Don’t Look Back

I traveled in the northwest this week, spending several days in Seattle and Portland.  The weather was incredible. I tried delicious food in good restaurants.  I got outside in the mornings and ran through trees and alongside lakes.  It was exhilarating.

I actually thought about how nice it would be to live there.

But after four days of travel, I was ready to come home.  I missed my family and my house. I longed for the familiarity and security of the small town where I live.

It’s comfortable here.

Jesus wants us to be uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading Luke chapter 9 this week.  This passage talks about the cost of following Jesus.  Three different men interacted with Jesus in this passage.  Each one talked about following Jesus, but none of them wanted to leave everything and pursue a life of obedience and service.

One man wanted to first go home and bury his father. Another wanted to go home and say goodbye to his family.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke‬ ‭9:62‬

Could you leave your family, your friends, your job?  Could you walk away from everything you know and just start over?

It’s hard to think about, but God calls us to seek the Kingdom of God…first.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

We have a command and then a promise.  The command is to seek God first.  The promise is that God will place all we need into our lives.

My prayer this week is to let go of some of the “comfortable” in my life.  I need less routine and more Jesus.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Cheap Easter candy

Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with colorful packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

reprinted from April 2015

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Stuff

How much is enough?

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. Luke‬ ‭9:3-4‬

My family has lived in our new house for 15 months. We’ve finally placed pictures on the walls and figured out what furniture goes in which room. It feels like our “home” now.

Hollianne and I had a revelation over the weekend. While we downsized our possessions when we moved across the state, we’ve somehow- in just over fifteen months- started accumulating more “stuff.” Our attic is filling up. The closet in our basement is crowded. Our pantry is packed…and we are thinking about doubling its size.

Some of the happiest people I know are those with very little in terms of worldly possessions. Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to living with (and serving) the poor. People who have committed to living in rural, impoverished areas to improve conditions there….or social workers who are fighting poverty and crime in urban areas.

Its time to refocus. Our purpose has nothing to do with finding comfort through worldly possessions.

We are not called to be comfortable.

We need to invest in relationships. Good, nurturing relationships that spread the love of Jesus.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:6-9‬

My prayer for this weekend is to focus on what I truly need- rather than what I want. I need a renewed attitude toward sharing the hope of Jesus and His message of forgiveness and love. This is what will bring contentment.

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless.

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No returns allowed

I remember the first gift I ever really wanted.

I was eight years old. It was an Earl Campbell football from the Western Auto store. I was a Houston Oilers fan and Earl was (and still is) my hero.

Santa came that Christmas morning and to my great disappointment- he brought a Tony Dorsett football. There had been an apparent mix up at the North Pole and I’d been given a football embossed with the name of the star running back of the rival Dallas Cowboys.

Fortunately, Santa made it right a day later.

As I’ve grown older, my thoughts about gifts have changed. Trips with Hollianne are cherished gifts, as were the births of our three children. I consider each time I see my parents as a gift.

I know a man who received a kidney transplant from his brother. I’ve read of another who received a heart from a complete stranger. Precious gifts indeed.

But the greatest gift we will ever receive came centuries ago.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

This was the ultimate act of love. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus died for the Jews and Gentiles.

The Republicans, the Democrats and the independents.

The wealthy and the poor.

He died for you and me.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2

During my prayer time over the weekend I’m going to specifically focus on the sacrifice of Jesus and His willingness to die for you and me.

It’s the greatest gift ever.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Listening

My job requires that I work with college students. And I love it.

I find that the best way to connect with our students is to go where they gather. I see many students in meetings around campus, but to really understand them…to really hear them…I need to interact with them outside my office.

I often eat lunch in the campus cafeteria. I attend their athletic events and intramural games. My wife and I invite them into our home for dinner.

I even ride horses with them (talk about getting out of your comfort zone…).

When you go to students in informal settings, they tend to talk more. They share more. You just have to be there.

If you abide in me, and my words in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

How often do we think about this in our relationship with our Heavenly Father? We have complete access. He’s always there…exactly where we are…willing to listen.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

God desires a close relationship with us. He longs to hear our fears and our hopes.

Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

He is our comfort and our hope.

My prayer this week is to become more diligent in my prayer life. I need to be more intentional in accessing God through prayer. I know he longs to listen.

I know He’s always there for me.

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Brackets

Last night I spent an hour filling out my NCAA tournament brackets. An hour.

I love this time of year. Colleges, their teams, their campuses, their alumni and their fans all dream about deep runs through the games. Upsets occur. Buzzer-beating shots decide outcomes. And Cinderella teams make unpredictable runs through the tourney.

I’m as guilty as anyone about getting excited about the games in the tournament. I’ll watch as many live games as I can, and listen to others on the radio and computer.

I get consumed. And last night- I jumped over the edge into full-fledged March Madness.

What if I put that much daily effort into my walk with Jesus?

Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus‬ ‭26:1‬ ‭

I get distracted too easily. I let daily challenges and fun diversions (like NCAA basketball) take my attention away from my pursuit of Christ.

I create idols. And I tend to focus on the temporary and fun rather than seeking the joy and fulfillment that comes from a close relationship with Jesus.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

My prayer this week is to identify those things that keep me from focusing on Jesus. I want to eliminate the idols in my life that keep me from fully pursuing Christ.

The tournament will end later this month. God’s love for us is eternal.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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