Tag Archive: God



pyrotechinics

What we do in order to draw people to us is what we end up doing in order to keep people coming to us.

I once had a friend tell me this. It made sense when he told me that and it makes sense now. There are many parallels to this statement but the recurring truth is simple, profound, and applicable: the means, shows, glamour, glitz, flash, money … whatever … that we use to draw people to us, to our churches, to our homes, to our stores, etc. are the recurring ‘cards’ that will have to be played in order to keep those people coming again and again.

I’m pretty sure that each of us can relate to this statement.

Maybe we drew friends close to us by the way that we spent money on them. Maybe we attracted hundreds and thousands to our shows by the features we continually blitzed past them. Maybe we attracted masses to our restaurants by the service and consistent quality of food we presented to them. (And by the way, that’s NOT a bad thing at all.) Maybe as musicians, we continually presented the listeners with punch and ‘tight’ music in a way that habitually explored new horizons. Or maybe we built our churches by being on the edge, trying new things, and bringing in big name speakers,

What I’m saying to these and other approaches, is that this things you used in order to draw people to you ARE THE SAME THINGS you are going to have to use in order to keep them coming.

Please note, this IS NOT necessarily a judgment call (but by the same token, if you feel judged or convicted … then maybe it IS such a call … to you.) One of my favorite music bands is a group known simply as ‘The Rippingtons.’ They began 28 years ago as a guitarist assembled around him a group of hot, experienced, and talented musicians who were very tight in their sound and who were explorers of new traditions of music. After all these years, they continue in this same vein. They are often criticized, mind you, because they never stay the same but continue to explore and branch out in their various arts. The truth, however, is that the way they started is the way they have maintained and sustained.

And churches who begin as centers of the loud, the glowing, and the famous have sometimes failed because they could not effectively continue to keep up the hype that surrounded their initial, gathering stages.

Certainly, you and I can both find exceptions to this concept but, overall, this is the rule: the way you bring them in is the way you’ll have to maintain them.

What we do in the sowing is rewarded in the reaping.

 

A Biblical mandate is found in Galatians 6:7-10 sowing-and-reaping[6]

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NLT)

It is a known and proven fact that we cannot plant a seed of corn and expect from that kernel a plant of green beans to grow. This is called the law or principle of sowing and reaping.

We must respect and acknowledge that, in the natural realm,  whatever we put into something is indicative of what we will attain from that effort/deed. Granted, there have been moments when we may have mistakenly put great efforts into something that we deemed as worthy … only to see that particular something founder and fail. But generally, the things we pay attention to, the things we put efforts into, the things that we spend time and perhaps, money, on … these are the things that will grow and prosper.

If we as parents will spend more time with our children (and make THAT time both quantity and quality time), the better those children’s future will be.

If we as husbands/wives will pay the needed attention to our mates … through listening, adoring, and just BEING with them, the greater and more beautiful benefits we will receive from that attention spent. Our marriages will be better. And our appreciation for one another will soar.

If we as Christians will take the time to pray, to read God’s Word, to spend time in community with His saints, the more seemingly efforts our attempts at service/ministry will seem This will happen because our service then becomes an outgrowth or over-flowing of the relationship we have with Him and He with us.

What we sow we will reap

What we do in life echoes in eternity

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And finally, as a culmination of all these previously mentioned things, eternity will be positioned, altered, and perhaps, enhanced because of the life that we have each lived.

It is been suggested that the tiniest of drops of water in the deep, blue sea affect the remainder of that sea in a ripple effect.

The falling of one leaf in the forest affects the entirety of the forest because of  its presence … whether that presence covers something needing shelter, presents itself as food to the various creatures of the forest, or simply becomes fuel to the garden compost of the earth.

So each life affects eternity.

You and I are making a heritage … whether good, bad, or seemingly non-influential. Someone is watching us. Someone will read about us or hear about us through a story.

Our families are greatly influenced by us.

We are important.

The musical group Kansas once sang a song, ‘Dust in the Wind.’ While some have interpreted this song to mean that our lives are short and meaningless, others have (correctly … I think) understood the song to mean that although life may be short, and that each of us will return to the dust from which we have come, our future lies outside of ourselves and more importantly, in the hands of a Savior.

It IS important that we acknowledge that we are a part of something greater than us … and that something greater is a future.

That future is dictated by the responses we make to the ‘cards’ we have been dealt.

That future is positioned by the investments we make (or not).

That future is granted based upon the decisions we make in this brief life.

And that future is sealed by the ultimate decision we make concerning Jesus Christ.

Let’s all consider our present … with an eye for the future … not for the purpose of worrying about that future, but for the purpose of intentionally assuring a good future.


As I pull my keys out of my pocket right now, I find that I have 10 keys on this particular key ring (plus, I keep another key ring in the car that holds about 15-20 other keys.) It is interesting that some of these keys are very different from the others. And other keys seem very similar to yet others in the group. Still, no two of these keys will open the same lock.

KeysIn fact, on my key ring, I have four Schlage keys. Even though these look the same and, in fact, will “fit” into the same locksets, they will not open the same locksets. They are intentionally cut differently, though they may have some similarities.

On a similar note, have you ever gone to fill in those “blanks” on on-line credit card submissions, only to find that the month (or some other piece of information) was not going in as it should? In other words, your submission was being rejected … continuously.

I get this a lot! My birth month is August, meaning that in some circumstances, I enter “08” and others, I enter “Aug” or “August.” What is interesting is the fact that it is not Fill in the blanksan “either/or” situation; it is one or the other and the improper choice will just not fit.

Now “what is this all about?” you may ask. I am always fascinated by individuals that are continually trying to fit things, stuff, people, deeds, etc. into an area of life where only one thing fits and works. The great philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal once said,

What else does this craving and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in a man a true happiness of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him … though none can help since this infinite abyss can only be filled … by God Himself.1

St. Augustine of Hippo made a similar declaration: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”2

GodShapedHoleWe have often attempted to accumulate items in our lives as a means to attain happiness, and just as often, have been met with disappointment, loss, or failure.

Many have attempted to surround themselves with friends and popular individuals in order to satisfy some inner urge to gain happiness that way; instead, they have often been met with dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and regret.

And yet others have attempted the path of the performance of great deeds, distribution of massive amounts of money to worthy causes, and others, even to the enactment of holy and self-sacrificial living, all for the purpose of gaining some amount of favor with God.

Jesus Himself addressed such quests with these words

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12: 13-21 NLT)

The truth is this: God wants a relationship with us. And all of the stuff, friends, money, and deeds that we have or do … do not influence Him one bit. We can attempt to insert “August” in the slot that will only accept “08” all that we want but there is still only one thing that will fit in that particular box.

We can attempt to insert any key … or a key that “looks” like a good way (i.e. a different religion or philosophy … or even the performance of good works) and we will continue to find that it is only God and His grace that fit the slot, that fit the lockset, that fill the vacuum in each of our lives.

I want to encourage each one today to know that Jesus Christ is our ONLY answer and that the application of His grace in our lives is the ONLY way to true relationship with God.

While other things MAY have a place, it is ultimately … and ONLY Jesus that makes the real difference in our lives.

So as you wander on this journey of life, appreciate the gifts, appreciate the things, appreciate the friends, and appreciate the opportunities.

BUT don’t waste time on the religions. Don’t waste time on the philosophies. Don’t waste time on the “feel good” side-ventures of self-help and positive thinking.

Instead, fill in the proper blanks with the corresponding proper answers. Instead, use the ONLY right key. Instead, rely on, know, explore, and love the ONE TRUE ANSWER: Jesus.Empty tomb

 

1http://www.silverbirchchurch.com/new-to-church/that-god-shaped-hole/. Accessed November 11, 2014

2https://trustingortripping.wordpress.com/tag/god-shaped-hole/. Accessed November 11, 2014

Overwhelmed


Have you ever felt overwhelmed with something in your life?

We are continually faced with news reports of war in the Middle East, world-wide terrorism, and the growing threat of militant Islam. Just this morning, I read a threat to America from a zealot saying that it was too late to defend ourselves against the various threats; they were already too big and continuing to grow.

But you know, the truth is that we are going about this all wrong!

Oh, but before I go further … then we have movies and books telling us that Christians are all about to escape these life events. That’s what is really scary because such teaching provides a false hope of escapism.

Now I DO believe that Jesus IS COMING to meet His bride BUT…

300px-UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11_editThere are people groups RIGHT NOW facing horrors that many of us cannot even imagine.

Tell the Christians in Syria that they are going to escape the threat and reality of being murdered for their faith.

Tell the families of victims of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal that they are going to escape sickness, pain, and death.

We are looking for an escape …

… and missing the reality of the NOW hope of Jesus Christ.

He is with us when we are overwhelmed.

He is with us when terror strikes.

He is with us when sickness attaches to our bodies.

He is with us when death enters of familial homes.

ebola-in-usHe is with us regardless the circumstance and His Word tells us that He never leaves us or forsakes us (Matthew 28:20b).

Again, Jesus IS COMING to meet His bride BUT it is a false hope for us to believe that we (as Americans) are somehow going to escape all of this when Christians all across the earth are facing a NOW reality of these things.

So here is my plea:

1) Let’s put a renewed trust in Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).

2) Let’s pray with a fervency greater than we have ever known. James 5:16 reminds us that God DOES hear the pleas of His people- “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT). That means that if we will really mean business with God, He means business with us. He hears us. He answers us.

Go ahead, lose sleep while you’re praying.

Go ahead, weep some tears while you’re praying.

Go ahead, see God move while you’re praying.

3) Let’s do our part in the trust process. Solomon had just finished the construction of the Temple and God appeared to him in the night with certain words. (2 Chronicles 7:11-22) Among these words, God set forth some conditional statements. He told Solomon that there would be times of disaster and horror in the earth. And then He introduced a VERY IMPORTANT word, “Then”.

“Then” means “at that time” or “in that given event.” In other words, God was telling Solomon that difficult times would still be ahead … but that WAS NOT time to turn FROM God; instead, it was time to turn to Him as never before. 2 Chronicles 7:14- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (NLT).

So God sets this before His chosen people who are called by His Name:

A) They are to humble themselves. This means that they are to recognize WHO God is and in turn, they are to recognize who they are. They are, in fact, nothing without Him.

B) They are to pray. Not only are they to speak with God BUT they are to listen to God, and they are to be willing to respond accordingly to what He tells them.

C) They are to seek God’s face. Remember, this was written to the people who had heard the following blessing often:

‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

They equated the Face of God with the favor and grace of God. So in other words, they were to seek His face or His favor in their lives, in their people, and in their land.

D) They are to repent. They are to turn from their wicked ways. And in this sense, wickedness is further stretched to mean ALL thoughts, words, and actions that are displeasing to God. They are to change their ways of thinking AND their corresponding actions.

E) And in turn, God will heal their land.

Now many would tell us that this is Old Testament and therefore, no longer applicable to God’s people. But Jesus NEVER disavowed the Old Testament; in fact, He Himself told us that He came to fulfill or complete the Old Testament. And His continual quoting and referencing of the Old Testament clearly indicates His approval of what was written therein.

rapture-postcard-640x437So when we are overwhelmed, when we are threatened, when we are fearful … it is not time to look for the big escape. It is not time to put our trust in the doctors or in the military (although we ARE thankful for both the medical profession AND the military profession.) Instead, it is time to put our trust in Him.

Will you join me in taking this endeavor to task … to humbling ourselves and recognizing His magnitude and simultaneously, our smallness … to praying to Him with a preparedness to listen to and to obey … to seeking His face, grace, and favor … and to repenting of ALL of our sins, wrong-doings, wasted words, and uncontrolled thoughts.

We live in a world of uncertainty … and we DO look forward to being with Jesus … but let’s don’t wait until that time of His returning to do something.

Let’s not get caught up so much in watching for His return that we forget to maintain a close relationship today.

Let’s do something NOW!

Let’s stay prepared NOW!

Hope in the future is always a NOW hope.

Let’s trust HIM!

Let’s put our hope in Him … Now!

Write Pastor Jim  at jgarrett1958@hotmail.com

Build Them a House


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I was recently having a meal with the children and staff at the Children’s Lighthouse in Perrysburg, OH. This place is certainly a bit of a haven for the kids … and also for the various animals. There are koi, chipmunks, cats, a couple of dogs … and two pigeons, Hope and Harmony.

Hope and Harmony come and go as they please … but they seem to love being here. In fact, it is nothing for them to eat out of the hands of the children or to stay overnight in the greenhouse on the property.

As we were all sitting out on the courtyard, I saw the two birds perched on the roof of one of the houses. My initial thought, as I was pondering how much these birds obviously love this place and feel welcome here, was: “Why don’t we build them a house of their own?”

Immediately, I was reminded of the Scripture surrounding the narrative we know as the “Transfiguration.”

Matthew 17:1-6- “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. …” (NLT)

And it was as if I could hear the Father saying to me, “I have sent these birds here for several reasons. One of those reasons is this: that you might be reminded that I am pleased with this place and with the ministries it is carrying out to these children, the community, and indeed, the whole world.”

Certainly, there are many other truths that we can derive from this narrative BUT I am encouraged to look only at this one right for the time being.

What is truly done for Christ is what is blessed.

God empowers us to perform those tasks to which He has called us.

And He speaks over us, “These are my beloved children who bring great joy to me.”

I am not attempting to take the power of the Matthew 17 passage away from the words it speaks concerning Jesus Christ; it certainly speaks to His divine purpose … but I want each of us to know and to understand that God truly loves us. He is pleased with us … not because of anything we do or have done … but because of what Jesus has already done … because of Who Jesus is.

And He is pleased with the ministries to which He has called us.

And He empowers us to perform those ministries.

That makes me really excited about what God is doing in me, in the ministries in which I am engaged, about what God is doing in you, and in the ministries in which you are engaged. So let us go forth, knowing that He loves us, He purposes us, He equips us, and He is pleased with us … and it is all because of Jesus.


I had a very exciting conversation with a young lady today. She was telling me that she had once began her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task so decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people of her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it … and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something … or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours … simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

The boy anxiously responded to him, "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing … seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

Again, the boy responded, "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, "boy, what is it that you desire?"

And, as the boy had before responded, he said "Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts."

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

..until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

…then three bubbles

…then two bubbles

… then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water … obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, "Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air … come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an "I’ve got to have it … or die trying" attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today … what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions … carry on …. and see your passion come to fruition.

The Road


It was a hard, cold, snowy winter in the mid-west this year. Historical temperature and snowfall-level records were broken and new ones were set. And schools in my area surpassed their allotted levels of cancellations several times over. Some have even said that the students are going to have to go well into the summer break in order to make up for those cancellations.

And many people continually fussed about the depth of the cold. In fact, it seems that complaints about the winter of 2014 far exceeded the appreciations.

But I chose to take a different tack. This year, I am learning to count my blessings and to appreciate the winter, the cold, the snow, and all other parts of life. In fact, for four weekends in a row, my wife and I had to travel between Chicago and Toledo round-trip. We experienced icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, white-out conditions, cars and trucks driving too fast and dangerously, and a doubling of travel times.

But rather than complain, I learned (and am still learning) to embrace this winter. I learned (and am still learning) to appreciate the cold, the snow, the wind, and the long travel times.

Why?

Because the Bible tells us that we are to focus on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Our attitudes must be transformed from the negative, sorrowful ones that many display into that which is full of hope, purpose, and vision. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas movies expressed a similar attitude as Bing Crosby sang:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

As I looked at the snow, felt the coldness, experienced the wind, and drove through the extreme slowness of the traffic, I chose to count my blessings, and to enjoy the journey of being blessed by Him.

I embraced this winter season.

Can you embrace the winter season of your life? And THEN move beyond it.

Deadlines


As I write this, I am aware that recently, the last night of late night show host Jay Leno was on the air. My favorite part of his show has always been his Monday night "Head lines."

But in this blog, I want to mention something that sounds similar, but plays out much differently:

Deadlines.

Deadlines are those things that many of us hate and yet, others of us love.

The deadline is that final moment when all must be said and done … And all must be turned in and submitted.

As I said, many hate these things. For those of us, these bring unneeded stress and pressure. These have driven men and women to do things they would later regret or to live in such a manner that one’s life could be shortened or caused to be less than full.

And other people love deadlines. For those of us, deadlines bring something similar to an adrenaline rush … And cause greater and more concentrated focus of attention and on detail.. Somehow, the need to finish by a certain time causes that time to be a motivator.

We all respond differently to deadlines.

But I want to suggest to each of us that deadlines are nothing to be played with. In fact, we each have an appointed time when life as we know it will all be over and all will have been said and done.

For that reason, I urge each of us to respond more intently to that focus of the journey of our life.

Our journey is not about what we have done right or wrong. It’s not about what we have planned and dreamed. And it’s not about what we have succeeded in or failed.

Instead, it’s about how we have lived. It’s about how we love God. It’s about how we treat others.

As Martin Luther King Jr. has said (and others have repeated):

    • It’s not about how long you have lived …
    • It’s about how well you have lived.

And Hillary Cooper once said,

    • Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
    • But by the moments that take our breath away.

So I ask you today as you live, as you breathe and as you enjoy the journey:

    • How have you loved God?
    • How have you treated others?
    • How have you lived and forgiven yourself?

Answer those questions before the deadline is upon you

… while you still have time to do something about them …

While you have time to truly love and honor God …

While you have time to show and tell those whom you love that you really do love them …

While you have time to stop beating yourself up for all your shortcomings and failures …

While you have time to forgive yourself and to love yourself …

You know the time I’m talking about …

I’m talking about that time …

Before the deadline is up.

Bumper Sticker Religion


We have a lot going around of what I call “Bumper Sticker” Religion. By this, I mean we tend to fill our lives with short, snappy statements that really sound good and really seem to make sense.

Such statements include: “John 3:16”, “Forgive and Forget”, “Let go and let God.” Of course, there are a whole lot of other, similar statements.

Obviously, few things are rarely as simple as they seem.

Surely, “John 3:16” is a simple statement that refers to the Scripture and is somewhat separated from these others but it is my fear that other such statements often do more harm than good.

I want to set the record straight.

Faith in Jesus is the beginning; faith in short, pithy statements is often a distraction.

Relationship with God is not initiated with cuteness and conciseness of communication; instead, relationship begins with revelation from God Himself and that revelation comes through prayer and/or the Word of God.

Relationship takes intentionality and some degree of work. And by work, I don’t mean accomplishment and defeating the impossible; what I do mean is that series of efforts of knowing Him.

(Of course, we could never get this part right on our own; we need His strength and His grace.)

And we are further equipped with the knowledge that as we draw hear to Him, He draws near to us. (And that’s the effort I’m talking about: drawing near.)

Never rest upon the concept that uttering the right words is enough.

Never rely on the thought that the summation of spiritual healthiness is achieved by a bunch of verbal gymnastics.

Instead, let us each draw near to God … let us establish a habit of seeking Him … and let us enjoy the journey.

If this article interests you, write me with your comments at: jgarrett1958@hotmail.com