Monday, November 13, 2017

Water to Wine

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” John 2:6-10



This was Jesus first recorded miracle.  He took the water and with no ceremony or flair made it wine.

He didn’t pour out the water, He didn’t empty the container.  He transformed what was already in it.  

That is what he did for me.  He didn’t get rid of what was already inside me. He simply changed it made it sweeter. With no ceremony, no flair, He changed me. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
You don’t need to be empty and freshly scrubbed to be used by God.  You come as you are and He does the changing.

That’s not to say you won’t have struggles.  Once you are filled to the top then just like at the wedding party, people will start to take some of it.  You’ll lose a dip at a time though just everyday life some of what Jesus did that first instant.

It’s not like the bread and fish from John 6 or the widows oil from 2 Kings 4 both of which refilled themselves as they were being used automatically.

I see people accept Christ and they feel so great that first day or that first week but they expect that feeling to stay with them.  
As time wears on though they begin to fade.
They have’t been restocking the jar.

So what can you do to keep from feeling watered down by life?

Here are some tools that help me.

YouVersion Bible App - This is a free app I have on my phone and my tablet. It has hundreds of Bible reading plans to choose from. You can search for a topic and find a bible reading plan about it. You can find devotionals and reading plans from a slew of pastors.  You can set an alarm to remind you if you forget.
It’s an absolute essential.  

Abide - Another smart phone app this one helps you focus your prayer.  Personal prayer time runs 2 directions for me. It either is long and rambling or it is filled with subject changes and distractions.  Abide will guide you through prayer with soft music and gentle prompts to keep you focused.

Journaling - You can do this with a physical journal or a digital one.  I use both. When I am planning a blog or preparing a message I use a moleskine notebook.  When I just want to write about my day, or jot down something I feel God has laid on my heart I use Day One. It’s an application on my Mac but it crosses platforms onto my phone as well. I can add pictures or links to my note too, which I really like when I go back and look at it later.  
Day one is searchable so if I type in “wedding” it will bring up any post that has that word in it.

Notes - I take notes all the time, again this one can be digital or analog. I have a notebook that comes to church with me everyday and it has everything from meeting notes to notes from pastor Kelly’s sermon. I take it with me to conferences and meetings. It’s not just enough to take notes though, you need to go back and look at them periodically.  You’ll see places you have grown and places that still need work.  I have a Terrible memory so notes are a must. Digitally I use Evernote to keep track of blog ideas and any lists I make.  I make a lot of those by the way.  I like to keep track of how many movies I watch, books I read things like that.

Those are just a few tools that might help you.  

I changed my schedule about a year ago so I could get some of these things done. Its a priority for me and I think once you get started it will be so for you too.

Thanks for reading

Alan






Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse



Today was the solar eclipse and like most people I was interested in seeing it. 

The thing that stuck in my mind about the eclipse was when the moon covered the sun it still wasn’t very dark.  I stood on the sidewalk in front off the office and you couldn't see the stars, no crickets chirped, no streetlights flared to life.  It was still daylight, just a little shadier.

In my life I have let things come between God and myself. They slipped in and between us. It happened slowly over time like the eclipse today. Just like the eclipse today my life didn’t get too much darker. It was still, after all lighter than it was when I was lost. I believed in God but I didn’t make him the Lord of my life. Lord over EVERY aspect.

Pastor Kelly talked about that at church yesterday.  How it’s one thing to believe in Jesus and another to give him Lordship over you. You can accept Jesus into your heart, you can believe who he is but the sky just isn’t quite as bright as it is when He is the only thing in it.

Today during the eclipse I saw how easy it is to accept the shade.  Life moved on work got done but it just wasn’t as sharp as it could have been.

I’ve been looking for and shedding recently those things that block my view of God.  It’s not a quick process like I would have hoped. It’s gonna take some time but each day is a little brighter in that aspect.

If you want to avoid a total eclipse you have to be able to see where your issues lie. You need a tool like the glasses so many sported today to allow you to see the items that are between you and God.  

The Bible is that tool.  Whether it is your daily private time or just listening the to the sermons from Kelly or your other favorite preachers you need that lens to properly see what is blocking the light.

Don’t wait another day of the shade, pick up your Bible, find a reading plan online or on the Bible app go buy a one year bible just take a step today. 

Make everyday form this one forward brighter than the last.  

Thanks for reading

Alan



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mud

It finally rained last week.  It has been a while since we had more than a sprinkle and it was certainly a welcome sight.  The problem with any substantial amount of rain for me is that fact that my yard gets flooded very easily.  It was a big mess for a few days after the rain and if there was mud then I stepped in it.  I constantly had mud on my shoes. I tracked it into the truck and onto the porch.
As things dried out though I started to notice the footprints in the mud.
I was looking at how deep and intricate some of the prints were.  Spaced out almost like a dance pattern as day by day I avoided the places I had stepped the days before trying to keep clean.
They had a beauty to them I had never noticed.  They represented where I had been but was no longer.  Some I remembered, the really deep ones. Some I didn’t. None of them were pretty but they were there. 
I look back on things I’ve done, mistakes I have made and I see them now as footprints in mud.  None of them pretty.  Reminders of where I have been and a warning to not to step there again.

13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.     - Philippians 3:13-14

Thanks for reading

Alan

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Problem with Me

A few weeks ago I was waiting for my car to be finished at the shop. I brought it in to have a new battery put in and I had been waiting for about half an hour.  I was bored so I decided to post a picture on social media.
I carefully arranged the props, I wanted it to look natural but not boring.  I took that photo into one of the 16 apps on my phone to adjust the look.  I add a lens flare to make it look more dynamic. I adjust the contrast in another app so it won’t look so flat.  
I finished up putting it thru the 3rd app and it was perfect. I opened Instagram and came up with a caption that is just clever enough to seem unprepared.  Instagram gives me the option to share this pic in Facebook too so of course I did. I mean I couldn’t rob my Facebook followers of this gold.

I posted the pic and looked out the window at the car.  It has not moved since the last time I looked so I checked Instagram to see if I had any likes.  “5 likes, not bad”, I thought.  I clicked out and opened Facebook. 12 likes there.  I made sure to tap and see who had and who had not liked the pic in both apps.  
I put my phone away and walked through sporting goods.  I stopped to look at the camping section. I have never camped but I love camping gear.  My hand slipped into my pocket and found my phone, without thinking I opened Instagram to see how many likes I had now.  A few more in instagram and quite a few more in facebook. I looked to see who the new likes came from and I put my phone away again and headed towards toys.
I’m 38 and I still love to browse the toys section. Specifically legos. I’m in the lego aisle and again absently my phone was in my hand and instagram was open.  I saw the heart logo pop up at the bottom with the number 3. I was excited to see who had liked my post.
As the afternoon wore on and I waited  for the battery to be tested and replaced I looked at my phone a dozen more times.  Each time stopping to see who had and hadn’t liked what I posted.  Did Kelly like it?  Did anyone share it.  I was/am obsessed with those numbers and those names.

Recently I had a realization. I wish I could say that it was something God had just revealed to me through prayer or quiet time with him.  Instead it comes from a place of failure a place of disappointment and embarrassment.

I am too wrapped up in me. In the image I want others to perceive.  My life has become the picture I pose so it looks put together and natural but not  staged. The problem with me was me.

So much of my self worth, my value my "me" comes from what others think.  It comes from my likes. It comes from my job. I’ve let the “me” get bigger than the “He”. 

If your identity is dependent on your job or your social influence then what do you do when those things go away, and those things always go away.  When you make a huge mistake and lose what you have built.  When the storms come and wipe out what you have built. What’s left? Can you rebuild?

It reminds me of the story Jesus tells about building your house on the rock.  I’m saved, when this life is over I’ll be with Jesus. I built my house on the rock, It’s a modest house, more of a cabin a real fixer upper.  It will always be there. It’s mine no matter what.

I built a vacation home on the sand though.  It was built and filled with things that don’t matter in the long run. It’s the house I want people to see. Its a big house on beachfront property.
People can see it and I know there is a little jealousy.  It’s filled with things I know other people will like or wish they could do.  It is packed with influence, it carries weight.  

I left a lot of projects unfinished back at the cabin though.  Things I didn’t want to address. Leaky pipes, dark spots in the crawlspace. It’s time I got back to that cabin.  
I’m dedicated now to doing just that.  Deliberately less me and more He in the coming months.

I’m going to make the cabin the place I want to be. I’m going to clean it and remodel it.  I’m going to hire a professional to help.

In the land of social media my first step back to the cabin is to actively not look to see if something I post is liked and if so then by who.  I have deleted Facebook from my phone for a while. I removed my notifications and added a couple other safe guards.  When I post this blog I know there will be that pull to see how many views it gets. That is something I will fight for sure. 
I won’t give up on social media, it’s important for what I do and for relationships that I have.  Its a real part of life in the modern world and it can’t be ignored.  I’ll just use it better.  I can’t be left with unlimited access to my own vanity.

I will spend more time at my cabin, and my cabin doesn’t have wifi.

Are you living in the cabin or your beach house?

Thanks for reading.

Alan


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hardboiled

I'm a different me than I was 6 years ago when we first attended LifePoint. Some of you know that. Some of you saw me sitting in the balcony, coming straight in and to my seat. Not interacting with anyone if I could help it.

That all changed 5 years ago this week at C3.  Matter of fact it was 5 years to this day that I woke up with a new heart.

It was a great start and it took some time to shake some of the things I was indoctrinated in from my one time denomination.

It took a while to go from legalism to "lovelism"

To realize the difference between my pet issues and salvation issues when it comes to other people.

No, the me you met those years ago is gone now.

What is amazing is the me you met a month ago is gone too.

Sure its not as noticeable as a complete flip but its there.

Everyday I read and I pray and I grow and if I've done my job then the me that goes to bed each night is different from the me that wakes up every morning.

This walk isn't a quick one I've found. It's not about feelings.  It's about change. It's all about change.
Jesus accepted me exactly as I was and he loved me. He would have loved me just the same had I not changed. However in the light of His grace how could I not?  How could I continue in ways that grant his ways?  In ways that would make him sad or disappointed in me. So I changed.

These changes aren't always visible.  Like a boiled egg looks the same as a fresh egg, on the outside. On the inside though it has changed.  It's not a gushy mess anymore able to go this way and that.  The very heart of it has been shaped and solidified.  Still soft enough to be molded but firm enough to stand alone if the shell is broke.

I hope you are growing. In this year as a church that we are looking to grow "Stronger".

I hope you have found a mentor.

If no one has asked you to be theirs yet then I pray you go seek out someone to mentor.  Find someone to grow from the things God has taught you.

It has been an amazing 5 years.

Thank you for your love and support and as always

thanks for reading.

Alan

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Better Nights Sleep

 This is another one of those cases where I wrote a whole lot and then rewrote, edited and wrote again.
I played with turns of phrase. I looked for a through line maybe a catch phrase that would help someone that read this remember it better.
It was long, flowery and decently written. It took over an hour to craft and I just deleted it.

Why?

Well the more I wrote the more I realized I was taking the long way of letting you know what was on my heart tonight.
A simple thought.

Forgive completely.

Holding onto anger or bitterness does nothing to anyone but yourself.

It only serves to effectively immunize you from blessings God wants to give you.

Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."

You'll also sleep a lot better.

Thanks for reading
Alan

Monday, January 30, 2017

Get more out of Your Game

I was talking to my friend Bethany last week and she gave me an analogy for the Christian walk that had never occurred to me before and I wanted to share it with you and extrapolate a little as well.

When I was a kid I played a Mario video game.  Mario games prior to 1996 were side scrollers. The hero proceeded in a straight path towards the right of the screen. You encountered obstacles to jump over. Coins and things to collect plus secrets to discover but always to the right and always forward for progress.

You might discover a warp zone and be able to skip a few middle levels if you were lucky. You might have a friend that had been there before you and could give you some help. No matter the path your goal was always to get to the reward at the end of the game.  

I had friends though that played the game differently than I.  They wanted to learn its secrets. To know the game better, to understand the person that created it in hopes to gain insight. They didn’t want to skip a level. It didn’t matter if the level was hard or not. They wanted to get as much out of the game as they could.  They knew where all the coins were. All the side games and warp zones.  Their knowledge and appreciation of the game was far beyond mine because they played it differently. They spent way more time with the game than I did. 
They enjoyed the game on a deeper level and had a way more satisfying experience than I did.

If I got stuck I could always call my friends and they would tell me a little more about the game. Where to go, what to do so I could get just a little farther. Believe it or not I even had people that would call me or talk to me at school about their game and I would help them get farther.

No matter how we played the game though we all found ourself at the same place and with the same result when it was over.

That is a great way to look at the Christian walk.  Once you accept Christ your ending is the same.  If you truly believe and put your trust in Him then we are going to the same place. The end of the game is gonna be the same for me that it is for you. 

Those that will quit the game or choose to play a different game will ultimately end up somewhere totally different than us.

As a Christian though we play the the original game the best game. The game everyone was built to play. The game that came with the system. 

Yes sometimes it glitches and sometimes we have to blow into the cartridge to get it to work the way we think it should but its the way its supposed to be. 

How will you play the game?  Will you just try to get through?  

Or will you play to learn more about the game and the creator of it.

Get more out of your game, put more into it and get stronger in 2017.

Thanks for reading

Alan