Monday, May 31, 2004

Fellowship (5/31/04)

Two years ago, I went on what I consider to be the best vacation I’ve ever been on. We went to a rustic cabin complex on a lake in New York’s Adirondacks. The place is affectionately known as Woodchuck. There was fishing, boating, swimming, a diving board, a rope swing, volleyball, hiking, horseshoes, and on and on. But more than anything else, there was fellowship. We went on vacation as a group of 4 families. There were 7 adults and 12 children. Each family had at least 1 other family they didn’t know prior to the vacation. Yet, by the end of the week, we were all as close as life long friends. I chose this topic because I'm camping with the Woodchuck gang this weekend. By the time you read this, I'm certain I will have had another wonderful weekend of fellowship with these families.

Fellowship is that thing that keeps getting threatened by how busy we are. By definition, it involves a commitment of time. It’s all about making new friendships and deepening existing ones. It’s sharing each others joys and sorrows – caring for each other and being cared for in return. In short, it’s about really getting to know each other. Every time I take the time to truly get to know someone new, I am reminded of how amazing God is. He creates us so complex and unique, yet still so very much alike.

This Wednesday, let’s pray for our own fellowship. That we would take the time to fellowship and that we would be authentic and caring in our fellowship. Let’s pray that we don’t allow competition, pride, stereotypes, gossip, and all the other fellowship stealers to get in our way. Let’s pray that we truly get to know and care about our "neighbors". Last but certainly not least, let’s do the same in our fellowship with the Lord. Share everything with Him just like you would a good friend.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Monday, May 24, 2004

Joy (5/24/04)

Get a mental image of the noise 5 giggling pre-teen girls can make. Now multiply that by 10 and you might be in the ballpark. Friday night, my daughter had 4 friends sleep over for her 10th birthday party. The girls had an absolute blast… I'm still tired. I had been thinking of doing "Joy" as a fasting and prayer topic for some time now. Watching the girls and the fun they had Friday night really solidified the "Joy" idea.

I took the girls to the festival at Christopher Dock Friday night. If you ever have doubts about what it means to live in the moment, just watch a group of kids on a moon bounce. There is no worry… no guilt… no remorse… no regrets. Just a bunch of bouncing and laughing. As a father, it gives me great joy to watch my children enjoying themselves. Don't you think our Father is the same?

If you do a search for the word "Joy" in the bible, you'll find 300 references for "Joy", "Enjoy", or other variations. "Joy" is one of the fruits of the spirit. It's an awesome gift from God. But what does it mean? Let's look at the word "enjoy"? It means to take pleasure in. Said another way - it means to find the joy in something. Yet we so often find a way to squeeze out joy… to overlook the positive… to not live in the moment.

As we fast this Wednesday and pray for Joy, let's think about a couple things. Is there something that is currently stealing your own joy? Perhaps it's worry, doubt, fear, guilt, anger, etc. If so, what will it take to turn that over to God and let him replace it with joy? The joy that comes from being free. Perhaps you don't have a problem with joy. Maybe it's someone in your life who needs to do this. Pray for them this Wednesday. When we are full of the Lord, we are full of joy.

John 12:46 says: "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." God is big enough to handle all the things that steal our joy. Let's allow him to handle those joy-stealers and start enjoying the light.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Monday, May 17, 2004

Our gifts (5/17/04)

As we fast this Wednesday, let's pray for our gifts. God has uniquely gifted each one of us. He has given us these gifts for a purpose that is also uniquely designed by Him for us. Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Do you cherish the gifts God has given you? Or do you fall into some of the traps I'm familiar with:

- covet gifts I don't possess.
- take credit for my gifts as if I was responsible for them - Kind of like treating the gift as an entitlement
- use my gifts only to serve my own selfish desires.

Ultimately, we need to recognize that our gifts are really a test from God. The parable of the talents shows us this (Matthew 25:14-30). It's a test to see if we can handle these blessings from God in a Christ-like way. Ultimately, it's a heart test - to see if it's in the right place. Some of us are tested more than others. Luke 12:48 points out "But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

So this week as we pray for our gifts, let's pray that we first take the time to discover what they are. That we don't covet gifts we don't have. That our gifts don't feed our own pride and become our idol. That we seek God's will for our gifts and discover the purposes He has designed.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Monday, May 10, 2004

Our covetous nature (5/10/04)

The last of the 10 commandments reads:

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17

This commandment takes some of the earlier commandments a step farther - straight to the heart. It takes the 7th commandment about committing adultery to the level of "thinking" about committing adultery.

Take an honest assessment of yourself.
Do you covet materialistic things - wealth, a big house, a nice car?
How about ego things - a title, recognition at work, respect from your peers?
Is it more of a lustful or emotional thing?
Does it happen in an unlikely setting? We can covet as we sit in church Sunday morning (I'd like to be able to sing like that... I wish I could afford nice clothes like those…).

Coveting is about wanting things we don't have and assuming we would be happier or better off if we have them. It's about selfish discontentment - feeding something that is not healthy - feeding an idol - such as greed or pride. It's like saying "Your grace is not sufficient for me. I need something else to make me really happy."

If you find yourself coveting something, look at someone who has that thing and ask yourself "Is that person done wanting things? Was that the icing on the cake that finally made that person happy?" Rockefeller was once asked "How much money is enough", to which he replied "just a little bit more".

So what are we praying for this Wednesday? Well, we are praying about our covetous nature. That our passions are selfless ones that are in line with God's will.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,

Monday, May 3, 2004

Grieving (5/3/04)

About 8:30pm last Wednesday, I was sitting in the living room playing Uno with my 2 oldest children (Bennett and Abby). The phone rang and a friend of Abby's asked her what was going on out in front of our house. It was a little shocking to realize that we were totally unaware there had been a car accident directly in front of our house. Abby's friend knew because they had to detour around the area. We went out on our porch and saw police tape running through our front yard. It was readily apparent that a bicyclist had been hit by a minivan. By Thursday evening, we had learned that the bicyclist was the 15 year old boy that used to live right next to us. We had also learned that he died from his injuries. The incident was apparently an accident. The boy rode his bike right out in front of the van seemingly not aware of the danger. He entered the road from behind a parked car so it was too late for the driver to stop.

I've been thinking about this incident on and off since it happened. There are constant reminders out front. There is spray paint on the road from the post-accident investigation. There is a curb-side candle memorial that has been tended by the neighborhood the last several nights. I can't even imagine what it would feel like to lose one of my children.

This week, our fasting and prayer topic will focus on grief and the grieving process. The family and friends of the 15 year old boy are now grieving. So is the unfortunate driver and his family. Typically, you don't have to look far to find someone who is grieving some sort of loss. In fact, you may be grieving some loss as you read this. As we fast this Wednesday, let's pray for all those people out there who are grieving. Let's pray that we can be a comfort to them. And for those lost grievers out there that don't yet know Christ, let's pray that they would be found and would come to know the hope and certainty of His grace.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,