Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't Hate!--a note to young people everywhere.

Well, it's happened again.

A young student, with much of life to live, walked into his own High School and shot several fellow students, killing 3, wounding at least 2 more.

We're still finding out 'why', but the theories are coming out: He spent some time in "Goth" mode, being anti-social. He was bullied and teased by other students. One of the victims may have been a current boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend. Eventually, I'm sure we'll know the exact reason that he 'went off', but there are lessons to learn, no matter what.

Certainly there are lessons about unsecured guns, bullies, and so on.

...but I want to focus on the shooter--not only this one, but so many others.

What is the one thing they have in common?

Many of them have had hard lives...but not all. Many have been picked on...but not all. Many are 'social outcasts'...but not all. Some have intense, violent video game obsessions...but not all.

I would say there is one thing that each of them have in common, though--and it's something we all tend toward doing.

They let other peoples' opinions of them determine what they think of themselves. They let other people's behaviors determine thier own behavior--even to the point of killing. They fear others' rejection of them so much that they give in to their rudeness. (Proverbs 29:25)

I don't know about you, but I was bullied at times as a kid; I had some very negative things go on in my life; I was teased at times, and at times, a 'social outcast'. There were many times I was hurt by others' words and actions--cut to the core.

...and that's the problem.

We all let other people 'define' us--whether we're 'good' or not, 'cool' or not, 'good looking' or not, 'popular' or not and 'secure' or not.

We let them determine what we think inside our own brains about ourselves!

Why do we give them that kind of power?

There is ONE who's opinions you should care about--and ONLY One!

Your God--your Creator, Lord, and Keeper--is the One who has the absolutely accurate opinion of you...(and, by the way, He loves you like crazy!)
He loved you enough, He sacrificed His 'pride and joy'--His one and only Son--so that you can live! (John 3:16-17)

He knows you--your insecurities, your fears, and He loves you anyway. (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-16)

He knows what you've been through--your hurts, your painful memories, your embarassments, and He loves you anyway. (Psalm 56)

He knows your deepest, darkest secrets--your sins, your addictions, your frequent failures...and He loves you anyway. (Romans 7:18-25)

In fact, there's NOTHING you can do to stop Him from loving you. You didn't earn His love, so you can't 'un-earn' it. His love is secure, keeping you secure when the storms of life are raging around you. (Romans 8:31-39)

He's got plans--BIG plans--for you. He will lead you into blessing, if you let Him lead, and if you follow Him. (Jeremiah 29:11)

In the meantime, there will be others who will try to convince you that you're nothing; that the world would be better without you; that you are--and always will be--a failure. "Epic fail" they mutter when you pass. They'll point out every imperfection you have. That acne, that lisp, that eyebrow. They'll make fun of your height (or the lack thereof), your weight, and your personality.

They'll try to ruin your own opinion of you.

And they can be brutal.

..but don't let them.

Instead of letting them define you, get your definition from the One who made you and loves you...and remember: He's the One who made them too, and He loves them.

Don't lash out. Don't give in to the anger and hate. (Romans 12:14-21)

Instead, lean on God's love for you. Pray for them. Rise above their smallness, and be one of the 'vessels' God uses to turn things around.

Don't let them sidetrack you from the blessings He has for you.

Commit yourself to the Lord. Let Him define you. Let Him love you.

...the future will continue to be bright!

God loves you, and so do I.

Pastor Dave

Ps: If this was helpful to you, PLEASE go back and look up the Scripture references. Don't have a Bible? Go here: www.biblegateway.com


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Gifts

I love being a dad.
One of the reasons is that being a dad has helped me to understand the love of God in a better, deeper way.

Here's what I mean:

Before I was a dad, I thought of God as stern, hard to please, and critical.
He was just waiting for me to make a mistake, or to be imerfect in some way, and then BAM! He'd get me!

I always felt this suspicion that I was displeasing to Him, and that I could not measure up.

I walked around defeated, believing that this was the best I could hope for.

...and let me be clear: This was AFTER I had come to Jesus as my Savior and Lord! I understood the theology behind grace and the fact that "Jesus paid it all", but I guess it didn't really sink in.

Then I had kids.

As they began to grow, I began to realize how much I loved them--more than I ever thought possible! I wanted what was best for them, I wanted to encourage them, to help them be secure in my love, and to KNOW, beyond and doubt, that I was their dad, and they belonged with me. They did NOT have to be insecure, they did NOT have to 'earn' my love, and they could not lose it!

I realized that God wanted me to know the same things!

I began to realize that, just as I loved it when my kids jumped on my lap, or wanted to spend time with me, so God loves that too! "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

I realized that, when my kids asked for gifts (for Christmas or Birthdays, for example), and I thought they were good gifts, I took pleasure in blessing them...much like my Heavenly Father actually ENJOYS blessing me with good gifts!"So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:11)

In fact, there have been times when I surprised them with some blessing that they hadn't even asked for--much like the Lord does for us! "...your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:8)

Bottom Line: I used to live on some level in fear of my Heavenly Father, but now--since becoming a father myself--I've learned that "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him...There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." (1st John 4:16-18)

Because of our Heavenly Father's perfect love, we need not fear; we need not feel insecure; we can be at peace, secure, and ENJOY HIS LOVE!

May you--whether you are a father or not--REST in that Love!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Will YOU Stand?

Sometimes it's hard to stand up.

I don't mean, "I'm out of shape and I exercised last night so my legs hurt" sort of standing up...I mean to stand up FOR something that's right, or AGAINST something that's wrong.

Standing up leads to being singled out, sometimes it leads to rejection, sometimes to teasing, sometimes to threats--or even worse...but we may still be called to stand up!

The question is, "How do we know"? How do we know if something is important enough to 'stand up' for?

After all, no one wants to be around people who are always making a 'mountain out of a molehill'. There are some people for whom there always seems to be a 'dramatic moment' in life...and we just get tired of being around them. Their voice becomes irritating to us.

But sometimes, in some cases, God Himself calls us to 'Stand Up'!

He called to Ezekiel, saying,

“Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

In that case, God was calling to a specific person--Ezekiel--to stand up against a specific set of problems in Israel--Israel's sinful, rebellious behavior, in order to help move them to genuine repentance (and thus, His forgiveness and restoration). They had 'religion', but not real 'faith'.

"So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it!" (Ezekiel 33:31-32)

--This does NOT mean that everytime we get something on our minds, it is from God, and He's calling US to stand.

But how do we know? How do we know when He is calling us to 'stand up' and make His words known?

The answer is in the question--it's when we're standing on HIS WORDS!

NOT when we're standing for our own opinion, NOT when we're standing up 'for what we think is right', and NOT when we're standing up for what our culture says is 'good'.

Rather, when we are standing on HIS Word and HIS principles, and HIS character...and standing against those who would compromise or rebel.

That's when we--as His children--NEED to 'stand up'!

It can be tough...it can be costly...but I believe that God is looking for people who are willing to 'stand up' for Him.

Will you STAND UP...with me?