Thursday, December 31, 2009

Update time

*God answered my Christmas wish (and your prayers as well) and sent our friend Christen home on Christmas Eve. She's recovering well, from what I understand and was taken off bed rest the other day. Yay!

*The job I applied for, where I had to answer a question on Christianity, which I posted here a few weeks ago, never responded. Oh well, it was fun to write and hopefully spread a little of God's love into the editor's life. :)

*I just finished explaining what a relationship with Jesus is to a militant atheist/former Catholic. Chances are the words fell on deaf ears, but maybe it put a dent in the defenses he's thrown up to protect himself from religion gone bad. Say a prayer today for anyone in your life who needs to see through the haze of deception and focus on Jesus. Maybe 2010 will be the year they finally see the true light.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus!

...and Merry Christmas to you, too!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day and finds time to reflect on the blessings God brought all of us 2009 years ago.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Friend in Need...

Ever had one of those friends that was just so wonderful you didn't understand what you did to deserve having such an awesome person in your life?

Those kinds of friends are rare, and if you've never had that, I pray God blesses you with such a person soon.

We've actually been blessed with a few such people. Two of which are our best friends from Phoenix, Aaron and Christen (and their awesome little boy, Xavier, too).

Well, today we learned Aaron had to take Christen the to hospital last night for hip pain. After several hours, tests and uncertainty, the doctors returned and said she had blood clots in her legs and lungs.

Christen is a wonderful mother, incredible wife and one of the most important people to enter our lives since we gave our hearts to Christ. And now, two days before the celebration of the birth of our Lord, she's lying in a hospital bed instead of sitting home wrapping presents and drinking egg nog with her family and friends.

Those of you who know me understand I'm not the sort to pray for God to change His will on things. In fact, I'm possibly too far to the opposite end of that spectrum.

However, tonight, I'm going to go out on a selfish limb and beg all of you to join me in praying that God would heal her so she can return home to watch her beautiful son and loving husband open presents Friday morning and share in their joy as they celebrate the life of our savior.

Father God,
There are plenty of angels in heaven... this one needs to stay down here with us, Father.

Please. Please heal her, make her healthy once again. I beg you, Father. That's my Christmas wish as your son.

In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

And, to anyone reading this, I'm begging you to pray for Christen. Pray she heals. God can do anything. He can certainly heal her. And with all of us praying for her, he'll know we need her here.

Thank you and Merry Christmas...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas!

When everyone stops to think "What do I want for Christmas?" I offer up this wish:

That I would be visited by the greatness of God.

Merry Christmas to all! May God's blessings pour over you and bring you the kind of joy you won't find in earthly presents but in His presence.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

God jobs

The Lord really does work in mysterious ways... or maybe He gets me work in mysterious ways, or both. Yes, that's it. Both.

I've been applying for telecommuting writing jobs like crazy lately. Last Thursday, one of the companies I applied to sent me an email stating they wanted to offer me a job, but not until I completed a fresh writing sample for them in the form of an essay (this was after they read my resume, writing samples and links to my online work).

Seemed a little odd to me, but I kept reading anyway.

It then went on to say that as soon as I had 24 hours to devote to completing this assignment, I was to email them back and have them send it over, at which time the clock would start ticking.

So, knowing I couldn't address this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, I fired off an email about 5am on Monday, knowing I'd have the ability to get it done yesterday. Well, by 8pm last night, I still hadn't heard back from them and began wondering what happened. I finally decided they didn't have their act together and if/when they finally responded I would just delete the email. After all, another writing job fell into my lap yesterday and it seems to be rather profitable.

However, for some strange reason, I just felt that even if they were late, even if I did have other work coming in, I'd still do the right thing and give it my best effort should this belated email ever download to my inbox.

Fast forward to this afternoon at 2:45 and what shows up, but that very email. I grimaced a bit, then opened it and began reading. In the first few sentences they clarified that I had 24 hours to complete this email, which meant I had to have it back to them no later than close of business TODAY. Seems they sent it yesterday and somehow or other it didn't get delivered until this afternoon.

Once again the urge to delete it popped into my mind, especially since even more work came my way today. However, that same feeling I had last night came to mind and I continued to read the email. Once I hit the essay subject, I smiled, looked up and said "Yes, God, I'm listening."

So, below is the essay I sent them, less than an hour and a half after getting their late email. The top portion, in italics, is the essay subject they requested I write about.

"What does Paul mean, when he says. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a Child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully know. (I Corinthians 13:11_12)

Before we can understand what Paul meant in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, we must first comprehend the context in which the letter was written. Paul penned this missive in the year 55 A.D. with the idea in mind to address the immoral conduct of the Christians in Corinth. At the time, Paul was teaching in Ephesus, some three years after planting the church in Corinth. While there, believers from Corinth brought news to Paul of lawsuits and factions between the members of the aforementioned church. A second group of believers also came to Paul, proffering questions about marriage, public worship and other queries regarding a Christian lifestyle.

Troubled greatly by these reports and questions, Paul sat down and drafted the first of two letters to the church in Corinth, with a heart to address these troubling concerns and shepherd these souls back to a more God honoring lifestyle. The worldly ways of Corinth were corrupting these new believers, drawing them away from their chosen path and as such, it was up to Paul to guide them back to the straight and narrow.

To that end, Paul filled his first letter with persuasive language in the hopes of putting their goals back into focus for the people of Corinth. God had bestowed upon Paul the power to shepherd this flock, and such a responsibility wasn’t something Paul took lightly.

In the aforementioned piece of scripture, Paul is conveying the idea that Christians who truly embrace the Lord have matured beyond the ways of the world, and while they may not completely understand the life God calls us to, we must remain faithful that He understands and will guide us until the day we transcend this life and rise up into Heaven. Full understanding and revelation will be ours at that time, as all will be revealed.

Just as it was in 55 A.D., fixing your mind and heart on Jesus is extremely difficult in our culture. With immoral advertising on television, radio, the internet, on billboards and in nearly all retail outlets, immoral entertainment in the form of Television shows, music and games, as well as unethical behavior from non-believers permeating modern culture, it becomes very easy to slide back into worldly ways once you’ve removed yourself from them and embraced the Lord.

But, we must all realize that just as children learn the error of childish ways when they mature, we must also evolve intellectually and spiritually, trusting in our Father to guide us, knowing in our hearts that while the vision in the mirror may not be as clear as we’d wish it, that vision is what He wants us to focus upon from this day to the last.

Needless to say, I'm extremely curious to see where this goes from here.

God bless!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Amongst other things, Angie and I have recently made a pact to spend time every night reading our bibles together and then discussing what we read, journaling on it, etc. Since we don't have a small group to fellowship with, this is the best thing we can think of to fill that void. While it doesn't replace a small group, it's certainly better than doing nothing.

One of the joys to it, for me, is that we don't get involved in big 10-15 person discussions about certain points, or feel shut out of the conversation, as has happened in the past in small group settings when there are just too many people involved. (They call them "small" groups for a reason. ;) ) Just to clarify, we used to belong to a huge small group that neared 20 participants at one point. While it was filled with some of the most wonderful Christians we've ever met, unfortunately, 15+ people is just too many for an "intimate" discussion.

However, when it's just Angie and I, we can really dig deep on some things and often a certain passage will jump out that we might not be able to discuss further in a small group, since most are lesson based, not daily reading based.

Yesterday's was 2 Peter 1:5-11

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I've certainly felt nearsighted and blind recently, which is probably why this jumped out at me. However, even when I didn't feel that way, I completely missed the impact of the verses. Faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. If I were filled with these every minute of every day, what a great life I'd have... in fact, it might be the very life He designed me to live. What a concept!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Follow Jesus in ALL Areas of Your Life

While Greg Rohlinger at Palm Valley Church will always be my favorite Pastor, Eagle Brooks' own Jason Anderson is rapidly cementing his place as my second favorite. So, you can imagine I was pretty happy to see Jason take the stage for last weekend's service, kicking off the Overcome series.

While Jason had a lot of great things to say, as always, the one bit that really hit me like a Mack truck was this comment:

Follow Jesus in all areas of your life.

Now, since I've heard this statement more times than I can count, it might seem odd that it would impact me so deeply this week. But, for those of you playing along at home, you know my November devotional was for guidance, and I'd yet to find a real answer for this query.

So, when Jason said those words, I had one of those "duh!" moments where the overly obvious slapped me upside the head and it got me thinking. If I really want guidance, then I need to follow Jesus in ALL areas of my life. In order to do that, however, I need to identify what "all areas of my life" really means.

So, Angie and I are going to make a list of every area of ours lives. For me, there's Husband and Father, to writer, to bread winner, to caretaker of my body, to son of the Father. And, we won't just stop there. Once we're through, we should have a solid grasp on where we really need guidance, not just a vague, generalized idea. And, once we have that, we're going to set live New Year's resolutions to follow Jesus in all those areas.

I encourage you to do the same.

Another thing about this that gets me pumped up is the impact it will have on the novel I'm currently laying the groundwork for: The Owners Manual for a Christian Life. But, that's merely a byproduct and not the real goal. The real goal: becoming the person Jesus designed us to be.

Now, time to get started.

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tour Guide?

Angie & I recently started doing a devotional at the beginning of the month, focusing on an area we feel the need to grow in. For November, I chose guidance as the subject for mine.

When I embraced the role of spiritual leader for my family, one thing that came back to me from the leadership training I went through earlier in life is one simple point: You can't lead if you don't know where to go. I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere about guys never asking for directions, but I've been asking and feel like I have yet to get a real answer.

I've spent a considerable amount of time over the last year trying to figure out where to go. Now, I don't mean just physically, but spiritually, and with every facet of my life. I've dug through the bible, spent hours reading articles and other devotionals on the subject and asked people close to me. While the answers I get all seem simple, the execution of those answers not so much.

"Pray for wisdom."

"Ask God to lead you."

"Do as Jesus asks."

I do all those things, yet still feel like I'm marching in the dark more often than not. Sure becoming a more Christ like person is key, but that seems like an oversimplification of a greatly diverse dilemma.

I'm sure a large part of it stems from never really feeling grounded my whole life. I've lived in over sixty places in the last forty-one years, which makes it hard to grow roots and feel connected to anything or anyone beyond my immediate family. And faced with the fact that we have to move again next summer, I turn to God for guidance, but I'm so unsure of the answers I think I'm getting I end up becoming unable to decide...

Are the answers to my queries just reflections of selfish desires? The voice of something much darker than a mere human? Or are they really the response from the Almighty?

I just don't know.

And a nearly a month in, I'm still no closer to grasping the divine guidance I sought earnestly in the aforementioned devotional.

So, my question for you on this fine Sunday morning: How do you know where God is leading you?

Any and all responses would be appreciated.

God bless,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Road Signs

Ever have an older person in your life, maybe a Grandmother, or some other relation, who had a piece of scripture as artwork on their wall? When I think of this, dozens of examples flash through my memory of many a framed bit of the Word hanging in a living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc.

It used to be when I saw things like that, I thought the person who hung it put it there to illustrate their beliefs to anyone who came to visit. It was a declaration of faith, placed on the wall by a pious soul, in the one section of the world they could govern without anyone telling them otherwise.

Now, however, I think (in most cases at least) that's not true. The inside walls of our house reflect on us more than anyone else. Why decorate for the occasional visitor?

No matter how strong we could ever become in God's ways, we're still sinners at heart. And as such, we need these things to remind us daily of what we ought to be, not what try to force others to become.

With that in mind, we've taken to printing out bits of scripture and hanging them on our 'fridge. Mainly because we can't afford nice artwork anymore. But, does it really matter if the message is conveyed through a fine painting or a simple print out from a laser jet?

Right now, we have two on there, so that every time we go to the kitchen, we'll be reminded of these passages, ones we're striving to adhere to each and every day.

So, if you come by and see it, rest assured we're not trying to push you down a path, but guide ourselves down one. Of course, you're welcome to come along...

“…you must be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”
–James 1:19

“…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
– James 3:17

Friday, November 20, 2009

Free Lunch

Our new church, Eagle Brook Church, is currently going through another huge growth spurt and with that comes a new building campaign where the church is asking all of us to help shoulder the costs of two new campuses to reach the unsaved for Christ. It's a great goal. I wish we could give more than we are, but our current situation makes it really tough to spare anything significant. In fact, the thought had passed by us once or twice to stop tithing altogether. Thankfully, Angie and I both agreed that was unacceptable. However, it did get my mind rolling on the subject.

I remember when I was in the second grade, we had to pre-pay for our lunches at school every week on Monday. Well, one particular week, I forgot to take the money my mother had given me to school after leaving it on my dresser that morning. Feeling sorry for me, the lunch lady gave me a free lunch that day. My needs were met and I didn't give it a second thought. On the walk home from the bus stop, I remembered the money I left behind and got very excited. I ran the rest of the way home, grabbed the cash and raced off to the local convenience store, where I promptly bought a paper bag full of candy, a balsa wood airplane and one of those parachute army men. It was a great day to be me, I thought.

Feeling like I was on top of the world after spending the money my mother had given me on selfish stuff, it never once occurred to me that I owed it to anyone to do anything else with that money. Little did I realize at the time, that money was the only way me, or my brother, would get lunch for the rest of the week and now my mother would have to take money out of our grocery budget to make up for the shortfall my greed had created.

Needless to say, when my mother got home and found out what I had done, I was punished for it. Not so much because she was mad, but because she wanted me to learn a lesson.

I often wonder if that's the same lesson some of us need to learn as adults. God provides us with money he expects us to use to meet the needs of our "family" which includes everyone on Earth.

Instead, we spend the money on paper bags full of candy... well, more like nice cars, fancier houses than we really need, more clothes than we could possibly wear in a week and feeling on top of the world the whole time we do it. This is exactly what Angie and I did for years, and with every selfish penny spent, we dug ourselves into a deeper and deeper spiritual hole.

How many of us "forgot our lunch money" when collection time comes around at Church? How many people think God blesses us so we can bless ourselves? I know I did for a long time. How many of us figure that the lunch lady will pick up our slack by giving us a free lunch when tithing time comes? We did when we first started attending Palm Valley.

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others, even if all we have is a “mite” to give. So, with that in mind, Angie and I decided yesterday, we’ll give significantly to the new building campaign, even though from a worldly viewpoint, we have nothing to give.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Join me, won't you?

If you're reading this, chances are you know me, know I'm a writer and know I love Christ. You should also know, I consider you a good friend. Sorry if I fail to communicate that often enough.

Many of you also most likely know I've felt moved to use my writing to further God's Kingdom for a long time now, seeking professional opportunities to do so anywhere I can. Unfortunately, God hasn't seen fit to bless me with the ability to use the talent he gave me for that purpose in an occupational capacity, so I felt the need to do so just for the sake of doing it.

Which brings us here.

Since blogs are so easy to create/update/maintain, I thought "why not start one, invite like minded friends, leave it public and see if God can use it to bless anyone and everyone who lands here?"

To that end, I've invited all of you to join me. You can simply read along as I post various thoughts, articles, SOAPS or other mental meanderings. If you want to jump in, feel free to respond to my posts with comments/thoughts/questions or suggestions of your own. However, what I'd really like is for you to join in and post your own Godly commentary, sharing your faith with all of us, and the rest of the world wide web that finds their way here.

Ultimately, the goal, as the title suggests, is for fellowship to occur organically. With friends sharpening friends as we journey through this life on our way back home.

Thank you for joining me.