St. Paul Thoughts
2020 Vision
2020 Vision

David Mullens • December 31, 2019

Do you have 2020 vision?


I ask the question knowing looking directly at the new year, 2020. Do you have 2020 vision? Did you know there will never be another 2020 ever again! This is it! 2019 is in the rear view mirror and 2020 is on the horizon. Do you have hope? Dreams? Ideas? Plans? 2020 is a blank slate!


For the first 22 or so years of my life, I had 20/20 vision. I didn't have to worry about glass, contacts, or blurry vision. I didn't have to spend time cleaning dirty glasses or contacts. I didn't have to search around because I had dropped my contacts, or fear because I stepped on my glasses. It was quite a wonderful life!


One day, as I drove across the bridge connecting Indiana to Kentucky to go to seminary, I feared the days of my wonderful life were over. As I looked at the huge green signs indicating exits, I wasn't able to make out the words until I was so close it was too late for me to take the exit. I kept driving because I couldn't see the sign telling me I needed to turn off.


After missing a couple of exits, I figured I should go to the eye doctor. Sure enough, I needed glasses. Four years of staring at screens all day, I believed, had stolen my perfect vision.


What is 20/20 vision


According to the American Optometric Association, 20/20 vision is the ability to see clearly at 20 feet. They call it vision acuity. In other words, if you have 20/20 vision you can see in 20 feet what you should see in 20 feet. On the other hand, if you have 20/100 vision, you need to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal sight can see at 100 feet.


Having 20/20 vision doesn't mean you have perfect vision because other factors are involved. Nevertheless, with 20/20 vision you are able to see clearly what is in front of you. It was a sad day when I discovered I no longer had 20/20 vision.


Vision Acuity


As I ponder vision acuity, I am reminded that there are other ways to see. Of course, we see with our eyes but we can also see with our mind, our heart, and our intention.


Before I had glasses, I would miss things...like exits. Since I couldn't see clearly I would miss my turn. I probably needed glasses for a while but didn't want to admit it. I didn't even know how bad my vision was. When I finally got glasses, a new but familiar world opened up to me. I could see again. I could see what I had been missing.


Not 2020 But Now Vision


When our vision is blurry, we miss things. As I reflect on a new year, 2020 no less, I'm reminded of how other things get "blurry." Moments arrive. Moments depart. Each moment flows by like leaves on a river. They come and they float away. In order to notice them, I must be intentional. I must take time to gaze at them, reflect on them, and see them, really see them. Before I know it, those moments, precious and unique, are gone.


Perhaps this year, 2020, can be a reminder to open our eyes. To notice. To be present. To not let these moments pass by unnoticed.


Not only is this the only 2020, but right now is the only now that you have. Each moment is new and unique. You will never read these words for the first time again. You will not experience this moment again.


Perhaps what I'm really after isn't 2020 vision, but the vision of now. What does it look like to have now vision? What is it like to not miss ordinary but amazing moments? What does it mean that this is the only now I will ever have?


Perhaps in 2020 we can be intentionally open our eyes and see, truly see, before the moment passes by.


May your eyes be open! May Jesus be your vision.


Peace, David.

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Missing Christmas
Missing Christmas

David Mullens • December 01, 2019

The Christmas movie, Christmas with the Kranks, was based on a 2001 John Grisham novel called Skipping Christmas. In the film, the Kranks only daughter wasn't going to be home for Christmas, so her parents decided to skip Christmas and use the over $6,000 savings for a vacation.


While I doubt that many of us, or any of us, would ever want to follow the Krank's plan to skip Christmas if we aren't careful we can find that we "miss" Christmas.


December can be a busy month. Full schedules end up bursting their seams! Usually, the events and gatherings in December are good things, causing us to not say no to anything! So, we don't. We attempt to do everything, filling up our calendar.


As wonderful as getting together with family and friends, decorating, and all the other beloved traditions of this season may be, they may also cause us to miss the deepest joy of the season. We miss Christmas when our focus on the busyness of the season squeezes out our opportunity to connect with God's gift of Jesus. We miss Christmas when our schedules are so full of stuff we have to do that we are no longer able to hear the whisper of the Spirit. We miss Christmas when the anxiety of overly full schedules replaces anticipation and awe of what God has done.


So, how can we make sure we don't miss Christmas? Here are some suggestions:


1 - Invite God to be part of your preparation. Whether you are putting up decorations, shopping for that hard to please loved one, or attending a gathering that you may not want to be, ask God to show you his presence.


2 - Set some time aside and read through the Christmas Story. You can find the accounts of Jesus' birth in Luke chapters 1 and 2:1-40 and also Matthew 1:18-25. Reading these through Advent is a great way to be grounded in the meaning of this season. You don't have to read these accounts in one sitting either. Why not spend a few moments in the morning or evening reading a paragraph or so concerning the reason we celebrate?


3 - Find time to reflect: December can be a busy month. Putting up decorations, buying presents, Christmas programs, get-togethers, and other activities and events filling our schedules causing us to look forward to the end of the season. Silence, rest, and prayer create space for God. What would happen, if you intentionally scheduled some times of silence, rest, or prayer to make sure you have left space for God? Of course, scheduling such time may mean you have to say "no" to something else. Making space for God in your life will be well worth it.


4 - Noticing God: When Moses was tending sheep, he noticed a burning bush. What is amazing isn't that Moses saw a burning bush, but that he noticed it and went to it. It was from the bush that God spoke to him. In the middle of an ordinary season of Christmas, I pray you would notice God. May you notice God as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.


Peace,


David.

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3 Steps to Conquer Fear (Reflection on Psalm 34:4)
3 Steps to Conquer Fear (Reflection on Psalm 34:4)

David Mullens • September 23, 2019


Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.

He freed me from all my fears.


Eat and Run


I walked into the McDonald’s because the drive-thru was packed. There, waiting in line was a man who had already ordered. He looked at me and said, “Wow. I can’t believe people are so lazy they would rather wait in the long drive-thru line rather than coming inside. There’s no one in here! He was right. The place was empty.


Drive-thru lines get longer and longer it seems. Some places are even putting in two drive-thru lanes to deal with the increased use. Why? Are people really lazy? Or have we become so busy that sitting in the car answering email, or talking on the phone as we pick up our food and eat on the way to our next activity seems the best use of our time?


Some of us are so busy a “sit down meal” means eating in our car as we drive to our next meeting. With so much to do, we fear taking time out to eat will put us behind.


Delivered


My eyes fall to verse 4 where David writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”


That’s a powerful statement considering Saul was trying to kill David and David was running for his life. Saul had the entire Israel army at his disposal while David only had a few hundred men. David had every reason to be afraid, yet, God delivered him from all his fears.


Fear Factor


We don’t have to have someone trying to kill us to be afraid. Fear influences all of our decisions, even when we don’t know it. While fear helps us survive, fight or flight and all that, most of us don’t have to worry much about tigers, lions, and bears (oh my). Our fear is of a different nature.


We are afraid of missing out (FOMO), losing what we have, not getting what we need, upsetting others, being misunderstood, being rejected, just to name a few. Perhaps our biggest fear is making mistakes or failure. We may even decide to play it safe and stick to our ‘comfort zone.’ Comfort zones are nice because we can handle anything there. While our comfort zone is void of fear, it can limit our faithfulness to God.


Fear of losing a job causes workers to “just do what they are told” instead of putting their whole self into their work. Fear of missing out causes us to spend weekend after weekend on ball diamonds, soccer fields, basketball courts, dance recitals, and other activities. While we enjoy the events, fear that if our children aren’t fully involved, they will miss out on future scholarships is what drives us. Some children start playing organized sports at 4 or 5 years old because parents believe if they don’t their future will be limited and they won’t have as good of a life as they could.


Why are we so fearful? Because we have lost our center and we believe we are on our own. David, in this Psalm, praises God because God had delivered David from all his fears. David gives us guidance on how we can be delivered from our fears as well.


3 Steps to Be Delivered from Fear


Notice David’s progression:


1) I Sought the Lord

2) The Lord answered

3) He delivered me from all my fears


This three step process seems simple, but it isn’t easy. We all want #3, but #1 can be a problem. David sought the Lord. He was a seeker. He was seeking God in the midst of his fear as he was running. In other psalms (Psalm 5:3) David writes about seeking God in the morning. Because David sought God, God answered.


How can we expect God to answer, when we don’t fully seek him?


Habits


Do we seek the Lord, so that the Lord can answer us? What’s your habit of seeking God?


When David heard God answer, he knew he was delivered. God answered, because David was intentional to seek God. My fear is that we have become a culture who talks about seeking God, but doesn’t.


Instead of intentional, focused, time with God, we pray “on the run” or try to “multi-task” God into our lives. God has become like our lunch…we head to the drive-thru, pick up our food, and eat as we are on the way to somewhere else. Such a meal keeps us going, but doesn’t feed our soul.


Seeking God


When we seek God, God answers. When God answers, we discover we are not alone. When we realize we are not alone, our fear dissipates. The process begins when we spend focused, intentional, time with God.


God may not answer the way we want him to answer. It has taken me years to come to terms with God not answering me the way I wanted.


What I have discovered is that God answers with his presence, which, I find ends up being much better than the answer I was looking for. In Jeremiah, God makes this promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) That promise, when realized, drives away all fear.

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JOMO!
JOMO!

David Mullens • August 27, 2019

You open Facebook (or Instagram, Snapchat, or some other social media website) and see your friend having the time of her life! Perhaps she is on vacation, with family, or eating at a fancy restaurant. Then, it hits you. FOMO. "It would be great to be able to do that," you think.


You remember an event happening later in the week. You'd love to go, but if you go to that event, you'd have to leave a different event early, and get to another event late. Even though your day is full, you try to figure out how to squeeze the new event into your bulging schedule. FOMO begins.


Perhaps you find yourself at one activity and your mind begins wondering about a different one. Or, as your friend (or spouse) talks with you, your phone buzzes and you look down (for just a glance, of course) to make sure you aren't missing anything while your friend (or spouse) continues to talk. There's a momentary lapse as you are distracted by the notification. You hope your friend (or spouse) doesn't notice. FOMO keeps you from being fully attentive.


You and your family sit down to watch a movie together and you start wondering about what else might be happening. So, you take a look at Facebook, just a quick glance, of course, to keep up what is going on elsewhere. Thirty minutes later, you realized you missed the most important part of the movie and precious moments with your family. FOMO has taken hold of you, once again.


If you've ever found yourself wondering about what else was going on and what you might be missing, you've encountered FOMO. If you've ever been distracted, unable to enjoy the moment because your mind was elsewhere, you may have been hijacked by FOMO.


Dictionary.com defines FOMO as, "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."


FOMO stands for the "fear of missing out" and is very real. It's always been around but seems to have escalated with social media. FOMO grows more troubling because, with increased options of how to spend our time, we begin wondering about what we miss. We fear that somewhere something is happening and we are not a part.


FOMO causes us to add one more activity to our busy days, squeezing as many moments into our minutes as possible. We add some activities and events to our calendar because we are afraid of missing out.

We don't have to follow the FOMO path though. Instead of FOMO, we can experience JOMO. What's JOMO? I thought JOMO was something I had discovered, but later found that others had experienced the wonders of JOMO as well.


JOMO stands for the "Joy Of Missing Out" and can serve to balance our lives, bringing joy, contentment, and peace.


The JOY of missing out? We want to experience life to the fullest and we believe missing out is the opposite. When I watch a basketball or football game, I don't want to miss anything! I want to see it all! Missing out seems anything but joyful.


But when I pause to think about FOMO, I have to ask myself, "What am I really missing out on?" A fantastic play? A touchdown?


There will be other plays. There will be other touchdowns. In the totality of life, missing a fantastic play, or even a game, or many games, really won't be that big of a deal. When I'm looking back over my life, I doubt I will ever regret missing those things.


The reality is, when I live by FOMO, I am missing out. I'm missing out on the moment I am in and that is where JOMO comes into play.


The JOY of missing out reminds us that joy comes from being present in the current moment. Joy does not come as we stuff our full schedules fuller still. Full schedules create distraction bringing tension and keeping the joy of the moment at bay


Beyond finding joy in the moment, we also find joy when we are mindful about what we choose NOT to do. We don't have to do everything. Rather, we must discern the right things to do. When we practice FOMO, we cultivate fear, disappointment, and regret (Fear is the first part of FOMO after all). When we practice JOMO, we cultivate joy, contentment, and peace.


JOMO is a choice. It's a choice to not allow FOMO to rule our lives. JOMO is being intentional and honest. JOMO encourages us to create space where we can breathe, grow, and find freedom. JOMO helps us create space where we can deeply connect with others because we aren't distracted and exhausted.


What are we really missing if we don't watch the next episode? Go to the party? Take on an extra activity? What are we missing if we stay in, spend time with people we love, and get the rest we need rather than heading out?


JOMO is when we find joy by choosing to miss out and the discovery that we aren't missing a thing.


May you experience the deep joy and peace of Jesus because you are choosing to spend some moments with Jesus!


Peace,


David.

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The World Is Waiting!
The World Is Waiting!

David Mullens • July 29, 2019

I'm happy (or embarrassed. I'm not exactly sure which) to announce that my wife and I have finished watching all 31 seasons of the amazing race. All told, we watched around 341 episodes of the show. Each show (without commercials) was about 40 minutes. That equates to about 13,640 minutes or 227 1/2 hours. Yikes!


When I think about all the time we spent watching, I'm sure we could have done a lot of other things. Nevertheless, I did try to at least learn some things from the show and over the past three months I've outlined some of the lessons I've learned.


Here's a recap:


  1. Nobody is Good at Everything (so it's good to have a team)
  2. Not Everything is Amazing (but life is Amazing!)
  3. The Joy of Now
  4. Match People with Skills (It's about working together)


For my last lesson, I'm going to refer to something Phil (the host) says at the beginning of the race. I don't remember if this is something he has said since Season 1 or not but I remember hearing it in most of the first season episodes.


After the teams are introduced and they are all poised to start the race he tells them, "The world is waiting..." I don't know if "The Amazing Race" is so popular in other countries that saying the WORLD is waiting is true, but I know that I am waiting and so are millions of other Americans. I'm not sure if the world is waiting for the amazing race. However, I do believe the world is waiting for something.


One of the hardest questions to answer seems simple . When I ask people "What do you want?" or "What do you want to happen?" they, at first, give an answer which seems like a good answer. After reflecting, they realize their first answer wasn't their best answer. On further reflection, they realize they really want something different, something deeper.


Sometimes what we say we want ends up being just a reflection of some deeper desire. We may say that we want our spouse to listen to us, or encourage us, or pay attention to us when what we really want is deeper connections and intimacy. We say we want something to be solved at work but we may really want a sense of peace in our place of employment. Maybe what we really want is a sense of peace in our lives!


My point is this: The world may say they know what they want or what they are waiting for, but I'm not sure of the world really knows.


For most of his life, St. Augustine believed he knew what he wanted. However, after he encountered Jesus, he realized, he was really waiting for him. He was waiting for Jesus and didn't even know it! Later he prayed, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee..."


The world, like St. Augustine, has a restless heart. St. Augustine, among others, discovered that Jesus brings rest to restless hearts.


John tells us that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son into the world so that those who believe would never die. At the deepest level, the world is waiting for Jesus. The world is waiting and searching for life, but doesn't realize that life and rest comes through Jesus. They are waiting for him and don't even know it. I sure didn't know I was waiting for Jesus until after I encountered Jesus. Then I knew I was waiting for him the whole time. He was what my heart most deeply desired, yet I was unaware.


Paul asked the question, "How can they know if they don't hear? How can they hear unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:4)" That's a great question. How can the world know if no one is telling them? How can the world know about life in Jesus if we don't tell them and show them?


Phil told the Amazing race teams that the world was waiting. I believe he is right. The world is waiting. Perhaps the world is really waiting for us to let them know about the wonderful Jesus we have encountered and are coming to know.


May you share your Jesus encounters with others!


Peace, David.

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Lesson 4: Working Together
Lesson 4: Working Together

David Mullens • June 26, 2019

Strengths / Weaknesses


Two months ago I started listing some of the lessons I’ve learned from the Amazing Race. The first lesson was, “Nobody is Good at Everything.” There have been some pretty amazing participants on the Amazing Race; Ph.Ds, Scholars, Doctors, Nurses, Military, Moms, Dads, grandparents, pastors, musicians and even a couple of homeless dancers. The diversity of the participants is impressive.


Some individuals were more talented than others. They were strong, smart, and able to do challenges quickly. However, even the best of the racers, at some point, would run into trouble and struggle because no one is good at everything. We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses.


The best teams were the ones who were able to match their skills and strengths with the task at hand. Sometimes teams weren’t’ able to do this because the task’s description (called Roadblocks on the Amazing Race) was vague, making it hard to know exactly what skills were needed. If the team was able to match the task with the strengths of the right teammate, that team would finish the task quickly and be able to continue the race.


We are A Team


As a community of faith, God has gathered us together like a team. The Apostle Paul referred to the community of faith as the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12). He writes that just like a body, there are different parts of the Body of Christ. He observes that a body has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and other parts. The body is not just one big mouth (even though sometimes it might seem that way) or a single foot.


God, in his wisdom, has created us with different body parts for different tasks. Paul tells us that the foot can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The hand can’t say to the foot, “You aren’t important.” The body needs different parts to fulfill the task. Each part has strengths. Each part has weaknesses. Together, the parts form a great effective team.


Great Teams


Great teams understand the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players. Great teams understand that they need each other. While we might focus on a basketball point guard, a football quarterback, or a soccer forward, individuals can’t succeed without the other players. On a team, the players need each other. On a team, everyone is important.


We need each other too. Nobody is good at everything but everyone has something to offer. Paul writes that God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us spiritual gifts. Some may be tempted to say that one gift is better than another, but Paul says that isn’t the case. There are no unimportant gifts.


God has assembled the parts so that we might be able to fulfill his mission.


Since no one is good at everything but everyone is good at something, our task is to come together, allowing God to assemble us as he desires. Some of us are good at connecting with people, some are good at teaching, at speaking, praying, or seeing needs and jumping in to help.


Since no one is good at everything and everyone is good at something, we need each other. The part you play is an important one. Without you, we will never be able to fulfill God’s mission.


Playing Your Part


So, what is your next step? What are you good at? Do you know? If not, perhaps your next step is to discover your gifts and passions. If you are ready to take that step, let me know. I’d love to help!


Perhaps you know what your gifts are and what you are good at. Perhaps your next step is to find a place, jump in, and help the other teammates fulfill God’s mission!


Peace, David.



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The Amazing Life
The Amazing Life

David Mullens • May 30, 2019

Pastor's June Newsletter Article - Amazing Race Part 2


Last month I shared a few life lessons I learned through the Amazing Race:


1) Nobody is Good at Everything

2) Not Everything is Amazing.


Here is another one:


Lesson Three - The Joy of Now.


Since the prize for winning the Amazing Race is a million dollars, many participants focus on what winning the money will mean for their lives. Money has always been a strong motivator and for most of the teams, they have their eyes fixed on the funds. When they struggle with a task, they may say, "Remember, this is for a million dollars." The thought of winning a million dollars gives them a reason to give the task all their energy.


Racers will even tell taxi drivers, "Drive faster. We are in a race for a million dollars" thinking it will motivate the taxi drivers. Of course, the taxi driver won't be winning a million dollars. Even though his passengers may win the money, the taxi driver only gets the fare and, hopefully, a tip. I always wonder how much the taxi driver is motivated to break local traffic laws because those riding in the cab are in a race for a million dollars.


Surprisingly, not everyone on the Amazing Race is focused on the money. One participant's main motivation didn't seem to be the money. As a Ph.D. student, she wasn't rich. I'm sure she would have loved to win the million dollars, but the money didn't seem to be her main motivation. Nevertheless, instead of focusing on money, she focused on the experience of traveling around the world and how her experience on the Race brought her joy.


At the end of each leg of the race, she would literally run around in circles amazed and excited at where she found herself. While many of the racers focused on the future potential of winning a million dollars, her eyes were fixed on the incredible now never losing sight of the amazing world she found herself in.


She understood how fortunate she was. By seeing the joy of now, she didn't need to focus on the money. Of course, the money would be great, but she knew her experience was worth even more. She didn't need to win because, in her mind, she already had.


How different would life be if instead of focusing on what we have or what we hope to get, we see how amazing life is? Getting caught up in future goals may cause us to miss the gift of now. How many parents have taken on extra work in order to buy the best things for their kids, only to discover their kids really wanted them more than anything else? How many couples have strained and toiled trying to get everything they dreamed of only to find they forfeited everything that truly mattered?


When we go through tough times, life may not look all that amazing. Our challenges seem bigger than life itself. Maya taught me that it is possible to see beyond my challenges. She taught me that if I stop and take time to look around, I might be amazed at what I see. Even in the midst of challenges, God blesses and God loves. God is not absent in the good times and he certainly isn't absent during bad times.


Who knows? If we choose to strive less, take time to stop, look around, and appreciate God's handiwork and blessings, we too may realize how amazing life truly is and how blessed we are.


May you find joy on this Amazing Race!


Peace,


David



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Amazing Race Life Lessons
Amazing Race Life Lessons

David Mullens • May 01, 2019

Amazing Life Lessons


I've mentioned that my wife and I are watching old seasons of the Amazing Race. Since Season 31 of the Amazing Race is beginning, I thought I'd share what some “Amazing Life Lessons” I’ve learned by watching the show. I’ve learned so much, that I plan on continuing this list through the summer.


Lesson One: Nobody is Good at Everything


There are people who are blessed with strength, wisdom, speed, and qualities that make them perfect contestants for the Amazing Race. They have skills, abilities, and confidence. They KNOW that they will win, quite simply, because they are better than everyone else!


Their confidence grows stacking up win after win after win. They cruise through the tasks with barely breaking a sweat. They are confident for good reason. They are that good...and they know it!


Surprisingly, they would eventually run into a task or two or three where they would struggle and not do well. I hate to admit how I enjoyed watching them struggle. “Welcome to my world,” I would think, “where things don’t come easy and things are hard.” I would sit back as their confidence waned and they struggled just to not be eliminated.


The struggle was humbling, resulting in a new appreciation for the other competitors and the difficulty of the race. Their confidence was still alive but void of arrogance. No longer in the Superman or Superwoman role, they would realize how important and needed their teammate was. Such struggles taught them how much they needed others.


Good teams realize no one is good at everything. Some team members are good at physical tasks, some at mental tasks, some are good at directions. No one is good at everything. Even those team members who have a lot of strengths end up running into some task they aren’t good at.


Contestants who work together as teams are fun to watch. Entering the race as a team rather than individuals, they would maximize their strengths while managing their weaknesses, becoming more than the sum of their parts.


It’s unfortunate that so many neglect the power of teams and community. Instead of connecting with others, we may attempt to live life on our own. We may do well in most situations but there’s always something that will knock us down. The question is when life knocks us down, is there someone nearby who can pick us up?


The Amazing Life lesson: Find team members! Don’t try to do it alone. Ask for help. Life was not meant to be lived alone. Connect to others through worship and service. Those we connect with in worship and service are there for us. They love and care for us and pick us up when we need that. We don’t have to go at life alone. Let’s do life together!


Lesson Two: Not Everything is Amazing.


Even though the name of the show is the “Amazing” Race, some things are not amazing. Usually at some point during a leg of the race, some competitor will utter my favorite Amazing Race quote: “This is ridiculous.” I love it! I watch for it. I know it will happen!


While almost everyone who has been on the show talks about the amazing time, the beauty of everything, and the fantastic opportunity they had to visit multiple countries and have wonderful experiences, not everything was amazing or even fun. Tasks were hard and frustrating. Tears were shed. Sometimes they wanted to quit. Some participants didn't think they could do what they needed to do. They may have even wanted to quit.


Of all the seasons I’ve watched, I only remember one team quitting. The Race isn't about quitting, rather, it is about digging deep within and finding the strength to continue even when you don't think you can. You may not complete the Amazing Race by winning, but quitting doesn't usually happen. Everyone wants to end the race by giving their all.


At the end of the race, when contestants look back, they are able to appreciate their experiences. While they may not have been able to see how amazing things were as they were going through them, when they look back and consider everything they did and experienced, they understood how amazing it all was. What a great lesson for life!


Amazing Life Lesson: Not everything is amazing, including life! Some things are hard. We may want to give up and quit. Don't do it. Never quit. Never give up. God is faithful and if we are able to hang on we can discover just how amazing this life truly is. Our story isn't over. When we get to the end of the race, I hope we can all look back and say, "Wow. That was amazing!"


Peace,


David.


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Joy of the Lord
Joy of the Lord

David Mullens • April 01, 2019

As a kid, I remember singing the song "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength." As far as I can remember, that was the whole song. We would sing that same line over and over again. I've since discovered there are other lyrics and, if you really want to, it's easy to create more.

 

We could use that joy today. Some researchers and surveys suggest that America and other developed countries are not very happy. Even though we are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth and have more opportunity and resources than ever before, we continue to get more and more depressed. All of the stuff we have doesn't bring us the joy of that simple childhood song.

 

While singing at VBS, I was unaware that the phrase, "The Joy of the Lord is your strength" is from the book of Nehemiah. For over 100 years the walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair. God sent Nehemiah to lead the people to repair the walls. In 52 days the wall was finished and the people of Jerusalem gathered to thank God and worship. Included in the worship was a six or seven hour reading of the law. You read that right. For six or seven hours people stood as the law was read.

 

As Ezra read, people started crying and weeping. Why did they cry? Perhaps standing for six or seven hours had something to do with it! I doubt it though. It could have been that hearing the requirements of the law reminded them how far they were from fulfilling the law. They may have been weeping because they saw God's goodness in light of their sin.

 

As they wept, Nehemiah told them, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10) Nehemiah let the people know that this was a day to celebrate the goodness of God! Even though they knew they had broken the law, God's grace could fill them with joy and that joy would be their strength.

 

What might Nehemiah tell us today?

 

Maybe he would tell us the joy of the Lord is still our strength. While there are many things that can steal our happiness, the joy of the Lord can strengthen us. Sadly, this may not normally be the case.

 

What prevents us from having the joy of the Lord?

 

Could it be that we have lost God's joy because we believe that joy is found in other places? By pursuing wealth, pleasure, power, progress, success, comfort, and security have we actually forfeited what truly brings joy?

 

The joy of the Lord can still be our strength. As we take steps toward Jesus, deepening our discipleship and relationship with God, joy takes root and bursts forth. In God, through Jesus, we find Joy (with a capital J)!

 

Easter reminds us that death has been defeated and all things are new. Through him, we discover the Joy that only pursuing Jesus brings. May the Joy of Jesus and the Joy of Easter truly be your strength!

 

Peace,

 

David.

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If You Continue
If You Continue

David Mullens • February 27, 2019

A few weeks ago, the text for Sunday included John 8:31-32, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." I've had a hard time getting Jesus' statement out of my mind. As I look to Lent (which begins with Ash Wednesday on March 6th), I invite you to reflect on Jesus' words.


If you remember, Jesus had just told the religious leaders, "you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he" (John 8:29). Then we learn that many believed in him while he was talking (verse 30).


I would think that Jesus would be excited about his listeners believing in him. I wouldn't have been surprised if he stopped and thanked God for these new believers. He could have celebrated right there on the spot.


Verse 31 and 32 doesn't seem like much of a celebration. Instead, Jesus told the new believers that if they continued in his word, they would truly be his disciples. It seems to me that Jesus sees a vast difference between believers and disciples.


From time to time in John's Gospel, we read of people believing in Jesus. Sometimes this is after he has performed some miracle. After he fed the five thousand in the wilderness, people even wanted to make him king! Later, those same folks walked away because they couldn't take what he was saying. Seems like there is a big difference between believers and disciples.


Believers have self as the focus:


Those who believed in Jesus did so because they wanted what Jesus could provide. Perhaps it was healing or being fed. The believers had their needs met by Jesus and so believed in him. When things got tough or Jesus said something they didn't like, they left (See John 6:66).


Disciples focus on the mission of God:


Disciples, on the other hand, focus on God and God's kingdom. The reason why Jesus’ words were so important was because Jesus was in the habit of declaring what he heard from the Father (John 8:26). Disciples don't leave when things get tough or the word of God becomes hard (John 6:67-68). Instead, they double down on Jesus' word and dive deeper. As they do, they encounter the truth about themselves, God, what abundant life is, and how they fit into the mission of God. In discovering truth, they are free to live the abundant life Jesus came to give (John 10:10).


You are invited to discipleship! Lent invites us to deepen our disciples and create room in our lives for God's word.


There are many different practices you can do for Lent; focused prayer, fasting a favorite food or treat, or spending time in the Bible. During this Lent, I invite you to reflect on these words of Jesus and actively make room in your life for his word through intentional spiritual practices.


One practice you are invited to enter into is the practice to serve. There will be opportunities to serve through "Hey Neighbor" or perhaps serve the community through any of the wonderful local helping organizations.


During this time of Lent, you are invited to continue in Jesus word and truly be his disciple. May you live in his love and presence.


Peace,


David.

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