Thursday, May 31, 2012

A vision for the future...

A couple years ago, before I was a youth pastor, my wife and I were opening ourselves up to God asking Him to show us what He wanted for us....where He wanted us to go....what He wanted us to do. The options were limitless for us as we knew He had called us and were willing for whatever He might ask of us.

On one trip back to Fulton from Olathe, KS (where we lived at the time) I had this vision of what Fulton could be and what could happen if the churches in Fulton were to ever unite.  As with most towns that have different denominates many of them see the others as wrong and I am sure some of them really want nothing to do with the others.  Many have been set in their ways so long that they don't want to change.  They want to do things "the way we've always done it."  On the other hand though, my wife and I have both been to several different churches in Fulton and when I think about it, I have connections that I could pull on from many of them.

Currently there are around 22,437 people who live in the Fulton zip code (as of the last census).  When doing a little research I found that there are at least 40 "Christian" churches with a Fulton address.  Using those figures every one of those churches have the opportunity to reach almost 600 people not including those that travel from outside the zip code to come to one of those churches.  The sad part is, I don't know a single church in town that has over 300...most have less than 50.

These are sad numbers.

Since we moved back to Fulton, my eyes have been opened even more to the number of hurting families that live there.  Families that are broken, kids without dads, people who are addicted to one thing or another, etc.  It has been a wake up call to the reality of the world we live in.  I know its not the only place with these issues or these statistics.  I know people are hurting all over the nation...all over the world.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God hasn't put us here to be part of his missionary work here.  He keeps opening my eyes up to what could be if only the believers would unite and realize we are in the battle together.

Like I said many of the churches have issues with the other churches in town.  They disagree with what the others are teaching.  I have come to the realization that it is ok to disagree as long as you are following God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  If you are doing that, God will change you to what He wants you to be.  I know He is changing me and what I believe and I trust that He will do that in others as well.  No one can fully understand all that God is and all that He has to offer.  If we are truly following after Him, we can't possibly do anything but change.

Anyway, so I don't really know where to start with this journey, but I know God will show me when it is time.

These thoughts began to run through my mind last night and today as I think about all the churches that are doing VBS right now.  Parents who don't even go to church often send their kids to VBS.  I am sure there are various motives for it, but I can only image that for many of them they want something more for their kids that what they have themselves.  They know there is something more than where they are at, yet, they feel stuck.

What if, in a year from now, all the churches.....all 40 plus churches did a VBS, but instead of inviting the kids to come to the churches they spread out through the community?  What if people held VBSs in the back yards where they could develop relationship with not only the kids that are in their area, but also have the opportunity to reach the parents and offer them a relationship as well.

I know it would be a big responsibility to this and I don't know that I am the one that could even handle it.  I know God would bring about those who could help me with it, if this is what He wants.  When I think about if each church could hold just 5 of these throughout the area, that would put over 200 VBSs throughout the area.  If each one could handle 10 kids, that would be 2000 kids that could be reached. These would be easy numbers to hit, but it would take the body of Christ deciding that doing the work of Christ is far more important than the "doctrinal" stuff that will really make no difference in the end.

This is just one of the visions that God has given me of what could be.  Like I said, I don't really know where to start, but I could sure use your prayers in this matter as I know God could do some amazing things if we could all come together.

To give credit where credit is due, the back yard VBS came from a program called Back Yard Bible Club which our church in Olathe, KS (Living Hope Church of the Nazarene) hosted each year.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wake're making a mistake

Sometimes I wish I could just be so bold as to tell people they need to wake up and realize they are making a mistake.  I'm typically not a person that does this kind of thing, but it sure does cross my mind.  I get so frustrated when I hear a choice that someone is going to make and it goes against everything they say they are trying to be.  I'm at a loss as what to do.

We have talked about this several times in our Connection Class (similar to Sunday School).  We have talked about the difference between judging and holding someone accountable. When someone says they are a believer you can confront them in love and explain your concerns, however it does require a relationship with that person and a heart that wants the best for that person.  Then there is that fine line though.  The line that between when we want the best for the person and sometimes our hearts aren't right and we just want to put them in their place.  We have to check ourselves and our motives before we ever confront someone.

As far as I can tell, in this particular situation, I want those involved to make the right decision.  I want what is best for them. I want to tell them they can do better...they can make a better decision.  How do you tell someone that they should go against what so many others are telling them.  How do you make them understand that the decisions they make will influence how they are able to witness to those who are trying to get them to make the wrong decision?

Frankly, I don't really know how to handle the situation.  I want to show them love and not make them feel like I am condemning them, but when they know they are making the wrong choice and still choose to, it's just so frustrating.

I know sometimes we have to just turn things over to God and let Him do what He does.  Let Him have control over the situation and trust Him.  It's a hard place to be sometimes.  I guess this is one of those places that I sometimes have a hard time letting go and letting God be God in the situation.  Where is the line between our responsibility to each other and letting God be God?

I've got two weeks to figure this out.  Hopefully God will give me some guidance and a little peace with this situation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The journey vs the destination

Over the weekend sometime I had this thought come through my head.  The journey is more important that the destination.  As I sat there and thought about it for a while I begin to wonder if that is what Christ really meant when He said we can have eternal life.

 Most people when they hear eternal life believe it has to do with living forever.  In a way it does, but really when studying the way it was used in the Greek it meant to have life to to the fullest.  Then if you think about the rest of Christ's life and all of Paul's life, you can really see how they didn't focus on the destination of their journey so much as the journey itself.

I admit, I tend to be one who has a destination in mind and really want to get there so that I can "complete" whatever it is that I am doing.  I love to finish the task, the job, or the part of the meal I am currently working on.  I always feel a since of accomplishment.

As I think back though, some of the greatest times of my life have been when I took time to enjoy the journey.  For instance, a couple years ago my wife and I decided we were going to go to South Dakota for our anniversary to see Mt. Rushmore.  Then my wife suggested we go a different route than others might take and stay off the interstate.  We drove the whole way there and the whole way back spending less than 45 min total on the interstate.  We saw a lot of really cool things along the way that had we used the interstate we would have missed.  It was a great experience.  One of the best vacations I have ever had.  I had taken time to enjoy the journey rather than rushing to the destination.

I wonder how often I really do that in life too.  I get so focused on the destination of what I am doing or trying to accomplish that I miss the journey itself and who God is wanting me to meet or what God is wanting me to experience along the way. I even tend to complain about parts of the journey....asking God "are we almost there yet" as if I am still a little kid.

Maybe I am the only one that deals with this, but I imagine I am not.  Have you ever considered that you are on a journey?  Could that be why so many people struggle with where they are on life (sometimes me included), because we feel like we are at a destination, rather than remembering we are in the midst of a larger journey?  We talk about our walk with Christ and how we are growing in that aspect, but shouldn't that walk be intertwined with our journey through life?

Want to see a few things we saw on our trip to South Dakota?  Check them out here, here, and here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Self Discipline (take 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, I wonder if a big portion of our struggles in like could be solved by self discipline.  The more I contemplate it and think about what God has asked of us, I think it goes hand-in-hand with having faith in God.

Think about it, when Jesus was tempted in the desert He overcame by exerting self control and understanding that by doing so He would allow God to give Him what He needs.  I think that is where we go wrong so often.  We see what we perceive as a need and do what we want to fill it without depriving ourselves so that God can give us what He knows what we need. 

Like I mentioned yesterday, I have been trying to run more recently and for me that takes a decent amount of self discipline.  I know it seems small and unimportant, but I think God puts things like this in each of our lives where He wants to teach us to be self disciplined.  It's a form of practice so that when we really need to be disciplined in what we are doing, we have an understanding of what it takes.  Yes, I know He will give us the strength, but there is still that part of us that has to rely on that strength. 

Anyway, these are my thoughts today.  I guess it's time to evaluate how I am doing and figure out what it is going to take to be disciplined when it comes to bigger things and not be so willing to give in.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Self Discipline

Self discipline is so hard.  Over the past few months I have started running 3 times a week trying to get in some-what in shape so that when my kids are older I can run and play with them.  Sometimes when I run I feel like quitting, or walking, or just taking it easy....and honestly, sometimes I do.  When I do, I feel so disappointed in myself, because I know it is just a mental game.  I know if I discipline myself and push through those thoughts, I can make it to the next level.  It's not easy, it's not always fun, but its worth it.  I feel so much more accomplished for it.  I feel like I have succeeded.

I wonder if sometimes in our walk with Christ, He is asking us to be more self disciplined.  Not necessarily that we need to do more, but rather He wants us to discipline ourselves to trust Him more.  This world we live in operates in a fashion completely opposite that of God.   What would happen if we disciplined ourselves to trusting Him in a way that we operated in a way that goes against what the world has taught us is right?

I want to discuss this further, but I'm kind of out-of-it today as I just gave blood.  I will be discussing this more tomorrow, but wanted to give you an opportunity to think about it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A New Perspective

If you read my post yesterday, you probably have a good understanding of where I am right now.  If you didn't read it, it can best be described as I am just waiting.  There is more to it than that, so I would encourage you to read it, but none-the-less I am waiting.  Not sure what I am waiting on, but I am waiting. 

Since we moved back to our home town, almost a year ago, I have had the opportunity to join a men's accountability group with a few guys that are really honest about who they are and what they are dealing with.  It is refreshing to see men willing to be open in the midst of a society where we are taught to isolate ourselves and keep our struggles secret.  In was in this weekly meeting that I was able to get a glimpse of how God can use me while I am in this waiting period. 

In the middle of listening to a couple guys talk, I began to realize how much I identified with them in different ways.  I could hear part of my story coming out in the story they were living.  They were in the place that I used to be.  They were dealing with similar issues, struggles, and challenges that I had or have been dealing with.  I could see a bigger picture of why God had brought me to that place.

As I sat there, I began to ask God for the words, wisdom, and timing of how to share what I have learned with these men.  He began to open my eyes to these parts of my life so that I could see how He wanted to use me now.  He showed me how I can share these parts with them so they could understand that I have been in their shoes.  I could relate to them.

 Even though I feel like I am in a waiting period, He still wants to use me.  He still wants to work through me.  I just have to be willing to open up and share when He asks.  This brought a little encouragement during a time when I felt discouraged.  It is amazing at how He works in our life and how often His provision is in a time and place we least expect it. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who are you? (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about one of the hardest things Christian's have to do.  The more I think about repentance, and what I wrote yesterday, I wonder if that has something to do with why we are so easily confused about who we are.. We often are repentant towards God and want to turn our lives around and go the other direction, but we can easily miss the mark. We fall in this trap of dealing with who Satan is telling us who we are or what someone else tells us we are, rather than listening to who God says we are.  Other times, like right now for me, we just don't know who we are.

In 2002, God called me to music ministry.  Following Him through the schooling and degree program, I felt like I had found my identity.  I thought I had found who He wanted me to be, who He created me to be.  It felt like a great place to be.  It felt like I was in the middle of His will.  It felt like I had found who I was. It wasn't till a few years later that I learned that was not the case.

It's not that I wasn't doing what He was asking, but rather that was not my destination.  It was just a means to get me where He wanted me to be.

It was in that journey, that I followed Him and got my music degree which led met to a church in Olathe, Kansas called Living Hope.  I was changed a lot while I was there.  I learned what it was like to follow Christ as a community.  I learned how to really worship our Creator God.  It was through this change that I felt God transformed my calling to youth ministry.

I was thrilled again that He had brought me to a place again where He could use me. I felt like I was again in the middle of what He wanted me to do and that He was giving me a better vision of who He wanted me to be.  

I thought going into music ministry was going to be a stretch, because I didn't really know much about music at the time.  I just played a little.  I got over that fear and found a way to trust God through it.  Being a youth minister though was a different story.  I had built relationships with quite a few teens and had found that my music was going to be able help me relate to them in a different way. It made sense why He wanted me to get a music degree.  It was how He was preparing me.

Now what?
Shortly after that, my family moved to a church where we became youth ministers.  I created a lot of programs and did a lot of stuff with the teens.  I was living who I thought God wanted me to be.  I was being who I thought He created me to be.

After being there for 15 months, I started to see things in my life that I knew were not right.  A lot of my relationships were shaky at best.  I had been doing so much in my own strength that I had forgotten who I was.   I was lost.  I didn't know what to do.  We moved and my identity as a youth pastor was no more. 

It has been almost a year since then and I am still not sure what to do.  I can see reasons why we are living where we are and have had numerous opportunities we have never had before.  However, I am back to wondering who does God wants me to be?   Who is it that God created me to be?

I have to admit that I enjoy where I am at now, but sometimes I feel like I am wasting time.  I feel as if God has called me to be something more and I am sitting idly by as life is happening and I am not making a difference.

In my head I know my identity is not in what I do and that it is in Christ.  I know I am a child of God and He bought me with a price and I am His.  I know that....I believe that.....but do I live it?

So that is where I sit today.  I sit wondering.  I know I can't handle being in part time ministry.  I can't put my family through that again. I don't think God would ask me to, but I can't imagine though that God called me to a life of ministry before and has sense released me from it.  Why would I spend years learning, just for a year of service?  It has got me perplexed and really wondering what's next?

I have to admit, I hate waiting.  I hate being in a place of uncertainty, but that is where I am.

So now what.....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who are you?

Our new pup, who really has nothing to do with this blog.
Friday, as I was reading I was posed with the question, "who are you?" I have been thinking about it this weekend, and the author explained the importance of it, but it is still a question that is some what puzzling.  Trying to figure out who "you" are aside from what others have told you or without basing it on a view other than God's can be challenging.  I would like to discuss this further, but at this point, I just want to leave you with this.  Who are you? How do you know who you are? 

Just a thought for this beautiful Monday morning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

One of the hardest things for Christians

Being a Christian is not as easy as they say it is.  In fact, it is a real challenge at times.  I have heard many speak about how life is better after you become a Christian and how things just seem right.  I would beg to differ.  I think Paul would beg to differ.  After he started following Christ his life got hard.  He got beat, put in prison, ridiculed, and cut off by many of those who he was friends with in the past. 

When I look at what Christianity has become today, I see one problem.  Most of us don't want to be Christ followers.  We want to be in a place where we get the blessings God offers, but we want to do it without real sacrifice. This is where I came up with what I believe to be one of the hardest things we have to do as a Christian.

Repentance is what allows us to be a Christ-follower.  It is one of the hardest things you ever have to do to follow Christ. Really, its the only thing you have to "do" to follow Christ.  I've heard it said that to be a Christian you have to believe in Jesus and ask God for forgiveness.  While there is some truth to that, I believe that is one of the most detrimental concepts to the Christian faith.  So much so that I have found many who no longer want to be called "Christian," but rather an disciple of Christ or a Christ follower. 

Repentance is much more than just asking for forgiveness.  It is asking for forgiveness and letting God change your life's direction.  Life before Christ is filled with selfish desires, little self control, and being free to do what you want.  This leads to a life where you are always seeking for more, doing things you don't think you should, and living life in a way that really feels like it has no purpose.

When you live a life of repentance, you give up all of that.  You give up your selfish desires to the desires that Christ has for your life.  You no longer want to do the same things, but instead you learn self control (which God will help you with) and are able to stay away from things that once controlled you.  While it sounds like a "bad" thing, you are no longer free to do what you want, rather you become a slave to Christ's will and you live your life in a way that reflects that.

Comparing the two, living your life the way you want to, sounds a lot better up front, but once you experience a life where God is showing you your purpose and directing you where to go, life gains a whole new meaning.  (Want an example, click here)

I have been challenged by this a lot lately, as sometimes it feels like a real struggle.  I said it is one of the hardest things we have to do, because I believe it is. Our earthly nature wants us to do what we want to do.  It wants us to hold grudges, want things, focus on ourselves, and isolate our lives from others.  God on the other hand wants us to forgive, forget earthly possessions, set our focus on Him, and live a life of community celebration.  His plan is completely opposite of anything that seems right here on earth, but I assure you, it leads to a path of fulfillment, of direction, of understanding.

It's not easy.  It's hard.  It's a daily struggle for some not to pick back up that in which you have repented for.  It's so easy to want to look back and wonder what else you could have "had" if you hadn't followed God's plan, but your own.  The great part, though, is that if you ask for His help, He is right there.  He will never give you anything you can't handle without giving you a way out.  He will give you the strength you need, when you feel like you have nothing left to give.  He will give you a life, and let you live it to the fullest.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Same sex Marriage...say what?

I want to start off this post stating that I have some friends that are homosexual.  I have nothing against them as a person. I respect each of them and their lifestyle choice does not effect the way I see them.  I'm not uncomfortable around them and see them as God's creation just like I am.

That being said, I can't condone their sin.  I can't accept it as being OK.  What I can do, is love them through it and continue to show them Christ.

I've seen many people talk about both sides of the fence.  Some say we should be tolerant, while others are angered at the mention of it. I on the other hand am saddened by what it has become. 

The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong.  It also says that there are several other things (murder, lying, stealing, etc.) are wrong as well.  I wonder what would happen though if rather than criticize  those who are different than us if we promoted what was right.  If we celebrated marriage between man and woman and held it up with a high regard.

The sacredness of marriage was lost long before it was stated that same sex marriage should be OK.  When we started living a life where divorce is accepted so easily, we allowed Satan in to destroy what God had designed for us.

I wonder what would happen if we got back to our values and lived a life in the way Christ taught.  A life where we loved people for who they are, showed them truth (in love, not out of condemnation), and helped them see what God has planned for their life.

I believe being homosexual is a lifestyle choice. However, so is abandoning your children with only their mother to take care of them.  I don't believe it solely the fault of the person involved, because it comes from a society where pretty much anything goes as long as its "right for you." Too many years of accepting what is wrong only adds to the situation.  I do believe that they are responsible for their actions, but so am I.

We are being taught that tolerance is the way of life, when in fact, it is quite the opposite of what Christ taught.  Christ taught to love your neighbor as yourself and to steer clear of sin.  When He met someone who needed healing of some kind or who was being condemned, He didn't condemn them, but rather He loved them and told them to "go and sin no more."

I'm having a hard time coming to a resolution on how to deal with the situation.  I believe the "love the person, hate the sin," approach, but I think it is so much more than that too.  Too often our love and hate are so intermingled that we don't even really know how to interact with the person.

Personally, I think we should get back to accepting what is right and living more for that, than destroying others for what they are doing wrong.  God really only gave us 10 rules to follow, all of which can be boiled down into two.  If we use those as our boundary lines to live our life and focus more on what good we can accomplish, life would be so much different.

So here's my point. Homosexuality and same sex marriage is wrong, but it's not the real issue at hand.  The real issue is that we have allowed our country to be so accepting of sin that it has progressed to this.  We haven't been on the side of love, mercy, and showing others who Christ is.  Instead we have been condemning, pointing fingers at them, and making them hate us.

Taking a concept from "Blue Like Jazz," what if we lived a life where we apologized to those we would like to see come to know Christ for the things that we have done that have not been a reflection of Christ.  That would be a humbling experience.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Wife

Yesterday, I wrote about how we often forget to voice our thankfulness.  I focused mostly one why I was thankful for my mom, as it was the day after mother's day.  Today, I want to focus on my wife. If any of you have ever ready her blog, you would know how much she loves our kids and people. 

I am thankful for my wife for many reasons.  One of the greatest things about her is that she loves me no matter what.  I know I have made numerous mistakes and yet she is still there loving me.  Our relationship is ever growing and even when we have our rough days, she is still my best friend.

I look back at our relationship over the past 9 years and can see that the closer we have gotten, and the closer she has gotten to God, the closer I have gotten to God.  I can understand what Paul was saying in his letter to the Corinthians about how a wife can help sanctify her husband.  For me she has challenged me not be be stuck in what I believe and continue to explore what God has for me.  She doesn't let me take the easy road out and encourages me to be the man God wants me to be.  I know not all wives are like this.

One of the other great things about my wife is that she whole heartedly loves our kids.  Just watching her, you know that our kids mean the world to her and she wants the best for them.  She has been willing to give up so much so that she could stay home with them and show them the love that they deserve.  Teaching them the things they need to learn.  Learning how to nurture them to a point where they are confident in themselves and loving to others.  As awful as it may seem to some, she really guides what foods they eat.  Give my kids a plate of vegetables and other foods and 95% of the time the vegetables are the first foods gone.  In our culture, that's not the standard any more for so many kids, but she wants them to be as healthy as possible, and I admire her for that.

I also love the fact that she spends her daily time with God.  I can see why it is so important for mothers to do this.  When the world around us is going crazy and so many things are going wrong, her faithfulness becomes a foundation that we all can lean on.  I know I admire her for her diligence and I know my boys will love and respect her so much more as they grow older because they can see it in her.  I know that is a large portion of why our family is so much different now than it was just a few years ago.

I love my wife for so many reasons. I love her for being her and am thankful she is true to herself and who God created her to be....even when it sometimes causes disagreements.  It is through her that I have learned what it looks like when they as iron sharpens iron.  We both become better followers of Christ because of it. I can see in so many ways why God put us together.

I am thankful for the time she has spent with me doing my music "thing", playing with the kids, loving people, caring for people, learning about how to keep us healthy, and raising the kids.  There are so many things to be thankful for I can't even list them all, but if you know her at all, you understand what I mean.

God has truly blessed me with a wonderful wife. I am so thankful that I get to spend my life with her.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Mother

Sometimes I feel like it is so easy to focus on life and what is going on that we forget to think about what it is we have to be thankful for. With yesterday, being Mother's Day, I thought this week it would be great to take a couple days and share with you, my thankfulness for a couple mothers in my life.

I am very thankful for my mom and all that she has done for me over the years.  For most of my childhood she put her life on hold and gave up quite a bit so that she could stay home with us kids.   Until I became a parent I never really understood or appreciated all that she had done.  She spent a lot of time playing with us, loving us, and making sure all our needs were taken care of.  Not only that, but she taught us so many things that I can see reflected in my life today.

One of the biggest things my mom taught me was how to love people.  She gave, not only to us kids, but to others as well.  She would pour out time and money into bettering the lives of others without ever really getting the recognition she deserved.  She has a heart for people and taught us to love people regardless of what they have done.  She is truly and example of loving people unconditionally just as Christ showed us.

I have been playing Frisbee with my son recently and it reminds me of another reason I am thankful for her.  The time I spend playing with him is just like when she used to play Frisbee with me. It's a great experience to be able to share in the same thing with my son. To see him light up when he knows he can now through a Frisbee well, is a joy I get because she spent the time with me.

I am thankful that as we began to grow older, and I made my fair share of mistakes and caused heart ache, she continued to show me love.  I am not proud of what I did and thinking about it often hurts me.  I am so blessed that despite my decisions, my mom showed me the love that reflects that of what Christ has shown the church.  It's a lesson I needed then and will need to remember as my kids grow up as I am sure they will cause me both pain and heartache as well. 

Now that I have kids, I am even more thankful for her as she has always been there for them as well.  Her willingness to spend time with them, watch them, play with them, and love on them is truly a blessing.  I know not all kids get this kind of time spent with their grandparents and I am glad mine do.  I know it will shape the lives of my kids forever and they will know there are people out there other than mom and dad that love them regardless of the decisions they make.  

Really there are so many more things I have to be thankful for when it comes to my mom.  She has always been a terrific mom and has worked really hard at raising us. Like I said at the beginning, sometimes we forget to think about all that we really have to be thankful for and then even when we do think about it, we never share it.  My wife has been a real encourager for me in this, as she has been challenging me to make sure I tell people (at least occasionally) how thankful I am for who they are and what they have done.  I will leave  that there until tomorrow.

So for today, all I can say is, Thank you Mom! You will never know how much you have impacted my life and help make me who I am today.  I love you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

I am the 1%

So I was walking out of an office supply store yesterday (can't list the name because its not the one I work, and I saw a car with a baby shade that said "I am the 99%."  I find it sad that people here are claiming to be part of that 99%, when in reality they are far wealthier than most people in the world.

I say I am the 1% because I make more than $35k a year.  With the average person in the world making less than $3 a day, I become that 1%.

As I think about it, I am again troubled at how often we complain about what is going on in our lives or what we have to deal with, when in reality we have it easy.  Most Americans have it easy.

I couldn't imagine living on less than $3 a day, not knowing where my next meal is going to come from, or wondering if one of my kids would die from the only water we had to drink.

I'll admit, I've never been a big advocate for social justice.  Sure I believe in it, but it isn't something I always think about it.  When I do though, its ever so humbling.  It's so easy to get caught up in what we want and forget about those who have nothing.

 I heard on the Wally show this morning, that for $125 a family in another country can have water for a life time.  For $12,000 they will build a well in a community that can serve over 500 people for the rest of their lives.  For many of these communities this is all they need to survive.  They work hard; they have most of their other basic needs; and for many of them they are just praying that they someday get water.

So in reality, for less than a third of what I make a year, I could change 500 people's lives forever.  What if we all took opportunities like this?  How much of a difference could we really make in the world?  Could it be that we are so wrapped up in ourselves and dealing with our daily complaints that we forget our complaints are like grains of sand compared to the mountains that stand in the way of so many being able to just survive.

I am the 1% and I am somewhat ashamed by it.

You know that well I was speaking the image below to find out more information and donate.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Weekly Video Sharing 5/9/12

It has been a while since I had watched this video, but it came up again today and I couldn't help but share.  It's challenging.  It begs you to re-evaluate your life.  Watch and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let your yes be yes

I am reading yet another book that I have found rather intriguing.  I am going to wait and share the title later for a couple reason, but one I want to finish it before it becomes one that I recommend.

In the book, the author briefly touches on Matthew 5:33-37.  I have never read it like he presented it, but in the context of other books that I have read and what I believe about the Bible, I would say it makes perfect sense.

What if when Christ is saying "simply let your yes be yes and your no be no" was actually talking about our walk more than anything.  When Christ asked someone to follow Him, it was like asking them to be His student.  He wanted them to take an oath that they would follow Him no matter what.  That is why we have illustrations of those who refused.  They wanted to hang onto something.  They wanted to be able to follow and do what they wanted.

Is that the same for us?  Have we been guilty of saying "Yes" we want to follow Christ, but also saying I want to do my thing too?  It seems so simple, but Christ says anything other than a "Yes" or a "No" is of Satan.  Are we saying yes, but putting stipulations?  Telling God that we will follow Him as long as He doesn't ask us to do ________, or to give up ________, or befriend ___________.

One book I don't mind recommending is "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan.  I read it quite a while back and loved how it challenged us to give up everything to follow Christ.  No matter what Christ asks you, you say "Yes" to. It's a hard life to live when so often we want to say, "Sure, I can do that, but I also want to do this."

I can't say that I am perfect at this by any means, but it makes me question if there are things in my life that I am still holding on to.  Things where I am telling God, "Yes," and in my heart I am adding "but."

To somewhat borrow from the author, "If you say yes to something, it means you are saying no to something else."   

Monday, May 7, 2012

Continuing your story

I've had some time to think this weekend about several different things, and I kept coming back to this concept of story; to me it makes a lot of sense and helps me look at things a little clearer.

I find it interesting how much of the Bible really is written in story form.  It makes me wonder if many of them are in there not only to learn from, but also because there is almost always someone we can find to identify our self with. Even when Christ taught, many of his parables gave us someone or something that we could identify with. 

Which again brings me to the point of how important our story really can be;  not only that, but how important it is to continue to live that story.

Many times we reach the point of making the decision to all out follow Christ, but we soon forget what all that entails.  We go along for a while trying to do right, trying to be different, trying to grow in our walk, but it seems so hard. One of the biggest challenges is realizing that most often you HAVE to change who you hang out with. Friends are often the biggest influences in our every day life and are often the reason we can get out of that rut that keeps us so trapped.

Leaving friends behind and working on developing your story can be one of the hardest things you ever have to do.  Especially, if you are so used to doing so much with them.  They don't always 'get' your change in heart and focus (especially at first) and can really hinder your walk by keeping you from being part of a better story.

I'm not saying we can't be a witness to those friends, but rather, we need to remove our self from those circumstances, those friends so that we have room for the friends God wants us to have in our lives that can help us with our story and our walk.  

I have a couple friends that I would love to have them meet each other.  Both come from broken homes where their parents split when they were early in their teen years (most crucial point of development).  Both have turned to drugs, sex, alcohol, and bad friends for validation for who they are.  The differences are one is about 3 years older than the other, and has overcome many of the obstacles she had to deal with.  She has started writing a better story for herself.

I want them to meet because it is through these shared experiences that they could share their stories with each other and the one who overcame could really be a great tool and witness to the one who is still stuck.  I have mentioned it before, but its often our hardest trials and our failures that God will use to reach other people and help them get out of the bad story they are in.

They key to all this though, is continuing to be a part of a good story.  It is so easy to be influenced by those who you are wanting to be a witness to.  Stepping  back into their arena is often a tool used by Satan to tempt you to take steps back into your old story.

I am amazed at the difference I see in a friend's life, but sit watching and praying that God will show her an area in her life that could really hinder her from being able to witness.  We have talked about judging Christians and Non-Christians in our Connection Class (our version of Sunday School) several different times recently and so here I sit trying to decide if I have the relationship I need to lovingly help someone with her story and making sure she continues  to write her story according to how God wants to see her story written. 

For me it is all just a reminder than our story isn't over when we give our lives over to God.  It's a story that must be continued only we have to let Him drive the pen and say, "Not my will, but yours be done" when it comes to our lives.  For so many, it's "I give it to you, but I want to keep making the decisions and keep writing my story....after all....its mine."  That's not the story God want's for us.  He has a bigger story for us, it's up to us to follow where He leads.

Not trying to steal thoughts here, but the idea of "story" came from Donald Miller and I have to give him credit for it.  It has really helped me grasp a few things in my life, and I believe it is a great illustration for how important our lives really are.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I heard today, that "do not be afraid" is the command most stated in the Bible.  I find that interesting as today brought on a sense of anxiousness. 

Over the last two weeks I have been reading and 3 times now I have had something come up where it was specifically about making more of your life.  I find that when God wants to do something in me or with me, He makes things happen in my life that make it pretty evident He is trying to say something.

My dad approached me with the book "Out Live Your Life," I wanted to read another Donald Miller book, so I picked up "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," and my pastor brought up the book of Jeremiah Tuesday in a Bible study.

I had not a clue what "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" was about when I picked it up.  It went so well with the other two that I feel somewhat anxious.  I feel like God is again getting me ready to do something.  I don't have a clue what it is, but I feel like He gave me the needed rest that I required.  Now, He has gotten me to a place where He can actually work on me and get me to the place He wants me in my life.

I feel like the last 2 years have really been a major "U" in my walk. I had a high starting point, gradually went down hill and I have been able to gradually begin the journey back to where I should have been.  What scares me is the unknown. 

My freshman year of college God called me to music ministry which lead me to the church I attended for nearly 6 years. While I wasn't a music minister there, that is the tool He used to get me there so He could teach me.  It was a great church and looking back (and even while I was there) I could see God and all that He was doing in my life. 

About 3 years ago, God called me to youth ministry.  After preparing for that, finding a church, serving at a church, and then leaving that church, I am unsure as to what God is really asking me. I know He used the music ministry as a major part of my ministry with my teens I had there, but what is He asking of me now?

Honestly, I would love to work with teens again.  I feel like the last place I was at was a learning experience, God teaching me what not to do and what to look for in a church that I am to serve at. I know in my mind I am not ready, but you never know what God has planned because only He truly knows when you are ready.

So here I sit, thinking about my story and what God wants me to do with my life. I believe God doesn't want us to just be a part of life and drift through it, rather He wants us all to have eternal life (life lived to the fullest) and follow Him where He leads rather than sitting on the side lines letting life happen to us.  I know there are times He is going to ask us to Rest or Wait, but we have to be prepared for when He says Go and Do.  I feel like I am on the edge of that time when He says, "Do not be afraid, I am with you.  Step out in faith and follow Me." 

I do not really know what else to say other than I am going to pray that God makes His plan visible to me so that I know what He is asking of me.  Needless to say I am anxious, but I am also excited to be near the place where God wants to do something more in my life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

American Tragedy

A couple years ago, I had this image come to mind when I was thinking of the trinity.  In the image I could see the three walking somewhat in a circle and they each kept saying "after you." As I kept thinking about it it, trying to figure out what it meant, I just kept coming back to the thought that They each wanted not only what was best for the others, but They loved the others so much They would step out of the way to allow them to fulfill whatever it is They were needing to do.  They were in unison and loved each other so much They wanted to share this love.  That is when They decided to create humanity.  They wanted to share their love They had with each other with us.

When I look at that today, I think about how we miss this so often.  They created us to share Their love with and we rejected it.  We decided we knew better and could do life better on our own.  They gave us chance after to chance to come back and we failed.  We kept doing things our way.  Finally, in a grand gesture and a way to redeem us, God sent Christ to earth so that He could die to show us how much They loved us.
I think about how we were created for God and the three decided that in order for us to be redeemed Christ would need to die.  Loving His father so much He agreed. The Bible says there is no greater love than one who lays down his life for his friends.  It's the perfect picture of what Christ did, only while I believe He laid down His life for us, He also laid down His life for His father.  He was still teaching us how to love. 

Then I look at our lives and how for so many of us, we don't reflect that.  Our lives don't really reflect a true love for anyone other than ourselves.

I named this post American tragedy, because by being an American it is so hard to stay focused.  We have so many other things that we can focus on that our love for each other is dwindling. We get distracted from what our real focus should be.

Maybe it is only me, but I find it hard to understand the reality of our situation.  I believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.  I believe He was beaten and died for my sins.  I believe He rose again and that He will be returning again.  I believe all these things in my head, but does my life really reflect that?  Does the reality of what actually happened ever really grasped?

As I think about all of this today, I am challenged to look at what is important in my life.  There are so many comforts we enjoy as Americans that are making it harder and harder for us to live as Christ would want us to.  We have so many temptations and problems that we forget what life is really about.  It reminds me of how Christ said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  In the scope of things, most of us are very rich, regardless of what society tells us.  When a majority of the world lives on less than $3 a day, I say we are extremely rich.

Again today, I feel as if I am just rambling and have a bunch of different thoughts that all tie together somewhat.  What I really want to say is that while we are blessed to be Americans, the tragedy of it all is that because we are in a society where "stuff" matters, money matters, status matters, it  makes it that much harder for us to follow Christ because there are far too many distractions that can get in our way.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The importance of your story

So...I have yet began the journey of reading another Donald Miller book. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know that I am a big fan of his. This time however, it was different. I didn't know anything about the book I was about to read, all I knew was that it was another one of his books. As I began the book, I instantly knew what I was going to write about today.

The book I began to read is called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Interesting title, but doesn't even give you a clue about what the book is about. The book is about his story and how a couple guys were wanting to make a movie of his story so he goes about editing his life, remembering what was and trying to figure out what makes a good story. What hit me however, was that this thought of story keeps coming up in my life recently. I have been thinking about it a lot, trying to figure out why; trying to figure out its importance.

I have come to the conclusion that our story is one of the most valuable things we have. People can take so much from us, but they can never take from our story, only add to it. Our story is what makes us who we are. It shapes who we are going to be (not to be confused with determining who we are going to be).

Quite a few of you have heard my wife's story recently. The story of where she has been, how God has saved her, what she has become and I can't help but stand in amazement at how brave she was for sharing, but not only sharing but allowing people to enter into her life and be a part of what God is doing in her.

I think that is why our story is so important.   It helps others know that they are not alone in what they are dealing with.  They can understand people have been there before.  It gives them someone to turn to for advice, someone to share with, someone who understands.

I have been trying to figure out what my story is for a while.  I wrote it out two years ago to share with the teens that I had the privilege to pastor for a while, but has my story changed?  The more I think about it, the more I believe that our story is an ever changing story.  Life happens and sometimes we can lose sight of God for a moment and begin to go our own way.  When we come out of that and give full control over to God again, I think we should add that to our story.

I once met a gentleman that was a Christian, but claimed He didn't have a story.  That makes me sad for him.  If you don't have a story then God didn't save you from anything.  If He didn't save you from anything then you  really don't need Him.  If you really don't need Him, then why do any of us?  Can it really be that some need Him and others don't?  I have to say, I can't believe that.

Jesus taught in parable form.  In essence He was telling stories so people could get a full picture of the lesson He was trying to teach.  If He had just told the people God loves you like a lost sheep, it wouldn't have made an impact on anyone, but when He shares the story of the lost sheep, people can begin to see the full picture.  Not only can they see it, but they can begin to understand its importance.

That is the way it is with our story.  We can tell people we are saved, but that doesn't really mean much.  If we can show them what God saved us from, how He has changed us, and made our lives new then we can truly be a witness.  We can be used by Him.  We can be who He wants us to be.

Think about it, the Bible is full of stories.  Most are stories about the lives of people who were screwed up, but God redeemed, used, and changed the lives of countless others.  What if the Bible had only stories of people who were perfect?

So today, I have decided I want to try to really figure out what my story is...what do I have to share with people that can help them see who I was and who God is making me to be. I challenge you to do the same. 

Look for those things in your life that you want to hide from others or from God.  Is He asking you to share that with someone?  Many times its those things in our life that have caused us the most pain that God will use to help someone else.  Who better to help a kid who's parents are going through a divorce, than someone who's parents went through a divorce?  Who better to help someone with an addiction, than someone who was addicted?  Who better to help someone who ______________, than someone who has already experienced it and deepened their relationship with God because of it?

It is all part of living in community.  Sometimes you are the one who needs the help.  Sometimes you are the one who can help.