Thursday, January 24, 2013

Leave An Impression...A GOOD One!

Has this happened to you?

You pour yourself into something on your computer--maybe a piece of artwork, maybe a document, maybe a book...

Then you go to find it again...and it's GONE!

You search for it, you look in 'hidden files', etc.
No good. 

It's history!

You realize that all the time you invested was, in some ways, wasted.

All your research...all your creativity...toast!

It's a serious bummer!

It does make a person think, I using my time wisely? 
Am I investing my moments for real impact?

Recently, I've done several Memorial Services. 

In each case, the person who has passed away is being remembered by those they left behind.

What determines the kind of memories? 
What determines the kind of impression left behind?

It's how they invested their time.

Whether they prioritized faith, family, and relationships over work, money and success.

The impressions we make aren't so much in the big 'events' of life, but more in the everyday living of life!

Psalm 90:12: "Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom." 

I don't want my life to come to an end and those I'm closest to left wondering 'what was his impact'? 

I want my life to have a HUGE, positive impact!

I want to invest myself in eternal things!

...but that cannot be done at the end. It must be done along the way.

Today, don't waste your life 'hoping' to do something big. 
Instead, invest wisely every minute you have!

Point people to Christ.
Invest in your family.
Make 'deposits' in the 'relationship' bank...

THAT kind of 'investment' can never be lost...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Cup of Hot Cocoa!

Frigid Temperatures...
Lake-Effect Snow...
Traffic Pileups...

Welcome to winter in Michigan!

It's been seriously cold and snowing around here lately--the kind of cold that makes the snow crunch and squeak under your feet, causes 'ice pillars' in the sky...and freezes your nose hairs!

I like it, though!

I like the beauty of freshly fallen snow which blankets everything, muffles the noise of the everyday, and causes the lifeless look of dormant trees and plants to look like God's winter decor. I like the feeling of being outside on a very cold day, only to come inside and feel the warmth.

I love a hot cup of coffee or cocoa after shoveling the driveway.

Truth is, it's the cold which helps me appreciate real warmth!

A similar thing happens in our world.

The 'cultural mood' may be cold, partisanship is at an all-time high, busy-ness and subsequent superficiality may be the norm...but when we find real friendships, they warm our hearts!

Many of us are increasingly aware that we have no real 'friends', because we have no time to invest in friendship! 

Yet, some of us are able to experience the blessing of real, authentic relationships.

That's one of the reasons I like the Church!

The Church of Jesus Christ is His Body...each person is valuable, each person is connected to others, each enriches the others' lives.

"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 
Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father" (Colossians 3:12-17)

Or at least, that's the way it's supposed to work! Does it in fact, happen?

Depends...on us!

Do we let it happen? Do we prioritize it?

Many people have said 'I don't need to go to church to be a Christian. I'll stay home and worship God my way.'

While that may technically be true--you relate to God as an individual and are not 'saved' because of any Church affiliation--it is practically false. 

We simply cannot become the dedicated, sharpened, focused and transformed people He wants us to be without...each other!

Hebrews 10: 23-25: "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." 

Isn't it nice to know that, in the midst of a cold, even frigid culture, we can have access to the warmth of real fellowship and friendship?

Sort of like the cup of cocoa on a frigid Michigan winter's day...

Drink it in!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The difficulty of Grace (Les Miserables)

I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending Les Miserables with my wife (the movie, not the musical...we've seen that before too). It was POWERFUL and very well done, in my opinion. In fact, I shared with others that it was, by far, the most impactful movie I've ever seen.

One of the reasons I thought it was so powerful  was the ongoing struggle between Jean Valjean, an 'ex-convict' who is trying to be a new man and live a new life, and Inspector Javert,  the police officer who's life goal seems to be to make people like Valjean PAY for their 'crimes'...forever.

Valjean has an unexpected experience of grace and mercy soon after he's released from prison, and is given a new lease on life. He tries his best to learn the lessons of his past and take those lessons into this new life, but Inspector Javert continues to hunt him down to make him pay. After all...once a criminal, always a criminal!

That vs. (of course) one of the most important themes in the Bible. Of course, we know that God gave the Law to the people of Israel, but that they couldn't keep it. They needed mercy, but they didn't 'deserve' it!

Neither do we!

Yet, in spite of that God sent His son to earth to pay for their sin (and ours). He offered us grace, mercy, and a new start.

As my favorite verses (which changed my life) say, "It is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith. This is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not a result of your good works, so no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So...why is it so hard to accept?
Some of us 'get' grace at the moment of salvation, and we accept it and celebrate it...but we keep trying to go back to the Law! We keep trying to do the good works so that we 'deserve' God's mercy and this new life of faith.

We also (like Inspector Javert) try to make other people 'earn' our love and acceptance. Even our own families can end up getting the message they they have to 'earn' our love/appreciation/trust, etc.

Grace is a tough thing to fully grasp. In this world's economy, it does not make sense.

Fortunately, God is not limited by this world's economy. The 'economy' of grace is revolutionary...and will change us at our core, if we let it 'sink in'.

The Lord wants to give us 'New LIFE', and the Full! (John 10:10)

It is NEVER--not now, not ever--earned by us, but is totally based on the grace of God and the finished work of Jesus Christ!

Accept it, love it, soak in it, and REVEL in it!

New Life--it can be yours! Share it with others!

As Jean Valjean asks, "I am reaching out, is there another way to go?"

We all long to be assured that there IS another way--a way of grace! Let us live it, and share it.
It just might change YOUR life...and others!