Friday, July 29, 2011

What Are You Growing?

If you have an orange tree in your backyard eventually you will probably see oranges grow. You can choose to paint the oranges a different color and you can even tie different fruit onto the branches to make it look like other fruit grew there. None of that changes what that tree is-it is still an orange tree.

We fall victim to the same thing in the church. We focus so intently on changing the outward appearance of things that we have forgotten the most important detail of changing our root structure. It is easy to put on a shirt with your church name on it and walk the halls on Sunday declaring how awesome God is. It is simple to pray out loud for the right things in a group of Christians. It is not a difficult thing to sing loudly when the worship music starts up and even lift a hand or two when we get to the chorus of the song. Without a change of heart (our root structure) you are still what you were before you knew Christ. Your true fruit (not just what others see inside church walls) is who you are.

I am thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit to change my roots. My daily prayer is that I would not be the same man tomorrow that I am today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reminded of Calling

Ministry is hard-sometimes it is extremely hard. There are days when it is a struggle to keep your focus on what is important and to not get bogged down in the details of emotion and the tasks that lie in front of you. You perceive that most of what you do is put out fires of conflict and assuage the feelings of wounded people. The politics of organization can threaten to overwhelm you as you try to determine the best practices and pathway for the future vision of the church.

Thankfully God provides the reminder of the calling He has placed on your life. He gives you bountiful moments of sacrifice and kindness from good friends. He gives you people who place their arm around you and tell you with passion in their voice that they are earnestly praying for you. He gives you a good friend & mentor who empathizes in how hard this is and leads the way nonetheless. He lets you have the pleasure of spending time with new friends over coffee and sharing the story of each other's lives. He lets you share in the joy of a powerful woman of God's birthday and the lives that she has touched.

He reminds you quietly and firmly that though this life is hard, this is the one that He has called you to and He will bring you through the good & tough times.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "The One who has called 
you is faithful and He will do it."

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We don't fully comprehend how passionately God pursues us. God is not passive in His desire to have an intimate and engaging relationship with each of us and works to get our attention in ways that we often miss.

It is that concept of relentless pursuit that changes the way we view the love He has for us. If we see God as a distant being who sits and waits for us to choose to join Him we have neglected an important part of His character-His all consuming love for His sons & daughters. We need to learn that He will continue to extend his grace and mercies each day to us and will use other people, His created world, our life circumstances and the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. It is a picture of a God who wants no one to perish, but for all to have eternal life.

I am grateful for a God who loves me so deeply that He would chase after me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeking Acceptance

Acceptance can be a very tantalizing and dangerous object of our affections. From a young age we become conditioned to seeking it from our parents and then spend the rest of our life in pursuit of it. We push after success in athletics, academics and in the number of our friends to appease our souls. As we get older we look for it from our bosses and our spouses. This human need affects all of our relationships-sometimes in ways that we don't even recognize. It ultimately influences the way that we interact with God.

We fight within ourselves to gain His acceptance. We fall victim to the tainted belief that if we can just be good enough that He will love us. It is one of the greatest lies that satan has ever convinced the world to buy into. It is a fallacy that keeps too many souls from pursuing God because they don't think they can measure up.

The truth is that we are His beloved. He knows all of who we are and loves us deeply and passionately through it all. He has fully accepted us long before He ever created us and wants us to grasp that love so we can begin to trust Him.

Communicating that message to the world (and believing it for ourselves) is the key to a passionate intimacy with God that will transform His people and His church.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Fine Line

Faith is essential for following God. We have to believe that He is able to lead us better than we can lead ourselves. We must have confidence in His promises and lean on Him for understanding in tough times and give Him credit for the good times. Our prayers should reflect how important He is to us and that we eagerly seek God's guidance for all that we do.

All our expectations should be firmly in His ability to provide answers to our prayers. There also comes a time when we are called to action. God intends for us to believe in Him and His plan for our individual lives and His Church, but He also calls for us to be an active participant in that plan. There is a desperate need for prayer in the church-in fact, I am convinced we are not praying enough as a whole. It is also time for God's people to decide to follow through on their desires with tangible action. Pray for the finances of the church, but also tithe. Pray for workers for the harvest, but jump into the fray and use your own gifts. Pray for the less fortunate in our community and the world, but make the sacrifice and take care of someone's needs. Pray that a neighbor will come to Christ, but risk rejection and invite them to church. Pray for God's will to be done in your church, but be willing to be part of the solution-even if what God asks you or your church to do is outside of your comfort zone.

We can't have one without the other. If we won't pray we will never know what God's desire is and we won't experience His power. If we only pray we neglect our active responsibility to be influential change agents and the world will go to hell around us while we sit in our prayer meetings.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sharing in Love

I was blessed this past weekend to officiate the wedding of a truly incredible couple as they started their journey of life together. Josh & Heather Hollar and I got to spend a lot of time together over the past few months as we worked through their premarital counseling and wedding planning. Their love for each other was very obvious through it all, the ceremony went off without a hitch, and they are now enjoying their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. It was a huge pleasure for me with the investment that we had made in each other over the past several months.

It never ceases to amaze me how God brings people together when we are willing to listen. There is no doubt in my mind that God brought Josh & Heather together as a couple, but He also gave me the opportunity to be part of their day. I never take these moments for granted and there have been many of them since I was called into ministry. Sometimes it is a divine appointment with the chance to speak into a stranger's life for just a moment, sometimes it is God leading me to a friend in need where I least expected it, and sometimes He will give you the opportunity to make a longer investment in someone (and them in you.)

This is part of life as the Church-keeping your focus on those around you and being willing to make a difference for them as the opportunity arises. I have to admit it's one of my most favorite parts of this life God has called me to.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Forgot

I have learned a difficult truth in ministry. Whenever I return from a mission trip, camp, or other spiritual event, I will encounter intense spiritual resistance and attack the very next week. It happens without fail and yet it would surprise and discourage me each time it occurred. You would think that I would learn that lesson and know that satan would be doing everything he could to negatively affect any positive growth that had taken place.

This year I had myself fully prepared for it. I had prayed and asked for strength and knew that the week after returning from being campus pastor for CIY Move was going to hold spiritual attacks. In reality the week was pretty smooth and ministry just kept thumping along. Then the calendar turned to July.

I forgot again. "He who shall not be named" decided to wait a week to tear it up. I took my eyes off of God and His plan and His providence and allowed the demons of discouragement, despair and futility to settle in and make themselves comfortable. The truth had not changed-the thief has come to steal, kill & destroy (he isn't here to play nice or fair)-but I had forgotten about the confidence that is gained from trusting in God and the abundant life that He promises in spite of our circumstances.

When I forget to keep trusting in God and His ability to work in and through His people then satan has won half the battle. Good thing that the guarantee of God winning the war isn't dependent on my focus. Let's hope I remember that next time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who Are You Hurting?

Sin is a topic we don't like to talk much about. We prefer to either ignore the things that we are doing, rationalize our behavior or belittle it to assuage our guilt and/or shame. Part of the problem is our understanding of who we are actually affecting with our sinful choices. We tend to think that unless it is a deliberate choice to hurt someone else that it can't be that bad. Looking at porn doesn't impact those around us therefore it isn't a big deal. Being prideful is really about our mindset so it won't truly cause anyone else grief. Cheating on our taxes or on a test doesn't really affect the big picture so it isn't a big deal. A small lie to make ourselves look better won't bother anyone because it's not a fallacy about them.

We have missed the point. Our sin isn't actually against the people around us or even ourselves-although the consequences of our choices can be damaging to both. We have sinned against God and it is our rebellion against Him that causes us the most grief. Even though we know it isn't right to cheat on our spouses, to get drunk every weekend, to gossip about others, to lie, to be divisive in church and to steal, it isn't until we realize that these are transgressions against God and not each other that we stand a chance of true repentance and finding forgiveness and cleansing from Him.

Psalm 51:3-4 "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what was evil in Your sight"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

40 Reasons

Today is my 40th birthday. I'm not one for celebrating my own birthday much-not out of fear of age, but that I don't think it's a big deal. In honor of that day however, I decided to list 40 different reasons that I am thankful:

1.   A God who looks at my failings & shortcomings and loves me through them
2.   A wife that is more than I could ever deserve
3.   Lindsay-my oldest daughter and the leadership and compassion that I see in her each day
4.   Bailey-my middle daughter and her love for life and intense concentration in everything she does
5.   Olivia-my youngest and her love of her family and passionate intensity
6.   My mom-strong and loving and always gave me the freedom to try
7.   A family of in-laws that never made me feel like an "in-law" but always like family
8.   Family that means more to me than they know-even if we don't connect as much as I would like to
9.   High school friends that have reconnected over Facebook
10. Childhood friends that have never lost contact-even over miles and years
11. Seeing the results of investing in people as they discover Christ and commit to Him
12. People I am friends with now that were once students
13. Memories of good old Mainland High School-Buc Pride Never Dies!
14. Two cars that are fully paid for
15. A chance to start over financially
16. A friend and mentor for a boss that was patient and prayerful as we healed
17. For friendships of the past that are no more-I am grateful for the time that we shared
18. To know that I am missed
19. For brand new friends that lovingly accept our whole family
20. A chance to serve alongside brothers & sisters from Arizona, Michigan & CIY
21. The chance to preach-the message burns in my bones and must be shared whether I want to or not
22. The spiritual growth and depth that my wife and I have shared in the last few years
23. Comforts of life-food, shelter, clothing, water-things that I take for granted more than I should
24. That God has promised to never leave me or forsake me-no matter what
25. Mercies that are brand new every morning
26. A good meal around the table with my girls
27. Daddy-daughter birthday breakfasts
28. The influence of my grandparents-not a day goes by that I don't miss them
29. A beautiful home on a lake
30. Our health
31. My wife-my best friend, lover, spiritual companion and life partner. I love growing older with her
32. The opportunity to use the gifts that God has given me on a regular basis
33. Northridge Christian Church and all of God's people that I get to minister to regularly
34. Time on the back porch with my wife
35. Our time at Tomoka-it shaped me in so many ways and put me on this path that God had ordained for us
36. Music-it resonates in my soul in so many different ways
37. An audience with the King of Kings every moment of every day
38. Morning coffee time with my Bible
39. God's calling on my life-even if I don't know the exact direction & timing, I know this is where I am meant to be
40. Another year to celebrate the life I have been blessed with.