30/30: Nine. One. Thanksgiving.

25 11 2008

lepersOn of my favorite moments in the life of Christ is Luke 17:11-19. As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

Back in the day if someone was diagnosed with leprosy, it was a serious deal. A leper not only faced a chronic disease causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes, but lepers were quarantined from the rest of society. Not good. The only way to reenter society was to get a priest to certify that your leprosy had gone into remission or been cured. Jesus tells the ten lepers to go show themselves to the priest “and as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.”

But what happens next is astounding. “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

All ten of these lepers had faith. All ten of them are physically healed. But only one came back and thanked Him. And He healed on a much deeper level. He was healed of ingratitude.

Ironically, the man was a Samaritan. Jews considered Samaritans irreligious. They worshiped on the wrong mountain. They were “half-breeds.” Maybe God could care less about how “religious” or “irreligious” we are. Maybe what God seeks is a grateful heart.

The key phrase in Luke 19 is “came back.” Thanksgiving is going back and giving thanks. Thanksgiving isn’t just a day, but it’s about the trajectory of your life. This day you and I have a choice…which direction are you going? Are you like the NINE – off enjoying what God’s given you? Or the ONE – “coming back” to thank God for all He’s done for you and given to you?

What are you thankful for today? Post your thanks.


Jesus and Critics

20 11 2008

When Jesus Christ walked the earth, the people who were most involved in God’s community were the people who were the biggest critics of Christ, His mission and His ministry. It’s crazy. Christ’s critics were in worship every week. They were engaged in the Scriptures. But since Jesus didn’t fit in their box in the way they thought He should do ministry, they missed Him.

You would think they would see His heart to reach the lost sheep, but they didn’t. You would think they would listen to truth of His words, but they didn’t. You would think they would see what the Holy Spirit was doing in the lives of those who were following Him, but they didn’t. Because they were so hung up on the rites of the Sabbath, they missed that He was The Lord of the Sabbath. Because they couldn’t see the Rock He was building his church on, they decided to throw stones. Because they were threatened by Him, they decided to threaten him.

Even though His critics probably never received Him, He ultimately went to the cross to pay the penalty for those sins that probably hurt HIm the very most.

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6

Message of the Week: The Political Elephant, Mark Batterson

17 11 2008
Today I was listening to a bunch of podcasts for inspiration and ideas as I brainstormed message series for 2009 at Epic. The message Mark Batterson from National Community Church gave the week before the election was dead on about politics and our mission in the local church. Being a church in the heart of Washington D.C., National is uniquely positioned with people across the political spectrum. I know some of you will be challenged by what he has to say, but if we are going to be the church that Christ is calling us to be and the world desperately needs, we must hit this one head on.
Links – The Political Elephant, Mark Batterson

What do you think? In what way did this challenge your thinking?

Mitch Albom: Something to Remember in These Hard Times

17 11 2008

Journalist Mitch Albom had a great poem in the Sunday Detroit Free Press…if you didn’t see it, it was great. Here’s an excerpt if you didn’t see it. LINK TO THE FULL POEM: Something to Remember in These Hard Times

Every day I have less
In my bank account.
Every day I grow scared.
As my losses mount.

Every day there is less
To the house that I own
And the equity in it
Like the wind, has blown…

…If I still have my health
I am mercifully blessed.
If I think I have little
Someone has less.

Every day I discover
More mercy in me.
Every day I find out
Who my true friends will be.

Every day that I stumble
Or say, “I can’t do it!”
Is a day I discover
With God’s grace, I get through it.

So I learn a new lesson
If I keep a new score
That every day I have less
May be a day I have more.

My Top 10: Thoughts on Life

13 11 2008

Every Thursday I meet Jesus for lunch to listen to Him and seek His direction for life. As I paused to reflect today, I was moved to write down some thoughts on life. I think in the future I’ll write Tops 10’s on marriage, family, leadership, teamwork, etc. So here’s my top 10 thoughts on Life.

1. God is good all the time: Many people make God into a circumstantial God. He’s not. He is bigger than your circumstances.

2. Be thankful: Diligently notice the small things He’s given you.

3. Be risky with love: A heart broken is still better than a heart unwilling to love.

4. Hold on to people loosely: Free people to pursue God’s vision for their life.

5. Give your heart to God: Daily go to the place of complete surrender to Christ.

6. Dependence on Christ is mandatory: The depth of God’s love will reach down to where you are.

7. Attempt great things for God: Choose potential failure over what has been done before.

8. Don’t compromise God’s vision: Follow God’s voice to where He wants to take you.

9. Don’t compromise your integrity: Once lost, it takes a long time to get it back.

10. Don’t Settle: God always has better things in store for you. He is faithful.

11. BONUS: It’s Not About You: So get over yourself.

Poems from our LIFE Group

11 11 2008

Tonight as an icebreaker in our LIFE Group each couple drew two unrelated words and had to write a romantic poem. It was a contest, so Kathy and I brought our A Game. “Beauty” and “Ear Wax” were our words…here’s our poem titled “Hidden Treasures”

You know I reach the max,
When you pull out that sexy ear wax.
Oh that beauty from your ear
Makes me want to have you near.
So Pull Baby Pull
That sexy nugget from your ear.

“Other poems from the group.” Wes and Jenny….

When I met you, my life was like an ironing board
Cold and Flat
But you warmed my hearts desire
with your sweet ways and warm words.

“Would you believe we’re doing a study on Marriage?” Eric and Laurie…

In the soft glow of candlelight
We’re covered in wallpaper paste.
I see your eyes shining bright
And I know our love’s not a waste.

“…Called Love and Respect.” Jeff and Kim…

Roses are red
Motor oil is black.
When I touch your lips
I want to get you in the sack

30/30. Job Loss. Stocks Crash. Graditude.

11 11 2008

uncertainty1b“Because of the stock market crash, we only have about 10% of what thought we would have for retirement.”

A few weeks back I ran into parents of an old college friend at Panera. As we caught up on life, they shared their current retirement struggles. People in Michigan are suffering…I could go on and on of people I know personally who have been laid off and let go in their jobs. Others have lost their homes. One in Five Americans owes more on their house than it’s worth. In the ride of life, right now rough and uncertain times are inescapable and happen to everyone.

But in the middle of this storm, Christ wants to reveal himself to us and show where we can go to find real certainty in uncertain times. It often storms like these that clarify for us what is really important in life.
If we pause enough to listen to God in these moments, I believe he has something he wants to say to every one of us. His message of hope and thanks just might shape the rest of our life. God just might want to teach you and me such a huge life lesson that we end up passing it on to our kids.

One of the greatest lessons I’m learning is to “Start Each Day Thankful.” There are two types of graditude…spontaneous and conscious. Spontaneous gratitude happens in our life when things are going great when you are suprised by what life gives you. That is easy and happens naturally. But most of us stop there with graditude. God is calling us to move on to deeper thankfulness. Concious graditude is an intentional approach to life that focuses on what’s right instead of what’s wrong. It’s saying “I am going to focus on what I have instead of what I have lost. This may be the season of my life right now, but it’s only a slice of my life. I am going to work to be a person that notices everything God has given me and live out of gratitude.”

In I Timothy 6:6-8, Paul mentors a young man with a rockin’ name to live a life of graditude and contentment. “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I want to live out of that kind of wealth in my life and live out of what is really important in life…my relationship with Jesus and my relationship with others. That’s real wealth and worth passing on to my kids.

“But I’ve lost so much.” But what do you STILL have? Seriously…think about it.

I’m learning no matter what happens, God is still my father, Jesus is still my Savior, the Holy Spirit is still my comforter, heaven is still my home, my wife still adores me, my kids still love me, my friends still stand beside me, my health is still good. I am still breathing and God still has an incredible plan and purpose for my life.

What do you STILL have? Pause today to notice all God has given you. Start each day thankful.