Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Time

I was blessed to be at the Good Friday celebration with the Passion tour this past week (due to the generosity of good friends.) I am still processing many things from that night-moments where God was clearly speaking to me and others where He hasn't answered what I am asking just yet.

I am still meditating on one particular lyric from a song titled, "Always." It simply sings, "Oh, my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always."

This idea of God not delaying in the rescuing of His children is comforting. I know that it often feels as if God is taking His time, but He always answers exactly when He means to. He doesn't postpone His response when we turn our eyes and hearts to Him. He is never late, but is always right on His time.

Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Now?

Resurrection Sunday was a blessed day with large crowds of people attending churches throughout the world.  I have seen online stories of baptisms and very large numbers of people in services. I am celebrating the message of Christ that was shared and the incredible volunteers that made so much of it possible. I also can't keep my mind from moving to what is next.

We have proven that we can draw a crowd (actually that Jesus can), but for lives to be changed there has to be more than just big numbers. How are we mobilizing the next generation of leaders? What are we doing to move people past the shallow steps of early faith and into something passionately meaningful with depth? What efforts are we continuing to put into our community to let them know that Jesus is still alive and pursuing them today? How are we reaching out to the harassed and helpless that are wondering if there is any hope for them on this Monday after Easter?

Many people and churches rest immediately after Easter, but I firmly believe that it is the season to pray and work even harder for the heart of our communities.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

That's Enough

If you were to ask people to describe in one word what they would like their life to be, I doubt they would use the word mediocre. That's not really a level to attain to and doesn't inspire visions of things to come.

The truth however is that we tend to settle for that in our relationship with God. We become content with what He has already done in our lives and we stop there. We aren't having any major financial difficulties so we stop praying about our money. Our families are fairly healthy and getting along for now so we stop praying for God's work in it. Our churches seem to have a decent number of people in the seats each weekend and we leave feeling good about ourselves so we stop praying for growth and stretching. We become complacent because of the work that God has already done and how far we have come from where we used to be. 

In the book of Joshua we see the story of the Israelites conquering the Promised Land. It is a testimony of God's power and His ability to fulfill His promises through His people. In Joshua 18:3 however we see Joshua say this, "How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?"

The Israelites had become content in their current situation. God had brought them victories, but His plan wasn't done yet. He intended for them to keep pushing on towards the goal He had called them to. It was going to require faithful obedience to His calling on their lives. 

Like the Israelites we have to decide if what God has already done is enough for us or if we are willing to push past mediocrity to see what radical steps He has for us next.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Get Ready

There was a place in Nashville that my wife and I used to love to go out to eat called The New Orleans Manor. It was a buffet style place that served dinner only, but was almost $30 per plate. It served some of the best seafood, prime rib and other incredible foods that make my mouth water even today. We loved the place so much that we had our wedding dinner there with friends and family.

When you knew you were eating there for dinner you changed your eating habits for the day. I wouldn't eat lunch at all and would only eat a small, early breakfast. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for a great meal and didn't want anything to take away from the experience.

Are we preparing in the same way for God to do something amazing in our lives or we rolling along and hoping that a Holy Spirit moment might happen? Are we talking about having a great Sunday in our churches or are we preparing ourselves spiritually for it? In Joshua 3:5, Joshua is about to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and start the campaign to take over the promised land. He tells them, "Make yourselves holy, because tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." 

Perhaps we would see greater works of God in our lives and in our churches if we would eagerly anticipate them and start the work of setting ourselves apart for His blessing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Awakening by Stovall Weems

I finished reading the book Awakening by Stovall Weems this past week and was blown away by the depth of spiritual insight and application. The book is written on the principle of the need for spiritual awakening in each of us and how we can attain that by fervently seeking God through prayer and fasting. As the founder and lead pastor of Celebration Church, it is obvious that he is committed to this vision and practice for his personal life as well as for the growth of God's church. Stovall believes in the desire for all Christ-followers to be passionately pursuing this spiritual insight with the Holy Spirit. He writes, "Awakening to the presence and power of God is both a one-time event and recurring newness we experience throughout our lives."

Weems writes with a passionate style that captures the attention of any reader and also inspires you to practice these spiritual disciplines so that this awakening can be personally experienced. He presents theologically sound evidence for frequent times of prayer, worship and fasting and yet also offers practical advice to help in the process. The use of personal stories from people in his church make the book even more real and the resulting experiences more tangible.

I recommend this book for anyone who is serious about pursuing fasting as a spiritual discipline and a way to open your spiritual life to what God has ready to bless you with. I am excited about entering into a church-wide time of prayer and fasting this summer and the awakening that God will bring for our church. This is a book that I will recommend to anyone asking about fasting and I will certainly be re-reading it myself.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Up Front

Most of our human relationships work like this: invest time, share respect and treat each other well enough that you eventually form a strong bond of love. When that chain is broken, we don't end up with a strong relationship-in fact it leads to one not being formed at all.

One of our biggest struggles as flawed humans is that we impose that same pattern on our relationship with God. We believe that if we attend church, don't look at porn, don't get drunk, pray & read our Bible fairly regularly and are decent people that He will love us. When we mess up any of that it's a bad day and we think God is disappointed and His love decreases.

The error in this philosophy is that we are imposing human characteristics on God. He doesn't place His love for us at the end of our relationship, but at the beginning. His love isn't given because we have earned it, but simply because of who He is and who we are to Him.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wait Time

When I worked in the restaurant business we knew that part of our success was measured in the time a guest had to wait for a table. You wanted to have some wait time-that indicated that things were busy- but you also knew that if people had to wait for too long they wouldn't stick around. The same principle applies to rides at theme parks. You know that the best rides will end up with lengthy wait times and you have to decide if you are willing to sacrifice that time by standing in line and waiting for your turn to go.

I feel the same way with God's growth plan for us. I can see parts of where He is guiding me and how He is growing His church, but it doesn't necessarily arrive on my timetable. The spiritual wait time is exciting because it means that God is showing part of His vision to us. We can see a piece of His plan and look forward with anticipation to seeing it come to fruition. The difficult part is using the wait time effectively-allowing Him to grow us even as we look to the future.

Maintaining faith and confidence in God's plan when it takes longer than we hope or expect can be frustrating, but He promises that we won't be disappointed with the end results.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The postal service delivers multiple offers in the mail each week for credit cards. Plastered across the front of the envelope are the words, "Pre-Approved!" Most of us just throw them away and are not fooled by that phrase that is intended to catch our eye and draw us in. We aren't suckered in by the marketing ploy and realize that everybody they send those out to is "pre-approved."

The funny thing is that we all are actually seeking approval. We look for it in our family relationships, our jobs, from people that we respect and even people we don't know that well. Constantly looking for ways to gain the positive affirmation of other people leaves us running through life like a lapdog who just wants to be called, "good girl/boy" and be scratched behind the ears.

We even impose the dynamics of the approval merry-go-round on our relationship with God. We believe the lie that we can be good enough for Him and that if we can maintain some level of righteousness that He will approve of us. We think that if we were pretty good in our choices and behavior this week that He loves us and if we had a "bad week" that He is disappointed and loves us less. We create human expectations for a supernatural relationship.

No wonder so many struggle with understanding the unconditional love that God has for us.

"As long as we view our deeds as a bridge to intimacy with and approval with God, we are depending upon our strength. God does not empower us to win His approval. We have all the approval we could ever need!" Andy Stanley, Louder Than Words

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who Are You?

Husband. Father. Son. Brother. Pastor. NY Mets fan. Big voiced. Former teacher. Sports lover. Sarcastic. Wounded. Healing. Mainland family. Beach bum. Passionate. Quickly graying. Struggles with life balance. Created to teach. Loves to worship. Battles with consistency. People pleaser. Headstrong. Visionary. Hard worker. Affectionate.

We use a lot of different labels to describe ourselves. Some of them we readily admit to and others can be identified better by the people close to us. These all are part of our identity and create the picture of who we work to be and the image we portray to those around us. It is the difficult balance of who we are trying to be and who God wants us to be that causes tension in our daily lives.

If we would let our identity be one simple thing-follower of Christ-the rest of the labels we strive for would fall in line.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Make a Difference

I read a newspaper article online this week about a woman named Chastity in the Daytona Beach area that has been missing for three months. She has a history of drug addiction and had been working on Ridgewood Avenue as a prostitute to support her habit. She is only 27 years old and the police don't expect to find her alive.

This story is repeated in newspapers throughout the country on a regular basis, but what makes this one different for me is that I remember her as a sweet, innocent 15 year old girl that sat in my health class at Mainland High School. I remember how she would come into class with a smile on her face and sit in the 2nd row. She was a good student and I enjoyed having her in class. She didn't seem to have any major life problems-none that she brought into the school with her anyway-and seemed well-adjusted. I don't know that anything was going on while she was in my class for those 18 weeks, but at some point she made some decisions that sent her spiralling down a destructive pathway for her life.

Reading this story has made me think about the people that we interact with and the opportunities that we might have to influence them. I can honestly admit that I didn't give the attention that was needed to each student that walked through my doors-either in the classroom or the church. I didn't always consider where they were coming from or what outside influences would steer them down the roads of life. Even now we tend to keep moving along in our schedules and don't see the people around us that we might have a chance to impact-especially when we are working with youth.

I'm not egotistical enough to say that an investment from me in this woman's life would have saved her from these decisions. It does make me realize what God-given opportunities are in front of me on a daily basis and that I don't want to take them for granted. I don't want to assume that a chance to impact a life today will be there tomorrow.

If we all share that same focus as Christ-followers and leaders we might stand a better chance of saving someone like Chastity.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Do You Want?

In Numbers 11, I read where the Israelites were unhappy with the manna that God was providing each day. They started to complain and ask Moses to beg God to give them something else. Their rejection of manna as their sustenance was a sign of their disobedience to God and their dissatisfaction with His plan.

I see where the same thing happens to us. We pray and ask God for solutions to dilemmas in our life and then we are unhappy with the answers that He provides. We beg Him to make our job situation better and when that job ends unexpectedly we start to doubt His plan. We find ourselves praying earnestly for healing from cancer and when He chooses to end that person's life here on earth we are filled with disappointment and anger. We plead with God to change people's hearts and find that He wants to change us first.

God's answer to our prayers isn't necessarily going to be what we expect. In fact, from personal experience I can tell you that it most often is not. The question that we have to ask ourselves then is whether we are praying for God to work in our lives through His incredible grace and omniscience or whether we just want Him to give us what we want. Our answer to that question reveals whether we are engaging in a maturing, faithful relationship with a God who provides or if we are seeking a magic genie who will grant us wishes to satisfy short-sighted visions of need.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where Are You Going?

In the book of Numbers, chapter 9, we see that when the tabernacle is set up, a cloud covers it that is the presence of God. When the cloud stays over the tent the Israelites are supposed to stay put. When the cloud moves off of the tent they are to pick up and follow where God leads them. According to Scripture that period of waiting was sometimes a few days and others over a year. The key was that the Israelites understood the importance of waiting for God's direction before they moved on.

As I read this passage this morning I wondered about our own obedience to God's leading in His church and in our personal lives. I think that sometimes we get impatient and try to move ahead before God really wants us to go. This leads to a lack of preparation and prayer on our part as we try to force-feed our own timetable on God's plans. I also believe that the converse is true and that we often don't move when God tells us to. We sit back and analyze and strategize for too long and miss out on the divine appointments that God has for us due to our lack of obedient faith.

If we could develop faith in what God is doing and a sensitivity to His Spirit I would wager that we would be ready to go when He calls us to move. Imagine the difference we would see in His church and our impact on those around us if we followed that closely.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Search My Heart

I have just returned from another trip to the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low, Arizona. My mind and heart are still processing all of the experiences of last week and what God is continuing to teach me from our team's time there. I don't have all the answers yet, but I am asking God to search my heart and soul and reveal to me what I need to learn and apply here.