LEGO-ology Part 4 (Pieces)

Hebrews 10:25 – “Don’t neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

There’s not a lot you can do with one individual Lego.  If you were a child (or a really bored adult) you might pretend its a car or an animal or a hockey puck but beyond that there’s not a lot you can do with it.  If you join it together with a few 100 of its friends however the possibilities are endless.  You can build and create and play and enjoy.

The same is true for the church.  Somewhere along the way people have begun to believe that they don’t need the church.  I can worship God wherever I am is the mantra of many.  And while it is true that you can and should worship wherever you are each and everyday, it is also true and important that people come together for worship.  It is God honoring and it shines as a lighthouse to the community.  There is something special about worshipping together as part of the family of God.  It is not only a good witness, and it is not only God honoring, it is commanded in Scripture.  Why? Because worshipping together as the church triumphant is important. 

The writer of Hebrews says make sure that you do it “all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Why does he say that?  Because he knows that in the last days things will be difficult for followers of Christ and when they meet together they will be encouraged and strengthened.  But I believe that there is another reason and it is this, the writer knows that in those last days people will begin falling away from the church.  Even those who are followers of Christ will begin to forget the importance of church.  Busyness, worldliness and apathy will set in, and many will say I don’t need to go to church, I will just stay home.

Again we can worship at home, but church is more than just a worship service.  It is believers serving and worshipping God together.  Yes when we meet God is glorified and people see us making Jesus a priority but it even goes beyond that.  When we meet together we encourage each other, so when we don’t go we miss out on an opportunity to be encouraged but also to encourage someone else.

Many times people ask the question, “what can the church do for me?”  And that is a fair question, we should be getting something out of church but it’s not only getting it is also giving.  John F. Kennedy’s famous remarks about our country also ring true about the church do they not, “ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.”  It’s ok to ask what the church does for us, hopefully it provides us a place to worship, a place to be encouraged, and a place to be loved.  But we must also ask what we can do for the church – we can serve and love and encourage.  We can make corporate worship a priority following the commands of God and honoring Him while we are being a witness to the world.

Legos aren’t very good on their own.  Christ-followers aren’t either.  We need each other, to encourage and to be encouraged, to worship, to love, and to serve together as the body of Christ.  So get involved, after all you are a piece of the puzzle or maybe I should say you are a brick in the sculpture.  When you do God will take you and use you to build something beautiful for His glory!

Advertisements

Lego-ology Part 2

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you says The Lord.”

Since school was cancelled for today and tomorrow, my wife has been on a cleaning, straightening, rearranging mission.  Which meant that almost all of the Legos that she has found today have ended up in my oldest sons room.  He was thrilled and immediately began playing with them.  The night quickly wore down and it was time for bed so off the children went for their nightly bedtime story.  There was just one problem, the Legos were still everywhere. Since it was late however I decided to pick them up instead of making him do it (it’s ok to give a little grace every now and then).

It didn’t take long and the Legos were all picked up and put away.  I even took time to scan the floor and make sure there’s was none left, after all none of us needs the pain of stepping on one in the middle of the night, plus our one year old is extremely active and treats everything that he finds like a prize piece of food from a buffet line.  The task was finished and completed.  All of the Legos were finally put away and then on my way out of his room I saw it, or at least I saw what was left of it: a Star Wars X-Wing Lego that we had worked on together.  We had worked and worked for hours and when it was finally completed we put it up on a shelf to display it and keep it from certain destruction.  Now however it was taken down and certain destruction had happened.  All of the work, all of the concentration, all of the X-wing gone in just a matter of minutes.  I just simply shook my head.  It was still being used but not as an X-wing.  The pieces were being built into something else.  Something that it wasn’t supposed to be.

More often than not that doesn’t just happen with Legos though.  It happens with life.  We make plans, we concentrate, we focus, we work hard but in reality, life doesn’t go as we planned does it.  My son the Lego builder had heart surgery at 20 days old.  That certainly wasn’t in the plans.  Our middle son has had seizures and perhaps is autistic as well, that wasn’t on my plans.  We were blessed to have a third son, guess what?  That wasn’t in the plans.  

I had planned to be an English teacher and a football coach, plans changed.  Life normally doesn’t go like we plan does it?  But in reality that is better.  Better because God is in control and despite what some “pastors” will tell you, it will not always be easy, but it is better.  Better because God says “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Better because even if His plan becomes difficult down here there is the promise, “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”  Better because the Bible tells us that God’s will is good, perfect, and pleasing.  Better because God always knows what He is doing and even if we don’t see the full picture He does, and one day because of that the plan (His plan) will all make sense.

God is great and greatly to be praised when life makes sense and when it doesn’t.  He has a plan for us.  It may not be the plan we have for ourselves but that’s ok.  He knows more than we do.  He is sovereign, He is in control and He loves us.  So let us surrender and trust Him every step of the way.  After all the Bible assures us that “He really is working all things together for good for those that love The Lord.”  He is working when the plan doesn’t make sense and she the plan is hard. He is working and one day it will all make sense.  To God be the glory!

How Children Learn

Matthew 5:16 -“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Since the schools are on a two hour delay tomorrow my oldest son got to stay up a little bit later, and to be honest I was glad because it afforded me some time with him.  I feel like I haven’t had a lot of that recently so I really was thankful.  I found myself paying extra attention to him and what I saw humbled me.  We went to brush our teeth and he watched me intently, brushing his in a way that was very similar to how I brushed mine.

Then I laid down with him and we talked for a few minutes and as we talked I heard him say a lot of things that I say.  Are we just alike?  In reality far from it, we have a lot of things that we do differently but in some ways he has become a lot like me.

I looked at him, rubbed his head and said “mini-me”, he smiled and said “some people call me, Jon junior.”  He won’t always smile when he says it but it’s fun for now and I’m going to treasure it.  Yet even as I was treasuring the moment reality slowly hit me, he is learning from what he sees.  

What does that mean?  It means that I’ve got to be careful of the things I do and say.  I already knew this, because even though I was adopted at 10 days old I sometimes see a lot of my parents in me.  Still tonight was a beautiful and somewhat scary reminder.  I really do need to be careful of the things that I do and say, little eyes (in fact 6 of them at home) are watching.

They are going to learn how to brush their teeth not necessarily by listening to what I tell them, or by me doing it for them.  They are going to learn by watching me.  Which means they need to see me eating right and exercising.  They need to see me caring for their mother and treating her like a lady.  They need to see me loving others.  They need to see me passionate about the church.  They need to see me stand for truth and be focused in Bible reading.  They need to see me pray.  Children learn by watching which means I have a responsibility to show them Jesus.  

After all here is reality, I could teeth them how to brush their teeth.  They could learn how to eat right and they could make exercise a priority. They could even by the grace of God learn how to treat a lady and about loving other people.  I could teach them about sports and about hobbies and all of that would be good.  Yet if that is all I teach them I have failed as a parent.  Why? Because even if they were to become professional athletes or high ranking academic or business people, this life only lasts so long.  In fact 70 some years is average, so as a dad I need to do more than just prepare them for the next 70 years (or whatever), I heed to prepare them for the endless trillion that comes after that.  How do I do that? Through the grace of God I have to show Jesus to them.  I have to represent His love.  They need to see Jesus in me.

After all as one person said, “if I leave them everything in the world but don’t leave them Jesus I have failed.  But if I leave them Jesus and nothing else I’ve done what I was called to do.”  This however isn’t a call to try harder, it’s a call to trust Jesus more.  Because it is only through His grace that we can be what we are called to be.  So let us trust Him more, let us walk closer to Him, and let us treasure Him more.  Living each day for His glory and for the souls of our children.  To God be the glory!

Lego-ology

Lego-ology

Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

My kids love to play with Legos and I must admit I can become addicted to them as well. We build them, they break them a part, they use them to build some other grand masterpiece.  My oldest son takes his love of Legos to the next level, reading about them and researching them online.  We love Legos but there is one gigantic problem with them, they are fragile and because they are fragile it is frustrating when they fall a part.

Still we love to build them.  They are however called Lego play sets which means after you build them you should be able to play with them.  Because they are so fragile however it’s not long before they before they break into pieces.  Legos are fragile and no matter how hard you try to protect them they usually wind up in pieces.

Legos are not the only thing that is fragile however, life is fragile too isn’t it?  As hard as we try sometimes it just ends up in pieces.  Bad news comes, anxiety hits, arguments happen, and sometimes you just want to give up.  You strength quickly fades and you slip down into the pit of despair.  Yet God says to us in the book of Isaiah, do not fear, do not be dismayed, do not be overwhelmed, do not give up.   How can we keep from it? Here’s is reality, we can’t.  We can’t keep ourselves from fear or despair.  We can’t keep ourselves strong or help ourselves.  It is impossible for us.  Yet here is the good news for as the Bible says, “with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.” 

We can stay strong.  We can be free of fear and doubt and anxiety and worry.  We can persevere and not give up.  We can overcome our weakness, we can make it through.  How? Certainly not in our own strength, but only through the strength and power and grace of God.  Someone once said, “the Gospel is not the story of try harder but it is the story of you must die to yourself.”  When we die to ourselves, Paul says we are “raised up with Christ.”  In other words when we die to ourselves, Christ then begins to live within us.  When that happens we don’t have anything to fear (not even fear itself), we have no reason to be hopeless, our strength will not run our, and God will lift us up and keep us from giving up.  

There are all sorts of reasons for us to despair, for us to lose strength, for us to lose hope, and for us to give up.  There are however no reasons for Jesus to do any of those things.  After all He has already faced sin and triumphed over it.  He has already stared death in the face and overcome it.  He has already been through hell yet emerged victorious.  All of those things that we go through don’t compare to that.  

Legos are fragile. Life is fragile.  If we want to make it more personal we can affirm the truth that we are fragile.  Jesus however isn’t fragile.  He has triumphed over death, hell, and the grave and now He is the only King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  When we die to ourselves, He lives within is, and there is nothing He cannot overcome, nothing that is too difficult for Him.  He truly will uphold us by His righteous, right hand.  To God be the glory!

A Cold Biting Wind

“A Cold, Biting Wind”

Revelation 21:4 – “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I admit it I love winter time, the cold, the snow, the gray clouds, it’s my time of year.  I like to go outside when it’s cold.  To me there’s something special about it, it makes me feel awake and alive.  I even enjoy it if there’s a slight breeze blowing.  I like to feel the cold.  All of that changes though when the wind really begins to blow, when it goes from a slight breeze to a raging blast.  I don’t enjoy the cold, biting wind.  So when it’s blowing I layer up and do everything I can to protect myself against it.

Life sometimes feels like a cold, biting wind doesn’t it? Circumstances come crashing in and you feel chilled to the core.  Maybe it’s death or bad news from a doctor or financial strain or relationship issues.  Those things cut into you, the freeze you, the chill your very bones.  And yet they happen, Jesus told us that they would didn’t He? “In this world you will have troubles but take heart I have overcome the world.”  He has overcome and we are glad for that but if we are honest sometimes we feel that the world and the circumstances of life may overcome us.  We are afraid that we won’t be victorious but that we will be defeated.

When the cold winds blow we layer up against them to prevent the chill.  When life’s cold winds blow we do the same thing.  We try to protect ourselves, we try to insulate ourselves.  We try to not feel it, but we do.  We may buy things to try to layer up or we may take trips as a defense, or we may indulge in all sorts of pleasures to make us forget the pain.  Yet in reality those things don’t work do they? We can try but the words of an old song ring true, “everybody hurts………”  You can see it on their faces as they go about trying to insulate themselves against it, you can hear it in their voices even as they pursue protecting themselves against it.  We can see it as we look in the mirror.  Everybody hurts.  Life can be a cold, biting wind.

Here however is the promise of God for those of us who are His children, it will not always be that way.  Read that again slowly, life will not always be that way.  One day the cold, biting winds will cease.  No more pain, no more crying or mourning, even death is destroyed.  The former things will pass away.  All of those things that cause heartache and pain will be gone, all of the marks and scars of living in a world of sin will be wiped away.  Sin itself will be destroyed and cast out, “all things will become new.”  

When will that be? When will those things take place? The book of Revelation puts it this way as the martyrs cry out to God, “How long o Lord how long?”  We don’t know the answer to the question but we do know that the question will be answered.  There is coming a day, a day of restoration, a day of a new heaven and a new earth, a day when then cold biting winds of life will cease to blow and we will bask in the light of God.  What a day, glorious day that will be.  To God be the glory!

Lego Truth

Jude 3 – “Contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints ”

Christmas 2013 and the have to have item for my 8 year old son is a Lego playset. So on Christmas Day it arrived and we began the task of putting it together.  For the first few days it was fun, then it became fascinating as we watched the enormous playset begin to take shape.  Right after that however it became frustrating as the building wasnt going as quickly as we hoped.
Then disaster struck.  A piece, a pivotal must have piece had gone missing. I stared at the Lego pile for what seemed like hours and it just wasn’t there.  I separated them out and sifted through them but to no avail. 
Fortunately my son has other Lego sets,  many of which have ended up in containers broken a part. “Surely there is a piece just like the missing one somewhere in one of those containers,” I thought to myself. 
I dug and I sifted.  I rummaged and I sorted.  I pushed through legos and I poured them from one container to another. It just wasn’t there. 
Finally I called off the search party. It was just gone and a replacement was nowhere to be found.  I would have to call Lego and see if they would send me another one. Building would have to stop and the frustration would grow.  I came back to the table where we had been working and dejectedly sat down and there it was.  Somehow the Lego was there. My sons said they didn’t find it but somehow there it was.  Either the cat had hidden it and brought it back out as a terrible joke or I had just simply overlooked it, 77 times.  I’m blaming the cat but in reality I just overlooked it.
I have a habit of overlooking things. In fact,  it is easy to do.  Sometimes we even do it in regards to the Bible. We dig and we push, we pull and we rummage,  we twist and we sort, all the while trying to find some amazing new revelation when truth has been right there before us all along.  And it is that truth that we need.  Old truths that show us the power and majesty of God.  True statements that reveal His holiness to us and show us that we are sinners in need of grace.  Truths that show us the love of God and His faithfulness. Truths that show us how to be forgiven and that once we are we are made righteous in the eyes of God. Truths that remind us of the return of Christ and of the promises of God.
One day my sons will grow tired of legos. We however never grow out of our need for Gods grace and His truth. His truth transforms us and builds us up so that we can bring Him glory .

A Great Privilege

Ephesians 2:13 – “you have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. ”

Paul shares with us the greatest privilege that any of us could experience: we have now been brought near to God.  We can have a relationship with Him.  

We once were dead in our sins,  enslaved to the world, children of wrath and without hope.  We once were alienated from God because of our sins and we were barred from being a part of His kingdom.   Now however because of the “blood of the Messiah, ” i.e. because of Jesus ‘ sacrifice on the cross we are brought near.  This means we can have a relationship with God.   It means we are made alive and we are set free.   It means that once we were children of wrath but now we are children of God.  It means that God had transformed our hopelessness into hope.  It means that once we are outsiders but now we are a part of the kingdom of God.

The implications of this are staggering, for starters being a part of the kingdom means that we have eternal lIfe.  We sing in Amazing Grace, “when we’ve been there 10,000 years,” and yet 10,000 years doesn’t even scratch the surface.  We have ETERNAL life.  That is a transformational truth that changes everything.   On a cery practical, day by day level it means you have more than a trillion years ahead of you so if something goes wrong today don’t let it ruin your day or dont overreact to it.  If someone does something you don’t like don’t respond in anger.  After all if something doesn’t go your way today you still have eternity.

So live with a kingdom focus and realize what really matters.  Celebrate what God has done for you through Jesus today and everyday.  After all that is the kingdom.  To God be the glory!