Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's a Trap

I was sitting on the dock this morning for my coffee & prayer time and noticed a spider web that was filled with flying insects. While I sat there I saw several bugs fly into the same web that had already captured so many of their friends. It was if the multitude of doomed bugs wasn't alarming enough to keep them away. It was an interesting lesson in ignoring warning signs and the example of others.
How often do we willingly do the same thing? We ignore our history and previous, painful experiences and continue to make destructive decisions. We regret the things that we say, think, and do and yet don't do anything to correct the behaviors that led us there. The examples of marital infidelity, financial struggles, ruined reputations, and unsatisfactory lives around us fail to keep us from making ridiculously poor decisions. 

We are certainly more intelligent than the flying insects that keep getting trapped in the spider's web. Our higher cognitive abilities don't necessarily prevent us from the sinful patterns that not only trap us, but will certainly destroy us. To prevent the same painful results we must change direction and learn from our own past and the example of those around us. 

Repentance is the beginning of restoration and learning. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Friends Along the Way

I have been reminded this past week of the incredible friendships that I am blessed to have in my life. We shared life experiences this past week in Florida with people that have been part of our story for many years. Tonight we hosted five families and their children in our home for dinner and swimming. These are good friends that have been part of our lives for some portion of the last three years. It underscores the value of community and the tangible benefit of sharing life with people you care deeply for. It matters not whether this is from day-to-day life or it is shared in stolen moments of hugs & laughter when you share the same zip code for a brief time period. Our family has been favored with great friends to walk this journey of life with us & I am grateful for each of them whether they are near or far.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Do

It's been a weekend of marital experiences. I spent the last few days in Florida with my bride of almost 18 years and enjoyed the gift of time alone. We were blessed to spend it on the beach and there was comfort even in the quiet moments staring out the ocean. God has transformed our marriage over this journey together and days with just the two of us remind me of how lucky I am.

The reason for our trip (as written about in yesterday's post) was to officiate the wedding for one of our very good friends. They are at the beginning of their life's journey and it was a joy to witness the start of their marriage. While there we were able to see old friends--one of whom has just now been married for two years. Her comment to my wife about being married was that it was "the best thing ever!"

We are also honored to host the wedding vow renewal ceremony for two good friends who are moving away. It's a perfect way to end this weekend with a group of people who care intimately for each other coming together to bless a couple that has declared their allegiance to God and each other.

All of the parts of this weekend are a perfect reminder of the gift of marriage that we have received from God. Each stage of this journey has its trials and celebrations and the result of sharing life with another is a sweet reward that is worth all of the effort.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life to Life

You never really know the impact that your life will have. It's a measurable that can only be revealed as time passes and even then is not fully realized. We are blessed to see parts of that life-to-life contact in certain moments however. Today I get to experience one of those occasions.

I have the incredible pleasure of officiating a wedding for someone that is very special to my wife & I. We have experienced so much life with her & her family and there just isn't enough space to talk about all we have shared. We have watched her & her brother grow up from young children, worked through adversity, cried together, led them as their pastor, served in the mission field, laughed more times than I can begin to count, and developed a friendship that brings joy to my family. Her family asking me to lead her ceremony is affirmation of our mutual love and admiration.

Today Jocelyn Davidson starts the next step of her life journey and becomes Jocelyn Hofstede. It is my tremendous honor to be part of her day and I am grateful for this gift from God as evidence of our life impact on each other. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Off Balance

While driving yesterday, I told my wife that I have been feeling a little off balance lately. I had a hard time identifying the underlying reason for the last few weeks, but received an inspiration in the monotony of the road. My lack of equilibrium is because so many things are changing in my life that I feel as if everything is in a state of flux.

I recognize the need for change both personally and professionally and look forward to the growth that happens as a result. There just seems to be so many different things happening both personally and professionally that it feels as if everything is unstable. I can't predict how things will unfold in the next two months, but it is a reminder to me to hold onto the anchor of my relationship with Christ. The change itself will produce good things, but the stability I gain from relying on God alone is a lesson worth learning.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Peace & Tranquility

(I recognize it hasn't been that long since I have blogged on this topic, but apparently it is still flowing through my mind and needs to be shared.)

Are we ever truly content? Are we okay with this moment that God has given to us or are we so busy seeking the "next" thing that we are missing what is in front of us right now? I will admit that my personality always has me looking ahead & wondering if I am ignoring a sign about future direction. While I don't negate the importance of being attentive to my spiritual surroundings, I can also become guilty of allowing uneasiness to settle in. 

We should be at peace with where God has us & what He is doing. Our true source of discontent should be the lack of fulfillment of God's vision in our lives due to our own disobedience.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I See It

I have had vision problems most of my life. I remember when I got glasses for the first time and how everything suddenly became more clear. I saw things that I didn't even realize existed. Until I put the glasses on I didn't know what I was missing, but just believed that what I was experiencing was full reality. 

The same principle applies to us spiritually. We become convinced that the imperfect images we see and incomplete things we experience are the real life God intends for us. We settle for less than God's   reality by accepting a flawed perception of reality. 

The power of the Holy Spirit changes that vision if we are willing to submit to Him. He will lift the veil that we have built over our eyes and allow us to see how the potential of real life the way God intends it. The possibility of correcting our vision is a choice that is left up to us. We can either resolve to accept the clear vision of God or resign ourselves to seeing nothing clearly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Radical Review

I recently read, "A Radical Idea" by David Platt after having read his books, "Radical" and "Radical Together." All three of them resonate with the same principle that Christians are called to live in a powerfully influential way that is outside of our normal definition of church. It is only when we commit to empowering each follower of Christ to live as a missionary outside of the church walls that we see true Biblical growth take place.

This particular book is a primer of sorts to engage people in the idea of what it means to be a radical follower and church. It is a simple, yet powerful call to resist settling for gathering in church buildings as the penultimate act of worship. It serves as a great launching pad for discussing a biblically radical life and hopefully stimulates the church to take action in new ways. This book could certainly be used as a way to stir up people's thoughts and emotions about radical service and lead them to read his other books for more practical challenges and applications.

I recommend it as a discussion facilitator, but would encourage people to read his other works for more in-depth rationale and discussion.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Safe Prayers

We develop patterns and routines of prayer in our lives. While there is tremendous value in establishing the discipline of regular prayer, we can fall victim to praying the same phrases and words each day and lose the depth of meaning of what we are seeking God for. Have we allowed ourselves to be content with asking for immediate physical needs, blessings, and safety? While there is nothing wrong in praying for safety & protection, it does necessarily lead to an increase in our faith.

We have neglected to pray bold prayers that seek the best & most of what God has to offer to us. If we have even a fundamental understanding of God's infinite power we should be seeking more of it. We have to move beyond the easy prayers for ourselves and the benefits to our lives and ask God to do miraculous things in our communities and in the Church. It is in this stretching of our safe-zone boundaries that we gain greater glimpses of God and see His Church's influence increase. This bold and desperate prayer reflects our desire to see more of the power of the Holy Spirit working in us even as it scares us to think what that might look like as God answers. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Who Am I?

What kind of man do I want to be? I was in the habit of thinking this through quite often, but have set it aside recently as my agenda has become task driven instead of goal oriented. This is a fluid and incomplete description, but having the vision in front of me gives me something to work towards.
  • Christ-lover above all things
  • Dedicated husband who makes his wife feel like she is the best woman in the world
  • Father who invests in his children with their God-ordained future in mind
  • Generous with my resources of time, energy, and finances
  • Patient when the natural response is impatience
  • Compassionate for other people
  • A good listener
  • Well-read in many areas
  • Visionary as a leader
  • Developer of other leaders
  • Encourager
  • Friend who is dependable
  • A man who is a pleasure to be around
  • Authentic in recognizing my own shortcomings & admitting my need for God's help
In the busyness of what must be done I will focus on who I must become.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's Over

The first community outreach camp between Vaughn Chapel & Northridge has finished. We fed the families tonight and had a closing program to encourage them and hand out school supplies. There is no doubt that we were able to have a positive impact, even in the short week that we shared together. We saw the fruit of our labors in the retention of the campers and the enthusiasm they brought back home with them. I can't begin to describe the satisfaction that I feel from our endeavors and months of planning together. The time that was served in the trenches with both churches has forged a bond of friendship & kinship that will only help to transform our community. I am grateful for the leadership that is willing to be obedient to God's vision for His Church. The rewards have only begun to be realized, but this investment will have a return that we won't fully realize this side of eternity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

End of a Day

It's the end of the first full day at Camp Kaleo and the daily tiredness is starting to set in (for campers & for staff.) It has been a challenging day in some ways, but rewarding in so many others. I don't know that words can accurately express all that I was able to take part in, but it will certainly do for now.

  • Watching campers & staffer alike joining in motions to new songs with enthusiasm
  • Lots of laughter at a full camp game game of wiffle ball
  • Campers begging to get back in the pool because they never get to swim like this at home
  • Learning that a young camper bought her first bathing suit for this trip for the same reason
  • Getting to watch our staff love on these children in so many situations
  • Giving big shouts of encouragement as they hit the target shooting bows & arrows
  • A young man (who likes to test boundaries) sitting with me at dinner and having a great conversation
  • The same young man hearing the adults at his table talk about the good dinner rolls & going to get another one for them to share
  • Sharing the truth that we are sons & daughters of the King and praying it takes root even if we won't necessarily see the immediate impact

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Round 2

I am entering into another week of the "Rescue Is Coming" theme this summer as we partner with Vaughn Chapel Baptist to host camp for kids in Milledgeville. This is a unique venture for all of us and has already presented nechallenges as we get acclimated to a new environment. We have already broken down some barriers with our campers (faster than expected) and are starting to see some opportunities to share Christ. I am humbled to serve with such a great staff from both churches & look forward to the relationships we will build with each other from this time in the mission field.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Sinner's Prayer

Create in me a clean heart, o God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Create: make something new that I cannot make on my own. I will will try & fail to do this every day under my power.

In me: not external, but in the wellspring of my soul that will affect everything else that I do

Clean heart: I recognize that my heart will not be pure based on my willpower. I am not content with my heart's current state & I humbly ask that you make it clean for Your sake and for mine.

o God: I call on You as my first and last resort my King. I will call on Your name as the Creator of all things, the King to whom I pledge allegiance, my compassionate Father, and the lover of my soul.

Renew: my dedication to You unfortunately fades. While I do not wish for it to be this way, I seek out Your regenerative love and beg You to refresh my soul.

Steadfast spirit: while I recognize that I fluctuate in the intensity of my devotion to You, I can honestly confess that my heart desires to seek You more consistently. It is only in Your ability to forgive my sin and set me on the right path that my spirit is made stronger. I desire unwavering intimacy with You, my Lord, and believe in Your magnanimous love that makes this possible.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I Had a Plan

As part of my Type A personality I like to plan things out-sometimes in more detail than others. I have ongoing project lists, meditate on objectives, and spend a lot of time writing things out in my Franklin planner and on my whiteboards. It's a way for me to get a firm grasp on what is going on and to be able to look ahead at what needs to happen next.

As a result of all of this anal-retentive planning I can be come frustrated when things don't go exactly how I had envisioned. It can be as simple as a conversation not going as I had envisioned, detailed plans suddenly veering off script, or big changes in life direction and lifestyle. All of these require shifting of direction and reaction. This is something I have improved on in recent years, but it takes conscious effort to work though. 

This is a reminder that I can continue to plan, but the world doesn't revolve around me and my objectives. God's plan also doesn't necessarily work according to my life maps even if I have been engaged in prayer and thought beforehand. The lessons I have learned in flexibility & adaptability are valuable and ongoing. It molds in me a willingness to adjust, creates better interpersonal relationships, and continues to mature my faith in God's omniscience. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Words on Paper

I have a desire to write and while I am still in the refining stages of style and communication, I feel the need to develop the regular discipline of writing. One of my life ambitions is to write a book and I know that the consistent practice of blogging will help me to prepare for that process. I think back through what I have experienced that day, what insight I might have gained from Scripture, and what revelation I received from God. I usually sit down at my laptop and the ideas flow forward from my fingertips.

That is not happening today. Yet, in my stubbornness, I am insisting on writing a blog that is essentially about not writing a blog. It reflects a discipline that is necessary for future success. There are obvious spiritual parallels that I can make here as well, but for tonight I will refrain. 

Today I am simply reminded of Doc Carlin, my AP English teacher from high school (and friend & colleague) who would often pace around our classroom declaring, "Words on Paper!" It was his way of telling us to put our writing skills to work. The results will not always be ethereally life changing, but the practice is necessary just the same.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Got It

I realized this morning while enjoying the peace of the morning air and a good cup of coffee that I am too dependent upon my own ability to get things done. I believe firmly in God's provision and will, but sometimes neglect to rely on Him as much as I should. I am not negating the importance of perseverance and hard work. I am simply acknowledging the reality of my own stubbornness and my life pattern of self-reliance. You would think that my previous experience of personal exhaustion and clear evidence of God-led victory would have already changed that in me.

Mark Batterson says that we should work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God. I have the first part of this equation down pat. It's the second half that will unleash the power of the Holy Spirit in my life and in ministry. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

That'll Do

When do we finally have an "IHHE" moment? It's the "I Have Had Enough" recognition that causes us to make change. We reach a point of exasperation, defeat, desperation or devastation and decide that things cannot remain the same. Change begins when we are no longer comfortable with the status quo. As long as we are comfortably complacent with the health of our family life, the depth of our spiritual intimacy with God, and the level of sin we are engaging in, nothing will change. Having an IHHE revelation spurs us to press in more closely to God for forgiveness, wisdom, and discernment. It is the only real impetus for long-lasting life adjustments. 

Dissatisfaction with our current path is the catalytic mechanism for positive life transformation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Emotional Roller Coaster

In Ezekiel 20, God talks about the rebellion of His people against Him in Egypt and their deliberate sin of idolatry. He admits to Ezekiel that His immediate response was to inflict His anger on them in Egypt, but instead He held back. He says in verse 9, "I acted out of who I was, not by how I felt."

I believe that God was not simply recounting history for us, but was establishing a guideline for our own behavior choices. We can easily become overcome by our emotional reactions to people, circumstances, and the opportunity to sin. Denying that initial, impulsive reaction and remembering our true character is the key to remaining distinctly different in our culture. Our foundational identity as followers of Christ should serve as that reminder that we do not have to allow our emotions to reign over all our decisions. Not only is it the healthiest decision for us, it is the example that God desires us to follow as His people.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Starting Line

The old saying for avoiding trouble is, "Don't start none, won't be none." I actually thought of this phrase while meditating on a different topic though-the concept of change.

I don't know that many people are perfectly content with the current status of their life. We all desire for things to improve (even in minor ways) and to see change take place. The problem with desiring change is that it takes effort on our part to make it a reality. If we don't begin the actions that lead to change, it won't accidentally happen to us.
  • We want our marriages to improve, but neglect to have the hard conversations to work through past hurts & regrets.
  • We want to be in better physical shape, but won't start the process of eating healthier & exercising.
  • We want to be closer to our children, but don't start the conversations to hear what they are truly thinking.
  • We desire a better financial future, but continue to spend each monthly dollar without a plan to improve it.
  • We want to be better Christians, but aren't willing to sacrifice our time, energy, and talents to live like one.
The change that is necessary in our lives will not take place because we wished for it. It is an endeavor of faith and action that leads us to improvement.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What Time Is It?

There are two Greek words that describe the concept of time-chronos  and kairos. The first term describes the sequence of life events as they occur while the second refers to unique moments of interaction and revelation. We need to observe the chronos or we will pay our bills late, miss anniversaries & birthdays, and never show up to work on time.  We are usually focused on the "get 'er done" mentality of crossing things off our list and worry more about chronos. For real growth and life fulfillment it is more important that we pay attention to the kairos moments in life-the fulfilling time when God speaks to us. 

Can we see those God-speaking moments in our life? Do we remember when He gave us instruction, direction, or discipline? If we don't feel we have had those then what can we do to be more alert? He obviously hasn't changed and still desires to communicate with His people-He always has. I would argue that the lack of kairos moments is a result of our inability to clear the path for communication and our poor listening skills.

If we aren't hearing from Him it isn't because He has lost His voice. Perhaps it's because we've lost our desire to listen to what He has to say.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Don't Ask Me

I don't know what is next. I do know what is on my calendar (it's full) and I know what tasks I need to be working on (multiple categorized lists help.) There are just so many other details that I am unsure of in the middle of this continually busy season. 

We continue to pray, study Scripture, strategize, and dream, but that doesn't always mean the answers will be immediately evident. I am still seeking solutions for ministry direction, new ways to connect to people, a new living situation, parenting solutions, and the next steps on the path God is leading us on. It can be frustrating and tense to not have the responses you seek.

In this I am reminded of a God who has never let me down before. He is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to prompt memories of His previous deliverance--not just in Biblical history, but in my own life. He never fails to provide and it is my (sometimes shaky) confidence in that provision that carries me through.  It is not knowing and still trusting in Him that defines and refines my faith.

Where else would I put my hope and trust?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hand to Face

Jesus fed thousands of people and then left the area overnight to minister elsewhere. When the people realized that He had moved on they followed Him. When they arrived and started to question His disappearance, He told them that they were not looking for actions of God, but were simply following Him because He had filled their stomachs.

It's easy to fall into this trap even today. The depth of our relationship with God becomes about what He can do for us instead of seeking intimacy with Him. It's the same as looking for the hand that has a gift for us and never looking up to see who it is from. Our relationship with Christ becomes transformed (as do all others in our life) when we focus on His face and seek out His character instead of just looking for a heavenly handout.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Depth Finder

As I read through Ezekiel, there is a passage where God leads the prophet through some hidden chambers to show him where the people of Israel are sinning. They have falsely believed that no one knew about their sin, including God. 

This really is no different for the sins that we attempt to hide today. While we may not have golden idols hidden in our basement or poles in shady areas that we offer daily sacrifices to, we attempt to keep our sins out of sight. We hang onto resentment in our hearts for people around us, refuse to publicly acknowledge our addictions, rationalize our behaviors, and judge others to keep the focus off ourselves. 

The only way for this to change is for us to do as it says in Scripture and boldly ask God to examine our hearts. This request isn't for His benefit. He already knows everything there is to know about us--even those motivations that are hidden deeply from ourselves. The reason we ask God to search us is so that we can see the depths of our heart for ourselves. When God's light has exposed every dark corner of our soul we can finally begin the true cleansing & transformation that is necessary to be holy people.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Better Than I Deserve

Today is my birthday. I don't usually do a lot of celebrating of my own anniversary of birth. It's not that I am afraid of getting older or don't want the reminders of progressive age. It is really a reflection of not wanting a fuss to be made over me. Now I could pick that apart some (and believe me I have) but I'll let it stand on its own for this day. Let it just be sufficient to say that the day normally passes fairly quietly and without much fanfare.

This year has been somewhat different for me however. I was battling through some things in prayer this morning and seeking God's direction for me, my family, and future ministry. There were no specific answers given to most of that prayer & journaling, but He did provide it in other ways. The rest of my day was filled with birthday wishes and encouragement from colleagues, family, friends, and current and former church members. It was an extravagant reminder to me of the life that I have been blessed to live in Florida & now in Georgia. As each notification and well-wish came in, I reflected on my life interactions with each person and the moments that I have been gifted to share with them. It is a vivid reminder of the path of life that God has led me on and the beautiful people I have been allowed to live it with.

I am grateful for each interaction and story that I have to tell. Each one has shaped me and my family into who we are today and I pray that my influence has also been a blessing in return. God has shown His great love to me through all of you and I most certainly will not take it for granted.