Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas... The 2nd Thanksgiving

I couldn't help thinking, as my family gathered both last night and today in celebration of Christmas, that it really should be known as The 2nd Thanksgiving. Or maybe Thanksgiving 2.0 or something like that. The reason for this thought is how thankful I am to have my extended family, my health, my job, my beautiful wife, my kids - and my God in my life. It's really too much to expect and really, incomprehensible the amount of blessings I enjoy because of all that God has provided for me. I am so thankful and so full of joy when I think about it.

I pray that no matter your station in life, that God blesses you this Christmas and in the coming year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Best Article I Have Read on Homosexuality

Now wouldn't it be nice if we could disagree as agreeably as these two do?

Not holding my breath though... generally there is too much fear being propagated on both sides of the issue.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Exuberance of Internet Stocks, Homes and Obama's Cookies

The last paragraph of an article I read last November about Obama cookies someone put on the market around election time (the article I read is a dead link now) said:

"I think everybody just ... thought, 'Oh, great cookie, great president — the world is a happy place. Barack's going to fix all the problems and if I have a bite of this cookie it's going to make me feel good,'" Maxfield said.

As I read this story and in particular, the last paragraph, I couldn't help of a couple of other things:

• The internet boom when internet companies were WAY overvalued and every Tom, Dick and Harry was opening one and going public in hopes of making millions. And everyone was buying any stock related to a hi-tech, internet-based company. It didn't matter that none of these companies had shown a profit - and it turns out, most never would. They crashed and burned in mid 2000.

• The housing boom when everyone was buying way more house than they could afford. People working as grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, etc. were being given credit for some reason still unknown to me to buy $200,000 and 300,000 houses in the Dallas market when the most they could expect to afford in the way of a house in the past was a $50,000 house in an old, used up neighborhood in East or South Dallas - if they could even afford a house. Most rented. And now? They've lost their houses. The reality set in as the economy tanked and they lost their jobs and found themselves unable to sell their houses. And many of them took out interest only loans - so they were upside down - IN THEIR HOUSE! You expect that with a car, boat or something like that. But your house is always suppose to increase in value. Right? Apparently not.

And now, we have Obama's cookies making some feel like he is the latest "savior" that's going to make everything alright. If we would just all own wildly successful stocks, a giant house and elect a president that will solve all the problems that the aforementioned unreasonable expectations brought on, then we'll be happy.

Check out the video below for some of this irrationality:




Now come on people! When will we learn that all these things we run after hoping they will make us happy is futile thinking? No, really. When? Probably never this side of heaven.

The deal though is that there IS all that happiness to be found this side of heaven and more. There was this guy who said:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Now just for grins, think of the thief as those things or people or ideas (i.e. security, safety, assurance, etc.) that hold out all that promise for your happiness. Those are the thieves.

Now think of Christ - the "guy" who said the above. He can really deliver on that promise He makes. The issue is, are you willing to trust Him? Are you willing to see that "things", ideas and even people are not nearly as important as we believe them to be?

Now Christ will certainly not give you everything you want. But He will give you more than you ever imagined possible in the way of happiness and fulfillment - even and especially in the bad times when you think everything is going to come crashing down around you. Those are the times when Christ comforts and encourages you the most. And He reminds you that He has always provided for you. Maybe not in the ways you would have liked, but He provides nonetheless. I have learned this lesson many times (which means, in my stress and anxiety over those bad times, I have forgotten those lessons as well).

Think about what would make you truly happy. Truly safe, sound and secure. Does it involve Christ? It should. He's waiting for you to ask for His help. All you have to do is say the word.

If you do choose the rich and satisfying life Christ offers, let me know. I will be glad to help you in any way in your new life.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Contrast.

Here is an excellent example of Jesus.

And here is an example of selfishness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2, Count 'em, 2 Posts in One Day!

Okay, so it's not that exciting, but this post on Corrie Ten Boom and being thankful in all circumstances is good.

Thankful.

Being it's Thanksgiving, I thought I would write a little about those who are a constant presence in my life.

God.
How could I not be thankful for a Person who gave His life so I could live? Plus He gives grace, mercy and forgiveness every day of my life - 3 things I really couldn't live without.

My Wife.
She is beautiful, smart and caring and committed to our relationship and our family. I love her dearly.

My Kids.
Their ages range from 6 to 17 and I love everything about all 3 of them! Plus, as anyone who had kids knows, they teach me alot about myself (i.e. they're built in accountability partners).

My Mom.
I am thankful for my mom and her influence in my life. I wouldn't be where I am at personally or professionally without her guidance and her support.

My Friends.
I am not sure I could do life without my friends. They encourage and uplift me when I am down and provide me a sounding board for decisions that I need to make. You know who you all are and I am thankful for every one of your presences in my life.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jason Castro Sings "Clumsy"

He used to be part of the worship team at the church (Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, TX) my family attends... then a little thing called American Idol happened and I haven't seen him on stage since. This is one of my all-time favorite songs - not because of the music, but because of the words about what it's like to walk with Christ.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm Just Happy My Family is Healthy and Safe...

...as opposed to the turkeys behind Governor Palin in this classic video shown from a couple of different perspectives. you gotta watch the whole video on the first link. It is hilarious.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just When I Was Feeling Sorry For Myself...

... I see this photo of kids in their neighborhood in Peru. Notice the "houses" in the background. Makes my little house look like a castle.

Ronne, What Were You Doing at 7:30ish This Morning?

This morning on the way into work, I was praying through some issues and for various people in my life. The organization I work for is going through some rough changes and reorganizing. Jobs have been lost and there may be more. It's not a fun time at work these days. I prayed quite a bit about that and for my attitude in relation to that situation.

I was also praying for my family and a few friends that I had purposed to pray for. As I was praying and discussing them with God, some other names popped into my head unexpectedly - at least from my perspective.

So I prayed for the people behind the names and asked God to encourage them right as I was praying for them. I checked with one of them already just to see if anything was going on and there wasn't. He did say that he had just finished running a very "inspirational" 6 mile run - so maybe that was the form of encouragement God used in answer to my prayer. I haven't checked with the other person yet, but I plan to.

As a matter of fact...

Ronne... What were you doing at 7:30ish this morning? I prayed for you and asked God to encourage you and to remind you that you are "one in a million".

I am not normally a person who is curious about the mysteries of prayer - at least not from a superstitious standpoint. I know God leads people all the time to pray for others - I have heard many stories. It has only happened to me a few times in the past - the distant past. Perhaps this is due to the fact that my prayer life is sporadic at best. But with the events of this past Saturday night, I have purposed to pray daily in some form or fashion. So maybe I will experience more of what I experienced this morning and God will use me to intervene in another's life in a good and powerful way. Wouldn't that be cool.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Repenting, Rebooting, Reorganizing.

I walked into the church building last night like I always do to go to church. We were running late, so while I parked the car, Trudy got the boys checked in to their classes. We met in the large hallway that led to the sanctuary. Once I had the night's program guide in hand, I remembered that this was going to be a worship-only service. I expected to be singing most of the night and maybe having some devotional-type words, some scriptures relating to the music and prayer in between songs. Boy was I wrong. And boy was I caught off guard. I was completely unprepared for what God was going to do in my heart last night.

Turns out, we ARE singing worship songs, but that's not all. There will be no sermon. Instead, as God's family at Lakepointe Church, we are focusing on where our relationship with God is - where we have put Him in our lives. What we are allowing sin to do to our lives. What we are allowing worry, stress, jealousy, you name it do to our relationships with our family and with God.

There were 4 opportunities to do this as we reflected on where we are at. One was the Lord's Supper. One was writing a confession on a card and laying it at the foot of a simple wooden cross. One was lighting a candle for someone we are hoping and praying will come to Christ. And one was writing a praise on a white board that showed our gratitude to God.

Repenting.
The Lord's Supper is always a time of repentance for me. Not because the pastor stands up their and threatens me that I should not be taking communion if I haven't repented, but because it is a time for me to reflect on what a horribly awesome sacrifice my God made so I could be in His presence. It always brings me to my knees - and I am not talking about prayer here - I am talking about deep and abiding grief over His suffering and my own selfishness in how I have been living my life - how truly far away I have run from this Person who gave everything He had to see to it that I could live with Him in eternity.

This time though, was different. I feel as though God may have finally woken me up. I have often found myself repenting and rededicating my life to Christ. And that's a good thing because it stops you from doing some really stupid things. But this time, He laid bare before my eyes, just what I was doing to Him when I chose to sin even as I knew what I was doing was wrong. It's a simple as that. But it's also complex and hard to describe. When you have a million and one things swirling through your brain like I do most of the time, it's hard to focus on just one thing - one moment. But it became crystal clear to me that simply rededicating my life once again was not where it was at. I just simply wrote the sin I was most upset and embarrassed by on the card, and I went and laid it at the foot of the cross and I let it represent the rest of my sorry life I have been busy living lately. I didn't really utter a "sorry" or anything. I just acknowledged that I knew what I had done was wrong and that I knew God knew as well. And I asked Him to help me overcome it. I have never felt so broken and alone as I did at that moment for some reason. I was in anguish and in tears as walked over to the table to pick up my communion elements. My wife and I took communion together, she prayed over the "body" - I over the "blood". She was eloquent, I in my aguish blathered something short about being thankful for Christ sacrifice. It was at once a very awkward time between my wife and I and a very heart-wrenching time between God and I. But it was necessary.

Rebooting.
As I think back on last night, I realized that after I had went through the heart-wrenching experience of repentance, that the next 2 "activities" (for lack of a better term) were the beginnings of a rebooting process. A rebooting of a life with the right priorities spiritually-speaking.

My wife and I made our way back to the white boards so we could write on them something we were grateful for. I have been experiencing some fear and anxiety lately about what has been going on at work. I wrote that I thanked Him for the fear and anxiety of the process of wondering whether or not I would be employed or not after the first of the year. It's not a very comfortable process, but it's a necessary process to remind me that everything I am, that I have, that I get to do - it's all from God and all dependent on God and His Will for my life. I also thanked Him for the fact that no matter what, I would always have Jesus - He would always be there - unchanging and eternal. From an emotional standpoint - it was very freeing.

We then made out way up to the front to light a candle. The point of that candles are to ask God to change the heart of those we are praying for that are lost. I lit two candles: one for a wayward family member, and one for a friend who is not currently in God's family.

Both of these activities were the first steps, I realized, to regaining my spiritual feet. To be thankful for something God has given me (the white board praise) and to be praying for another's salvation (the lit candles). I am not sure there are 2 more important activities in your day to day life as a Christ-follower than to be thankful and to be praying.

Reorganizing.
The reorganizing part of this doesn't have much to do with what happened last night - at least on it's surface. My wife and I are beginning the process of making plans for our family's future. The plans are for where we will be at in any given category in 3, 5 and 10 years, The categories range from education, career and money to college, our walks with God and our health. Until last night though, the category labeled "Spiritual" was just that: a category. Not now. Not since last night. Now it will be THE category that every other category revolves around. It just goes that if we are dependent on God for our very breaths that we take, we need to make sure our walks with Him our thriving. By thriving, I don't mean successful. By thriving I mean we are plugged in to God - living every moment in His presence - and living as if every moment may be the one He chooses to be our last one on earth. That means much prayer. Much knowledge (Bible). And being a light to those around us - a light that draws them to God.

Result.
I am still working through all that I experienced last night. But I do know one thing - He was trying to get a hold of me - as He has all along - and He finally did it last night. This I cannot deny. My prayer is that somehow this experience will resonate with me like never before and become a lasting remembrance for God to use to send me back to when I get off track.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama and Dissenters

I thought of Wade Burleson and his many posts on those in leadership allowing dissent in the SBC (here's a hint: it's not allowed) when I read this. Southern Baptists could learn a few things from Obama about dissent. I hope he appoints those who disagree with him - not because they disagree with him, but because they are the best person for the jobs and they'll offset any sycophants he might have on his staff.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Living by Faith

From Bob Cleveland:

Far too many believers never really, and I mean REALLY, have to live by faith, IMO. I feel the blessed ones are the ones that do.

How apropos for the economic times we live in now. I wonder how many of us really do live by faith in this country. I am afraid Bob is right on - not very many. How strange an idea that must be to God - to know we don't live by faith in Him.

He commented on Wade Burleson's excellent post about a boy who knew more about living by faith than most of us combined ever learn.

Science is Not THE WAY

Check this out.

Now if it took science 200 years to figure out how ordinary bleach works, then how in the world is it that people think science (humanism) is the more intelligent choice than God?

Monday, November 10, 2008

One of Chelsea's Senior Photos & One of Her Early Photos



That's Sadie with her - she was a Christmas present from her step-mom and I this past Christmas. Amy Seale, a good friend of mine took the shot as well as many others. I will post more later.

And the below photo is so you can see she hasn't changed that much! She's still the cutest little girl I have ever met! (I know - that's kinda corny - but hey, I'm the proud dad!)

Billy Graham Nails It

From "Preaching the Minority View," January 14, 1991. In response to the question, "What motivates you to keep going?"

"I care less and less how many people come forward—whether anybody comes forward or not. The important thing is whether I have made clear the Gospel and the cost of following Christ."

Too many "Christians" consider their work done when they invite Christ into their lives. This is not so and Billy Graham said in a few words what I have tried to explain a million times to various people. There is a cost involved in following Christ. The true life of discipleship is not for the faint of heart or the weak in faith. It is hard, strenuous work - and that's just the intellectual side! The true work comes in serving others consistently and over time the way Christ would serve them.

The way Christ would serve them you say?

In a word, the answer is without condition, boundaries or disclaimers. Total abandonment to His cause is what is required.

What would that look like for you?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Good Side

A couple of days ago I published a post named, "Be Careful What You Say". It was a call to watch what we say because it affects others' perceptions of who we are. I used Scott Wilder and some negative stuff he said about Gary Busey after having him on his radio talk show.

I was thinking about that post and how others would in turn see me in a negative light because I used him and his failings in that particular case to illustrate a point. So in fairness, I also thought of a really cool thing Scott did right around the time his show went on the air.

I don't remember all of the details, but I remember a woman, who was a stripper or worked in some other capacity in the adult entertainment industry and was hurting. As she told her story, Scott began ministering to her in a way I have never heard anyone do on the radio - at least anyone who wasn't specifically there to counsel people. As I recall, once he was finished, he followed up and made sure she had the opportunity to get out of that world and begin healing. He followed up that she was getting help, but I don't recall much more detail than that. His actions that day on the radio show made me proud to call him a brother in Christ and I think, demonstrated the best a Christian has to offer a hurting person trying to make sense of her world.

In "Be Careful What You Say", I called for being aware of not doing anything to negatively affect another's perceptions of who we are as Christians. I will end this post by exhorting you to be watchful for people that you cross paths with that are hurting and need your help. Don't walk away from them. Help them. Christ may just want to use you to shine His light into their dark lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Be Careful of What You Say

I was watching some show on MTV that I usually don't watch - not much, if anything at all, is worth watching on that channel - but I was bored and watching some celebrity addicts in recovery. They are all under the care of some high dollar shrink. It's all pretty smarmy - the has-been celebs are doing it for one last gasp of a chance at continuing their careers. The doctor is doing it for the chance to make even bigger bucks through the publicity the show generates.

One of them is Gary Busey the actor - and he claims - a born again Christian. He is in complete denial that he is an addict and he is acting as if he is in charge of all of the rest of the celebs there at the recovery center. He's in pretty sad shape and looks to be on his last go around with his addiction. You get the sense when you see him that if he doesn't beat it this time, he's gonna die.

Every time I see or hear of Garey Busey, I am reminded of Scott Wilder. And tonight was no exception- I was reminded of him again tonight. Scott Wilder is host of his own talk show on a local FM station - the WORD FM here in the Dallas market. I used to listen to him all the time. He is one of those run of the mill conservative talk show hosts - only he has an explicit, conservative Christian angle to his material. Think Rush Limbaugh adding Jesus to the list of conservative politicians and issues he usually talks about.

The reason I remember him is because one time, many years ago, he had Busey on his show for some reason or another. Chances are, Busey was probably either in or promoting some Christian-themed movie or something like that. I don't remember much about the interview, but I do remember how much Scott ripped into Busey once he was gone. Busey apparently did something that Wilder didn't like and he just ripped into him. I don't even remember what he said,other than Busey not being a very pleasant person to be around. I thought at the time that it was pretty inappropriate that Wilder would speak of this on the air at all. I also remember that was probably the beginning of the end of my listening to his show.

To cut to the quick, be careful of how speak of others. I wonder what I would have remembered had Scott not said a word. I probably wouldn't remember a thing.

I Did My Duty!

I voted today. I voted straight republican ticket. I was joking earlier that I did my duty to offset my bosses vote and my wife cast hers to offset my mother's vote. Both are diehard democrats... and both wanted Hillary instead of Obama. My brother and his wife put us ahead in our family with 2 more republican votes. Not sure of my sister though... last I heard, she was also republican.

As a side note, I almost voted for my first democrat today. Mike Anderson, republican, who is running for state senate here in Texas and former mayor of my hometown, really annoyed me. I swear he has sent a mailer to me every other day for the last few weeks, called to bother me at home with robocalls a couple of times, and his election signs, with his big, warm, fuzzy family shots were blatant propaganda (God, family, country, apple pie, etc.). You can see the shot here. Plus, he's a complete clown when it comes to higher education. He says college hasn't gotten more expensive. I wonder what planet he was on while his clone was running our fair city here in north Texas.

To be somewhat fair, here is his competition's site. The photo isn't as nice, but then again, he probably didn't spend big bucks like Anderson did. Anderson must have some big-bucks friends who expect return favors once he's in office.

But in the end, he is a conservative. He seems to believe that government is just some huge feeding trough for those who don't want to take care of themselves, and he upholds my Christian values (though I wouldn't necessarily consider that a qualification for office - just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over!). Plus, my conscience won't allow me to vote for anyone in a party that is so blatantly anti-life - and is set to become even more so with Obama seeming to be a shoe-in. SO I included a yes vote for Anderson. I held my nose.

The Essence of Jesus

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 19:13-30

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Purpose and Peace

I was all set to write a post telling you the story of how even though I wrote the below post on Peace for an Advent Guide the organization I work for publishes, I have very little peace in my life. And, somewhat hypocritically, I don't follow my own prescription for peace that I wrote about. But a funny thing happened today. This was perhaps one of my more busy and stressful days I have had in the last few months. You'd think I would just implode with stress and crack under the pressure seeing as how I already don't have much peace in my life. It really shouldn't take much to put me over the edge into anger, frustration and despair.

Not so. At least this time.

I had a new, if only temporary, purpose at work today. I had to get a 2-3 day project done in one day. Plus I have more of the same coming up due on Monday that I haven't even gotten copy on yet. Once I got rolling, I work pretty hard all day to get the project done. I was extremely focused. And I was at peace - even under pressure. This peace didn't come from deep down. I have no secret for handling the pressure - or maybe I do. Hard work. It created purpose and required me to focus. I didn't have time to think about my struggles. I was too busy to care about them.

Maybe I am on to something...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Our Peace is Not of This World

I was asked to write a devotional about Peace - one of the weeks in the Advent season. I was to write for an Advent guide that the organization I work for, Buckner International, publishes each year. I was pretty excited about it as I had the chance to write for something other than my blog and its 4 or 5 readers! Well I wrote my it and it is now being used as a bible lesson rather than a devotional. The text of it is below. More tomorrow on why I am posing it here.

Our Peace is Not of This World
John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Peace is hard to come by in this world. It seems like there is always something just around the corner – some event that can alter our lives forever. Some unknown medical condition come to light. A sudden accident. A lost job – especially in the current economic situation we find ourselves in these days. Those are things we cannot control. We can only respond to them – usually with anxiety and stress.

If those worries aren’t enough, it also seems that we are our own worst enemies in trying to attain peace. We continuously seek to build things into our lives – strive after the things our world has to offer to find comfort. To find the peace that will satisfy our souls. Yet what we find is fleeting at best. Even the good times – times spent with our families and loved ones. Time spent doing the things we love. Time just resting and relaxing. Further, we have the tendency to spend a lot of time building up our financial reserves so we can “buy” the peace we so desperately need. But none of those things last and we are forced to return to reality. Peace, we think, shouldn’t be so hard to come by.

But the Bible says otherwise about this world we live in:

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:16-18).

Good News
But there is good news – news we need to hear. In the passage for today’s devotion (John 14:27), Jesus is offering us his peace. But note that it’s not of this world though. It’s from him, and the Father.

In the larger context of this passage, Jesus has just finished washing his disciples feet (John 13:1-17), and is beginning to tell them he is going to be leaving them (John 13:18-14:16). As you can imagine, after spending so much time and devotion on this man they have been following so long, they are perplexed and upset. They don’t want him to leave. They want to follow him. In John 13:37 peter says, "Lord, why can't I follow you now?"

But he says they can’t – at least for now. But he offers them His peace instead – in a promise to return (John 14:1-1) and in form of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).

In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells them of His plans to go and prepare a place for them and promises them he will return for them one day.

But the point I want you to get is in verse 26. He says to them, “…the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” This promise is for your life now. If you are a child of God, then you have the source of peace living within you! No need to run after the things of this world to find peace. It, or rather, he, the Holy Spirit, the source of peace Jesus left behind, has been with you the whole time. He will teach you how to have peace – despite your circumstances... if you’ll let him.

Ask the Spirit within you to provide you with the peace you have spent so much time and treasure seeking after. Take the time right now to allow Him to speak to you. Then, for the rest of the day, continue watching and listening for the Holy Spirit speaking to you and working within you to bring you to the place that you have always longed for – to the peace only He can provide. Make this a daily practice, and before long, you will be changed and you will find, as Philippians 4:7 so beautifully says, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding” will be yours, even in the midst of your trials and tribulations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Times, They Are Uncertain

I was reading through Romans 8 just now and ran across this in vs. 35-37:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he know longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Overwhelming victory in Jesus! Careful now! I might begin to sound like a raving charismatic! Seriously, there is nothing more comforting to read and understand that no matter the trials we are faced with, Christ loves us. He says He is always with us - he has left us a seal to guide us - namely the Holy Spirit. We are not alone.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Limiting Salaries

There is a discussion going on at Christianity Today about whether or not executives at Christian organizations should limit salaries. I have a friend there who strongly disagrees with me. In the unlikely event he shows up at my blog, he might try this article I wrote last year on why I believe what I believe: that we should not seek to limit salaries - that would be the wrong focus. Usually, when people want to limit salaries, there is jealousy on their part involved.

We should instead, challenge each other to look at what we believe about money and whether or not Christ would approve of what we believe in principle and in practice.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quote of the Week

I usually don't do this on my blog, but I am a rabid news follower and I usually have a "headline of the week" or "quote of the week" in my mind or one that I tell or send to my friends... this week its:

"The reporting of the past few days has proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert,"

Mike Huckabee said this in his speech commenting on the news medias blatant bias against Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for VP.

He's wrong though, the media sunk to a new low. A Madonna concert is not tacky enough for the level of reporting that has taken place in the last week. Tacky really isn't the word I would choose - disgusting bias are the 2 words I would use.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trading One Sin for Another

From James Hoffa on unifying the Democratic Party behind Obama:

"There are people who are not going to vote for him because he's black," said James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union. "And we've got to hope that we can educate people to put aside their racism and to put their own interests No. 1." He spoke in an Associated Press interview

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dysfunction

This story has severe family dysfunction written all over it.

The parents it seems to me, are more interested in the world knowing how disgusted they are with their daughter and how "righteous" they are than they are about loving their daughter. How many of you really believe that calling your child out in the media is really the best way to lovingly confront them on an issue? Strict "Christian" upbringings have always concerned me. They seem to work against the very thing you want for your children: to follow the God you follow.

But the quote of the story for me is this:

"I'm not ashamed of it," she said. "Everyone's looking for me to be, 'Well, I'm so ashamed of it and that's why I kissed a girl!' No way! I still have 'Jesus' tattooed on my wrist. And I still have faith and a foundation of my own."

"A foundation of my own," she says. That may just be her problem. Any time we build our lives on a foundation of our own, we are in danger of collapse. We are building on sand. And our "foundation" will eventually be washed away. It's a lesson I have to continually learn over and over again. I pray that she learns sooner than I have...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It Takes Strength

My blog has somewhat become a reactionary commentary to what I have observed in my own life and others'... and the latest thing I have observed is that it takes strength for a parent to make the right choice for their children. But sadly, most of us fail because we are selfish and really, we're looking out for our own good... our own comfort - even as we act as if we are making decisions based on their own good. Let me say that though I have not been perfect in making decisions for my children, and will never be perfect, it still stands as truth that we become cowards when we, in the midst of our own pain, make decisions regarding our children, not for their own good, but to give us some measure of comfort in the midst of our own pain. This I have seen happen time and time again. And because I can see into the future because of what's happened in the past, I feel sad and frustrated that while we consider ourselves independent, we really aren't and we continuously flail around looking for something to give us peace and calm - even to the detriment of those we love. Even our children.

Pretenders Among Us

"Remigus had a brisk, efficient manner of moving and speaking which gave him an air of competence entirely at variance with his true character. Closer observation revealed clues to what was beneath the facade: his rather prominent blue eyes shifted about rapidly in an anxious way, his weak-looking mouth worked hesitantly two or three times before he spoke, and his hands clenched and opened repeatedly even though he was otherwise still. What authority he had came from arrogance [some times passed off as a healthy degree of ego by those who look to explain away arrogance], petulance and a dismissive way with subordinates."

– From "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett
[except bracketed comment by me]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Church Discipline. Hmmm...

...maybe it should start with itself.

Church discipline troubles me. I am well aware of the Matthew passages and even agree with them. Problem is, the church has so screwed up its influence and place in society with believers and non-believers alike, I am pretty sure I would tell a pastor or church deacon or elder board who likely doesn't know me, but wants to correct me, to take a hike.

Further, the church has no business in my personal life - it doesn't even have its own personal life in order. Church authoritarians many times just want you to know they have "power" over you. Because of its failings, the church has long since been stripped of any authority God gave it - it has suffered the natural consequences of its own lukewarmness in failing to to be salt and light in the world. It is no longer the center of life. And don't blame the secular society for this. Blame the church - and uncomfortably, this means blaming the leaders and ourselves. It has been said many a time that if you want respect as a leader in the community, you have to be a servant of all and live the life you preach at others. The church hasn't done this... not even close.

But a friend who tries to set me straight? Him (or her) I would listen to. If my wife were to confront me? I would listen to her. My kids? Yep. I would listen to them. As a matter of fact, I can't live the Christian life without many friends and family who are also accountability partners in my life. I would fail miserably without them.

The church, in its current state? That, sadly, I can live the Christian life just fine without ever darkening its doors again.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You Want Brutal Honesty About the Church?

Check these buzzards out.

Mad as Hell, But I Still Love Him

I was sitting in church last night - well, actually, I was standing since we were singing. We were singing "Your Grace is Enough" and as usual, when I sing a song about one of God's immeasurable attributes, my mind begins processing what I am singing a million miles an hour. So I quickly wrote a few notes down right after the song - thinking I would blog about it later.

The whole concept of God's grace has become such a cliché in Christianity today. We throw it around pretty easily. We say, "Grace and peace be with you." or "Go in God's grace." Or "But by the grace of God, there go I." Or we say "Grace" at meal times. And then in the larger secular world, we hear about a celebrity's "grace and style" or her "graceful mannersisms", or how she dances with such "grace and power". It's actually quite easy to forget what grace means in God's economy.

When I looked up the word in the dictionary, there were many different definitions and amazingly, I found the one I was looking for:

freely given, unmerited favor and love of God

I also found this one:

the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.

That definition brings to mind that there is a part in the song that beckons God to "remember your people, remember your children, remember your promise..."

But the part of the song that got my mind going in a different direction is actually the chorus and the name of the song: Your Grace is Enough.

As I was singing, I thought about my own life and my continual seeking after some sort of comfort to get me through the rough times. Always seeking to control as much as possible, any catastrophe big or small, so as to protect myself from pain. Then there are those times I have sought to do something - to accomplish something - asking God to bless what I was about to do. I put so much personal equity in my big plans - and then I fail. And I get angry - angry at myself, angry at God - and I want to give up.

Really what I am angry about is that I think everything should work out - that somehow I am exempted from rough times and from troubles and hassles as I try to succeed in life. Especially when I am trying to do something for God. Sometimes, as a last gasp at trying to somehow salvage what has gone so wrong, I beg God to help me succeed - to make it all right. And of course He doesn't - what I was trying to do was never in His plans for me. And of course, I get mad, pack up my toys and I go stomping off - cursing Him, myself and whoever was involved with my failure.

I can be pretty immature at times. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum, I need to learn that God's grace is enough for me. I doubt very much He is affected by my pathetic behavior. I am sure He is content to wait for me to grow up - though I know he won't tarry forever, waiting for me to submit to him. He is after all, God, One who really has no NEED for me or anyone else. But he WANTS ME - much like I want my own children - only more intensely (which is a whole other post for me to contemplate).

Here is the lesson in maturity that I need to learn: I may have nothing. I may not accomplish anything I want to accomplish. But I MUST learn the lesson that God's grace is enough for me. I suspect that every pastor or leader or anyone who has stepped out in faith has had to learn that God's grace is enough to see them through. I wonder if He had to strip everything away from them as He seems to be doing to me... in slow motion... to get their attention?

Don't misunderstand me, I haven't lost much materially - I haven't lost many people that are close to me. Compared to others, my life is pretty easy. What I am talking about really is my expectations of following Christ. Expectations that remain unfulfilled. Expectations that had me teaching, leading, mentoring - showing others that there is peace to be found in God. Problem is, I don't have much peace. It's hard to pass along what I don't already possess. But I suspect that more than anything, at least this side of salvation, that understanding fully, and grasping completely, God's grace is enough to follow Christ and His will for my life. I suspect that accepting that God's grace is enough for me will lead to peace and contentment in my life, no matter the storms that are blowing through.

I remember reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and his story of the broken down, beaten church he inherited and how he had to finally surrender the church and its future to God - trusting in Him and His grace, through fervent, honest prayer. The church became the Brooklyn Tabernacle. And it was built back up by God, using His grace through those that had come to the understanding that if it would be accomplished, God would do it and He would choose only those willing to surrender their wills to His. Jim Cymbala, his wife, and the rest of the church needed to come to the conclusion that God's grace was going to be enough for them.

If I am unsure about many things along the path of following Christ, I am sure of one thing: I can be mad as hell at God, but I still love Him and will never leave Him. I know it's wise to never say "never" - but I have had so many chances to pack it up and walk away, but I can't. I have to stay. Not only am I afraid to walk away from someone Who says, "I am the way, the truth and the life..." but I HAVE to see what God has in store for me. And I think maybe that a step in that process that I can't skip over (as if we can skip any of the steps God has ordained for us) is to come to the realization AND put it into operation in my life is to really believe that God's grace is enough for me.



Friday, July 4, 2008

Innocent Baby, Guilty Criminal, No Contradiction

I am in the midst of reading The Appeal by John Grisham. I don't feel like typing a synopsis of the book - it's not really pertinent to what I am about to say anyways. Grisham slipped in a line in the book saying that opposing abortion and supporting the death penalty are contradictory. The headline of this post says everything you need to know about my argument that there is no contradiction..

I challenge anyone to prove me wrong...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Brotherly Love... NOT!

Not sure if you've seen this or not... how in the world does a kid get to the place where he thinks that this is not only okay, but funny?

Finally...

... someone who is doing something good for the right reasons. This man exemplifies Jesus' teaching - His whole teaching.

Click here to read the story.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm Thinking This Guy Should Move...

... maybe to Iraq.

Click here. Read the story.

Then email him at csatullo@phillynews.com to let him know what you think.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Forgiveness is Powerful


Remember the photo from the Vietnam war era of the little Vietnamese girl running naked down a road after being napalmed by I assume American forces. It's one of the most famous and well-known photos from that war. Well, here's the rest of the story.

Here is a link to her foundation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Husbands Abuse Their Wives Because Why?

Check this out. Debbie Kaufman has a link to the actual sermon down in the responses to the post - you have to listen to it for about 10 minutes or so - but he says it here.

In essence he says that one of the reasons a husband abuses his wife is because she won't submit to him.

[Insert stunned silence here.]

Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is responsible for this incomprehensible little tidbit of knowledge. It's not the main point of the sermon by any stretch, but I am just flabbergasted that he would say this. He certainly isn't helping the cause he's preaching for.

I suppose he would also say one of the reasons parents abuse their children is because the children just won't listen to the parents.

Always nice when a professor exhibits such ignorance on a subject... maybe sticking to the Biblical text instead of his misguided opinions would help.

Maybe.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You Gotta Walk Before You Can Talk Continued

Here is where you start The Walk, continue The Walk, and end The Walk. Most just say, "Here is the starting point." But that assumes there is a jumping off point - or you just do what Jesus says at the start and then "grow" into a more important position.

Not true.

You take these verses up, pack 'em in your backpack and take 'em along for the whole journey. That way you can pull 'em out and use them to remind you of the essence of leading others.

Note that Jesus doesn't say anything about telling anyone what to do or where to go or how to do something...

Which is the True Party of Black Americans?

I found this article quite interesting...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You Gotta Walk Before You Can Talk

Armchair quarterbacks usually talk and judge a pro quarterback's performance as if they played the game themselves. The problem is, they usually haven't. They haven't been practicing since they were old enough to walk - training to be a quarterback. They haven't had to face a linebacker or defensive end that outweighs them by 100lbs coming at them like an out-of-control freight train. They haven't felt the weight of responsibility that comes with being the leader of a multi-billion dollar franchise. But they sure do have an awful lot of advice to offer. Check out any football blog during the season to see all this in action. Shoot, check out any sports blog for pretty much any sport to see this in action right now.

Armchair theologians are usually the same and they consider the blogosphere their pulpit to the world. You can tell the ones that haven't experienced much in their walks or haven't walked in obedience to God in certain areas of their lives. They have a lot of book knowledge about what the Bible says, but have hardly any real world experience. Their answers are usually oversimplified, pat answers - the only answers immaturity and lack of experience can offer.

And they are usually the first one to chastise you for something you've done or said that they consider wrong and then offer a couple of proof texts to prove what you've done or said is wrong. THEN they offer you the "right" way (i.e. their way) to avoid whatever grievous sin you've committed in the future. And they do it with "authority" - more like stolen authority - which of course is no authority at all.

I was listening to Crawford Loritz (see the transcript here) on the radio earlier this evening and he told of a friend who mentioned to him that it was interesting how most babies walk long before they can talk. Many (if not most) Christians want to talk long before they've experienced any time "walking" with Christ.

The lesson here is obvious: Walk the walk before you talk the talk.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Life

I just watched an incredible video over here. It makes the cares of this world fade into the background when you consider another 2 people have crossed over from death to life...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chelsea


This is a photo of my 17 year old daughter when she was around 2 years old. It's one of my favorite photos - again, because it illustrates her personality at the time: rambunctious and happy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Zachary Too!



Zach is 6 years old and is going into 1st grade in the fall...

Present Day Chris


I posted some photos yesterday of Chris when he was 4 years old or so... today I am posting a photo of him I took at VBS earlier this evening... he's 8 years old and will be starting 3rd grade in the fall.

He's growing up too fast. Way too fast.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SWINGING!



Chris is 8 now - but he was probably 4 when these photos were taken... he's a sweet, inquisitive kid. He likes to experience life to its fullest and he's curious about everything. These photos - illustrate those traits about him perfectly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You Just Never Know...

I was reading through some sent emails earlier this evening and ran across an email I had sent back before Christmas 2006. I was asking my mother to let me know what she wanted and some ideas for Oz - her husband. Funny how things changes in an instant - and there's no going back. Oz, at that time, though none of us knew it, only had about 6 months to live. He inexplicably fell 15 feet to his death the following April. No more requests for Oz's christmas wish list necessary. Christmas - and everything else changed in an instant for our family.

Back in 2004, we celebrated Christmas with my sister and her family. What we didn't know was that 2 months later,we would all find out that my brother in laws actions finally caught up with him - and he eventually ended up in prison for what will probably be the rest of his life. That day in February when my mom called me and gave us the startling and shattering news that Travis was not at all who he held himself out to be changed all of our lives forever. Again, Christmas - and everything else would never again be the same.

There is a lady in our church that just found out that her daughter is dying of cancer. They are praying for a miracle. I hope they get it. Regardless of the outcome, their lives will never be the same.

About the only thing that remains the same is that God is still on the throne - presiding over life and all the troubles it brings. Everything else is up for grabs when it comes to change. Dwell on this too long and you become fearful and wonder what's in store for you. What will happen tomorrow, next month, in six months, in a year?

The better course is to hand that fear to God, understand that He already has our days numbered -nothing surprises Him. We may not understand Him - why He does the things He does. But we can trust Him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bad Joke of the Day

What do you get when an artist get's mad?






a frosted flake.


(cue groans here)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No Habla White-Trashese

I had the distinct displeasure of experiencing first hand, a small dose of what being discriminated against because of skin color must feel like.

I was parked at a gas station off of Interstate 30 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth tonight waiting for my sister's boyfriend to pick up 2 of my nieces who had spent the weekend with my family. One of my nieces is a mixed race child. Her father is african-american and her mom, my sister, is white.

As we were sitting in the driveway of the gas station close to the frontage road, enjoying the music on the radio and minding our own business, I suddenly hear a loud car horn behind me. There was a van behind me in the center of the driveway (I was parked off to the left so as not to impede anyone who might want to have access to the frontage road) that was honking at me. I couldn't figure out why as he looked like he wanted past me. There was plenty of room for him to pass. I was unsure of what he wanted me to do, so I sat there and rolled my window down, hoping he would pull forward and I could find out what he wanted.

He did and in his most indignant way, he says, "We would like to turn there, but your in the way". As he said this, he indicated with his hand that he wanted to go left into an adjoining parking lot. I wasn't aware that I was blocking it. But because he was obviously being a jerk about it, I sat there for a split second and just looked at him thinking about what to say. He had gotten my anger up with his tone. I decided to say nothing and then began to put my vehicle in reverse.

Well... he noticed my niece, who to the untrained eye, could be mistaken for being hispanic because of her lighter brown skin tone. He then said to me in a mocking tone, "What's the matter, no habla english?" He was obviously making fun of my niece who he thought looked hispanic.

That set me off. I was now so angry I was physically shaking and the adrenaline was pumping and I sat there, not moving, again contemplating what I was going to say. I was angry and thought of a few choice phrases for him. But, of course, knowing that returning belligerence for belligerence was not the right thing to do. So I simply said, "Sure, I'll move. But you can be nice about." Not much of a comeback. But then again, in an attempt to control my anger, it was probably the best thing I could have said save saying nothing.

He looked immediately embarrassed and looked like he couldn't believe I said anything back to him and he went on his way once I cleared the way for him.

This guy was probably around 65-70 and his wife was with him. Once they passed, I thought about his poor wife and hoped he was having a bad day and that wasn't the way he was all the time.

And.. of course, I thought of a few good comebacks - only one of which I can name here (trying to keep this a family-friendly blog!). I should have said something like, "I habla english just fine, it's white-trashese I don't habla very well!" But that would have been wrong and the God I love would not have been pleased. He says to love the unlovable. To love your enemy. TO be patient and kind. This guy may not be that unlovable all the time and he probably wouldn't be classified as an enemy going by the traditional definition, but he sure felt like both at the time.

As I was processing this event in my mind, I thought of my niece, who did nothing to him - yet he was poking fun at her simply because of her color. That made me sad. It made me feel a sense of injustice for my niece.

On the positive side, I handled myself pretty well considering if he had met me 6 months ago, before I began working on my propensity to become angry so easy, he would have gotten an earful, most of which would have been extremely incendary and belligerent. It would not have been right or a good example to my niece, my other 6 year old niece, nor for my 8 year old son - all of whom were in the car with me.

For that I am thankful to God - He is the one Who got a hold of me and began working with me on being so angry, cynical and negative all the time.

I pray this man, who seems to be angry and racist, wakes up one day and realizes how much damage he can do with words.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Therefore...

...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I was reading a paper over the section of 2 Corinthians that this verse falls within. The thing that stuck out to me is that we are new creations - our old lives, ways of doing and thinking, spiritually and practically, are gone.

When Christ was crucified and then raised on the 3rd day, do you think his followers viewed him differently? You bet they did! Not only did they see that he was indeed risen and he had a body (he wasn't just spirit) - but that suddenly, his resurrection had consequences for their own lives. If he could die and then rise again, so could they - through His power of course.

So is that power still available to us? It is and we need to access it.

That means we no longer see ourselves in the same way. God sacrificed His only son for us. While we shouldn't use it to justify self-serving attitudes and practices, we are of unimaginable value to God. We need to see ourselves as God sees us: His children whom he loves.

We leave the past (and its baggage) behind us. We all were in sin, separated from God. We all made mistakes... Rebelled against God... Made wrong choices and did stupid things to hurt others and ourselves. But now, thanks to Christ and His sacrifice, we can leave that behind and live a life of righteousness, through the power of the Holy Spirit that God put within us.

We no longer act the way we used to. We live as though God is living with us - because he is! We no longer live for only ourselves and what we want. We live out God's will for our lives and allow him to provide for our needs and desires within the framework of his will for us. No more worrying about the future. No more striving to be number one. No more searching for meaning in all the wrong places (i.e. Our stuff, money, power, prestige).

We also no longer see others through our old eyes, but through that of our new eyes - the eyes of Jesus. That means no condemning, backbiting, complaining, gossiping with one another. No more requiring others to live up to our standards. It means loving others as God loves them: right where they are at. It means inviting others to come discover what it's like to be a Christian - what it's like to follow after Christ. It means living out our faith in a genuine and honest way before an unbelieving world - so they might see what it looks like to be a Christ-follower.


2 Corinthians seems like such a short, simple verse. But those few words carry a lot of impact and consequences.

I hope this post motivates you to not only memorize this verse, but also consider how God might use it in your lives - how he might change the way you think or speak or what you do with your time on earth.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Getting Back to Basics

Our small group has been going through a book taking us through some basics of living a life following after God. We have been reminded of the importance of the scriptures and prayer over the last few months and are about to embark on a 4 part tour of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are also beginning to develop and re-develop scripture memorization using Navpress' Topical Memory System. We just focused on Galatians 2:20 and are focusing on 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 12:1 over the next few weeks.

For me, all of this brings back some sweet memories of when I first became a Christian. Especially the memory verses as I memorized the same verses back then. Mostly I remember my new found relationship with Greg and Donna Herrick, who mentored and discipled my wife and I for 4 years. I wouldn't trade those 4 years for anything. Personally, I credit them with giving me a good foundation in following Christ. Had it not been for that foundation, I would have left the sometimes hard-to-understand-and-live Christian life behind (assuming God would have let me go - which I doubt!)

I can't begin to tell you the importance of finding someone to help you establish that foundation. Start with your church. If there is no help for you there, be intentional at observing those you consider mature in Christ and once you find someone who you think you can "click" with, ask them to mentor you. If it doesn't work out, persevere until it does. Though God speaks directly to our hearts in many ways, He most often uses others to speak to us. We all need someone to be Jesus with skin on in our lives.

Can you tell I am passionate about discipleship?

I now have the privilege of joining the other members of our group in re-learning these verse. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do with these verses as they memorize them and commit to apply them to their lives. They have brought me so much wisdom and understanding about who God is and how he works. Memorization, though it is a difficult discipline to undertake, is worth every effort we can invest in it. God's Word always pays multiple dividends in our lives.

Pray for our group. Ultimately, we want it to be a group that we can invite our unchurched friends to where they can see and learn what it looks like to follow after God - all the ups and downs and struggles and victories. My prayer is that these folks, whom I imagine thinking the church and Christ irrelevant, will find peace for their lives and a safe place to work out their issues with God. A place they can finally come to an understanding of who God is what His plan for their lives are. But first, we have to establish a spiritually healthy and thriving group - one that perseveres through the hardships our busy schedules sometimes put on our meeting schedules. And we have to be diligent in practicing the disciplines of reading our Bible, meditating on what we have read, applying it to our lives, prayer and memorization. That way we can pass that along to others and testify to the great things God has done through our commitment to Him and His ways.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Church

I was reading an article over at Christianity Today about the 20-somethings generation being disillusioned with the church.

You can read it here.

I am no 20 something, but I have been disillusioned lately. So instead of posting a response on their website, I wanted to post here.

I have been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have written off the church in frustration more times than I care to remember. Each time though, God reminds me that if it's good enough for Him, it should be good enough for me.

Of course, then I tell Him it's too messy and people can be so hard to deal with. Funny thing though, I haven't really had that many negative interactions with the church if I am being totally honest. My problem is seeing what others have gone through and thinking to myself, "I am not even going to put myself in that position so I don't have to deal with that pain and anger and frustration." So I throw stones at the church. Calling it irrelevant, pointless and a waste of time. Seems like nothing more than a place where people can gain power to build their own little kingdoms and create messes that split apart not only churches, but the very soul of those involved.

As I read the article though, a thought came to mind: "How about focusing less on the institution (though it may be a necessary evil) and more on what does God want from me in regards to the church? What does that look like? I have found myself focusing on what the church does wrong so often that I gave up and began to look for other avenues of serving and worshipping and being in God's will. One problem though, God keeps tweaking me about my relationship with the local church - really my church FAMILY. He won't let me get away with just finding some likeminded people and creating a community with them wherein we can worship and serve God in the ways we want to (without having to deal with that silly church and it's traditions, hangups, etc.). He wants me in church, amongst those that maybe don't always agree with me (and vice versa), where I can see what He's doing and be a part of it. It is sure to be messy, but then again, name one part of life that isn't? Life is always messy. So why expect it to be any different at church?

So I have purposed to become more involved in church, allow the messiness to enter my life, and we'll see what God has in mind for me.

Hopefully He has a huge quantity of patience, strength and perseverance in mind for me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Missing God's Best

I sat in devotion this morning (since I am just now writing this, the actual day was 4-14) listening to Geoff Moore, the talented Christian singer/songwriter talk about the process by which his family convinced him to adopt his daughters from China. From the beginning, he wasn't in the mood to discuss adopting - he wasn't on the same wavelength as his wife or his children. But eventually he came around and they ended up adopting from China. He spoke of the fact that he was glad God pushed him to change his mind through his family, otherwise he would have missed God's best for him. He said if it were left up to him, he would have missed what God wanted him to do.

The question here is obvious: How many times have I missed God's best for me? How many times have I shut down any thought of doing something that God was trying to get me to do? It reminds me that I should be open continuously to what God wants me to do - even if I don't want to think about doing something He may want me to do.

Praying that you also are continuously open to God's best for your life...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Grateful

My wife and I just returned from our small group meeting tonight. And I have to say, it was a great time of looking into prayer and our need to be constantly connected to Christ through it. It's our lifeblood. But another thing happened. We took our openness and honesty in our struggles to a new level of trust. We shared our fears and struggles and prayed for one another. We prayed for God's strength and peace amidst the storm and for God to show us what He wants us to do in our given circumstances.

I for one am grateful for a group that cares about me and for a group which I can care about and pray for. I believe we are close to God's heart and original intentions on which he established the church when we are intentionally in a community that cares for us, encourages us, exhorts us and never condemns us, but gently challenges us to persevere in living our lives with God's purpose in mind.

Thank you Lord for my brothers and sisters in our group. For their willingness to be honest about their struggles and having the courage to seek your will despite their fears and apprehension their frustrations with their situations. Lord, nothing encourages me more than to know I am not alone - that you have placed people in my life to keep me keeping on.

I pray that you would vanquish Satan from darkening our thoughts and attitudes as we all deal with our struggles and remind us all that we can have joy in You and experience freedom in your love for us. I lift your name up on behalf of our group and hold you up as the reason we continue on in our relationships with each other and You, for your glory and for your kingdom. I pray you would draw those you want us to influence and lead us to help them find you through our group. Thank you Lord that you are ultimately in control of all of our lives and we worship you for that fact. In your Son's name we pray to you, Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No More Religion

“What I’m noticing is when we stop preaching Christianity as a religion…and we start inviting people to be followers Jesus and present Jesus and His way as part of this beautiful story of the Kingdom of God, a lot of our Christians who have left are drawn back.” -Brian McLaren on the way Post Modern Christians are responding to the church.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oh that we could learn this lesson

I found this quote on Rick Thompson's blog (http://roadwetravel.blogspot.com/). I thought it was worth repeating here:


True, grace-filled Christianity does not gloat in the face of disagreement. The result of grace is a love that points out truth but never points down. You know you have the gospel when you have reached a point in your life when you can passionately love people who you do not agree with.



Think about that quote for awhile and put your own relationship with God, your family and the people of your church family in the context of it.

What needs to change?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Issues

My daughter and I have had some issues come between us lately.

That got me to thinking how many times God and I have had issues come between Him and I. We have had many. And of course, the issues in this relationship are not a two way street. When it comes to my daughter and I, we're both at fault. When it comes to God and I, I am at fault. It's amazing how He uses my relationship with my daughter to show me how He feels when I grieve Him. It never fails. I always find myself thinking: "This is how God must feel when I rebel against Him."

He also uses my relationship with my daughter when it comes to who she is and the good things she does. When I look at her and things are going good and think about how beautiful and talented she is, I think: "This is how God must feel about me when He looks upon me." He, after all, chose me to be His child when I didn't want much at all to do with Him. Why would he do that except that He loves me? It's hard for me to understand why I don't think like this much of the time. Probably because I have been taught that God is Holy - not to be taken lightly or trifled with - and to think of Him as my Savior and King - He is to be reverently thought of and spoken about. That's all true, but the problem is, that would be an incomplete picture. In the Bible, he says we are his friends. Friends like each other. They spend time with each other. They seek out each other's advice in times of indecision. They seek each other's comfort in times of distress. Friends might respect one another, even revere each other, but certainly they don't think of each other as a kind of untouchable figure. But with God, we do - or at least I do.

Father, while you indeed are my King and Savior; You are to be revered because You are Holy. But you are also my friend. Remind me of that. Often. Thank you for Your love and Your sacrifice for me. I exalt you before men and raise your name for all to see. You are my only hope, not only here on earth, but for all eternity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can't They Clean Up Some Before We Let Them In?

I was listening to a friend earlier today talking about how the church tends to not want to deal with those that aren’t like them - those that might not have enough money to dress the same as church folks do, or if they don’t have all their ducks in a row personally - maybe they are addicted to something - maybe they’re addicted to many somethings. Or maybe they’re not the right color - or maybe we just don’t understand them because they come from a different background or culture. No matter the reason, many times we just keep those people at arms length. The gist of his comments were that if we are going to do that, then we have forgotten from whence we came. We have forgotten that we were dirty before God. That we were unacceptable before God. That we were rebellious against God. That we had no business coming before a God Who is perfect expecting anything. Heck, even as Christians, we’re still sinful and unacceptable but for the fact that Jesus took brunt of punishment for our sin. And that’s the point. That God accepted us right where we were at - sin and all. We stunk, possibly literally, to high heaven to Him - we smelled REALLY bad. Because we were stuck in the rubbish of our sin. And we were unable to do anything to improve our standing with Him. But He still accepted us. In fact, the Bible says that while we were still in willful rebellion against Him, Christ died for us.

So... what makes us think we can treat those that "smell" bad to us any differently?

God give us courage to step forward to lend a helping hand to someone we really don’t want to help. They “smell” to us - we don’t like them. Yet you LOVE them. Empower us to show that love of yours that we are unable to show on our own. After all, You Lord, hung out with those that the establishment religion abhorred - and you chastised them for being unwilling to help the sick - those that needed you. Let us not be the modern day version of that religious establishment. Let us take Your love to those that need it - regardless of their station in life and regardless of the barriers that we create to keep us from doing what you would want us to do.