the spiritual gas station where we pump just enough gas to “get us through”.  Justification becomes the mantra of the week:  Life is just too crazy right now, the kids are asking too much of me, work demands all my time, etc…

How easy it is set scripture, devotions, prayer, and silent moments to the side when it comes to living the Christian life.  We get caught up in the things that we see and experience in our everyday lives that the unseen world of faith becomes more blurry by the second.

Recently a friend of mine was preaching on Jesus’ statement of being the Bread of Life and he put this quote on the screen: We are (spiritually) what we eat (spiritually).  Simple yet profound.

We are (spiritually) what we eat (spiritually).

Do we consume things in our lives that will cause us to feel overwhelmed, dirty, or even a little smelly?  Or are we consuming the Truth that lifts our burdens, cleans, and washes over our sin?

Worship takes time.  It takes intentionality.  One hour on a Sunday will not be enough to sustain you throughout the week.  Start small.  Start prayer with one minute a day.  Start reading one verse a day.  Listen to an audio bible in your car.  Download a devotional app.

Control your time and your schedule.  Give God a place in your life so your daily worship can flourish.  Why not upgrade your relationship with God to the next level?

What does your spiritual diet look like?  What are some things you consume to stay healthy?

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Sometimes Saying You’re Sorry is Messy

Sometimes saying you’re sorry is messy because the reason you’re apologizing is messy.

730CB71529Courtesy of Stocksnap

Recently I made the mistake of confronting a friend of mine.  I say mistake because I handled it in a manner that caused embarrassment, guilt, and ruined what could have been a great afternoon of spending time together. Instead of winning the respect of my friend by taking him aside and sharing my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations in a safe way I opened my mouth and let my words fly free.

If I would have had the patience to wait, calm down, and remind myself that he is a great friend the conversation would have been beneficial and our friendship would have grown stronger.

Scripture, if we allow it, can speak, humble, teach, and strengthen us.  Shortly after my vocabulary explosion I was reading through the New Testament and just so happened to run into 1 Peter 5:6-8.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.(NIV)

I was humbled by God’s word.  I was anxious the entire day after that confrontation, but when I cast my anxiety on God and apologized to Him, and my friend, for my actions the stress began to leave.

When we are worshipping God with all of heart, soul, mind, and strength there are times that we will fail, stumble, and fall.  If we continually learn to go to His word we can find the strength to go on.

Life can be messy, but every moment we live for God sweeps away some of the dirt.

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Dynamic Force Starts with a Spark!

“Live your life in such a way that it demands an explanation!”

Sparkler
(Courtesy of unsplash)

That is one of my favorite quotes from college.  One of the Missions professors would always state it before he began his lectures.  It struck a chord with me…

Every year for the 4th of July my wife and I drive home to Illinois to spend the holiday with her family.  It is always spent, weather permitting, playing croquet and bad-mitten, sitting on the screened-in porch, enjoying grill food, and water-skiing out on the lake.  Usually we would spend the night of the 4th lighting off fireworks in the cul-de-sac outside the house or going to one of the surrounding cities to enjoy their show.

This year, however, was different.  We had to leave before all the firework events began because I needed to be back in Ohio to lead worship the next morning.  Our trip landed us just outside of Indianapolis at prime firework time.  As we were driving toward, through, and out of the city we were on the edge of our seats.  To the left, right, and front of us were all manner of exploding bursts of light in dazzling blues, greens, reds and whites.

As I drove away from the city it got me thinking.  Does my life explode with love?  Does the dynamic pressure of my actions cause people to stop and stare in amazement?  Does it cause people to want what I have?

If you held a spark to the love that I possess would it sizzle out or would it explode with such force that it knocks people over?

Jesus had a way of doing that. He rocked the foundations of what people thought love was.  He broke down barriers and caused the world to stop and stare, and over two thousands years later we are all still staring.

It has been three years since I graduated from Lincoln Christian University and I still use that quote.  It makes me want to reflect Christ in everything I do so that people will see what love is.  I want my life and love to spark into such a dynamic force that people demand an explanation.

Do your actions demand an explanation?

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Faith the Size of a Lemonade Stand

Recently I was driving to the bank on my lunch break when I came across two girls sitting at the end of their driveway behind a small table.  They had two pitchers of lemonade placed on the table and a small chalkboard easel with prices listed on it sitting off to the side.

8493KLE87D(Courtesy of stocksnap.io)

I smiled and continued on to my destination, but seeing those two girls got me thinking…

Does my faith reflect what it takes to run a lemonade stand?

Lemonade stands are usually exciting new opportunities for kids during the summer months when school is out, and it is also a good way for younger children to score some spending money!  I doubt that when those two girls decided to have a lemonade stand they had a strategy meeting, a financial goal, or even a statement of purpose drawn up.

I bet they grabbed a table, some chalk, and told their parents, with grins the size of bananas, that this is what they wanted to do.  I think the thrill of the people coming and purchasing a nice cool cup is all they needed.

That is what faith should be; getting caught up in the excitement of God and just doing something.  How often do we miss out on amazing adventures and new experiences because we wanted to map out every detail?  How often have we allowed our hesitation to get in the way?

I don’t want to miss out anymore.   I want my faith to reflect a love that does.  I want to get caught up in the excitement.  I want to take the lemons that I have been handed, make some lemonade, and wait for the blessings to come rolling in!

What lemons have you been handed in life? What are you going to do with them?

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3 Things Tragedy Taught Me About Church

Tragedies strike when we least expect.  They sneak up from behind and flank us before we have a chance to respond.  They are real, hurtful, and devastating.  They cloud the sun and wilt the flower.  They are the anti-joy and hope-stifling things nightmares are made of…

Tragedies, as defined by the Miriam-Webster dictionary, are disastrous events that cause great sadness.

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Our service had been planned in advance, I had just returned from a week-long vacation, The Pastor had planned to take the weekend off, and our guest speaker had his message prepared.  Sunday was shaping up to be a true celebration of Christ and His Love and Faithfulness.  Then Friday happened.  That evening I was alerted to an urgent prayer request.  I read the email with unbelief and sat staring at my iPhone screen stunned.  A three-year-old child from our congregation had passed away.

In two days the service was scheduled to be a Celebration of Family Service centered around God’s love and His Faithfulness, and was to be followed by an all-church brunch.  The leadership team discussed ways to assist the family and congregation with their grief.  Would we keep the service the same?  Would we alter aspects of what was planned?  Are their counselors who can offer support?  On and on the questions continued to burst forth from our minds as we tried to grasp the reality of the situation.

It was decided to leave the service as planned with minor changes to be sensitive to the mourning that would take place.  It was in that service, and the week to follow, where I learned 3 very important things about the Church.

1. God’s Love and Faithfulness are constant in all circumstances.

 Life will throw us curve balls and, occasionally, will knock us flat on our backs.  The situation was devastating and the family was hurting.  What the church did in response was to gather together and concentrate on who God is, what God did for us through Christ, and what God promises to do.  God is faithful to His people, and His love allows us to endure.

2. The Church is a family that both grieves and celebrates together.

The sense of love and togetherness was the strongest I have ever experienced.  This was The Church, this is what God wanted: A people who would gather together in the love and the sorrow.  A people who would come together as a family and mourn with and for one another.  A people who would love.  The people surrounded this family with prayers, meals, time spent together, love and unending support.  There were no debates, there were no theological discussions…it was simply love doing.  It was the Church.

3. Musical worship can express even the hardest of emotions.

Words are often not enough to express the loss, sorrow, and pain that comes with the passing of a loved one.  Music transcends the silence and allows us to express truly deep emotions.  Singing songs to God in a congregational setting, however, has an even greater significance.  Every voice is raised as one.  Every person with tears, tissues, uplifted hands, clenched fists, and folded arms.  Every child and visitor.  All are unified before the Lord, and all are sharing in the grief as the band plays.  The focus is on God and bringing Him all the pain.

Tragedies will sneak up on us, but The Church can hold fast to the love of God and remember His faithfulness when the clouds begin to roll in.

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I’ll Be There in 15

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In the past two years I have noticed a strange and disconcerting pattern emerge.  I have noticed it in coffee shops, churches, businesses, movie theatres, and restaurants.  I have personally been effected by it and have known people whom it has offended.  It happens with scheduled meetings, it happens with dates, and it happens worst of all on Sunday mornings…

It is the phenomenon of lateness. 

It is not just the act of being late, but it is the act of being “culturally late”.  What does it mean to be culturally late?  Cultural lateness is looked at as the norm, it is shrugged off and explained away as being part of who the individuals are, and it goes undiagnosed for far too long.  This phenomenon is not excusable, it is a reflection on an individuals integrity.

I have found myself sitting alone and waiting on far too many occasions because someone has low integrity.  A text, call, email, or facebook message is not an acceptable way to shed the responsibility of honoring a commitment.  If your go-to response is to send a text before every scheduled meeting because you are running late you need to change your habits, set reminder alarms, leave earlier, and become a person of your word.  If you cannot honor your integrity you will loose trust, respect, and miss out on great opportunities.

Are You Allowing Culture to Influence Your Integrity?

It may not seem like it, but your integrity says more about you than you know.  Our actions often speak louder than words.  If you are constantly showing up late to meetings, events, appointments, and church services it is sending a message.  A message that communicates that you and your time are more important than your scheduled engagement.  We have all experienced the events of alarms not going off, kids refusing to cooperate, or a car that wouldn’t start.  But when those events become habitual the routine needs to change.

As Christians our words, actions, and habits are always on display.  Constant lateness and a refusal to strive for excellence in integrity can send negative messages about our beliefs.  We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and given new life in Christ.  If we are not living to honor that sacrifice we have the potential to distract and repel non-believers from encountering the risen Lord.

Does Your Integrity Reflect Your Faith in Christ in a Positive or Negative Way?

If Not, What is One Way You Can Change Your Routine Today?

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Carte Blanche Yieldedness

Luke 18:22

New International Version (NIV)

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”


Lacking one thing is a challenge.  I tend to want all the right answers and know all the details of the path ahead of me.  I am not a fan of lacking vital information.  I used to have the Facebook app on my iPhone.  I checked it daily, hourly…maybe every thirty minutes.  If I’m being honest I was addicted to it.  I felt like it kept me in “the know” of what everyone was doing.  I justified that it helped know more about the lives of those I lead every Sunday morning.

In reality, however, I was addicted.  I’d check it just to pass time, and often I would find myself sucked into the black-hole of Youtube videos and movie trailers.  This one app, this one small portion of technology that took up less than 1GB of data had consumed me.  I knew without a doubt that it was a problem the day I went to delete it.  The decision to remove it from my phone, I am ashamed to say, took a good 15 minutes of internal debate.  But it had to go, it had gotten in the way of my relationship with Christ and took precious time away from my wife.

This was only technology.  What if we are called to give up more than that to follow Christ?  What if our comforts and lifestyles are keeping us from living a truly, 100%, and in the words of Bill Hybels, carte blanche yieldedness to the will of God?  I want that in my life.

What one thing is holding you back from having a “carte blanche yieldedness”? 

What steps can you take to change it?

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Stamp of Approval

…and all God’s people said: Amen!

One of the most common sayings on a Sunday morning.  It can follow a prayer, a song, or a particularly powerful sentence or scripture.  Each week the halls of every building that the church, the living and breathing people of God on a journey, gathers will ring out with this two-syllable word.  It is the reassuring affirmation that spans generations and languages.

Amen

The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon

Strong’s Number: 281

Definition:

  1. firm
  2. at the beginning of a sentence: surely, truly, of a truth
  3. at the end of a sentence:
    1. so be it, may it be fulfilled
    2. a way of making a statement or proclamation one’s own

Jesus has a way of grasping His audiences attention.  He began sentences with a statement of truth, an Amen focus.  A deeply rooted truth that was meant to teach those present about the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18, NAS Emphasis Mine)

The Worship, the true biblical approach to giving everything that we do and say to God in reverence of what He has done for us, of God’s people is the resounding Amen to the Word, the truth, of God.  It is our way of affirming everything that God has done, is doing, and will do in and around His people.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:20-21, NAS Emphasis Mine)

The last word recorded in the New Testament, from the book of Revelation written by John, is Amen.  Think about that for a second.  Let the reality sink in.  The final sentence of God’s divinely inspired collection of eye-witness accounts is the proclamation of truth and affirmation that one day Christ will return and restore creation to it’s original sinless state. (If there was any time for a shout or a cry of Amen and applause to erupt, it was there! –  John nailed it!)

When we say Amen to the work of God in Christ we make His victory our own.  When we say Amen to call of God to live our lives in honor of Him we make His ministry our own.  When we say Amen to the living power of Holy Spirit the world stops and takes notice!  God meets us where we are and gives us the opportunity to respond with a resounding Amen, and when we do we clothe ourselves with righteousness and reflect His love, grace, and truth.

Make your worship an Amen from this day forward!

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Whistle While You Work

Work!  It is a past time that every adult knows all to well.  It comprises most of our day and awards us with a paycheck to spend how we best see fit.  Work, on some occasions, defines who we are.  It can also determine how other people view us.

So when you think about work what is the first thing that comes to mind?   Do you immediately think about how much you like, or dislike, your current job?  Is there a hint of sarcasm or annoyance?  Do you think about your co-workers?  Or perhaps a past job that you really loved?  When you think about work do you think about God, and how what you are doing can be honoring to Him?

In the Old Testament writings the authors expressed this idea of work is several ways.  In the original language the Greek word for work is ‘Abad, and it simply meant to work, serve, or labor.

‘Abad

The KJV Old Testament Greek Lexicon

Strong’s Number: 05647

Definition:

  1. to work, serve
  2. to labor

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV Emphasis Mine)

The earliest reference of work by man in the Old Testament comes the minute he is placed in the Garden of Eden.  He has been given a position of authority and granted the task of taking care of the creation that God has made.  Work, in this sense, is not a task that Adam fights and dreads, but is one that he accepts as a gift from God.  It is done is service and obedience to God.

Work, however, is not simply viewed in the sense that we relate to it today.  Work is more than a job, it is an act of worship before the Lord.

“Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name.” (Deuteronomy 6:13, NIV Emphasis Mine)

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with gladness.” (Psalm 100:2, ESV Emphasis Mine)

When we serve something, we honor it and give it our undivided attention.  When a Christian serves the Lord they must be sure to bring glory to God and not themselves.  We are to focus our attention solely on God alone.

Worship is a ministry of service before the Lord.

We are called to be Christ’s representatives before a lost and broken world.  We are called to worship God in all circumstances and locations.  When we serve God by being faithful, honest, and diligent in our jobs we can have a dramatic impact on our families, friends, and co-workers.

When you work, work for the glory and honor of God!  Be a beacon of Hope in your place of employment.  View your job as a place of ministry!  Let others take notice, and always be pointing to the Lord above.

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Just Want to Say Thank You

In the third installment of our biblical framework construction, we will journey back into the New Testament and look at the attitude of gratefulness and what it means to be truly thankful in the biblical sense.  What does it look like to be thankful?  What images come to mind when we think about what we are thankful for?  Do we think of Thanksgiving and the time we spend with family?  Do we think about our friends and the influence they have on our lives?  Do we think about our jobs, hobbies, interests, teachers, pastors, churches…?  Do we think about God and what He has done for us through His son Christ Jesus?

As we begin to delve deeper into the attitude of gratefulness and explore what it means to express that feeling of thanks and gratitude in a biblical sense, we will begin to grasp the immensity of what is happening in the passage below.

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (John 6:11, NIV Emphasis mine)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is using the Greek word Eucharisteo to express His thanks for all that the Father has given.

Eucharisteo

The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon

Strong’s Number:   2168

Definition:

  1. to be grateful, feel thankful
  2. give thanks

Christ directs His attention to God and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest they are about to enjoy.  He expresses His true gratitude and shows those who are present that God gives gracious gifts and has the power to transcend our human limitations.  Jesus thanks God for what He has given and what He has provided, and we are to do the same.  We are to be thankful for everything that God has gifted us with.

We are also to be thankful for all that God is.  He is the great I AM, He is the ruler over all creation and we are to be thankful that that responsibility is His and not our own.  We are to elevate Him to his Proper place and position in our lives.  In Revelation, I think that the vision that John has of the elders in heaven hits this attitude of ascribing thanks beautifully.

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.” (Rev. 11:15-17, NIV Emphasis mine)

In our lives, we are called to give thanks for what God has given and for who God is.  We are to rejoice in the triumphs and good times that God has granted us with.  We are to rejoice in the trials so that we can be a witness and encouragement to others who suffer.  We are called to rejoice in the God of the universe because He alone(Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the ruler of all.

So the next time you begin to be thankful, will you only thanks those around you or will you first thank your God for all that he has done, is doing, and will do and for who He is in your life?

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Ethan & Emilie

Embracing an Inspirational Life

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Jesus. Church. Culture.

Tales from the Great Adventure

a journal of living-like-we-mean-it, by Derek Maul