Tuesday, January 31, 2012

it's that time again

Guess what’s just around the corner? LENT! Yeah, it’s here again. I love the season of Lent.

The reason I love this season is because it provides me an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus, which is pretty important. Right? Right! Lent is not just about giving up something that you love or crave or obsess over. 
  • Lent is about DISCPLINING ourselves and PRAYER.
  • Lent is about PREPARING ourselves for Easter.
  • Lent is about REPENTING of our sins and wrongdoings.
  • Lent is about asking the people for their FORGIVENESS.
  • Lent is about DENYING OURSELVES and accepting the cross.
  • Lent is about recognizing our desperate need for GRACE. 
This year, I want Lent to be life-changing for you. The reason we “fast” from something is in order to draw closer to Jesus. Therefore, it may be important for you to ask yourself some questions.
  • Where do I want to be in my spiritual journey when Easter morning arrives?
  • What area of my life do I need forgiveness?
  • Which spiritual discipline am I lacking?
  • What takes precedence over reading the Bible or praying?
  • How will my “fast” draw me closer to God?
Once you figure out the answers to these questions you can then figure out what you should give up for this holy season.

  • Give up a little sleep everyday and set your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier and spend some time reading Scripture and praying (don’t worry, I am giving you scriptures to focus on) 
  • Give up that chocolate bar or soda pop and donate the money to a local organization to benefit the less fortunate (do we need chocolate when there are people who don’t have bread?).
  • Give up one day a weekend to benefit the needs of your neighbor and community (do you even know your neighbor?).
  • Give up social media and actually have real life conversations with people (get to know people and have face to face dialogues).
Please pray about your Lent and make it count this year!!!

Grace and Peace, Marc

Monday, January 30, 2012


So in everything,
do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

The passage in known asThe Golden Rule.” There are variations of the Golden Rule in all forms of religions. For example:

Buddhism says, “hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udana-Varga 5:18)
Confucianism says, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)
Hinduism says, “One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself.” (Mencius Vii.A.4)
Judaism says, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

I want you to notice how these variations are stated negatively: DON’T DO what you DON’T want done to you. I believe this makes the Golden Rule more achievable, at least in our human efforts. You see, when the Golden Rule is stated negatively it’s easy to say, “I don’t want to be murdered, therefore I will not murder.” “I don’t want to be punched in the face, therefore I’m not going to punch other people in the face.

Jesus does something different. He puts a positive spin on the Golden Rule. Following Jesus calls us to live differently than others. Jesus says, “do to others what you would have them do to you.”

It is one thing to “do nothing,” but it’s completely different to “do something.” Jesus says, “Do something! Do to others what you would have done to you.” Jesus says this because He wants us to know how important it is to live in community with other people. He wants us to know the value of relationships. Basically, we need to think about how we want to be treated and then use that as a standard for how we treat others.

I believe this rule is true in every relationship, but it’s vitally true when it comes to family relationships. Have you ever noticed how you will work on the relationships in your life?

How many times have you overlooked the flaws of your best-friend for the sake of the friendship?
How many times have you ignored your boss’s quirks, because you really like working for her?
How many times do you ignore the jerk in the supermarket, because you just want peace and harmony when shopping for peas and carrots?

Why is it that we often fail to work on the relationships in our own families?

Why in the world would we ignore the jerk at the store, but we cannot forgive our spouse for a past mistake? Why do we put up with all the garbage our boss gives us, but we fail to give our children the benefit of the doubt? Why is it that we will bend-over-backwards for our best-friend, but we ignore our sibling as if they don’t exist?

There is something wrong with this picture. How can we love anyone they way Christ wants us to love them, when we cannot even loves those in our own families?

I want you to realize something: to love God means you loves others and this includes your family. You and I must start treating our family members they way we would want to be treated.

Value your spouse the way you’d like to be valued.
Speak to your children the way you’d like to be spoken to.
Treat your parents the way you’d like to be treated.
Love your siblings the way you’d like to be loved.
Respect your family the way you’d like to be respected.

Grace and Peace, Marc

Friday, January 27, 2012

Discipline and Love

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
-Hebrews 12:11

Parenting is hard. It is hard, because it takes effort, perseverance, consistency, patience….

One thing I do not like about parenting is disciplining my son. I mean, the kid is so cute why in the world would I want to see him in trouble. Even though I do not like it, I realize that disciplining my son is a necessity.

I do not have any other choice, if I love my son, because the alternative is even worse. I do not want my son to grow up thinking it is okay to hit his parents. I would hate for him to go through life thinking it’s okay to be selfish. I want to teach him that talking nicely to people is a good attribute to have in life.

Mac averages 1.5 timeouts a day, because Em and I realize that the most loving thing we can do for Mac is to teach, train, instruct and discipline him when he acts out. We want Mac to know there are consequences for his bad mistakes, but we also want him to fully understand that no matter what he does Mama and Dada will always love him.

Here’s the reality: Your kids are going to need to be disciplined…probably today, maybe even right now. But I want you to make sure that you discipline your children in a way that reinforces your love for them.

DISCIPLINE is important.
LOVE is very important.
Children (and parents) need both.

Grace and peace, Marc

Monday, January 23, 2012

United: And It Feels So Good

Acts 2:42-44 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

The early church knew the importance of doing specific things, in order to draw closer to each other. In fact, this passage says they were together and had everything in common. This doesn’t mean they never disagreed, but it simply means that there were certain actions the early church participated in so they could build unity. Therefore, they listened to the teachings together, they fellowshipped together, they ate together and they prayed together. These actions built unity in the early church, because unity was important for them.

It is important to think of your family in the same light. There are certain things your family can do in order to be united. The sad reality is that we have seen families that are completely separated. In fact, if we were honest with ourselves we may acknowledge that this is the story of our family. We bicker and argue and disagree and fight and segregate ourselves from the rest of the family. 

I want something different for my family. I want something different for your family. I want our families to be an exception to the rule. I want our families to be united together. Therefore, let me give you some options on how you can build unity in your home.

PRAYER: make prayer a part of your family’s life. Pray together before meals, before bed, before decisions, before everything.
SPEND TIME TOGETHER: make sure your family spends time together, as a family. Take a family walk, go bowling together, take piano lessons together, start a band.
DEVOTIONS: make time to study God’s word together! Open the line of conversation with your spouse and children. Talk about God’s great love for your family together.
FAMILY DINNER: I know times are busy, but make time to eat together as a family. You would be surprised how it will unify your family.
COMMUNICATION: Talk to each other. Ask each other about your day. Be interested in your family. You would be surprised what you find out about your spouse and children if you just talk to them.

You make time for the things that are important to you, therefore make time for your family. How are you going to work on your family’s unity this week?

Grace & Peace, Marc

Friday, January 20, 2012

How a Martha Becomes a Mary

My mom’s church has a weekly email that is sent out to their members and since they have been without a pastor my mom has taken on this responsibility. I know that I am partial, but I have to admit she does a tremendous job. In fact, the last few devotions have been more focused on her journey and it has been nice to get a glimpse into her spirit.

For those reading this who are unfamiliar with my mom, let me give you a little background. My mom is Thee-Worker-Bee. If something needs to be done, she not only will take care of it, but she will do it with excellence. She has always been this way (life, home, church). My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few months back and I gently and compassionately told her and my dad that they need to take a step back and focus on themselves and Jesus…and they listened.

My mother has always been the worker, like Martha. She always said, “We need Martha’s! We can’t have everyone worshipping at the feet of Jesus.” Since her diagnosis, she has had the opportunity to transform into a Mary…and she loves every minute of it. Take some time and read about how a Martha becomes a Mary.


Good Morning Family,

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…and I won’t take it away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

I have always been someone who worries about everything. I've also been guilty of trying to control everything. I really love planning and organizing, but sometimes I would become overwhelmed by all the details. It didn't matter if it was a party for my family or organizing a church campaign, I could become crazy with worry. In fact, there were many nights when I would lay awake going over the details in my head. I wanted everything to be perfect.

My motives were pure, but my joy would be lost, because my motives became an obligation. I remember saying “what would this world/church do without Martha's.” I desperately wanted to be a Mary, but it was not my nature. Oh yeah, and all this stuff had to get done...by me! At least, that's what I used to think.

During my journey, God has taken all worry from me and I know, without a doubt, Who is in control. I do not lay awake worrying about tomorrow. I am too busy enjoying today.

You see, I have always been a Martha. I know this may sound silly to some, but God has blessed me during this time in my life. God has given me the chance to be a Mary. And I'm loving the chance to sit at His feet and soak up His love. I have never been so happy, felt so blessed or experienced so much contentment in my whole life!



Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Response or Last Resource

Do you ever find it strange that we have the greatest resource at our disposal and yet we fail to use Him? Is it weird to you that the Creator of the universe wants to have a conversation with you and yet we ignore Him like a bum on the side of the road?

Prayer. A spoken or unspoken address to God. Includes praises, thanksgivings, confessions and requests. It’s public or private.

I was wondering, what role did prayer play in your upbringing? Our families have a ton of traditions. My family:
served at the homeless shelter in Flint during the holidays.
spent New Year’s Eve with my cousins.
went to my grandpa’s cabin every summer.
went to church every time the doors were open.

This got me thinking: what if prayer was one of the greatest family traditions your children remembered about growing up?

Matthew 18:19-20
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This passage is about prayer and how God is present when 2 or 3 are gathered in His name. Something almost magical happens when we pray in numbers. We all believe this, because when there’s a physical, emotional or spiritual need we ask people to pray for us or our loved ones.

When there is a need, we call up our pastor, our best friend, even our mentor, but do we ever take that need to our family? Husbands and wives: do you pray together? There is something about praying with your spouse that draws you closer to God and each other. There is something intimate about speaking to God together as a couple. Husbands and wives, start praying together.

Parents do you pray with your children? Do your kids ever hear you talk to Jesus? If your kids never hear you pray, you’re not teaching them to pray! Parents talk to God in front of your kids. Help them to realize that mom and dad talk to Jesus.

Here’s what you can start doing today: start praying before you eat dinner together as a family (oh yeah, I guess I should mention you should start eating together too). I realize your lives are busy, but you have to make time for what is important.

Pray together as a family before you go to bed. Parents pray with your children when you lay them down for bed. Husbands and wives, pray together before you go to bed.

My hope for you and your family is that prayer would become our first response, not our last resource. Make prayer your family tradition.

Grace & Peace, Marc

Friday, January 13, 2012

there is another way

When we are confronted to HATE our enemies, Jesus offers us another way by asking us to LOVE our enemies and pray for them.

When we are bombarded with the news, pictures and ideas of WAR, Jesus offers us another way by granting us a PEACE that passes all understanding.

When our lives are overly consumed by thoughts of DESPAIR, Jesus offers us another way by providing us with an everlasting HOPE.

When we LAMENT over the life we have, Jesus offers us another way by presenting us the opportunity to CELEBRATE in the life we have in Him.

When we find ourselves weakened by WILLPOWER, Jesus offers us another way by gifting us the GRACE to live a new life.

When we are tempted to JUDGE others, Jesus offers us another way by allowing us to ACCEPT people as we have been accepted.

I thank Jesus that there is another way. CHOOSE IT!

Grace & Peace, Marc

Monday, January 9, 2012

Holy Parenting

Parenting should cause us to be more holy.

I mean if you think about it, you have a little one who watches everything you do. I love the fact that Mac mimics everything I do. If I make a funny face at Mama, he makes the same face. If I yell, “Welcome to Moe’s,” he yells the same thing. If I eat a pretzel, he wants to eat a pretzel. I realize these are silly examples, but it makes me think about what else he will want to mimic.

Mac is going to treat his Mama the same way I treat his Mama, for that reason I want to be a better husband. Mac is going to treat the church the same way I treat the church, in view of that I want to be a better pastor. Mac is going to talk about Jesus like I talk about Jesus, so I want to be a more faithful Christian. Mac is going to mimic my lifestyle. You see, becoming a parent changes everything.  

I was telling the church on Sunday that I want to live my life so close to Christ that Mac will know Jesus because he knows his Dada. I want to have Christ reveal Himself through me so Mac will know what it means to be Christian.

I want to be holy, because God is holy. I want to be holy, because I want Mac to be holy.

Grace & Peace, Marc

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Labels Lie

I grew up admiring a little band named Metallica, even though many people believe their lyrics to be sinful and corrupt. I would argue that their lyrics are open and honest, even if they are unorthodox. One of my choice songs is entitled, “The Unforgiven.” The lyrics reveal a heartrending tale of a boy who is deprived of his thoughts, stripped of his determination, ridded of his life. In the end, he regretfully dies knowing he was not who he wanted to be. In fact, the child lived his entire existence with the labels placed on him, labels he never sought, labels with which he never agreed.

This is not only the story of “The Unforgiven,” this is my story. This is not only my story, this is your story. This is our story. As humans we place a label on everything. We label people. We label places. We label things. Once we place that label, we know where we stand. We know what we think about the noun, whatever type it may be. We know whether to listen or ignore. We know whether to take in or cast out. We know whether to love or hate. We know our beliefs, based on labels.

I am as guilty as the next person. James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, wrote, “You labeled me, I’ll label you.” This is clearly a reality of life, not to say it’s appropriate. Howard S. Becker argues for his labeling theory, claiming the “majorities’” belief that they are justified in negatively labeling the “minorities.” I am not arrogant enough to consider myself an exception to this rule. On the other hand, you know what they say about rules; they are made to be broken. Having the ability to break the rule is not the question. The question is: are you willing to break the rule. Are you willing to ignore the labels placed on you? Are you willing to bring to an end the labeling of others? I AM!

I write this in light of the labels that have been forced on me, labels with which I do not agree. Labels are what they are, and more times than not, they are inaccurate, misleading, and fabricated. Therefore, I encourage you to ignore the labels that have been placed on you. I also challenge you to end your labeling process, because labels have a tendency to lie. 

Grace & Peace, Marc