Faith - It's Who You Are

As we speed into another month of 2015, I want to point out a subject we are focusing on in Youth Group, an adult Sunday School class, and our Marriage Enrichment class.  Our identity as believers and followers of Jesus Christ defines us first and foremost - period.  The classic 80's movie "The Breakfast Club" has a lot to teach us about teenage culture both then and now.  In a Wednesday night youth group meeting we used a clip from that movie to help us evaluate how we see others and ourselves.  Who are those we associate with and why?  Who are those we seem to put into categories of unapproachable or outcast?  As Christians we see our identity in our creator, sustainer, teacher, redeemer, Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  We believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the triune God.  It is the most important part of our identity.  Our faith defines us.  It determines what kind of spouse, parent, child, friend, employer, employee, and person we are.

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The Art of Celebration

There's an album by Rend Collective Experiment that has this same title.  It's a collection of songs that speak to the very core of our souls and being as the group incorporates so many aspects of truth and grace into their music.  You may gather that I really like it!  There is also an accompanying video on YouTube titled "Joy" which we've used with our youth at Loucon.  It speaks to our walk with God as a celebration, a life not weighed down by condemnation, but one that is lit by the fire and security of our redemption pulsing through us!  If you are anything like me you may choose sometimes to allow this world to darken your attitude towards life in general and people as a whole.  We have many distractions around us that can shift our focus from joy.  But as the gentleman in the above mentioned video reminds us, seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit but joy is.  Give yourself some time to watch the video and see if you don't find yourself smiling a lot.

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Family Traditions

We are in a season that is filled with traditions.  A tradition, as defined by the Encarta Dictionary, is the handing down of patterns of behavior, practices, and beliefs that are valued by a culture.  The "handing down," I believe, is the most important part of the definition.  We are a people who need that passing along and handing down.  One of the most quoted scriptures in history is the Shema that was passed down from generation to generation, "Listen, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today."  Deuteronomy 6:4-6.

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As I sit at my desk I'm reminded of a mess.  Any of you who have been in my office know what I'm talking about.  I have a very bad habit of allowing things to gather.  There may possibly be some hoarding tendencies in me. If it runs in the family, then it may very well be hereditary for me.  I have an uncle who has had a few vehicles collapse under the weight of stuff he's collected.  There are even shows that deal with this condition.  I'm not that bad, and don't intend to get that bad with help from family and friends, but it does make me think, "Why do I and others hold onto things that need to be filed away or thrown away?"

Indecision may be part of the reason for me and others.  Maybe, I'm not sure of course.  Being unable to pull the trigger, make the leap, climb the hill, or whatever clichés there are for not being able to move or make a decision can cause small piles to become heaps of trash.  Sometimes I think it's because I really believe I need something or I will use something.  This happens occasionally, but more often than not it just sits there until I decide to throw it away or it grow legs and walks away on its own.

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Recently I've noticed that my eyesight is getting worse.  My 1.25 cheaters are becoming more and more needed as my arms are not getting any longer.  It's common for a lot of us.  There is a term for this condition,"presbyopia," which basically means "old eyes."  I kid about it and make fun of myself as I've been known to leave these cheaters in strategic locations so I don't have to keep up with them in my pocket.  As I pondered this morning what might fall on the pages of this article, I found myself trying to focus on the words I read and write.  They are blurred and fuzzy.  It reminds me of our faith journey.  How are we keeping things around us in focus?  We are told that scripture should be the lens we look through to see God, the world around us, and ourselves.  But we even have disagreements there too, as to what God is really saying.  Translators and scholars sometimes have different interpretations don't they?  I've also seen it in the circles of people I've been around.  So what do we do with this?

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Practice His Presence

"I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me."  Psalm 16:8

The Psalms are full of God's promise of presence.  He is constant and consistent with His power, provision, truth and grace.  We are, on the other hand, not as constant and consistent with our time and commitment toward Him.  I speak only for myself here because I know how my schedule can dictate my focus and how easily I can be distracted from God's presence with me.  Our world is one that is fast and we are a people who want everything now.  Drive thru is more of a norm than sit down dinners around a table.  Heads down looking at smart phones are more common than heads up looking, listening and speaking into each others' lives.  The climb toward success is more acclaimed than the path toward righteousness.  Our world is a very volatile and chaotic realm as Satan tries to disrupt our lives with worry, confusion, pride and distractions.

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God is Good, Period

"God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!"  We hear this phrase a lot, don't we?  You've heard me say it many times on Sundays, but today I want us to consider this, "Is my perception of God and His goodness based on my situations and circumstances?"

In Chip Ingram's book God: As He Longs for You to See Him, he states "What you think about God shapes your whole relationship with him.  In addition, what you believe God thinks about you determines how close you will grow toward Him."  So what is your perception of God?  Do you believe that He is for you?  Do you know that He knew you before you were ever born?  Do you know that He has made you for a purpose and that purpose is to do good?  Don't believe me?  Ephesians 2: 8-10 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  So that clears that up doesn't it?

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