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Let’s be thankful

I turned 53 years old today.¬† ūüôā¬† In the grand scheme of things, I am glad that I am still alive and able to type this blog post.¬† ūüôā

Today is Thanks Giving day and I am also celebrating my birthday.  I went for a walk with my our dog Willow, and took that opportunity to be prayerfully thankful.  I want to list some of the things I am thankful for below.

  • Being alive
  • The Grace of God that provides salvation to all mankind
  • my acceptance of Grace many years ago
  • how God, through his mercy has picked me up, dusted me off and given my life new purpose and meaning
  • being relatively healthy
  • my loving wife Katy
  • my children, Justin, Kristina, Jeremy and Jessica
  • living in America and being free
  • my job
  • our church family¬† Coastal Community Church and Grace Fellowship Church
  • our Lab Willow who was a rescue dog
  • all of my extended family

I suppose that the older I get the more opportunities that I get to reflect on my life.  Where am I going and where have I come from?  Do I measure up?  Do I believe that I am as successful as I could be?  Am I satisfied with what I see in the mirror?  How many regrets do I have?

I figure that I am not alone with some of the questions above.¬† As I prayed today I asked God to give me the ability not to compare myself with other people.¬† It would be easy to compare myself with others that are much more successful than I am and feel like a failure.¬† On the flip side of that I could also find folks to compare myself with that would make me feel like a great success.¬† The Bible teaches us not to compare ourselves with one another.¬† We are not supposed to look at someone else and be envious of who they are or what they own or do not own.¬† The only thing I am supposed to compare myself with is the light of God’s word.¬† That is the only measuring stick that I should compare myself with.¬† When I look at myself in the reflection of the word of God how do I measure up?

When I look into the mirror of God’s word I realize that there are some things that are still broken.¬† I also can look back into the past and see the emotional and mental wreckage that is there.¬† I can see where God has repaired a lot of the damage that was there and has given me a new purpose for living.¬† He has dusted me off and set me down and given me a new heading, a new course.¬† When I think about it, I could run myself crazy worrying about what could have been.¬† If I had done this or that then maybe I would be in a better place or be more successful.¬† Instead of doing that I chose to reflect upon those things that God has enabled me to do.¬† When I reflect on what God has done in my life and those things that he has allowed me to walk through then I realize why I am who I am today.

As the title to this blog post reveals, I want us to take the time to “be thankful”.¬† Instead of looking at our broken lives, or the broken world we live in, I would encourage us to be thankful for those good and positive things that we should be thankful for.¬† Let’s be thankful that we are alive, and that there is HOPE for the future.¬† Be thankful that as we observe the landscape of our communities around us, that we can be an active participant in bringing about positive change in those communities.¬† We can see what is broken and be that person who does the decent thing and pays if forward.¬† God has bestowed upon us Grace and Mercy while we were not deserving of it.¬† Let us show our thankfulness by bestowing that Grace and Mercy on those people who live around us.

The holiday season is upon us and there are people all around us that are broken and hurting for many different reasons.  For some people the holiday season only reminds people of those loved ones they have lost or maybe they are in the midst of their own personal or family crisis.  Lets be mindful of that and reach out to those people and do what we can.  We do not need to have magical answers.  We just need to be there in whatever way we can, and let those people know that they matter and that they are not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

 

 

 

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Watching , waiting, hoping and praying

Watching, waiting, hoping and praying.  You do a lot of that as you watch young adults stretch their legs and head down the road of life. As a parent I found myself with a preconceived notion of what might happen as I watch my young adults go from being teenagers and morph into the next stage of life.

It seems that the older the kids get, the less influence we have on them.  Looking back at when I was their age I can remember how I felt about my parents and their warnings about life.  I thought they were idiots and way out of touch with life.  Now I sit here experiencing dejavu as I watch my kids making questionable life choices.

For the most part, Katy and I have imparted what we could with regards to them having a good foundation.¬† We taught them the difference between right and wrong.¬† We taught them to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbors as themselves.¬† We attempted to be living examples instead of saying ‚Äúdo as I say not as I do‚ÄĚ.¬† Sure, we screwed up from time to time ,but I believe that over all we were consistent in what we said and did in our home.

Nothing pains the heart of a parent more than to see their children making bad decisions and then having to live through the consequences.  Our hope is that our children will not make the same mistakes we did.  We hope that because we want the best for them.  We want them to be happy, fulfilled and successful.  We want them to be a contributing member of society.  Eventually we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves.

We have two adult children who still live at home and as they headed towards their 18th birthday I had an unreasonable expectation.  I expected them to be mature, make good decisions and follow the life path that I had preconceived for them.  You know the drill.  I expected them to finish high school and possibly go to college.  Katy and I both believe that education is a critical need that will give them more than a fighting chance in society.  Studies have shown that the more education a person has the chances of landing a better paying job goes up exponentially.

Much to our dislike and disdain we have discovered that our kids do not agree with the age old rules of society that says if you want to eat and have your own things you have to earn a pay check.  That principle is also a biblical principle.  The bible is very clear about the importance of working and earning your way in life.  All we can do is patiently wait as nature takes its course.   We have remained a refuge in this world so they always know they have a place to come to.  Our home is their home but at the same time there are rules that have to be followed.  Those rules have been in place for a long time and are designed to provide tranquility and harmony and peace.

As long as we are alive our love for our family will never falter.  We will always welcome our family in our home and will do whatever we can to facilitate the growing and maturing process.  Looking back at my earlier forages into life as a young adult I remember how many struggles I experienced.  Most of those trials and tribulations were brought upon me because of ignorance and pride.  I believed that I knew more than my out of touch parents.  I guess when I was around 23 or 24 I came to the realization that life is bigger than I am.  I realized that I was not as smart as I thought I was.  Life began to teach me some tough lessons.

As I watch my kids start to make mistakes and make missteps in life I realize the importance of grace and mercy.  I want to be the type of father that is always willing to extend grace and mercy when it is needed.  I want to be the type of father that extends love and encouragement when the time is right.  I want to be patient and to allow my kids to make those mistakes because it is those mistakes that will make up the fabric of growth and maturity.  Just as my father in heaven extends his grace, mercy and forgiveness to me when I falter, I feel the need to do that for my family as well.

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Taking our faith Public

Today at Coastal Community Church Pastor Chris talked to us about Taking our Faith Public. Here are five points Pastor Chris encouraged us to consider as we invite folks to church for Easter Sunday.

  • Pray for your unchurched friends

At coastal we have been challenged to have an “invite and invest” card in our wallet. On that card we write down the names of three people who we know that are not going to church and need a relationship with Christ. We write down those names and we are challenged to pray for those people on a daily basis. As we pray for them we are reminding ourselves of their need and it keeps them in the forefront of our minds. It reminds us when opportunities arise with those people to invite them to church.

  • Look for ways to tell others that you are a christian

We were reminded that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. We should not be obnoxious or push about our faith. We should find moments in time where it would be natural to mention the different activities that we are involved in at church. As christians we should have a christ centered view and not a world view.   

  • Invest in others by serving them.

Many years ago I learned the following lesson and Chuck Swindoll coined this phrase. “People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care”. No one wants to hear the same old hell fire and brimstone mantra. Who wants to hear that they are going to go to hell and burn for eternity if they do not join a church or get saved? Do we really believe that unchurched people understand our church jargon? It is not our job to convert or change anyone. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to love people and to live life in front of them and with them. We should show people the love of Christ through serving them in whatever way we can. Serving them can be either large or small. If there is a family that is moving into your neighborhood offer to help them move in. What about that couple that desperately need a evening out and need a babysitter. If we open our eyes and look around at others then it won’t be that difficult to find ways to serve them.

  • Invite friends to church

Have you tried to invite your friends or co workers to church lately? Pray for them, serve them in whatever capacity you can and then invite them to come to church with you.

  • Invite my friends to have faith in Jesus

Do you feel that you do not know enough about the gospel of Christ to invite people to have the same faith you do? Do you feel as if you should be as knowledgable about the bible as your pastor or Billy Graham before you can share your faith? God only expects for you to be genuine and to share your life story with people. What does the bible mean to you? Why do you read it? Why do you pray for people? Why do you enjoy going to church? How has Christ changed your life since you invited him into your life? What is your story? Before you invited Christ into your life what kind of world view did you have? How did you treat yourself and others? Are you different now? Do you have different dreams, passions, motivations?

We all have a story to tell. It is ok to admit you do not have all the answers with regards to the bible. Theologians have been debating the finer points of bible doctrine for centuries. I do not believe that anyone expects us to have all the answers.

In closing there are 3 types of people who are most open to talking about God.

  • when people are under tension or anxiety
  • when people are in transition
  • when people are in trouble

I believe that we are real people who have been given a real gift and that gift is Jesus Christ and his love for humanity. Despite our sinfulness Christ died on the cross for us so that we can have a relationship with God through eternity. People need to hear about the awesome and life changing love of God. We need to live a life of obedience to the word of God and be genuine about our love for others. We need to put the needs of others before our needs. When we live life in that manner then people will know that we are different and they will be curious about what makes us different. We are living in a world that has real problems that need real answers. If we share a real faith in Christ with those in need we can lead them to the cross where they can find some of those answers.   

Remember to pray for 3 people this week and write down their names. Look for some way to serve them. Invite them to church on Sunday. You might be surprised at their response.

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Faith

Our faith is not defined by what we do in church on Sunday, it is defined by what we do Monday through Saturday.  It is easy to focus on our faith in God, when we are amongst like minded people in church on Sunday.  Our faith is strengthened by the fellowship with other believers, and by exercising our ability to express our faith through different types of worship.  Worship is what we do when we express our love for God, whether it be through singing, prayer or listening to someone teach the word of God. 

Once upon a time it was understood that if you build the building (church) and create the programs they (people) will come.  Our culture has radically changed and going to church is not something that a majority of people do any more.  There are too many other distractions that are competing for our attention.  It is almost as if church and religion are no longer relevant, in the 21st century.  Maybe people are tired of religion, and do not believe that going to church makes any difference. Could it be that the church (believers in Christ) have been sending the wrong message for way too long.  

As believers in Christ, we need to exercise our faith in tangible ways, no matter where we are.  I had a youth at church tell me something several years ago, with regards to their activity on Facebook.  They told me that their Facebook page, was who they were away from church.  When they told me that, I questioned whether or not what they were learning at church, was making a real difference in their life.  Who we are IN church should be who we are out in the world.  If we say that Jesus is LORD of our lives, then perhaps we should act like how Jesus would want us to act.  How will the message of Grace get delivered to the folks who are all around us, if we act like the rest of the world?

People need to know and understand that God loves them no matter what they have done, or how bad they think that they are.  People do not need for us to beat them up with the word of God.  People need to know that God is not a spiteful God, that is looking to get them.

Through the ages, God has pursued us in order to have a relationship with us.  God has provided forgiveness of sin through His Grace, and His Son who died on the cross, for our sins. Only Christ can provide for that forgiveness.  Our jobs is to take the good news of the Gospel of Christ to our friends, neighbors and co workers. People need to see the love of God in our lives.  People need to see us living out our faith in tangible ways.  As Charles Swindoll quotes in his book on compassion, people do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.

I want to be a messenger of Grace.  I want people to hear the good news.  What can we do dear reader, to be better messengers of that Grace?

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Grace is the ultimate Christmas gift

The marketing hype has grown to a feverish pitch as retailers are working over time to separate you and I from our hard earned cash. ¬†We are being brain washed into believing that we must have all of the latest¬†gizmo’s¬†and gadgets to put under the Christmas tree. ¬†If we are not careful we will get caught up in the spirit of greediness and not the spirit of Christmas.

Thanks to the economy and circumstances outside of our control there wont be any Christmas gift lists to fill.  As I have been working through all of the feelings about the Christmas season I realized that Christmas is going to be what I make of it.  Christmas does not have to be about how much cool stuff that I can accumulate and the momentary happiness that I will gain from it.

Please do not get me wrong. ¬†There is nothing wrong with receiving Christmas gifts. ¬†I would be lying if I said that I would not want to get a couple of presents myself. ¬†The important thing for me is to remember what is more important. ¬†Is it more important to receive or to give? ¬†What happens if you do not have enough money to shop for what everyone wants? ¬†If you are low on cash and you do not have credit cards so you can say “charge it” then you have to find other ways to give.

Maybe Christmas and the Christmas spirit is not just about giving or receiving.  Maybe Christmas is about the spirit of hope.  If you think about it life is hard and the thing that helps us to get through some of the rough spots is not stuff but hope.  When times get hard what is it that keeps us motivated to keep living each day?   Christmas is not about how much cool stuff we can accumulate but rather the hope that was born in Bethlehem.  Instead of saying Happy Holidays we should say Merry CHRISTmas.  The Christ child is the reason for this season.

Our Hope should be in what Christ came to this world to do.  Christ came into this world to give us hope and to provide us with a better way of living.  A way of living that is different than the status quo.  No, I am not talking about religion that is man made in which we follow all sorts of rules in order to become people that are more acceptable that God can love.  I am talking about God coming in the form of man through Christ the baby in a manger who shows us how much God really loves us.  Our hope is Christ in us and the gift of grace that has been provided for whomsoever will.

This Christmas receive the gift of grace that God has provided for you and your entire family.  God loves each of us individually and pursues us in a personal way.  All we have to do is to open our eyes and seek after him and receive that gift of grace.  The gift of grace is a gift that we can accept for eternity and one that God gives us freely for the asking.  May the peace of God and the joy of the season permeate our hearts and spirits as we enjoy the many blessings we have all around us.

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