Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teen or Monster?


It’s coming! Only five years from now I will be a parent to a teenager and call me na├»ve but I can’t wait.  I can’t wait for the out of control hormones, the push to be independent w/o really knowing what that means, the struggle to find who he is while still being under the wing of our parenting, the pimples, the crushes, the homework that I have no clue how to help because it’s been too long.

What will his first job be?  Will he be ready to get his driver’s license at 16 or will he procrastinate like his father did? His first date, I wonder who she will be?  I’m not in it so right now I can dream about it and be excited, even while being a bit terrified. Okay, hugely terrified. J So yes I know it’s going to be harder than I’ve ever imagined but I can’t wait!

Here’s what I want to say to anyone who is willing to listen.  If you have a teen right now please enjoy them.  I know they are different than what you were at that age, but your parents said the same thing and it probably irritated you.  In this age of technology it’s easy to think that they don’t use their imagination enough, they aren’t outside enough, they are on their phones too much and you can’t even keep up with their apps.

Have you tried?  Have you learned what Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and all the others are?  Do you get involved in their lives (to the extent that they desire) and know who they are?  They aren’t just monsters that live under your roof that you can’t wait to get rid of.  They are people with a future, a past and a present.

So rather than be on a soapbox especially since I do not have a teenager just yet, let me implore you to enjoy your teenager.  Let them know that you are there to listen when they need you, there to instruct them, to tutor them, to guide them, yes even to discipline them when they need it.  The point is you are there for it all, not just the parts you want to be or just when you have to do it, or when you’ve reached your boiling point, but always there to enjoy life with them.

Enjoy them, love them, train them, dream with them, never ever give up on them (see prodigal son) and watch them grow!

P.S. I’ve been on the other side as a youth minister and have heard what the teens want most from their parents, and trust me it isn’t always what they tell you because they are afraid you might not be willing to listen so they often hold back. 
P.P.S – Be careful what you say when you’re “joking”.

In Christ, Lance

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Butterfly Transformation


It’s the typical feel good Disney story, the awkward, socially unacceptable ugly duckling becomes the beautiful princess.  Cinderella, the Princess Bride, the Beauty and the Beast etc. And it’s not always the beautiful woman, sometimes it’s an awkward boy who becomes the sports hero, or an animated animal who’s shy and becomes a leader.

Stories of transformation sell, especially if they are based on real life.  The Biggest Loser takes someone who is really struggling and even in danger of losing their life and gives them a chance to succeed in life.  A child becomes an adult in a span of some 18 years, seeds become plants or flowers over a couple of months, and a caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly in about 10 days.

But here’s the thing, that caterpillar is still there, so is the awkward kid, or the fairy tale character.  The outward change is really a compliment of what was already on the inside.  And it’s no surprise because that is the way that God works as well.  He creates us all of us unique, with different personalities, character traits, outward features, skills, talents, abilities.  But none of that matters in regards to the transformation I want to talk about today.

1 Co. 15:50-57 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.  But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. NLT

That is why this transformation is such a beautiful picture.  It combines the human stories with the beauty of a butterfly in flight.  An older gentleman whose time had come, an unborn baby who never got to experience life on earth, a child who was born with a terminal disease and never lived to be a teenager, the young lady killed in a car crash, those who fought and eventually lost their battle with cancer, the soldier who died protecting our freedoms.  They all have one thing in common.  A spirit that lives on beyond the grave.  And for the believer, death is the opportunity for the most amazing butterfly transformation ever and it’s a permanent one.

Grieving takes many steps and appears in many forms and I’m not here to condemn or judge anyone’s reaction to their loss, but the Bible tells us something about hope.  I’d like to end today with this Scripture.  1 Thess 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
The chance to see our loved one transformed into a beautiful butterfly figuratively speaking is an anticipation that helps us deal with the pain we currently feel.  May you gain some hope from these words.

In Christ, Lance

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Thanksgiving Chair (My Recliner)


My Recliner
  
We purchased it a couple of months ago, but it isn’t my first chair.  The first chair I remember loving with a deep intimate love j/k was an old rocking chair with a matching ottoman.  It was really old but had been restored and was given to me by an older couple from England whom I had recently baptized into Christ.  I loved that chair but my wife didn’t.  The second one was years later and it was overstuffed leather and it was cozy.  When I reclined in that thing it practically swallowed me up, but soon it became cracked, wore out, and ugly (at least in my wife’s opinion). 

The third one was fairly non-descript but served it’s purpose and was still all mine.  And then came the Super Bowl of Recliners, the Mack Daddy of comfortability, the mother of all recliners. It’s the perfect size, incredibly comfortable, has a couple cup holders, enough room to store my laptop or cell phone or tablet.  It has a USB port to plug my cell phone in, a back massager, and when I tip back in that thing with my electric blanket covering me, I forget that it’s stinking cold outside and I am in heaven.
Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t shield me from life.  I still have to get up to go make sure that Carter truly has wiped his butt; to play referee when my two boys are going at it; to do various chores that my wife has been waiting months for me to do and is fed up with my procrastination.  In fact in some ways it makes things more difficult because when I get in that chair all my serving skills go out the window.  I just want to relax, enjoy my chair, my TV, my computer, or whatever it is that I’m selfishly indulging in, and I have no desire to serve others.

I have another chair though that I call my Thanksgiving Chair.  It’s hard, cold, rigid, ugly, and serves one purpose only.  That purpose is to be able to see how to be thankful in every circumstance – 1 Thess. 5:18.  Notice that the verse doesn’t say be thankful about every circumstance but in every circumstance.  This (fictional) chair is with me always, it helps me to focus on what’s important.  You see celebrations and thanksgiving and bdays and anniversaries are awesome, but when I get in my Thanksgiving Chair, so are busted up lips (from falling down the stairs), and disagreements with my wife, and frustrations about the government, or things going on with the Church, or the state of poverty in America, or achy knees or bad backs.
When I’m in that chair, these things become opportunities for me to show God’s love in those situations, even to be thankful for the opportunity to bear with these aggravations and irritations and turn them into God moments.  God was still there when Job was penniless and destitute, He was still there when David was in the throes of sin, He was still there when baby Moses floated in the river, and He is definitely there in your moments of stress, hurt, fear, loss, etc.  Take time to get out of the comfortability of the recliner, take a seat in the hard unbending Thanksgiving Chair and refocus.  We are in this world but not of it.  Am I thankful for the restful moments, the fun moments, and the celebration moments? Absolutely!  But am I thankful for the other moments?  That depends on what chair I’m sitting in.

Thank you God for my Thanksgiving Chair!

In Christ, Lance
Btw I got this idea from a video clip that I found and purchased on Sermonspice.com just to be clear and not to plagiarize.  I will post the video on facebook after I use it on Sunday!

Monday, September 30, 2013

In His Presence Part Two – The Hero of the Story

Zephaniah 3:17b He is a mighty savior.


The word Hero gets thrown around a lot.  It’s used for athletes (mine is Joe Montana), it’s used for political figures, it’s used for firefighters and policemen, it’s used for people who have been influential in other’s lives, and in many of these, a real case can be made for these people being heroic. 

What about the single mother who works tirelessly as the provider of her home as well as the housekeeper, accountant, mechanic, and everything else that comes her way?  Or the grandmother who never gives up on her wayward grandchildren but continues each and every night to pray for them by name and uses every opportunity to show the love of God to them.  I can’t forget the men and women who choose to put themselves in harm’s way by joining the military and defending our country.

I could go on to speak about judges who refuse to be bullied into taking the 10 commandments down, or well known religious men and women who are ridiculed and attacked for standing up for Biblical principles, and many others.

The Bible uses the Hebrew word Gibbor to describe heroes, champions, powerful warriors.  There really isn’t a more descriptive word in the Hebrew language to describe a hero.  It’s the word used in Genesis to describe giants, and Nimrod, and yes it’s the word used to describe who Goliath was.  Hero, champion, so powerful it could even be translated tyrant in certain situations.

And then there is the countless times it is used to describe God including here in Zephaniah 3:17 – God is the heroic, mighty, champion of salvation.  Makes Joe Montana and others look pretty small doesn’t it?  The mighty Goliath couldn’t even stand up to a teenager who had the power of this God let alone God Himself.

God is the champion of salvation, but He had to pick a method for this salvation.  Justice demanded it, the gift of grace came at a price, and the mercy of forgiveness needed a sacrifice.  In comes Jesus, but that’s not really an accurate representation of how all of this came about because God chose Jesus, His only Son, before He ever created the universe, and long before you and I ever came to be.  It wasn't a last minute hail mary.

The prophetic book of Isaiah (9:6) refers to Jesus as “the mighty God”, among other things.  The language here combines Gibbor with El; calling Jesus the El Gibbor from birth.  When you combine these two words you have - Jesus - the Almighty God, Champion and Hero of the story, Savior of the world!  This Lord God who is with you that we read about in the first part of this verse, sent His Son Jesus on your behalf.

Yes He is Mighty to Save – Thank you God for sending El Gibbor!
Lance

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hand in Hand!

 

Children – God’s great gift to mankind and yet sometimes the most frustrating job in the entire world.  Just when you think they are “getting it”, they start a whole new way of testing your patience. 
 
The terrible two’s give way to the trying three’s to the first day of school.  Next comes the drama of new friends, pre-teens, teen years, their first effort of driving, homecoming, and prom, just to mention a few.
 
Just when you think it’s almost over they need financial help for college and advice on when and whom to marry.  Are you depressed yet?  Here’s the truth though, no matter what, there is nothing in this world like the experience of taking your child’s hand when they are excited, nervous, terrified, happy, sad, etc.
 
It’s like they are saying that no matter what, as long as my hand is in yours its okay.  I trust you daddy, I love you mommy, I won’t always show it, but I want to spend the rest of my life hand in hand with you.
 
Today and everyday God’s hand is outstretched, reaching out to yours no matter whether you have just enjoyed success or have failed miserably.  He wants you to say to Him, God I’m a mess, I’m a wretch, I’m up and down, inconsistent and at times emotionally unstable but I’m yours and I want nothing more than to walk hand in hand with you all my life.
 
Written by Lance Osborn for the Parent Commitment Service 2013 at Tyler Street Church of Christ.
 


 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In His Presence - Part One


Zephaniah 3:17a For the Lord your God is living among you.

What does that even mean?  Do you picture God as the hoity toity one living on snob hill in the mansion that no one else can afford?  Or is He in the low rent apartments that are falling down?  Maybe He is next door to you in middle class America or in the upper crust sub-division.  What if He is the homeless guy that you just gave a look of complete disgust to because somehow he is below you, not worthy of a smile or a generous hand, or even a second thought?
Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'  Who was He speaking of?  He was talking about the needy, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner.  When you do something for someone you are doing something for God.

We like to think about God being with us when we need Him, but do we think about Him being with us when we are doing or saying something we shouldn’t?  Do we think about Him being with us when we are not serving others and doing for others what we would have them do for us? 
What if we lived every moment of every day with the awareness of God sitting next to us, walking beside us, loving as we love, living as we do, enjoying the things we enjoy, and watching us as we interact with our family, our friends, our co-workers and neighbors?

Would anything change?  Today and all week long make a decision to recognize God living among and beside you.  There He is, right there next to you, how will you treat Him?  Or maybe I should ask you (and me) how will you treat others "In His Presence"?

Lance

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Father’s Day everyone

I have two fathers and so do you.  In my case one Father is loving and kind, the other one spanked my bottom…… hard.  One Father is perfect; the other one never had a perfect day in his life…… okay, so we all know whose fault that is. J  One Father never gives up on me, the other one kicked me out of his house…………… twice. (btw, I deserved it)

I could go on but I think you get the point or do you?  You see one of my fathers was created in the image of the Other. What I see in my father as imperfections, weaknesses and humanity, God sees as His Image, strength and eternality.  I love my dad, not because he was perfect, but because he is my father, created & loved by my other Father.

As you read this you may be thinking about your earthly father; his mistakes, his anger, his love, his pride in you, his inability to understand you, his ability to try anyway, his missing your games, his working two jobs so you could play in those games, etc. 
 
Here’s the thing, some of you had fathers that tried their very best and were amazing examples, some of you had fathers who were inconsistent, some of you may have had fathers who were abusive or alcoholics, and some of you may have never met your father.

Wherever you are when it comes to your earthly father, here is a truth that you must not miss.  You have a Father, and His name is Jehovah.  Yes, He gets angry, & yet is protective; yes He demands perfection but at the same time is forgiving. Yes He loves you but is unafraid to let you know when you are wrong.  He is a Father who never gives up on you, will always call you his son or daughter no matter what you do or don’t do, and
He is a Father that will always wait for you with open arms when you are ready to love Him in return.  He won’t force you into this, because He purposely made you with the ability to choose whether or not to return His love, but He’ll never stop loving you. 
Fathers may I encourage you to live your lives as if you were created in the image of God (because you were) and be the father He would have you to be.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  1 John 3:1



 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas

I was driving today and saw a man in a wheel chair at an exit.  I only had two dollars on me so I rolled down the window to let him know I had a little to give him.  He slowly rolled towards me and just at the point that the light turned green he got to my window.  I gave him the two dollars and he said thank you and as I was rolling my window up he said, and I quote, “Merry Christmas” 

As I drove away I was laughing as I thought about someone telling me Merry Christmas on the 7th of May, but as I drove on I thought about the clarity of his statement (even if he wasn’t particularly clear headed when he said it).  We don’t really know what day Jesus was born and most think that this time of the year is a lot closer than December 25th. Also shouldn’t we celebrate Jesus birth every day?

I am thankful for the little things in life that I have that this man probably doesn’t.  I am thankful for my car, two good legs, a home to live in and enough money that I don’t have to stay on the side of the exit ramp begging for money.  But when it comes to Jesus and His birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection, I am no more blessed than the man on the exit ramp is.  Jesus did this for both of us, the question is does this man know about it?

It’s funny how we base our quality of life on things that in an eternal view mean nothing at all.  While I shared two dollars with this man, it won’t make that much of a difference in his physical life, but if I am able to somehow share the gospel with him or with anyone who doesn’t know Jesus as their personal Savior, I have been able to make a true impact in his/her life for eternity.

So why do I forget that?  I think the answer is pretty simple but obvious, cuz the devil wants me to.  He wants me to be comfortable and not focus on whether people spend eternity in heaven or hell.  May I be committed to making every day a Merry Christmas for someone, that Jesus will be born in them because of God living in me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My friend

“It is my "friend". I wake up to it every day. Actually, I've dealt with its presence everyday for the past 15 years. Sometimes it is more and sometimes it is less severe, but it is always there.

When it first started showing more "debilitating" symptoms I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. No matter how well I was doing or what I did it didn't go away. No amount of prayer or bible reading made it go away or even seemed to affect it at all. Actually, it seemed the more I fought it, even through spiritual means, the worse it got.

After fighting it for a few years with seemingly no progress I truly wished I could just die. I sympathized with people who committed suicide. The one thing that kept me from entertaining suicidal thoughts myself is the fact that God "works all things together for good".......... I tenaciously held onto that belief.

In time I have come to view it as one of, if not perhaps the greatest dilemma facing myself and others in the church today; How to view and or help myself and others, especially Christians, affected by it.  I also think that it is, perhaps, one of our greatest opportunities.

One of the things that have helped me with it is to begin to quit "fighting" it and trying to make it just go away and to accept that it is a part of my life. Perhaps for the rest of my life. I also am learning to accept Gods grace and all of His promises in spite of it.

Perhaps the most potent scripture for me in relation to it has been where Paul wrote that he Gloried in needs and "distresses" for when he was weak then he was strong. He wrote that Gods power is "made perfect in weakness.

Probably the greatest practical thing I have learned to do in relation to it is to thank God for it as an opportunity to suffer in this life for his glory, since glorifying God is the ultimate good and end of all things. This helps me with it tremendously.

I have wondered if those that suffer from it have a greater opportunity to glorify God since God is greatly glorified when we thank him in the midst of suffering. It is depression and I can honestly say that I have made friends with the pain.
Written by Bruce Stuart

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Light



In the Light
 God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5.  Darkness has no substance, in fact it really doesn’t exist, it is simply the absence of light.  It’s no wonder that God describes evil as darkness or simply something that doesn’t exist without the absence of light (God).  When you sin, you are ushering in the absence of God, and the longer you hide that sin the longer you are God-less.  It’s easy to measure darkness or sin when you look around and see morals declining, marriage being obliterated, lives being taken in the name of choice, and murder, molestation, and rape on a daily basis.  But where there is any darkness or sin, it is simply the absence of God in that person’s life.  So when you told that little white lie that “didn’t hurt anyone”, or when you spread that piece of gossip, or when you lashed out in anger at your children, or when you harbored bitter thoughts towards a person who hurt you, or when you had lustful thoughts towards someone who is not your spouse, you embraced the darkness and the absence of God in your life.

Jesus said, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:19-21.  It’s easy to use labels for people who struggle with things on an ongoing basis like alcohol or drug use or pornography, but how often does one have to lie to be called a liar, or gossip to be called a gossipaholic, or lash out in anger to be called an anger addict? 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  1John 1:7.  The blood of Jesus purifies us from sin while we are walking in the light.  It’s not that we don’t sin; it’s that we are willing to recognize it and do something about it.  This is what allows us to be in the light rather than stumbling around in the darkness all the while pretending that we are in the light.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world”, not you should try to be the light of the world, but you are.  Is that true in your life, are you in the light and showing that light to others or are you hiding in the darkness (absence of God) and pretending to be light?

A young Marine and his commanding officer board a train headed through the mountains of Switzerland.  They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother. After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young soldier are interested in each because they are giving each other “looks.”  Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of the smack of a kiss followed by the sound of the smack of a slap. When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word.
The grandmother is thinking to herself: “It was very brash for that young soldier to kiss my granddaughter, but I’m glad she slapped him.”
The commanding officer is setting there thinking:  “I didn’t think the young Marine was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn’t missed him when she slapped and hit me!”
The young woman was sitting and thinking:  “I’m glad the soldier kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!”
The young Marine sat there with a satisfied smile on his face.  He thought to himself:  “Life is good.  When does a fellow have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his commanding officer all at the same time!”  (Illustration borrowed from Alan Smith www.abiblecommentary.com)

It’s difficult to know what is happening in the darkness. (as shown by three of the four characters above) There is no light to gain proper perspective.  Without God intentionally in your life on a daily basis you may be blind to your own darkness.  I pray that your walk today may be in the light of God’s love.
In Christ, Lance

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why I hate Legalism

First of all I hate legalism because Jesus does, and I want to be like Him.  I know I’m not and I’m sure that one of the ways that I’m not like Jesus is my own form of legalism.  But Jesus hated the legalism of the Pharisee’s.  Any time a law or an interpretation of a law got in the way of salvation, grace or mercy, Jesus threw a fit. 

Second I hate legalism because of how it has cast a pall on my own relationship with God.  For so long my faith was centered in a culture of legalism that I couldn’t even see and because of this I have a very difficult time accepting the grace, mercy, forgiveness and love of God.  It instilled within me a sense that I was never going to be good enough for God, and even now as I try to accept Him in all His Nature, the foreboding sense of an angry God is never far away.

Third I hate legalism because of how it has destroyed lives.  When Christianity is replaced with rules based legalism there are many casualties.  I’m not going to elaborate on this much because it brings a lot of memories and pain.  Even now there are many brothers and sisters in Christ that I love and pray for, that I’m afraid would be hesitant to call me brother because of the nastiness of a judgmental spirit that is often a bi-product of legalism.

Lastly I hate legalism because it in a word is sin, and is divisive.  Jesus was very clear how He felt about legalism, He called them sons of hell, and so was Paul.  Scriptures like 1 Timothy 4:1-5 describe this type of behavior as demonic and hypocritical.  I’ve often heard the word “worldliness” thrown around in very loose ways, basically representing everything that is not weird or out of style as “worldly clothing” just for an example. 

Let’s be clear; being like Jesus is difficult, it requires a constant examination of your mind, emotions, thoughts, words, and actions.  Replacing that with a cheap version of holiness that is based on your interpretation of rules and regulations does not promote Godliness; in fact it promotes and is worldliness.  Read Colossians 2:20-23 with me as I close out this article. Colossians 2:20-23 NIV - Since you died with Christ to the - Bible Gateway

Listen to how the CEV describes verse 23 - Obeying these rules may seem to be the smart thing to do. They appear to make you love God more and to be very humble and to have control over your body. But they don’t really have any power over our desires.

Free in Christ and loving it, Lance

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Did you see God today?



Did you see God today?
I did; I saw Him at 6:30 when Carter’s crying or should I say wailing woke me up; I saw Him in the shower while I was praying; I saw Him in the mirror (after all I am created in His image); I saw Him in my anxiety over things I can’t control; I saw Him during prayer time as Stewart and I prayed for the people at TSCC; I saw Him during a counseling session with someone who is almost as broken as I am J; I saw Him in the flowers that I bought my wife for “Happy Tax Returns are here Day”.

I saw Him in the man sitting on the side of the road with his car broken down; I saw Him as my wife and I dealt with disciplinary issues for one of our children; I saw Him as I talked to a young lady about being baptized, and her very nervous dad who is doing the baptizing; I saw Him as I poured my heart out to a friend who very patiently put up with my weaknesses; and I see Him in you.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.  I do not believe that this is a futuristic promise of; somehow if we are pure enough we will see God someday.  I believe that He is saying that when you and I have pure hearts we will see God every day, in every circumstance, and in every person we meet. 

Sometimes we have to look very hard to see Him and if we allow our physical self to take control we will not be able to see God, but again isn’t that what purity is all about?  Not about you and I being perfect but about us being washed again and again by the purity of a relationship with God.

I see God every day, sometimes I recognize Him right away; sometimes I flat out ignore Him; sometimes He tests me; sometimes He affirms me; sometimes He blesses me with things; and sometimes He blesses me with trials that strengthen me in the long run.
I saw God today, did you?
Lance