Today is the first Step

stepsThe first step aways seems to be the hardest.  We have patterns that create deep grooves in out brain and it takes so much work to reroute them.  To push against the grain of our being is exhausting and self-defeating.  How do we renew our minds?  How are we transformed?  This is like walking into a brand new house and getting to decide what goes where.   Every thought is subject to review.  When old patterns surface we need to think of it like dropping your cell phone in the toilet.  It goes kaput.  So unpacking the thought process of what I think about and when and more importantly why?  How do I get to the place where I know why I do what I do when I do it.  What is the genesis of these emotional anchors.  Are their hurts that over time has caused me to accept a lie, which is a distorted view of myself that lacks any objectivity what-so-ever.  What causes me to be self-absorbed? Why does fear drive me so quickly to comfortable escapes, but ultimately negative behaviors.

As I was pondering these thoughts with a friend who happened to be replacing my kitchen flooring.  He stated that it looks like you are having a bit of a spiritual home remodel.  This was humorous since he works for a home remodeling company, Freestylin Design.  But now I close my eyes and think about all white walls, white ceilings, white carpeting with absolutely no furnishing or accents what-so-ever.  Now with intention, I will decide how my house needs to be set up.  What is the purpose of this home. It is amazing how simple life can be when we remove the clutter.

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A Most Excellent Story

testimony

In church, it is hard to go wrong when you ask some one to tell their story of faith, their testimony.  You see the person walk up to the podium and then you realize that you do not know their story, but you are just chomping at the bit to hear.  The person walks up and is a pillar in the church.  Other testimonies talk about that moment when they were in a dark place and God rescued them.  that God was indeed their Savior now and for eternity.  The before and after pictures are stark and absolutely dazzling.  Everyone dreams of a God that cares and steps into the misery of our life and shows us a way out.  I think about how I was originally attracted to Christ.  It was the before and after of someone that I went to school with. They used to be an idiot and now they are absolutely beautiful.  Praise God.

That brings me back to the testimony that I had heard that was different.  This man was a man that always believed.  Hos dad was in the military and he saw him put on his uniform and the care he gave at the clasping of each button to the polishing of each ribbon. It was never lost on his son, that prior to putting on that uniform, that his father had already adorned the full armor of Christ spelled out in Ephesians 6.  This story had many more elements of people along the way providing guidance.  What was unique about this testimony was that the chief guider in his faith was none other than Jesus himself.  This testimony was about Godly lullabies at night.  Waking up to hymns.  The scriptures were completely alive for him.  He was part of His Story. He gave seven examples in the Bible where he felt he was part of the story, he was part of the tapestry. He could not come up with a single life verse, because whenever he thought he found it, something new always came up and replace the previous life verse.  he adopted all of scripture as his life verse.  He did see this as a problem memorizing all of scripture as a life verse.  He would never be able to do something trendy like writing out all of scripture onto hos body in the form of  tattoo.

Scripture is now so intimate and familiar that it made his pray life vibrant. His car is no longer his car, but rather a mobile worship center.  He would pray for God’s help in his interaction with people at work, he prayed to be a better husband and to be a better father. He would burst into praise and song, to realize that he had missed his exit and then pray for wisdom in explaining his being late to work.

He also gave up on explaining anything that appeared to be a coincidence.  he saw God’s hand print everywhere.  He gave a couple of examples of answered prayer that was blatently obvious that God was delighting in provision specific to his request.  He mentioned that he has hundreds of incidents that some would attribute to coincidence, but when documented becomes a clear audit trail of Gods blessings.

So the question is, is his story boring or dull because it does not have that really cool transformation picture.  Or is it a really cool story because he has saturated hi life with Jesus and is living in a place of peace, contentment and abundance.

I found myself wanting this level of saturation and to know this level of intimacy and obedience to my savior and indeed my Lord.

Church Planning

Have you ever wondered how your local church tries to impact the community for God.  I sat in on a couple of those meetings for our local church and I think the biggest thing is to get a critical mas in the church, no pun intended, to welcome change.  Habits are a funny thing, again no pun intended, whether personal habits or rituals and traditions that no one can explain what the purpose behind it is.

So get people who want a voice in decisions are invited. Typically the people that bother to show up are part of or representing some ministry or another.  Then we needed a gifted facilitator that sets the stage of how we approach other ministries and to also be able to not be offended if we look for ways to have a greater impact on the congregation or the community.  Fortunately that person happens to be our senior pastor.  With everyone on board that we need to make sure that everything we do is aligned with our mission statement.  Our is simple, we follow Jesus we Love one another and we help people grow in their walk with Christ.  We keep it simple so that everyone knows what we are about and if someone asks it is easy to remember.

Then we leverage language from the book Simple Church.  We looked at our Clarity in how we communicate our vision. We also look at movement, which is moving people through the process of questioning, seeking, decision, involvement, and growth.  Then we look at alignment, which is how we might need to realign our ministries to better align with the vision.

We took one of the activities that we did as a church last fall and looked at it in terms of what could be done in the coming year to plan with purpose so that it aligns with our vision even better.  What came from that was a lot of energy and plans about how many of the ministries can come and take a portion of the activity and run with it.  This presented many opportunities to walk alongside new members of the church and create opportunities to deepen relationships within the church in serving the community.

Seldom in a planning session do I get energized, but I realized that most members in a church want to do something, but getting any momentum for the project is really really hard.  This exercise showed me that if we are open to change and remember our focus is to Glorify God then great things are possible.

I think how great it would be to treat people like the were royalty.  Literally heirs to the king.  I could ask my friends at Springfield Limo to leverage their entire fleet of limousines to take people to church in style.  Then drive around town like they are important.  The truth is that we all are special.  that is why Jesus came to make a way for us back to the Father.  Church and sharing the Good News and remembering who we are is exciting stuff.

It’s Official

An analogy was made by the Pastor Tony Evans that we are like NFL officials. We do not represent the home team or the away team.  We represent the home office and the NFL.  Our job is to make sure we are representing the office well and keeping everything with in the rule book from the Home Office.  In the same way, we represent Gog and His holy scripture.  We are in the world, but not of the world. We are heirs to the Kingdom and play by another set of rules.  No home cooking to favor one team or another.  Tony says that football fans rarely where the jersey of the long snapper.  The whole idea is that we are designed for greatness.  He did not say designed to be famous, but rather greatness.  The long snapper could be great to his teammates, because he always does what he is supposed to do well.  We do not have to be in the position to have all of the attention, but we need to do what God has called us to do.  We can do that by being meek and being a servant.  We can do that by being obedient.  Moses was the meekest man to live up until that point in history.  God’s glory was amplified through Moses’ meekness.  That is why Aaron was paired with him, because of how awkward he was in speech. Moses got into trouble when he struck the rock. In that moment, God was not magnified or glorified. For that reason Moses could not cross over into the promised land.  We can be meek and great.  We can do this as long as our focus and purpose is to glorify God.

Adorn the Gospel

I have been reading the Measure of a Man, by Gene Getz, and he makes some interesting comments on how we are to fit within the culture without conflicting with biblical principles.  Gene gave an account of him moving into a house with his wife. The new home he was buying was from a preacher.  The home was literally built on rock and grass would not grow.  The yard was filled with weeds and looked not well kept.  This made the neighbors agree as the home had become an eye sore in the community.  Gene had noticed that the neighbors were cold to them when they moved in.  The neighbors were upset that another preacher had moved in so the assumption was that the eye sore would continue to be an eye sore.  The outside property had become a barrier to them being able to effectively share the Gospel with their neighbors.  Gene and his wife were on a tight budget, but they decided to divert money that they were going to invest into the inside of the home and directed instead to the outside.  Again because they were on a tight budget meant them doing most of the work themselves. that meant breaking up rock and removing it.  The effort that Gene spent working on his property had not gone unnoticed by his neighbor.  The idea was to remove enough rock so that he could lay down top soil.  Then they could grow grass.  One of the neighbors that had been cold to them early on started being nice and they eventually became good friends.

Both in Timothy and Titus, we we to make the Gospel attractive or adorn the Gospel.  This is akin to presenting the Gospel in an attractive way.  The example was for Gene to meet this cultural norm so that the Gospel would not be hindered.  This where we are to be obedient to man-made institutions.  We are to be an example so that God can be glorified.  So that means recognizing that in our culture, there are expectations of good citizenship and behavior.  If as Christians we fall short of this, then hour credibility to share the Gospel has taken a major hit.

I remember watching the Cosby show. On one of the episodes, one of his daughters came in with a boy that the parents had met for the very first time.  After several awkward silences, the proceeded to share with their parents that they were married.  Disapproval and devastation were all over the Huxtables faces.  Bill Cosby went into the kitchen with the boy he just met and found out that he was his father-in-law.  The boy said “I see that you are upset”.  Bill Cosby responded and I am paraphrasing “Do you like steak?  Well I want you to image the best steak that you can ever imagine about to be served to you.  You can taste in your mouth. The expectation of how great it is going to taste is to the point where you can barely stand it.  Can you picture? Can you almost taste it.  Now imagine the waiter coming out and bringing it to your table on the lid of a trash can.  It’s presentation son.  You presented this news on the lid of a trash can”.  This is in essence what I recalled.  In the same way, we can detract from the beauty of the Gospel.  When can get in the way of the GOOD NEWS.

I have gone onto to You Tube and looked at many hours of different street preachers.  They believe they have been instructed by God to share on the byways and highways so that all will here.  The problem from my perspective is that they present the Gospel on a trash can lid.  They hold onto the promise that when they preach the word that it will not be in vain.  The problem is that they may be obedient to what they believe that God is calling them to do.  The one’s that I have looked at seem uninterested in actually bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.  Instead they seem to be prideful of what they are doing and call people sinners as they go by.  The scream at people to repent and that they are going to be judged. Turn sinner you can hear the repeating over and over again.  They seem to miss the whole idea of truth in love.  They rationalize it by saying their is nothing more loving then point out people’s sin so they can repent.

In the arguments that ensue, I do not hear them actually get to the Good News of the Gospel.  I just hear the turn and repent.  It is like taking the beauty of the Gospel and spinning it in the worst possible way.  Making it unattractive to everyone within earshot.  It makes it that much more difficult for the next person trying to walk alongside people and share the love of Jesus, when their only experience was a guy on a blow horn screaming that they are a sinner.

One of these open air preachers proclaims that he is not a sinner, but a holy man.  their is no love in his heart for anyone.  i see no grace in his message.  So if we are to adorn the Gospel and present it in away that Glorifies God, then we must do that.

Gene goes onto make sure we do not rationalize in getting to big of a house and you convince yourself that you can use this house for the Glory of God by using it for church gatherings, small care groups or Bible studies if the real reason you want a bigger house because of pride.  Gene does not want to judge what is in our heart, but gives us a warning as to finding the balance of being held in high regard in the culture, while staying true to your faith.  We must do our best to make sure whatever we do, we do for the Glory of God.

Let them Grow

I have come to terms that my young adult kids are extremely bright and are collecting info from so many data inputs.  Surrounded by different sets of circular conversation that displays everyone’s confirmation bias.  My kids want t know my opinion and while I have one, the world has become a lot more complicated place.  If anyone disagrees with your thoughts or ideas that can make you on the outs of the “in” club.  So maybe my kids want to be bold and make statements and see if their argument holds water before engaging in anything else.  What I found was interesting. They wanted my opinion, but the stealthy lob in curve balls,. Now I trying to defend something I said or am I defending a comment that someone else said that I did not think was that bad, but genX is not having it.  I think the best and smartest thing that I said was that “I do not know”.  Each of the arguments have so many nuances.  As much as I have been against the leadership style and character of our current commander in chief.  I had to recognize that he had a nice couple of days getting our sailors back from Iran as well five American Hostages.  If we could just weave that into a coherent strategy, then I bet the President could gain some popularity. Unless he take racial struggle that he sees on the news and comments on it before knowing the facts.  He is ready shoot aim, instead of ready aim shoot or more accurately getting ready to get ready.  On that end looking forward to seeing 13 hours to highlight how your government can keep you from getting ready, aiming or shooting.

The long and short of this is that my kids do not me force feeding my thoughts into their head.  I do not and of the questions have easy answers and I want to support them doing the research to come to an informed decision. I take no responsibility with what comes out of life unless is was something I used to say to them to annoy them , but know they use that same word to get back to be.  So as a Daddy, a am not going to clip your wings. Go where the Spirit leads and GROW.

Temperance

I was in my Wednesday Night Men’s Bible Study and we were talking about the qualification of Deacons and Elders.  One of the characteristics was temperance.  We agreed that a good definition was being even keeled.  Not have too many highs or too many lows.  Then we start to think of the times when we lost it and lashed out.  It is possible to think that I really do not have an anger issue or a temper or any area where I may be a poor witness for Jesus.  Then people started sharing about this happened at work. Another was I lost it when this person questioned my integrity. Another was losing control when you think your child had been wronged. It could working for someone much younger than you that is snarky and belittling.  Everyone of those areas guys in the room could identify with.  Then think about when a stranger disrespects you.  Worse yet, someone close to you disrespects you or takes advantage of you. We were trying to make it easy and see if these were evidence of righteous anger.  We concluded that it was not.

So then how do we act righteously when we have already reacted in a non-affirming way.  How do we stay centered when a wrong jumps up and surprises us.  Trying to unpack this idea, I had to realize that I am a prime target for that type of an ambush.  I can get consumed by work or consumed about me.  I have to tell myself that it is not about me.  it is about Jesus.  I coached an under 12 boys traveling soccer team and in the finals, I chose not to give one kid his rotation. the reason was that I was trying to win the championship.  After the game, this boys father got real tight into my face and started screaming at me.  This father happened to be a policeman and a power lifter.  I was quite intimidated.  I did not say a word. When he got done yelling at me he turned and left.  The next game, we were both early at the game site.  I went up to him and asked if we could talk.  He was ready to let it go, but I wanted to tell him a couple of things.  First it is quite possible that I was wrong.  I am still trying to figure this coaching thing out a bit.  I also understood where he was coming from, but the intensity of the confrontation was what concerned me.  I asked him if everything was okay or was there something else going on and that was just the tipping point.  He shared with me that something had happened to a family member and he was just overly stressed.  The point was the God allowed me to admit that I do not have all my stuff together and can make plenty of mistakes. The other thing was to care enough about this parent to see what was really going on.

My takeaway from the conversation on temperance was to stay faithful in the word daily and to care about the person that is in the middle of wronging you. We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage those spike in emotion to defuse and redirect to a very healthy and affirming conversation.  By doing that I think God is glorified.   I know when I react poorly, it is typically because I have drifted away from being in the word.  Those are just tells and causes me to get on my knees and ask for forgiveness and then press back into my Savior.

 

 

 

 

Am I all In?

As a Dad I can want the best for my children.  I can encourage them to have their own faith and not the faith of their parents.  The strange thing happened as I noticed fewer and fewer kids that were coming through our youth program are really not walking with the Lord.  Very few are claiming Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  Then I look at my own kids and see the culture of today has numbed the minds of our youth.  Our church kids knows the story of the Bible, but it just white noise.  The head knowledge has not transferred to a personal relationship with God.  I look at the parents of a lot of these kids and their are the salt and the light kind of parents.  The kind I could only dream of being.  Solid in scripture, effortless in giving grace and never a negative comment about anyone.  If a problem arose they addressed it upfront and again with grace.  Here are the perfect examples of parents walking the walk and some of their children have lost their way.  I look at my own kids and I am concerned I did not do what I was commanded to do.  In Deuteronomy, it gives a clear example of how we are to raise up our kids.

Deuteronomy 6: 4 -10

“Hear, O Israel: dThe Lord our God, the Lord is one.2 You eshall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And fthese words that I command you today shall be on your heart. gYou shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. hYou shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. iYou shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So that brings me to the question and I really all in or has the culture numbed my own Awe of God.  There of course is a daily to do that seemed to feel like a ritual.  We know rituals and traditions are not faith.  But their are building blocks for faith.  A football coach would call it basic blocking and tackling.  The problem is that kids all have their own choice and their own timing when they choose.  All we cn do as parents is show them the Spirit of the Living God in us.

I picked up a book that got me thinking about how to jump start my walk, so that perhaps I would be a bit more authentic in my on walk.  kids can spot a hypocrite and they can even love a hypocrite.  They just do not want to follow a hypocrite.  They do however want to be inspired.  That is where I want my kids to revisit the awe I find in my God.  I have committed to reading the Bible through cover to cover over the next 12 month.  I have decided to pray with my wife daily and to pray for those outside of my immediate influence.  meaning leaders and countries for the Glory of God.  It means I want to invest in helping the needed with my giving and want to serve the needy with my time.  I also want to continue to be trained in the faith and help others to grow in the faith.  Bottom line is I want the Love of Jesus to emote from my being where there is no doubt to whom I belong.  That kind of journey may peak the interest of those close to me.

Today, I am all in.

I am not sure what I believe?

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you bring up your family in the church, you hope that your children take the faith as their own.  There is no legacy into heaven. Just a personal decision to follow Christ and to believe in him.  The quick reaction is to try to fix something. To explain something better, to help your child make a course correction.  Then your wife seems to be less than passionate about going to church.  Then you listen to some of the music your older daughter is playing and you wonder where the censors are in this music.  When you have a one on one to discuss the language, you find out that the language is so common that it did not even stand out as being inappropriate.  There is a lot of fixing to do.  I try to figure out how my household started sliding away from the Lord.  now my son is married and live 14 hours away. So my immediate actions have not had a direct impact on my son, but what about the build up to lead him where he is at.  In the end of the day, this comes down to every individual in my family taking responsibility for their own walk.  Well you think that statement may have made me feel better about this.  The truth is that I am the spiritual leader of this family.  I was not ready verbalize the troubles in my walk, but I have to take responsibility for me. How is my walk? How is my attitude? How is my time in the word? How is my Quiet time? Why did I accept the lets skip Church this Sunday? Because I too as the spiritual leader of the family went sideways. That sideways turned into a steady decline away.  That mean the next step for my family is at the alter of Christ asking forgiveness for my slumber.  If you you take a step back, then step back and then kneel down.  Peace to you and yours.

2016

date night

It is the first day of the new year and I think about all of the New Year’s resolutions that are now today’s agenda.  I was able to put a lot of things off based on what I was going to do in the new year.  I then realized how selfish a lot of the goals were.  I accounted for more discipline and more time for projects and endeavors and realized that while  all of those new goals would yield benefit to me in the long-term.  I realized the most important thing for 2016 is that I spend quality time with my family and create memories that will not only last forever, but can create a ripple effect that will touch countless people and multiple generations.  So this day, I was told by my daughter that I could not help her clean her room, because she does not like how I fold clothes or put them away. She then stated that I would just want to throw things away and that would not be at all helpful.  I asked her if she wanted to go see Spectre.  She was not interested.  I think this great moment will evolve into a game of rummy, but my intent is clear.  Date night with my daughter.

Quiet Time

There seems to be a time for everything.  When I think of quiet time, I think of a child being in time out for acting out or misbehaving.  Many in Christian circles state that is part of the christian’s daily life.  That is where God can speak to you.  That is based on the premise that you also read the bible, where God will take what you have read and teach you through what you already know.  That is all true, but there is value in just being quiet.  Pulling out of the fast lane and just listening.  That can be weird, because without direction it is easy to get bored and start thinking about all of the things that you need to do, once you get out of your quiet spot in the house.

Stopping to ponder who God is, who I am, who I am in Christ is  enough to leave me in Awe.  I know that I am just a speck of matter, but a very special speck to the creator of all things.  Remembering that I am part of his inheritance.  Remembering that I am here for a purpose.  Remembering that I matter to people that God has put in my path.

So when one in my path inquiries about the mysteries of God, it would be nice to be prepared.  It is in my quiet time that I know I am not alone and that God will give me the words.  In my quiet time, I know that I want to know my God more and that is why I need to read His word.