Posts tagged ‘Bible’

A Return to Self

I think that I need to get back to blogging at least semi-regularly. Too much happens in my brain when I don’t do it like I should. I’ve been thinking here lately about the difference between my former self and my present self. When I preached my first sermon, the Pastor of the church that I was attending had just left. That left me to serve alongside two Associate Pastors. i think the problem with this was that I became arrogant. it was my home church, and I really felt like I could do no wrong. While preaching was still new to me, and I felt a deep awe that God would choose to use me as He did, I can also see clearly where pride began to work it’s way into me, because there was no one there to check me, and hold me in line for accountability purposes. When I felt God move us into my wife’s church, shortly after we got married, I was joined in ministry by several young men of the same age who were on fire for God. These guys mentored me in the ways of the Holy Spirit, and together, we felt like the Avengers- super-powered Saints in the pulpit with a license to speak what we felt the truth of the Gospel was, even though we had not experienced much of it ourselves. Pride.

Back in those days, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was headed for spiritual stardom. I saw a church in my future with thousands of members. I was going to be the next, young BIG thing in ministry. Sure to be an authoring, cd-releasing, fireball of a preacher and Pastor. That is where I was headed, and no one could convince me any differently. I even had nicknamed myself the “Rainbow Reverend”, because I wanted to have suits in every color of the rainbow, much like my then idol, T.D. Jakes. I was a TBN junkie back in those days, of course. Pride.

I was sure that I always had a word from the Lord, and I was unafraid to give it. Truth be told, most times God had really given me relevant words of wisdom and knowledge for people, but I can see so much arrogance in my life. I laugh at it now. I laugh at it now, because it is 10 years later and I am not the man that I thought I would be. I’m not doing what I thought I would be doing. In actuality, whereas 10 years ago I was a young, arrogant minister, now I look in the mirror and don’t know exactly what I see. Back then, i was sure of myself…even while I had no idea what areas of ministry God desired me to work in. Now, I’m as unsure of myself as I have ever been in ministry. I question everything. I question my calling. I question my purpose. I question if I’m right about anything that I do. I sometimes feel afraid to move when I know God is wanting me to move. I don’t take risks. Now, this is a constant over the course of my life as I have seen it. I was never taught that there were good risks. I was taught that risks weren’t worth it in general. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The only thing I know for sure these days, most days, is that I love God more than ever, and just want to serve in His church however He allows me to.

What I know is that there needs to be a balance. I need to find elements of the young man, but temper him with the wisdom of experiences of the man who has battle scars to back up every word God allows me to speak, when the need arises. I know that I can’t be afraid. I know that I need to take risks. I know that I need to believe in myself again. God believes in me. I’m surrounded by people who believe in me, and there is something in me. I feel it there.

It is time for me to quit focusing on finding aspects of others to emulate, and instead find the parts of me that need to be cultivated and grown so that instead of being a carbon copy amalgamation of others, I can finally be comfortable being the individual me. I am convinced that this is where God is taking me- down a painful road of self discovery again. God is telling me that it is an insult for me to think so lowly of someone He thought so highly enough of to create and die for.

Pride. Arrogance. Brokenness. Uncertainty. Self-doubt. Identity Crises. Rebirth?

I understand that it is not popular for those in ministry to be this transparent, but I assure you that you can’t question me anymore that I already question myself. All I can be is who I am, and hope that others learn from me how not to repeat my mistakes and life experiences. Be better, and then some. I know I plan on being better. The best, ever.

It’s GOOOOOOOOOOD!!!

Romans 8:28-” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love He, who have been called according to His purpose”

 

Today I had a fantastic encounter with this verse. It’s dangerous to become too familiar with the word of God. When we can spout off scripture without giving it a second glance, we take the risk of becoming immune to the power that the Bible holds within it’s pages. When we say that it is the Living Word, we must take into account that the life really begins once we allow it to live within us. This is a verse that many of us know, but how often do we allow it’s potent truth to penetrate out hearts and affect the way that we live out our days?

 

Consider this exerpt from “Altar Ego” by Craig Groeschel:

“Maybe you can relate to Joseph. Maybe you’re going through some tough times and you’re thinking, “Man, I wish this wasn’t happening.” It can be painful, I know. You don’t understand why things are happening the way that they are. You wish things were different. You’ve even prayed that God would change your circumstances. But the truth is, according to Scripture, if you are in Christ, if you love Him, if you are living for His purpose, He’s working in ALL THINGS to bring about good.”

Now, take a minute and let that sink in.

5…

4…

3…

2…

1…

 

Good? See, as I’m reading this chapter in this book, my mind is filled with so many things. I’m nervous about teaching my first year. I’m concerned that nobody is showing up for our garage sale…even though it IS raining outside. I’m wondering about a post that I saw concerning giftings and how they either make room for you, or become merely a hobby. Yet, when I read this chapter, and this passage specifically, something clicked in my heart. I mean, something finally clicked! None of that stuff mattered.

 

I mean, it really hit me that I am where I am, and I am who I am, at this very specific point in time because God placed me here. I went through the personal hell that I endured so that I could learn compassion and how to overcome struggle. I had to learn how to deal with adversity. None of that diminishes me. In fact, because God is good, He made sure that all of that stuff strengthened me! I had to have a failed career in order to be so excited and dedicated to this new career. This point in time is where God wants me to accomplish His ultimate purpose in my life. Why?

 

Because He is GOOD, and His goodness demands that everything that happens in our lives work its way back to simply giving Him glory! So I no longer need to beat myself up about poor decisions. I learn from them and move on, because He has taken that bad situation and is turning it around for my good. I don’t have to live a life being too high or too low, because God is equally taking every instance and circumstance in my life and making it work out for my good.

 

I’ve always read this, and known the verses. But now, as i realize how truly powerful this statement is, it gives me a liberated outlook. I don’t have to take myself so seriously, because God’s goodness goes before me, and covers me on all sides. This is truly good news for me and you.

 

So, embrace it. Allow God to work unhindered in your life, because in the end, it’s gonna be GOOD!

 

Be blessed family!

What are you seeing?

The Bible is clear when it comes to vision. Habbakuk says that we should write the vision and make it plain. Vision is important. Why else would God give us eyes if we weren’t supposed to be able to see what is on the horizon. Yet, our physical vision can only take us so far.

Vision. Vision. This word has given me fits for most of my life. I would venture to say that I have not had a vision, a real vision. Of course, I’ve had visions of grandeur- that I would be a famous singer or songwriter, that I would be a Pastor of a huge church. Those are visions that I have had based on my selfish desires. I’m talking now about the kind of vision that shapes our lives; a vision that inspires us to run toward the greatness that God dreams about us. Tonight as I listened to some of our college Pastors talk about their visions for that group, I was intrigued. It was evident that God had given them a firm and tangible vision for where they were going, and how He was going to get them there. it was really riveting stuff, until I felt like I was intruding on something special, and dismissed myself from my interloping.

Thing is, they know where they are going and how they are going to move towards getting there, and as they talked about different ideas, it just made me wonder. I’ve never felt a particular calling to any specific group of people. Not just children or young adults. Not just married or divorced people. Not just broken or whole men. As I have grown older, I simply feel the call of God on my life to serve people, and reach each person the way that Christ would. That is a realization that has taken me years to come to grips with- that God has not specialized me for any one thing, but as equipped me for whatever He sends, and whomever He sends, across my path. Which leads me to my next line of thinking.

The Bible says that where there is no vision, people perish. it makes me wonder if I have been perishing for most of my life, however , this can’t be true. So, I wonder if I have been living life out of the vision that my spirit knows is on the horizon. What has my spirit seen that continues to press me and push me, never allowing me to be satisfied with any one thing? What has my spirit seen that causes me to believe that I can give more, that I can do more, that I can make a difference? What has my spirit seen that defines parts and pieces of me against where my destiny in God lies? What has my spirit seen that is keeping me from perishing? cause I don’t think that my physical vision is truly the issue. Our spiritual sight is where we see God moving and shifting things around us. What has my spirit seen?

Better yet, what has YOUR spirit seen?

I guess the gist of this is that it doesn’t matter whether you haven’t seen something. It only matters if you have “seen” something. The more time we spend with God, worshiping and reading His word, I am convinced that He shows our spirits things that our physical minds can not handle all at once. I believe that He allows snippets to filter into our minds on His timetable. So, by some measure, we all have seen something. We all have a vision. it just depends on whether or not the time is right for us to access and move on it.

Just my thoughts.

 

Be blessed!

Dead Zone? No More!!

Yesterday in church we were debuting a new song, “Break Every Chain”. The version that we did was performed by Jesus Culture, but there is also another version by Tosha Cobb that I absolutely LOVE to DEATH!!! Regardless, this song has such a powerful message to it. It seems to me that God speaks to me more and more Sundays during church worship. I can’t recall a time EVER where it feels like I hear God speaking to me directly as we worship. Please don’t think that I am bragging, or that I think that I’m special. I don’t think that at all. Usually I’m just worshiping along with the rest of the congregation when God “pulls me aside”. It just feels like it is happening more and more frequently these days. I almost put this up on Facebook, but decided to do it here, since not many people will see this post.

 

Anyway, here is the deal. One of the verses of the song simply says “There’s an army rising up.” It repeats several times. As we sang it, I found myself standing within the pages of the Bible at the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. It was so crazy. I’m hearing the music around me, but I’m staring out into this valley covered with death and decay. Bones that have been baking in the sun for a long time. Then, as we continue singing, I see these bones begin to move and come together. And seemingly in the blink of an eye, there stood before me an exceedingly large army. This morning, I went back and found Ezekiel 37, and this verse stuck out to me,

 

“So I spoke the message as He commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet- an exceedingly large army. “ Ezekiel 37:10

 

I didn’t tell anyone about this vision yesterday. I kept it to myself and kept trying to figure out what it meant. Even as the service carried on, I found myself re-running this vision over and over again in my head, asking God what it meant. I’m starting to realize it.

 

I feel like God was telling me that as we worshiped and praised Him, we were declaring His purpose. We were “speaking as He commanded us”. We were allowing Him to release His will. As this happened, He was raising dead things and dead people. He was raising dead dreams, dead hopes, dead missions. He was reviving dead visions, and dead callings. The things that we have all laid to rest within ourselves, as we worshiped, God was raising them. He was speaking life into those things and us. And as we stood there worshiping, God was raising an army…exceedingly large, and exceedingly powerful! Then God showed me something else. He is drawing dead things. People who are half dead, half alive, He is drawing them. They don’t know why they are coming to our churches. They don’t know what is even placing the thoughts to try church in their minds. Some have not even sniffed a church in years, but for some reason, now they are trying it out. God is drawing the dead things that we might speak life into them. Ezekiel obeyed God, then watched in amazement as God raised the bones to life, symbolizing what He was going to do with the nation of Israel.

 

I get the feeling that what we have seen so far in my church is not even scratching the surface of what God has planned. I get the feeling that what the Body of Christ has seen so far is not even scratching the surface of what He is wanting to show the earth. If the dead can’t come into our churches, or encounter Christians, and walk away living, breathing disciples of Christ, then what are we doing? Everyday, Christ walked among zombies and restored life to them through His words and actions. What are we doing then? If we are truly imitating Christ, there should be an aura of life around us as we walk and talk among those who don’t know Him. We shouldn’t shrink from the moment, but trust God to revive all that we come into contact with.

 

I believe that we are really about to see dead things raised to life. There’s an army rising up., and it will consist of every soul that we have spoken life into.

 

Maybe this makes sense to you, maybe it doesn’t. maybe it resonates with what God has spoken in your spirit. Maybe it doesn’t. All I know is that I’m excited. I’m expecting. I’m ready. Let’s get to work!

A Wonderful Change

I remember watching “The Passion of the Christ” when it came out on DVD. My wife and I didn’t want to go and see it when it was in theatres, so I purchased it after it was finally released. As we half watched- half bawled through it, something happened on the inside of me. It was something so powerful that the next day at work, I passed out tracts like they were going out of style! In this job, most people pretty much knew that I was a Christian, but I had never shared my faith. So, as I passed out these tracts and left them on people’s stations, I got many curious looks. But in my heart, I felt a stirring that people needed to know this Savior who endured hellish kinds of torments for our sins. I was changed! I was on fire! I was mistaken, because after that day, I never passed out another tract in that job. I never witnessed again in that job. The change didn’t stick. I have never really thought about it that much until lately. It got me started thinking about why that change didn’t stick. I mean, I knew God was doing something powerful in my life as I watched the rendering of Jesus being murdered, but the change did not stick! what does it take for the change to stick? When does change become real change?

I think that firstly I allowed my change to come via emotional pursuits. I mean, who can watch that movie without their emotions really getting the best of them? Through tears and much internal wrestling, I somehow made the decision to pass out tracts. This happens every Sunday. We get together and have emotional meetings with God. We cry, we fall to our knees, we snot and sniff, we dance and laugh; but then we leave and the emotion ceases. Why? We serve a God from whom all emotions were created, and all emotions understood. But why can we not serve God out of our emotions? The heart is described as a deceitful thing. Our emotions are all messed up. That explains why all at once we can “feel” like God is with us, and then feel completely abandoned by Him. Our emotions can tell us truth, but many times, they can also tell us lies. If this was not true, how else do we explain half of the stuff that we deal with internally? Being emotionally lead causes us to misinterpret what God is actually trying to do. So when we seek God and seek to serve Him only out of an obligation to what we are feeling, then we risk missing the mark.

So how should we experience God? How do we experience change that lasts? It comes down to being willing to accept truth. I believe that God has created each of us with a propensity towards truth. We internally recognize it when we are confronted by it. Whether or not we act on it or believe it is a different story, but we know truth. And when we experience God from an avenue of accepting His truth, believing His word as truth, and then acting on that truth, we are changed in a way that can be lifetime lasting. Yes, there will be emotion. We can’t eliminate it. I mean, I cry every time we have worship, and every time I praise God tears freely flow. I’m probably the BIGGEST God cry-baby that there is at times, but my tears come from a place of knowing who He is, and what my history has been with Him. It is emotion born out of knowing and accepting the truth. It was Jesus who said that the truth would make us free. I believe that this freedom allows us to be lead to Christ hungrily and thirsting after what He freely offers. And once we taste just a bit of His freedom, our emotions will worship Him as truthfully and honestly, as our hearts do. He truly becomes the source of our emotions, rather than something that our emotions can sometimes push back against.

The truth of the Cross of Christ is that it changes us. It washes us. It frees us. The truth of the Cross of Christ is that it is horrific, brutal, and hellish. The truth of the Cross of Christ is that if we believe in it, and Christ’s resurrection, we become changed into a new creation. Whether that registers with any emotion matters not. It’s the truth. And when we begin trusting in the truth that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, we will begin to be changed, and we will begin to see our world changed as never before. We must be renewed by our minds first, before we can be transformed in our lives.

On last Monday night, I watched the conclusion of the “Bible” series on History. My eyes welled up with tears as I watched another rendering of Jesus being crucified. This time, however, I pushed the tears back down. As I watched with clear eyes my savior dying, I saw a beauty there that I had never registered before. I saw love that had never completely registered before. And when they showed the empty tomb, I felt exhilaration that may not have registered in a smile, but my spirit and soul leapt within me. This is the God we serve. This is the Christ that we pursue. This is the Holy Spirit that we are lead by.

Until next time, family, be blessed.

 

Quick Reflection

I’m proud to say that I have friends. Friendship is important, and I’ve not been good about having friends over the totality of my life thus far. I can say with great pride and sincerity that I have friends who have faith in God, friends who inspire me with their faith and willingness to be the church instead of merely going to church.  The Bible talks often about how important it is to have those in your life who sharpen you and push you to be a better Christian in your personal life and also out in the world. I’m blessed to say that I now have this. I often laugh about how my social circle consists only of those whom I go to church with. That’s not such a bad thing.

Since we have moved to Missouri, the friends that we have made have cared for us continually. I’ve made no pretense about our financial struggles, but we have friends who have helped us along the way. And for that, I thank God. Right now, I’m thinking about a particular family of friends, and I will tell you about what God is doing in their lives. I hope they don’t mind reading this blog about themselves. Lol.

This family has blessed us this school year. Tremendously. When we were looking for childcare, they stepped in and agreed to keep our youngest in our home. When we lost our car, rather than have me quit my job right away, they have allowed us to use their vehicle for me to get back and forth to work. As we have not been able to pay often for the childcare, they have been gracious over and over again. They have given to us more than anyone can reasonably expect in a lifetime. They have been our angels.

On Monday, I was posting in my life group Face Book page about trusting God; about how easy we find it to trust imperfect human beings rather than completely trust a God with a proven track record over the history of the world.  When I got home that afternoon, this family told me that God was leading them away from watching our boys.  Now, for a little back- story, then I will tell you why I even mention this.

This family has been called by God to move to Brazil at the end of this year. Not for a mission trip, but for a missional life. They will be selling all of their materials and moving, relocating internationally, to do the work of God. How tremendous is this? I am continually in awe of them. My wife and I pray for them often, because sometimes I can see glimpses of what God is preparing them for.  They are going there to do the will of God in that area, whatever that may be. They have abandoned themselves to God, and as a result, God is shaking up the foundations of their lives in such a perfect way. I can see how God has been preparing them for this over the last few years, probably even longer. I can’t put into words how excited I am for them; how their complete trust in God is spurring them to such a radical, faith-based move. It is inspiring to say the least. All I know is that God will be speaking to them, giving them more specific instructions, but He will also be testing their dedication. Please join me in praying for them. No names are needed. God knows who they are.

Now, back to Monday. When I was told that they could no longer watch our children, my heart didn’t sink. Sure, I thought about what we were going to do about childcare, not being able to really pay anyone. But moreover, my thoughts were on the fact of how cool it is to hear God, and then be obedient. As they told me, I began to thank God for them, and pray in my heart that God would have His way to such an extent in their lives that people around them would be altered even before they depart from the States. Sure, my own worry did come later as I pondered possible solutions to everything, but if they can trust God with a life-altering move, surely God can handle our little things. I’m so proud of them, and so happy that God has put them in our lives. They are our family in every sense of the word. So see, this is not about what we lose. It’s about what Brazil will be gaining. The answer in short, is that God is blessing the people of Brazil.

So, in case you all happen to read this, we love you in the most sincere way that we can manage. It is our prayer that you see God in even the most minute, remote ways. I pray that God’s voice will fill your hearts and your entire beings. I pray that His methods astound you and leave you continually in awe of His greatness. Your destinies in Brazil have already been written, and as much as you desire to go there to serve, be prepared to be ministered to in ways that you have not even considered yet. Be strong in the Lord and in His power. Though your faith will be tested, I pray that your resolve will be made even stronger. I know that God is with you, and you know this as well. Finally, I pray that God will prosper you even as He has prospered, and continues to prosper, your souls. In this way, you will forever be rich in grace, mercy, and love, never lacking in anything that you need to accomplish the will of God.

Until next time, be blessed peeps.

BNG: Growing New Perspectives

Someone that I look up to as a mentor urged me to really try to blog more often, because it helps with spiritual growth to be transparent and talk about what God is doing in lives.  I really enjoy blogging. I just have to have something to blog about. Lol. I do now. And I hope my Pastor doesn’t get too mad at me for adding to his sermon series. Just seemed to fit. Any members of my church woul read this, this is not from any message Pastor Gene has preached. These are just my own thoughts.

 

All of my life, I have struggled with so many things dealing with my identity. I regret to say that I have been jealous at times of others who I interpret as being further along in their purpose than I am. I’ve been resentful at both man and God for presumed slights against me, for overlooking my own presupposed giftedness. I’ve used the fact that I know God has called me into the pastorate to harbor ill feelings and feel looked over., completely overlooking the fact that God’s path for me is completely independent of what He does in someone else. Not painting a pretty picture of myself am I? And this is the me that I see when I look in the mirror. Much of how I move through the world is based on aspects of this personality deficiency.  Even when it comes to spiritual gifts, I often haven’t been honest about my own, and embraced them. So, as you can imagine, for much of my life I have struggled with an identity crisis of sorts. Not that I don’t know what God says about me, but I’ve struggled accepting where I am versus where I think that I should be. I know that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this. For much of my life, I have harbored dreams of being someone important, without being sure what a person of importance really is, has to sacrifice, and is responsible for.

 

What I am understanding now, though is that I have thought about things wrong all of my life. I’ve ministered to people about recognizing their worth in God, but disregarded that same wisdom for my own life. Let me give you an example. Ephesians 4:11 is a very well known verse. It says that when Christ ascended, he left gifts to men for the equipping of the church and to build up the body of Christ.  When I was younger, I thought that the order in which they were listed indicated their rank of importance. So when I would complete those gift surveys, and mine would come out as Pastor/Teacher, I would change answers to try and fit what I thought were higher offices. Perhaps, not esteeming what God holds as important is a reason why I’m just now submitting to His will for me to teach. The thing is, God did not give us these gifts to lord them over one another. The 5 fold ministry gifts were given to build a winning team in which each office needs the other to do its job effectively. One is no more important than the other. I see that now. Even in the church, everyone is on equal footing. The Pastor may preach in front of everyone, but he or she gets the least face time with the congregation. It’s the greeters, ushers, and congregation that makes the most difference in whether people feel welcomed enough to receive the word. It’s a total team effort.

 

Another area where God is really dealing with me is in the area of pastoring. I’ve come to the conclusion that while God has called me into that area, my primary pulpit will not be in a church setting. It’s been a hard chain to break in my life. Parts of me have felt that if I did not have a traditional pastorate, then I had failed God. Isn’t it funny how things sneak into our lives about Godly purpose that have no Godly relevance at all? Again, God is working on me daily about my perspectives and mission. My “church” will be the students in my classroom who see me everyday. My pulpit will be my interactions with them. My sermons will be my actions towards them and others that show God’s love on a daily basis. In just my short time being in schools as a sub and library aide, I see so many children who just need to be loved. And God has had to break down my walls about this, because for so long I was just rigid, not allowing God to be creative in my life. I wanted the status quo, because that is what I had been conditioned to desire. But while, I will preach in church from time to time, I will be ministering to these students everyday, children whom God loves with a stronger love than I could ever imagine.  It’s humbling that God is equipping me to do this hard work.  What has God called you to do, and are you allowing Him to be as creative with His calling as He wants to be?

 

So here is what I’m getting at; it is easy for us to become disillusioned with life, and with our identities. It is easy for us to spout Biblical truths to others when we know the Bible. It is easy for us to live lives that have absolutely no relevance in our own minds. What I am learning daily is that my life is not about me. It’s not about what I think about myself. It’s not about where I want to see myself. It’s not about how important I want to be.  And even with my self- esteem issues, I realize that when I focus on how far I am from where I want to be, I’m still being arrogant. I’m still being prideful by willfully focusing only on myself when there is a God in heaven who has His own thoughts about me. I really hope that you’re getting what I am trying to get across. Our lives should be daily testaments. We should trust what God says about us, and believe Him when He says it. We have to quit holding ourselves to a standard that God has not set for our lives. Our hopes, dreams, wants for the future, etc, are nothing compared to God’s dreams and will. And if we will be still long enough to hear from God, I believe that the same things that God is pulling out of me are things that He wants to eradicate from His church as a whole.

 

Don’t be like me and allow yourselves to become corrupted by your own dreams and expectations. Free yourself in Jesus’ name, and ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you, that He will help you dream His dreams about you. Ask Him to help you see through His eyes, the work that He wants to do through you. He will begin breaking down walls in your life, and He will break new ground, thus growing more fruit for others to partake of and see His glory.  A big part of God breaking new ground in our lives is building a new perspective in our hearts.  As we stay in His presence, this perspective will become who we are and how we live.

 

On the flip side, maybe none of this is you. If not, I praise God for who He has made you! I just pray that you will be open to God moving in you to help others who aren’t like you. The body of Christ is made up of all kinds. We have to help one another become all that God desires for us to be. So that is your charge!

 

Be blessed, family!