Never Forget

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Well this is the last night we will be in Europe and tomorrow we fly home.  By the time you read this we will be somewhere over the Atlantic headed west.  It has been an incredible trip.   In the days to come I will continue to introduce you to some of the things we saw and some of the wonderful people that we met.

Let me close this last session from Europe by taking you on a trip that I made several years ago.  Many of you will have never visited the memorial to the officers and men who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor.  On two different occasions I have been privileged to stand on the memorial that is positioned above the U.S.S. Arizona in honor of the 1,177 men who gave their lives on December 7, 1941.  It is hallowed ground on which I am always moved to tears.  Today I had a similar experience when I visited Bastogne the site of the Battle of the Bulge and a place where the American forces suffered 89,000 casualties including 19,000 killed over a six-week period in December 1944 and January 1945.

What strikes me is the similarities between these two monuments and a verse of scripture found in Jeremiah 2:32 where we read…

Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Men paid an incredibly high price that you and I might be free.  Had you or I been either at Pearl Harbor or at Bastogne I doubt that we could ever forget the price that victory and freedom demanded during those days. And yet we forget.   In fact, our nature demands that we return to carefree days as soon as possible.  Something happens after enough time has gone by.  We lose sight of the things that really matter.

We do the same thing with the Lord.  We forget his sacrifice, days without number.  The verse in Jeremiah uses the picture of an approaching wedding as something greatly anticipated, something no one could forget.  That’s how we are to remember and look forward to our bridegroom, with baited breath, unending anticipation, and racing hearts.  Just like my visit to these military monuments, we should have tears in our eyes and pride and honor in our hearts as we remember the sacrifice made so that all of humanity could know victory and freedom.

Let’s do our best to never forget!

See you soon.

Blessings

God Inspired Idea

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Today I we saw a phenomenal example of what a single God-given idea can do.  The house in this picture is the headquarters of a ministry that you can find at www.jesus.net and it was an idea birthed through a new friend of mine named Eric.

In 1999 the internet was just beginning to take hold here in Europe and God placed an idea in the heart of Eric to use the internet to reach out to people across the world for Jesus.  At that time there was not a single church-based site on the whole of the net.  It seems to us as if the internet has always been around but really it had just begun in 1999 as it had only been released for commercial use in 1995.  Anyway, Eric had this idea to build a site where people could learn about Jesus and find discipleship ideas that could help them in their growing faith.  That initial website was in French and had the name “top Christian” or “cool Christian” (English translations of the French name) and it was pretty much just Eric working from the church he was pastoring. 

A lot of people thought that Eric was wasting his time trying to use this new technology for the Kingdom of God and as such support was almost non-existent.  But this was a God idea, and miracles always follow God-given ideas.  Today, 12 years later, that initial website is now offered in 23 languages and if you go to the site you can watch in real time as people from all around the world indicate that they have made a decision to follow Christ. 

What can a God idea do?

Since it’s release 2.5 million people have indicated that they decided to follow Christ because of the website!   That’s what a God idea can do and He’s got more of them!  I believe He’s got one for you!

Blessings!

Church or Tomb?

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I saw an amazing portrayal of a section of scripture this evening in Paris.  In Matthew 23:27 we read…

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!   For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

This is a truly beautiful church.  It sits up on one of the highest points in Paris where it can be seen from almost any point in the city.  Tonight after we had dinner we walked by this church and there were young people all around it.  Although its dark, can you see all the people sitting on the stairs leading up to the church?  Almost seems to a person that they were completely high our drunk.  There were that many more below us on a lower set of stairs.

It seems that this is their nightly pattern.  They come for the view of the city and sit on the steps of the church and drink and smoke things that make them feel good for a while.  Oh how I wished that this were my church to pastor.  The reality however is that the doors to this church are closed and locked.  It’s beautiful on the outside, but there is no life, it’s just a shell that looks good.

If we are not careful we can become just like that.  Looking good on the outside and yet having no impact on the world around us to such a degree that the world is destroying themselves within the shadow of our lives and yet they remain unaffected. 

Let’s not be a tomb and if we have been, let’s be the one that Jesus comes out of… and be transformed from death unto life!

Blessings!

Choices

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This is the first of my blog entries from France.  Currently my wife and I are in Paris.  There are many things that are different about this from where we live, but there are also many things that are the same.  It’s the similarities that led me to a striking thought process earlier today.

  • For the most part the people look the same.
  • The cars they drive look the same although there are some different makes and models. 
  • The houses while constructed from different materials are still pretty much the same. 
  • The governmental systems in this country are in theory the same types of government that we experience. 
  • And yet France is an overwhelmingly non-Christian nation. 
My question is this, how did that happen? 

I think it all boils down to choices.  Choices, but not the ones that you might think at first.  I no longer believe that it’s the big choices in life that define who and what we are nor do I believe that it’s the big choices of a nation that determines who and what it becomes

Rather, it’s the little choices. 

I think we most often get the big choices right.  Who to marry, where to go to school, where to live etc…  Our guard is up when we make those choices because we can feel and see the potential impact of those choices on our lives, but the little day to day choices are a totally different thing.  They really don’t matter, do they?  What to eat for breakfast, what to listen to on the commute, what will the topic of conversation be with our coworker?  These seem insignificant so we decide without thought.

It’s not the size of these decisions but rather the number of them.  Their mass when combined upon a life, far outweighs the mass of a few “big” decisions.  We’ve also lost our guides for these decisions.  The scriptures no longer serve as the rule for how we judge small things.  Since there is no immediate negative consequence, the decision must be inconsequential.  And yet no decision is without consequence.  The consequence is just delayed or pilling up for later in life.

That’s what happened to France.  A generation started leaving God out of some decisions and pretty soon entire generations had never made any decisions considering God.  That’s France today.

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

It can be us tomorrow.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

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Two weeks ago on Friday, Abundant Life lost a great man.  Robert (Bob) Stanton Sr. went to be with the Lord.  We had his memorial service this past Saturday with a full sanctuary of family and friends in attendance.  Gerald Calaway, one of our members and a retired minister, remarked to me prior to the service that  we had, “lost one of the happy people.”  Gerald was certainly right.

When asked to officiate at his funeral and to finalize the day at the graveside, I started thinking about what section of scripture I would use and came to… 

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 where we read…

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

As I got to know Bob and from numerous conversations with many people about him, I have come to the conclusion that he fulfilled every aspect of the above section of scripture.  Just a month prior to Bob’s death his beloved wife Ricky had passed away.  She had suffered with Parkinson’s disease for several years and Bob had suffered a stroke about a year ago.  Because of their health conditions they were forced to live in separate care facilities.  With all of that on him, I never heard him nor can I find anyone who ever heard him complainHe was always encouraging and loving those around him. 

It seemed as if he lived in a constant sense of praise to the Lord.

Considering all of this, let me pose a question for you and me.  What will people’s testimony about us be at our funerals?  Will our faith and consistency of love and witness for God’s kingdom be the most noted aspects of our lives?

Bob, you set the bar pretty high.  Thanks for giving us all a Godly example to aspire to follow.

Blessings!

Birthday Wisdom

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Well today is my birthday.  I’m 47 years old today.  There are a couple of things that amaze me about birthdays.  First, how quickly they come and go.  It seems like only yesterday that I was thinking how old 30 year old people are!  I remember when my friend’s grandparents were around the age that I am now!  You know… ancient!!

Second, it amazes me how some people make a really big deal about people not knowing how old they are.  They reach a certain number of years and then they just stop changing the number they are 39 for the rest of their lives.  What is it that they are afraid of or avoiding? 

I love what a friend of mine Ron Calaway-Haebeck sent me on a Facebook message this morning.  He said that it’s been proven that birthdays are good for you.  People who have more of them live longer!  The Bible says…

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding with length of days. Job12:12

It is almost a daily thing that I ask the Lord to give me both wisdom and understanding to both serve him and lead the church better.  When I pray that prayer I almost always have some sort of divine impartation in mind.  You know that God will pour something out of heaven that will land on my head and give me supernatural wisdom and understanding that will equip me to overcome every difficulty that presents itself.  I really wasn’t thinking that He would allow me to get old and along the way both wisdom and understanding would grow in me through the struggles and learning of a long life.  However, that’s exactly the process that the Lord uses over and over in the lives of His people.

So, how should we see the passing years?  As opportunities to grow into the people God intends that we should be.  Do our bodies get slower and weaker?  Yes, but at the same time our spirits can get faster and stronger!  And that is a great birthday possibility!

Blessings!

Have you ever met a Mormon?

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I had an interesting encounter last evening.  As many of you know Jack (my son) and I go to Tae Kwon Do lessons twice a week together.  Earlier in the year we would normally go on Monday and Wednesday evenings.  The classes are at 6PM so even on Wednesday evenings we got out in time to make it to Wednesday night activities at the church.  However, recently we decided that Tuesday and Thursdays would be easier since Jack is getting involved in Junior Bible Quiz and likes to be there early.  Anyway we switched.

Last night as we were meeting some of the individuals that attend Thursday night classes and I met a gentleman that during the normal course of “guy” introductions, the subject of, “What do you do?” came up.  After I told him that I pastor Abundant Life Community Church he proceeded to explain to me how he and his family used to attend one church but had recently become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Then he paused….  Then he said, “You know I’m one of those strange Mormons.”  Another pause…..

I knew what he was waiting for.  He was waiting for me as the pastor of a church to challenge him on why he shouldn’t be a Mormon.  I just wouldn’t bite. 

Now you might say, “Why not?”  You might even feel as if as a pastor I have a responsibility to theologically straighten him out.  You might even think that his souls might be in danger and that any and all measures should be used to rescue him regardless of the potential consequences.  To be honest, in some measure I agree with all of these, however I have adopted a position that I feel is biblical.  Here it is in a positional statement.

Don’t witness to strangers

Why do I feel this way?  Because of Romans 2:4 where we read …

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

It is God’s kindness and His love and His truth and His heart that ultimately lead people to accept him.  I’m convinced that the primary way that God reveals these things to the world is through us and it’s almost impossible to show these characteristics outside of some sort of relationship.  Do I want to reach out to this gentleman?  Absolutely, but first I want him to gain an understanding of who I am and that he can trust my words.  That takes time.  Some might say, “But you aren’t doing anything and he might be running out of time.”  I’m absolutely already doing something.   I have started praying for him.  Also remember 1 Corinthians 3:9 where we learned that we are working side by side with God.  I have to trust that God knew exactly when to bring this man into my life.  God knew where I was on the, “get to know them first” belief and I have to believe that His timing is perfect. 

Also, since when is praying doing nothing?

Blessings!