Posts tagged ‘change’

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.

A Year in Reflection

So where do I start. I haven’t blogged in a long time. This has been some kind of year for my family. My first year teaching. My wife switching school districts. My daughter switching school districts. My middle son starting public school. My youngest switching to a new sitter. We find out we’re having baby number four, Zyla. We are asked to serve on our church pastoral staff as Outreach Pastors. I preach TWICE at church, and really get involved in Wednesday night class discussions. Yes, there has been so much to report. However for the purpose of this post, I really want to focus in on my experience as a first year teacher.

Today was the last day of school, and while outwardly I was happy that it was coming, because I was ready for a break, in my heart, I knew that I was not ready to let these students go. In truth, I loved them…hard. I gave them all of me everyday for every class period of the past 8 months. I began to know them, what made them tick, what made them smile and laugh. I strived everyday to make each student laugh at least once. Sure, my antics could be chalked up to being new and inexperienced, but I choose to think that they are just a part of my makeup that God gave me specifically for this task. And as I look at all of the letters that I have received from students and the messaged from parents, I just sit back and wonder “How?” How could a guy who up until two years ago barely liked children have fallen this in love with a profession that he previously despised? How was it that I cared so much about these kids? How did I let them into my heart? How was it that my classroom, a classroom with a man who really had no idea what he was doing, become a place where kids felt safe telling me their secrets and confiding in me? How’d I even get this job? lol. My students proclaim me a great teacher, but I know better.

God is truly great. It was only by His Spirit that I made it through this year. In every instance, God gave me the words to speak, whether in correction, or encouragement. He helped me navigate all of the emotional swings of these 13 and 14 year old students. I prayed for them. They ate in my class. We pranked each other. Students who weren’t even mine were attracted to me. I know it wasn’t me that they were attracted to. It was God. They saw God in me, and while some of them don’t know that specifically, it makes me so happy that I was able to be Jesus to these kids every time they saw me.

And so, as I watched them leave today, my eyes were dry, but my heart cried a bit. 8 months. Everyday. Now, nothing. It’s sad, but in my heart I really feel that the work that God wanted me to do with them was done. Now I have to trust Him to continue it as they head into high school. In truth, these students aren’t really mine. I was simply someone God placed into their lives at this junction to steer them towards Him as much as possible, and plant seeds that will hopefully bloom into success and a relationship with Christ. But, I love them just the same. They will forever be a part of my heart, a part of me.

My heart is full today. Thanks be to God for this wonderful year. I’m praying for many, many more as He grows me professionally and spiritually to be a lighthouse in the classroom.

The Power of Words: 4 things you must know about your words

Proverbs 18:21- the tongue holds the power of life and death…

We need to stop trying to get God to agree with our words, and get our words in agreement with God.

James 3:1-2- dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed we make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every way.

Basically, if I could learn to control my mouth, I can learn to control every other thing in my life. When my mouth is out of control, my life is too.

1. The tongue is disproportionately powerful.

James 3:3-5- when we put bits into the mouth of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships for example, although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small speck.

James 1:26- if you claim to be religious, but don’t control your tongue then you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Too many times, we have allowed our lives to be capsized by our little tongues.

2. The tongue is inherently evil

James 3:6,8- the tongue also is a fire , a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body , sets the whole course of ones life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. …but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

3. The tongue is divinely tame able. The only way that we do this is via the Holy Spirit.

Exodus 4:10- but Moses pleaded with The Lord, “oh Lord, I’m not very good with words. I’ve never been me I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue tied nd my words get tangled.” Then The Lord said to Moses, ” who makes a persons’ mouth. Who decides whether we speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, The Lord? Now, go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what you say.”

When God changes us, he begins with our tongue. Satan wants to occupy our mouths. As a believer, Satan can’t hurt me, but he can try to get you to turn your mouth against yourself. By doing this, he makes us powerless and helpless.

4. The tongue is contrastingly productive.

James 3:9-12- with the tongue, we praise our God and curse human beings. Out of the same mouth come praise and curses. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water slow out of the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Bad news: we can speak death.
Good news: we can speak life.

We have to make the choice. Either control our tongues, or our tongues will control us.

Change Your Sound Pt 8 : I know who I am

There is an identity crisis in the Body of Christ. Satan doesn’t have to steal our authority or power, but if he can steal our identities, we effectively stop ourselves.

Matt 3:13- the baptism of Jesus – after he was baptized, the spirit of God descended like a dove….and said,” this is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

It took 30 years for Jesus to get baptized and begin his public ministry. God affirms Jesus’ publicly before he even begins ministering.

-stop trying to earn or prove God’s love for you. It is important that we believe this and know that God approves and accepts us. As soon as you accept Jesus as Savior, you become loved unconditionally. He will never love you any less or any more. It is a changeless love. So God affirms Jesus before anything of note happens in his life.

Following his baptism, instead of beginning to minister, Jesus went on a 40 day fast in the wilderness. Perhaps this was to get his heart ready and to reveal the full scope and relevance of his ministry. This happens in Paul’s life as well in Acts.

During his fast, Satan meets him and begins to tempt him. Matt 4 details this for us. satan attacks his identity.

He attacks our identity by twisting scripture for his purposes. He only attacks his identity, because if he can get Jesus to lose focus of who he really is! he can render his entire ministry of no regard.

When you know who you are, you will not be….

1. Performance driven-when we know who we are, we understand that we don’t have to win his approval. When I really know that I belong to God, and that he loves me and affirms me, it sets me free.

Satan attacks Jesus first where he is weak because he had not eaten. (V3-4), but Jesus already knew that he was the cornerstone and the bread of life. In verses 5-7, he continues attacking Jesus’ identity again by challenging him to jump from the highest point of the temple. Jesus answers by telling him not to put God to the test.

2. When I know who I am in Christ, I will not be arrogant. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone about what you can or can’t do. When we are challenged, we must rest in who we are in Christ. Our boldness doesn’t come from arrogance, but from a deep knowledge of who we are in Christ.

Arrogance will keep you jumping off of stuff, just to prove that you belong. When we know who we are, we can blow negative things off because we are secure in our identity.

In verses 8-10, Satan offers Jesus the entire world if he will only bow and worship him?! Jesus rebukes him.

3. When I know who I am, I will not be selfish. It would have been easy for Jesus to accept Satan’s deal and skip the pain of the cross. However, he saw outside of himself and saw us, who would need him to endure the torment, so that we could be blessed and restored back to God. He paid the full price so that we could have a relationship with God.

Change Your Sound pt 7 : what sound does Jesus want you to hear?

1. Jesus meets you where you are

John 20:19- on the evening of that first day of the week, when the discuss were together,with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “peace be with you”

Many of us find ourselves in this situation, closed off an locked away from the world. Maybe not for any other reason of that we have been hurt and betrayed. So we find ourselves locked away with our fear. Then Jesus shows up in the midst of the disciples’ fear. Jesus always shows up in the middle, and He releases their fear .

2. He gives us encouragement

John 20:19-“peace be with you”

Jesus says nothing more than peace. He didn’t address anything other than their storm and speaks peace into their lives. The doors were locked, but they could not lock Jesus out. By the same token, no matter how much we lock ourselves away, Jesus still can come through with his peace.

The last thing they were expecting was Jesus to come in and say what he said. He had just been beaten and crucified. Why would he show up? Besides, they had all left him alone. They had betrayed him. If anything, they expected him to chastise them for abandoning him in his darkest hour. When God shows up, he doesn’t bring condemnation. He brings peace. We often wonder what God thinks about what we do and who we are, but God comes in love to bring us peace. He can relate to our fears. He understands.

Philipians 4:6-7- be anxious for nothing, but in everything make your requests known to God;and the peace of God…..will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

3. He shows us his love.

John 20:20- after he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw The Lord.

Instead of condemning then, he showed them what he gave up for them. He gave them undeniable proof of his love. It is love in action. His love for us is not performance based. We don’t have to earn it, because we can’t earn it. He gives it freely through grace. He comes into our hearts and addresses our guilt and resentment. He covers them in his great mercy. He models this for us so that we can learn to let go of guilt and resentment. We can be free of them; no longer a slave to them in our lives. Because of this, Peter goes from wanting to give up to preaching a historic sermon that adds 3000 people to the new church.

Psalms 32:1-2- blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin The Lord does not count against them

4. He wants to fill us

John 20:21- and with that he breathed on then and said, ” receive the Holy Spirit”

He comes to us, meets us, loves us, and then he fill us anew. We need a continuous, constant, daily filling of the Holy Spirit.

Change Your Sound pt 5

Psalm 16:11- in your presence is fullness of joy

Acts 3:19- repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be washed away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of The Lord.

We need the presence of God, because it brings fullness of joy and refreshment. This is why we need to change our sound, so that we may experience the manifested presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1-4- in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw The Lord, high and exalted. Seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with 6 wings: two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and two for flying. And they were calling to one another: ” holy holy holy is The Lord Almighty…..”

Three things happen when we are in Gods presence

1. We see how BIG God is. –

2 chronicles 26:14-15 describes how good a king Uzziah was. He was skilled creating ways to help his armies. Thus, his fame spread far and wide.

At the end of his rule though, full of pride, he walked into the temple of The Lord, and begins to burn incense to The Lord. The priests freaked out and tried to stop him, but Uzziah didn’t listen. He felt like he could worship God however he wanted. Immediately, he broke out in leprosy. He saw his mistake., and was declared unclean. So he had to live the rest of his life away from the people.

This is often true of us- that we think we can worship God however we wish, instead of by the statutes that God has given us. We should be humble before God. Our hearts should be in the right place. In worship, God doesn’t judge our sin. He judges our hearts.

So, Uzziah died, and Isaiah goes into the temple to mourn him. But in the midst of this, He saw God. While he thought Uzziah was big, He realized at that moment how BIG God really was. He saw the majesty and splendor of His glory. This is why we need to be in church. We constantly need reminding of how BIG God’s presence is. This is why Satan fights us so horribly on Sunday mornings. He needs us to stay away from seeing The Lord. When god is showing up in our services, we too will say that “we have seen The Lord. ” If he can keep us from the presence of God, he has done his job well. We can’t let him win.

2. We see how small we really are.

Isaiah 6:5-“Woe to me,” I cried, ” I am ruined! For I am unclean, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, Lord Almighty!”

In God’s presence, we see how small we really are. We see every area of our lives for what it really is. Once we see god, though, our problems become so small. Our concerns shrink. In this scripture, we see the angels declaring how holy God truly is, and we see just how unholy we really are. We can’t become holy by ourselves either.

In Rev 4;8- John has a vision of the living creatures, again, declaring God’s holiness.

Psalm 22:3- “but You are holy God.”

It’s ok for us to see our sin and imperfections when we are in God’s presence. He has no issues with our sin. He DOES have an issue with someone who is not upfront about their sin.

When I’m in God’s presence, my eyes are open to the things God wants to change my life.

3. We see how GOOD GOD is.

His very nature is His goodness.

Isaiah 6:7- then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hands, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it, he touched my tongue and said,” see, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

in His presence, we see our sin, but we also see His goodness, and how His grace has atoned for all of our sin and imperfections. He purges our sin. He strengthens us to be holy. He is not trying to make us feel guilty, but He wants to shower us with his goodness.

Psalms 103:12- as far as the east is from the west, so far Has He removed our transgressions from us.

Our redemption and atonement is not based on our performance. It’s based on His goodness and His love. We can only experience God’s grace when we humble ourselves.

Isaiah 1;18- come now and let us settle the matter, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be as red as crimson, they shall be like wool”

Change Your Sound pt 3

Gen 4:2-8- now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked in the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to The Lord. And Abel also brought an offering…..the Lord looked favorably upon Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. the The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to he brother Abel, “lets go out into the field.” while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Worship revealed our moods. We can never enter into the presence of God without our true selves first being revealed. When He casts the mirror back upon us, then He begins changing us into His image.

Last week, we learned that Leah named her kids the way she did because the wanted the attention of her husband, but when she named Judah, it was because the wanted Gods attention. What she didn’t realize was that she already has His heart and love.

In the same way, we see this week that God had already put in place a way to worship Him. It wasn’t a way to earn His love, because He already loved us fiercely. But Cain doesn’t bring a blood sacrifice, which was required. He brings fruits from his field. This indicates the struggle of man with worship.

Thus, the question is asked..” will we worship God His way, or our way?” God has instituted ways in which we should worship Him. It may look differently, but the heart of it is the same. There must be some sound associated with it. When Paul and Silas were in jail, they began to sing and make a sound while they were chained. First their chains fell off, and then e doors opened in every cell.

Your praise not only sets you free, but helps set others free around you. Paul and Silas praised, but everyone was set free! Our praise is NOT simply for us. It can inspire others to worship freely.

Just because we call ourselves a church doesn’t mean that God is here. There must be a sound for God to inhabit. If there is no praise going forth, then this is not a holy place!

Just because you give it to God doesn’t mean that He has to accept it. He accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. He requires our best. Sometimes our best is a struggle. Other times, we give God our leftovers and wonder why we don’t see a return. God deserves far more than just our leftovers. Give God everything that you have in your heart to give!

God doesn’t reject us. He rejects what we bring Him. He rejects our leftovers. Cain didn’t bring God what He wanted because it would have placed him outside of His comfort zone. It would have stretched him. He was a farmer, not comfortable with animals. Fruits were easy for him. But worship is not a personality issue. It is an obedience issue. Too many times, we just bring God what is easy.

There should ALWAYS be a sound of praise ready to come out of our mouths.

2 main things happen when we praise.

-we are set free
-we kill our pride.

It’s easy to let emotions take us into praise when things are going great. If the week is good, we have our praise music going and we are in a zone. You’re in the zone.

James 5:13- is anyone among you in trouble?…..let them praise.
Psalm 42:3-5 – my tears have been my food all day and night, while people say to me all day long, “where is your God.” These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go into the house of God under the protection of the mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and My God!

The sound of our services should never change! In good, PRAISE Him. In bad, Praise Him. This is why we were created.