"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Bride

I got the privilege of going to the wedding of the oldest daughter of close family friends. You know the kind of friends I mean - they really are family in every sense of the word except biologically. The bride was beautiful in a long, pure white gown and veil. The groom smiled from ear to ear when he saw her walking toward him on the arm of her father. He looked quite handsome himself in his crisp black tux. They were flanked by 3 pretty girls in formal black dresses with perfectly done hair and fresh spring flowers as well as 3 groomsmen in matching black tuxes. Honestly though, after watching them walk to their place at the front of the church it was all about the bride and groom, especially the bride. The bride and groom stood facing each other throughout the whole ceremony, holding onto hands, looking into each other's eyes. They had obviously been waiting for this time and it appeared they didn't want to miss a moment.

As I observed all of this I remembered that this bride was a ballerina in years past. She elegantly swayed and spinned telling stories through her movements often dressed in white flowing costumes. But Saturday night she was the "real deal", the bride for all to see. She was the center of attention. No disrespect to the groom is intended here but then he couldn't keep his eyes off of her either.

There is just something about special about brides. I've always thought that was true but this time I got to see the bride through the eyes of her 4 new cousins from Ethiopia. They've only been with their new family here in the States for less than a month. Those children grinned from ear to ear and stared with eyes as big as quarters at this bride. I don't really know what they were thinking but their faces led me to believe they were thinking she was a fairy princess. After the dinner there was a dance and those children wanted to be where they could see the bride. Grins, giggles and dancing uninhibited these children were a joy to watch. I don't know anything about the world they came from but I do know that Saturday night they had fun. They appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the entire celebration but mostly focused on the bride.

Isaiah 62 tells us that "You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand...for the Lord will take delight in you...as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." Having just witnessed a groom rejoicing over his bride I'm overwhelmed with amazement to know that God thinks of us this way. We (Christians) are the bride of Christ and our God will rejoice over us. Stop for a minute and let that soak in. God is rejoicing over you. You are a delight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's so simple, it's hard

We had dinner with our kids last night, here at the house. We didn't "do" anything special. We just spent some time together. We talked. It was wonderful. Why? Because we love them and we want to be a part of their lives. We want to know them, know what's important to them, know what they like and what makes them laugh or cry. It takes time. A word we all use everyday and usually it's in the context of I "don't have enough of it" or "if I have time, I will..."

I'm thrilled to say I have 5 sister-in-laws. Over the years we've talked about parenting alot. What do you do when....? One of the discussions is always what activities should you encourage your kids to participate in and at what age. There are so many opinions but actions speak louder than words and society in general would tell you you need to expose your children to everything, all the time, as soon as possible. It's hard to do anything different because "they" tell you your kids will be "behind." What does that mean anyway, don't we all grow up at our own pace?

A friend of mine is a grandfather and just spent time with his two grandsons. He had this to say, looking back on the time with them and reflecting on his own parenting. Is it really necessary to be involved in everything, all the time? Wouldn’t some of that time be better spent connecting with people – mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, pastor, a mentor, or maybe just some other kids at home? I know this is counter cultural and some will immediately toss it aside – but Jesus was not about fitting in to whatever the world was doing. Are you using your 168 hours to make a difference? Or do you just fill the time with activity and don’t ponder what impact it is having? Just don’t let “good things” take the place of God’s things or the best things.

We're a part of God's family, His children. He wants us to enjoy life, using it to glorify Him and that doesn't mean every moment has to be full of activity. In fact, He's waiting to just spend time with us. He wants a relationship. He calls us His children, brothers and sisters, and friend. So how are you using your 24 hours in each day. Are you building relationships?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Right where you're at!

Have you ever thought about how many occupations there are in the world? Your interest in your vocation is not born of your own making. So many workplace believers and even pastors have made the mistake of encouraging us who have a deep desire to walk with Christ in the workplace to pursue vocational ministry. To remove us from the workplace where the greatest harvest is yet to occur would be to remove us from where God called us. We can share Christ right where we are at!

We continue to get to travel around the Midwest, primarily Iowa, meeting new people nearly everywhere we go. This weekend we spent 24 hours with a school custodian, housewife, farmer, mom, universal worker (yep, that was really her title) and a funeral director. They are all passionate people about people. Laughter came easy in this group and there were even a few tears here and there. We spent our time learning ways to reach out to couple, with the goal of strengthening relationships. These people are working in the field of their home town. They are caring for the people around them on a day to day basis. They told stories of phone calls and break talks at work where their neighbors and co-workers are reaching out to them for help and encouragement. That tells me that they are living, representing the love of Christ well in their community.
Another small town we have visited started a Saturday night, free get-together in a community center in their downtown. They just want to provide a safe, fun place to be on Saturday nights. The last time we were there, there were about 70 people of all ages there. Again, they just want to "do life" in their home town, reaching out to all those around them.
My daughter called last week. A friend at work had a sudden, really tough situation come up and money was really tight. She called a few friends (who didn't even know this person) and they got some money together to help her out.

I am encouraged and challenged to look around my neighborhood to see how I can become more involved with those that live near me. What's going on in your neighborhood? Share your story and encourage the rest of us!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ordinary Life - an adventure!

I recently heard the story of a man named Edward Kimball. I've never heard of him before a couple of days ago. I can't remember where he's from and don't know if I heard what he did for a living. What I do remember is that he was a Sunday School teacher for boys. The story as I was told was that he really cared about the boys in his class and once there was a boy who was a real challenge. He decided to invest a little more time in him (as he had many of the boys) and went to visit him at his job in a shoe store. The timing was right. He put his hand on the boys shoulder and said something about God loving him and the boy accepted Christ right then and there. That boy was Dwight Moody who is credited with preaching to 100,000,000 people to Christ in his lifetime. The story went on to tell that Mr. Moody connected with F.B. Meyer who connected with...well you get the idea. It ended with Billy Graham.

Did you notice that I don't know much about Mr. Kimball and that Mr. Moody is just that, Mr. Moody. He's not a seminary trained pastor with the title Reverend. They were "ordinary" men who did as the Lord asked them and look what happened. I'm thinking we short change ourselves. God created us just the way we are, where we are. We just need to live our lives doing what He asks of us on a daily basis. Who knows where it will lead? Only God knows for sure. Life is really an adventure when you realize that God has a plan, we just need to cooperate. What's your adventure look like?

Monday, April 12, 2010

"The mind-blowing truth about the God of the universe is that he does not use the performance system. In the mind of Creator God, there is no questioning your value. You are chosen by him, and if that truth alone does not melt your socks, consider this: You are also viewed as his special treasure. You don’t work toward it, earn it, or struggle to become good enough. Quite simply . . . you have been chosen." - Marilyn Meberg* (emphasis mine)

My Pastor taught from Genesis this past Sunday. He spoke of God's creation of the universe with special attention to the fact that God purposefully created man in His image. We are created to reflect God's glory. The only way to do that is to fully live the life He has given us. He created us.
He saves us. He lives in us. Why? "Quite simply...you have been chosen." Stop for a moment. Think about that. That alone should rock your world.

God, your God, chose you out of all the people on Earth for himself as a cherished, personal treasure. — Deuteronomy 7:6 (MSG)

*Meberg quote excerpted from A Grand New Day. © 2008 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Love Me?

I have been haunted by a question for quite some time now. Why is it that we have trouble really accepting the love of God? Over the past several years my life experiences have exposed me to the truth that so many of us have an extremely hard time accepting the love of God for ourselves. It doesn't seem to matter who we are, whether go to church often or hardly at all, read our Bibles a lot or a little, are wealthy or not, pretty or not or even well-educated or not. We all somehow seem very reluctant to believe God could love us and by "us" I mean "me." See I can see how God could love "you" and I can say that I know God loves "me." But do I really believe it?

I have family members and friends who prayed to accept Christ as their Savior years ago, but still live working, serving, or performing because they feel like they have to in order to really be a part of God's family. I personally have a little different angle on it. For the most part I do believe God loves me, but I sometimes do things because to show or prove to someone else that I believe it. Both of these beliefs make me sad. Call me simplistic but I think WE MAKE this complicated and it's really not. The Bible uses very descriptive words to help us us understand the truth. So let's start at the beginning.

I John 4:8b "God is love."
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:5b "because God has poured out his love into OUR hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."
Deuteronomy 7:6 "For you are a people holy to the LORD you God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (All scripture from the NIV of the Bible)

So here's my take on all of this. God is love. (period) We don't really get that because we "love" pizza, purple and puppies, but we don't "love" puppies when they chew up our favorite shoes or run away on a walk. We try to make God's love into something we can understand. It's not the same. God is love. With His love He chose to love us while we were (& are) sinners. Then He poured His love into our hearts. He chose us. We are His treasured possession. It's all about Him, not us.

What do you think?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Life as Ususal?

So we celebrated Easter yesterday as did millions of people around the world. The question on my mind is what happens today? If we believe the God of the universe sent His son to die for our sins, was buried and rose to LIFE again on the third day what does that mean in our every day life?

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"
I Corinthians 3:16 NIV

I learned a song a few years ago, " That same power that raised Christ from the dead LIVES IN YOU, LIVES IN ME"! Based on I Corinthians 3:16 and many other scriptures I believe that is true. Now the question is do I live like I believe that? Do you? Resurrection power, real life giving power lives in me? Yes, it does and it lives in you as well if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Amazing!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Making disciples is the main event

"Making disciples is the main event - that is what we are called to do as His body." You know, I'd love to be so wise as to be sharing all of my own thoughts, but it's more important to share the heart of God. I believe our new friend Arlin has said it so well again, I find no need to re-write it into my words. Technically I don't believe these are Arlin's words either. I believe these are the words of our Lord as stated in Scripture. Read the following and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.

In the book I started on my plane ride down here, “Hole in the Gospel” author Richard Stearns writes “in our evangelistic efforts to make the good news accessible and simple to understand, we seem to have boiled it down to a kind of fire insurance one can buy”. He calls it the “bingo card gospel” where folks are led to make a choice to pray the sinners prayer and then left to figure out how to be a Christ Follower on their own, or as often happens, to go back to whatever life they were living after getting “their ticket to the next life”. Oh how that strikes a chord with me. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. That does not mean go and make baby Christians and then leave them to fend for themselves. Salvation is only step one of the process of disciplemaking. It is not the end game – it is the start. Jesus wants us to take these new believers under our arm and lead them into a deep walk with the Savior, not just to introduce them so they can find salvation and leave them on their own. We shouldn’t be creating orphanages of baby believers – we should be creating school yards of believers that are being taught how to move toward godliness and holiness – mentored by those who are further down the road. Making disciples is the main event – that is what we are called to do as His body. How does the process work? The same way it did when Jesus showed us – by spending time with and investing in people. He did it with the 12. That is probably more than we can handle, but we sure should be doing it with someone. I don’t think it coincidence that Sunday night our small group studied John 15 which was all about bearing fruit – the purpose of which is to reproduce – and then this book is the one I grab to read on the plane. God is trying to get my attention to get more intentional about pouring life into folks and being an example of how to walk with Christ. I have a whole lot to learn, and certainly am not the greatest example in the world, but to disciple another we simply need to be one step further down the path with the Savior. We should not wait until we achieve it – because we never will. We just need to lead another down our own journey. Are you in the game of making disciples and helping people change their life – or just in the fire insurance business? Or have you taken the approach that all you want to do is attend church once in a while and not do anything with your spiritual calling. God calls us to be a lot more than an insurance salesman or a pew filler. We are to make a significant difference by being intentional in making disciples – helping others live a life pleasing to God as we do so ourselves. That is our call. Are you going to answer? Quoted from Arlin Sorensen Thoughts from the Farm

That's the question at hand. Are you going to answer? Do you need some help or encouragement? That's what we're here for. Let us know if we can help. Contact us at tcm@treasurechestministries.org