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.