Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Today, Amanda and I are heading to the church to tape a video that will be shown at our Family (Baby) Dedication service this Sunday evening. We're finally having Ellie dedicated…just a month before her second birthday. As part of that video, it's our responsibility to provide a prayer for Ellie. Since I love to blog, and I've been in a sappy mood since yesterday's post, I thought I would just post it up here.
Ellie Laine Dunaway has been an enriching, inspiring, and joyful blessing that we never thought we'd have. When she announced her impending arrival, we were thrown for a loop. Four kids! But Ellie has been the piece to our family that we never knew was missing until we met her. She brightens each of our lives every day with her spark for life. She has this spunk about her in the way she runs through our house, her mischievous giggle that keeps her big sisters awake at night, and her love for interpretive dancing. She also loves people - she usually whimpers when we leave her in KidCity at church, but is blowing kisses to the nursery workers when it's time to leave. Her hair - both beautiful and wild at the same time - really personifies who Ellie is, that spark of life that fills our home with a new and unique joy. Our prayer for Ellie is that she would never loose that spark…that God would help her grow into the woman he created her to be - a person who loves her God, and serves Him with her whole life; that God would help Amanda and I, as her parents, to lead her in that journey of discovery, salvation, and growth. With the help of our family, friends, our church, and the Holy Spirit, we commit to being models of Christ-centered servants, fully surrendered to Him, ever growing in our own journeys of faith.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
On November 12th, 2011, around 5:30 in the evening, I was able to see part of that prayer answered in Breanna's response of obedience to her understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My father-in-law was in the water with us. He and my mother-in-law have had such a pivotal influence on Bre, and it was both special and appropriate that he was there to share in that experience. My father was unable to be there due to a recent knee surgery, but his presence would have been equally special and appropriate as we acknowledged the impact of godly leadership on future generations being manifest in Breanna's ten-year-old life.
As a pastor, I had been scheduled to "baptism duty" in that service, and had baptized three other individuals prior to Bre. I actually thought I was going to hold it together. As Bre entered the water, however, I immediately felt the sudden constriction of emotion take hold in my throat. With a very feeble and wobbly inflection, I introduced Bre and my father-in-law, and tried to convey the significance of this event for me and my family. As I turned to pronounce her baptism, there was little I could do to curtail the emotion. What a rich experience this was for me, my family and Breanna.
I have to admit, however, that I struggled with Bre's readiness just days before this took place. As I sat at the table with her, and asked her some questions to prepare her for her testimony, I wasn't sure if she "got it." I wrestled with letting her go through with this if she couldn't offer what I thought were - not just the right answers - but what I perceived to be genuine answers.
The truth is that I see too much of myself in Breanna. I am the oldest child in my family, like Bre, and I too wanted to do the right thing if it pleased my parents and others from whom I sought approval. I was, and am to this day at times, the master of fronting a great exterior. In my adult life I've had to confront these tendencies, realizing that much of my earlier years of faith were marked by inconsistency, insincerity, and a relationship with Christ that was largely taken for granted. I was baptized at a young age, and grew up without a clear sense of the significance that it held for me. And I was fearful of allowing Bre to continue in that same trajectory.
Through some great conversations with my wife, my dad, and some of the children's ministry staff at our church, I came to realize that Bre was making this choice to follow through in something that she understood to the ability best afforded by her ten years. Her decision was genuine, and bold to say the least. Who am I to decide that she shouldn't go through with it? Besides, would I only squelch the desire to ever attempt it again? How could I stand in her way?
My prayer is that Breanna will continue to grow daily in her understanding of the salvation she's received by the grace of God, through her faith in Jesus Christ; that she'll grow to realize the significance of a life that could only lead to spiritual death, but has been rescued by the blood of Jesus Christ; that she would grow to understand what it means to love and live for Him in every moment of every day. These are lessons that I'm still learning as a 34 year old man, 26 year follower of Christ, and pastor of 8 years. Breanna is on her own journey, and my job is to do all within my spirit-enabled abilities to shape her faith - not just through my words - but with my life.
Lord, help me to model a Christ-centered life before my wife, my children, my church and my community. Help Bre grow in her understanding of who you are, and her love for you. And move in each of my children that they would come to know you.
Sent from my iPad
Sunday, November 13, 2011
It would be one thing if the Colts were competing; putting some points on the board, putting up a good fight...I might find some consolation in a string of losses if that were the case.
But it's not.
The Colts went from a Super Bowl contending team to an 0 and 10 team overnight...and they only lost one player. They look like a bunch of small town college hacks playing against pros. Most of the time, they can't even approach the line of scrimmage without false starting, fumbling, or going 3 and out. Our quarter back had two interceptions given back to him, but - through his own steadfast determination - succeeded in finally being intercepted on the third attempt.
It's like they haven't worked on a single thing through the week to prepare for their opponents. What are the coaches doing to prepare these guys?
I will forever be a Colts fan, win or lose. But I can't keep watching them when they perform this poorly.
That's all I have to say...I'm going to watch a movie.
Sent from my iPhone
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
First of all, there's been the whole Netflix fiasco. First they hike up the prices, while almost immediately announcing that a major content provider (Starz) has backed out. On the heels of all that good news, they announce that their movie by mail service will become a separate service under a whole new brand, new site, new account, and everything. What happened next - their stock dropped by almost half. Next thing I know, Netflix is eating crow and I'm getting an email stating that they've changed their mind, and won't be splitting the company after all. This serves as an example in poor communication.
The next example comes from the most profitable company on the planet - Apple. Several years ago they rolled out their "cloud" data sync service called MobileMe. For $99 a year, you could store all your data in the cloud and have it synced to all your devices. This month, Apple put their loyal fans through the hassle of changing all that when they switched to their new cloud service, iCloud. How did we respond? With school-boy giddiness. This was partly due to the fact that the service is much more effective, and free. But still, Apple killed a product they had marketed for a very brief amount of time to unveil a new service that does essentially the same thing...and they did it successfully. This would be an example is good communication.
Finally, let's talk about another highly successful company, Google. For all that Google does well, there's one thing they just can't seem to get a handle on, and that's social media. Just last week it was announced that Google was officially giving up on their previous attempt at social media, Buzz. Some will argue that their current go is seeing some staying power with Google+. But the real thing I think that's worth taking away from this is that huge company's take big risks to innovate. Even company's like Google occasionally fail. And that's okay.
My thumbs are tired.
Sent from my iPhone
Thursday, October 13, 2011
The only problem was that in order to sync my computers, I had to upgrade the OS to Lion. Not a costly upgrade, but time consuming. Then I had to download the software for my phone and tablet...not a big deal under normal circumstances. But when several MILLION people are doing it at the Same time, it gets pretty slow...and, again, time consuming.
Then there are the joys of getting it figured out and working properly. Several hours of downloading and installing, and two calls to tech support later, I'm happy to say that it works.
But I have to say that it didn't do much for my productivity yesterday. Today will be different.
Sent from my iPad.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
We've had our fair share of moving experiences. Mostly good, but probably more than we'd care to have. We moved into our first house in February of 2000. In January of 2004, we moved out of state when I began my first ministry in Ohio. I think it was fourteen months later that we moved into a different house there in Ohio, only to move again eighteen months after that.
I'm happy to say that we've been in our current home for over five years...and, as I already said, we won't be going anywhere soon. Unless, of course, something changes. But if it does, and we end up moving in the near future, I know I have at least two friends we can count on for help.
Sent from my iPad.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Sent from my iPhone
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
I wasn't necessarily surprised by this, as I had given him my card at the previous visit. So I answered his question. He then told me that he was a "P.K.," which I immediately understood to mean "preacher's kid" (I'm one too, in fact... And I have four, myself). When I mentioned that my father is a pastor, as well, he offered that he hadn't "followed in his father's footsteps." I thought about that statement for a quick second, and it raised question in my mind. Obviously he hadn't followed in his father's profession... did he mean something else? So I asked if he meant his father's faith. His response was to ask me if we really wanted to have this conversation. Then he continued.
He told me that he believed in God, but had a problem with "organized religion," as he put it. He explained that his experience of growing up in the church had exposed him to the judgmental, hypocritical side of Christianity... and left him believing in God, but wanting little to do with the church.
I couldn't help but agree with him.
It astonishes me the things that are done or said in the name of Christ. "God Hates Fags" campaigns; "turn or burn" tactics; rejoicing over the death of a criminal (even an enemy)... I have serious doubts whether any of that has anything to do with following Christ at all. The truth is that we don't even have to look that far... just look at how we treat each other! Why are we surprised when "outsiders" want nothing to do with us?
I've read a couple of books lately that have stirred something within me - an inkling that goes back a few years, but was fading from my consciousness. The books are Love Wins by Rob Bell, and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I haven't come away from these books a Universalist. But I have come away from them with a renewed fervor to love Christ completely, and to therefore love completely like Christ. As flawed and imperfect as I am, I want to be a part of the bigger movement among those who desperately want to change the perception of Christianity around the world. No more doing church... I want to start being the church.
What if we really started being the hope of the world? What if we stopped worrying about who's in and who's out, what color the carpet is, and the style (or volume) of the music, and just started loving people - all people? What if we were more concerned about living Jesus than talking Jesus? These are just a few things I'm wrestling with.
When my mechanic mentioned the things he'd encountered - things that ultimately turned him off to church altogether - I just nodded my head. "I completely agree with you," I said.
Monday, April 18, 2011
On the other had, you have those who've read and listened to Bell for years, and have enjoyed his ministry in one way or another. There can be a tendency in that position to dismiss the criticism by virtue of their affinity for Bell.
Then there's me, and those like me, who've enjoyed Bell's other works and have been challenged under his teaching, but aren't sure where to land in the midst of all this. The temptation is to read the reviews and form an opinion based on those, alone. I found myself on the verge of doing just that, wondering if I should pull all the Nooma videos from our small group library and burn my copies of Velvet Elvis and Sex God (a couple of other books by Bell).
Here's where I am right now. Bell has remained a little cryptic in his interviews, and doesn't seem to want to answer the direct questions that would make a lot of us sleep a little better, knowing we have a "LOVE WINS" decal displayed in our office. But maybe he shouldn't have to. Before we can really offer our thoughts and opinions - before we can really join the conversation - we should probably just read the book. If we're not willing to do that, then we need to be very careful not to let the opinions of others, however biased they may be, shape our opinions to a point where we criticize - or even dismiss - the work of another man's ministry.
Here's another thought. I'm not reading the book to justify a position for or against Bell; I'm reading the book to see what it can teach me. If it makes me question some of my beliefs, then great! There's an opportunity for me to grow (and I believe that was Bell's intent all along). But I really have very little interest in spending much time trying to defame another man and his ministry, or exalting it, for that matter. Only in America (and maybe a few other places) do we have the luxury of debating another man's theology. I'm pretty sure Christians in China could care less... I'm guessing they have far more important things to worry about. But then, so should we.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Romans 6:5Chambers offers great insight related to this passage:
"Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was."
"The Holy Spirit cannot be accepted as a guest in merely one room of the house - He invades all of it."Being united with Christ in his death is an act of surrender, an invitation for the Holy Spirit to reside within us. Being raised to life is what follows as we submit to His authority. But that submission must be complete... there can be nothing withheld as our own, no room in our houses kept locked.
I know that I'm a better man than I was ten years ago. I'm a better husband, father, leader... I'm even a better guitarist than I was ten years (not that it matters much). But I know there are still dark, dusty, cluttered rooms that I've kept under lock and key. There have even been times when I've sensed the Lord trying to teach me something, seeking to invade those restricted rooms, and I've checked the bolt and chain to ensure their security.
If I want to know this new life that Christ's death and resurrection offer, then I must have an open house, granting him full access to even the most hidden and messy areas of my life; allowing him entrance even to the rooms that I claim as mine (my man caves, as they were).
The question I ask myself is this: why do I lock the doors to those rooms, when he only wants to come in and clean things up... maybe even do a little remodeling? An open house can only lead to a better house.
We hold on to things because we like them the way they are. We fear change. We may even worry that giving God the keys to all the rooms will mean that we have to give up the things we really enjoy. But God doesn't want to hamper my life... he wants to raise me to new life. I need to start handing over some keys.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Bookstores have been a part of our dating routine from the very beginning, and I didn't even realize it until last night. It was also just another sad reminder of how things change, and parts of our lives that we want to take for granted just simply cannot last. I've already posted about the closing of my college, but there are several other places of significance, from childhood into my adult years, that have closed or changed beyond recognition. The world is moving on all around me, which makes me ever more thankful for the moments I have... moments like date nights with my wife, family nights with the kids. The places may change or go away, but those moments are worth sharing... and remembering.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Matthew 26:36-39This has been one of my favorite passages for a very long time. There's something about this scene that I find so moving and altogether inspiring. Jesus, the Son of God, wrestling with the mission and calling God had placed on his life. It's such a vivid picture of his humanity.
"Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, 'Sit here while I go over there to pray.' He took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, 'My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, 'My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want our will to be done, not mine.'"
In my reading this morning, I reflected on what was really happening in the garden as Jesus faced the final hours of his earthly life. I believe Satan was present in those moments. Earlier in Jesus' ministry, we have record of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness. At the close of that passage we see that Satan, having been unsuccessful in his attempts to lure Jesus to sin, left him until the next opportunity came (Luke 4:13). And now, at the end of his earthly ministry, we have record of Jesus coming to grips with the magnitude of his mission - he's in agony; crushed with grief to the point of death. He even pleads that it be taken away. Why? Was it simply in anticipation of his death, or was there more going on?
I believe that in those moments Satan found his next opportunity, attempting to cripple God's plan of salvation by whispering: You can't do this, Jesus. The pain and agony of crucifixion is more than you can physically bear. And for what? Men will still curse you and reject you. And perhaps his most compelling argument: You don't have to do this, Jesus. There's a way out... you can opt out of this. Don't do this Jesus!
How many times have we been waylaid in our obedience to Christ because we listened to the enemy's whispers: You can't do this. And besides, you don't have to! There's a way out! We wrestle and reason with God until we feel justified to take our own way out, avoiding the sometimes difficult and painful road of obedience. Instead we opt for the agony of deceit - the painful consequences of living outside of the will of God.
Jesus wrestled with the deceit of the enemy, but never wavered in his surrender and total obedience to God, finally declaring your will be done! What a triumph! Man, I so want to live in that victory... to be fully surrendered to God, even to the point of denying myself in obedience to him.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Three months ago, I did something some would consider drastic and reckless: I turned the data connection on my smart phone off. That's right. No more email beaming to my phone on a whim. No more cloud sync over 3G. In fact, I've reduced my phone to a... well... a phone... with the occasional benefit of WiFi sync and internet browsing.
It occurred to me on my drive in to the office that I can't remember the last time I heard that little "bleep" indicating a new email on my phone. It also occurred to me that I don't miss it. It still houses my calendar and contacts. But all other smartness has been deactivated. And I'm okay with that.
Let the revolution begin.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I glanced back at so many scenes that had been so familiar to me during a very formative stage of my life - perhaps one of the most fun stages of my life - and I was filled with sadness that it was gone. The dorm has been closed for years - though it still stands, it was destroyed by fire several years ago. For the most part, it's all still there... but it's empty, like a corpse, void of the life that it held as my school. The buildings no longer belong to the institution that claimed a special place in my life, and many, MANY, thousands of my dollars... which are still being claimed every month. Even just to see it still teeming with life would have been far better. But it's empty; it's gone.
The older I get, the more I realize that life will bring more and more changes like this. It's a weird sensation... in my mind, it doesn't seem that long ago. Of course, it doesn't seem like that long ago when I was the youngest guy wherever I worked. Not anymore. Seriously, where did the last fifteen years go? If I stop to recount them, it actually does seem like a long time. But what shocks me is how fast it went by.
Regardless of the changes that may take place, and the things we may lose, a thought occurred to me during my reminiscing: Life is about what we gain through the things we lose. There's a chapter of my life that's gone. Taylor Fort Wayne no longer exists. I can't send my kids there. I can't walk through the halls anymore. I'll never have a hall named after me, which would only be appropriate after the many thousands of dollars I mentioned earlier. But I can look back on all that I gained through those years, my education being the least of them. I gained life-long friendships. I gained my best friend and life companion. I gained a depth of spiritual and emotional growth that has profoundly shaped who I am today. I gained a lot of awesome memories. They were good times. I wish it hadn't gone so fast.
Luke 12:40I read a great quote from Chambers this morning (by the way, if you read my last post you may be wondering how this is possible. Well, I discovered that my Bible study software, QuickVerse, includes My Utmost for His Highest in its library. Technology saves the day again):
You also must be ready all the time, for the son of Man will come when least expected.
"This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn."I think a lot of us think that being ready means we have to be doing something. We have to get ready, Jesus is coming! We focus on getting our lives in order, our doctrine in order, our Christian check-list in order, and our lives become more about doing than being. Ultimately, our being requires our doing. But when doing is our focus, we have a tendency to make the Christian life about the destination - getting things in order so we can enjoy the benefits of eternal life.
But here's the deal: my readiness is less about my eternal destination and more about my moment-by-moment focus on God. I want to be ready to face Jesus at any moment of any day. I believe that's the way He wants us to live - to be responsible with that which he's given us. To serve faithfully, but not at the expense of our undivided focus on him.
Monday, March 28, 2011
I'm a sucker for technology. And what I'm finding is that means I'm a slave to it. Which is, again, pathetic. You see, all my devotional reads were on my Nook... and since I no longer have my Nook, I no longer have Chambers, which has been a big part of my study time for the past four months. My response: no Nook, no Chambers, no study. WHAT! Why? Why don't I just pick up a good ol' fashioned Bible that was printed on paper and read it like I did in the old days (four months ago)?
That's what I'm going to do.
I just needed to think this out through my writing to kick things into gear.
I'm ready to start, now.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
UPDATE: He just ended his phone conversation, but now he's whistling... whistling! I hope I have my ear-buds handy.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Luke 24:32I think we've all had these experiences - maybe at a camp, or a special worship service, or on a missions trip - when we encounter Jesus in a special way, and we come away with that feeling that our hearts are on fire! Those are good! They shape us and form us spiritually. Isn't it tempting to want to stay there, to live in that moment? I can tell you, for me, those moments always seemed to happen at church camp as a kid, or on missions trips as an adult. The passion, the excitement, the thrill of seeing God move in profound ways - it all creates this powerful mountain top experience.
"They said to each other, 'Didn't our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?'"
We crave those experiences; we may even seek them, or attempt to recreate them. But is that the point? The mountain top may be good for us, but what good can we do the mountain? Life happens in the valleys, but God also moves in the valleys - he's with us in the valleys. We don't need a super-charged emotional experience to see that. Chambers writes:
"We cannot stay forever on the 'mount of transfiguration,' basking in the light of our mountain top experience (see Mark 9:1-9). But we must obey the light we received there; we must put it into practice."That challenged me this morning. How have I encountered God in the mundane of everyday life that has set my heart on fire? I don't want to seek the emotional experience, but I do want to keep my eyes open... 'cause when he shows it to me, I don't want to miss it.
About two years ago, however, I came up with a new story idea. It started with a simple idea: what would it really be like to know how your life would play out? Would this be a good or a bad thing? And from there, I began to dream up a story about a man who was granted that very gift. The story intrigued me, and I actually tried to hand it off to a friend who's a much better writer than I am. But then I realized that this was my story... if it was to be written, I would have to do it.
So here we are, two years later, and I'm nearly halfway there. It's been a learning experience all the way around. I've written creative stories before, but never to this scale. To date, I've written 32,000 words, which, as I understand it, is less than half of the 80,000 words that most would consider the minimum length of a novel. The exciting part is that I actually think I have at least 48,000 more words of story to tell. We'll see.
This week I actually took some time off to resume writing. Here's a brief excerpt of what I wrote yesterday:
The next four years passed like the turning of more pages. And there was that thought in Oliver’s head again: pages - crisp, prophetic pages. The thought of it haunted his dreams every night since that conversation with Jon. There was that name again: Jon. The name of a friend he hadn’t seen or talked to in over six years; the name of someone who had loved him more than anyone else, and yet walked away from him like everyone else.Writing is fun. It's therapeutic. I may stink at grammar, make a few rookie mistakes in story-telling, and will likely never get published. But that's not the point for me. I just enjoy the process. I'm very much looking forward to the day when I can step back and say, "It's finished." Who knows... I may even start another one. I just hope it doesn't take another two years to get to that point.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Galatians 2:20I read this passage, and pondered on what it was teaching me - what God wanted me to discover through this - and a simple question popped into my head: "Am I living, or is Christ living through me?" Even as I wrote that question, the implications flooded my mind. Sure, there's the "sin factor" that Paul is writing about - the things that would immediately surface... and those can't be ignored. Chambers writes:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
"The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature."The selfish, hot-tempered, impulsive, and fearful ways of our past (and sometimes our present) must cease to be... they have been crucified with Christ... we have been freed from those things. We no longer have to live as slaves to our own lusts, but as free men (and women) to experience all that God desires for us.
The reality for all of us, however, is that these do show their ugly faces from time-to-time... even after we've given our lives to Christ. I think one thing that Chambers helped me discover this morning is that Paul wasn't talking about the level of Christianity that many of us may assume... he didn't say in this passage that he would work hard to "imitate Christ," or that he was devoting himself to "following Christ." He said that he had been crucified with Christ - that's a level of surrender that goes beyond imitation and following, and implies a complete death to self... and only then can, as Chambers puts it, "all that Christ accomplished for me on the cross (be) accomplished in me."
Am I living, or is Christ living through me?
Let's get beyond the typical and obvious "sins" that we tend to focus on, and explore something a little more cloaked by the justification of the American Dream. If Christ is living through me, how does that impact my priorities? Specifically, my time, my money, the things I set myself toward to achieve, accomplish, and attain? It's easy to read this passage and think, "Okay, I need to stop cussing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. etc." But what if Paul is also teaching us that we need to stop living in the sense that we strive to achieve that quality of life that society tells us we deserve. Instead, let Jesus Christ live through us, as we have been crucified with Him... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives through me. It's no longer my goals, agendas, material wants, and status that drive me - no longer my sin and selfishness that define me - but the life-changing, soul-saving love of Christ that moves me.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
"Think of the last thing you prayed about - were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God?"When I approach God in prayer, what are my motives? Is it only out of a need that I trust God will fulfill, or is it simply because I love him? Am I hoping to gain something other than God himself?
God - forgive me... I know too many times I approach you only at the prompting of a need. I want to be more than a follower, God... I want to love you in a deeper, fuller way. I want my life to be marked by that love in all that I do - both publicly and privately, may my life exude your love, the depth of my relationship with you. Amen.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
lancewitt Lance Witt/REPLENISH
I came across this quote on Twitter a week or so ago, and it really challenged me. God called me to be a pastor. There was a time when that meant I was available to serve people, and that was what ministry was all about. I met with, prayed with, served with, grew with... people. It seems like a lot of that has been replaced by, as Peterson said, plans and strategies. I actually love to plan... and I enjoy strategy. I think both are important. But if I'm choosing strategy planning over being with people, then I can't help but feel that I'm missing the point. And honestly, I'm missing one of the most rewarding things about being a pastor. That's what God called me to be... a pastor. Not a strategist. Not a program planner. Not a graphic designer. Each of those are skills I contribute to my ministry... but they are not my ministry. Thanks, Peterson... for challenging my socks off. And thanks, Lance Witt, for throwing it in my face. Seriously. I needed that.
Hebrews 11:8It seems like a lot of my study has been focused on faith, lately. Maybe God is trying to teach me something. Several years ago I found myself in a place where God was challenging me to step out of my current circumstances - a career in advertising - and move into a new life of vocational ministry. This was scary for us. It was challenging on a number of levels. I had to eat a few words of earlier claims I'd made - that I'd "never be a youth pastor." And yet, I was certain that God was calling me into youth ministry - more certain of this than anything I'd ever felt before. I'd have to defend this before my wife, my relatives, and even some of our friends. If this was what God was calling me to do, I had to be sure... and I had to move. This certainly was a point in my life where my faith was tested, and I had to be willing to put it into motion.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
But I knew where I was going. I knew I was leaving one thing behind, and moving to St. Marys, Ohio, to begin my youth ministry. I knew the salary I'd receive, and the home we'd be living in. I was moving out in faith, but I had the destination all mapped out for me.
Abraham moved in his obedience, but didn't know where he was going. His faith moved him to step out in total dependence on God. Every step, he required God's guidance to know if he was moving in the right direction. He wouldn't even know that he'd arrived until God revealed it to him. Chambers writes:
"Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading."Even in my attempts to live a life of faith, I wonder if I'm really depending on God for everything. As long as I know that everything will be fine, I'm ready to move... but if there are any questions lingering, I find myself saying, "I don't have a peace about this." Is my faith deep enough to move me in spite of that restlessness? Am I willing to blindly step out in obedience as Abraham did?
God, lead me... move me... and give me the strength to follow, even when I can't see the ending. Amen.
Friday, March 18, 2011
2 Corinthians 2:9I set up my little end of the dining room table to do my study this morning and was mildly devastated to discover that I'd left my composition note pad, otherwise known as my journal, on my desk at the office. Journaling is a major part of my quiet time routine, and has been for the past five or six years. I was actually tempted to skip my quiet time in response to this little mishap. Then I remembered this blog. Heathenism averted.
So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.
What does it mean to please God? Is this about doing stuff for him? Is it about checking everything off the spiritual "to-do list," and leaving everything unchecked on the "do-not-do list?" Is it my ministry, my "sacrifices," my giving or volunteering that please God? Or is it my willingness to just be still in his presence that truly pleases him?
The first of this year I started working my way through Oswald Chamber's devotional book, "My Utmost for His Highest." Chambers writes on this passage, explaining that pleasing God is the servant's primary goal:
"It means... not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only 'to be well pleasing to Him.'"Recently God revealed to me that I've had the wrong focus for a very long time. My focus was on being a good dad, or a loving husband, or a devoted pastor, or a good speaker, or a strong leader. He revealed to me recently that he just wants my undivided focus on him; he has to be my first priority. That's what pleases him. And when my life is focused on him, the rest will follow. I will love my wife and children more; I will serve him with more passion and devotion; I will live a life that reflects the holiness to which I've been called. It's my focus on him - the priority of my life - that truly pleases him.
God, help me keep my undivided attention and focus on you in all that I do. My life isn't about designing programs, leading people, or achieving anything, but simply focusing all of me on you. Remind me to hold all else in the light of my love for you. Amen.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The message was on James 2:14-26, in which James addresses the delicacies of the relationship between our faith and our works. It all really boils down to this simple idea: faith moves. Here's a link to that message:
The truth is that I like to write. One blog allows me to write on a more ridiculous note, while another offers more of a ministry focused outlet. This one, unlike the others, is a place for me to share my thoughts, journal entries, things about me. It may not be funny; it might be somewhat serious and of the "deeper" variety. It really doesn't matter. Unlike the others, this is a blog without the confines of a personality. It will be whatever I feel like at the moment I post. That, in and of itself, may be the only thing that justifies its existence.