Friday, October 24, 2008

Crazy Prayer

I like softball. Ok, I confess, I love softball. I love softball so much that sometimes I get in trouble for playing softball. A couple weeks ago I was at home preparing my wife’s favorite meal (steak) in anticipation of her arrival home after a long stressful day at work. I knew it was a stressful day for her because it was a Monday and everybody has stressful Mondays and in her business Mondays are the worst. Anyway, I’ve got the grill going with a nice juicy steak on it, just the right seasonings, anticipating her gratefulness at my being such a wonderful and thoughtful husband and then my phone rings. I answer my phone and on the other end of the line is an opportunity. Not a ministry opportunity but an opportunity to go and play two games of softball! This was an easy no-brainer for me to make the right decision… so I jerk my wife’s medium rare steak (she likes medium well) off the grill, grab my stuff and kiss my beautiful wife goodbye. I’m headed down the road to the ball field and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the knowledge that I’ve made the wrong decision. (Some of you are saying “Duh” right now and I have to warn you that it’s not very nice to call people an idiot.) At this point I’m overcommitted and if I don’t show up, then nine other people pay the penalty for my bad decision not to mention the one person at home who is already paying the price. I’m still not sure how to correctly handle this situation other than to not allow myself to get into a situation like this in the first place. Right or wrong, I went and played my two games and came home asking for forgiveness. The problem is that this wasn’t the first time I’ve let softball (or my desire to “play”) override my relationship with my wife. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about what drives me to love softball so much that I would drop everything for an opportunity to play. I just cannot get enough of that feeling of competition, the thrill of victory, the physical exertion, the drive to be better each time, the relationships and sometimes it just consumes me... but that is a lesson for another day.

I was playing in a softball tournament this past weekend when something interesting happened. God has blessed me with the gift of prayer and these tournaments are often filled with opportunities to use this gift to glorify him (I hope and pray). Before the first game, I was getting loosened up with the team and thinking about the day and the opportunities that lay ahead. I did not feel the stirring in my spirit with the desire to gather the team for prayer before the game. In the past, I probably would have forced myself into gathering the team and praying but I decided to let this one go and no one else brought it up. We won the first game but it was a bit of a struggle and we had to come from behind in the late innings to squeak by with a victory. As we were getting ready for our second contest of the day one of the guys on our team requested that we get together and pray. As I was preparing myself mentally to lead the team in prayer, another player on the team stepped up and began to pray. We proceeded to go out and get our second victory. As the day went on, the victories continued to come and I think we may have had another prayer or two but eventually we found ourselves preparing to play for the championship trophy. Once again, this player calls us all together to give praise and thanks to the Lord before our final game. His prayer began similar to the others that day but as he neared the end of the prayer he spoke these words “God, help us to annihilate the other team. I don’t like them very much. I know this isn’t right but I love you.” I have to be honest and say that this drew quite a few chuckles along with some raised eyebrows (mine) about the validity of this prayer and perhaps (shame on me) the quality of his relationship with Christ. As we took the field, there was some question as to whether God had heard or would respond to this prayer. I’ve learned through experience to be very careful with how I pray so I fully expected it would be us that got annihilated. Forty-five minutes later our team exits the softball field after what could only be described as a brutal beating or in the words of the prayer an annihilation of a pretty decent softball team. The guy who had prayed for us is overjoyed with our victory and proceeds to give out hugs and high fives like they were Halloween candy. In the end, some of us are gathered in the parking lot after the game, stowing our stuff and having a conversation about the day when this guys drives up and wants to take a picture of us with the trophy. After some urging, he allows his father to snap a picture of a few of us gathered around him as he held the trophy. He is simply ecstatic about the victory of the day and the talent of our ball team. He continues to thank us until his words are diminished to just tears and he slowly drives away. It’s only after he leaves the ball field that I discover the entire story behind his high emotions and his tears. It appears that the team that we beat in the final game was one that he had played with on a regular basis during the year. They had abandoned him and found a replacement to enter this tournament. It was he that paid the entry fee for our team to get into the tournament and he had initiated the gathering of our team to play together. He had even received a phone call just days before the tournament from a former teammate taunting him and saying that we wouldn’t show up and that we would never stoop to play with someone of his talent. Since that moment, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the words of this guy’s final prayer and the spirit behind it. It seems to me to contain some very basic elements that I normally use in my prayers. He started with thanks and praise, then he asked for an overwhelming victory over his enemies, followed by confession of his sin and acknowledgement that he was under the law of God’s love and grace for failing to love them as he should. Here is the crazy thing… I don’t know if his prayer was heard by God or not, answered by God or not but I know that this guy had a troubled spirit and that God knew before the beginning of time that he would come to that exact moment in time chained in the torment of his soul. I truly believe that God lead us into the path of this guys life so that when his soul was crying out for peace and reconciliation that he was able to experience the grace and mercy that is the love of Jesus Christ. Whether he recognizes that the love of Christ was what he was experiencing as those tears ran down his cheeks or not, God sent his Son to the Cross so that at that moment, His radical love would be laid before this man’s feet. He had only to reach out and grasp it to gain a victory that completely overwhelms the small victory gained on that softball field. I don’t know that God really cared about the outcome of that ball game or not but I do know from scripture that he is concerned about the state of our soul and his spirit will intercede on our behalf when we can’t find the right words.
I have ran a little long today and my time is growing short so let me wrap up by leaving you with a last word and some scripture. I don’t know if this guys prayer was appropriate or not, heard or not, answered or not, but I do know that his soul was in anguish and crying out for peace. I know from his tears God responded to his cry by giving him the opportunity to experience the everlasting love of Christ. He did this by placing people around him that were witnesses to the transforming power contained in the blood of Christ. I don’t know if he fully grasped where these tears along with a peace and stirring of his spirit was from but I know that the next time someone prayers for their enemies to be overcome and confesses that they should love them instead of how they truly feel; I’ll be more merciful in my judgment of their prayer. If I am judged by my words and actions alone and not through His Spirit, then I have much to be held accountable for.

Here are some scriptures that I came across during my time in study on this.

1 Kings 8:38-40 (New International Version)
38 and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel—each one aware of the afflictions of his own heart, and spreading out his hands toward this temple- 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers.

Psalm 86:11-17 (The Message) (A David Psalm)
11-17 Train me, GOD, to walk straight;
then I'll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord;
I've never kept secret what you're up to.
You've always been great toward me—what love!
You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads!
A gang of thugs is after me—
and they don't care a thing about you.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Make a show of how much you love me
so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed,
As you, GOD, gently and powerfully
put me back on my feet.

Luke 1:68-75
(New International Version)
68"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

a. Luke 1:69 Horn here symbolizes strength.

Romans 8:26 (The Message)
26-28Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Finally… I would ask that you not do as I did and hold me in judgment for the words written above. I could very well be way off base on this one and I’m willing to accept that in order to write what I feel in my spirit. I’ve also decided to leave the question of this prayer in the hands of God as only He knows the true spirit in a man’s heart and the reality of right and wrong in a man’s prayer. I am simply going to defer this one to scripture.

Isaiah 55:8
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (English Standard Version)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The American Dream

I don’t mean to sound so un-American all the time but it just seems like the closer I draw to Christ, the more difficult it is for me to accept some of the ideals that I’ve been taught. One of these ideals is what we call the American dream. While on the surface this dream looks like the greatest opportunity for a successful life that we have, I’ve found that the pursuit of this dream sometimes interferes with my pursuit of the Kingdom of God.

In my opinion, the American Dream has become an excuse to pursue "more" without conscience of how our pursuit affects those around us. It affects our family, friends, neighbors, the Church, our relationships, and much much more. I've never read anything about this "American Dream" in scripture. I have only to look at the lives of Christ, Paul and the other in the Bible to realize that what I've been promised by our "Government" was never guaranteed by my Savior.

I think that we sometimes twist scripture so that we can justify our pursuit of more. We take verses like John 10:10 and qualify our compulsion to gather more stuff when in reality the abundant life that Christ promised has nothing to do with worldly wealth. I like the way the message paraphrases this verse.

John 10:10 (The Message)
6-10Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Compare this to what comedian George Carlin said about abundance:

“Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table; everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”

The American dream has fostered the idea that we all need more stuff!

One thing I’ve discovered and over the last year is the fact that I am rich. I might not fit into “Americas” definition of rich because I don’t have enough stuff, but I am rich nonetheless. I am talking strictly about my monetary means. I’m not talking about an abundance of peace, joy, happiness, etc… I’m not making light of these things that Christ has given me but I also have great wealth compared to many others in this world. The American dream says that I should save, store and invest this wealth so that I can rise above the poverty that I see around me and by my rise to the top, I create opportunities for those around me to rise to the top also or at the very least, they can feed themselves with the crumbs that I have left over. The bible tells me the opposite. That I should go out and be among these people and “share my wealth” because my life is short and these things that I hang onto along with my own life will be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus never rose above anything other than the grave; instead he lowered himself so that everyone may have the same opportunity that he does. That is, he sacrificed all that he had so that whosoever would believe in him would not perish but have life everlasting. Through his sacrifice and his death we have an opportunity to experience life in a real and eternal way. This opportunity, this “dream” calls for us to sacrifice because at the core of this dream is Jesus and Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice that is incredibly and simply… love. Not money, things, family, friends, joy, happiness, wealth and prosperity but Love. The American dream says that if you want these things in your life, then you need to pursue wealth, prosperity and success. Jesus’ dream says the if you pursue a relationship with him and his kingdom, then you will not want for these things.

The american dreams states that I should get an education and earn infinite amounts of money so that I may gain great happiness and never want for anything. God's dream says that I go to college and out of my 20 dollar a week meal allowance, I use half to sponsor a child less fortunate than I am that I've never meet but have a burden in my heart for. (

The american dream says to use my talent and passion for basketball to pursue a multi-million dollar contract in the NBA. God’s dream says to use that talent and passion for basketball to start a ministry, at age 9, that would generate enough money to build a school and medical testing lab in Africa for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. (

The american dreams states that to rise above our servitude that we are to pursue the riches available to kings. God’s dream says that in order to be heirs in the kingdom we must first fall to our knees and wash the feet of those we love, even those who would later betray us. (The Bible - John 13)

The american dream is about personal success. God's dream is about personal sacrifice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


There are times when I struggle to feel the presence of God…
Before I get too much further let me clarify some things. My faith is intact, my salvation is assured, I love God more now than ever before and I am more certain of His love for me now more than ever. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, there are no other gods and there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus. I think my desire to know God in my life is greater than it has ever been. Still… there are times when I struggle to feel God’s presence. What is even more astounding is that I can see God’s fingerprint on so many things in my life, my marriage, my finances, my un-employment, my family, my conversations, my friends, my church, etc… So with the fingerprint of God all over my life why do I sometimes struggle to feel his presence? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because many times you will hear about “Christians” losing their fire. The last thing I want to do is “lose my fire” for God because this is essentially saying that I don’t love or desire God as much as I once did. That is just not true, I still love God, even more now than ever, still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence. I thought that maybe it’s because I’m not in “His Word” as much as I used to be. Well, I’ve examined my study time and while it is lacking and could definitely use some improvement, I actually think it’s better than it’s ever been. I’m in constant meditation on the scriptures, even walking around at times giving sermons or writing about God in my mind. Still… sometimes I struggle to feel his presence.
I think about Moses coming down from the mountain after basking in the presence of God, having to place a veil over his face. Then there is the transfiguration where Peter, James and John were in the unveiled presence of Christ in all His glory. I reflect on Paul and Silas sitting in a jail cell, praying and singing hymns until the jailer comes in and begs to be saved and then takes them to his home to be baptized with his family. What a great moment that must have been, how they must have been filled with the presence of God! I wonder what it was like for them the next day, the next week, the next month. I realize that life or more accurately that this world is filled with many ups and downs. We make visits to the mountain top and journeys through the valleys. Thus is the pattern of the world. Is it the same with being in the presence of my Savior? I don’t think so…
Romans 12:2 says to no longer conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come. There are too many scriptures that speak about what happens when we become followers of Christ to make a single moment outside of the presence of God acceptable to me. If I am to believe that Galations 2:20 is true, that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, then I have to believe that I am only alive in the presence of Christ. So… why do I still struggle to feel the presence of God in my life? I believe it has to do with patterns of the world and the fact that sometimes I just don’t get it.
Romans 12:2 talks about these patterns that we can sometimes fall into. Let’s look at this scripture a little differently for a moment “if we conform to the patterns of this world, then we will not be transformed and therefore we will not be able to determine the will of God in our lives. We read this scripture and determine not to fall into this worldly pattern so we begin to emulate what we think a Christian life should look like. The problem is that the example that we look to emulate is other Christians. We see those who we judge to be more spiritually mature than ourselves and began to act like them. We see those we judge to be less spiritually mature than us and make sure we don’t act like them. Then we get to the point where we think/look like those who are more spiritually mature than we once were and we begin to expect those that are less spiritually mature than us to act more like us! We see others stand and raise their hands during praise and worship and we think how godly they must be so we stand and raise our hands. Once we are standing and raising our hands, we look around and down at those who aren’t standing and feel sorry that their personal relationship with Christ isn’t what ours (those who are collectively standing with arms raised) is. We fall into a pattern of how we seat ourselves during the service. We like to sit near those who are more spiritually mature. If we sit towards the front then we must be more spiritually mature than those sitting in the rear. We like to do things the way they’ve always been done. We expect a certain order to our worship. We continue to usher because it’s what we’ve always done. We serve because it’s what others expect of us. We bow our heads in prayer because it’s what everyone else does. We go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other day the church is open because if we don’t, then we may be thought less spiritually mature than we think we are. Our prayer life becomes stale when we fall into a pattern of continually asking for God to bless us as we go through these repetitive motions. Our emotions take on the appearance of what others expect them to be as Christians. We meet tragedy in people’s lives with a fake smile and a word about God’s plan or God’s will. We’ve forgotten that to love means to be broken when others are broken, to hurt when they hurt, to laugh when they laugh. We think that living a Christ like life means to be blessed financially and to never struggle with sin, persecution or the darkness that sometimes exist in this world. We think that struggling with money or being tempted by sin means something must be wrong with our relationship with Christ. We fall into patterns because of the way that we think others judge us or the way that we judge those around us. I believe these patterns separate us from the presence of God because we act based on expectations rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. We raise our hands in worship because of how it makes us look instead of how it makes us feel. We don’t realize that by sitting somewhere else, we might meet someone whom is seeking a friend or better yet, that God is sending someone to be our friend. We forget that a simple prayer for life change opened the door to a relationship that allows us to have a conversation which includes listening as well as speaking. We don’t realize that rather than quoting Christian clichés for life, maybe someone who is hurting, just needs to hear the words “I love you”. Our lives begin to look like the lives of the other Christians that we surround ourselves with. We long to fit in and be accepted and praised for who we show others we are. Somewhere in all of this seeking to be like those we revere, we lose ourselves and forget to be who God created us to be. We become creatures of habit instead of children of discovery. We forget that a relationship with Christ is a journey of discovery and growth towards who God created us to be. We are children of God and it is his praise that we should seek and sometimes we are going to look different, not only from the world but from each other.
Shortly after warning us about the patterns of the world (Rom 12:2), scripture tells us about the uniqueness with which each one of us were created. If we are all so unique, why do we try so hard to look like one another or worse yet, expect others to look like us? I struggle sometimes feeling the presence of God… but I am never more alive in His presence than when I am being who God created me to be.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kids! sorta....

I only have a moment but I wanted to capture this thought before it escaped my feeble mind forever.

My wife and I don't have kids (someday?) but we do have animals. I guess that since we don't have children, that we probably spoil our animals a little more than we should but... anyhow... I've been doing some house work today and as I was washing the last of the dishes (sorry ladies but I'm already taken :) I noticed that our 7-8 month old puppy was very quiet and nowhere in site. I walked quietly and slowly into our bedrom and I could see her lying on the bed and chewing on something just out of my sight. As I continued to sneak around the corner of the bed, I see that she is chewing on a compact umbrella that I had tossed in there to put up later. Just as I see the umbrella, Nikki spots me, stops chewing and slowly lets the umbrella drop from her mouth to the floor and then looks at me as if to say "What? I wasn't doing anything!" I picked up the umbrella, gave my best stern look of correction and went back into the kitchen. As I was laughing to myself at her slyness and best attempt to look not guilty I thought of this phrase "Capture the pleasure in the moment".

James 4:14
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Life is short, enjoy each moment. That umbrella can be replaced, but the memory of that moment and look of innocence can never be repeated.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Same Kind of Different as Me

I just finished reading this today. The "Same kind of different as me" is a story of three people whose lives are changed when one lady has the courage to follow the path that God set before us. Many times we sit back thinking that our actions have very little affect on the world around us, but this book drives home the point that one person with the courage to follow God, can change the world.

"the truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain't no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless... just workin our way toward home." - Denver Moore

Friday, September 12, 2008

Got Gas?

Over at my wife’s blog this morning, she posted about the big scare that Ike is having on oil prices. The cool thing is that both she and I agree on how to effectively battle the cost of rising gas prices. It’s a very simple idea that I hope catches on and it can be summed up using two words; Use Less! When I saw the Yahoo headline this morning about 5 dollars a gallon for gas, my first thought was not about running out to fill up while I can but rather what can I do to use less gas. Gas has been a “sore” subject in my family for quite some time. From my wife wanting to implement the “envelope” method for our gas spending to how much I spend on gas going to different ball games throughout the week and on weekends while I’m un-employed. (sorry for airing our dirty laundry, babe :} ) I have to agree with her on this though, the greatest affect that we can have on gas prices is to consume less. The reality of this is that consuming less actually goes beyond driving down prices for me. It’s also about being a better steward of what God has given me. It’s that by consuming less of what God has given me, I can give more. We are all consumers of many different things. Things that maybe we don’t always realize or think about like; clothes, gas, time, blessings, money, emotions, energy, water, trees, land, oxygen, etc… I think the struggle between my wife and I stems from the fact that I can be considered a super-consumer! I love to spend, use and discard all kinds of things. It’s a little unusual because I’m a man who loves to shop and not just shop but also buy, but if I can’t buy then I will still shop and dream about what to buy! Nothing makes me happier than buying the latest gadget, toy or sporting good. I constantly want an inexhaustible list of stuff. At this very moment here is a short list of some things I “need”: Mizuno 9 Spike Blast Turf shoes (I’m going to die if I don’t get these soon!), softball bat, batting practice balls, Brian “Head” Welch’s new CD, fishing license, tequila shad colored fishing worms, bullet weights, new batting gloves, miter saw, new headphones for my MP3 player (nice ones, not the cheap walmart kind ;), Xbox games, “It” by Craig Groeschel, some books by Charles Martin, a hundred other books and a new fishing rod and reel. That is the short list! Oh! I forgot to mention a boat, canoe or kayak. They had this great inflatable, hard bottom boat at SamsClub yesterday that normally sells for $200 that was marked down to $68. I actually called Sherlyn to see if I could guage her reaction if I were to purchase the boat but she didn't answer so I wasn't brave enough to buy it. ;) Then there are the shorts I saw at Dick’s Sporting goods this weekend on sale for just $14 and some new underarmour shirts. On second thought I might be what you call a Mega-Super-Consumer. I love my wife and we’ve been together for almost 14 years but I just realized yesterday how tired she must become of constantly hearing about all the things I want. (Sorry again Babe!)
I really began to examine my Mega-Super-consumer attitude a couple months ago during a Craig Groeschel sermon series called “How to be Rich”. He talks about how we are rich, we just consume all of what God has given us. I began to look at this in my life and my marriage, not only how we do this with our money but how we consume other things like time, relationships and emotions to the point where we are left with nothing to give. By now, I bet you are asking, what does all this have to do with Gas prices. Well… I’m not really sure but maybe if I wanted less and consumed less and shopped less I would learn to share resources with others. I could do things like carpool, shop in groups, buy in bulk and share with others, share groceries to keep others from having to go to the grocery store. Stay at home and sit down at the table to share a meal with my wife. Turn the TV off and talk or read, maybe even pick up my bible. If I were to shop less, then I might have more time to fellowship with friends. I would still have to use gas but in the long run, I would spend less and consume less. (Petroleum is used to produce and ship many of the products that we consume). I think this will have a greater long term effect on not only gas prices but our lives and the earth that God created. I guess my biggest conviction through all this meditation on my mega-super-consumerism is am I being a good steward of all that God has given me.

Genesis 1:26-31 (New International Version)
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Floor!

My wife and I are living in constant amazement at what God can do when you rely on Him. I cannot express enough to you what a blessing our lives have become. We were living pretty tight as far as our budget goes when I got laid off in May. I was the primary bread winner when it came to our income and we weren’t too far removed from living paycheck to paycheck. When I lost my job, our income was reduced by roughly 65%. You would think that for a family on a tight budget that this would be a disaster, but for us it has been a blessing. I am positive that this is only possible through the glory of God and obedience. Through others loving obedience and our obedience to Him and through His faithfulness to His promises, my wife and I have experienced miracle after miracle in our lives.

Malachi 3:10 (NLT): Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

This floor is just one example. My wife’s desire for many months leading up to the lay off in May was for us to get to a point where she could stay at home and take care of the house. Through a lot of prayer and discussion, she accepted a promotion at work about a month before I was laid off. This promotion has been very stressful as she has not only had to learn a new position with added responsibilities but she’s also been responsible for the transition from a family owned medical practice to a corporate owned practice. She’s been working long hard hours at work and coming home exhausted in the evenings. I’ve probably not helped things very much because of my affliction; couchpotatoidess (see tagged part 1 sec 3) so when we came home to a chewed up kitchen floor, you can imagine her dismay. It also didn’t help that the reason the “puppy” chewed through the floor was because I had procrastinated for several years and hadn’t fixed the hole caused by a leaky back door. I’m watching my wife as she works a high pressure job seeing her husband sitting at home turning down high paying jobs all in the name of feeling God has called him to something else. I don’t know if she’ll believe this or not but it really tugs at my heart not to be able to take away some of that pressure, relieve some of those struggles or provide her with some of the “nicer” things in life. Now we have a kitchen floor that’s in need of repair and I’m looking at two options and knowing that neither one is going to turn out very nice but not knowing what else to do. Taking the advice of two dear friends, I patiently spent some time in prayer about this situation. Here’s the miracle, through the loving obedience of two followers of Jesus, God provided the material for us, allowing us to put in a floor that looks awesome! Christ said to them “follow me” and they followed, He said to share and they shared and He said to love and they loved. I can’t begin to explain to you what an incredible blessing this is. My wife whom, I’ve watched work long hours and come home tired day after day was able to come home to a beautiful new kitchen floor. I think that was the greatest blessing for me, to be able to provide my wife (through the generosity of others and the grace of my Father) with something nice to come home to. I worked right up until the last minute before leaving to spend a week at the beach with my father and step-mother, which they paid for (another blessing) and came home to this:

I am in constant awe of God's glory and many times, that glory is revealed through the obedience of those that surround me.

Matthew 5:16 (NIV): In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

God is good… all the time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I pledge allegiance to...

Matthew 6:24 (AMP)

24No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).

The closer I grow to God the more troubled I am by what I discover I’ve been “programmed” to believe is right and wrong. During this time of war, I obviously think a lot about the lives that are being sacrificed for my “freedom” and “peace”. I think a lot about the Old Testament and the many battles where God led his people to victory and even the battles where God allowed the enemy to prevail. I think about “thou shall not kill” in contradiction to David and Goliath. Ultimately though, I always come back to the Cross and why Christ died for me (for us)? He paid the full price for my sin because He loved me and wanted to free me from the bondage of that sin.
I really believe that the “American Dream” has led us back into bondage in the name of a different kind of freedom. We are slaves to our country because we have been taught that if we don’t love and serve our country then we are un-patriotic and generally bad people. We have to kill to preserve that freedom; we have to sacrifice our youth and the youth of “terrorist” nations to maintain that peace and freedom. We have to “support” our country and leaders or else these lives are being sacrificed in vain. Just the shear act of my writing this without fear of death or imprisonment is a blessing from the “Almighty United States of America”.

I’m glad I live in the United States but at the same time I wonder what it would be like to live in a third world country where the only protection that I had was my God. I’m thankful for all the freedoms that I have and that I can say what I wish without fear of punishment or death but at the same time I think of the amount of time that Paul spent in prison singing praises to God and wonder what it would be like to have such faith. America offers me many freedoms including the freedom to live a life without having to know what it means to fully rely on God.

What bothers me most about my attitude, having grown up an American, is that I don’t love people from other nations as God has called me to love them. That while I cover my heart with my hand and pledge my allegiance to the god of the American Flag and shed tears for my fellow country men who have died for that flag, I never once shed a tear for that fellow child of God who died because he fought on the other side of my flag.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone else and maybe it even incites you into anger but frankly I’m tired of serving two masters. I no longer want to be a “Christian” or an “American”; if I have to label myself then I want to be known as simply a disciple of Christ, a carrier of the Cross or simply a fisher of men. If I am persecuted because of this then I will consider myself blessed. If I end up imprisoned for this then I will rejoice and be content. If I find my life in danger because of this, then I will give thanks in all things because this is God’s will. Thankfully, I don’t have to fear any of these things because God has blessed me and called me to serve him right where I am. I pray that my life would look the same regardless of geographical location. I am a citizen of the greatest nation ever, the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom has no boundries and it's love encompasses all people and it's citizenship requires obedience to only one ruler, the great “I AM”.

1 Chronicles 29:14-20 (NLT)

14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.
16 “O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! 17 I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously.
18 “O Lord, the God of our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make your people always want to obey you. See to it that their love for you never changes. 19 Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees, and to do everything necessary to build this Temple, for which I have made these preparations.”

20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Give praise to the Lord your God!” And the entire assembly praised the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they bowed low and knelt before the Lord and the king.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


God has been working some pretty incredible miracles in the lives of Sherlyn and I over the last couple of months. When I came to Christ in 2004, I experienced the incredible miracle of Jesus Christ and how the Holy Spirit can transform us into something brand new when we surrender our lives to Him. I’ve also seen many miracles come to pass as this life change has transformed my marriage, my finances, my desires and many other things in my life into something so incredible, that I’m just in awe of His power. It’s actually one of the un-answered prayers or miracles that I want to write about today.
Over the last year or so, my wife and I have been discussing and praying for the opportunity to adopt a child. I’ve had a passion for orphans and the possibility of adoption for just about as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt that adoption was a real possibility for me, even before I was ever married. I would look around at the world and the many things that even before I knew Christ, would disturb my spirit, and think that instead of bringing new life into this dark world that maybe I could bring some love to one of those affected by that darkness. I’m not saying that adoption is for everyone or that having your own child is a bad thing, just that something would tug at my heart whenever I would see an abandoned or troubled child. I just knew that I had something to offer them. My wife on the other hand wanted her own child and I would have liked a little boy or girl to call my own so we began trying (or rather not preventing) to have a baby. One day about a year ago my wife came home crying and began to tell me about a radio interview with Steven Curtis Chatman and how she now had a passion to adopt and really felt that was how God planned to give us children. I was of course excited because I had felt this urge to adopt for many years and her new found desire just confirmed for me that I had been hearing the voice of God all along. It is such an incredible feeling to look into the eyes of the one you love and see that you are both on the same path and to know that path is in God’s will. With her new passion and my confirmation, we began to talk about adoption and the things we had to do to prepare. She spent many hours on the internet researching international and domestic adoption and all the different things that needed to happen to make this a real possibility in our lives. It wasn’t long before we had a plan. The first thing that had to happen was that we had to have a new home. Most adoption agencies require that you go through some type of home interview and many of these agencies also have a minimum square footage requirement. Upon viewing some of these requirements, it was pretty obvious that our over stuffed, run down and abused, single wide trailer was just not going to impress anyone wanting to give us a child. The next thing that had to happen was saving up the money to adopt. Adoption was expensive and we weren’t rich (we’ve recently watched a series from Craig Groeschel called How to be Rich that has shown us that we are rich but that’s an article for some other time). The good thing about all this was that God was in it and we had already started a plan to become debt free. Over the next couple months the signs leading us towards adoption were everywhere. Eric’s message on Sunday would have something in it that confirmed our desires. Roger might say something on Wednesday night that would cause Sherlyn and I to exchange knowing glances at one another. Our budget was working pretty well, things were looking up financially and God was about to give Sherlyn a big promotion with a big raise! By this time, we had let most of our close friends in on our desire and people were beginning to pray for us.
Then... the dream came crashing down around us, I lost my job. How could we ever afford a new home and adoption if I wasn’t earning an income? Or hopes were put on hold and our dream and desires were now that much further away. To be honest, Sherlyn and I haven’t really talked about it much since I was laid off (for that I’m sorry). It has come up briefly when I had a job opportunity a couple weeks ago but I think we both knew our plan for having children was slipping further and further away as each week without a job came and went. Then along came the doubts… what if it really wasn’t God’s will for us to have children? What if it wasn’t in His plans? What if we hadn’t really heard the voice of God telling us to adopt?
Then the other day I receive a phone call. I really can’t go into any details but by the time I hung up the phone, I was sitting in the middle of a pasture with my head in my hands, weeping because of the greatness of God. No, we aren’t really any closer to adoption than we were but what did happen is that God reminded me that with him, all things are possible. That if it is God’s will that we should adopt then it will come to pass. If our obedience and desire, line up with His will, then no circumstances on this earth can keep this from occurring. Regardless of our plans, if God isn’t in them, then they will never bear fruit. I truly believe that God calls us to action to fulfill many of our prayers but I think what we sometimes forget that God only needs our obedience and a willing heart to bring these things to pass. Through a single phone call, God was able to show me a brief glimpse of how easily He can make this happen when the time is right and we are prepared to receive this blessing. While a new home and two incomes might be our requirements to continue to pray and dream of something greater, He need only to speak this into being and it will become a reality in our lives.

Luke 1:37
“For nothing is impossible with God."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I've been tagged! Part II

In case you missed it... Part 1 containing 1-3 is below!

Get comfortable… this is a long one!

4) I like to read books and write about stuff. There are few things in life that I enjoy more than sitting down and reading a good book. I especially like to put on some music that matches the mood of the story and just sit and read. I have to confess that I seldom do this anymore. It seems there is always something on TV to watch, something to look up on the internet or a game to play on the XBOX. I do still occasionally have moments when a book will just consume me and I sit and read. Now that I think about it, I wonder why I don’t do that more often. My life is so full of confusion and distractions that it seems that I never have any peace. When I allow myself to be taken off to some far away world filled with heroes and heroines, elves and dwarves or just ordinary people on a journey through life, my life becomes peaceful. I also find the same peace when I sit down to write. I’m sitting in the same coffee shop where I wrote part one of “been tagged”, I have my headphones on listening to some praise and worship while life goes on outside the glass window. I feel peaceful in my spirit and life is good. One of my favorite things to write is poetry. I’m really bad at it but that doesn’t stop me from liking to write it. I’ve not written a whole lot of poems in my life but when I have, it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. You can check out my latest poem at the end of the post below called “Disturbed”. It’s not very good, it doesn’t even rhyme, but I loved writing it!
It’s amazing how God works… My first grade teachers discovered that I had a reading problem so they assigned me to a special reading teacher name Mrs. Robbins. I spent about an hour a day working with Mrs. Robbins on my reading skills. My school library had this program where if you read 100 or more books, you got a tee-shirt. By the end of the first grade I had so many tee-shirts that I didn’t even bother keeping a list of the books that I read anymore. I wonder what Mrs. Robbins would think if she were to read this? Praise God for my reading problem that allowed Mrs. Robbins to come into my life and help me discover one of the greatest joys in my life.

5) God has blessed me with the spiritual gift of intercession. Many times it is difficult to discover our spiritual gifts or have confidence in the knowledge of the gifts that God has given us. I have a couple gifts that are scary andexciting to me that I sometimes find myself questioning whether I’m really called to that gift or where I can use that gift in a way to glorify God. The gift that God has given me of prayer isn’t like that for me. Like reading and writing, I love to pray. Even now, writing about this gift brings tears to my eyes. I still remember the first time I was asked to pray in front of a group of people. It was a thanksgiving meal at the home of my wife’s relatives. I had never prayed in front of a group of any size before but I bowed my head and opened myself up to God and asked him to use me. I don’t remember that prayer but I remember that feeling of praying to Him and how fulfilling it made me feel. Since that moment several years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to pray in front of many crowds, some large and some small and it’s been an incredible blessing.
I went through a period shortly after discovering this gift where my pride caused the “well to dry up”. I found myself stumbling through prayers by myself and seeking praise for each prayer as I tried to make each prayer more eloquent than the last. It wasn’t long before I found that I was by myself in my prayers and God was no longer in them. I went through a period of time where I would avoid being asked to prayer or I would position myself so that I could ask someone else to pray. I’ve had many struggles during my spiritual growth but that was one of the most hurtful times I can remember. I had been given a gift by God and instead of using it for His glory; I abused it to bring myself glory so God took it away. I’m thankful that we serve a loving God of second chances and because of His greatness, I now enjoy many moments of fellowship through prayer with my Father. There is something amazing that takes place inside me when I open my heart and let God speak through me. I know this is going a little long for a “random” thing but I have a funny story about prayer that I want to share.

Incase you haven’t noticed already, I can be a little long winded especially when I pray. Well, I was playing softball the other weekend in a tournament with a mixed group of guys, some believers some not and I was given the opportunity to prayer before ever game. We were about to play our 5th and final game of the day when someone called for the “prayer man” to lead the team in prayer. As we gathered in a circle, one of the guys, a pretty big jokester, said “maybe this time he’ll make it into the New Testament.” We all laughed pretty hard, and I proceeded to begin my prayer by asking God to help these guys get into a comfortable position incase I got carried away again. 

What a joy it has been to discover this gift and use it for the glory of His Kingdom. Once again, Thank you Father!

Col. 1:9,10 - For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives..

6) I’m a little bit of a non-conformist (see Romans 12:2) so for this last random thing, I thought I would end with a barrage of random things that have happened to me in my life. Here is my list of random things: I have pitched a no hitter in a ball game… in little league. I almost pitched a “perfect” game (look it up). Speaking of almost, I was once about 3 strikes and a 7 pin away from bowling a 300 game… I ended up with a 266. I was kicked out of high school in the 3rd semester of my senior year for missing too many days in my first period class. The class was English. I got my HS diploma by going to an “extended day” school. The principal there called me an idiot and said he couldn’t believe someone with my grade point average would be there. One of my greatest regrets is not playing football my junior or senior year. I once broke a teammates arm in practice… in the elementary school. If I could go back and play football again, it would be one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make. A couple years ago, I went to a NASCAR race and became so intoxicated that I fell and broke a guys arm. I never got to apologize.  During my pitching debut as a freshman in HS I allowed 3 runs on 7 hits with 1 strike out in 3 innings. The same guy I struck out in the first inning hit one of the longest homeruns I’ve ever seen hit at North Davidson in his next at bat. I was nicknamed “Smiley” by my HS baseball coach but if you talk to my immediate family, they will only know me as “Bubba” or as my two nieces affectionately know me “Uncle Bubba”. I’ve never been in a serious fight, I’ve always backed down, unless it was my younger brother. I have two brothers, I’m the middle child. If you have a middle child, they need special attention! ;) I love to sing at the top of my lungs sometimes. I can’t sing worth a hoot! I’m very emotional (soft?). I cry at almost anything. I once cried during the movie “Snoopy come home.” I used to take tap and ballet when I was younger. I still love to watch a good drama or dance. I also like to shop! I probably like to shop more than my wife does! My most recent exciting random thing is that I had the actual author of a book that I wrote about on my blog stop by and leave a comment! Check it out below!

Well… I could go on and on today but I just hit page 3 so I believe I’ll stop. My wife told me that these were supposed to be 6 random short things about myself but I looked in the rules and didn’t see anywhere where it said these had to be short!

I would love to tag some other people but unfortunately I don’t really know any other bloggers to tag. I’m more of a lurker than a blogger. I do have a couple places that I visit regularly so I’ll just link them here and hope that is good enough for the game to continue.

Lysa Terkeurst – This is one of my favorite places to visit. I feel a little weird because it’s really geared for women but I’ve found that her biblical principals go beyond the boundaries of gender.

Greg Laurie - Greg’s ministry has played a big role in my spiritual growth. His biblical teaching and books have helped build a foundation of God’s truth in my life. If you do nothing else, take a moment and go to Greg’s blog and watch the video message concerning his son’s death. While there is great sadness there, I guarantee that the faith and inspiration you gain will be worth the amount of time it takes out of your day.

Denise Hildreth – Where living and life meet: Denise is the author of several books including the “Will of Wisteria” which I just recently read and wrote about on this blog. I look forward to reading more of her books while continuing to read her blog filled daily with biblical principles. – While this is not a blog, it’s one of the greatest church websites I’ve ever been to. You can watch messages, download tons of resources (FREE) and even attend live internet church! Craig Groeschel is one of the greatest speakers/preachers I’ve ever heard.

Eric Bryant – Eric is the author of Peppermint Filled Piñatas. This book and video series is a phenomenal tool for learning more about building relationships. Eric’s sense of humor should remind us all that our lives are meant to be lived in constant joy and praise and not in judgment and condemnation.

Before I sign off I would like to thank Natalie for the push to get back into writing. I had forgotten how enjoyable writing can be and how beneficial it is to my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Love you guys and thanks again.

To my wife… I know the last couple months have been difficult for you but I know that God has something in store for you and me. I’m sorry that my couchpotatoidess has side effects in your life but I know that somewhere out there, there is a cure! I might need to spend more time on the internet, playing xbox and watching TV to find it! Just kidding! Thank you for you support, your inspiration, your faith in who God has called me to be and your love. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I love you!

Finally (Whew!)… I love reading, writing and prayer… now if I could just find a job that would pay me to do these things! Is that thought scary to anyone else but me????

Thank you for reading (hopefully).

Monday, August 4, 2008

I've been tagged! Part I

I have been tagged by Natalie from Koinonia Community! Natalie and her husband Darrell are two beautiful, Godly people and dear friends of mine. You can often tell who truly loves you by their willingness to tell you the truth, even when it might hurt a little. Thanks for the nudge Nat, I love your boldness!

These are the rules:

1) Link to the person who tagged you
2) Post the rules on your blog (this is what you are now reading)
3) Write 6 random things about yourself (see below)
4) Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them (This is only a game)
5) Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6) Let the tagger know when your entry is up

Here are 6 random things about me....

1) I love my wife and my marriage deeply. One of the first things that I discovered upon surrendering my life fully to Christ was how great a blessing marriage is and what a wonderful gift I had been given in my wife Sherlyn. Prior to the miracle of life change that occurred in my life, divorce was a very real option for me and one that was thought of more often than I care to admit. When I began to view marriage through the eyes of Christ, I began to discover how fulfilling marriage can be when it’s treated with the same value that God places on this special relationship. I now wake up each day next to the a beautiful, Godly women, with great faith and wonderful heart for Christ . God has truly blessed me and given me a gift through marriage that is second only to the gift that was given me on The Cross. Sherlyn, if you are reading this, I know that I often don’t live up to these words but you are my rock, my lover and my friend. I truly believe that God set us apart and preordained that we would find one another and together, begin a journey towards seeking Him, that would change our lives forever and draw us not only closer to God but closer to one another.

2) My biggest fear is that I won’t correctly hear the voice of God when he calls. There is often a battle raging inside of me, constantly wanting to overwhelm me with doubt and uncertainty. Am I good enough? Am I worthy enough? Am I hearing God correctly or is it just my own desires getting in the way? I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year attempting to turn these questions into a healthy self-examination of myself instead of allowing them to lead me to the deep, dark places which tend to tear me down and make me tentative. One of my favorite verses has become Eph 4:1 …Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” I use this verse to remind myself that while I may not feel worthy or deserving, God still loved me enough and felt my life worthy of saving enough to send His Son to die for me.

3) I constantly suffer from a condition know as couchpotatoidess. This condition is sometimes better know or called in less scientific arenas as laziness! I am lazy… if you don’t believe me, just ask my wife, she’ll tell you! It’s not so much that I don’t like work (I don’t but I’m trying to make a point here!) I would just rather do something else. Why work, when you can play ball, go to the beach, sleep late, play XBOX, read a good book, lie on the couch and watch TV, spend time with friends or go fishing. Man! I could go on and on about stuff that I would rather do than work! Over the years I’ve tried to convince my wife that it’s a good thing to take time out of life and smell the roses but since I’m too lazy to plant a rose garden, she’s just not buying it! Over the years this laziness and it’s close companion, procrastination, have given me much joy but has also had some serious side effects. Let me share one of the more recent events with you. Many of you know that my wife and I have a new puppy. I’ll go ahead and admit right now that I’m the softie that talked my wife into taking this 50+ lb, five month old puppy into our home. I’ll also admit that I’m responsible for spoiling her and letting her get away with too much (including getting on the furniture) but I couldn’t help it, she’s such an adorable puppy (most of the time). Anyway… this past Friday, I left the house early and then my wife and I were out late. So with the exception of a short break in between, she was at home all day by herself. I’ve been out of work since May and this is very unusual for our sweet, adorable puppy, and it must have just been too much for her to handle. For several years now, the back door of our single wide trailer has leaked heavily whenever it rains. As is typical, I’ve not bothered to fix it. For about 2 years, there has been a small hole in the floor near the back door that my industrious wife repaired with some black duct tape. Well, Friday night we come home to find the black duct tape stuck to the paw of our sweet, adorable puppy along with a huge hole in the floor and wood shavings and insulation all over our kitchen floor. Now, because of my couchpotatoidess(which I’m sure is a medical condition and therefore beyond my control) a five minute, five dollar repair job with some weather stripping has turned into an expensive, week long project of redoing the entire kitchen floor.

Speaking of laziness and procrastination… I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this and I’ve quickly run out of time. I’m close to getting a parking ticket and that kitchen floor is not going to fix itself and if I want to smell the roses later, then I better get to work! I'll finish the last 3 of these along with my link later this week, unless something else comes up ;) !

Monday, April 21, 2008


I have sort of made a deal with myself that I would sit down on Sundays and write before allowing myself to get on the xbox and play. So far so good… keep praying!

This past October, I sat in an auditorium and listened to a pastor by the name of Craig Groeschel pray for 12,000 “Christians” to be disturbed. I really enjoyed his message called “Confessions of a Pastor” and his prayer was great. As usually happens at the Catalyst Conference, my emotions were raw and my excitement was high. Tears streamed down my face at the thought of this incredible and insightful prayer and I was swept away in the moment as he prayed “God, disturb us”. It was all very surreal but as is often the case with many of the prayers I pray or hear, I never really truly expected anything out of it. It’s not that I lacked faith or didn’t believe but to be honest, most of my prayers are to call God to action. God bless me and enlarge my territory. Father, protect me and keep me. Abba, help me! Lord, bless this super-sized Big Mac meal for the nourishment of my body. ;) Many times, I use prayer to release whatever trouble I’m in to God and then sit back and wait for Him to do something. I also see this many times from those around me. We wish for blessings but ignore our need for obedience. We pray for financial windfalls but never budget our money or consume more than we have. We pray for love in our relationships without honoring those we are called to love.
So, as Pastor Groeschel prayed for God to disturb us, I thought that’s cool, now who’s the next speaker, when do we get a break, I wonder where we’ll eat tonight, I can’t wait to hear Erwin McManus speak!

I stand before you today, metaphorically, having gone through some of the most disturbing moments in my life that I’ve ever experienced. My heart and soul have been broken so many times over the last six months that it’s hard for me to even describe. I have seen things with a fresh pair of eyes and I’ve been disturbed. I’m going to be honest and just say that my spiritual life has been a wreck. Not the five mile an hour parking lot bump up type of wreck but more of a tractor trailer meets train head-on type of wreck. My spiritual life has been broken, torn down, messed up, mixed up and shattered. It’s incredibly difficult to put into words because the first thing everyone assumes is that my relationship with God has waned, but that’s not the case. I’ve continued to feel the presence of God and clearly seen His Hand at work in my life. I feel that my faith has remained in tack and my belief has not wavered. Without my faith, I don’t know that I would have made it through. My thinking has been severely shaken and I’ve been disturbed. It’s as if everything I’ve ever been taught, learned, experienced or thought I understood has been called into question and examination. I truly believe I understand Romans 12:2 and Proverbs 3:5 better now than I ever have… be transformed by the renewing of your mind… lean not on your own understanding.
It may sound to you like the last six months have been difficult for me but that isn’t necessarily the case. While there have been moments when I’ve struggled, the last six months have not only been some of the most disturbing for me but also some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve begun to see Truth in life that I never saw before. I feel sort of like the blind man in John 9 must have felt when Jesus spat in some mud, rubbed it on his eyes and then the man could see. We might get a little dirty and nasty but when our eyes are opened, it’s all worth it.
I’m at a full page now and this is where I usually try to stop. I don’t like to go too long and bore you (plus the xbox is calling louder and louder… just kidding! :) which is probably good because today, I feel I could ramble for hours. So, I’ll wrap it all up with this;
If you want to see life in a way that you never have before and you have the courage, then pray for God to disturb you. I will caution you that your heart will break like you’ve never known before. You will weep at the pain, suffering and brokenness that you discover around and in you. Your soul will ache with the knowledge of how your own choices in life affect or do nothing to affect this brokenness. But I can promise you this, when Jesus spits in a little mud and rubs it on your heart to heal it, you will discover how truly precious and beautiful life can be. God will show you how a broken heart can pour out enough love, that you would send your Son, to die on a cross, so that no one else will ever have to suffer that same fate again.

In the darkest night of my soul,
You are there.
When everything crumbles down around me,
You are there.
When the things of this world turn to dust,
You are there.
In the beginning of time, before creation,
You are there.
When we place your Son on the cross,
You are there.
When our eternity changes because in a tomb, your Son awakens,
You are there.
In the darkest night of my soul,
You are there.

Father God… please continue to disturb me!

Be Prepared

There must be something in the water because this week I have another confession… I’m scared. I’m actually afraid of a lot of things but one of my biggest fears is of failure. When I think about the spiritual gifts that God has given me and start thinking about what that means God has called me to do, then one of the first things that happens to me is a barrage of questions. Question like; Why me? Am I good enough? Do I have enough knowledge? What if I’m not hearing God correctly? These questions then lead to more questions and a lot of self doubt. I think that this is probably right where Satan wants me… doubtful, confused and afraid. If you look at those questions above then it’s pretty easy to see that they all have a common theme. Ever single question has the word “I” in it. The thing that I have to continually remind myself is that it is most often not about me! So… where am I headed with this?

One of the biggest questions or fears about failure that I have is that I won’t have anything to say. I’ve sort of made a commitment to myself and allowed myself to feel like I’ve made a commitment to each of you that I send you one of these e-mails every week. Now, that doesn’t seem like much in the beginning but when you look at the bigger picture then that is fifty-two e-mails a year. This then leads me to even more questions; like why am I even doing this? Is it for my pride? Is it for your encouragement? Is it really for God? I know that some of you receive encouragement from these e-mails and for that I am grateful. I can also be prideful and allow myself to seek encouragement or accolades from you concerning these thoughts. These things aside, I like to think that most of the time I do this because it’s something that God has called me to do. I realized early on that God was giving me different thoughts and speaking to me in ways that could be encouraging to not only myself, but also to others. I had also begun to realize that God had given me certain gifts to use for the glory of His Kingdom but I didn’t feel as if I was utilizing these gifts to their fullest. Then one day, I was reading something that I had written and the thought for these e-mails occurred to me. I felt the desire to share them with those I loved and I had come to a point in my life where I needed the accountability. I knew that sending an e-mail of this type would lead to a type of commitment that would “force” me into spending more time writing. I had also sought godly counsel from my pastor about God’s calling on my life and he advised me to practice my writing. So here we are today and I’m facing the question; How will I ever find enough to say over the next 52 weeks that will encourage you and also bring glory to God?
Sitting in our Church service this morning I stumbled across a note in my bible that my wife had written to me during one of our small group lessons. It was short and simple saying only “after song lead us in prayer”. I looked at that note this morning and it was easy to hear God speaking to me about my calling. One of the things that struck me was that in order to pray in a moment’s notice I had to be prepared ahead of time. In the case of prayer, that means that I have to have a good prayer life when no one else is looking. I have to grow accustomed to talking to God and that only comes from spending time with him on a regular basis. I believe it to be the same with my writing and speaking. I have to be prepared, I need to fill my heart and mind with the things of God so that when he chooses to speak to me, I can clearly hear his voice. I must also remember the words given to us from Paul in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I might have doubt, I might even find myself slipping away or being pulled in a different direction and I might be weary but I cannot give up. I have to keep pursuing the things that I feel God wishes me to pursue.
Lastly, I have to make time for opportunities for God to use me. I’m writing this from my living room on a Sunday afternoon. The funny thing is that on a normal Sunday afternoon, I would be going crazy to get home and spend some time playing xbox. Sunday’s are my wife’s day to take a nap so they are the perfect opportunity for me to get in some un-interrupted and guilt-free playing time. Today I woke with a renewed commitment to take some time to write my thoughts. What I found was that after I discovered that note this morning and began thinking about what I would write, my desire to sit and let God speak to me became greater than my desire for anything else (yes, even the xbox!). I think that as long as my desire to please God, continues to be greater than my fear of failure, that God will have much to say. I look forward to sharing those thoughts with you and I pray that you may find some encouragement through them. If not, then it doesn’t really matter because, (whisper) it’s not about you or me anyway.
Philippians 3:12 (The Message)
12-14I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Time

I was going to write to you this week about something I felt God saying to me during our churches Easter drama. But the simple fact is that I’ve not been willing to give God the time needed to use me to write it. I struggle with this problem a lot… not giving God time. I’m really good at giving him my employer’s time. I’m not very proud of this fact so my telling you about this is probably more of a confession than a message or thoughts this morning. Why is it that I find it so easy to give someone else’s time to but struggle so much with giving God “my” time?

I get almost angry at myself for doing this but it’s one of those things that I keep telling myself, and God, that I’m going to change but before I know it, I find myself at home watching TV, playing XBOX or surfing the internet. The last couple weeks it hasn’t been so bad… I’ve not really been that busy at work so… I just take a little time, record my thoughts and then back to work. That’s not that bad… is it? I might make some notes here and there and then come into work and put them all together. It’ just that the last couple weeks have been really busy so the thoughts have become less and less.

I’ve also become very good at using my employer’s time as study time for God so that when I get home, I don’t feel as bad about not giving God any of my time. I go to work, plug in my mp3, go to one of several different “world class” preachers, pop on my headphones and sit back and listen to someone teach me about Word of God. (***Warning*** extreme sarcasm ahead, proceed with caution) Great huh? Technology today is wonderful… I can listen to God all day long while I work and then when I go home, I can do whatever I want and not feel bad about it. After all, I’ve just given God eight hours or more of my un-divided…. ok, slightly divided time. I bet that is still about 7 ½ more hours than any of those other heathens… I mean Christians… I hang around with! (see Luke 18:10-14)

Then there is the whole “called” thing. I’ve slowly come to accept the fact that I believe God has gifted me in the area of words. Sometimes, I speak, sometimes I pray and sometimes I write and for the most part I enjoy these all these things. There are moments when I’m doing one or more of these things and I just feel so blessed to be able to be a servant for God. Then there are those moments when I just feel the pressure. Those are the moments when I take ownership of what God is trying to do in my life, moments when it becomes all about me. What if I’m not any good, what if I run out of things to say or write, what if this is not what God has really called me to do, what if, what if, what if…

What if… I started giving God more of “my” time? What if I stopped making everything in life about me and started really, truly relying on God?

This is my confession to you… I don’t give God the time that I should and I don’t rely on God the way that I should. James 5:16 talks about confessing our sins and praying for one another so that we may be healed. I ask for your prayers this morning. I am ready to be healed. I’m tired of living a pattern that looks like the rest of the world and I’m tired of doing God part-time. For many years of my life, I spent a lot of time trying to be different and standout so that I could fit in. I’m tired of fitting in, tired of being who others think I should be and I’m ready to start being who God created me to be. I think of the early disciples and how their lives were after that death and resurrection of Christ. Most were in and out of jail, continually persecuted and beaten. Ten of the first twelve were put to death for their faith. Their lives stood out from those around them. They were put to death for their faith, mine has cost me nothing but given me everything, and yet, I’ve given so little in return. During one of the many podcast I listen to, Craig Groeschel said these words about giving. “We give our lives, it’s the only reasonable response to what Christ gave.”

It’s in the giving of our lives that we being to learn how to live as God created us to live. When we give our lives to those around us, we learn to do life together in a way that allows us to experience love as never before. It’s in the giving of our lives where we learn to be open and honest with one another so that others may pray for us and we can begin to be healed. It’s in the giving of our lives that we learn the value of the sacrifice that Christ made for us so that we can fully grasp the depth of Gods grace and His love.

To give our life, we have to lay the things that have filled our arms and hands at the foot of the Cross so that we can begin a new journey through life cradling only the Cross, learning what it means to fully rely on God.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (New International Version)

8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers….

Airport Blues

I am sitting in an airport writing this and I find that I’m sad. I should be happy because I’m actually flying home tonight to be with my wife rather than having to wait until tomorrow to see her. I am definitely looking forward to being at home with her and hopefully getting a good nights sleep in my own bed. Still I am sad. I’m not entirely sure why I am sad but I believe it may have something to do with the person and environment that I’ve been in for the last 24 hours. I’ve spent the last couple of hours with someone whom I’m pretty sure is does not know Jesus Christ. Based on some of the things that we’ve discussed and I’ve heard over the last couple hours compared to what the Bible say’s a Christian life looks like, I’m pretty certain of this fact. The problem is, I really like this guy. I know that my heart contains a lot of the love that Christ imparted to me for this man. He is not much older than I am and could very well be me if a couple difficult life choices had gone differently.
I’ve found that God has given me a gift that makes some people comfortable enough to open up to me and tell me their stories. Personal things that to be honest, I sometimes cannot believe they would trust me enough to hear. Not that I’m judging their deeds but that they would be willing to share such intimate details while barely knowing me is sometimes shocking. Twice in the last two weeks I’ve experienced personal conversations with people that I’ve known only on a business level. It may have something to do with my personality or it could just be that sometimes our burdens are just too hard to bear alone. It’s as if the act of sharing with someone, actually helps someone to feel as if they are no longer by themselves. In both cases I know their lives could be different if only their relationship with God were different. In one of those cases, I was able to share this good news with that person. Today though, I sit in the airport not having been able to share the same good news with the other. I’ve been sitting here examining the difference in the two situations and wondering if there was anything I could have done differently. Maybe… maybe not. I never felt the Holy Spirit leading me to get very far into a spiritual conversation with this person. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss something along the way but at this point I don’t think that I did. I think that sometimes people are receptive to hearing the gospel and then there are times when they are not. I think of the passage in Matthew 13 about how Jesus did not do many miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith. I tried to stay open and not miss any big opportunities but in the end, I prayed silently at meals, talked about my blessed marriage and tried to just let him know that someone cared and was there to listen. I wanted to say that maybe that is all that God wished me to share but it goes deeper than that thought. To say that I missed a big opportunity or didn’t get an opportunity is in a way, taking away the importance of doing the small things. It’s often the small things that make the most difference. At the time we may not even realize how big a role that plays in the kingdom, but over time even the tiny mustard seed grows into a plant. It’s almost as if I’m saying I have to do something great before Jesus can work in someone’s life. This is in direct contradiction to what John says about my decreasing so that He may increase. The bottom line is that it’s not about me or some elegant speech about how God has changed my life. It’s about my obedience to God and allowing him to work in all areas of my life so that He can reveal himself through me. I think that I just need to focus on being whom God created me to be, doing what He created me to do and allowing Him to do the rest. I think that is why our own relationship with Jesus Christ is so important. It’s through that relationship that we learn how to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s that leading that allows us to be what He would have us to be and then we open ourselves up to the works that he can do in our lives and in the lives of others. We tend to forget that it is Jesus that changes our lives and not our lives that change others for Jesus.

I am sad today because one of His sheep has become lost. He is wandering around in the wilderness that we call life and there are many others like him. My prayer today is not that God would use me to change this man, but that Christ would change me so that all those who have become lost can see His glory.

(Matthew 18:12-14 Amplified):
What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray and gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost? And if it should be that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. Just so it is not the will of My Father Who is in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost and perish.

Book Report

A couple weeks ago I did something that I don’t normally do. I read two books in the 6 days. I love to read but I’m not normally a fast reader. I prefer to meander through a book so that I can allow my imagination to become fully engaged. It’s not very often that I read a book that is so well written and entertaining that it can engulf me immediately and generate a reading frenzy within me that is only satisfied by continual devouring of the words on the pages. I had the rare opportunity the other week to read two such books back to back. I realize that this frenzy could have something to do with the state of spirit that I’m in now, as I’ve recently been writing more, in an effort to capture and share some of my thoughts. Nonetheless I have to recommend these books to anyone who enjoys a good read. I consider a good read to be anything that can transport me mentally into the book so that it’s not so much reading as it is taking a journey into another world. As I walk through that other world the best journey is the one that will cause me to smile, laugh and cry tears of joy and heartbreak. These two books did all the above. Just so you have a gauge, a good read will normally take me at least a week, often two weeks to finish. I read the first book in one day and the second book in about three.

The first book is The Will of Wisteria by: Denise Hildreth

I started this book on a Saturday morning as I sat in the doctor’s office awaiting the opportunity to be seen. This book made the three hours that I had to wait with people coughing and sniffling all around me rather painless. The plot could be compared to that of the Ultimate Gift as the book is about four siblings who have to complete a task in order to inherit their father’s 1 billion dollar fortune. The journey draws you into the life of four self-centered people, whom you will immediately find similarities with, as they begin to experience life change. I ended up finishing this book late that Saturday night and I’m pretty sure from a little over halfway through till the end of the book, there must have been something in my eyes because I couldn’t seem to keep them from watering. This is one of the few books that I’ve ever read that I consumed the entire thing in one day.

The second book is Chasing Fireflies by: Charles Martin

I actually began this book sometime on Monday. To be truly honest, I probably enjoyed this book more than the first one but there were just more distractions so it took longer to read. I also didn’t have another 3-hour wait in a doctor’s office either. The only slightly negative about this book was that in the beginning, I found myself flipping back through to see if I had missed something only to realize that the author had never revealed what I was looking for yet. Once I began to trust my reading and memory skills, this book quickly sucked me into a world where my emotions ran raw. My wife and I have been considering adoption for a couple months and I’ve been really thinking about an older child (5-10) as an option. This book centers around a man and a young boy who don’t know who their parents are and in up in the foster care of “Uncle Willie”. You will quickly find yourself hurting, laughing, crying and over whelmed with joy as you journey through the lives of these characters as they try to discover who or “whose” they really are. At one point about 2 am Friday morning I found myself trying to keep from sobbing and waking my wife as this book took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions that is just simply sometimes called life. This book will break your heart, but in the end, it will be worth the experience.

Both of these books are Christian based and will leave you no doubt about the importance of God in our lives.

The Cat

The other week I talked about fishing so this week it’s only natural that I talk about…… Cats!
Seriously…. Cats!

These thoughts came to me as I was going through my regular morning routine. Part of this routine involves giving one of our two cats a shot and then feeding them. That’s right, you heard me correctly, you are not crazy, I’m the crazy one but…. I have to give one of our cats a shot every morning. Actually, I also have to give him one shot every evening as well. You see… one of our cats has diabetes.

One evening a couple years ago, this skinny and malnourished, gray cat is walking around on our back deck. He looked absolutely pitiful, nothing but skin and bones and meowing very loudly. I have no clue how he got there but I suspect that he had heard through the grapevine that our home had a habit of taking in strays. Many would expect my wife to be the one to take him in and take care of him but as it turns out… I was the first one to feed him. This is a fact that my wife is quick to not let me forget. I couldn’t help it… he was dying. I truly believe to this day that if I had not feed that cat, he would have died shortly after showing up on our doorstep. We were his last hope. The truth is that I have a very large soft spot for animals. Probably a lot softer than I’ll ever let any of you know (hopefully). I once re-filled a mud puddle with water when it began to dry up during the summer because some tadpoles had chosen to make it their home. Anyway, that is a story for another time… back to the cat. Our relationship with “Mots” (mouth of the south) began with that first feeding. It wasn’t long until he was a regular visitor on our back deck. Then, one night after a loud ruckus, we discovered Mots on the back deck with several puncture wounds all over his body including a real nasty cut over his eye. To make a long story short, after many trips to the vet, two extended stays in the vet facility, a bout with pneumonia and an increasingly large amount of vet bills… we discovered that Mots, along with everything else, had diabetes. I’ll never forget that phone call from my lovely, sobbing wife telling me I had two choices. Two shots of insulin, also know as liquid gold, every day for the rest of his life or….

Well, here we are a couple years later and I’m giving Mots his morning shot, and it strikes me how much his relationship with us is like our relationship with Christ. We took him in when nobody else would. We fed him and took care of him. We gave him the attention and love that he needed to get well and over time his wounds began to heal. Now he enjoys a very comfortable, peaceful and mostly serene life. He still has the diabetes and as far as we know, there is no cure for diabetes in animals. There is the slim hope that one day he may come to not need the insulin anymore.

I think back to the many years when I lived outside of Christ. It seems that life was just one continuous struggle just to get through to the next day. There were moments of happiness and sometimes lots of fun but there was always something missing. There were many wounds, some still open and fresh and others that had grown scar tissue, hardening everything around them so that nothing could ever again get close enough to hurt again. There were many people and different moments in my life that added up to that one moment when every worldly thing I had held onto was stripped away and I surrendered myself to the love of Christ. One of the first things I discovered about God’s love was acceptance. Christ accepted me just as I was. I didn’t have to dress up or be someone I was not and He loved me anyway. In His arms, I found a happiness and a peace that made everyday seem like a wonderful journey instead of a struggle. I began to discover that not only did Jesus want to heal my wounds but he would also comfort me whenever I was wounded. Christ also didn’t just heal those old wounds that I had held onto but he could soften those old scars so that now they have become a beautiful part of who I am.

While those wounds have been healed, I still have a disease within me that many call our sin nature. I still require a couple shots a day… sometimes more to keep this sickness away. While Mots requires insulin shots to combat his sickness, I require the Word of God to stay healthy and at far larger doses than the insulin Mots receives. Mots also has to depend on his relationship with us to get the medicine the he needs to sustain him. I (we) also need to rely on Jesus Christ to sustain us. It is through our relationship with Him that we are able to combat this sickness and gain victory over eternal death. Through His Victory, there is the certainty that one day… I won’t have to endure this sickness anymore.

Romans 7:17-25 (The Message)

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Church

I've been in a really weird place lately as far as my spirituality goes. Spirituality meaning... the way I view the world, the way I view the church or The Church, and even my own relationship with Christ. It's been really difficult to put a lot of my thoughts in words because I’m still having difficulty actually wrapping my mind around many of these thoughts and what some of these things mean in the whole context of being who God created me to be.

There are many things within myself, which I’ve begun to examine more closely. There are also different things that I’ve seen in the world that I’ve been forced to examine more closely. One of those “things” is how did Christ intend for the Church to function? What is the purpose and what was it meant to do or greater yet, what is my role in the church. I don’t necessarily think that our version, or today’s version, of the Church is a bad one, I’m just not so sure that it is what Christ intended for it to be. I truly think that probably the closest I come to being the Church that Christ intended is whenever (or wherever) I am fulfilling the purpose for which God created me for by using the gifts that He equipped me with to glorify His kingdom. This may be during “church on Sunday” or leading small group or just when I’m in fellowship with other believers. I think that we have become so ingrained by tradition and our worldly thinking that we have trouble remembering that the “Church” is not a geographical location but rather we, as a body of believers, are The Church. I had a discussion some time ago with someone about whether or not “churches” should be for nonbelievers or should churches be for believers/Christians only. At the time, I thought that the fact that Church would be just for believers was just ridiculous but as I grow (hopefully) spiritually, I think I’m beginning to see the point that was trying to be made. The Church, that is the Bride of Christ, is made up of believers. There cannot be a nonbeliever within the “Church” if we are considered the Body of Christ. How can someone who is outside of Christ be a part of the Body of Christ? I think that this is where we (Christians) have become blurred in our thinking and terminology when discussing church. I’m not sure that what we do on Sunday’s isn't more about the great commission. It’s anytime that we gather as believers, share resources, help one another out and build one another up that we truly begin to function as the Church.

Acts 2:42-47 (King James Version)
42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Please bear in mind that this is probably the closest that I’ve come in months to gathering many of these thoughts into an actual coherent writing. While I’ve done some research and a lot of meditation on many verses and things concerning the church, what I’ve said above is purely only my thoughts and part of my meditation as I continue to question (examine myself) in an effort to fully understand who God wants me to be.

I sat in Church yesterday with tears streaming down my face as our pastor spoke to many of these things that have lain heavily on my heart over the last couple months. It was as if God had taken a moment to sit with me and say… Michael, I know what you have been going through and I want you to know that I love you, I care for you and I’m always there for you. I was completely overcome by His Presence. I stated above that maybe what goes on Sundays is just part of the great commission. While I still believe this to be a major function of today’s church, there are many things that go on during a service which are a part of The Body of Christ. I am truly blessed to be a part of a “Church” that doesn’t see walls when we talk about who God wants us to be and how we function as the Bride of Christ.