Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paper Airplanes

Its Christmas Day 2009, with just about 1 hour left in the day. And, like every Christmas, the kids made out like bandits with gifts from mom and dad, grandparents and great-grandparents, and a great-aunt and uncle. Among the spoil were Legos, Lincoln Logs, some RC cars with ultra-bright blue and red LEDs, a Dippin' Dots maker, a Pixos art machine for each girl, and jewelry boxes. But one gift emerged as daddy's favorite. It's a book of paper airplanes! Specifically, it has ten different airplanes to make, some gliders, some darts, some stunt planes. There's even one plane, called the Hurricane, which is a circle. Timmy and I had a lot of fun making airplanes and throwing them across the room. As I sat there tonight folding paper, I found myself taking a venture back to the wonder I experienced as a kid making airplanes. Not just the fun of tossing them across the room, but the work that goes into them. To make a good plane, you just don't fold paper any old way. Each fold must be precise. What is done on one side needs to be done on the other. A paper airplane, to fly properly, requires symmetry. It's really kind of cool.

As I was flying the last plane I made tonight, it hit me that paper airplanes brought out in me something that makes the Lord Jesus very happy-a childlike faith. He said to His followers, "If you want to enter the Kingdom of God, you must have faith like a little child" (my paraphrase). When I think of childlike faith, I'm not just thinking trust. While that is a huge part of faith, it's not the only part of faith. Think back to you childhood. Think back to that sense of wonder that you had. How was it that dad could mow the lawn, and instead of dying, a week later it was flourishing and in need of another mow? How could that Space Shuttle make it from that launch pad in Florida to outer space? How is it that a caterpillar morphs into a beautiful butterfly in about 2 weeks time in that tight chrysalis? Those are just a few of the things that put a sense of awe in us.

When you go out tomorrow, I want to stop and look around. So much of God's creation simply passes by without us giving it much thought. We adults get so focused on "important stuff" that we become colorblind to the wonderful things the Lord has put here. We need to stop and smell the roses, to use a very tired cliché. Remember the commercials for a popular allergy medication? The one where someone is outside, but the shot is blurred and dull? Then the person pulls out the allergy med box, and the dull, blurry image peels away to reveal a vibrantly colorful and clear picture. That's what I think we need from time to time. Call it a spiritual antihistamine. Why spiritual when we're talking about a physical world we are in awe over? Because we need to see the world as it really is. It's the creation of our all-powerful God, who happens to be Spirit. When we can let our minds take in the wonder and majesty of creation, then we in turn should let it translate into praise for the infinitely creative God who made it. Instead of stuffy noses, we have stuffed up spirits. We need to get our sense of wonder back.

I believe that we honor God when we explore and experience this world He made for us. He's made this whole universe as a vast backyard for us to explore. We not only have the technology to see the deepest places on earth, and the now unfolding catalog of new species to find in them, but we are getting glimpses of the awesome things outer space is full of. Distant stars exploding and imploding, beautiful nebulas, and new planets dazzle us. The psalmist was right. The heavens really do declare God's glory! I know that sadly, many of those who see these things daily don't translate it to faith a really big God. Honestly, I don't see how they don't. But the more I learn, the more I explore, the more I want to praise God. Why, just the human body alone is so impossibly complex that all I can do is give God glory.

I never thought I'd find inspiration in a few paper airplanes. Till next time!

God bless!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Primal: The Review

OK, this is officially my second review of a Mark Batterson book (or any book for that matter!). As an avid reader, I have several authors that I enjoy. But I don't have too many that I can relate to on a level that is "real", for lack of a better term. I'm not a lot younger than Pastor Mark, and on that point alone I have a lot more in common with him than other authors I read. Pastor Mark's first book challenged me to chase a lion in the biggest move of my then 30-year old life, uprooting my family from our comfortable home in southeast Michigan to sunny central Florida, where we have really seen the providence of God in our lives and ministry. Now comes the chance to review yet another great book, Primal: The Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. So here goes.

For some time, deep inside me, I've sensed a longing for what Mark conveys in the pages of this book, though I couldn't quite place a finger on it till now. Do you sense in your spirit and heart the need to reflect back on what a relationship with the Lord should be? That is exactly what this book is doing for me. It is a call for us to get past a surface faith that can develop in even the most seasoned Christian. This book calls us to descend back to what the heart of our faith is all about, namely, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

So, taking the Great Commandment referenced above that the Lord gave us, Mark takes us on a journey through each one, looking at the ways we love God in them. Do the things that break God's heart break ours? Does the wonder of God's creation awe us? The soul of our faith is often expressed in the wonder and amazement of what God has made. How about loving Him with our minds? We have the ability to continually grow in knowledge. But too many of us allow ourselves to stop learning at some point in life. God is honored when we don't stop trying to understand Him, His ways and His universe. Finally, love God with all our strength. In other words, putting some elbow grease into our faith. I used to attend a church that operated a large warehouse for benevolence ministry. We stored food and drinks there that we gave out both locally and around the world. But people had to maintain the warehouse, lest it fall into poor shape. Things needed to be put in order. I did that for a while, and each time I went home, I left with the sense that I had done something of value eternally. I was tired, but I felt that I had loved God with my strength.

Our faith isn't simply reading a few verses, saying a few prayers and calling it a day. Our faith is living and real. It finds outlet in our experiences and practices on a daily basis. Primal
takes you to the place that you look at the foundational things that make our faith. So pick up a copy today and start digging down into the primal roots of Christianity!P

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Every Step I Take…

In my fast track through the Bible that I recently began, attempting (I said attempting, now!) to read the entire thing in 90 days, I am finding it both refreshing and amazing at the what I am picking up along the way. I haven't really come across things I've never seen, but I am being wonderfully reminded of many truths I've known for years, yet somehow ended up in the dusty reaches of my mind. Sure, from time to time, as situations would warrant, those truths would come out, but they aren't things that I'd thought and meditated on, at least not on any regular basis. Suddenly, the joy of God's Word, the pull of His Spirit, and the growth that results are overwhelming me. I love to pull out the truth of God's word, and get it into my heart.

One of those times came this morning as I read of the patriarch Jacob, and his mad dash out of Caanan, running as far from his brother that he had cheated as he could. As he made the journey to the far Haran, to his uncle Laban's house, he had a powerful encounter with the Lord as he slept. He saw a ladder that spanned from heaven down to earth. On that ladder, Jacob saw angels going up and down on it. The the Lord spoke to him, and promised to him the same thing that he had promised to his Dad, Isaac, and his grandfather before that, Abraham. He said that he would give him the land on which he was sleeping, the land of Caanan. He promised that his descendents would be innumerable, and that through him, the families of the earth would be blessed. And then God told Jacob what has stuck with me all day long now:

"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land…" (Gen. 28:15)

That is the part that gets me. When I read about the life of this man called Jacob, I am not reading a lot that says he was a man of faith that always made God happy. In fact, Jacob spent much of his life scheming, lying nd cheating to get his way. That was why he was on the run from his brother, Esau. Yet, in spite of his mistakes, his plans, and his scheming ways, God was with him! Even though he messed up royally, God didn't give up on the plans He had for this man. Friends, that is a comfort to me. I may not be a cheat, but let me be honest. There are times I let my own ideas get In God's way. There are times that my worries push me to lean on my own understanding to fix my messes. That is a big no-no, when one considers that the Scripture teaches that we are to trust in God, and not trust our natural understanding above God (Prov. 3). Yet, as much as I've messed things up, God is still directing my steps and making me that man He's called me to be. What does the New Testament say? "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) That means to me that God isn't afraid of my mistakes. He doesn't wash His Hands of me when I fail. He picks me up, dusts me off, and uses that experience to mold me. Friends, God isn't joking when He tells us this precious truth. How amazing and how deep is His love and grace for us!

Now, I know that God isn't trying to bring us into a physical piece of real estate as He was with Jacob. The Lord Jesus has place of promise for us, though. He has a destiny for us. He alone sees the final picture of what we are to become. So let Him work out His will in your life through this time of testing. It may be painful now, but the time will come later on when you will look back and be thankful for what you've endured. Once you've passed through, you will be able to say with confidence, "It was worth it all!"

God bless!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Burnout

Have you ever had a really, really bad day? I know, that's like asking if you've ever been bitten by a mosquito or had a flat tire. We've all had days we wish never happened. I had one of those days this past Sunday. We had just come out of a string of revival meetings in which I had to play guitar every night. As a guitarist, you'd think I'd be thrilled to play that much. And I do love to play. But, once the revival closed out, I didn't touch my Strat but for a few minutes on day. I just got burned out. You'd think that after a few days respite I'd be ready to rock once church rolled (no pun intended-for real!) around Sunday morning. (I love being able say I'm gonna rock in church!) But this time I wasn't. It was evident, at least to my ears and fingers that I was still vegetating in the funk from pouring out and pouring out. I was off my game, and I just didn't want to be up there. That's how it was all day long. Even last night was tough. I made myself pull the guitar out and practice. I put my iPod on and pulled up a practice track on it. Nothing I played sounded right. My guitar didn't feel right. I just wanted to give up. But it was me. I was in a down time, a period where I was still coming out of some discouragement. Even though I wanted to give in and just watch TV, I needed to keep on pressing forward. And tonight, I plan on continuing that. I need to press on. You see, music in a real sense is part of my job. When I had to constantly do it as work, it burns me out. I needed to take time and get back to why I play music, even though it was somewhat painful. I play music because I love music.

We get that way in all areas of life. We spend and spend and spend, whether it's for work, ministry and even family. We need to take time to ourselves just to get recharged. If I've had a long day taking care of sick kids and keeping the well ones on task with homework and chores, I need to have some time to get away from the rush and clear my mind. I need to relax. I have a tough job in ministry that not many folks are lining up for. Keeping the books isn't very fun, and it can be intensely stressful at times. When I come home (often late), I want to forget numbers, checks and payroll and melt on the couch. I need recharging. And in ministry, I need that time that I can get alone with God, not waiting on cell phones and church needs. I need to simply get in prayer, soak the presence of God up, and let Him fill me. You'd think that in a revival, I'd be able to do that nightly, but when you are pouring out, it isn't easy to do that. Sometimes pastors really need revival after coming out of revival!

That time for me began Sunday night. I had some good time alone with the Lord at the altar. I am getting my battery recharged. And I need to remember why I follow the Lord. It isn't so I can do ministry. I love Jesus, and I want to spend time with Him. He's my savior. I do ministry because the love that I have for Him compels me to reach out to others. (And for that call I can't escape from.) My relationship with the Lord is not one and the same with ministry. But ministry flows from that relationship. Simply put, when I pour out of myself, like any old pitcher, I need to be filled back up if I am to be of any use. I let myself get poured out dry. I am now refilling.

This isn't the deepest message today. But I pray that it is just what you need. And it's the first blog in forever. But keep surfing over, friends. I'll do my best to have something here for you all.

God bless!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sometimes I Just Need Daddy

A month or so back, my wife and I found out about a local football and cheerleader organization here in Lakeland, called the Lakeland Saints. They run football teams from ages 4 to 14. My boy, Timmy, who is 5 ½, has shown interest in football, so we signed him up for flag football. His first practice was this Monday, and he did great. The coach had them running, and got them familiar with blocking. It was a proud moment for me when I watched Timmy turn into a brick wall blocking another boy! Yesterday, they practiced running with the ball, then receiving. Timmy did great catching passes from the coach, even throwing the ball back. It was shaping out to be a great practice.

That's when it kind of turned around on the poor kid. The coaches lined them up in formation, and they got to run plays, going after the kid with the ball. They block and are really physical during these drills. Well, Timmy got caught off guard, and was run over by another kid. Shaken, he got up, and I saw immediately that he was upset. He saw me, and made a bee-line for me, tears flowing. He clutched on to me, and wouldn't let go for anything. He said he hurt his leg, and was so shaken that he didn't want to go back out on the field. It tore me up inside to take him back out there, but how else can he learn if he doesn't try again? Fortunately, practice was nearing its end, and we soon headed home. Before we left, the coach talked with him about remembering to block, and Timmy was ready to go for the next practice, which happens to be tomorrow.

Timmy will learn of the years that life doesn't get any easier. Today it may be a lineman knocking him down, but later on it will be something else. I've had some real experience in that lately. I've found myself under stress these past couple weeks that's been nearly crippling. I was at the point that I dreaded getting up in the morning. While I had to press on, I admit that I did what Timmy did yesterday. I ran to my Daddy. More specifically, I ran to my heavenly Father, or as Jesus told us to call him, Abba. That's Aramaic for daddy. It was an intimate word that a Hebrew child used when he talked with his father. Last week, having been knocked on my rear, I found myself running to the sidelines of life, crying out for God to cradle me and somehow, make everything better. While God didn't change the circumstances, His loving touch on me did give me the strength to carry on. I just needed my Daddy.

Running to Daddy is one secret God's men and women throughout the scriptures have employed throughout time. Abraham did when he was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Jacob did when he was facing the brother he cheated years before. Moses did when the nation cried against him. David did when raiders burned his town down and ran off with his and his men's families. Elijah did when the fear of Jezebel had crippled him. And Jesus did in the garden, just before He went to the cross. Friends, if all these found comfort in "the God of all comfort", how much more should we? We have a promise that whenever we need His grace, we can boldly come get it. Jesus is "touched with the feelings of our infirmities". He understands what we endure, and He is ready to give us the comfort and grace we need. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). The Lord is waiting, friends. He is ready to hold you in His Arms and give you the comfort and the strength to press on.

Sometimes, we just need our Daddy.

Friday, May 01, 2009

That Out-Of-Place Feeling


For the past month or so, I've have been making a concerted effort to get in better shape. As a pastor, I know stress that many people don't face. I don't just deal with my own issues; I've got other people to help, too. All a minister has to handle can take a great toll on him. That is why so many defect from ministry and work secular jobs. That's also why many are overweight, out-of-shape, or have health issues. Knowing that before I go into the senior pastorate, I felt I needed to do something about my health.

I had been going to work out in my townhouse's little gym of universal machines three days a week. Then one of the other pastors here at the church got a deal at a local gym for staff members to work out for free. I was stoked when I got my card. So, on Monday of this week, I ventured for the first time since high school into a real exercise place, with tons of free weights, Hammer Strength Machines, and every other piece of equipment under the sun. You should have seen me. I looked lost when I first darkened that door. I didn't know where to begin! I think I spent the better part of 2 hours working out, using equipment I'd never even seen before! But the thing I quickly noticed when I got there was that of all the guys there working out, I was decidedly one of the small ones. I thought I stumbled onto an ESPN weight training competition! Bulging biceps, protruding pectorals, and colossal calf muscles abounded. I'm not a small guy. I've seen some definite change in strength and definition in the past month. I do have some muscle hidden somewhere under a protective layer of blubber. I know how to lift. But I felt so out-of-place! With all those monstrous, gargantuan men, I think even Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been somewhat self-conscious!

I know I've written several times on a guy named Mephibosheth. I don't want to beat it into the ground, but it's such a beautiful picture of the grace of God toward us. Here was a young man who was born royalty. He was the grandson of the late King Saul, Israel's first king. When his dad and granddad were killed in battle, Mephibosheth's nanny took him and ran. The custom in those times was for the incoming king to kill off any possible heirs to the throne, protecting their position. So the nanny took the small boy and fled. Somehow, Mephibosheth ended up a cripple, unable to get around without assistance. His legs were useless. Some years later, when he had grown up, King David was reminded of a covenant he had made with his best friend, who just happened to be Mephibosheth's dad, Jonathan. The promise was that whoever died first, the other would care for his family. David found out about Jonathan's son, and he sent for him. He was living in destitution, a place called Lo-Debar. I've said before, it meant a "place of no pasture". It was desolate, dry, and depressing. Imagine what Mephibosheth must have thought when he saw a royal guard arrive at his house. Whatever happened, he was taken to Jerusalem, and there he met the king face to face. David dropped on him the news that he was going to be taken care of, because he made a promise to his daddy. "You shall eat at my table continually!" David declared. All he could do was bow to the ground and say, in essence, "Why me? Who am I, King? I'm nothing, and you are making me royalty!"

I imagine what Mephibosheth felt that day was somewhat similar, but hundreds of times great than I have felt this week at the gym. Every time he pulled up to the table, I wonder if he looked under the tablecloth. Why would he do that? To serve as a reminder to him that he didn't get to that royal feast under his own strength. He had to be helped there. Someone had to pick him up and carry him. There were no wheelchairs back then. If you were crippled, you had to have a hand to do anything or go anywhere. Mephibosheth simply could not have made it to that table under his own strength. Certainly he had to feel out-of-place, sitting with the King and his sons. But the neat thing was that just as David's sons had certain rights, so now did Mephibosheth. David in a sense adopted him, and gave him his royalty back.

When I look at how I've lived my life before Christ came along, I have to say, I feel out-of-place. I was not worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made for me. But He died on that cross for me anyway, and welcomed me into His presence. He forgave my sins, and He gave me eternal life. Friends, not one of us could ever do that on our own. Not one of us could ever do anything to bring about our salvation. It was all an act of God's grace. So when I go into His presence, though I go boldly, I have to "look under the table". I was a cripple spiritually, unable to save myself. It was the grace of Christ alone that saved me. If it weren't for Jesus, I'd be nowhere, friends. I'm glad for that out-of-place feeling. It is a constant reminder that I may not have belonged, I couldn't get there myself. But by the King's grace and mercy, here I am!

God bless!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Staying Connected


Something unusual happened today. I found myself sitting at my desk, and decided to take an email break from what I was doing. Normally, I get emails from my dad in Michigan all the time. Most recent was the photos he took at the Chelsea, MI Tax Day Tea Party. But today, I found a Facebook friend request from him. Not that friend requests are an uncommon event for me, I've been a Facebook subscriber for over a year. I get them constantly. It was funny to see that my dad had found the Facebook site at all. He is still learning how to use his new laptop! Before that, computers to him were cutting edge with the old Apple IIGS, 25 years ago. (If you read this, dad, just having some fun. I'll send you lots of meaningless applications for your FB page, like Retro Arcade games. Nothing like the original Pac-Man!)

The request set me off on a FB spree. I found my uncle, my aunt, a couple cousins, and even my grandmother! If I thought I had a lot of friends on that site before, they are coming out of the woodwork now. I hear somewhere out there, my mom has a page, too. I'll search her out soon enough. I like Facebook because it really connects old friends and family like nothing else. Not even Myspace comes close to the impact FB is having in this area. And, most of my friends and family are far away, out of state. Now I have one more way to staying in touch with those that mean so much to me. And I can send them cool pictures of Starbucks coffee, too!

When you think about all the ways we have today to connect, it can boggle the mind. We have instant messaging, email, cell phones, Myspace, Twitter, blogs and Facebook. But, let me take this and give you a mini-sermon. While it's great to connect with the people in our lives, we need to remember that we have a Savior who wants to stay in contact with us, too. With all the voices and things (even, dare I say, Facebook!) in the world that clamor for our attention, it can be extremely easy for us to forget that. I haven't even mentioned the worries, the stressors, and the cares of life, either. It's like a tug-of-war match is going on, and we are the rope!

I'm reminded of a church the resurrected Lord Jesus scolded in Revelation 3:14-22. It was the Christian Church in a wealthy city called Laodicea, in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). These folks had money, they had security, they had expensive clothing. They lacked nothing material. But the Lord saw something that did lack. They didn't see that they had grown distant in their faith, and lost the passion that they once had for the Lord Jesus. They were blessed with wealth, and that wealth distracted them from the One who gives us "every good and perfect gift". Though they were rich in cash, they didn't realize that the Lord saw them as impoverished. Though they had designer threads, they lacked the righteous threads that only Jesus Christ could give them. They had let the tangible things they possessed rob them of their deep, spiritual fellowship with their Savior. Read what Jesus said to them:

"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and with me." Rev. 3:19-20

Back then, people got together around the dinner table. Food played a big part in fellowship. What Jesus was saying to them was "Hey, guys, I miss your fellowship! But I never left you, you did. I'm outside the door of your heart, and I'm knocking loudly. I want that relationship back!" Friends, you hear Him "knocking", don't you? You can sense in your spirit that you aren't where you need to be with God. Do you feel something tugging on your heart strings, beckoning you back to the Savior who died for you? Don't pretend you can't hear Him, and don't turn the distractions up over the sound of the pounding. He desires to have that prime spot in your life. No, He desires to be your life!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Lesson from Brownies

**This was inspired by a message from Pastor Tim Dilena.

I have a secret that many guys would have a tough time admitting. Funny, I usually end up doing at night when not many can see it. Now, don't let your minds wander and think, "This preacher has some dirty secret!". No, I'm addicted to anything illicit, or even take part in such things. You see, I love to bake! I've been doing it for a couple years now, and I have to say, I am getting some kudos from my wife and kids. In fact, as I type this, the smell of fresh brownies lingers in the air. Mmmm...!

Last night, I made a batch, only to mess up and place the pan on a burner I forgot to turn off when I melted the butter. What a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment when I swore an hour after baking them that I could smell them burning! One whole batch, charred and tossed out like moldy cheese. So, this afternoon, I took my culinary skills out in the daylight and baked a fresh, homemade batch. (And a store-bought batch of walnut brownies for the Mrs.)

When you are just buying a box of brownie mix at the local Kroger (or Publix or Meijer's), it's easy to forget the steps that go into really baking brownies. Rather than dump a bag of mix into a bowl, and adding some water, eggs and oil, I actually have to go through a process. I have to measure out the flour. Then there is adding the sugar, the cocoa, eggs and vanilla. Mix them together, add some heat, and viola! You have some kicking brownies. Likewise, God takes us through various processes as He makes us the people He's called us to be.

My kids constantly want to lick the mixer and spoons. Yours do to, heck, you probably do, too! But have you ever had someone come into the kitchen and ask to lick the measuring cup clean after adding flour? Or begged to slurp down a raw egg? How about scooping down spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa? My guess is no. Who wants to eat those nasty things? I sure do love to have a spoonful of sugar, though. Likewise, we'd love to have nothing but good in life as Christians, don't we? Yet, the Lord uses the good and the bad to mold us into His image. We have to endure the flour and the bitter cocoa, and the slimy eggs, along with the sugar. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, but all necessary for the finished product.

When this life is done, and we are forever in the Lord's presence, will be perfected. Not underdone, not overdone, just right in His image. I'm reminded of what happened when Solomon was having the Temple built. The stones for the building needed to be cut out, but when they were chiseled, it didn't happen on site in Jerusalem. The Bible says that they were cut and shaped while still at the rock quarry, so that the sound of the hammer was not heard in the actual construction. In other words, the rocks arrived ready for the presence of God. In this life, we have our troubles and our joys that all shape us. God is chiseling away the junk, to reveal the living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) that we are. When the time comes to stand in His Holy presence, we will be complete! "He who began a good work in you shall complete it by the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)

God bless, and have a great Sunday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It’s The Little Things…




Every day I deal with it. Life, that is. It seems to come at us from all sides, doesn't it? If it isn't the rent money being gone, it's the car breaking down. Life always seems to randomly toss out blows like a blind boxer. I remember several months back, as I was driving into Lakeland from Davenport, the van suddenly died on me. There I was, in the middle lane of I-4, in morning rush hour traffic. I had cars and a couple semi trucks surrounding me. I managed to coast the van over and stopped just about halfway to town. With 3 of the kids with me, I called my wife, and then called Pastor Johnny for a ride. Then I called the insurance company to arrange a tow. Finally, very late, I got the kids to class, and I got started on my day. It was indeed a frustrating time.

Yet, through it all I didn't lose my cool. I managed to stay calm, even after hearing the price for repair (well over $1400). The funny thing is, I can have something huge like that hit me, and I cope. Yet, when something small happens, I can go off the deep end. I can manage the car repair, but don't you dare spill the apple juice! To my shame, I've let too many juice and milk incidents rob my peace as I blew up at the offender, only to feel like a pile of poop. (Good thing my kids are resilient.) In reality, the problem I had was letting life's blows chip away and sweeping the frustrations under the rug, thinking I'd dealt with it. The small juice spills and artwork on the wall was simply the straw the broke the camel's back.

As I read through the book of 1 Samuel the other day, I came across a familiar story for any serious Bible student. That would be the encounter David had with a man called Nabal. This guy was one rich homeboy. He apparently had quite a spread. He had dozens of servants, and shepherds tending to his flocks and herds. He also had good taste in women, because the Bible says his wife, Abigail, was a knockout. She had brains on top of beauty, too. (Funny how so many ladies who could have the best fish in the sea end up with bottom-feeders-just continue reading!) David had his men, some 600 guys with him. They saw this man's flocks and shepherds, and when they could have picked the shepherds off and ate the sheep, they protected them. The shepherds themselves testified that David's men were a wall around them. So, with a feast approaching, David sent to ask Nabal (whose name means "foolish"-just an FYI) if he could spare from his immensely huge supply of goods for he and his people. David was met with scorn and vitriol from Nabal. "Nabal answered David's servants, 'Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?'" What a guy, eh? Who cares if your possessions were protected because of this guy David. What happened next was really a little piece of straw busting the camel's back. David had a conniption over Nabal's response. He commanded his men to strap on their swords, and off they went to utterly obliterate all belonging to Nabal. Only when the foolish man's servant saw what was coming did God intervene by sending Nabal's smart wife to pacify David. He relented, and soon God took care of Nabal.

The funny thing to me is that while David exploded over the Nabal thing, he was literally on the run from the king of Israel, Saul. He was being hunted down like a deer in the woods, Saul trying desperately to kill David out of his raging jealousy. David spent years running, sleeping in caves, and hiding out with the Philistines and Moabites for protection. If anything should have pushed him over the edge, it should have been that. But when Saul's murderous intentions failed to set him off, it was Nabal's petty insult that did.

David was a man who knew the comfort of God. God was gracious and merciful to him while he was on the run. More than a few times, God kept Saul from reaching David. And even while running, David knew to praise and worship his Creator, who was keeping him. In fact, the heading of Psalm 57, one of David's psalms, tells that he was hiding in a cave from the raging king. In that psalm David praises the One who alone could save him, even while danger was hunting him down. "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." (vs. 1). I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills {his purpose} for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; Selah God sends his love and his faithfulness." (vs. 2-3)

Did you notice that odd word in the third verse? Selah. It means to stop and think. Take in what you just read. David apparently did not do a "selah" in this situation. He knew the One had his back. And even then, he let something small drive him over the edge. Man, how many times have I been guilty of that? I know the Lord has my good in mind. Yet, when it comes down to it, it's so easy to forget and freak out and sweat the small stuff.

What's on your back today? Ask the Lord to help you with it, because tomorrow it'll be something different. It may be a lot smaller, but it could be the straw that broke the camel's back. Don't let the little things get you. But give the big things to the Lord who sees you through. Believe me, friends, it adds up.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Late

It's late. Here I am, getting ready to catch some z's, and I feel the need to write more than the 140 maximum on Twitter. I read today in the daily journey through the Bible of David, when he was on the run from Saul. In 1 Sam. 25, David had sought the aid of a man descended from the one and only Caleb, who at 85 was still kicking Caananite tail. He was a God-fearing man. Too bad his descendant wasn't. His name was Nabal, which in Hebrew meant "folly", or foolish. And he was. He mistreated David and his men who had been so kind to him, his shepherds and servants. They had been bodyguards to them in the wilderness. Yet Nabal foolishly shunned and scorned David.

My point tonight is that the apple fell far from the tree. What a Godly heritage to emulate, only to bury it selfishness and pride and bitterness.

I'll post again soon about this, but looking at David. Till then, I leave you with this thought: typing on a laptop is somwhat more difficult than a regular keboard.

Anti-climatic, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

He's Coming

It finally arrived. A family member decided several weeks ago that he wanted to buy us a brand new laptop. He called us from up north and had us go to Best Buy, find a computer we liked, and send him the model numbers. So, we found a Gateway with 4 GB of RAM, a 500 gig hard drive, wireless card and a whole lot more. Well, he got the computer, and UPSd it to us. We got home yesterday to find a delivery attempt tag on our door, so I called to arrange a pickup from UPS on Tuesday night. After arranging the pickup, my wife was giddy. She practically danced around the house in anticipation of the laptop. It was humorous to watch. When it was time, I got the package, and I took it home. Just as she had been before I left, my lovely wife came skipping in excitement to the door, not because she was thrilled to see me. I didn't get even a little peck on the cheek. She snatched the package from my hand and had it opened before I got my shoes off!

While the computer is a great gift, and will be put to good use, the bigger lesson I think I got from what happened yesterday came through my wife. She waited in anxious expectation for what was coming. She couldn't wait for it to come, and looked for it almost daily. Friends, that is kind of how we should be in waiting for our Lord, who we have already been told is coming. Just before He was crucified, Jesus spoke to His followers and said, "I am going away to prepare a place for you. And guess what? If I am going to prepare a place for you, I'm coming back to get you!" (See John 14:2-3) After the Lord had risen and ascended into heaven, some angels appeared to the disciples, who just stood there, undoubtedly with mouths ajar, staring at Jesus as He was taken up before their very eyes. "Why do you stand here gazing into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken from you will in the same way come back." (Acts 1) The Bible teaches us that time is short, and that not only is the Lord coming back to reign on the earth, but He is first going to round up his people. That means me and you. Paul told the believers in the city of Thessalonica this:

"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thess. 4:15-18 NIV)

Still, Paul taught us further that our Lord's coming will be "in a flash-in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52 NIV). I've seen fast things in my time thus far. I've been to Indy races with cars racing of 220 MPH, as well as NASCAR races of nearly 200. I've watched the speed of hockey players with awe. I've fired a shotgun with amazement at just how fast that bullet travels. But that is a snail's pace compared to the Lord rupturing us out of this old planet. That is less than a blink of my eye, and I'm not talking about an intentional blink. I mean the involuntary blinks that our eyes do without us even noticing.

The question is, while we may know theologically of His return, do we show it in all we do? Are we so anticipating the Lord that we are going about everywhere, telling those we see of it? Are we living each day like it could be the day Jesus returns for us? Sunday night, a preacher came by and spoke to us. He preached on this very topic that is a cornerstone of our faith, yet strangely lacking from our pulpits. He posed a question to us all that night. If we knew we had exactly one week before His coming for us, how would it change things? Would we take care to be about His business? Would we reach out to family who don't know Him? What if we had only 3 days? Certainly, we would get off our spiritual sofas and get busy for His Kingdom (I hope, anyway). The fact is, friends, we don't have a set time of return. It could be tomorrow night. It could be at 3 AM tomorrow morning. We may not even see the eleven o'clock news. The Lord could come any time.

Friends, I'm reminded of the parable Jesus told of the servants who each was given money from their master, who then told them, "Do business till I return". His words in that parable, I believe are His words to us. "Do my work, do my will, preach my Gospel to everyone you see! I am going to return!" It is a serious reminder to me to be about His business, so He finds me faithful upon His return. I pray that this little blog today sparks a hotter fire under you, too.


God bless!



Sunday, April 05, 2009

In The Waiting




I’m a pretty impatient guy. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I hate waiting. When I want something, I want it immediately, not an hour or even a minute later. Walmart drives me bananas, because more often than not, I’m forced to wait in an agonizingly long line. Then, if the people in front of me have two carts full of stuff (especially if it’s an item limited check-out), I want to pull my hair out by the handful! I know, this doesn’t sound too spiritual, does it? Now admit it, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about, eh?

As much as we humankind hate waiting, it sure seems like we have to do a lot of it. God Himself takes us through periods of waiting. Why? Because waiting does something to us- it changes us. God uses waiting periods to shape us, and to mold us. He uses those times to make us more like Himself.

There are many stories in the Bible of men and women of God had to endure times of waiting. In my trip through the Bible in a year, I recently read one such story. It was in the book of Ruth. The story goes like this: a man from Bethlehem, Elimelech, took his wife Naomi and their 2 sons into the land of Moab, because a famine had hit Israel. While living in Moab for 10 years, the boys married women from that land. Soon, however, Elimelech died. To add insult to injury for a grieving wife, Naomi lost both sons, too. In that time, this was doubly disastrous for a woman. It was a man-run society. Women didn’t have rights, they couldn’t even own property. They needed either a husband or a son to care for them. When she found herself without son or husband, it really was like a death sentence for her. She had no way to get herself back on her feet.

In the middle of all this, Naomi heard that the Lord had given bread to the homeland. She took her sons’ widows, Ruth and Orpah, and headed for home. Along the way, Naomi tried to get her young daughters-in-law to stay in their countries, find a new man and settle down. Orpah took her advice, but Ruth made a decision that day. She would not leave her mother-in-law. “Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God!” (See Ruth Ch. 1)

Ruth’s mind was made up. She was staying with Naomi no matter what. They made it to Bethlehem, and tried to get on their feet. The townspeople were thrilled that Naomi had returned, but Naomi had been depleted of all joy. “The Lord has dealt bitterly with me.” However, once they were home, they found out that God was working for them. There was a kinsmen-redeemer, a relative of Naomi’s late husband, who would marry Ruth and take care of them. He would father a child to be raised up in Ruth’s late husband’s name. But, it didn’t happen overnight. These two ladies had to endure a time of waiting.

Just how long they waited is unknown. It happened during the barley harvest. Perhaps a month, who knows? And during this time, even though it was certainly uncomfortable, God took care of them. Ruth worked gleaning the field Boaz, the relative of her dead father-in-law. He gave them food and protected Ruth in the field. In time, she revealed who she was, and that Boaz was the one to redeem her. He did just that, and after the waiting was over, Ruth walked down the aisle, soon had a son, and Naomi was set. But it came after a time of waiting.

Are you in a time of waiting? As one who has been through several, let me advise you not to despise it or squander it. Use this time to your advantage, for God is using it for your advantage, too. It’s in the waiting periods that God molds us and transforms us. He makes us into the people He has called us to be. The acid test of time really brings out what lies just under the surface. That’s good, because the stuff that exits in these times need to come out. It’s a time of refining. When gold or silver is refined, it’s heated till it melts. Impurities then rise to the surface, and the refiner skims it off. He knows when it’s done. It’s done when he sees his reflection in the molten liquid. Friends, God uses these times of waiting to bring the impurities out, so He can see Himself in us.

So, don’t be like I am in the Walmart check-out. Don’t get impatient with God. Let Him do what He needs to, and when He’s done, you’ll be prepared for His plans.

God bless!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Training


Back in school, I was on the wrestling team. It was the only sport I took part in, and I did so all 4 years I was there. That's not to say I was any good, though. (Honestly, I stunk.) When I first joined the team, I was clueless as to just how much hard work, sweat, and pain I was taking on. Here's how it started. In the fall, we'd kick off with about a month of what was called conditioning. We'd get out of class and get changed into shorts and T-shirts, and head upstairs to the main classroom area. It was one big square, with halls all around. The coaches had it all figured out. 7 laps was 1 mile. We'd start out with a mile, and after a few days, we'd have to start increasing. Eventually, we hit 5 miles by the season's end.

After all the running, we'd walk down to the wrestling room, where we'd run more, drop and do push-ups, sit-ups and down-ups (if it sounds painful, there's good reason), do a hopping drill on plywood boxes of varying heights, and slam each other around. If you came in to conditioning out of shape (and I was), you were in pain for weeks. My legs felt like they were on fire.

But it all helped us. It got us into shape for a sport that really is harder than it looks. And forget the cartoon-like WWE junk. This was real wrestling that drained you physically and left you to finish the match on nothing but pride and willpower. Other sports have similar training periods to whip the athletes into shape. But God too has His own time of conditioning. I'm in that time now.

Now, I pray daily, and I read the Bible daily, too. I spend time with the Lord, and I worship him daily, not just on Sunday. I love Jesus, and I want to get as close to Him as possible. But these past few weeks, I've been driven to kick the study and prayer up, and to spend more time praying, and that more fervently. The only reason I seem to be coming to is that God is preparing me, conditioning me, if you will, for some kind of contest, some kind of match and battle yet unseen. I know that I have a pastor's call. My heart is to shepherd God's people, and I know that there is a church out there God needs me to pastor. Just where is the current mystery. So, I've sensed the need to pull out the old textbooks from my internship courses from several years back. I have been reading and reviewing the New Testament Survey book, and even bought a used Old Testament Survey book I lost long ago on Amazon.com. I've been reading more from the theology stuff, and praying. God is running me on His track and in His wrestling room.

Scripturally, God seems to favor these training periods for the men He called. Moses spent 40 years taking care of sheep after his flight from the Pharaoh. Fitting, since God called him to be the shepherd of Israel that led them out of Egyptian slavery. God started David in training young, as an unnoticed shepherd boy watching his daddy's sheep. Eventually, David would become king, but not before undergoing God's training in fields, in caves, on the run. Let's not forget Elisha, the successor to Elijah, who spent time tending to the prophet. Then there is the Lord's Disciples, who spent more than 3 years in training under Jesus, learning from the Master of the Universe Himself. I could go on about Timothy and Titus, Paul's proteges, and John Mark, who learned under the Apostle Peter.

These are just some of those who underwent God's conditioning program. Everyone who desires to be used by God will endure it. Things may get intense, but if you are in it, stay there and let God do His work. Not only am I driven to study more, I am learning to deal with more pressures now. I'm learning the behind-the-scenes work that every pastor needs to know. Sometimes it hurts. But praise the Lord, I'm getting stronger.

Are you struggling through those spiritual push-ups? Feeling the burn of God's crunches? Are the down-ups you endure wearing you out? Keep up the training, friends, and don't let go. Let God build you up. He knows just where you need it, and He'll bring you to where He wants you.
Whether it's in a book or in bind, He has you right where He wants you.

God bless!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sessions with the Master



Every genre of music has its masters. You know, the ones who have truly mastered their instruments, be it the concert pianist, the guitar virtuoso, or even the opera singer, like Pavarotti. These people have spent literally years mastering their craft. Hours and hours daily are spent practicing, running scales up and down the strings or keys, till their fingers tire out. As a guitarist, I understand how taxing a good "workout" can be.

This morning, as I prepared to head to the office, I went to one of my favorite ministry message boards to see what my preacher friends had posted since I turned in for the night. One of them, another guitar player, said he was in the mood to play along with old BB King albums. He then asked who we enjoyed "jamming" with via a CD and a guitar. I mentioned my love of jamming with Stevie Ray Vaughn, the late Blues master. Another mentioned John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison. Why do we as adults want to do what we did as kids learning our craft, sitting alone in a room just playing along with people will never get the chance to play music with? Well, let me say, first of all, it's fun! I'll never tire of jamming along with my favorites. But, it also forces us to improve. Listening to a master only makes one want to become a master. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to Stevie Ray, or Eric Johnson (listening to him as I write!), and immediately had the drive to lock myself away and practice.

I think it works that way in most areas of life. When I see someone doing something I can do, but better, it doesn't really create any jealousy in me, but rather drives me to improve. Reading Max Lucado books drive me to become a better writer. I think it's the same spiritually. We would do well to surround ourselves with "masters of the faith". I've got several in my life, people who have walked this road much longer than I have, and have much more experience than I do. But, I've found that just like sitting in on a session with a master guitarist makes me better, so hanging out with a better Christian makes me a better Christian. One such man is a retired pastor from Michigan, living here in Lakeland. I call him Pastor G, and he serves our church. I've spent a good deal of time with Pastor G lately, just talking and picking his brain. Not only does he walk close to the Lord, but it pours out in his life. He lives for Jesus, and as such, he lives to touch those around him. And when I get time to hang with him, I get blessed, and I am driven all the more to let the Lord work in me.

Of course, Pastor G is a master in the faith to me, because he hangs with the Master, the Lord Jesus. He is a godly, praying man who longs to spend time in God's presence. And, like I said before, spending time in a master's presence drives you to become better. When I see the godly fruit flowing from believer's lives, it drives me close to the Lord who makes us all more like him. In fact, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that when we spend time "reflecting His glory", we are actually being changed in His Image. We are becoming more like Jesus!

Back in ancient Israel, their greatest king ever, David, sat on his throne, surely reflecting back on his life. Certainly, he remembered the pasture he kept his dad's sheep in, and the lions and the bears that he took out when they came looking for lunch. He fondly remembered the day God used him to kill Goliath. He remembered the goodness of God, who protected him for years as he ran from jealous, murderous king Saul. And he remembered Jonathan, and the promise he had made to him. But something David said has really hit me hard. As he sat there, one of Saul's servants came to him, named Ziba. "Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?" asked the king. Did you catch that? Those italics don't appear in the text, you know. He wanted to show God's kindness! God had been faithful and good to David. When he had nowhere to turn, he had the Lord. When he was living in caves and hiding in fields, he wasn't alone. The Lord was with him, providing and protecting him. David had been shown God's kindness his entire life. Now, it was his chance to show some of God's kindness. He found out about Jonathan's long lost son, Mephibosheth, and he was touched. He sent for him and brought him, a crippled young man, living in poverty, to come and live as "one of the king's sons". He poured out God's kindness on guy who lived his life in fear of being killed by him. After all, it was custom in those days to kill any potential heirs to the throne off, and Mephibosheth was the former king's grandson. Instead, he was shown grace and mercy. He was blessed abundantly, and "adopted" by the king. Why? Because David had so much kindness displayed to him by the Master, the Lord Himself!

I could talk about Peter, who witnessed the Lord Jesus' kindness to a little Gentile lady whose daughter was demon-possessed. He later showed kindness to a roomful of Gentiles, hated Romans at that, and saw them filled with the Holy Spirit. I could mention Stephen, who displayed the Lord's nature, and even His words, when he was being executed: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge". Sounds a lot like "For they know not what they do", eh? When we spend time with our Master, we become more like Him. So, today, get alone with the Lord Jesus. You'll find his promise is true. Get in His presence, and He'll rub off on you!

God bless!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Discontented Again?

I know it's been a while since I last blogged (Inauguration Day, to be exact). I've been quite busy in the office, and I also had to move again. Turns out that the owner of the house we moved into wasn't upfront about his mortgage issues. Oh, well, we are in a townhouse, and at least we have been able to settle.

But, I hate to say it, but I seem to be dealing some with that feeling of discontent again. Don't get me wrong, I love my work at the church. It's challenging on the finance side of things, and I get to use the writing and literary part of my on the newsletter. I am gleaning much from working on staff at a large church like Abundant Life.

But I have other callings that God has put inside me, like the ministry of the Word of God, and being a shepherd of God's people that I am not able to do right now. Before coming back to Lakeland, I was a Youth Pastor. I preached a couple times a week in youth settings, and sometimes in the sanctuary on a Sunday evening. It was a blessing to be able to do that. But now, in a much bigger church, I don't get that chance. I'm good with that. I realize that I am learning a different side of church ministry that will pay off when I am pastoring a church of my own. I am learning how to handle church finances, offerings, and simply paying the bills. Most pastors would have loved to get even a little bit of the financial exposure I am now getting. It would benefit them greatly to have a knowledge and good handle on it going in.

I want to be where the Lord has placed me, but it is real tempting right now to look around and see what else is out there. I don't want to get away from God. I don't want to step outside His hand and provision. I need to flourish in the field He has planted me in.

That's why I need prayer. I want to launch out, but I don't want to do it prematurely. Please pray for me, saints.

Just needed to get that off my chest.

God bless.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Handouts



Well, today marked a new chapter in America's history with the inauguration of Barack Obama as President. While I am no fan of President Obama, I will pray for him, as the Bible commands us to pray for our leaders. That said, I can't support the man's policies. I am a conservative, both socially and fiscally, and I find the new president is simply too far left.

But, it is interesting to note that Starbucks today was giving out a free tall coffee (that's a small one in english), to celebrate the obviously historical event, since President Obama is now the first African-American to hold the office. So, in the spirit of liberal handouts, I ventured out to Starbucks and got a free Inauguration Day coffee.

Hey, I may not agree with his policies, but who am I to turn down free coffee?

God bless!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Process...



Ask anyone I know to describe who I am to you, and you'd get a smorgas-borg of attributes that make me me. One thing most would say is that I am an avid lover of fine coffee. Any of you out in cyberland that have been regular readers of mine know it to be true. I hardly ever will turn down a fresh, hot cup of coffee. Mind you, I'm not talking about Folgers or Maxwell House here. I need a good cup of joe, like Starbucks, Panera, or the pure Kona from the little Hawaiian coffee joint across the street from the church. There is something about the robust flavor of hot, black coffee I can't get past. It isn't the caffeine. There is just something about the taste of coffee.

It's made me think deeper into my coffee desires. One day, as I was looking into the cost of Kona beans from online distributors, I stumbled onto something I never really thought about. People out there actually order unroasted, or "green" beans. They actually take the time to roast their own coffee! Wow, that there is a real fan of coffee. I've had fresh java before, but not that fresh. The last time I ordered coffee online was from a place called Munn's World Coffee. You order online, and the good folks there at Munn's roast the beans you selected and UPS them to you in a couple days time. That's much fresher than even Starbucks. I found, though, that people actually use hot air popcorn poppers to roast green beans.

That wonderful cup of coffee you enjoy each morning had to go through a process to get poured into a cup. The beans were selected, the cherry had to be removed. There was a washing and a drying process. Then the beans had to face the heat. Some had to face longer, hotter periods of time, depending on the roast level.

I see real similarities with us Christ-followers. We too have to endure a life of process. Today, in the final segment of the Purpose '09 Pastor's Conference, my pastor's son, Tony Stewart, pastor of University Church of God in Tampa, preached about the processes God takes us through as He prepares us for new seasons in life. At the altar, as I played the guitar, and as we worshiped, I suddenly felt emotion welling up. I couldn't help but reflect on my own process I've endured for a while now. I'm not new to trials. Not by a long shot. But usually my trials consisted of financial things. I struggled to pay bills, I struggled to buy groceries. We are still having some trouble, but compared to where we've been, we are doing good in that arena. Our struggles lately have revolved around a place to call our own.

When we were living some 20 miles away, with nowhere to go, we found an eviction notice on the front door, giving us 24 hours to be out. Turns out the owner we rented from didn't pay his mortgage. God made a way, and we got a month extra. Then we dealt with the hard reality of finding a place to move to. Once we found it, we signed the lease, moved in, and found out 2 days later that the house was foreclosed on. The landlord forgot to mention that little tidbit of information. So, then began our saga again. Just when we thought we could settle down for a year at least, we are finding ourselves having to rent the U-Haul again and move. Today, what hit me was that I was indeed going through the process. Like the coffee beans, I felt the heat. But, I am certain that when all is said and done, I'll look back and see that God had His hand on me, and was making me into the man He needs me to be. I won't lie, friends. I am hurting. It never feels good to endure the flames. But I trust that when God is done, I'll come out better than ever.

I put the guitar down in that moment, and walked to the side of the platform toward the stairs to pray at the altar. That's when my pastor and his son yelled "Jeff!" I walked over, and they began to surround me and pray. They were pouring strength and encouragement into me. I needed that. I was in the process, and was feeling quite empty.

Our walk with God is progressive friends. He doesn't just push some button in heaven, and instantly change us. Listen to what the Bible tells us:

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom. 5:3-4


That, friends, is describing the process. It hurts. We would love for it to stop. But it's a necessary part of growing in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, as you endure your process today, take comfort in knowing that God's hand is on you, and He is shaping you in the person He has called you to be.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dream Job



This morning, as I opened up my Firefox browser when I got to work, I saw a very interesting tidbit of info that popped up on the Yahoo newswire. How'd you like to earn six figures for lounging around a tropical Australian paradise for six months?

This is a real job being offered to the right applicant. If chosen, you get to spend six months, starting July 1st, beach bumming, snorkeling the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, among a few "mionor tasks" on Hamilton Island, in the south Pacific. The person is expected to blog about the experience on the island, keep photo diaries, and post video updates. They put you (and family, if applicable) up in a three bedroom beach home, complete with a pool and a golf cart. And that six-figure income? $150,000 Australian, about $105,000 in US cash!

What would make the state of Queensland go to this extreme to promote tourism? They say that in these rough economic times, traditional tourism advertising doesn't always cut it. They are "thinking outside the box" by going this route.

I gotta say, I like what they are doing. (What's that? Is that the call of God to go to Hamilton and spend six months doing missionary work?) The reason I like it isn't because I want to go, but I see merit in the "outside the box" approach the Queensland govenment is taking. They recognize that the way it has always been done simply isn't cutting it anymore. They see the need to try something different, something imaginative. It actually reminds of what I believe is the Biblical ministry model.

When Jesus came, He did't come in the robed, pious and pompous fashion of the religious leaders of that day. They were masters of the status quo. Jesus was the Master Innovator. The Pharisees and other leaders of Judaism did ministry and religious activity from memory. Jesus did ministry from innovation. The Pharisees looked behind them to what once happened. Jesus looked ahead to what lied down the road. The Jews of the day would meet weekly in a synagoge, and listen to what God did in the past. And, think it's good and right to praise God for His blessings and for what He's done. But if all we do is talk about what He's done, and fail to see thta there are things that He wants to do now, we are missing something vital. Jesus, in contrast, surrounded Himself with disciples that didn't just listen to a sermon and go home. They listened, and then He sent them out do His work. He had a plan for things yet to come.

I am reminded about what I read from the pen (keyboard, more accurately!) of a young church planter in Detroit. On his blog, he wrote of the need to do ministry from imagination, not from memory. Times have changed, and while the message is timeless, methods aren't. In these times, we need to think outside the box. Economic times are tough. Worldviews are changing. Technologies are evolving. We need to recognize the change and capitalize on it.

I don't know just how. I'm not sure how it will look. But when I see young men and women out there in the world breaking boxes of perception, and yes, even tradition, I'm inspired.

God bless!

Friday, January 02, 2009

It's a New Year




Well, it's here. We've just watched the ball drop in Times Square, and welcomed in 2009. We had a fun time in the Richard home, watching TV, eating popcorn, and playing Uno (Hannah Montana version-yay.) As we sat there passing the evening, 2 of our 4 kids fell asleep. Our 5-year old son Timmy went out like a light, and at 2 minutes to midnight, Machaela (our 9-year old) couldn't wake him, even rolling him across the floor! Gabbie, our almost 7-year old, also crashed, but we woke her in time for our New Year's tradition of a Welch's Sparkling Juice toast. She got one sip, said in a grouchy tone, "Happy New Year", and fell asleep.

This is also the starting block for resolutions. Millions of people the world over today are setting goals for everything from weight loss and eating better, to better money management. These are noble goals, too. The thing is, all to often, our resolutions end up in the dust bin of another year, a tribute to the things we set out to do, but let go by the wayside. Heck, I'm sure that many have forgotten their resolutions before the Times Square cleaning crews have even swept up the confetti!

I have to admit, I've never been one to come up with a list of resolutions. It's not that I don't have anything to change, I just attempt my changes midyear. But the whole "New Year's Resolution" thing speaks to me. For some reason, the whole idea of making a change in one's life reminds me of the Lord Jesus' baptism in the Jordan. Before that fateful day, the Lord was simply making his living as a carpenter. Maybe He built tables and houses. But that was his occupation. Till He knew it was time, that is. That is when he went down to the river where John the Baptist was baptizing people. They were doing it because they were being called to repentance. Yet, Jesus had no sins to repent of. Still, he came to the river and was baptized. Why, one would ask.

Baptism wasn't unheard of then. In fact, if a non-Jewish person wished to convert, it was required that they be baptized. History says that 7 days after a Gentile's circumcision, and a series of interrogations, the new convert was baptized in a pool of flowing water. Symbolically, it showed that the person laid aside their pagan roots and was a son of Israel. Really, it marked a new beginning for that person.

I think that is one reason the the Lord took the plunge. It was the start of a new chapter in the Messiah's life. He wasn't a carpenter any longer. Now He was launching out in His divine role as the Christ, as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. The old carpenter had passed away, and the new Savior had a task to do.

The Jordan seems to be a place of new beginnings. Some centuries before, when the Israelites were about to leave the wildness wandering, they were stopped by the Jordan River. Normally a small river, at this time it overflowed its banks. It was wide, close to a mile. God told Joshua to have the priests, who were carrying the Ark, to dip their feet in river. When they did, God miraculously parted the waters! The priests walked out halfway, and Israel crossed over on a dried up riverbed. Joshua did something interesting. He took 12 stones, and he set them up in the dry riverbed as a memorial. I have to ask why. Once the river began its flow, the memorial would be unseen. The Bible doesn't go into detail, but I think Joshua had in mind a new beginning. The old complaining spirit was gone, and the new spirit of conquest had come. They were no longer bitter people ranting about the desert, but faith-filled people confident in their God. The Jordan marked their new beginning.

We have various Jordan times in our lives. I think we can view January 1st as one of them. It's a time to start fresh and embark on a life that blesses God. Not that I want to pull out old fads and ideas, but I think it's a time for us to get more "Jabezed" with our lives-praying and desiring and reaching for more for the glory of God!

God bless!