March towards Lent

 
The morning started like any other day for me, I was a retail manager and was getting the store ready to go for the day. I went and unlocked the door right @ 9am and greeted some of the anxious shoppers. A couple minutes later I went to my ‘perch’ as some of the employees would call it, and started to work on reports. Then I saw it…a person with a ash cross on their forehead. At first I thought it was some dirt or a weird shaped mole. I thought to myself; ‘well that’s weird,’ and went back to work. Then a couple minutes later I saw another person with the same thing. Before long I had seen dozens of people with the same thing. During this particular time I had been reading the Left Behind series and it had talked about the mark of Christians. I’ll be honest, I began to panic a little bit; ‘had I missed the rapture?’ Finally I pulled over one of my employees and asked him: ‘do you see anything strange about that person.’ They laughed and simply replied: “It’s Ash Wednesday.” Thankfully he explained what it meant.
From that experience I began to explore the practices to better understand what they were all about. What I found was a very beautiful and deeply rich observance of God. Case in point would be the observance of Lent. A period of roughly six weeks where believers prepare themselves for the coming of Christ through repentance and fasting. What could be better than that! Unfortunately what proceeds Lent is Fat Tuesday where you are allowed to be a glutton for a day so you can have as much as possible and make it through the next 6 weeks. At thus my exploration ended in disappointment the beautiful was traded for the ugly.
 
Let us not mix the Holy with the Common. Nor should we ‘gear’ ourselves up so we can make it through a period of fasting and repentance. We should check our hearts to ensure they are in the right place. What I see in Fat Tuesday is a people’s heart for the world more than for God. Shouldn’t we, as the Word tells us, live a fasted lifestyle? Shouldn’t we look less like the world and more like Christ. I don’t know about you but I don’t see Christ having a buffet before he was called to fast for 40 days. Are you so in love with the world that you’ve got to gorge yourself on it to make it through time with God?


Which Way Did He Go?

      Growing up I couldn’t wait to watch some Looney Toones; even today I love watching those original cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd and the Tasmanian Devil were some of my favorite characters.  Bugs was so cool; he could disguise himself as almost anything tricking the character looking for him.  You may remember a dog that used to hunt Bugs would always ask: “Which way did he go, which way did he go George?” Makes me laugh just thinking about it.        
      Bugs may have been the master of disguises in the cartoons but he is  certainly not alone in our world for people who deceive.  All you have to do is turn on the nightly news and you’ll find someone trying to convince you that their version of the story is correct regardless of the facts. Truth is now in the eye of the beholder.  Not only is the news skewed but even scarier than that is the deception in Christianity today.  No longer do we look for the truth in the words of the Bible but we are now hearing that the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says. I’ve heard things like: ‘the Old Testament has no bearing on my life because the New Testament is here.’ They neglect the verse where Paul tells Timothy that all scripture, by the way they didn’t have the New Testament at that point, is usually for teaching and this isn’t the only verse that points us back to the Old Testament. 2 Timothy 3:16.
          I believe the answer is the reason you and I have started on this journey through the Bible, we must be in the Word.  You and I should daily be getting our Power UP on and diving in the Word.  We should be asking the question: ‘which way did you go God’ and track Him down.  Not listening to Bugs, or the world, but finding the truth ourselves. Each day should be a day that you and I grow stronger in the Word to the point that we cannot be deceived.  I
          If you haven’t already done so join us on the journey through the Bible by picking up a reading plan or going online and downloading it.  Then each day open the Word and ask God to show you the truth in His Word.  


Movin’ on UP

Most people 40+ will remember the Jefferson’s and how they were “Movin on UP to the east side.” It signified that they had finally arrived; moving from a lower class area to an upper class apartment. I honestly can’t tell you much about the show but the concept is very clear: moving up is a good thing.
If I were to sum up 2016 I would say it was the year of division. Racial tensions elevated to possibly equal the 60s. A Presidential election that led to riots, fear and hateful speech. News media reporting opinion as facts and whatever would stir up confusion and hate. And now our young people are starting brawls in malls across America.
So where does that leave us: the Church? God woke me up several days before Christmas and spoke a simple word in my ear “UP.” I’ve learned that when I wake up in the middle of the night that it’s either indigestion or God, My response is always the same at these early morning wake ups; I begin to pray. I’ll start praying for whatever comes to mind, most of the time God brings people to my mind. But this night He just brought that simple word, and since I was already UP, pun intended, I asked for clarification.
The word UP combines both direction and movement. Just say UP to anyone and they will most likely know the direction you are talking about and probably will actually look UP.: both direction and movement. This is where I believe God is calling the Crossroads Church: to move UP, to stand UP, to rise UP to look UP.

This first Sunday of January I will be bringing a message simply called UP that will focus on two things: Unity and Peace. If you have missed this message I would ask that you go online to @thecrossroadscog.com and listen to the sermon. For those of you without internet access we will make available CDs with the message. This message will be the kick off to our year as we begin to move on UP to all the God has for us. We will also be kicking off, starting in February, a Church reading plan with a goal of reading through the Bible in a year.
 


Box of Chocolates

In the movie, Forest Gump, Forest says this phrase: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’ll get.” I’ve heard an add onto that which stated that some are full of nuts and I couldn’t agree more. There are sometimes I really wonder how we’ve survived this long and that God hasn’t said ‘Enough’ and wiped us all out. You know what I mean. You are driving down the highway and the person has their left turn signal on in the left lane and then decides to get off on the exit to the right. Crossing three lanes while still having their left turn signal on. Or how about the person in the 15 items or less checkout with 100 items and 50 coupons. Don’t get me started on what people post on Facebook or other Social Media sites. There are times I just want to shake my head and say “You’ve got to be kidding!”
The thing is we have to remember that we’ve been called into this nutty world. We have been called to love those unlovable, frustrating, make you wish you had a flying car, drivers. Jesus said that “In this world you will have trouble” and I believe He was talking about those lane crosses, check stand jammers and social media junkies.
Did you realize that it’s our reaction to these types of trouble that is judged by the world. It’s not if we go to Church or use Churchy language. It’s not how nice we look, what we drive or even our checkbook balance. You and I are judged by our Love. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”” John 13:35 NIV And lest you think that means we only have to love those within the Church don’t forget what Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45 NIV
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45 NIV

So the next time you run into one of those box of chocolate nuts remember to react in and with Love.


I Know Who I Am

 
Christian Worship Artist, Israel Houghton, has a song simply titled: ‘I Know Who I Am.’ I must admit this is one of my favorite songs. Although I can’t recall all of the words, the chorus is: ‘I know who I am. I know who I am. I know who I am, I am Yours, I am Yours, and you are mine.’ Just a simple little tune, but a profound message.


Change – Hope or Despair

I’ve always loved the fall season. Football, cooler weather, the leaves changing and the smell. Growing up for me it was the smells that truly signified that fall had officially started. Where I grew up we had mint farms, and in the fall they would start to burn the mint and smell of mint would fill the valley. The smell would usher in the season’s change.


What Lies Within You Is The Power To Change The Destiny Of Another Person

waiting-on-god-church-worship-background
I remember hearing that phrase a number of years ago at a Regional Men’s Breakfast. I can’t tell you who it was who said it, or even what he spoke about that day, but those simple words have had a major impact in my life ever since. Those words took me back in my own life to moments where people have tried to shape my destiny. From being told I had big nostrils to having my birth father, who I didn’t meet until in my 20’s, call when I was a young teenager and talk to my little sister and older brother but not to me; words and actions had played a huge role in my destiny. As I thought about those words, ‘the power to change the destiny’, I could not help but think of people I had also impacted by my words and actions.