Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shades of Grey

There is a popular movie out right now, I don't plan on seeing because of the content. The name of the Movie is Shades of Grey.

The verse of the week at Northwest is:

     "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full
       of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted as when the light of a lamp shines
       on you." Luke 11:35-36

The part of this verse that struck me as odd was the first sentence, "See to it that the light within you is not darkness." How can you have light and darkness at the same time?

When I was a kid, I had friends who had a black light as the light in their room. When we were in their room instead of being lighted, it was kind of grey. Was it light enough to see? Yes. But the room was kind of grey.

Here is a question. Do we live our life closer to the grey than to the light? Do we have some dark or grey areas in our life?

I believe this is what Jesus is challenging us to think about. He goes on to say if our whole body is full of light, no part of it will be dark or grey.

We are not called to live our lives in shades of grey. We are called to live our life in the light and to be the light of the world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Value of Serving

As we have been going through our core values at Northwest one of them is the concept of serving others.

I am not sure if we can really call ourselves a follower of Jesus if we are not willing to serve others. The reason I say this is because of what Jesus said and how he lived His life.

We live in a culture which has an entitlement mentality. Whether you are in the top one percent or you are living in poverty, whether you are old or young, whether your are highly educated or not and whether you are a Christian or not many in our culture believe others are on earth to serve them in some way.

We want special treatment and want nothing to do with the consequences of bad judgment. Look, don't feel bad, Jesus' disciples thought the same thing. They argued about who was the greatest and who should get the best seats.

Both times Jesus said stop focusing on who should be serving you and focus on how you can serve others.

"If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and the servant of all." Mark 9:35

It works in any relationship. the goal is to focus on the other person and their needs rather than your needs and wants. If spouses could learn this marriages would be enhanced. If employers and employees could learn this businesses would be more successful. If we could just learn this principle in life--the culture around us could be changed for the better.

Who are you serving today?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding
in all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6
I get it, I am suppose to trust God with all my heart. There are things I don't want to do or things I get anxious about. In those moments I need to trust God with all my heart. I need to allow him to give me peace knowing he will provide for me and protect me. There are times when people will say all you need is faith. Yep that is all I need. But that faith has to be consistent with where God is leading me.
We all do it. We have opportunities arise where we think this is something I really need to do. But every opportunity that arises is not always in line with God's will. When we begin to question it, we always just say we need to trust God and walk through that door.
Sometimes the trust is on the side of the door you are standing on. I mean, some times we need to decide not to go through an open door and trust that God is leading us in the right decision.
I remember a time in my life I thought I needed to go to Abilene Christian University to work on my masters. I even sent in the application fee and was accepted. I was going to work with some friends at a church in Texas. Everything seemed right. Everything was falling into place. But as I prayed about it I got the sense it was not a door I needed to walk through. I had no peace, until I decided not to go to Texas. (It was hard considering it is one of the best eating states I have been)
I had friends tell me I was not being faithful to God and trusting Him. But as I look back it would have been one of the worst decisions I could have made.
It was funny, the week we decided not to pursue that direction we found out Rhonda was pregnant and soon after that we bought our first house. It was a house we lived in for seven years and then sold for almost two and a half times what we paid for it.
Really it is not funny, because when we acknowledge God and let him lead then He will make our paths straight. He will lead us in the right way.
Usually it is when I have leaned on my own understanding that it has gotten messy. Even when it seemed like the right thing to do.
So my encouragement to you is to Trust God, let him lead. Every decision should line up with His word and be seasoned with prayer. These are the times we are truly led by the Spirit. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

I have currently been reading through the gospel of Mark. I try to read a chapter every morning and every evening. When I get up in the morning I read a chapter before email or anything else online. It is pretty convenient with YouVersion on my phone. I can read the Bible anytime pretty quickly and easily.

In Mark 6:31 Jesus says to his disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

It is what surrounds this statement that gives the verse more power. The first part of the verse says, because so many people were coming and going that they did not have a chance to eat.

They were busy. Have you ever been so busy you have not taken the time to eat? I have. It is within this busyness Jesus teaches us something. We have to take some time by ourselves and rest. Sometimes I turn the T.V. off at night when everyone has gone to bed and just sit in silence. The practice of a Sabbath is so important for all of us.

After they take some time with Jesus on a boat in a solitary place they land and the crowds were waiting for them. This eventually led to the disciples assisting Jesus in feeding five thousand people. They were right back at their busy lives.

In the midst of their busy lives they paused to be alone with Jesus.

My challenge to you this week is to take the time to spend some time alone with Jesus. It can be five or ten minutes a day reading a chapter of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Or it could be sitting in silence praying to God or listening to him speak into your soul. This is a time of rest for your soul, then you can get back to your busy life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for Him."
Mark 1:3
This is the mission John the Baptist was given. He was to make the path easy and clear for people to get to Jesus.
Shouldn't that be our mission as well? We should not put up all these walls for people to maneuver around in order to see Jesus. It is not a maze to get to Jesus. It is a straight path. We make it much harder than it should be both for ourselves and those we connect with everyday.
We need to live life in such a way that people can easily see Jesus.
Do your actions make it difficult for people to see Jesus? Do you have expectations of people based on your own traditions that make it hard for people to know Jesus? Do you always make sure people know what you are against instead of what you are for? Which can paint a negative picture of Jesus.
Do you live a life filled with grace and mercy before judgment?
The religious leaders in Jesus' time made it difficult for people to know the Messiah--Jesus. They made it so difficult some never knew him.
If we live in such a way as to prepare the path for Jesus, if we make straight paths to him then maybe more people will come to know Him.
If we can just get out of the way and let Jesus do his stuff He can change the lives of those around us. We have to trust Him to do the work. We have to put the burden on Him. Our role is to clear the path and make it easy for people to see Jesus.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Tension in Forgiveness

Sunday in our series "Unbroken" we talked about forgiveness.

It is a word we like when we need it. And when we need it, we almost expect it.

We don't like it as much when we have to give it. And when we have to give it, we don't think someone should expect us to give it.

Here is the problem. If we are not willing to give it, then we should not expect it when we need it.

Even from God.

At lease that is what Jesus said: "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15

It doesn't mean we have to hang out with that person or even trust that person anymore. It means we are going to move on and not let bitterness and hatred creep into our being where it consumes us night and day. We are not going to let it get to the point of hatred and revenge.

Forgiveness is freeing both to the forgiver and the forgiven.

It is a spiritual issue for both the forgiver and the forgiven.

If we want peace we need to ask for forgiveness and we need to practice forgiveness.

The verse of the week at Northwest is Ephesians 4:32:

     "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive each other, just as Christ forgave you."

This is one of the hardest teachings in the Bible. Yet if we are going to live like Jesus, we need to learn to put it into practice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Perseverance and Getting Better

Congratulations to The Ohio State Buckeyes and their National Championship win last night.

I have to admit, I did not think they could do it. Sorry to all my Buckeye friends. However, I am thrilled that there was finally a playoff (even though it needs to be expanded to eight) where the number four team had a chance to win it all. A true National Champion decided on the field. Finally!

So how did Ohio State get there? I have a one word answer, "Perseverance."

I got to witness OSU's only loss this season when the Hokies from Va Tech came to the Horseshoe and beat the Buckeyes. I did not expect that to happen I only hoped it would happen. I believe that was the beginning for Ohio State and their journey to the championship.

They had to go through that loss in order to get better. They already were facing the lose of their starting QB Braxton Miller. Then they go up against an athletic, physical and fast defense in Va Tech with their second string QB J.T. Barrett. They had four new guys on the offensive line that had not jelled together yet.

After that loss the Buckeyes had to mature and get better. They did. They made it through the rest of the season without losing a game and into the Big Ten Championship. This trip was not without adversity. In the Michigan game J.T. Barrett went down with a season ending injury. Now they would be starting their third string QB Cardale Jones.

That same week the team had to deal with the loss of a teammate. They spent some time in mourning while preparing for the Big Ten Championship. When they hit the field they pounded Wisconsin, beating them so badly they ended up in the top four. This sent them to the first college football playoff.

Nobody outside the OSU faithful gave them a chance against Alabama. They won. Then they had to face the high powered offense of Oregon. They were underdogs again and again they proved everyone wrong outside the OSU faithful. They are the National Champions in the first ever College Football Playoff.

And they got there through perseverance and a desire to get better.

So congratulations to The Ohio State Buckeyes!

The verse of the week is a verse we used this past Sunday when we talked about "Perseverance" in our "Unbroken" series. It comes from Romans 5:3-5:

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;   perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

This perseverance and getting better thing doesn't just apply to football, it applies to life.

Have the courage to persevere and get better--it could change your season around and make you a champion.

Let's Go Hokies!