Friday, June 27, 2014

Adopted

He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… Ephesians 1:5 (NIV)

My relationship with my daughter Anne started out differently than with my other kids. Anne first came to our home as a foster child, and that’s how I introduced her to people. “This is my foster daughter, Anne,” I would say.

Anne was not like our other children. Not only was there an age gap—she was quite a bit younger than our youngest—but there were also vast differences in the way she related and in the things that interested her. Our other children found her behavior humorously quirky and would comment about things that seemed unusual to them. It was clear that Anne, although loved, was different.

Later on, my wife and I had the joy of adopting her. I noticed that at first, I still clarified our relationship when introducing her. “This is Anne, our adopted daughter,” I told folks. I wondered if I would ever think of her the same as my biological children.

But over time, something changed. I didn’t consciously make a decision to stop identifying her as adopted, but one day I noticed that I had. She simply became Anne, my daughter. I suppose this is a natural progression for parents who adopt children. Time has a way of growing love and making differences less perceptible.

I got to thinking about the fact that God has adopted each of us to be His children. Only with God, His love and affection for us is instantaneous. When we entered His family we immediately received all of the blessings of being His child. No disclaimers. No clarifications. Just His dearly beloved children!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Bad Day in the Boat



I’m ready to go fishing.  I love fishing; it doesn’t matter if it’s deep sea fishing, fly fishing, a pier, a boat or a dock.  I love to fish and I’m happy to wet a line any day, anywhere.  There’s something life-giving, almost spiritual about being out on the water and I’ve often repeated the familiar phrase, “A bad day fishing is still better than the best day in the office.”

I once had the perfect pastor job; it was in the heart of Minnesota, the land of lakes. The first thing I did when I arrived there was buy a boat, one of the smartest things I ever did.  I prided myself on the fact that I could be out the office door and heading across the water in 25 minutes flat. My favorite secret honey hole was in Big Swan Lake where I caught my share of Walleye, Northern and Crappie.

For me fishing is fun even if I’m not catching fish.  Not so much for some of my companions though.  I’ve often been incited to use my favorite one-liner for those who bemoan a slow day in the boat; “That’s why they call it fishing, if you were always catching they’d call it catching.”
Over the years I’ve gotten to fish in some pretty amazing places, the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and the coast of Maui.  But most often when I catch myself daydreaming it’s about fishing the brackish waters of 10,000 Islands near the Florida Everglades.  This fisherman’s paradise is an endless maze of Mangrove islets sheltering untold varieties of fresh and saltwater species; fish made strong from fighting the constant tidal currents.  If I could I’d be fishing there right now.  

I do a lot of thinking about fishing and I got to thinking about this thinking about fishing.  It seems I’m always thinking about the next fishing adventure; planning, preparing, weighing the options.   Fishing is a lot like heaven for me because it’s also something I’m really looking forward to.  I’m always thinking about heaven and what it’s going to be like to spend eternity there.  Maybe there will even be time for fishing.

Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.



Friday, June 13, 2014

Brokering Peace

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

It starts when they’re so young.  The other day I walked in on another skirmish.  “What happened?”  “She hit me!” Came the reply.  Looking at her I questioned, “What should you do?”  “Apologize.”  I try to pry past self-will and pride in an effort to broker peace and teach love and forgiveness.  There is bold resistance by both parties to my intrusion. 

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to learn.  It’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish for children and perhaps more so for adults.  We forgive reluctantly desiring to hold power over those who have wounded us.  In the long run our resistance to forgive ends up hurting only ourselves.  It’s a challenge to forgive even when an apology has been made and the effort required to forgive when an apology hasn’t come is multiplied many times over.  

Our hearts are stubborn, yet God wants us to forgive.  He says so in His Word.  Seven times seventy only underscores the level of forgiveness we are to offer others.  It’s one of the most important things for us to do and it’s required to maintain peace filled relationships with those around us.  Sometimes the hardest three words to say are, “I forgive you.”

The truth is it’s not always that easy.  Sometimes the need to forgive gets complicated and muddled.  Still we’re instructed to forgive and keep our accounts short with others.  Perhaps there is someone who is waiting for your forgiveness.  Won’t you consider offering them your forgiveness today?   
    
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Set Your Mind on Things Above



Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

My day is already filled up and it hasn’t even begun yet.  The car needs to be washed and vacuumed out and there’s an important NBA game on at 6.  The kitchen faucet is dripping indicating a leak somewhere and a possible trip to the hardware store.  It’s time again to clean out the garage and there are some things that need to be returned at the mall.  Oh and yes if there’s time the wind has blown the back patio full of leaves and it needs to be swept again.  

Sometimes it seems like we just go from one day to the next filling up every moment with so many “pressing” matters.  Life goes flying by and we get caught up in its whirlwind and all too often the first things to go are the very things that keep us focused on eternal matters.  Things like spending time with our heavenly Father.    

The truth is that even Jesus would occasionally slip away from the crowds or the business of His life to spend time with His Father.  So if even Jesus needed time with the Father then I suspect I do too.  It’s one thing that helps me set my mind on things above.

Sure, getting the garage cleaned is important and so is the NBA game but sometimes all of these important things can swallow up a whole day.  Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize that I haven’t even talked to my heavenly Father and I know I need that to get my perspective realigned.  So today I’m resolved to spend some time with God and get my thoughts on things above before the business begins.  

Luke 5:16 (NIV)
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Picking Teams



You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last... John 15:16 (NIV)

One of my fondest memories of grade school was playing kickball at recess. I loved that game so much, and I couldn’t wait to get on the field and get the game going. There was just one problem…picking teams.

In my pint-sized world, there was nothing worse than being picked last. Nothing. Being chosen next-to last was bad, and yet it was so much better than being dead last. Nobody wants to be the last kid standing on the sidelines, cheeks burning with embarrassment, waiting to be picked.

Last meant you were looked upon with disdain by the other children. Last meant you had to prove in the game that you were worthy of being picked earlier next time. You knew where you stood in the pecking order, and last meant you looked weak to the other children.

Aren’t you glad the Christian life is nothing like elementary school kickball? Oh so different is our relationship with our Savior! Scripture says He chose you to be on His side. And you weren’t picked last, or second-to-last. You never have to wonder if you were a sympathy vote, and you never need to prove your worthiness. God chose you before the creation of the world! He wanted you, and He did everything in His power to make you His child…even sending His Son to die on the Cross so you could be saved.

I’m so thankful I’ve been chosen by Him. Aren’t you?

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)