Monday, September 26, 2016

You Only Live Once!

"You only live once!" This was the answer given to me and my wife when we discussed the picture to the right with my aunt. Shortly after her diagnosis for pancreatic cancer, my aunt took my sons for a ride to McDonald's while we waited at the hospital for a family member to have surgery. When my aunt and my sons returned from McDonald's my wife happened to snap this picture as they pulled back in to the parking lot. Yes, that is my aunt's convertible VW Beetle with the top down and my, then 7 year old son standing up in the back seat. The only thing is this was December 27th and it was 40 degrees. We tried our best to scold my aunt when she came back in, but you know how that goes when it comes to scolding those who helped raise you. It basically falls on deaf ears. She looked at us and plainly told us it was fine because, "You only live once!"

This same fun-loving and vivacious aunt has come to the end of her time on earth. The pancreatic cancer has won the battle that started nearly 3 years ago. Even though cancer may have won the battle, my aunt's faith has won the war. During the last 3 years, she has packed plenty of life into every day. Even on the days she was beaten down by chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and side-effects from medicines, she continued to live life to the fullest. Why? Because you only live once.

It has been remarkable to see how her faith has been so strong through this entire journey. It was her faith that saw her through the difficult days of treatments designed to destroy your body. It was her faith that sustained her as the doctors offered different treatments and options. It was her faith that helped her endure these final days. Through all of this, her faith has seen her through it. She used every opportunity she had to share about the God who was strengthening her for this difficult time in her life. She witnessed about Him to family members, friends, doctors, nurses, and anyone who would listen. Why? Because you only live once.

If you are a believer in Christ, you should use every opportunity God gives you to share about Him. It shouldn't take a catastrophic loss or life-threatening health condition to get you to share about how good your God is. We should share with others about His love, grace, mercy, and salvation every day as if it were our last. Why? Because you only live once.

If you are not a believer in Christ, you should really consider the salvation God offers to you. He offers you forgiveness of your sins through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He did this so you could experience a right relationship with Him and have eternal life when this life is over. But that offer is only good on this side of eternity. If you step into eternity without choosing to accept Christ's free gift of salvation, you won't have another chance. So I implore you to make a decision for Christ while you still have time. Why? Because you only live once.

I'll close with this. A verse that has meant so much to my aunt through this journey is Psalm 57:1. It speaks plainly to the faith she has placed in God during this journey. Psalm 57:1 says, "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by." Trust in Him, again or for the first time, and let Him be your refuge. Why? Because you only live once.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

How do you represent?

One would think that after 10 or 11 years of life a kid would learn to eat without wearing more than they swallow. Not in our house. I can't tell you the number of times in a given week that we have to tell our sons "You have food on your face." Many times they'll eat and have food stretched past the corners of their mouths in something resembling Heath Ledger's Joker face. Recently we were eating a quick meal in the truck and I turned to one of my sons in the back seat and told him that over used phrase "You have food on your face." He looked back at me with an "I don't care" look and told me exactly that, "I don't care." I promptly told him that I did care how he looked and how when he steps out in public the way he presents himself not only reflects on him but me and his mom. He begrudgingly wiped his face off and finished his meal.

When it comes to living a Christian life, the way you present yourself matters more than you realize. Too many Christians in this world take the same view of their Christian witness that my son does about food on his face. They simply don't care because they don't see that it really matters to anyone. But that thought couldn't be farther from the truth. If you wear the name of a Christian, then you claim to be one who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ and are trying to live your life according to His standards of holiness and His Word. But if you claim the title of Christian, whether prominently or quietly, and then live like the rest of the world, why would people who aren't Christians think they need to be a Christian? They wouldn't. Why? Because if you live like they do, why do they need to seek forgiveness, be involved in the local church, serve God, or strive for holiness. To them this world is hard enough without the added pressures of a religion that hasn't really changed your life.

Like I told my food covered son, if you're a Christian, when you step out in public (or even at home) the way you present yourself not only reflects on you but on your Father. The way you dress, the way you speak, the relationships you have, the way you treat others, and the way you handle yourself all reflects on the life-changing power of a personal relationship with God. If you don't carry yourself as one who has been changed by Him, then others won't take seriously their need for Him.

Please understand I'm not advocating false pretenses and masks to hide who we really are to put on some kind of "Christian" show. Yes, you will have a bad day from time to time and it will show. Yes, you will say the wrong thing at the wrong time in front of the one person you've tried to witness to. We all mess up but we can't use that as an excuse to not live out a godly witness in front of everyone, every day, and in every way. When we mess up it makes a great case for us to explain the grace and forgiveness of God and hopefully others will start to see their need for the same grace and forgiveness.

If you're a Christian, make a commitment today to live out a Christian example in your life that represents well the life-changing relationship you have with God. If you're not a Christian, then I'd encourage you to read more here about how you can experience a life-changing relationship with God.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Old habits die hard.

I recently stopped in a store to pick up some supplies to work on a project at home. It was hot and I was thirsty, so I picked up a bottle of Gatorade to drink on the drive home. As I walked to my truck, I found myself doing something I have done for nearly 30 years when opening a bottle of Gatorade. Don't ask me why because I can't tell you why, but I took the lid off, placed the lid back on the Gatorade, shook it up, took the lid back off, and started to drink it. I'm not exactly sure why I have the habit of opening a Gatorade and then recapping it to shake it up, but I've done this most of my life. Most likely I heard from a friend when I was a kid that you need to shake up your Gatorade before drinking it, as if the ingredients settled to the bottom like a Yoo-hoo. Or maybe someone once told me you needed to let some fresh air into it, as if it needed to breathe. Regardless of why I have this odd habit, I stood their beside my truck staring at my bottle of Gatorade and thinking, "Why in the world did I just do that?" The answer is because it was an old habit and I did it without even thinking about it.

Some of the most difficult habits for us to break are those habits that have been ingrained in us for a long time. As the saying goes, "old habits die hard." It is definitely true because we see it everyday of our lives. Those habits that have been a part of who we are, they tend to take longer for us to break. But why would we want to break a habit? Generally because we don't want it to be a part of who we are. We want our self to be a better version of who we are and that requires us to get rid of the habits that we don't want in this better version.

When it comes to our spiritual life, breaking old habits isn't any easier. We want to "be" better or "do" better and so we pick out those spiritual habits that need to change. We decide to: "Go to church more." "Read my Bible more." "Pray more." Or even "Serve God more." Those are all noble spiritual habits to have as a part of your walk with Christ, but how do we break the old habits of not going to church, not reading my Bible, not praying, and not serving God?

The answer is discipline. Why do you think they call these things "spiritual disciplines"? Because it takes discipline to do them as a regular habit. Discipline has taken a backseat in today's world of instant gratification. We want everything and we want it now! We even want our habits to be instant and not have to work towards them. When we don't have the spiritual discipline to pray for 5 minutes, then we feel like a failure and we throw in the towel. What you must realize is that spiritual disciplines take time to develop. So as you work to develop spiritual disciplines in your life, it will take time. So don't get discouraged if you find yourself faltering after the first couple of weeks. Stick with it and you'll be glad you did. Also spiritual habits are like anything else in life, you'll make time for what is important. Don't you make time to get a cup of coffee if you can't make it through a day without a cup? Then won't you make time to read God's Word if you can't make it through a day without it? If developing spiritual disciplines are important to you, then you'll make time for them. You won't find other things to do on Sundays when you should be worshiping God. You'll adjust your daily routine to make time to read the Bible or pray. You'll look for opportunities to serve God and then make them a part of your schedule.

I've never met someone who was spiritually disciplined and regretted it. I encourage you to find those old spiritual habits that need to be changed and commit to being spiritually disciplined. In the long run, you'll be happy that you did.

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