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

LifeChurch.tv 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.