Life Story

1 Peter 3:15

New International Version (NIV)
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answerB)’> that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

The time of transition from old to new is a good time to focus on where we are, where we have been and where we are going.

We should all have our Life Story ready to give. It may end up being a blockbuster best seller, a Broadway hit or a made for tv movie; but it should start out as three simple paragraphs.

1. Me BC. What was I like before Christ? Be careful it’s tempting to juice up this section with too many gory details. The bottom line for us all is that we were lost. The unique part is exactly how we were lost. 

2. Me, After Jesus. What a difference He has made in our lives? This is the good part, the easy part. We need to make clear that we haven’t been made perfect, just forgiven. Everything didn’t change instantaneously, mainly our direction. It’s important here to be honest and simple.

3. His Vision for us. If we are still here, we are here for a reason. What is that reason? Why are we still around? Where is He taking us? This is the tough part. Many of us haven’t an idea about this part, but it’s important that we nail it down.
Start the project simply. Just write three sentences, one for each paragraph. Then fill in enough blanks to make a full story.
Where would we be without Christ? Where are we now? Where is He taking us?
Isn’t the New Year exciting?

More Connecting

Yesterday we discussed resolving to encourage each other through prayer,  principally through connect groups. That’s the best way to connect, but there are others.

If you aren’t part of a connect group, but you have a prayer concern, you can get others to start praying for you almost immediately. Send an email to me at or send an email to Each request is briefly reviewed to avoid spammers, but very shortly after being sent there will be folks praying for you. We try to follow up in a few days to find out how you are dong.

Be more proactive about connecting at church. Before service starts, approach at least two folks, introduce yourself and start a conversation. If your memory for names is as bad as mine, take notes on the persons you meet and end the conversation by promising to keep them in your prayers. 

Consider inviting someone to lunch with you after church. That’s a great way to connect. Don’t take the easy route of inviting someone you are already comfortable with. Invite a stranger and really be blessed.

One simple way to connect is to choose a different spot to sit during services. We are creatures of habit and tend to establish our own territories in church. If you move around and sit in different spots, not only do you get different perspectives on the service, but you will be in contact with different groups of worshippers. 

Tomorrow, on New Years Eve, we will discuss developing your Life Story. We are told to always be prepared to tell our story. What’s yours?

Have a blessed Sunday.


Resolve to Encourage and Connect

Pray constantly for your friends and then let them know you are doing so, so that you may always serve as an encouragement.

The time between Christmas and New Years is typically spent trying to extend the Christmas Season, watch some football and considering some resolutions for the New Year. I came upon the above quote on Twitter and it made me consider just how self-centered we start each year. We look to improve us. Consider how we can be better or make our lives better. I think it might work better if focus less on self-improvement and more on encouraging others. 

I would like to consider starting this New Year with a more outward view. Wouldn’t it be great to resolve to “pray constantly for our friends as an encouragement.” I can almost guarantee that it would lead to a better year than resolving to lose weight or exercise more or to quit some crude habit.

When I think of it, most of my problems have their origin in my self-focus. When I focus on others, things are always better. 

Perhaps more importantly, when I engage in a prayer relationship I connect. I connect first because as trust develops I learn more and more about the real needs and concerns of the person being lifted up. Further, as I watch I see God work in that person’s life. As I pray for the lives of others, they pray for me.

At Amana we believe in Connect groups. These are small groups in which we fellowship, study, serve,  and pray for each other. These activities build spiritual connections.

Resolve in 2013 to encourage and get connected.

Be blessed.


Christmas Story

Christmas was great at our house: lots of family, food and fun. There were lots of gifts as well. I guess my great granddaughter was the best at opening hers. She said, “Just what I asked for.” and “Just what I wanted.” for just about every gift.
After the eating and gift giving, the television was on most of the day repeating showings of the movie with the kid who is desperate to get a bb gun for Christmas. That film has some great classic scenes. The main theme, of course, is the kid is determined to do all that he can to assure that he gets the gift he really wants. The commercials during the movie seemed to back up that theme. They painted the days between Christmas and New Years as like a great adjustment period. It’s the time you trade in what you got for what you wanted. In some cases, you “upgrade” what you got for something a bit better and, of course, a bit more expensive.
I get the whole gift giving thing. It’s such a tradition that it will likely continue until Christ comes back. But it just seems to me that Christmas is a time for considering all that we have, instead of all that we want. It was great to be surrounded by happy, noisy, smiling faces of people that I love more than life itself. It was great to be here. I guess the only real shift we need to make, since gifts will be with us always, is to shift to the joy of giving from the joy of getting. One of my great thrills was my grand daughter who took some money she got and had purchased special gifts for everyone. She’s got the right idea. Way to go, Sammie.
I saw a great sign on Facebook this morning. Christmas isn’t a day. It’s a season. So keep celebrating.
And be blessed. Remember, the kid didn’t shoot his eye out.

Merry Christmas

This may be my favorite time on Christmas Day. It’s still that “not a creature was stirring” time. I’m the only one awake and it’s the time for delicious anticipation. Soon enough our home will be filled with my favorite people. I know the weather will be horrible. I know that everyone won’t be staying all day. But for a few hours those I love will gather around. A year filled with challenges and fear and pain will be just a memory and a new one filled with hope will nearly begin. The One who came 2000  years ago to replace fear with joy will do so again.
We will open presents and laugh and eat. My Kaydence will sit on my lap and play with my ipad. Nicky and Sam will be full of wonder and wonderful stories. It will be fun and noisy. It will be great. By mid-afternoon, Rose and I may be left to our own devices and piles of paper and dishes, but that will be just fine. For a few short hours, another Christmas of memories will happen. This one will meld with all the ones in the past and promise more in the future. 
Christmas is just a glimpse of all that Christ has prepared for those who follow Him, but it’s a wonderful and glorious glimpse.
Merry Christmas and be blessed.

From Fear to Joy

[8] And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. [9] An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. [10] But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2

The Hope of Joy is the promise of Christmas. Joy is certainly a theme of Christmas. There is much confusion about joy which may lead to much of the disappointment at Christmas. We try to create joy. Joy isn’t something we can make nor is it instantaneous. We can get a glimpse of true joy, but it doesn’t come because of a holiday celebration alone.

Joy is the gospel’s replacement for fear. Fear arises from uncertainty, uncertainty about events, who we are, and who God is. For the Christian, a life dominated by fear is gradually replaced with a life of joy. It is a gradual process because joy comes from a developed certainty. It arises from relationship, not an instantaneous miracle. As our relationship with the Lord develops, we learn that He is our source. From Him we live and move and have our being. We learn who we are by experiencing who He is and who he makes us. 

Fear still visits the Christian. It just doesn’t move in. Notice that the shepherds’ encounter with the angels initially produced fear. The angels didn’t promise courage, but news of great joy. The just born child was the promise of joy, a joy that wouldn’t be completely possible until his life, death and resurrection were all played out.

Our joy is developed, made possible because of the work of Christ, and made real by a developed relationship with Him.

Be blessed in your process from fear to joy.


Light of the World

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

This is the season in which we celebrate Jesus as the light of the world. Sadly we have recently been reminded that this world is in desperate need of light. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to carry forth the message about light and darkness. There is a troublesome tendency to be vague about both; even in this special season. 

Let’s make sure we are all on the same page. The darkness we refer to is SIN. It’s not some general evilness. Sin is personal. We are sinners. That brings darkness. Sin is a societal problem only because everyone in society is a sinner. Society itself is not the sinner and not the darkness. Inanimate objects are not the darkness. Guns can be used to kill the innocent or those endangering the innocent. Sickness is not the darkness. Most sin is pretty sick; but it’s the sin that’s the problem. It’s sin that’s the darkness.

We need to be just as specific about the light as we are about the darkness. JESUS is the light. It’s not a generalized spirit of “good will.” It’s not even a “Christmas” spirit. We are not going to all of a sudden be good and start loving each other. The light brings forgiveness, and salvation and the POWER to be good. Only Jesus does that, not Budda or Mohammed or Obama. Only Jesus.

Jesus spoke plainly: “I am the light of the world.” If you look for light in any other person, place or thing, you look in vain.  Spread some light this Christmas. You can’t do it with just a smile or just a gift or just a “Merry Christmas.” Share all those things, but with them share Jesus.

Be blessed.


Holiday Occasions of Sin

An occasion of sin is an external set of circumstances—whether of things or persons—which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.

One of the many stressors of the Christmas season is that it is filled with what theologians call “occasions of sin.” We are told we should, to the to extent possible, avoid circumstances which might incite us to sin. This isn’t easy. It requires sensitivity and spiritual perception.

Consider this: 

Holiday parties and feasts. If we are inclined to overeat, or over drink or over talk (gossip), holiday parties can certainly be an occasion of sin. If we suffer from any, or all, of these inclinations, it is wise to go into these circumstances with our eyes wide open and begin to “back off” if we find ourselves drawn into any of these bad habits. If we host such events, we need to keep in mind the temptations they pay present to others. 

Shopping. If we are inclined to overspend or to buy gifts to compensate for what we failed to do for those we love during the year, we may be facing an occasion of sin. Think about what we do when we overspend. In addition to placing a financial burden on ourselves maybe for the rest of the year, we burden others. If we gift too lavishly, we humiliate the person we have gifted who hasn’t been so extravagant with us. It’s so much better to give from the heart than from the wallet.

Church events. The typical Christmas church celebration focuses on family and kids. We take family photos and the kids put on a show. There is a popular, but awful, sitcom on ABC entitled Modern Family. The premise is that in our society families aren’t what they used to be. Today they may consist of second or third or fourth marriages, gay partners, or single parents. No matter what we think about such “families” they are reality. On any given day, parents may not have their children with them because of “custody” arrangements or family brokenness. The pretty picture of Dad, Mom and all the kids to the second and third generation worshiping together on Sunday isn’t the norm. In fact, it’s quite rare.

Not everyone who attends you church will attend as an entire “family.” Don’t be surprised if some folks skip your Christmas Celebration because it isn’t relevant to their lives or may be even a painful reminder of their situation. 

Nearly anything we do can be used by the enemy. We should celebrate. We should enjoy. We should proclaim the good news of Christmas. But we should do so with sensitivity and prayer with our eyes and hearts wide open. Let’s never forget that the message of Christmas is the message of Christ: forgiveness, salvation and hope.

Be blessed.