Saturday, June 30, 2012

Well That's Different

What do you do with change? I know that it is inevitable and it usually is a sign of progress. I tend to deal well with this shift in some areas of my life and less than okay with it in others. It's interesting then, how God brings so many changes about in a short period of time that reinforce my need to depend on Him. 

It can be the change in pace and style of ministry, change in job description & role, another potential change in living situation, the growth of my girls (which is sometimes very rapid change), and the physical change as we get older. All of these keep stretching the boundaries of easy comfort, but also bring about necessary growth and maturity. It's not always easy to go along with it, but we can either attempt to ignore it or joyfully engage in the opportunities that God is giving us. 

Our reaction will determine how well we adapt to the inevitable. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Once Upon a Time

It's only in fairy tales that one great act of valor settles all future disturbances and causes everyone to live happily ever after. In reality, a life that is blessed and God-focused results from continued obedience and daily perseverance. It reflects an understanding that each day is an exercise in discipline and choosing to the right thing. When you understand the principle that you won't "accidentally" end up a better person you muster up the focus and energy to do those things each day. It's a simple principle of being repetitively obedient with our eyes focused on the ultimate prize, and the will to keep doing those things that lead to a God-centered future.

Jesus didn't call us to a single act. He called us to a single attitude.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Take a Deep Breath

Our concept of peace is skewed. We fall into the trap of believing that peace means everything in our life is going smoothly. The earthly definition of peace means there is no relationship turmoil, everyone in our immediate circle is healthy, our finances are solid, and we feel good about ourselves. The problem with this understanding of the word is that it means we won't experience it very much in this lifetime.

The peace offered by Christ is instead focused on a contentment in all circumstances-even when they seem like they couldn't get any worse. It is the difference between seeking our happiness and focusing on being blessed. One is dependent on the ups and downs of daily life while the other seeks refuge in an unchanging and eternally good God.

It won't always make sense to those around us (or even to ourselves sometimes) but it is this peace that passes our earthly understanding that allows us to survive and thrive in adversity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worship Night

Tonight was a celebration. I was blessed to gather with about 40 friends and simply worship God. We prayed for many things, sang as loudly as we could, and simply submitted ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Watching people surrender themselves with hands held high and some in tears is a freeing experience. It was an exercise in reckless abandon to worship that I am still reveling in. We simply worshiped the name of God and what that means for us. There is no other name in which salvation is found and no other name under heaven worth honoring.

No other name is our shelter, our helper, provider, refuge and strength
No other name has the power to save, has the power to conquer the grave.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coffee Time

Those who know me can attest to my love for a cup of coffee. I will have 2-3 cups each morning and follow that up with an afternoon cup or two as well. I like a strong brew and drink it black. I enjoy going to a local coffee shop and having a cup, but enjoy it even more when the company is good. It's the conversations and life-to-life interaction that is a true passion of mine.

Today I was blessed to spend that coffee time with my youngest daughter, Olivia. This is actually something we started in Florida where we take each of our lovelies out for individual coffee time. It gives us the opportunity to invest in each of them and revel in the closeness we can share over a beverage. As they get older I am more intentional about our conversations and try to share more with them than just the day-to-day of life. My hope is that we can build a bridge of safe communication and give them a chance to share what they are thinking. I never take this time for granted, but pray that they enjoy it as much as I do and can look back on it as something special done together  
                                                             and as a fundamental part of their growth.

I can't see the end results of this time we share, but I am trusting that this loving mentoring will help them as they grow older. I only have so much time with them in this phase of life and I don't want to waste a moment we have together.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Today was my Sabbath. It's a day that I have worked to get better at honoring by not going to the office or spending too much time writing & prepping for anything ministry related. I don't know that I spent it exactly how I should have today, but after sleeping in some and reading for a couple of hours, I was fairly busy. I mowed our yard (and our next-door-neighbor/landlord's), got a haircut, and went to the store. It was a 5 1/2 hour process for all of those things and now the evening with my family awaits. My wife & I have differing opinions on what to do on the Sabbath, but this seems to work for me.

One of the things I enjoy doing the most on this day is mowing the yard. I believe firmly in Mark Batterson's statement, "Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective." Spending two hours mowing the lawn is where I find that change and become intrigued by the potential of what could be. In those moments riding in the hot sun, I see tantalizing glimpses of what my future could look like. As I listen to other pastors on my iPod riding around, I am excited by the vision of what God is doing & what He might have for me to do as well. It's a way for me to engage with Him and be relieved of the some of the day-to-day routine.

Perhaps this is one of the greatest benefits of Sabbath for me. It is a way to reconnect with God and find rest and stimulation all at the same time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

None of the Above

What do we do when God doesn't tell us what we want to hear? We can either adjust our expectations & life decisions or call Him a liar. Both answers will reflect our level of faith in His wisdom and goodness. Both responses will reveal our level of pride and whether we are looking for God-driven guidance or simply affirmation of our own ill-conceived plans.

We are either trusting His wisdom & direction or we treat Him like a magic 8-ball that we keep shaking up hoping that we will get the answer we want.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Keep Moving

There are days when you simply put one foot in front of the other one. You aren't possessed with great amounts of energy, but there are still things that must be done. Even when your immediate wish is to rest for several hours there is a discipline in doing the right thing. The schedule won't clear itself and there are responsibilities that fall only to you. It is on these days that perseverance, vision, and coffee get you through. 

While I simply acknowledge that today was one of those days I also see the parallel to my spiritual walk. I will not always be "flying high" but that doesn't change who God is and my relationship with Him. In fact, I may learn more in the effort it takes to move forward when I don't feel like it than when it is easy. This perseverance develops character and depth in my intimacy with God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Because I Said So

Often we think of following God as abiding by a list of rules and making sure we don't cross the line and do something we aren't supposed to do. While there are certain things set in place for our protection and guidance, being obedient to God is more than a mere checklist of unacceptable behaviors. Throughout Scripture we see stories of people who were told to do specific things by God and yet they refused to follow through.

As I thought about it this morning, I had to wonder--what has God asked us to do that we are not? There are multiple areas of social justice which certainly fall under this heading-the need  to care for the poor, to provide for widows & orphans, to take a stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. These and many other needs cry out for Christian involvement and deliberate action.

Where is our obedience in the day-to-day & week-to-week though? How obedient are we when God is asking us to do simple things like tithing? What are we doing with the conviction we feel at the end of a worship service-do we take action or ignore it and hope it goes away? When a moment to share spiritual truth with our children arises do we take advantage of it or find ways to rationalize it away? 

I believe God pushes us to take small steps of obedience in devotions, investing in the spiritual well-being of our children, faithfully committing our finances, stepping up to volunteer in the church, following through on baptism, and confession of sin & repentance. We are satisfied and pat ourselves on the back when we avoid certain behaviors, but it is no less of a sin to neglect to do what God has asked us to do either. We strive to avoid the sins of commission, but the sins of omission may be our greater undoing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stick Figures

In the Old Testament people would often choose to worship a false god instead of honoring the only real God. Since people tend to be visual, they would shape images out of sticks and other substances and then set them in places of honor in their homes. For most of us it's a foreign thought to worship something man-made instead of the other way around.

While that form of idolatry seems abnormal, God still warns us not to fall victim to that same principle. Even though we don't carve images and put them on pedestals in our homes, we still step into the trap of putting our confidence in something that is less than God. The list will vary somewhat for each of us, but usually falls under the categories of reputation, immediate gratification, and faith in temporary status. These are dangerous idols to worship as they will most definitely fade over time and prove to be anything but reliable. 

When we struggle through the fires of life it's better to do so with a God who is authentic instead of a stick god that becomes consumed along with us. It's best to identify where these idols might be and quickly rid ourselves of them before they bring about our downfall.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Camp Reflections

I have just completed my 9th year of leading middle school camp and I can safely say it was another successful venture. I wrote about each day's theme, but I am also thankful for many other things that were part of our camp experience:
  • Committed & passionate volunteer staff giving up vacations, time with families, sleep, & quiet to make a difference
  • A lead pastor who is also passionate about camp & understands the level of work that goes into making it happen
  • Serving with adults who were once part of my youth ministry in Florida
  • Being able to dance & act ridiculously goofy to build bridges of trust with campers
  • Camp baptisms
  • Working with full-time missionaries on the camp staff--they do this all year long
  • Over $1200 in missions offering being given to help feed people in Haiti
  • Insane amounts of laughter with good friends
  • Another year of camp with my daughters
  • Seeing recognition in camper's eyes when they hear they are sons & daughters of the King
  • Watching God work in the hearts of adult volunteers even as they serve
  • People who donate vehicles, equipment, time, and finances to make the trip a success
  • Object lessons that cement the point of a message & work exactly as you hoped
  • Loud worship music
  • The willingness of someone to step in at the last minute to be part of the camp staff
  • Early morning coffee & quiet time before the hectic day begins
  • The chance to speak God's truth to over 130 campers & staff-Rescue is Coming!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Do Something

God seeks to rescue us because of His great compassionate love for His people. His desire is to see us freed from the chains of a sinful life so that we can fulfill our life's purpose. He is pursuing us to restore us to a right relationship with Him, but also to rescue others. It's what we do when we are passionate about sharing what we have experienced.

True life transformation will ignite an unstoppable desire to help rescue those close to us. It is a natural result of the grace we have been given from God and will flow out of us more as we understand how it is our life's work. We are the arrows that point to the solution that God offers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Greatest Need

We seek rescue from a variety of things but they are really only reflections of our need for salvation. We are doing ourselves a disservice when we refuse to focus on this ultimate rescue. Our energy is focused on solving symptoms of a problem instead of addressing the root cause. The sin that so easily entangles us will inflict damage that is reflected in our relationships, self-esteem, and purpose. It can be so painful that we forget the underlying issue-the distance we have created between us and God as a result of our rebellion. Without recognizing that this is the problem we will lose sight of the bigger truth we should be seeking.

How great is it that God was willing to come down here to offer that solution to us? It reflects the true nature of a compassionate rescuer that is willing to do what it takes to completely rescue His people from sin. Being saved now depends on our humble acceptance of what is offered.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rescue Me From Me

Sometimes the greatest enemy we face is ourselves and the lies that we believe. We have convinced ourselves that what has been done to us defines us. We buy into the false principle that what we have done means that God doesn't love us. It is a defeating misconception that our past sins, mistakes, and life history decrease our value. This can be one of the greatest areas of rescue because this particular one prevents us from seeing the love that God has for us. It becomes a perpetual cycle of falsehood that inhibits acceptance of our position as sons and daughters of the King.

He is ready to rescue us-even from ourselves. It's our acceptance of His ability and willingness to save us that begins our process of redemption. How comforting is it to know that God is waiting to remind us that we are His workmanship by freeing us from these lies that weigh so heavy on us.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In Temptation

We seek rescue from the things that tempt us and God tells us that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. The reason we succumb to it isn't because of the pressures of outside influences however, but because of our lack of self-control. God doesn't want us to choose to follow that path and will provide ways out. When we choose not to take that escape route but instead make another decision along the wrong road, our options become limited. God is still going to offer a way out for us, but instead of having a garage door to walk out of now we find ourselves crawling out a window to get away.

Our rescue comes in the middle of our temptation, but we have to be willing to take it. A nasty path of regret awaits us if we don't claim the way out God offers.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Recognizing the Need

There is no need or desire to seek God if we are convinced that our lives are fine the way they are. We can choose to ignore our sickness or make excuses for why we don't seek God's healing, but neither one will deliver rescue.

While God is more than capable of intervening, He is waiting for us to stop the excuses and decide we need His help. It's in the recognition of that need for complete rescue that our vulnerability is genuine. The moment we decide we want to get well is the moment God steps in to rescue His people. This is where our journey begins.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Square One

These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. Luke 6:47 (The Message)

The truth that we hear from God is not supposed to be a supplement to the lifestyle that we are already living. It cannot be compared to putting an addition on our home. That concept doesn't change the fundamental root of who we are, but adds a bonus room for our pleasure & convenience. This is why people struggle with maintaining a commitment to God. We keep trying to fit it into our current life pattern and then wonder why it doesn't work. 

Living life God's way is brand new and requires a setting aside of old pretenses and patterns. We have to do the hard work of knocking down the walls we have built up over our lifetime and ripping up the foundation so that we can start fresh. Unless we go back to the beginning our commitment to Christ will be unstable and our faith unreliable. It's not too late to begin again and starting over is the only way to build a faith that will endure.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On the Edge

I have been prepping for a week of middle school camp for several months now. We have been working through the theme, fleshing out passages of Scripture, writing messages & devotionals, developing worship experiences, putting together staff, and praying for our campers. I am anticipating a great week with 110-115 middle school youth and almost 30 staff. Our time for departure is almost here (Sunday afternoon) and I am trusting that God is going to use us to do something special. We are standing at the edge of the potential for something special next week and I am praying that God's power and plan will now meet our preparation. The victories that come out of next week's efforts depend on our reliance on Him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Great Expectations

Scripture tells us that people of faith prayed expectantly. It was not a weak statement or request of God they did not anticipate an answer to. It was a confidence in the audience they had with the King and a track record of His faithfulness that changed their attitude. This was not a last resort for them, but was an expression of need and certainty in God's response.

We may pray for things to happen but are we doing so while believing that God's answer will be revealed? That is the difference in praying out of duty or praying in faith.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One of Those Days

You ever have one of those days that started out strong & just didn't finish that way? Of course you have. That was my day today.

I felt good about the beginning of the day with coffee, prayer (even as I struggled with maintaining some focus through it), and Bible. I got a jump start on some other reading, enjoyed breakfast with my lovely ladies, and hit the office ready to conquer the world (or at least my to-do list.) Things moved along fairly well until shortly after 11 when it seemed all momentum stopped. For the rest of the day it felt like I was running as fast as I could through chest-deep mud. No matter how much energy or enthusiasm I generated things moved slowly. Nothing went as smoothly as I had hoped or on the time schedule that I had set up for success. Needless to say my list for tomorrow now includes a lot of what I had hoped to have finished today.

I would like to impart great wisdom here and lay out a spiritual principle to benefit faithful readers, but alas, it isn't there. Some days just don't work out exactly as you planned even if you do manage to stay focused. I can mutter and mumble about it around the house tonight, but will instead choose to enjoy the movie night with my ladies and time with my lovely wife. My objective there is to take pleasure in their company and I am confident that particular objective will be accomplished.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Needing a Cure

We are broken and shattered people in desperate need of true healing from God. Unfortunately we tend to settle for putting a band-aid on our brokenness instead of allowing God to redeem us. We aren't willing to do the hard rehabilitative work nor are we willing to humbly submit ourselves to God's authority to begin the process of restoration. 

What are some common band-aids we utilize? Praying for your marriage when you have a fight, but not at any other time; intentionally guiding your children only when they are in trouble; being on your knees in prayer only when your life situation seems overwhelming; opening the Bible when you are desperate for an answer to that moment's crisis; seeking prayer from others when there are trials, but refusing to lean upon daily prayer support from close friends.

Band-aids are perfect for temporary coverage of superficial wounds. They do nothing to help with deeper infections, but deceive us into thinking we have done something to facilitate healing. We have fooled ourselves into thinking it will help, but the root cause of our wounds will eventually kill us if we ignore them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

New Tricks

"He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, 'Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." Mark 14:37-38 (MSG)

I identify with Peter in more ways than I like to admit. I can be brash & impetuous and given to big moments of faith followed soon by moments of weakness. Even though Jesus was chastising Peter in the garden I feel He was talking to me in some ways. 

I am always asking God for wisdom, vision, and clarity so that I can grow more in His plan for my life. I am open to His guidance and how He wants to impact my personal relationship with Him, my family, and the ministry that He has called me to. I like to believe that I am ready for whatever He desires and to take enormous risks of faith for His Kingdom's sake. At the same time there is that part of me that is comfortable with the routine and pace I am in now and struggles with making the necessary changes for growth. 

It will be hard work to follow through on God's design. It will require vigilance and perseverance through difficult endeavors and challenges. I won't drift into something greater for God. I must stay alert and remain in prayer even when it is difficult to maintain my focus and I feel like giving up.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Follow the Tracks

"Well, look at the tracks you've left behind in the valley. How do you account for what is written in the desert dust--"  Jeremiah 2:23  (The Message)

We can make declarations about who we are and what we are doing with our life, but the truth will be revealed by examining the paths that have led us to this point. We can say that our family is more important to us than our career, but if we constantly choose to work longer hours instead of investing in them it isn't true. We can declare that we love our spouses more than any other person, but if we are constantly engaging with others in inappropriate conversations and behaviors we prove otherwise. We can declare that we are Christ-followers, but if Sunday morning or life crisis are the only times we seek God's guidance we are casual observers and not devoted disciples.

The results of our lives will reveal where our true dedication lies. We can't declare that our destination is one that is God-honoring when we constantly choose to travel in the opposite direction. The proof is in the footprints of our journey that we leave behind.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Passing Through

Goodbyes are difficult. This time of year seems ripe with them as graduations fill the calendar. There is a joy in seeing people fulfill a part of their life journey, but also the bittersweet moment as you recognize that a relationship has permanently changed. A phase of life has ended and some things can't be recaptured.

I have been part of numerous high school graduations, but have also assisted with preschool ceremonies. These are different because the time frame together is much shorter. I watched the leaders of these programs revel in songs, stories, and pictures of a year spent together. They had obviously poured their hearts into these young people and it was joyful and yet melancholy.

It is an interesting situation to consider. You enter into this relationship knowing that saying goodbye is the inevitable end of this journey. This reality only leaves you with two choices. You can drown in denial (which doesn't change the outcome) or peacefully step into acceptance and celebrate the memories. Goodbyes can be done with grace and confidence in God's plan that brought us together in the first place.