Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Men, Mentors and Mentoring.

(Sorry ladies, today's post is for the men. But, if you have a husband, brother, cousin, friend, co-worker or random stranger in your life that's of the male persuasion, feel free to pass a link to this post on to them.)

Author John Eldredge, in his book Wild at Heart and the sequel Way of the Wild Heart, details the direct link between a man’s ability to flourish and how he is mentored and mentors other men.

To put it simply, God wired men to learn from one another. The need for that experience has passed down from Adam to Seth all the way to King David down to Joseph, Paul, you and me.

The bible is full of scripture passages to back this up.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Notice how Peter links our resistance to the evil one and a relationship with our brothers? It’s simple proof that God never designed a single man to go it alone. No, he designed each of us to learn from one another, to gain knowledge and wisdom passed down to us from older men and in turn, to pass it on to those younger or less experienced than ourselves.

I have an awesome Father-in-law. He’s one of the major blessings in my life. On more than one occasion he and I have discussed how the loss of America’s World War II generation has hurt this country.

Why is that?

First off, the vast knowledge of men who knew how to be men is slipping away with each passing life. As the last of those brave men move on to walk with our Lord, their life experiences, knowledge and wisdom goes with them. In some cases, as with my Father-in-law’s dad, some of that mental wealth is preserved by passing it down to a son, nephew or other younger men. However, a lot more of it is lost.

Secondly, as the younger generations turn their backs on the older ones, becoming more hard-wired to the internet, video games, TV, movies and other disposable, vapid experiences they simply fail to accept the knowledge offered to them by their fathers, uncles and grandfathers. In many cases this results in an epidemic of overgrown boys, who never learned how to be men simply sloughing through life pretending to be what they know down inside they aren’t.

I was that overgrown boy well into my 30s, thanks in part to an absentee father, Grandfather who passed on before I hit puberty and an emotionally unavailable step-father. The other part of that was my own “I can take care of myself” attitude that flew in the face of how God designs men. I thought I knew best and I didn’t need anyone else to tell me otherwise.

Thankfully, my good friend Rob opened the door for me to peek inside his life of faith and once I was curious enough to investigate for myself, my aforementioned Father-in-law took Angie and I to church for Christmas where we discovered God’s love for us.

I knew something was missing from my life, and it was God and His plan for me, which included fellowship with other men. Now, thankfully, I’ve been a part of many men’s groups, a great one-on-one discipling with my good friend Eddie, and as of last night, a new mentorship program with a “Leader of Leaders” named Tom.

If you try to go it alone, as I did, your cup will run dry, every time. For, God designed men to fill their cups with the spirit of older, wiser men and in turn use that fulfillment to pour into the cups of men younger than themselves.

We’re all called to lead our families, pour into our wives and children and witness to others as sons of the Almighty God, but we can’t do that if we let our spiritual selves fall into disrepair as we go it alone in some macho/testosterone driven lie. Our souls need fellowship with other men like our bodies need food. Don’t wait until you're spiritually anorexic before you take action.

Action Steps: If you’re not part of a men’s group, join one now. If you have the chance to do one-to-one discipling or a mentorship program do it, whether you’re the older or younger man doesn’t really matter, but having it flowing into you from above so it can pour out below is best.

If you have no men in your immediate sphere of influence, follow Tony Dungy’s lead and find a remote mentor, by reading books authored by solid Christian men such as Dungy, Eldredge, Max Lucado and others.

Other resources:

All Pro Dad
Ransomed Heart Ministries
Team Discipleship
Promise Keepers

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good advice from Pastor Bayless Conley

Prayer is a cord that we use to plug into God's power. As sons and daughters of the Most Holy God, tapping into his power is our birthright. However, sometimes our sinful nature can create a blockage in the powerline, preventing us from receiving that which is rightfully ours. This is one reason why we're called to confess our sin before asking anything of God. And why we're called to transform our lives daily, through the aid of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Here's something else that blocks our power flow, from Pastor Bayless Conley's Answers for Each Day.

Hindered Prayers

1 Peter 3:7 says,

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Notice it says, "Husbands, likewise," which means, gals, you are not off the hook. The following truth applies to you as much as it does to the boys.

That truth is simply this: If there is bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart toward your spouse, your prayers will be hindered. That word hindered literally means to be cut down in the same way one would cut down a tree.

I once had this incredible tree called a cherimoya tree. One of the things about a cherimoya tree is that it is not indigenous to our country, and the insects that pollinate it do not exist here.

In order for the tree to bear fruit, I needed to pollinate it by hand with my little artist paintbrush. I would get pollen on the brush from one flower and pollinate other flowers.

Eventually the little buds I had pollinated began to turn into fruit. I was so excited! They were getting close to the time to be harvested. Then I came home one afternoon to find my whole tree hacked to pieces. Every branch and piece of fruit was in the trash. The gardener had cut my tree down!

I believe that can happen with our prayers. You can be intensely committed spiritually, searching the Scriptures, filling your heart with the Word, praying from the bottom of your heart, but if you are not honoring your spouse or you are treating them in a bad way, the devil has the authority to waltz right in and chop your prayer tree down.

Let's keep the ax out of the devil's hand by honoring and forgiving and valuing our marriage partner.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John 1:5 - This Bulb Never Burns Out

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I love this verse. Every time I read it I feel the elation of victory. It immediately conveys a sense of infinite, eternal hope. No matter how dark things can appear, no matter how many punches I have to roll with, no matter how big the darkness seems, the light shines through.

Bills piling up? Medical issues taking a toll? What’s that new noise the car’s making and what’s it going to cost to fix? Gah!

Is the future’s uncertainty casting a pall? Sure it is. Life’s daily grind is all a part of the spiritual war we live in every moment we draw breath. But, like a lifeline, His light shines in the darkness showing me there’s a way out, there’s hope, there’s a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

When I think of light and darkness in emotional or spiritual or existential terms, I see them as metaphors for love and hate, happiness and anger. All the “dark” feelings are the spiritual embodiment of that darkness; sadness, bitterness, anger, discontentment, resentment, hatred, rage. And they’re weapons of the evil one.

However, none of those dark things have overcome the light; happiness, contentedness, cheer, joy, kindness, peace, love. For these are the weapons of God.

The enemy would like me to think these implements of darkness are all past-tense; as if they’re set in stone, as immutable as history, unchanging and eternally established. If I allow myself to give in to such thoughts, I relinquish my gift from the Father, the gift of hope everlasting.

The present of the future is God’s eternal love.

One thing I’ve noticed is the correlation between my walk with Him and walking in the literal sense. If I’m out for a stroll on a sunny day, but I keep my face down, gazing at the ground, things seem darker than they really are. When I lift my eyes heavenward, I see the fullness of the light.

Each day, earthly things draw my gaze down, as I reflexively react to every day bumps and bruises. Before long, I lose track of just how light the day is and find myself mired in life’s problems. But, when I focus heavenward, I’m reminded, thankfully, that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Don’t let the enemy convince you the darkness has overcome God’s love, because no matter what you’re enduring, the darkness hasn't overcome His light and it never will.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Psalm 23:6 Take II - What's Following You?

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I was meditating on this passage the other day and for some reason the word follow really jumped out at me. I thought about it some more and realized that word wasn’t inserted on accident. It wasn’t casually tossed in there in place of another word like “covers” or “blesses” or “blankets” or “holds” or anything else.

It follows us. By the very inference, that means we’re in motion and God’s love is pursuing us.

Think about it. God’s love follows us all the days of our lives. It never takes a break, never stops to ask for directions and never runs out of gas.

His love follows us when we go to Church, ready to worship Him wholeheartedly. It follows us when we go to Church but we’d rather be staying at home doing something more self-serving.

His love follows us when we’re sitting in traffic, aggravated that the person in front of us can’t manage to drive while eating and talking on the cell phone.

His love follows us when our children are sick and we feel helpless.

His love follows us when we make a great achievement and the evil one is tempting us to be prideful.

His love follows us when we’re driving through a storm, literally and figuratively.

His love follows us when we’re running towards Him and even when we’re running away.

God is actively pursuing us, actively trying to catch up to us, bless us with His goodness and enshroud us with His love. And the best part of all is that he always catches us every instant of every day because God is everywhere.

One of the most prevalent lies the evil one seems to sow in the hearts of humans is that we’re unworthy of God’s love.

“Why would God love a sinner like me?”
“Why would He care about someone so insignificant?”
“No God in his right mind would love a person who’s done what I have…”

Well, I thought those very things for a long time, but thankfully, I realized it was all a lie. Now, in meditating on this scripture I can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me. He always has and always will. His unfailing Word says in no uncertain terms that His goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Case closed.

So, when you look over your shoulder, expecting to find the demons of your past, smile because the only thing that matters that’s following you is God’s goodness and love. Forever.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spiritual Budget?

Far too many people fail to have a budget for their finances. How do I know this? The simple statistic that the average American carries over $10,000 in credit card debt is proof. If the average American lived on a solid budget, having their money work for them instead of vice-versa, credit card companies would be in big trouble. Make no mistake, credit card companies are nothing more than money lenders, a biblically unsound industry that lays traps for us all. For more on that, I’ll refer you to the expert, Dave Ramsey.

We can all easily see the damage that occurs when people don’t have a financial budget they live by. (Angie and I certainly learned the hard way years ago to do just that.) The evidence is all around us in this current economic meltdown. A budget is simply a plan for how you’re money will work for you, how much you'll earn, what you’ll spend it on, and what you’ll save for later.

As the old saying goes, ‘when we fail to plan, we’re really planning to fail’.

So, how about our spiritual lives? If we have no budget for our finances, what hope is there that we have one for our spirituality? Do you have a plan for how you’ll spend your spiritual gifts? How much will you spend this month? How much will you save for later? What will you do to earn more?

December is a month where the focus on spiritual things is at its height. Between Christmas and Hanukkah, and the evil one’s campaign to undermine both, never is there a point on the calendar when your spirit matters more.

December is also a month that draws focus on gifts, both giving and receiving.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve received many spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. So, how are you going to spend those gifts this month? Do you have a plan? Many do, but only for December. Serve at Church on Christmas weekend, give of our time at local charities, put spare change in the Salvation Army buckets as we leave the store. But what about the rest of the year?

If we don’t have a financial budget, we’re inviting an economic disaster. If we don’t have a spiritual budget, we’re inviting an eternal one…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get in the Game

What are you doing for the Kingdom of Heaven? Are you serving your family? Your church? Your community? Are you reaching lost souls for Christ? Are you giving generously to Kingdom ministries so that your money, which God blessed you with, is now blessing others as He designed?

I always feel like we're not doing enough. Chances are, because it's true. I want to do everything, at all times, to do God's work. To be His hands and feet. To BE the Body of Christ.

But, in this world - where we're becoming more and more separated from others, where the internet is rapidly replacing real social interaction, where we've become so busy with the business of living that our communities are dying - it's harder than ever to do those things that honor God relationally.

Matthew 22:36-39 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Thankfully, we can use those very things that separate us from one another to do His work, in spite of their shortfalls. And by doing so, we're loving God and our neighbors, just as Jesus commanded us to.

While sitting by myself in my office, isolated from humanity, I can still write stories that spread the message of injustice, opening readers' eyes to the larger world around them. As such, I've gone to great lengths to include Kingdom ministries in my works. No matter what you do for a living, if you ask God for the wisdom to show you how to help, He'll answer. Guaranteed.

In doing my work, I've become familiar with a great many organizations we can all give offerings to that will take the money God blessed us with and use it for His glory. While we may not all have the opportunity to go on a Missions Trip, or serve locally on a regular basis, anyone who has the ability to read this post can give to these organizations and let God's light shine on.

Here's a few to give you an idea of what's out there. These are all good organizations, doing God's will with donations from good people such as yourself. Give to them generously and God will bless you for it.

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

It's easy to find an organization that's doing something that aligns with your passions, too.

Want to feed the hungry? Then choose Feed My Starving Children.

Want to save kids? Then help Invisible Children or
Falling Whistles.

Interested in being a better Father or Mother and/or helping those with that goal? Then support All Pro Dad and iMom.

Does human trafficking push your buttons? Partner with the A21 Campaign to help stop it.

Want to be a hero and fight injustice? Help Unearthed.

If none of these are up your alley, pick your passion, Google it along with the word "Christian" and see what comes back. Perform some due diligence before helping, but help any way you can. And, don't let money be an obstacle. If all you have are two mites to give, God will honor that and bless you, knowing you need more to give more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One-for-One Day Eight - Honor

How are you honoring others and God?

For day eight of the one-for-one challenge, Angie and I watched the first two messages in LifeChurch’s Forgotten Virtues series, Honor and Purity.

When Pastor Craig started talking about honor and how the United States lacks it I agreed with him in a vague way, but as he unpacked it, he did a great job showing how nearly 95% of this country either has no honor or utterly fails to show honor to others, which has a direct “cause and effect” impact on why our country is in decline.

For a mini-challenge, I’d like to encourage everyone to find ways to honor those you encounter today. You honor people by showing them respect, by using uplifting words to illustrate how you value them and by serving them. When someone speaks respectfully to us, uplifts us with their words and serves us honorably, it elevates our ability to perform for God. So, imagine all the people you encounter who need that. Each of them do. Every single one.

So don’t pick & choose. It’s not up to us to decide if people “deserve” to be honored. God commands us to honor everyone. Don’t disobey the Lord. Honor everyone you encounter today and watch as that honor elevates them.

To use the cliché, it really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

DD from Bayless Conley

Protecting The Children

Matthew 18:1-6 is our reading for today,

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

This is a powerful truth God desires you and me to understand. He takes very seriously the protection and nurture of children.

First, it is important to understand that the word sin in this verse means to entrap. It means to set a snare for someone. Jesus was talking about someone who purposely entices an innocent child to do wrong.

Second, the millstone He refers to was about five feet across and would take an ox or a donkey to turn it. Get the picture?! Better for that millstone to be tied around a person's neck and to drown in the depths of the deepest sea than to entice a child to do wrong.

The exploitation or abuse of children is not overlooked or taken lightly by God. We read in Scripture that some sins incur a worse judgment from the Almighty. Causing children to sin is one of the worst. Never take their exploitation lightly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1 4 1 d3

Wise people have a financial budget. But, how many of us have a spiritual budget? I can't say that I really do, but after watching this message tonight, you can rest assured I will soon.

My family background comes from the Methodist side of things, but admittedly, I never knew much about the history of the Methodist Church until tonight. It's too bad the Methodist Church seems to have lost the fire that it's founder had for saving lost souls.

If you're curious about what I'm talking about, click here to watch a great LifeChurch message called World Changers: John Wesley.

I want to be one of ten. How about you?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1 4 1 d2

Just to make sure no one thinks I'm bailing on my own challenge, I thought I'd let you know what I've been watching.

Yesterday, I thought I should begin at the beginning, so I went to the website of Palm Valley Church, where Angie and I were baptized and really embraced our faith, and dug through the online messages. For some reason, I felt led to watch the first Parenthood message, and so I did. If you're a parent, grandparent or parent-to-be, I highly recommend you watch that series.

Today was a new day, however. I found out this afternoon that I won't be getting the Elementary Pastor job I'd been hoping to land for the last several months. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed when I first found out, however, the more I think about it, the happier I am that I didn't get it. God has a better plan.

Over the last few weeks, I've felt led to do something much bigger for God. I'm talking about something huge. So, while I've not quite put my finger on what that is, I thought I'd dig around on the Mars Hill and LifeChurch websites to see if God would lead me to a message that might bring clarity to the situation.

While I'm okay with not landing the job, I did really want it and I had an incredible time teaching the eight services I was given the honor of teaching for Eagle Brook. From that comes a few flesh hooks, where the enemy can dig into the sinful nature inside me and tell me things like:
"You didn't get that job because you're not good enough" and
"who are you kidding? No one would ever hire a loser like you to be a pastor" and
"you're worthless, how idiotic of you to even think they'd ever consider giving you a job like that?" and
"It's too late. You're too old to do anything for God now. Give it up."

And on and on...

But, you know what? That's garbage. That's the evil one trying to take me out of the game. In fact, it actually makes me happy that such things run through my head. Sounds nuts, doesn't it? Well, if I wasn't on to something, why would the enemy bother to try and derail me? No one who understands warfare fires on a non-threatening target. So, why waste ammo on a "not good enough, old, idiotic loser"?

Why? Because he fears any son of God with a heart to advance the Kingdom.

So, while I was digging around on LifeChurch's site, I found a message called "Whispers".

Knowing that God has whispered to me a time or five, I watched the message. And, lo and behold, it was by a guest speaker. None other than the "Pastor of Pastors" Bill Hybels. He talked about heeding the whispers from God. Even when things might seem contrary to those whispers. Even when it seems hopeless to do so.

So, I'm heeding the first whisper God ever spoke into my heart. "Patience".

That something "big" isn't in my cross-hairs yet, but I know from subsequent whispers it's coming. I just need to have patience.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One for One Challenge: I Double Dog Dare You!

Last spring, Angie and I realized we were losing our spiritual edge. So we turned away from our normal means of nightly entertainment (TV or video games) and started watching online messages, or messages on GodTV (a channel on DirecTv that runs all sorts of Christian conferences, sermons, shows, etc) instead. What we found was after one month, our spiritual sword was sharpened once more and we were back to being on fire for God.

Sadly, we got away from that after we moved, but thankfully, we’ve gotten back into it recently.

So, here’s the challenge.

Every weekday for the next month, I dare you to give up one hour of secular entertainment and replace it with one hour of “feeding yourself” with Christian messages.

For those who have no idea where to find such things, you can either tune into GodTV and record some in advance, or simply point your internet browser to one of the following links for a plethora of choices.

Mars Hill: Sermons & Classes by Mark Driscoll, one of our generation's greatest teachers World's Largest Online Church featuring our favorite teacher, Craig Groeschel

Palm Valley Church - Our original church home, led by Pastor Greg Rohlinger

Eagle Brook Church - our current church home featuring three wonderful teaching pastors.

Lake Hills Church - Great Willow Creek Church in Austin, TX

North Point Church - led by Andy Stanley, another fantastic teaching Pastor.

Willow Creek - the Mother of all bible-based Churches, led by the amazing Bill Hybels.

So, starting today I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU to jump into the One for One Challenge.

P.s. If you know of somewhere that has lots of great messages and classes online, please pass the link along.

DD from Pastor Bayless Conley

Don't ever let anyone come between you & God.


In talking about the Holy of Holies...that second part of the tabernacle behind the veil where the presence of God dwelt under the old covenant...Hebrews 9:7 says,

But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance.

Only the high priest could go into this part of the tabernacle, into God's presence. And he could go only one time each year to offer the blood of an animal to cover the sins of the people.

But look with me at Hebrews 10:17-19,

Then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

You have access into the very presence of God. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 says, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

You do not have to go through a priest. You do not have to go through Pastor Bayless. You have immediate, constant access. In fact, God not only welcomes you, He desires you to come into His presence.

You know, my kids just barge into my office all the time. I can be in there having a meeting when the door just opens, "Hi, Dad! Got anything in your refrigerator?" They just come in like they belong there...and they do. I'm their father.

Your heavenly Father is the same way. He is not going to put you off and say, "You know what? You have to come through an angel. I'm sorry, but you cannot talk directly to Me."

Nope. You have direct access!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Satan Fears Real Men

The average modern church is made up of 61% women. Which means less than 40% of the church is made up of men. These numbers don’t alter much when cast on only married men and women, so it has nothing to do with a lack of men in the community. Men simply aren’t going to church as much as women in our current culture.

Why do you think that is?

You can toss out all sorts of theories about the relevance of modern church or the way women are wired to nurture and act hospitably or any of a number of other theories I’ve read.

However, what it really comes down to is fear. Men are the sons of the almighty God. Warriors made in His image to do battle against the forces of darkness in this world.

Imagine what this world would look like if every man embraced his God designed destiny to Be The Body.

Poverty, starvation and dozens of other easily curable problems humanity faces in all quarters would be eradicated. The world truly would be a better place to live.

Men have the power to achieve these things, a birthright that comes with being the son’s of God and little brother’s of Jesus. Satan knows this. And fears it.

The reality is that too many men listen to the whispers from the enemy.

For some, he preys on their pride: “You don’t want to be ridiculed for going to church. Only suckers go to church. Besides, you’re too smart to believe that fairy tale about Jesus. Look at what science might prove someday.”

For others, he erodes their sense of self worth: “There’s nothing you have to give. No one listens to you anyway. Church is a social organization that doesn’t want you in it. You’ll only make yourself look like a bigger fool than you already are…”

Or maybe it’s the betrayal card he’s playing: “If there is a God, he doesn’t care about you. If He did, your life wouldn’t be such a mess. Screw Him, you owe Him nothing for what he’s done to you…”

Lie. Lie. Lie.

Men! God designed you to be a soldier in an eternal war for the souls of humanity. If the evil one can convince you otherwise, he simply moves you off the table and makes you ineffective. Ineffective men aren’t worthy of respect, or remembrance. When your life is over, would you rather be remembered here as a man who made a difference? A man who took up his sword and fought for the one, true King? Would you rather march into eternity, knowing you’ve done your best to fight for God?

Or, would you rather look back and know deep in your soul that you believed the fallacies, fell prey to the enemy and wasted your time here on Earth following deceit, deception and the lord of lies?

Real men follow God. You are a real man. If you’re not going to church, then it’s time to start.

Resources for recapturing your masculine, God-given destiny:
Wild At Heart
LifeChurch: The Warrior
Ransomed Heart Ministries
All Pro Dad
Church for Men

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

God can use everything, even the internet.

Anyone who knows me fully understands I'm a bit of a 'net junkie. The ability to access vast amounts of information really excites me for some reason. Oddly enough, not everyone shares that feeling. So, for those of you who don't and aren't yoked to a spouse who does, I thought I'd toss up a quick post to share some neat sites you can use to get great Godly information.

My favorite is One Year Bible Online, which has this great feature where you can subscribe to daily bible reading via email. So, every morning, when you sit in front of your computer, you'll have a new daily chunk of bible reading. As the title implies, after one year, you'll have read the entire bible cover-to-cover, if you partake in the fullness of the email. But, you can also choose to only read smaller chunks, like maybe just one verse from Proverbs, for instance.

Click here to subscribe.

For anyone looking for great bible reference sites, you can use Blue Letter Bible, You Version or Bible Gateway. Each site has unique tools like translation comparisons and keyword searches to enhance your bible reading experience.

If you have random or general bible questions, you can go to Got Questions for answers. They have a neat Top 20 FAQ that answers many of the questions lots of believers deal with when sharing the good news, or even when discussing points of the gospel with one another.

After that is a slew of Daily Devotional sites that I won't get into right now. But, this should give you enough to make sure every time you're on the net, God can use that to grow your faith. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Psalms 23:6 - What's following you?

- Psalms 23:6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I’ve been studying and meditating on this verse for the last two weeks now, as part of what Ken Wetzell charged me with while I was in Biloxi. It’s amazing how you can learn so much more from scripture when you embrace the idea that it’s the living word of God, which will speak different things into your life from time to time.

At first, it made me realize that if I devoted my life to God, He would cast goodness and love on me. Then, as I thought on it more, I realized this isn’t just something that happens when you decide to devote yourself, but something that’s always been there.

When I was about ten years old, a few friends and I were building a treehouse in the woods behind my home in Maryland. One of my friends had left the hammer (a dual hatchet/hammer we were using because none of us knew we should have been using a claw hammer) at the top of the ladder and come down for more nails. Well, the box of nails was at the foot of the ladder and I bent down to get some for him. Little did I know that he had shaken the ladder and the hammer was no longer sitting on top of it, but spiraling towards the ground, some 30’ below, as fast as gravity would allow.

The next thing I knew, something hit me in the top of the head and smashed the skin open down to the bone. I jerked upright and saw the hatchet/hammer, now stuck in the ground hammerhead first, right in front of me and realized the handle had hit me right in the head. I reached up and touched my noggin, only to have a fair amount of blood cover my hand instantly.

Needless to say, I freaked out and ran home thinking the world had just ended. I soon calmed down and got fixed up, none really the worse for wear after the bleeding stopped. But, my stepfather, a good man who loves math, did “the math” and figured out if the ladder had been 8” taller, the hatchet would have spun 180* more and cut my head in half. Amazing how only 8” can change our perspective, life and the lives of those we touch.

Right then and there, God’s goodness and love was surely following me. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

If it weren’t for that short span, I’d have died. All the things I’ve done from this day to that would have gone undone. Angie’s life would be completely different and my son would not exist. Thank you, Father, for following me that day.

Fast forward to Southern California in 1999 and a friend who I didn’t much care for went to Phoenix to visit his ex-wife and son. He returned and told me about this awesome woman he’d met and how she would be perfect for me, but he was going to date her instead and it was my loss. This was standard behavior for him and since I wasn’t a Christ follower then, you can see why I didn’t much care for him. But little did I realize that his friendship was also God’s goodness and love following me. The woman he mentioned was Angie, the love of my life and mother of my son. If the “friend” was a good friend, I’d have never talked to Angie and simply congratulated him. Instead, I convinced him to give me her contact info and before long, he was out of the picture entirely and I was living in Phoenix with the most beautiful woman on earth. God’s goodness and love was surely following me. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

I plan to continue revisiting this verse periodically over the next several months, just to see where it leads me, where He leads me, as I delve deeper into one verse than I ever have before. Meanwhile, I invite you to stop and look for the pattern of where God has followed you with goodness and love all the days of your life, as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On a Mission - Day Eight

Headed home today with mixed emotions. Can't wait to see Angie & Zach, but I'll miss Ken and his family as well as Joseph, Paul and their family.

Here's some more pictures from the trip.

Joseph & Shelly

Ryan pretending to be asleep in Church.

Sharon from S.T.E.M. and Ken D.

Everyone saying goodbye to Paul's family.

Ken W and his wonderful family.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On A Mission – Day Seven

Sat and talked to Ken W for a bit this morning and got some great wisdom. He explained the difference between a tithe and an offering, something many (including myself until this conversation) don’t seem to grasp. When God commands us to tithe, it’s not just our money, but our time and talents. Additionally, the tithe is the ten percent, but the offering is what goes beyond that.

Malachi 3:9-12 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty.

He also told me his old mentor had him recite Psalms 23:6 every morning for six months until he knew it cold, and understood it fully.

Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I think there’s far too much in the bible I’ve read a time or three, but fail to fully grasp. The more I meditate on this one, the more I realize that.

Another point he brought up all week, but fully explained this morning was to be “Born again, again.” Too many people find God, but then decide being born again means sitting in church for an hour a week, serving for an hour or so and reading their bible every once in awhile. Where would we be if Paul had done that? Or Peter? Or Jesus himself? What a wake-up call!

Naomi and I went with Sharon and Ken this morning instead of to the job site with the rest of our team. We stopped by the other job site for a few minutes and saw all the hard work the other team had put into that house.

Then we went with Ken and Sharon to move some supplies from one of their volunteer houses into another one. Ken then gave us a quick tour of downtown Biloxi before we went back to the other job site and helped the other team finish up, clean up, pack up and head back to our job site. The other team presented a member of the homeowners family with her prayer shawl and it really seemed to warm his heart.

Back at our job site, we presented the shawls to Sheila and Tiffany, both of whom were very moved. I was encouraged to hear Tiffany say that she had prayed God would send some help and we were the answer to that prayer. Not much compares to being used by God to answer the prayers of another.

We went back for lunch, then out on a tour of Biloxi. Ken took us to meet a man named Mike who pulled 21 people out of the flood, saving their lives. The wildest part of his story was a Virgin Mary statue that landed on his porch during the flood. Everything on his porch and in his downstairs was sucked out when the waters receded, but during that time the Virgin Mary statue landed on his porch. Five years later, he still has no idea where the statue came from, and it’s still on his porch.

We drove through several neighborhoods where 90% of the homes were gone, leaving nothing but empty concrete slabs. It was eerie, to say the least.

Later on we stopped by the beach and helped pull a guy in a Dodge out of the sand. Too much horsepower and bad tires don’t work well in the sand.

We headed back to camp for dinner, then a fellow named Doug DeSilvey came to speak to us. Doug lost his wife, daughter and in-laws to the storm and was the one to find their bodies. His faith in God was all that kept him going, which is incredibly inspiring. I can’t even imagine going through what Doug endured. God bless him.

Well, the week is basically over now and we’re heading north first thing tomorrow morning. Can’t wait to get home to kiss my beautiful wife and hold my awesome son.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On A Mission – Day Six

“Slept in” till 5am today. Had a nice breakfast and headed back to Paul’s house. I finished the kitchen cabinets and then Peter taught me how to install door frame moldings, while the ladies installed door stops and finished the painting.

It’s amazing to see how a group of women who admitted no knowledge of carpentry just a few days ago were now installing trim and such like they were all pros. Just shows what the Holy Spirit can do when we let Him.

Ryan went with the other work crew to the other job site today. His presence was missed on our team and the light he shone in our group was noticeably absent. Funny how you can grow accustomed to someone so quickly. I wish he was with us, but I’m sure he’s doing good things at the other site.

At breakfast, Peter, Ken D and I talked about how the WWII generation had so much to share with the younger generations and as they moved on to Heaven a lot of it was getting lost. That’s such a shame. At the job site, Joseph shared the same sentiment with Peter and I, without knowing we’d just talked about it, which reinforces the way God wired men: to learn from and teach one another. It’s good to have this opportunity to learn from Joseph and Peter. Thank you, Father.

Headed back to the camp after work and Ken W was cooking some BBQ chicken, which smelled yummy. It turned out to taste just as good as it smelled; best meal we’d had yet.

After dinner we had some good fellowship and devotional time. Tom & Deb V had a neat devotional that began with a little saying:

In Happy Moments, Praise God (Psalms 9:12)
In Difficult Moments, Seek God (Matthew 7:8)
In Quiet Moments, Worship God (Psalms 95:6-7)
In Painful Moments, Trust God (John 14:1-4)
Every Moment, Thank God (Psalms 136)

It’s been a great experience to learn from so many Christians. I know some on this team allows the evil one to trick them into thinking they don’t have much to share from time to time, but that’s anything but true. Each one of these people has a heart for God that’s inspiring and God has gifted each of them uniquely to do His work, which they’re all doing each day. That portion of the experience alone has made the trip worth it. I just wish there was a way to fully convey everything I’m feeling and learning to Angie.

God is good, all the time. I don’t think I fully grasped what that means until this week. Life may not always go my way, but it does always go God’s way. I think a lot of the times when I don’t think it goes my way, it’s simply that my priorities don’t align with God’s, which is my issue, not His. A lot of the things I thought were important before coming down here don’t seem so anymore. Conversely, I already knew how blessed I was to have a wonderful wife and son, but I appreciate them even more now. Thank you, Father, for blessing me far beyond anything a broken soul like me ever deserved.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On A Mission – Day Five


Woke up early again today to read my bible and the What In The World… book. We’re heading out earlier today as we have a short work day so we can go to church tonight.

I prayed that God would get me past the frustrations of the previous days and while He put many opportunities for frustration in my path, He also empowered me to get past them with patience and love. Peter sent me into the kitchen to install cabinet doors, knobs and handles. He taught me how to make a template for drilling the holes properly and before long I had something tangible to look at and realize I was finally making a physical impact for this family. The rest of the crew did some awesome work, as usual, and we headed back to the camp around 3pm.

After speaking with Ken Wetzell last night I really felt led to get a Christian mentor. I spoke with a few of the other men in the group about this and they all agreed that it’s a good idea. Now to find one. Tom Voight offered to let me join his men’s group, which I just might do, but I think I need something more one on one.

After an early dinner we headed down to Victory Temple to experience their worship and listen to a special service prepared for us by the Bishop Benny Holland. Many years ago, Bishop Holland was in a horrible car accident and left for dead. The EMT’s declared him dead on the scene, but resuscitated him after noting he was an organ donor. At the hospital his mother was told he’d be a vegetable if he lived through the night. She told the DR. to do his job and she would do hers. She went into the waiting room and prayed fervently that God would restore him and guess what, God did.

It took several years, several surgeries and millions of prayers, but Bishop Holland, now crippled for life and missing 1/3 of his brain, went before us and delivered one of the best services I’ve ever seen. He assured us that if a man like him could still do great things for God, then as long as we’re still breathing, we can too.

After Bishop Holland’s accident, the Victory Temple body died as well. Nevertheless, God brought it back, too. Now both are returning to the life they once had through the power of the Holy Spirit. God is good. All the time.

The love for God the people in the Victory Temple have is inspiring and something that should infect every church, everywhere. Bishop Holland is crippled for life, missing 1/3 of his brain, yet he shines God’s love like no other. The least among us is the first.

Really illustrates how we tend to focus too much on material shortfalls and not enough on spiritual blessings. God loves us, not our stuff. God wants us, not our stuff. God cares about our souls, not our jobs, cars, houses.

We headed back to camp, completely on fire for God. It seems the inferno in the hearts of this team ignited tonight and hopefully that fire will never burn out.

Carl told me tonight after devotional time he thinks I’m a really gifted prayer warrior and that I should join EBC’s prayer team. Since I’m already serving in K-Rock, teaching in K-Rock, on the Yes Team and leading a small group, I think I’ll have to pray on that. ;)

Tidbits of wisdom I’ve picked up since coming here:

- If you’re doing something that isn’t worth praising God for, you shouldn’t be doing it. No one praises God for vices or addictions.

- Never focus on what the evil one does, instead focus on what God has done and is doing, every moment of every day.

- Every sunrise is God saying good morning by shining glorious light into your day.

- John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

- Psalms 23:6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On A Mission – Day Four

Servant of the Day

Woke up early again today to read my bible and “What In the World…” Ryan, Stefani and I were on Servant of the Day duty, so we helped prepare breakfast (although Sharon did most of the work) then we cleared the tables and did the dishes.

We arrived at the job site and immediately found out that Joseph wanted us to remove the window sills I’d installed yesterday, which started me off in the hole. Ryan stepped up and fixed them per Joseph’s direction. I was feeling very worthless when Peter pulled me over and had me work with him for a bit. He taught me some neat things, which lifted my spirits and made me feel like I was finally contributing something. I’d really wanted to do a lot for this family and so far I’d felt like I’d done nothing.

Thanks to Peter’s intercession, that was the last time I’d feel that way this week.

The ladies did a lot of painting and really overachieved, as did Ryan, which was great to see. No one complained about the heat & humidity, and everyone worked diligently, as if they were working on their own house. They really were “loving their neighbors as themselves” and it was awesome to witness.

We headed back to Biloxi Christian for dinner and devotional time. Ryan, Stefani and I, as part of our Servant of the Day duties had to share a devotional with everyone.

My Devotional

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope. Joy. Peace.

God brought us here to answer prayers these people had sent heavenward. They were afflicted not only by a natural disaster, but by evil men who prayed on them after the fact. Men who would steal their hope, their joy, their peace. They have so little left, yet they still loved, laughed and praised God. The evil one can steal their homes, their livelihoods and their physical security, but it’s obvious he hasn’t stolen their trust in the Father.

If my family was in a similar predicament I pray that we’d hold on to our hope in Christ as these people have. When we lost our house in 2009, God was the rock that we stood on, hoped on and prayed on. And, while we’re standing here as a group, far from home, we all have the hope, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. We laugh joyfully as we do God’s work, we have peace while trusting in God and He gives us hope that all things will work for His glory. God is good, all the time.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

On A Mission – Day Three

Woke up at 4am today and headed into the dining hall to read my bible and “What In The World Is Going On?” by Dr. David Jeremiah. Feeling somewhat lonely without Angie & Zach around, even though I’m surrounded by good people. Had a good breakfast of scrambled eggs & sausage, then a good prayer time that set a nice tone for the day.

I was assigned to Peter’s work crew, along with Ryan, Stefani, Shelley, Deb and Naomi. We headed over to Paul’s house, where his grandfather, Joseph filled us in on what he wanted us to achieve this week. Joseph was a career ship builder, a WWII veteran and one of those guys that made America great in the middle of the 20th century. It’s too bad this country is so lacking in people like Joseph these days.

Ryan and I were charged with fixing part of the roof line, where water had damaged the joists. Ryan ended up doing most of the work and had the plan to fix the roof, so I spent a lot of time standing around feeling useless. It was hot, muggy and very uncomfortable. I missed a lot of Joseph’s walk-thru information and felt like I was a step behind the overall plan all morning, which led to some frustration on my part. This opened the door for the evil one to start planting doubts and by lunch time I was wishing I hadn’t come on the trip. I finally decided to stop being down and just trust in God and at the very moment I made that decision, a cool breeze blew over the property and cooled me off a bit. That sent shivers down my spine, like God just blew some cool air in to show me He was there.

After lunch I was able to put some window sills into the girls bedrooms, but wasn’t sure about them since we didn’t have enough wood to make them exactly like the sills in the front room. But, I’d finally accomplished something, which was enough for me to hold onto and trust that God had me here for a reason.

The evil one kept trying to drag me under though. As the day went on I missed Angie and Zach more and more and really just wanted the week to be over. Honestly, if I could have snapped my fingers and been home, I probably would have done just that.

During our devotional time after dinner I felt like I was the only one to speak negatively about the day, which added even more to my second-guessing. I didn’t want to drag the group down, but felt like I was. However, God is good, all the time. It’s His will for me to be here, so I’m going to do my best to do my best for Him. Tomorrow is a new day and no one ever said Monday's were great. ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On A Mission – Day Two

Woke up around 4:00 am and headed down to the hotel lobby. Three teenage girls were hanging out in the lobby, cussing, talking about having sex and basically illustrating how totally lost they were. I prayed God would help them, and considered talking to them, but figured they wouldn’t listen to a old guy like me. It was pretty obvious they needed a good female role model in their lives and God willing, they’ll get one before they cause too much damage to themselves.

We left around 6:00am and had a good drive the rest of the way to Biloxi. Got to ride with Tom, Sue, Carl and Ryan at various points and learned more about them. What great people God has put on this team! We drove through Hattiesburg, home of Brett Favre. Stopped at a gas station in Hattiesburg and Carl struck up a conversation with a fellow whose wife had just been baptized. That was pretty neat to see the gleam in his eyes as he talked about it. Love how Carl can just walk up to anyone and start talking about God in a way that’s not offensive, weird or off-putting. He really has a gift for evangelism and it was great to see it in action. God is good, all the time.

We pulled into the volunteer camp at Biloxi Christian around 5:15pm. Ken Wetzell and Sharon from S.T.E.M. were there to greet us. We had a quick orientation in the sanctuary, a great room with a very awesome feel to it. You can tell lots of prayers have gone heavenward from this sanctuary.

Ken shared some stories and really made us feel like we were part of something much bigger than I’d imagined. They prayed, God whispered, we came. How awesome that the God of all creation would want us to do something for Him!

We unloaded the vehicles into the cabins which were old storage trailers converted for use as voluteer cabins.

Afterward, we went out for dinner at a local Italian buffet. Never seen an Italian buffet before, but it was very good. Lots of laughs and good food. Breaking bread with this group is an honor, as God handpicked each one of them for this trip, which reminds me that he handpicked me too. I miss Angie and Zach greatly, but I’m trying to focus on the task at hand, on my teammates and most importantly on God.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On a Mission – Day One

We gathered at White Bear Lake at 5:30am. I missed Angie & Zach before I ever even left the house and was homesick before we pulled out of the church parking lot. I was excited to go on the one hand, but anxious to get back home on the other. Dave & Trish Baker were there waiting to send us off. Lynn pulled in a few minutes later, along with several other people I didn’t know who were there for other team members. It was nice to get a glimpse at the people who were remaining here to pray for us.

Pulled out a few minutes after 6am with Ken, Pete and Stefani in the Expedition. We drove off into the darkness to spread God’s light. Stefani and Pete snoozed for the first hour or so, but once they woke up we had some really great conversation, grew closer together and had some great laughs. On the first day the evil one tried to trip us up repeatedly with wrong turns, missed exits, a mysterious coolant leak in the Suburban that never got worse and a lost purse, but God minimized them all, keeping His arms of protection around us. Each of those things could have turned into big trouble, but we were on a mission from God.

Listened to Stefani and Pete’s stories in the AM; they both have great hearts for the Lord. Pete seemed a little quiet and stand-offish, but Stefani is extroverted like Angie and I, so there was no lack of good conversation and laughter. It was neat to see Pete open up slowly as the day went on, he has a great sense of humor.

We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast and Wendy’s for lunch. Sue lost her purse at McDonald’s and didn’t realize until we were at Wendy’s, hundreds of miles away. At first she thought her medication was in it, which would have been a disaster, but once again, God protected a member of the team and she found her medication in another of her bags. God is good, all the time.

We pulled into Pevely, Missouri around 5:15pm. I was amazed at how fast the day went, especially since I dislike sitting in a car for long periods of time. However, the day seemed to fly by. We set up our room arrangements, dropped our stuff off and headed over to Bobby Tom’s BBQ for good food and good laughs. I roomed with Ken, Pete, Carl and Tom K. Wished I was rooming with Angie, and the fact that it would be more than a week before I’d see her and Zach again weighed on me, but I knew God was sending me down for a reason, so I put the homesickness aside and trusted in Him. I could tell God was going to bless this group and the people we’d encounter along the way, it was obvious after watching Him deflect the attacks of the evil one all day. It was also obvious this group was full of His servants, eager to do great things and He was blessing that. God is faithful, all the time.

Father God,
Your plan is always perfect, always amazing. Thank you for protecting us today. Thank you for using me to bless others & growing me in the process. Please help me to speak encouraging words to those I meet, never harming, but always helping as I get to know those you’ve placed me with this week.
Thank you, Father. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More from Max Lucado

Pray First, Pray Most
by Max Lucado

One of our Brazilian church leaders taught me something about earnest prayer. He met Christ during a yearlong stay in a drug-rehab center. His therapy included three one-hour sessions of prayer a day. Patients weren't required to pray, but they were required to attend the prayer meeting. Dozens of recovering drug addicts spent sixty uninterrupted minutes on their knees.

I expressed amazement and confessed that my prayers were short and formal. He invited (dared?) me to meet him for prayer. I did the next day. We knelt on the concrete floor of our small church auditorium and began to talk to God. Change that. I talked; he cried, wailed, begged, cajoled, and pleaded. He pounded his fists on the floor, shook a fist toward heaven, confessed, and reconfessed every sin. He recited every promise in the Bible as if God needed a reminder. He prayed like Moses.

When God determined to destroy the Israelites for their golden calf stunt, "Moses begged the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, don't let your anger destroy your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength. Don't let the people of Egypt say, "The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt for an evil purpose." . . . Remember the men who served you—Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You promised with an oath to them'" (Ex. 32:11-13 NCV).

Moses on Mount Sinai is not calm and quiet, with folded hands and a serene expression. He's on his face one minute, in God's the next. He's on his knees, pointing his finger, lifting his hands. Shedding tears. Shredding his cloak. Wrestling like Jacob at Jabbok for the lives of his people. And God heard him! "So the Lord changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might" (v.14 NCV).

Our passionate prayers move the heart of God. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Prayer does not change God's nature; who he is will never be altered. Prayer does, however, impact the flow of history. God has wired his world for power, but he calls on us to flip the switch.

Most of us struggle with prayer. We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words. Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail. Why is this? Prayer requires minimal effort. No location is prescribed. No particular clothing is required. No title or office is stipulated. Yet you'd think we were wrestling a greased pig.

Speaking of pigs, Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter's cell and the revival in Jerusalem. He knows what happens when we pray. "Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy's strong places" (2 Cor. 10:4 NCV).

Satan is not troubled when Max writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobby knees tremble when Max prays. Satan does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings. Demons aren't flustered when you read this book. But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, "Oh, God, how great thou art."

Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let's do.

Let's pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary with a world of racism and division? So is God. And he would love to talk to you about it.

Let's pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? Or have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but he did call us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17).

Did Jesus declare: My house shall be called a house of study? Fellowship? Music? A house of exposition? A house of activities? No, but he did say, "My house will be called a house of prayer" (Mark 11:17 NIV).

No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. "When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action" (Matt. 18:19 MSG). He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ.
(Colossians 4:2-3 NLT)

Outlive Your Life book

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you created all that exists, and you keep it running through your infinite wisdom and boundless power. Yet you invite me to come to you in prayer, boldly and with the expectation that you will hear me and answer me. Teach me, Lord, to take full advantage of this amazing privilege, especially in regard to reaching others with your love. Give me a heart for those who have yet to experience the fullness of your grace, and prompt me to pray for them and for their welfare, both in this world and in eternity. Lord, bring me to the front lines of this battle. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

On A Mission From God

We pulled into the parking lot at Eagle Brook Church’s White Bear Lake campus about 4:45pm yesterday and the physical portion of our Mission Trip to Biloxi, MS came to an end. While we were down there, we not only served several families, we served one another and most importantly, we served God.

On the surface the trip seems like nothing more than going down and rebuilding some houses for good people who need some prayers answered.

Underneath that surface, however, the trip was about growth, patience, prayer, faith, evangelism, servitude, living as God intended and weeding the garden of our hearts.

Take a moment this morning and say a prayer for the families we served in Biloxi, the family that served us by providing a place to call home for a week and also say a prayer for us that the fire God started in our hearts will never burn out as long as we walk this earth.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for loving us.

You know my heart Father. You know I considered backing out of this trip at the last moment and you know you commanded me to go in spite of it. Please forgive me for even considering disobedience.

Thank you so much for commanding me to leave my comfort zone, leave my beautiful wife and wonderful son and head down to Biloxi so that you might use the time, talents and treasures you blessed me with to bless those we encountered.

Father, I beg you this day to protect the hearts and minds of all of us who went on this trip, so that the fire you ignited over the past week will not only continue to burn, but spread like a raging inferno over our lives back home. Fan the flames, Father, so that we ignite the hearts and minds of everyone we come in contact with to be “Born again, again”. Please show us how to live the lives you want us to live and unsettle our hearts if we try to slide back into the “same old, same old”, Father.

You command us to be in this world but not of this world, instead, remaining rooted in Your love. Please remind us of that every moment of every day, Father. Please use us at all times to funnel Your Spirit over everyone we encounter, not diluting it one iota with sins of the flesh, but instead keeping it pure, as You intended it to be. And, make sure we always remember how honoring it is that You chose us to do these things, so that we do them with a joyful and loving heart.

I ask these things of you in your Son’s precious and holy name, amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who Am I?

Colossians 3

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I used to carry a lot of bitterness and anger, malice and rage. I cussed as if I was rewarded for doing so and spewed bitter sarcasm as if it was my native tongue. These things walked hand in hand with immorality, lust, evil desires and drunkenness. All the things mentioned in the above verses that bring the wrath of God. I had no intention of angering our Lord, but I’m sure I angered Him mightily. While my intention wasn’t to do so, I can look back now and see how I did, by harboring that anger, which opens the door to all things dark and ungodly.

The anger came from wrongs I’d felt I’d endured. And, honestly, I did endure a lot of wrongs, but at no point did that ever justify my behavior. Never did it give me a free pass to act like a jerk. But I was fooled into believing it did. And, I left a lot of damage in my wake. I hurt myself and other people, time and again, physically, emotionally and spiritually until it seemed as if my only impact on this Earth was a negative one. And I have all too many scars on my fists to serve as landmarks from my road to ruin.

Then, thankfully, God softened my heart and I heard His voice. It was a whisper at first, a small tug that slowly grew until I could ignore it no longer. My anger roiled inside, but was put on hold as I came to grips with the notion that giving in to it was wrong and I needed help and hope.

Then, the whisper turned into a full-blown chorus and I gave my life to Him. I clearly remember the day after I was baptized, when I thought to myself over and over again “Today really is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a new man, with a new life and new hope.” And thus began the transformation from anger to peace, bitterness to love, lost to saved.

Now I strive to clothe myself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I wish it was as easy to do as it is to type out, but I’d be lying if I told you it was. But, with a life filled with the Word, surrounded by people such as yourself, living in hope and love in Christ, I can overcome a past I’d rather forget, knowing full well I shouldn’t forget it as it led me to this moment, this day, where God is using my old life to build the new one; using the experiences wrought in a broken life to do His work in the new one. It’s funny how He can do that. Just more proof that God is good, all the time.

So, if you notice me acting in a way that bears any resemblance to the old me, please speak the truth in love and help me know who I am and whose I am so that I don’t look over my shoulder and focus on the life I left behind.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quote for the week

From a great friend:

"When you hit the sweet spot where your spiritual gifts intersect with your passions on a road God has placed before you, that's when you shine."

I was able to teach two elementary services yesterday at our church's Spring Lake Park campus and I'm teaching two more today. Talk about shine! :)

Father God,
Your plan is perfect even if we only see a piece of the puzzle at a time.
Thank you so much for placing me in a position to use my gifts and passions to teach these children Your Word. Please continue to pour wisdom into them through me today as I head back for two more services.
Please keep your hand of protection on these kids, so they can have sanctuary from the pressures of their lives, at least for the time they're with us in K-Rock. And continue to use me to bring them the Word and a few smiles and laughs along the way.

In your Son's precious name I pray, amen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Go Big! but Don't Go Home

Philippians 3:3b rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

“Have no confidence in the flesh.” How utterly unlike everything our world and culture teaches us. You can’t go anywhere or read much of anything that is of this world without the message that your confidence should lie in your own abilities and nothing else.

What a message to send to the lost. Have confidence in yourself, even though you’re broken, beaten, hopeless and overwhelmingly infested with sin. Never mind all that, because you should look out for #1 and trust in your own means to get by.

Think for a minute of the hundreds of millions of people in this world who hear and buy into that message all the time.

No wonder over 200 million Americans are lost and fully believe they don’t need anything but themselves for complete fulfillment, certainly not Jesus.

“Rejoice in Jesus Christ” We should never trust in anything other than Jesus. What a fool’s errand to think we could somehow, through our broken, lost capabilities, save our own souls. Jesus saves us each instant of each day. We cannot earn that salvation, we cannot grasp it through “110% effort” we can’t “bring our A game” and land it, there’s no way we can “go big” enough to overcome the chasm that separates us from our Father. We can only have it through rejoicing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

So, meditate on Philippians 3:3b today and rejoice in our Lord, having no confidence in our own flesh or the flesh of any other, holding fast to the truth that only through the Son can we spend eternity with our Father.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daily Verse - 9/27/2010

Ephesians 5:1-2

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

How awesome would it be to always live a life of love. Who doesn't love being loved? Who doesn't love to love others? This week, I encourage you to find ways to live a life of love. Forget annoyances, bitterness, anger or anything else that wells up from the darkness and replace it with love. If we all do that, what a wonderful impact we'll have on those we encounter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Overcoming the World – DDJ #4

1 John 5:5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Every day has it’s battles where the world tries to drag me under. This is why I need to commit each day to Him so that I know every morning that “This is the day the Lord has made;” (Psalms 118:24a) and I shall rejoice in that instead of allowing the world to drag me down, planting seeds that blossom into bitterness, complaining and discontent. Jesus overcame this world and that thought needs to remain ever-present in my mind so that when the attacks do come, I can focus not on them, reacting from my sinful nature, but on Jesus so I know His grace is sufficient to guide me through all troubles.

Father God,
Your light shines through even the deepest darkness and brings with it a pure love unlike anything I’ve ever known in this world.

I admit there are far too many times I lose focus and forget the light is there. This is when I stumble and when I fall and often cause others to go down with me. Please forgive me, Father.

Thank you so much for continuing to shine that light and continuing to remind me of its presence, even when I feel as if my whole world is nothing but darkness. I know on my own I’m totally unworthy of such love, but thanks to you offering your one and only son to die for my ongoing sin-life, I can embrace that love as a birthright that no one can take away from me as long as I don’t forget it’s there.

Please continue to shield my heart and mind, Father. Continue to transform me into the man you designed me to be. And on this day, the second birthday of the beautiful son you blessed us with, please make sure that love shines through every nook and cranny in our lives, Father, so that at no single instant we could possibly lose sight of your light.

Thank you, Father. I pray all these things in your Son’s holy name, amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not Sinning – DDJ #3

But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:5-6

While this verse assures us we can be sin free, I don’t know that I’ll ever be 100% free from sin as long as my spirit is anchored to this weak flesh. However, I do fully believe that by focusing on God and growing every day to become more Christ-like I can minimize my sinful nature and make it a non-factor in the wake I leave through the waters of this world.

Father God,
Thank you for loving a broken, wretched soul like me.
Please help me remain focused on You at all times, so that I might continue to grow into the man You designed me to be – sin free.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The God of All Grace - DDJ#3

Yesterday’s devotional explored how God perfectly equips us to go where he guides. Today’s digs into the part where we come in: asking God into our lives daily.

I need to rebuild the habit of spending time with God every morning. Back when life was a little more ordered, before the economy tanked and we lost our house, I spent the last 10-20 minutes before I went to work praying. Once the chaos of life hit: our son’s birth, loss of jobs, loss of house, change of scenery, change of career path, I lost that time somewhere. Sure, I try to pray daily, but I no longer have an intentional plan to do so. As Angie is very fond of mentioning these days, we need to live, love, pray and do everything else intentionally, always.

One thing I’m well aware of is the power of prayer, yet I’ve failed to live an intentional prayer life every day for several years now.

Well, no more.

From today onward I will get back to praying every morning. While I may not always have a chance to do this devotional journal, I can pray anywhere, anytime. So, why not pray to start the day? Pray to ask God into my day as soon as my brain is functioning (which isn’t right when I wake up… ha!) and let his light shine on my efforts. Every day. Intentionally.

Psalm 32:6a
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;

Father God,
Communicating with You is such an amazing privilege. The very notion that You care enough to listen to the words of a broken soul like me makes my heart sing.

I’m sorry I’ve gotten away from my intentional prayer time, Father. Please forgive me. While I’ve never stopped praying, I have let the intentional prayer time slip away.

Please remind me daily to get back to You, Father. And, in those moments, please shine Your light into my life so that I might be filled with Your love and have more than enough to pass that grace onto everyone I contact, all day long.

I know there will be “those days”, but just as You’ve helped me through every one of them so far, how much more will You help me through the ones still to come when You fill my tank each morning!

Thank You for loving me, Father. Thank You for blessing me with such a wonderful wife and son, family, friends and beautiful brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray all this in your Son’s holy name.

Christian Perfection - DDJ #2

My father sent me a really nice leather-bound daily devotional journal for my birthday last week. Andrew Murray, a pastor I wasn’t previously familiar with, authors the devotionals. My father asked me to do the journal with him each day, which will be our first ever Father/Son experience (odd to have that at 42 years old), and then email them to one another. Since I have to type it up after writing it, I figure I might as well post it here as well.
The devotional for yesterday revolved around Hebrews 13:20-21.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This passage reminds me of a saying Darius Sanders, the Youth Pastor at Palm Valley Church is fond of, and one I love now as well after seeing it manifest in my life more than once.

“Where God guides, God provides.”

I love how true that saying really is. While I may not have felt equipped to become a pastor, God led me that way and as soon as I ‘overcame my unbelief’ and followed that leading, God set to work building the foundation within me to do just that.

“With man this is impossible, with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

So, I want to encourage you today to never feel as if you cannot do something if God is trying to move you to it. If He can transform a wretch like me into what I’ve become, He can do anything. But you have to let Him move you. Once you do, move you He will…

Monday, September 20, 2010

Verse for today

Galatians 5:16-26
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Verse for today

Galatians 1:15-16
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."

It's not about rules, it's about a relationship.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thank you, Father.

It's easy to get caught up in life and forget to appreicate what we have, that is, until it's gone/changed or otherwise not what we should be thankful for anymore. I'm very guilty of this, seldom realizing how good some facet of my life is until it's gone; only becoming noticeable in it's absence.

Over the last few years I've made a concerted effort to get past that and really count my blessings, appreciate them more and offer thanks to God for heaping them upon me. Thankfully, this has made me more cognizant of these things when they rise up, so that I can appreicate them for what they are: true blessings from our Lord.

Last night, during our second Mission Trip meeting, it occurred to me what a wonderful mother my son has. Now, I know my wife is a great, loving mother and I love her more than I could ever verbalize, but I don't know that I'd ever fully realized just how fully awesome her mothering spirit was until our son came down with some nasty stomach bug last night and began rapidly vomiting all over the place.

Now, my wife will be the first to admit she's not always been that comfortable around little children, but the way she sprang into action last night really impressed me. Not only did she physically tend to his needs, she held him close, comforted him, made sure he knew she was there for him, but after he went to bed, she opened up one of our study bibles and poured through it, reading scripture and praying for God's healing hand on our son. I know she prays, but something tells me she attacked this thing last night with the kind of zeal every prayer warrior should wield like a weapon of war.


God listened.

This morning our son woke up healthy and happy, albeit hungry. What the doctor's office said would take anywhere from 12-24 hours to pass, if we were lucky, lasted about 5 hours. In part, or whole, I'm sure, because his mother humbled herself before the Lord almighty and pleaded with him to place his healing hands on our son.

That's what a good Christian mother should do and that's exactly what my wife did.

Thank you, Father. For blessing a screw-up like me with such a wonderful, God honoring woman. She's far more than I ever deserved.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Truth is fiction?

It probably comes as no surprise that I love Star Wars. I remember sitting front row center for the debut of the first movie in 1977 when I was 8-years old. My jaw fell open when the first Star Destroyer flew over head and I don't think it closed until the credits were rolling.

While the imagery and imagination drew me in, I think it's the tale of Luke Skywalker, that spoke to me on a deeper level. Here's a young guy who had no idea who his father was at first, but then discovers as he matures that he had this incredible legacy that far exceeded anything he could have imagined.

I grew up not knowing my real father either, hence relating to Luke. Well, I just found out I have another commonality with the young Jedi Knight.

For the past several years I've felt led to pastoring in some form or another. I don't know why, but I've really felt a tug on my heart. It came as no real surprise to me that my spiritual gifts align with pastoring either.

Then, a few weeks ago I started emailed with my earthly Father. He's been out of my life for almost 40 years now, but we did speak on the phone once a few years ago. After hearing God's whispers, I emailed him and we started dialoguing.

Well, as it turns out, he attended Seminary a long time ago and has been deeply involved with his church for years now, leading small groups, ministering to men and filling in as a teaching pastor when a need arises.

He emailed me last night and informed me that our family has a litany of preachers and pastors. Including the women, there have been five or six in the last two generations.

No one on my mother's side has much to do with the Church, except my Aunt, who used to go to one of those Fire & Brimstone churches, which was a major turn off to me as a child. So, I always wondered where the call to pastor came from, aside from the obvious answer: Jesus.

So, just like Luke Skywalker, I now know of a legacy I'm called to fulfill, and how my ancestors did so as well.

Granted, I don't think I get to play with a real light saber, but doing God's work is more rewarding than slicing up AT-ATs anyway.