Sunday, December 23, 2012

Silent Night

I come from a family of transplanted Yankees - upstate New Yorkers who relocated to West Texas. Even though we moved to Texas when I was 8 and I have spent 25 of the last 30 years living in Texas, there is something in me that causes me feel unsettled and makes me long for 'home'. Home where there are seasons: Tall green hills to roll down in the Spring, fireflies to catch all Summer, blazing colors in the Fall, and s-n-o-w in the winter.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, that one of my favorite memories from a childhood in West Texas was a surprisingly cold and wet winter that resulted in several snowstorms. I remember one night looking out into the dark and realizing that it was snowing...and the ground and roads were already covered in several inches of the white stuff.

My sister and I put on our shoes and coats and walked out front to stand in the falling snow and then crossed the street and stood under the circle of light the street lamp made on the ground. The world felt completely still as if we were the only ones awake. Not a single car track or footprint (except for our own) marred the white expanse. The thick cloud ceiling seemed to make things feel closer, like a blanket had been thrown down from the sky to cover us. There was absolutely no sound except that which the snow made as it hit the ground: A quiet, almost non-existent, 'sh sh sh sh'. When I think about it I can still feel, see, and hear what I experienced in those moments. Even though it was cold, dark and silent, I was not scared. instead, I had a sense of profound joy and wonder that I have never quite experienced again. Looking back on it now, I think my wonder in those moments came from an awe of something bigger than myself: A sense of the stillness that comes with God's peace.

It was a holy moment....

Tonight is Christmas Eve. It is another holy night filled with awe and wonder at the work that God is capable of doing.

A night where miracles are not only anticipated with longing, but fulfilled. A night where God's peace and joy reigns over all the world and we fall silent before His glory.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

May you experience Christmas filled with awe at the presence of God With Us and know the quietness that accompanies His peace.

Merry Christmas.

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, December 17, 2012

O Little Town

I think most of us have been shocked and appalled by the recent shooting rampages that people have recently resorted to in an attempt to express their rage and disappointment in their lives.

Friday's tragedy in Connecticut cemented the thought, at least in my mind, that there is something very wrong in our world and country.

I'm not sure what it takes to motivate a person to walk into a school and open fire on innocent children, but I know that it is evil.

In this season of Advent, the tragic events of this past Friday can make us question the hopes and expectations we carry in our hearts one week before Christmas, the day we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.

The families who lost children, spouses and parents last week have a long journey ahead. We can only pray that God will comfort and carry them through this time.

I know with a certainty, however, that no matter what events take place in this broken world, God is with us. These events, as horrific as they are, are not new. Particularly in this season, I remember the massacre of the children in Bethlehem as Herod sought to kill the child who's reign was to supplant his own.

God's plan to save the world through his son Jesus was not, is not, and never will be deterred by the actions of humans.

One day, we will all be reunited with those who have gone before us: whether they were cut down in tragedy or died after a long, productive life.

God's plan to save us from ourselves is still in place and being put into action.

This coming week, 'the hopes and fears of all the years' will be met and conquered by the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. In Him, we can find comfort, peace, and salvation no matter how horrific and confusing the circumstances are in which we find ourselves.

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Thursday, December 13, 2012

O Holy Night

Often, right about at this point in the Christmas season, I become weary.

The house is decorated. My shopping is completed. The gifts are wrapped. My seasonal 'work' is done and I no longer know what to do with myself.

The next two weeks begin to feel like I am anticipating an end of something instead of a beginning. It's not Christmas yet but I'm already done with it: ready to go ahead and take down the decorations and move on into 2013.

My premature 'quitting' of Christmas hasn't really been clear to me before.

I'm not sure if it's memories of Christmas' past or the lack of certain people in my Christmas present but there is a sense that something I can't replace is missing.

I was sitting with my very sick little boy last night and had flash backs to his infancy. (Big boys of 8 don't often let you hold and rock them anymore). Those flashbacks made me think about the nativity and the whole gamut of emotions that came into play because God came down to earth.

These thoughts somehow shifted my perspective of Christmas to the correct perspective. Celebrating Christmas doesn't require anything except acknowledging the presence of Emanuel in the world.

His presence is what makes everything else in the world 'right'. If I search for Him in the next two weeks instead of what I have been culturally conditioned to expect from Christmas, this Christmas will be a holy experience.

Chesney Szaniszlo

'Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt His worth.

The thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!'


Monday, December 10, 2012

We Three Kings....

...Has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols. I think as a child, I probably liked the 'Ohhhh...Star of wonder...' part but as I have grown up, my appreciation for this carol has, too.

I like that it is about people who are truly searching for Christ because they want to honor and glorify Him, not just take from Him.

That's not very easily done. I think most of our personal discipleship journeys reach a point where we are struggling with this very thing: The movement from the immature demand that God glorify us  through His power to God's being glorified by His strength working in us.

That's what I want to be able to do. I want to stop seeking things for myself and start truly seeking after God.

Chesney Szaniszlo

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light


Monday, December 3, 2012

All I want for Christmas is a little peace

Those of you who have been reading my blog the past few years know that I Struggle (the capital 'c' is on purpose) with perfectionism. For me it's a pursuit that is mandated by my personality.

Unfortunately, my pursuit of perfectionism really runs me, rather than the other way around. I keep chasing an image, believing that once I become it, I will be able to rest. What happens once I reach a goal, however, is that a new one pops up. Or I decide what I did previously really wasn't good enough.

It is a destructive cycle that allows me no respite from anxiety or any contentment and in turn takes its toll on me and my family.

So this year, for Advent, I am going to try to at least temper, if not end, my pursuit for perfection. I know that my search for perfection is really a search for acceptance and unconditional love: Two things that God has already offered but I have not completely accepted.

My 'work' this season is to stop searching for outward affirmation which I know will never be enough and accept the love and grace that Jesus dies to give me.

- Chesney Szaniszlo


Saturday, December 1, 2012

I still haven't found what I'm looking for....

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and Live Oak is once again inviting you to join us on the 24 day journey that concludes with the birth of the Holy baby Jesus in a stable.

This year our theme is expectation and searching. If you follow our sermon series you will see that our Advent series is call "Still haven't found what I'm looking for."

I've invited people from our congregation to give us a glimpse into their personal quest for the 'thing' they have looked for in the past or continue to search for in the present.

My hope is that in the heart of our journeys this season, we will discover God's presence.

Please join us on the journey and in the conversation by checking out Live Oak's FaceBook page every week day during the the season of Advent.

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You want me to do what?

There is a strange misconception that if you become a Christian your life will be easy. This is not true. Jesus states very clearly in the Gospel of John,  “ In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Somehow the knowledge that God will be with us through whatever happens in our lives, good and bad, has been mis-taught to mean that God will keep bad things from happening to us.

We also often have the contradictory perception that as soon as we give our lives to Jesus, God will take control and make us do things we don't want to do. God never makes us do things we don't want to do. God may ask us to do things we don't want to do, but we always have the choice to accept or reject His path for our lives.

Within the boundary of free will, however, it is true that the closer you come to God, the more often He will stretch your comfort zone: The closer we follow God, the more He helps us 'grow up'.

As all of us know, growing up isn't easy and it isn't always fun. Now that I am an adult, however, I can truly say that I would not want to go back to being a child or, in particular, an adolescent.

With maturity, comes the responsibility of making good choices not only for ourselves, but for those with whom we are in relationship.

God will ask each of us to do things for the good of his kingdom. Things that are sacrificial on our part. Things that are hard and make us choose between things that we might not want to choose between.

God might ask you to take the high road at work which could cost you upward mobility. God might ask you to love someone that you find repugnant and it will take enormous effort on your part to love them unconditionally. God might call you to share Him with people who don't know Him and you have to overcome your fear of embarrassment and possible rejection to do so.

No matter what God asks  you to do, however, He will always be with you.
Whether your accomplishment is met with adulation or derision.
Whether you are successful or fail at your desired goal.

God will be faithful to you and never abandon you.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, November 19, 2012

Just do it.

Micah 6:8 tells us that God requires us to " do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God."

This may sound nice but it's not something we actually do very well for a multitude of reasons (or excuses).

We don't walk humbly with God because we want to be in control and claim our success as our own.

We don't love mercy because we'd rather focus on the things that aren't fair and operate from a place of judgement.

We don't do justice because we often don't care enough about our neighbor (who according to scripture we are to love as ourselves Luke 10:25-37) to put their welfare ahead of, or at least on an equal footing, with our own.

This loss of focus on God's law and authority to govern every aspect of our lives has resulted in individuals reliance on self and a desire to store up treasures on earth, rather than in heaven.

Take a look at this video:

The issues depicted in this video are ones that many will see as political issues. I invite you, however, to see them as God's issues. These are people and events that God is calling His people to intercede in to do His justice. The hunger of a child, the rape of women, the killing of civilians and the defrauding of the powerless are issues that we, as Christians, are called to do something about.

Don't worry about their motivations. Are some people taking advantage of charitable organizations and/or the government? Probably. Are some people satisfied with living in poverty? Possibly. Does God call us to only help those who are hard working and have pure motivations? No. If that were they case, God would not help a single one of us.

God calls us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

Just DO it!

Chesney Szaniszlo

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8


Monday, November 12, 2012

No Fear

No fear

You'll probably recognize that statement as one that comes from the skateboarding/surfing community: The more dangerous  the activity, the bigger your tolerance for risk needs to be.

It could apply very easily, however to the life of a Christian. That might sound  weird but it actually makes sense.

Most people think that Christians play it safe. We're pious people who always do the right thing and don't live dangerously...right? Perhaps. 

If you are living out your Christian faith as we are truly called to live it, however, there are abundant risks.

Living a truly Christian life sets you apart from people who live their lives according to the secular culture. This can cause all sorts of misunderstandings and negative feelings.

Walking the path that Christ laid out for his followers, puts those followers in the position of having to often choose the unpopular route - the ones of mercy, integrity, humility, and obedience - over and over again.

Through all these difficult choices that Christians have to make however, the Bible continuously counsels us to 'Fear Not'. When we choose to be faithful to God, we will find that God is always there to give us exactly what we need, when we need it. 

God doesn't necessarily promise us earthly victory, wealth, or popularity - just look at the example we have in Jesus' earthly life - but he does promise us a magnificent eternity.

When you are caught in a web of fear the only thing to do, as a Christian, is to reach out for God's hand.  He will be as near to you as your own heartbeat, giving you the courage and strength to move forward.

'So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' (Isaiah 41:10 TNIV)

Chesney Szaniszlo


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are we able?

Am I capable? Are you?

Sure- in some things we can probably work it out on our own- boiling water, getting dressed, etc.  

But for the big things - being a good spouse, parent, boss/employee, making wise choices, and living out God's call on our life, well - with these things we are pretty incompetent on our own. Without God's capability overriding our incapabilities, we are simply fumbling in the dark.

We may not be capable but God is infinitely so.

Mercy Me has a new song titled 'You are I Am'. The chorus states that our God is the ' who conquers giants. You're the one who calls out kings. You shut the mouths of lions. You tell the dead to breathe. You're the one who walks through fire. You take the orphans hand. You are the one Messiah. You are I Am.'

The God we worship is the God who created the universe. The one who designed our bodies and the intricate systems that give us life. He is infinitely capable to make his will be accomplished. All we had to do is trust in Him.

-Chesney Szaniszlo

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57, 58 TNIV)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Forgive and Forget?

We are extremely lucky to be so loved that God paid the price of our own sins with his own blood. Our forgiveness was not free, it came with a very high price which we were not required to pay.

As a pastor I often hear two versions of the Christian idea of forgiveness from people. The first, I think, stems from the belief that since God suffered and died on a cross in order for our sins to be forgiven, we also must either suffer for our own sins or make the person who sinned against us suffer: The idea that when a sin is committed, restitution must be made in order for forgiveness to be given. The second idea I often hear regarding forgiveness is that when we are sinned against (or when we sin against another), the injured party should simply forget the incident and move on as if it didn't happen (the 'ol' forgive and forget' idea).

I don't particularly like either of these ideas regarding forgiveness. I believe the first makes us out to be perfect, as God is perfect, which is patently untrue. Every single one of us is a sinner and makes mistakes all the time. God's perfection is what required restitution, our imperfection does not. The second idea allows people to excuse behaviors that really cannot and should not be excused and sets up future repetition of those 'excused' behaviors.

For me the Christian idea of forgiveness has more to do with acknowledging the pain and hurt of an experience, letting go of the bitterness those experiences can bring, and moving forward in your life not tied to a particular injury or set of injurious experiences. Forgiveness for us, as human sinners who have already received mercy from our gracious God, is more about the individual.

Hanging on to our injuries only makes us bitter which is not good for us or anyone around us.

Imagine forgiveness as laying the sin/hurt/injury on the ground and stepping over it. You have not forgotten it, excused it, or required restitution for it. You have acknowledged it and made the choice to step over it and move on. You have chosen to lay it down, not bury it or drag it with you, and move forward into your future. By laying down a sin that was done against you and stepping over it, you choose to let it inform your future but not control it.

I don't know about you, but that is the kind of forgiveness that I want to work at in  my life.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, October 8, 2012

Hope Floats?

Hmmm, not sure about that one. Sometimes in this world that is fallen and filled with hopeLESSness, hope is more an effort of the will than an effect of emotion.

We throw the word around easily enough:
I hope I get what I asked for at Christmas.
I hope I make a good grade on the test.
I hope my car doesn't break down.
I hope she got my voicemail.

None of the ways we commonly use the word hope really embodies what it means, or should mean, to a Christian.

Christian HOPE is rooted in the knowledge of God's love for us. No matter where you look in the Bible, Old Testament or New, God has constantly found different avenues to show us how much he loves us. God searches after and romances us to his side despite the fact that we are fickle and turn away from him just as constantly as he searches for us.

When all else failed because of our stubborness and refusal to repent, God pulled out his trump card. He sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us. Jesus died a painful and lingering death, descended into Hell and, for a time, was completely and utterly separated from God the Father, so that we might be covered with grace by proxy and never have to experience such a separation.

We didn't do anything to deserve that merciful act and yet God did it for us because he loves us that much.

 [Jesus] presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
- Romans 5: 6-8 (The Message Translation)

That act is where our great HOPE as Christians comes from. Our hope is based on God's steadfast love for us, not in the fleeting opportunities and desires we find in the world. Christian HOPE doesn't change with the vagaries of culture, it isn't based in us and it doesn't depend on the outcomes in this world.

In order to appreciate this HOPE we need a paradigm shift. Instead of looking at the short-term goals of this world, we need to look at the long-term goals of God. Shifting our focus is an effort of will that helps us to grasp the HOPE of God for the eternal while working to fulfill God's plan for our lives in the temporal.

HOPE is real and available to all of us even in the midst of a fallen world filled with fallen people who have fallen relationships. HOPE is the knowledge that God has a plan for you that will bring about an excellent, eternal outcome no matter the earthly one.

Chesney Szaniszlo

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11


Monday, October 1, 2012

loosely held...

It really is pretty silly how worked up we (women and men) get about some things in this life - particularly our kids (and their choices), our careers, our finances, how we believe others perceive us, etc.   Take me for example. Last week there was one day that I just could NOT get my son to focus on his homework and I got ridiculously worked up. In my emotionally agitated state I started to worry not just about that particular homework assignment but all the future homework assignments and his future, in general. I globalized the problems of those moments to his entire future. No wonder the night was so hard and the assignment not getting done! That's a lot of pressure not only on my little boy but on me, as well!

Sometimes we think these 'emotional outbursts' are reserved for women but even if men present their emotions differently, they can get pretty worked up over issues with money, success, or respect, too.

In the moments that we are so incredibly worked up over these issues, the best thing we can do is to step back and remember that none of it belongs to us. It is all on loan from God. Everything we have in this life - our homes, our jobs, our bank account, our spouse, our kids - all of it is God's, not ours. We might be stewards of it, but in the end, it is God's name in the "owner" blank on the contract.

Remembering to hold the things of this life loosely is a good start to following God's will over our own. If we recognize whatever or whomever we are trying to control doesn't belong to us, we don't have to force our agenda anymore because we can recognize that God probably has a better plan than we do.

If we can practice loosely holding the gifts that God has put into our lives during the easy times, it will be a lot easier to get through the troubled times.

Trouble will doubt about that. Jesus himself tells the disciples at the end of the 16th chapter of the Book of John, " this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!"

Jesus isn't saying that we are going to coast through the trouble when it comes. He is telling us that when trouble comes to look for where he (God) is at work in it and through it. We are to hold the things of this life loosely because it allows room for God to work in and through us and the situations in which we find ourselves.

Hanging on too tightly to anything is a good way to choke the life out of something or someone. Whether it is controlling our kids' choices, refusing to share what we have with others, or putting too much stock in other humans' opinions of us (rather than God's) hanging on to the things of this world with a death grip will only lead to more sorrow. If we want to experience the true joy that God has for us in this life, we need to live life with a loose grip.

Chesney Szaniszlo

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21


Monday, September 24, 2012

Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy

I am very good, maybe too good, at creating lots of space in my life. If I get too busy, I tend to become anxious and short tempered. I will give the best of myself to people outside of my family and take the leftovers home to my husband and son. This is not, to say the least, ideal.

So I work at fencing my time. Apart from a few exceptions I don’t work nights or Saturdays (Sunday is hard to avoid since I’m a pastor) and I have no problem with saying ‘no’ to people who ask for my time.

I don’t sign up my son for more than two (one is the norm) activities at a time and I keep our weekends reserved for family.

As my son gets older I know I may not always be able to draw the boundary lines as firmly as I do now, but I suspect I will always be good at fencing my personal time.

All these things should put me in a prime spot in my life to listen for and hear God’s voice - to keep a single day out of the seven in a week to observe in some way God’s direction for us to rest. Yet, even in my 'underscheduled' life, I find it remarkably easy to do busy work all 7 days and not spend time listening to God. Sometimes it's as if I turn on the white noise in my head simply because I don't want to have to listen to what he’s telling me.

Creating a 'Sabbath' (or a holy space) in your life does require time, but it also requires a willing spirit. You could have all the time in the world but if you don't have a desire to hear God’s voice the time factor doesn’t matter.

All of us, no matter how busy or empty our schedules are, need to find space in our lives for rest, renewal and to hear God’s voice. It's important.

It's so important that God commands us to do it. We are to 'keep the Sabbath holy'. That phrase means a lot of different things to different people but today I am using it simply as the idea that we need to make some sacred space in our lives. we need to stop: stop working, stop achieving, stop talking, stop directing. We need to listen: to God, our families, ourselves. We need to be open: to new directions, to being wrong (or right), to being uncertain, to simply waiting.

If we really and truly stop doing, start listening, and allow ourselves to be open to God's guidance that sense of peace and fulfillment that we spend out days chasing will just suddenly show up when we least expect it.

Chesney Szaniszlo

Be still and know that I am God....
-Psalm 46:10


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How tight are you clutching the steering wheel?

If life was a car that I was driving, I would probably be a white-knuckled driver. I like to think that I am in total control of everything that even brushes against my 'sphere of influence' and because of this, I have lived out most of my 38 years (yes, I had diagnosable anxiety as a 3rd grader) in a state of almost constant alert.

I have this constant lie running through my head that by living this way, I am going to prevent bad things from happening and that I will be able to prevent pain and suffering from touching myself or my family.

What a crock!

I am not advocating living capriciously but I am saying that we can do our best but in the end unexpected and sometimes tragic events will take place in our lives. We can be meticulous about safety for ourselves and our own families but we can't control other people. At some point, everyone we love WILL die. Illnesses will take hold. Accidents will happen. Other people will be rude and unkind to us or our kids.

In this life, maybe we should be working to build up our children's and our resiliency. Maybe instead of trying to prevent things from happening to us and our loved ones, we should be learning how to deal with life when it happens - because no matter what we do to stop it or slow it down LIFE WILL HAPPEN.

It seems to me that God is a big part of this ability to be resilient. God is in control, not us. God knows the future and how things will come together, not us. God loves us and our children more than we do ourselves.  In Matthew, chapter 7:9-11 , Jesus tells the people, Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The most freeing times in my life have been when the worst case scenario has taken place or when I am at my wits end and can't make anything happen on my own power. It is in these situations that I finally throw my hands up and give God what he has been asking for - control of my life.

If I think I'm driving through life alone and something happens - a flat tire, empty gas tank, a smoke filled engine - I am terrified. When I allow myself to go for the ride down the road of life with God driving, I can actually enjoy the road trip - even if there's a flat tire or a breakdown because I trust HIM to take care of me and the situation. When I am not backseat driving or taking control of the wheel,  my life is so much more peaceful because I am not trying to MAKE things happen on my own; I am letting someone who knows the maps and roads of my life better than anyone be in charge - GOD.

This is not easy for anyone - particularly for those of us who like to be in charge. My entire life has been filled with the struggle to give the steering will of my life back to God. This might be the work God is calling you to begin today, too.

Putting ourselves under God's authority and control is the most important work in a Christian's discipleship journey - it is also probably the most difficult and the one that will never be fully completed until our birth into the eternal.

If you are white-knuckled driving today, let go and let God take over. The road might not be the one you wanted but with God driving you will make it to the end of the journey.

Chesney Szaniszlo

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
-Zephaniah 3:17


Monday, September 10, 2012

What if we focused less on ourselves...

It's pretty easy to look at the people around us and wish we were more like them. Some of us want the bigger house (or better decorated one). Some of us want to be the size of our neighbor or have their perfect clothes, their perfectly well-behaved children, or their perfect, indulgent spouse. Some of us focus on our failings and how others are smarter, healthier, more patient, more wise, more anything...than us.

Some of us walk around thinking we are awesome, that we are better than others either because we have more money, a better education, a better job, God on our side or a better whatever than those around us.

I've been on both sides of this fence. I've spent a lot of my life feeling that I don't measure up and yet at the same time I have taken a wierd sense of pride in being a part of the minority opinion or group of outcasts. I remember being part of a group in seminary that a friend named "the beautiful people" and feeling torn because I liked the feeling of being part of the "in" crowd for the first time but also feeling ashamed for those same feelings.

We hear a lot today about 'us' and 'them': the rich and the poor, Republicans and Democrats, legals and illegals. Within our own communities we even break ourselves into groups: families who do private school and families who do public, Christian and non-Christian, homes with luxury bathrooms and kitchens and homes with 'normal' facilities.

No matter which group you find yourself in, there are usually pros and cons to belonging beginning with a strange mixture of pride and shame.

The point of all this is that when we get right down to it, most of us spend about 99% of our time thinking about ourselves. This is a pretty unbiblical position to find ourselves in and yet we tend to live most of our lives in this self-centered place of how "I" compare to the rest of the world.

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?

When we only look at our peers or the people "ahead" of us, we will always find ourselves lacking and continue to focus on 'catching up'. If we focus on those who Jesus tells us to minister to, those who are "behind" us in wealth, faith, education, or ability, then our focus on ourselves will diminish as we step off the treadmill of the suburban race - the race that makes us run faster but never really gets us anywhere.

Chesney Szaniszlo

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  - Luke 14: 12-14


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What the world needs now is....

Love, sweet love?
Economic Security?
Food for the hungry?
Shelter for the homeless?

We need all of the above, but I have to say that I think really what the world needs more of is Jesus Christ. Even those of us who proclaim ourselves to be Christians, aren't necessarily proclaiming Jesus to the world. What we tend to proclaim more is judgement: what people should and shouldn't be doing out there in the big wide world. What's even more interesting is that for the most part, as Christians, we tend to be telling non-Christians how they should be living instead of making sure that we are living the way Jesus told us to live.

There's a song by Casting Crowns called "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" which, if you listen to any contemporary Christian radio station, you have most likely heard. There is a line in that song that resonates deeply within me that states:

Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded.
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did.

Now, I am not saying that as Christians we aren't supposed to work hard to be holy and live under the Authority of Scripture. We are supposed to do this! But as Christians we are supposed to be worrying about ourselves more than others.   Instead of focusing first on what we are doing wrong (both as individuals and corporately as a Church), I look around our world and I see us (Christians) focusing more often on what other people are doing wrong.

I wonder what our world could look like if we took all the effort we spend on telling others how they are doing it wrong and focused on doing what Jesus called us to do. If instead of complaining about how others are messing up our world, what if we focused on what we can do to save it simply by being the people Jesus wants us to be.

Here are some things, as Christians, we should keep in mind as we go about our daily lives:

-“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? -Matthew 5:43-47

-Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets - Matthew 7:12

- “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. - Mark 8:34-38

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, August 20, 2012

You are What you Think 3 - God's in charge

As children, we believe that God has 'the whole world in his hands' and we trust God loves us and will take care of us. We believe this because we are taught it by people we trust. As grown-ups, we tend to not be so sure of these same premises. Yet when we have our own children, we go ahead and teach them that God has the whole world in his hands even if we don't quite believe it ourselves.

Our grown up way of thinking complicates things. If something good happens, we either don't give God credit for it or assume we did something to deserve it. When something bad happens, however, God is the first person who's door we knock on to complain. As grown ups, we aren't very consistent or very theological about the way we think of events in our lives and in the world.

Scripture is very clear that God is in charge and that God will do what he will do. He is not capricious nor is he vindictive. God is GOOD and knows the outcome of everything before it happens. What God ordains might not seem 'good' to us, but we have to trust that He knows what he is doing. Just as the disciples couldn't fathom how Jesus dying on a cross was a good thing, we know in retrospect that it was the greatest gift God gave to us.

We also have to admit that God isn't responsible for every bad thing happening to us. We are humans who are fallen, along with creation, and have a propensity to choose evil over good. Sometimes God intervenes and saves us from the consequences of our sinfulness and sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He chooses to walk with us through the pain that this life often brings. God has already saved us once and for all time with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, to step in every time we sin and either prevent us from sinning or prevent the consequences of that sin, would not be good for two reasons: 1) To prevent us from sinning would be to take away the free will that God gifted humanity with 2) to step in and protect us from the consequences of our sins every time we decide against God, would not be good parenting - at some point we have to learn from the consequences of our behavior and take responsibility for our actions.

Knowing that in our heads is one thing. Trusting it in our hearts is another.

Most of you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the traditional hymn "It is well with my soul." For most of my life I loved this hymn and then I found out the story behind it and I disliked it intensely for quite a while.

Horatio Spafford wrote the words to "It is well with my soul" on his way to bring his wife home after she survived a shipwreck which left their four daughters drowned in the sea. At the time I thought it unbelievably callous that this man could write a song that no matter what happened to him he trusted God and would praise Him in any circumstance. It seemed to me that he was ignoring the fact that his four daughters had all just died in very tragic, and most likely terrifying, way.

Praising God in all circumstances is directed by scripture (Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), but I knew that if I had been in Horatio's shoes, I would not have been thinking such praiseworthy thoughts. 

While scripture also gives room for us to be angry with God, we always have to keep in mind that no matter what happens in this life and world, God is in charge and God knows what he is doing. Our human emotions will go up and down regarding that Truth, but the Truth remains the same.

In the years that have passed since I first discovered the history of Horatio's hymn, I have grown to love it again. I now recognize Horatio's words as those of someone with great faith in the goodness and omnipotence of God, not someone who didn't care about his daughters.

Our emotions are wonderful things, but they can also lead us away from the truth that God is in charge of his whole creation and that no matter what events take place, God is aware of them, has allowed them or caused them, and will work them out for the good of those who love him.

Whether we feel it or not in the moment, the bible tells us (and the Bible is always true) that God does, indeed, have the whole world in his hands.

Chesney Szaniszlo

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28


Monday, August 13, 2012

You are what you think #2 - God as a human

Have you ever taken the time to think about the wierdness and mystery involved in the Christian belief that God became human (or incarnated if you want to use the theological term)? And that while God was walking around in the human form of Jesus, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were also present and fully accounted for at the same time (the Trinity)?

If I think about either of these ideas too much, I start to feel like my head is going to explode. When I was a child my father explained the Trinity to me with the example of a pot of boiling into which you threw some ice cubes. It had three forms of water (liquid, solid, gas) all at the same time. It was not perfect but it was pretty good comparison for a 13 year old. Later, I had more sophisticated questions - similar to the ones the leaders of the early church wrestled with as the first creeds of the Church were written and agreed upon as truth and correct doctrine. Questions such as "how was Jesus God"? Was Jesus really just God in a human skin suit (sort of like when your kids dress up at Halloween)? Or was Jesus simply a human who God chose to work through in very powerful ways?

The early Church, using the Scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles agreed that the only way Jesus could have been truly God and yet still a human was to be fully both - the outcome of the incar
inational mystery that we cannot really understand yet believe because of Faith.

(Remember last week I stated that if you don't believe the Scriptures are truly the word of God and a real witness to His work in our world, then you can't believe any of the other Christian beliefs because they all rest on the belief that the Bible is truth.)

Breaking down the doctrine of the incarnation and the Trinity won't really get you anywhere except back to the understanding that you have to take them on faith. What looking at these two ideas will do for the Christ follower is show him/her how much God truly loves those He has created. Except for God loving us with a love that is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can ever understand, there is no reason for Him to have become incarnated only to die on a cross that we might have salvation and forgiveness. Except for God being three - in - one, there is no way for us to have understood His sacrficial love through the life and death of Jesus or to be guided by his Holy Spirit on a daily basis.

The Christian faith is not simple because it doesn't come from our human minds. It is not a religion that we make up as we go along. We do not worship a god that we created from clay or gold and can control by making 'deals' with it. We worship a God who is far beyond our understanding and our control - and yet we worship a God who has made it very clear to us that He loves us beyond anything we can understand or reason out.

We might not be able to rationally make sense of the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation or the Trinity - but God has made sure (through his scriptures, the life of Jesus Christ, and the movement of the Holy Spirit) that we can understand that he loves us. This love is the knowledge that we need to come away with from these two ideas.

Chesney Szaniszlo

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  - Ephesians 3 16-19


Monday, August 6, 2012

You are What You Think - 1

The topic of what it means when we say the Bible is the word of God sounds really boring and irrelevant. But it’s not. It’s actually the most important tenant of Christianity. If you don’t believe the Bible is in fact a real and valid witness to God and his action in the world, then any other Christian ‘belief’ falls by the wayside because the Bible is the primary witness to God’s love and work in the world on our behalf. If you do not believe it to be true, how can you believe any other part of Christianity?

The belief that the Bible is true should influence everything that a believer says and does. Believing that we are under the authority of Scripture (meaning that it is the guide that directs our lives once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior) sets us apart from non-believers. When, as Christians, we begin to pick and choose the parts of scripture that are easy for us to follow and reject those parts that cause us to be conscious of our sin, the differences that set believers apart from non-believers begin to blur. 

As Christians we are to be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)  These, as you will probably notice, are not things that the world is filled with. We don’t just start exhibiting these traits once we become Christians. It takes discipline and hard work to cultivate these characteristics. (Every time I recite that list I always leave out at least one – usually the one(s) I am currently struggling with the most. Today, for your information, it was gentleness!)

One of the main ways we do the hard work of cultivating the fruit of the Spirit is by immersing ourselves in the word of God – the Scriptures that we agree to be under the authority of when we become Christians.

I know that I am not always a daily reader of Scripture so I know that for most people, it is probably also difficult. We are so busy with everything else that needs to get done on our ‘to do’ list that God often gets shoved to the back burner because we know he will always be there waiting for us.

We need to read Scripture though. We need to read Scripture alone and with our spouse, our families, with our kids even after they outgrow the Rhyme Bible and move on to the latest offerings of pop-culture because it reminds us who we are in Christ. It reminds us that once we accept Jesus we are people who are in the world but not of it, “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:8-9)

We need to read Scripture because it is the story of God’s love for us and how he has worked in his creation to redeem us even though we reject(ed) him. We need to read Scripture because we have agreed to live according to its dictates and if we don’t read it, it is easy to forget that we are ambassadors for the one we call “Lord”.

Chesney Szaniszlo

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  - Timothy 3:16-17


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cracked Pots

I have always known I am a 'cracked pot' (play on crack-pot, if you didn't get it :)) and I have never liked it. It messes with my sinful desire to be perfect in all that I do and am. As I have failed daily at my misguided goal of perfection, I realize more and more that my reliance needs to be on Jesus and not myself.

As I have gotten closer to the mid-line of my life, I am learning to rest in my brokenness. (for my family as you read this - the emphasis is on learning.)

I am thankful that Jesus loves me despite everything and takes my cracks and breaks and shows himself through them to me and hopefully to the others in my life.

In our world, I think the hardest thing to accept and show publicly is our brokenness. We all want to hide those dark places from others, even those closest to us. By covering them up and hiding them though, we only make those cracks and shadowed places bigger.

Whether it is the lure of perfection, the false excitement of pornography (some of which is now called "mommy porn"), or the need to acquire bigger and better toys in an effort to fill our empty places, we all get disoriented and more lost the longer we deny our need for God. If we continue to search for what will fill us up in the world, then we will never be full.

The Apostle Paul tells his fellow believers in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 to not hide their brokeness from the world but rather to have it out in the open so that people can see God's work in us despite our sinfulness. He writes:

"Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

4If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.
5-6Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
7-12If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!
13-15We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe.

We show our brokeness to the world so that the world can see how our God redeems it and works through us. We say what we believe about our God rather than denying Him to appease the world. We accept that we might look foolish to the world, but we disregard it because we are saved by that 'foolishness'.

We are all cracked pots, but when we let the light of God shine into the cracks, we become beautiful vessels of light that shine with hope and healing to the world.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, July 23, 2012

On a Mission From God: Whose Fool are You?

D.L. Moody was a famous Christian evangelist who used to walk around Chicago in the late 19th century wearing a sandwich board that stated on the front "I am a fool for Christ". On the back it stated, "Whose fool are you?"

One of the primary reasons Christians don't evangelize is because doing so in our multi-cultural, super-rational, "free to be me" society, makes us feel that we look foolish. We worry more about what we will look like to others and less that we have a message that can bring hope and healing to those around us.

I am guilty of this myself. As a Presbyterian pastor, I value education, intellect, and questioning authority. Sometimes I don't open my mouth to share the hope of salvation with others because I worry that some people might think I am a fool for believing in a God that I can't prove empirically.

It is this thought pattern that really makes me foolish. If I put the opinions of the world ahead of the opinion of God, then I am indeed a fool. If I am going to be a fool for anyone - and in the end all of us will be - I would rather be a "fool" for the God that created me, knows me and loves me anyway...even when I am a fool for the world instead of for Him.

When I am a fool for God, I am not foolish as the world defines it, meaning absurd or stupid, but completely and utterly dependent on the one who has saved me from myself.

When we can allow ourselves to be utterly dependent on the one who WAS and IS and IS TO COME, then we will be able to open ourselves to share His grace with a broken and hurting world. Sometimes these moments last only a few minutes or hours, sometimes a few days, but those few moments allow us to trust and rely on Him more as time passes and care less and less about how we stack up in this world.

God, help me to be a fool for you rather than a foolish slave to the demi-gods we have created to take your place. Help me to rely on your guidance, rather than my own and to open my mouth and let your words pour forth. Help me to be used by YOU - an instrument to bring grace and peace rather than greed and corruption. Help me to battle the desires that lead me away from You and bring me to the place where my need to control and contrive disappear.

If you claim to be a disciple of Jesus, then this is our 'work': To reduce ourselves in order to increase Him. In doing so we will fulfill the mission that we have been given - to go forth, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and by doing so, make new disciples.

Chesney Szaniszlo

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? '- 1 Corinthians 1:18-20


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On a Mission from God - Part 3

We can't tell others about Jesus unless we really know His story ourselves. Unless we really understand the depth of God's love for us, His creations, we cannot be ambassadors for Him. God knew that we would turn away from him and abandon Him time and again, and  yet He still chose to create us in His image, love us eternally, and save us from our own brokenness and sin. How many of us can honestly say we would be willing to remain faithful to someone who was constantly unfaithful to us?

Once we truly understand this story of God's love for us, it becomes much harder for us to sit in judgement of others, to turn away from others in need, and to elevate ourselves above those around us. Once we truly understand that in the face of the glory and holiness of God, we are all depraved and terribly broken, it becomes much easier for us to accept the love of God and share it with others. The love that God gives to us and which we can reflect to the world is patient and kind. "It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Once we become disciples of Jesus, we all begin a mission for God. Part of that mission is to truly come to understand how God's story of salvation and our story intersect and become the same mission.

These missions that we begin will not be accomplished in our lifetime. They are lifelong commitments to wake up and do our best on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. We will fail and have to start again - often. But God will pick us up, dust us off, and send us back on our way with His grace, mercy, and love.

Chesney Szaniszlo

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.    - Romans 1:16


Monday, July 9, 2012

On a mission from God...continued

I took last week off from writing since my family had a "staycation" in Austin and I kept remembering that I needed to write the blog around midnight each night. So, this week, I am going to sort of double up on the last two sermon topics revolving around our series on evangelism.

The whole premise of this series rests on you accepting that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be missional. Part of being a disciple is that you agree to live under the authority of Scripture. In scripture, Jesus commanded us to go and "make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:20) This is for our benefit (because it helps us to live out our committment to the gospel and follow the commands of our savior) and the benefit of those who share this world with us and were also created by our God. The good news of redemption, salvation, and grace is what brings HOPE into this world. There is no other world religion that has this same HOPE.

That hope gives those of us who follow Christ a certain outlook on life and if we allow God to work through us, we can reflect His light to a world that is filled with brokeness. Simply having a different outlook on the painful things of life, making choices that quietly share your faith with your friends and family, and letting love rule your actions is the beginnings of being missional.

You don't have to insert "Jesus Saves" into every sentence you utter. You don't have to list the 5 main points of Christianity. You don't have to (and Definitely shouldn't) go around making judgements on the people around you. All of these are things that many non-Christians expect from those of us who are Christ-followers. All you have to do is work on you, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and be ready for the opportunities that God gives you.

He might give you an opportunity to talk about your faith in a dialogue with people you already know. He might give you an opportunity to show grace and mercy to someone who expects judgement and condemnation. He might give you the opportunity to show extreme patience with your own family.

Many  people think that being a Christian means you have to follow a check-list of rules - many of which Christians list out and then fail to follow themselves: it's why non-Christians think we are hypocrites. It is OK to agree with other people that Christians are broken and in need of grace, too - because we are and we do. It is definitely OK to have a conversation about what another person believes versus what you believe without leading them through the whole plan of salvation as laid out in scripture. It is OK to confess that being a disciple of Jesus is difficult...but so is anything else that is worthwhile in this world. Allowing our creator to mold us and re-make us into His image, rather than the image of a fallen world, can be painful but it is also one of the few things in this world that is truly joyful and hope-filled. It is that belief that we want to communicate - that being a disciple of Christ changes us for the better and gives us hope, joy, peace, love and strength to make it through each day. That is the real testimony that each of us can give to the world on an individual basis. We don't have to save the world - Jesus already did that. We just have to share through our own story, how he has met us as individuals.

Chesney Szaniszlo

'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'  - Romans 10:13-15


Monday, June 25, 2012

You are on a mission from God! Part 1

All Christians are on a mission whether you know it or not. During this next sermon series we will be exploring what this means, why we should accept this mission, and how we are to be missional people.

For this week, I want us all to begin thinking about the biblical mandate given to all Christians by Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples, "... When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Being missional seems like a daunting task because when we think of the word "mission" in the Christian sense of the word and we think we have to go to Africa to follow God's call on our life. For some people, this is their mission, but for most of us it's not. 

Part of learning to be missional is figuring out what God is calling you, personally, to do for Him in this world. 

God will give you mission, but you have to be open to hearing and accepting it.

This week, pray that you will be open to God's voice and direction in your life.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, June 18, 2012

Wired - Abraham, the father of many

Abraham was that famous Biblical figure who was the father of the nation of Israel. Do you remember the song, "Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you...." ? Every time I hear the name "Abraham", that song starts up in my head and I have a terrible time getting it out!

Abraham did all sorts of things and had all sorts of adventures with God and his family but is probably most famous for being willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac at God's request. Isaac, was the long awaited child of the promise - the only child born to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. When God tests Abraham's faith by telling him to take his only son to the top of the mountain and sacrifice him as an offering, Abraham does so. At the last minute, the angel of God stays Abraham's hand and God provides a ram in the thicket as an alternate sacrifice.

It is an interesting dilemma - following God faithfully to the point of obeying an order that goes against everything you know about God. Or refusing to follow God because you don't understand where He is taking you. Yet when Abraham followed this horrible command, God was faithful to Abraham, just as Abraham had been faithful to God.

What does it mean to be a "good" Dad? No one is perfect and no one can get it right all the time. Dad's (and Mom's) are going to mess up. But if God is put first in your life, the rest will follow. If you are faithful to God, following His commands and asking for wisdom from Him, God will be faithful to you and your family.The promises of God might take longer than you would like to come to fruition, just as Abraham and Sarah waited years and years for the son God had promised them, but God will always be faithful.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, June 11, 2012

Wired! Are you a David?

Are you the person who loves to have liturgical dance incorporated into worship? Is going to a museum or a concert a spiritual experience for you?

Do you feel God's presence and direction most clearly in your life when you are writing, painting or singing?

If so, you are wired like King David in the Old Testament. We can thank David for the book of Psalms. Poems and songs written to God which cover the gamut of human experience and emotion: joy, sorrow, life, death, shame/confession and thankfulness. David was no stranger to strong emotions and he wrote out his prayers to God in song.

Most people who are wired like David are going to be passionate. They will have very strong emotions and give their actions 110% - no matter what the consequence of those actions might be.

If you are like King David, you might need to recognize that you can be a little dramatic and over-reactive. This is not necessarily bad - it just is. Recognizing these characteristics can, however, help you in dealing with others who are not wired to be as passionate as yourself.

In order to really connect with God, it is important for you to set time aside to be creative. Whatever medium you choose (art, song, dance, writing, etc) it is important for you to have this way to communicate your feelings to God.

Chesney Szaniszlo

 I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.  Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. -Psalm 30:1-3


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wired - Are you a 'Solomon'?

Solomon was a doer, an Achiever with a capital 'A'. It was his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.

When Solomon was given the opportunity to receive something from God, he asked for wisdom- something that pleased God very much. Solomon used the gift of wisdom to increase his own and Israel's power, wealth, and authority. This was great, until all of his success led him to put the things of this world - power, wealth, and prestige - above the things of God.

Solomon did great earthly things during his life but came to a sad end because he had lost his focus on God. It wasn't until he found himself humbled and broken that he realized his error. If you read through Ecclesiastes or Proverbs (books he wrote with an eye on God) you can see the gift of wisdom that he received from God. You can also see the influence of his own life and the mistakes he made in the advice and wisdom he recorded.

If you are achievement oriented, if you like to 'build' things (whether it be programs, businesses, or actual edifices), then you need to be mindful of not putting your earthly achievements before your relationship the God. People who are achievement oriented often lose sight of the eternal in favor of the immediate gratification of the temporal.

One thing you can do to combat this focus on worldly achievement is to have a person in your life who you are willing to be honest with and receive honest feedback from.  A second thing you can do is to keep your spiritual connection to God. Making time to pray, read scripture, and simply acknowledge yourself that the success in your life belongs to God and not you are crucial.

Our pride often separates us from God with very little action on our part. It is so subtle, we don't necessarily notice it happening. Our world places so much emphasis on success that it very easily replaces God in our lives and becomes its own god that we chase after.

Being an "achiever" or a "builder" is not a negative thing unless you forget who made you that way. If you have this tendency, remaining humble and giving God glory for your success is the best (not easy) way to remain in close connection to God.

Chesney Szaniszlo

"For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,  he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.
Thus you will walk in the ways of the just and keep to the paths of the righteous... For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it;
 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, nd the unfaithful will be torn from it."
- Proverbs 2:6-9; 20-22