Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How do we know God cares about us?

Louis Giglio is the host of several videos that we use in our Senior Class. He is a dynamic speaker and enjoyable to listen to. One of our college students came across this message by him and passed it on to me. It was very interesting. I hope you enjoy it. It gives you something to think about.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Following God's Lead

I am watching a rerun of the series Lost tonight. It is from season three. In the show Desmond sees the future. He has been able to save Charlie's life three times as a result of these visions.

There is a part of me, and probably many of us, that would like to know the future. It certainly would make it easier to make decisions if we knew what was going to happen. We would always choose the things that gave us the best outcomes.

The only problem with this rationale is that it isn't true. If it was then no one would ever choose to smoke cigarettes, take drugs, get drunk or sign up for the military. The truth is that we often feel invincible even to the point that we will not believe anything bad can happen to us. Despite all the evidence, people still make bad choices. So knowing the future would probably not make much of a difference for many of us because we would just ignore it.

Getting back to Lost, it hit me that Desmond was trying to do what God often does. Because Charlie couldn't help himself, Desmond kept interceding on Charlie's behalf. He kept getting in the way and trying to change the outcome by leading him in new directions.

Ultimately we are responsible for our choices. But I believe that God is gracious and he is involved in our lives. He tries to steer us out of harm's way. He tries to guide us into blessings. But we need to be alert and aware of his presence. If we follow God's lead, we will be blessed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The gifts we receive from others

Today I had lunch with Pastor Les Young from the Living Word Fellowship in Voluntown. He and I have known each other for years. As a matter of fact we met shortly after I came to Norwich. In the late 1980's I met Les, his brother, Gary, their dad and several others who later became a part of the church in Voluntown.

It's funny how these circles grow and develop. Ten years later I was a part of a prayer group with Les that helped me grow in my understanding of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. Five years later Les and I were part of a group that was praying for our community every week at City Hall.

He is one of the people that God has brought into my life to help me grow. The truth is that we all have people like this. Most of the time we don't fully understand it at the time. Yet they come into our lives and share something very important. They teach us how to be more compassionate, more forgiving, more deeply spiritual Sometimes they don't even know they are doing it. That's the beauty of it.

Like pollen that is carried from one plant to another by bumblebees, these gifts are passed along so that God's work can continue through each of us.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Father's Eyes

Amy Grant changed my world when I heard her sing. I liked Christian music but never thought that it included popular tune that anyone could enjoy. I'll never forget my mother bringing home one of her albums and playing it. I fell in love with her and always take a step back in time when I hear her again.

So enjoy Amy Grant and let her take you back with this song.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Blind Boys of Alabama

A few years ago we went up to the music festival on Loon Mountain and heard the Blind Boys of Alabama for the first time. They are great. Hope you enjoy this.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

That's Jesus

I love Randy Travis and when I hear him singing songs of faith, my heart flips. Enjoy this one titled, "That's Jesus.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

To capture a parent's heart

Have you ever noticed that when you pay attention to someone's children they really sit up and notice? A few weeks ago we were in Mexico hosting a nightly Vacation Bible School for neighborhood kids. One night we invited the children to trace their handprints on a banner. They were all excited to participate.

One little guy must have thought he was too small to join in the fun. He stood hiding behind his mother and peeking out at us. I reached out to him and invited him to put his hand up on the sheet. He hesitated and then took a step forward. I couldn't speak Spanish but I smiled and demonstrated by putting my hand down. Then I said "mano" which means hand.

As I encouraged the little guy I suddenly noticed the mother was smiling too. She then began urging him forward. Before long he was all smiles and he had his hand down and was part of the fun. The mother was also more engaged and the family seemed to finally feel welcome.

As they went inside the thought struck me that if you pay attention to a person's child, you will get the parent's attention as well. I guess the same is true with God. When you embrace his son, when you accept his gift of grace, God looks at you differently. Any friend of the son will capture the heart of God as well.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Focus on the prize

I sat in my office and listened to the traffic buzz by this afternoon and it reminded me of the scene at Vacation Bible School down in Mexicali a few weeks back. I was sitting in the adult class. Well actually the class was outside in the dirt yard on one of the member's homes. As the teacher was speaking and engaging the adults in a discussion a big truck pulled up to the neighbor's house across the street. It had a refrigeration unit or something with a compressor and it was loud. I had to strain to hear what the teacher was saying. Then a big bus pulled up and because the truck was blocking the narrow road, it just sat there and the driver began tooting the horn.

I was amazed because I was totally distracted. The teacher never missed a beat. She kept talking and the students kept responding to her questions. I thought to myself that these two big vehicles were doing everything possible to drown her out and disrupt class, yet they couldn't break through the concentration and intensity of her presentation.

It made me think of how the devil tries to distract us and get us sidetracked as we go out with the message of God's love. Most of us can't stand up to it. We stumble and fall and end up going off course. We forget, we fall to temptation and we end up failing.

I learned something that night. If you want to succeed you have to keep your focus on what you are doing. You have to block out distractions and keep your eye on Christ. That's what Paul was talking about when he talked about running the race and staying the course to get the prize.

Those truck eventually took off and the peace and calm returned. The only one who missed anything was me. Maybe next time I will do better.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Winners in God's book

Who is the best college basketball team in the nation? That question will be answered over the next month or so as we enter March Madness and the NCAA tournament. I'm a UCONN fan and I'll follow the tournament as far as they go. I know I'm a homer and I only care about our team. None-the-less at the end of the day one team will come out of the event and be crowned the national champion.

The funny thing is that no matter who wins there will probably still be some debate over whether they are really the best. It happens all the time. In every sport, even if there is a play-off set up to determine the best team, someone always points out the reasons why another team should have won or been named the best.

Thankfully in real life we don't have to compete with anyone else to earn God's favor. He loves us all for who we are. I will never be another Billy Graham. God only wants me to be the very best Cal Lord I can be. The same is true for all of us.

So go out there and do your best. Love God. Love your neighbor and serve the Lord and you will be a winner in the book of life.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Using a time tested method to deliver of the gospel

It's funny how things change in such a short time. I went to Best Buy today to see if I could find a CD player for church. We have been thinking about adding this component to our sound system but just haven't gotten around to it. As I walked through the store I was struck by how the technology in home/ audio/video had changed over the last few years. I only found one CD player. So much of the sound equipment now is tied into MP3 devices. As I walked through the section with televisions I walked through all kinds of blue ray disk players and flat screen TVs. I felt so out of touch.

It made me think about the people who we're trying to reach with gospel today. This is a different world from the one many of us grew up in. The old time preacher and gospel hymn sing are competing with HD video and surround sound.

I don't think we can compete with this but it is a wake up call to us remember to do our best as we seek ways to tell God's story. I think it is even more important for us to realize that the best way to share the good news is through living the gospel and sharing our stories. Nothing will ever replace the personal relationships we have that allow us to become a part of one another's lives. It is in these relationships that God works best. Blue ray and HD cannot compete.

So love your neighbor and share your story. That never gets old.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

God knows us and still loves us.

This afternoon we hosted the interfaith luncheon and fed lunch to over sixty people. Many of them are either out of work, homeless or live with very limited income. Mark Hopkins and his crew from Central Baptist cooked up a batch of hot dogs, chips, brown beans, salad and peaches for the folks.

I love working at the luncheons. Since we began doing it in 2006 we have served hundreds of people. When you serve others, you know that you are doing something special. Most of us get so caught up in our own thing that we don't stop to think about what others are going through. Working at the luncheon reminds you that we are all one step away from needing a little help from our friends.

Today there was a situation that caused a little angst among the servers. After everyone was served, a few people asked if there were extra hot dogs. We started passing them out and then we had a run on them. Guys were coming up to the window instead of waiting in their seats. As a result we lost control and before we knew it one guy walked out with five hot dogs while others were left without.

As we were talking about it later, we were reminded that for some of the guests this may be their last meal for a couple of days. Many of them have known hunger unlike anything we have ever had to go through. Some of them have lived and learned to hoard whatever food they could get. That's who they are.

As I thought about this it dawned on me that this is the reason God gave us the ten commandments and many of the Deuteronomical laws. They were given to protect us and to give us guidelines how to live and honor God and each other. This is because we are who we are.

Thankfully God is full of mercy and he is always willing to forgive. That is the message of the cross. We couldn't help ourselves so God opened the door and offered us grace through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God knows us with all our faults and he still loves us. Praise God.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The ripple effect of kindness

I got my annual royalty check yesterday. Lori and I went out to dinner with it. Actually the check was for $120 and represents the sale of 169 copies of my Church Newsletter Handbook in 2008. When I told Lori about it she commented that it is pretty amazing that the book is still going twelve years after it was printed.

I had to laugh because most of us never consider how long the ripple effects of the things we do will continue to last. When we buy a friend lunch or stop in and visit a colleague in the hospital it often seems like a short lived, one time event. Yet the ramifications of that act of kindness continue to be felt over time. How many of us remember when we have been touched by the good will of another. It affects and even changes our life. It makes us a better person because we have been shaped by that simple act.

John Donne wrote "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." In essense he was reminding us that we are all connected. That is why when we live with the love of Christ in our heart and let it flow out through our action it can transform the world we live in.

This is our calling as Christians. We are called to be transformers. It begins in doing the little things. Our loving acts will continue to grow and be passed on long after we are gone.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We are His special guests

I arrived at the event as little early and went to the registration table. The girls got all excited and asked me my name. I gave it to them. They scanned the name tags on the table and when they didn't see it there they just waved me ahead. No name tag for you! Their excitement dissipated as quickly as it had arrived.

A few minutes later a young lady came up to me and asked me if I was "somebody." I told her my name and she said, "You're not a senator or representative? I thought with the suit and the newspaper you must be someone." Then she left.

I laughed to myself because it was the first time in many years that I felt unwelcome in a place. As I scanned the room I noticed that most of the people were with the group that had organized the event. Not one of their invited guests had come. No wonder they were asking every new face if they were someone on the A list.

By the time the event began, four or five of the dignitaries were on hand and everyone was pleased with the results. It made me realize how important it is to greet our visitors with enthusiasm each week at church. Too often we do something similar. We greet our friends with great gusto but ignore the stranger and leave them feeling like an unwanted guest.

I praise God that he never fails to get excited when we come into his presence. He lifts us up and celebrates our arrival as if we were the most important person on earth. God loves us and he lets us know every time we come into his presence.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Celebrating my 500th post

This is my 500th post. I can't believe I have been blogging long enough to reach this landmark. There is something to be said for continuity. God calls each of us to be faithful in the things we do. My calling is to share the good news. I do that every Sunday in the pulpit. I also do it through my weekly newspaper columns and regular blog posts. I do it through my associations in Baptist circles and participation in the community.

The truth is that each and every one of us has a ministry. To be faithful in that ministry is virtue. So go to it. And don't forget to celebrate whenever you hit a landmark.


Searching for the source of your power

I couldn't understand why my phone went dead last week while I was in Mexico. Three nights in a row I lost battery power by the time we got back from the seminary from our work at the churches. I was actually a little frustrated because the same thing happened a few week back when I was in Kentucky visiting my parents.

I was telling one of my bunk mates about it and I suggested that maybe it was due to the fact that I was checking my email on the phone now. I asked him what he thought. He said it was more likely due to the fact the our phones were continually searching for service. As a result the phone is drawing on the battery all day long instead of just when we make a phone call. It made sense.

Afterward I began to think about what he said. The same thing happens to us. So many of us spend a lot of time and energy searching for something that will satisfy our soul. We run after money, sex, power, excitement, possessions, fame, love and while we are doing it we wear ourselves out. Even worse we never really find satisfaction.

The truth is that only God can fill that longing that is deep within us. We will run around and wear ourselves out until we connect to him. Jesus told the woman at the well that he could deliver the living water that would satisfy the thirst within her. He does the same for all of us. So charge up your battery by inviting him into your life. You will not regret it.