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Prepping for Christmas

This Christmas season I have been paying particular attention to the amount of time and effort that goes into each facet of Christmas. Each gift, meal, travel schedule and decoration is a result of seemingly endless decision-making.  Through all this preparation I started to ask myself, what are all these preparations for?  Well, I understand it is the birth of Jesus, but in all my planning was I really preparing for Him?  And if I was, did I understand what I am making preparations for?

Any attempt to define what I was preparing for with logical answers seemed inadequate.  Yes, Jesus came to earth as our savior and that’s ultimately the most important thing, but I was looking for more than what a standard “Sunday School” answer would provide. 

I have a good friend who lives in another state.  When I see him I mentally prepare for his mannerisms, loud voice, and outlandish commentary.  I also go into those times prepared to receive from his generous cooking and encouraging words.  I am preparing less about having logistics in order for an event and more about the attributes of his character and personality.  

In the same sense then, this Christmas season I am preparing, not just for Christmas day and all the celebrations it brings, but I am also preparing for the character and nature of who Jesus is. More than God in the flesh, what is it about Jesus that I should prepared for?  I think it can all be summed up in the word promise.  Jesus is the fulfillment of endless amounts of promises from the Lord that a savior would come.   That alone is incredible and worth celebrating.  Yet, when Jesus came to us as the fulfillment of promise he also brought with him new promises for us. 

Jesus promised:

Love and eternal life in John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish but have eternal life.”

Authority and his presence in Matthew 28:16-20, “...all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, ...I am with you always to the end of the age.”

true freedom in John 8:31-36, “...if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.”

Abundant and purposeful life John 10:10, “the thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Rest in Matthew 11:28-29, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

His promises of love, eternal life, authority and presence, true freedom, abundant and purposeful life, as well as rest, bring us hope this Christmas season.  As you prepare for Christmas festivities, prepare your heart to receive these promises.

Lego's and Prayers

Over the years my kiddos have compiled a pretty sizable and unique collection of Lego building blocks in the house.  Despite our best sorting of blocks I still spend 99% of my time finding the block I need and 1% building.  It’s complicated, but that’s ok.  Lego’s are not supposed to be efficient – the struggle is part of the reward in the end.

All to often we can take this Lego mentality and apply it to our relationship and communication with the Lord.  It’s pretty easy to do…I remember telling my kids during our bedtime prayer that they already were making God too complicated.   I think our motivations are pure.  We want to do our best and present ourselves well before the Lord but in the end it can cause us to be stagnant and frustrated. We’ll spend 99% of our time trying to phrase our prayers “correctly” and 1% actually in prayer.  Let’s look at the subject of prayer and how we can keep from making this fundamental communication from being complicated.

A day at the track doesn’t go by without someone stopping me to pray about something in his or her life.  That’s awesome. I believe in the power of prayer and we should ask for others to pray with us as community of believers.  There are times though that I’ve been asked to pray for something because the person isn’t sure how to make that prayer known to God themselves.  Other times it’s not related to an issue in their life, but they just want to develop a better relationship with the Lord and are not sure how to start the conversation.

If you identify with those thoughts you are definitely not alone. Praying is simply positioning your heart and attention to God and starting a conversation.  If you don’t have the words to say, maybe that’s the best way to start the prayer by saying, “Lord, I am not sure how to pray, but this is what I am thinking about …”.  There is no Biblical basis that says your prayers need to be eloquent or long….in fact, it would argue the opposite.

Jesus in John 15:15 says that we are called his friends.  We’re not subjects striving for favor, or at risk of punishment for saying the wrong things.  We are simply friends and can speak just as you would with your best of friends or spouse.  This implies that when we pray we also recognize it’s a two-way conversation.  Be sensitive to the Lord and the Holy Spirit as He responds.   It probably won’t come as an audible voice, but a thought, feeling or shift that I know was something I didn’t initiate.

Our goal in prayer is much more than checking off a box on a “good Christian” to-do list.  This is a continual attitude of being attentive and facilitating relationship with the Lord in all seasons of life.  It’s in this intimacy with the Lord that we gain an understanding of His heart and nature that allows us to operate in freedom, love and hope each day.

1 John 5:14 says “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  Let’s take hold of this promise that the Lord hears our prayers regardless of how they are phrased, and take the performance pressure off of our prayers.

That's in the Bible?

A fairly common occurrence at the racetrack is someone asking me what the Bible says about a particular subject or what my interpretation of a verse is.  I honestly love those conversations because its thought provoking for both of us and we each gain some new perspective.  

Recently during one of these conversations I recited a verse to which the other person couldn’t believe was actually in the Bible.  They were familiar with the Bible, grew up in the church, but as life got busy their Bible reading faded.  Since their story is a recurring struggle for many, let’s remind ourselves about the importance of Bible reading and then look at some easy ways to start incorporating it into our daily lives better.

1. As the written word of God, the Bible is His message to us.  We gain insight into His nature and character, which helps us grow in our intimacy with Him.  “If anyone loves me he will cherish my word; my Father will love him and we will come to him and make him our abode.” John 14:23-24
2.  Reading the Bible gives us the standard to measure our decisions against and help us guide our adventure in life with. This is key to discerning the voice of God against the temptations we face. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
3.  The Bible brings encouragement and hope.  I personally love listening to the news and hearing what’s going on in the world.  Thankfully, we have the Bible to speak truth to us in the middle of what looks like chaos.   Romans 15:4 says, “And the scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope.”

Reading the Bible is to our benefit so lets explore some great ways of getting the Word into our daily lives.  First, embrace the technology in your phone.  We look at our devices a 100 times a day so plant a Bible application right on the main screen as a reminder.  Our family uses the YouVersion Bible app.  Brooke also put on all our devices a feature in the app that gives you a verse of the day as a pop up notification.  I always see that verse and then can easily read more around that verse by opening the pop up. 

If you are new to Bible reading and need a good starting spot I’d recommend reading through the book of Mark or John first.  Mark is easy to read and accounts more about what Jesus did.  John focuses on who Jesus was more.  There are a zillion Bible translations out there right now.  While some get hung up on different ways they were interpreted, let’s just make sure we’re reading the Bible.  I have been using the New American Standard Bible (NASB)  - which you will see in a drop down menu of any Bible application. 

If you are really struggling to read then a great way to get going is to start a devotional.  I have many devotionals I can give for free to you that have a motorsports theme, and have many posted on the Always Racing website.  Most apps have devotionals that you can search through topically to find something that fits your current situation.  When you see the verse used in the devotional look it up and read the entire chapter or surrounding chapters for context and additional encouragement. 

Finally, establish a routine – but change it up a bit.  Think through your day and when you historically have a down moment and make that a time for Bible reading.  Personally, I like to read before bed and right when I get up in the am.  However, it’s good to change things up a bit.  Reading at a different time, and for different lengths is sometimes just what I needed.

If you need anything at all to help you get going or motivated for Bible reading please let me know.  I can provide you Bible and devotionals for free as well.  Let’s make Bible reading a priority again!

Dreaming Again

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

I have some dreams yet to fulfill in life.  I have yet to make it to the redwood forest, manage a heavy metal band, or perfectly shine rocks in a rock tumbler.  If I can make it to my minimum target age of 72 I hope to knock out those and a few more dreams along the way. 

Brooke and I recently sat down and made an intentional list of dreams.  Honestly, we had to.  We found ourselves in a really comfortable position in life.  Things were stable. We were working and ministering with passion and finally cleared a season of health issues.   Before we knew it though, another year had passed and the kids grew like weeds.  We were at risk of thinking comfort was the same as living with vitality and adventure. 

When John 10:10 refers to “the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy,” I always kind of assumed that as long as I didn’t feel like things were being taken from me then I must be living life and “having it to the full”.  Truth is, if we are not dreaming and pursuing then it doesn’t matter if the thief comes or not…we were not advancing anyway!

When Jesus came to earth and died for us, it was for more than just our sin.  He died for the value of what was underneath that sin.  Our life and passions are of such great value that He paid the greatest price for us to be able to dream and explore what’s possible in Him.   It’s an invitation to not just have life, but to have it to the full.  

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4

Even when the dreams require resources we don’t have or are seemingly impossible we can set goals to pray for vision and direction.   Let Him guide us to redefine what “life to the full” really looks like.  Take an adventure in your faith with the Lord and dream again.  

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