Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayan Thoughts

I am not an expert on Mayan thought, and I have never met a true Mayan, however, I think I can say with a little bit of confidence that if the Mayans were alive today they would be pretty annoyed with Americans the past few weeks...

Let's get one thing straight off the bat: the Mayans did not predict the world ending. The Mayans had seasons of calendars and December 21, 2012 was not the day the thought things would come to a screeching halt, it was just the latest date they had marked on a calendar. While it might have marked the end of something, the world was not the something they had in mind. This is not to mention that the Mayans did not account for leap year, so the December 21 date they predicted has actually happened several months ago.

Since this calendar has been discovered there have been many predictions of what would take place on December 21 have come out. They range from the poles reversing, therefor putting an end to all electronic devices in the world (much like the television show Revolution), which would probably ruin most people's Christmas'. Some even have theories about how other governments planted these thoughts in our mind so they could have an opportunity to invade the United States of America.

With so much mystery surrounding a date, much emotion has been elevated. For those who have nothing to hope for, this evoked a feeling of fear. For some thinking America would be invaded, a level of suspicion. And some just sat back and laughed as people flooded facebook with entertaining statuses.

And we all know what ended up happening today... people woke up, went to work, there were children who missed the bus on the last day of school before Christmas break, some lost their job, some were delivered news of being hired. There were babies born, anniverseries celebrated, and movies watched. Yet for some today was the end of the world, whether it was cancer, war, accident, or murder. For someone everyday the world ends and you don't know when that will be and neither do I.

However, I do believe that there will be a day when everything will be made right again. I believe that there is a new heaven and a new earth being prepared for us. I believe that one day everything will be the way it ought to be once again. One day, there will be a world where people don't live in fear, where oppression doesn't exist and divorce is not a reality. There will be a world where no child is left or abandoned by their parents and the word orphan will not exist. There will be a day when all the confusion about who we are will be wiped away and we will walk with the one who created us. I believe that this world will be filled with sons and daughters of the most high King and we will be known as His children. He will wipe every tear out of our eye and we will be made whole again.

Just in case there is any doubt, this is what I believe. I don't need a date for this, but I will continue to pray that this day comes soon.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Birthday Thoughts

Another year has come and gone and I would classify this past year as a growing one. I have learned a lot and been loved by many people over the last year. The amount of support I have felt has been escalated and I believe now more than ever that God is working in me and through me.

I spent the weekend with some of my friends who now live in Illinois, one of whom has a birthday close to mine. The weekend was filled with lots of food and laughter, good life conversations, disc golf, a few games of around the world and some good times. I even had a dream the night of my birthday that America was invaded by another country and I was the one who saved the day for a small number of people in Waynesville! It was pretty exciting times.

Something interesting that I found I do when I go out of town is stay with a family that I enjoy being around and just mold into their life and the things they do for a few days. It is fun for me to do that for some reason. I'm not much of a go off a do your own thing kind of person, so I enjoy being with other people and attempting to make their lives easier while I am there. I enjoy learning from the real lives of people in actually situations, not just in theoretical kind of conversations. Through one of the conversations I had while playing disc golf I found that I have helped other people more than I knew over time... someone whom I thought I was just learning from. This is evidence that you really can learn something from anyone... even me! It was just a short lesson on humility and it made me wonder how many lessons I miss out on because I think that I am the one who is supposed to teach them something?

I'm not sure if most people resonate with quotes, but one that has stuck with me for a while now is Albert Einstein's when he said: "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid." This Christmas my goal is to be attentive to the things I am to learn, no matter where the lesson comes from.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ballets and Squirrels: What Happens When Things Don't Make Sense

In a way it seems fitting, the kind of day it is today. Rain, wind, and utter drear. Outside in many ways mirrors what a lot of people are feeling on the inside and have been feeling for the past week or more. There has been national disaster that has affected many, half the nation did not get the president for which they voted, there has been an untimely death of a few young girls in our community, and to top it all off, for some people, the home is not somewhere they can find encouragement or sometimes even love. It all seems so heavy and so difficult to bear. For someone who likes to help, I feel like I am running around with a box of band aides in a field of people who have lost limbs.

When disaster hits it is a bit confusing because there is something that doesn’t quite fit in our picture of how things are supposed to be. We all have a general framework, though faulty at times, of how things should work in our day to day lives and when something disrupts that there are questions. Imagine that you were to go to a ballet or a high end musical where everyone brings out their best dress wear. The venue where the event is being held is top notch; high ceilings, fancy concession, and ushers with white gloves and 3 piece suits. Now imagine that you are walking to get a beverage from the concession before the show begins and when you look over you notice that one usher has one arm with the elbow bent out ready to escort someone to their seat, but the other is straight down with the hand bent out at a 90 degree angle next to the waist as a perch. On the perch hand there is a squirrel sitting there. This would raise all kinds of questions and would probably stop you in your tracks because it just doesn’t fit in the framework of what is supposed to happen at an event of such class.

The same is true of life. The reason that a squirrel at a ballet would raise questions for you is not because you don’t know what a squirrel is, you just don’t understand what it is doing at a ballet, because it doesn’t fit in the context of what is supposed to be at a ballet. The same is true with tragedy; no one has asked me what a hurricane is and no one has asked me what death is, but there have been lots of questions that surround these topics.

Through all of this I have been reminded of two things that were big encouragements to me when I have dealt with loss:

• “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Most of the time we want hope and we want to know that everything is going to be alright, but we discount this process that has been laid out for us of perseverance, character and hope. The way we get to a deeper sense of hope is if we persevere through our sufferings and allow that to build character within us. So you have to stand and be willing to persevere. Don’t look for the easy out.

• The other thing is quite simple and it comes out of the book of Ecclesiastes and it says:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

I hope this is helpful to someone. And I ask that you will join me in prayer for those who have had their world rocked recently and for those who are still dealing with the ramifications of something that happened years ago. Pray that we all can know and live as if there really is a hope that all things will be made new, because it is real and it is true.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lifeboat Theory

I am currently reading a book by Donald Miller (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors), called Searching for God Knows What. In the book Miller describes a very interesting theory/metaphor that describes the world in which we live. He says to imagine that you were on a cruise liner (or insert your own desired catastrophe) and the ship went down and you ended up in a lifeboat with 10 other people. However, you realize after a couple hours of being in the lifeboat that the boat you are in can only safely support 10 people, so someone has to go or the boat is going to sink. You would have to spend the next amount of time trying to convince everyone in the boat that you deserve to stay in the boat. You would do whatever it takes to make others sure that you are so important that if you were to get kicked out of the boat everyone else would be so lost without you.

Now, it isn’t too difficult to see the parallels here between this hypothetical lifeboat and the world we live in each and every day. We spend so much of our lives trying to impress other people and make others think we are way more important than we really are. Some ways in which we do this is: we pack our schedules full of activities, we buy lots of things we cannot afford, we go on vacations somewhere a little more exotic than our neighbors, we work two jobs, and whenever someone asks how we have been we love to respond with a deflating sigh “busy.” It is so interesting thinking that we are doing something right be making ourselves so busy and filling our lives with so many things we don’t really want only to prove to some people that we don’t really care about that we are just a little more important than we actually might be. Most people try to align themselves with people who are really important so as to give more credibility and value to themselves. And since we are living on a hypothetical lifeboat we have to impress the people who are on the lifeboat with us because we are only as valuable to the lifeboat as the other people on it decide that we are; and if there is a unanimous vote that we are the weakest link, then we are forced to exit the boat, falling to our demise.

The good news is that we are not living on a lifeboat and we were never intended to have to prove our value to anyone else. We simply have value because of who created us. We have been given a value so much higher than we could ever convince anyone that we have since the time we were constructed in the womb. All humanity has value because of the one who created them. The same reason a symphony written by Mozart has more ears perk up than any sort of music I were to produce (aside from the fact people cringe when I produce music) is because the person who created the music gives it its value. The same is true with you and me: people should be turning their heads when they see us living our lives because the one who created us instills in us so much value that we don’t have to play the game the rest of the world is playing. We don’t have to live life as if we were sitting in a lifeboat trying to decide who was going to have to swim.

Jesus came to destroy that kind of thinking. The kind of thinking that says, “I have to get ahead, even if that means making the people around me look bad, or at least a little bit worse than I look.” He was so interesting because the people of high positions that thought Jesus should spend his time with them were only frustrated by him because he spent all of his time telling them they needed to care more about the people who weren’t going to get them any further in life. Jesus said those who make themselves last are the ones who will be first in the Kingdom of God. That takes the whole Lifeboat Theory and flips it upside down. Apparently Jesus didn’t think life should ever consist of trying to prove yourself inside of a lifeboat.

This next paragraph is an excerpt from the book and it raises some interesting questions about what we believe about Jesus. If it offends you, I am a little sorry, but not too much, because I hope that it inspires who to get to know Jesus for who He really is. You don’t have to, but ignoring the real Jesus doesn’t make Him any less real or His words any less true.

“Is Jesus sitting in the lifeboat with us, stroking our backs and telling us we are the ones who are right and one day these other infidels are going to pay, that we are the ones who are going to survive and the others are going to be thrown over because we are Calvinists, Armenians, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics; because we are Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals; because we attend a big church, a small church, an ethnically diverse church, a house church, ; or is Jesus acting in our hearts to reach out to the person who isn’t like us—the oppressed, the poor, the unchurched—and to humble ourselves, give of our money, build our communities in love, give our time and our creativity, get on our knees before our enemies in humility, treating them as Scripture says as people who are more important that we are? The latter is the Jesus of Scripture; the former, which is infinitely more popular in evangelical culture, is a myth sharing a genre with unicorns.”

This all is a tough bit to swallow and hits you a bit like cold water hitting your face early in the morning. However, I am convinced that the only way to experience this “life more abundant” that Jesus talks about is to live life outside of the lifeboat and realize that our value comes from our Creator and our Creator’s heart beats for humanity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his "desire to be a missionary."

One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was "throwing himself away as a missionary."

In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."

Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden's classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn't that he had lots of money. One of them wrote: "He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration."

During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: "Say 'no' to self and 'yes' to Jesus every time."

Borden's first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in a convocation about the students' need of "having a fixed purpose." After that speech, Borden wrote: "He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations." Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it began: "It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. I cannot say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have originated with Bill. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer after a brief reading of Scripture. Bill's handling of Scripture was helpful. . . . He would read to us from the Bible, show us something that God had promised and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance."

Borden's small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.

Borden made it his habit to seek out the most "incorrigible" students and try to bring them to salvation. "In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, 'Who will take this person?' When it came to someone thought to be a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill's voice would be heard, 'Put him down to me.'"

Borden's outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden's friends wrote that he "might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

Borden's missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said of him: "He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times."

Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to "realize always that he must be about his Father's business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement." Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, "he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before." He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."

William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

When the news of William Whiting Borden's death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. "A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice" wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Was Borden's untimely death a waste? Not in God's perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why Not Talk Chicken?

I typically don't weigh in too much on topics as such, like the Chic-fil-a stuff, but due to my undying love of the chicken sandwich partnered with the best fast-food customer service there is, I simply feel that I owe it to the world to share my opinion (okay, slight exaggeration).

Personally, I think the discussion has gone a little bit overboard on both sides about whether it is right or wrong to eat at Chic-fil-a after comments that Mr. Cathy said when asked about his view of marriage. A lot of analysis went into the debate of whether Jesus would go be found at a Chic-fil-a or a gay bar yesterday. There were also debates as to whether eating a chicken sandwich did anything to build the Kingdom or not. The best response I saw was that Jesus would be at a gay bar passing out chicken sandwiches.

I would like to respond to the 'building the Kingdom' comment, but I will be brief. While I would not say that eating a chicken sandwich is 'building the Kingdom of God' I would say that it is good to know that when the rest of the world about to walk out, it is good to be in a Kingdom where you can know that when the world walks out you still have those brothers and sisters who will stand and say that we will love you anyway. Of course, it would be great if that was more often when our friends and relatives face crisis, that we stand with them when no one else will. If our response was to stand with and restore someone rather than ignoring an issue or even contributing to the issue at hand.

While I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, I do not think a heterosexual person deserves more grace than a homosexual. I know that there are not a lot of people who would ever say that they deserve grace more than another, but their actions might say otherwise. I do not deserve grace more than the alcoholic, the one who has fallen to the trap and is addicted to pornography, or one who can't beat negative self-thought and struggling with suicide. For anyone who has been burnt because someone got this wrong, I would like to say that I am sorry on behalf of the Kingdom of God, whose plan from the beginning was restoration, healing and wholeness, not more pain, isolation, and oppression.

With that being said, free speech is free speech. I am entitled to my opinion just as you are entitled to yours. However, differing opinions do not have to mean division and they do not mean a lack of love. So let's keep opinions as they are and move on in love. And certainly, eating a chicken sandwich at a restaurant that claims to have a 'Christian view of marriage' does not mean that I hate anyone who has chosen a different lifestyle. My goal is to love others just as Jesus loved the institution He called the church, for which He literally gave up His life. So my proposal is that we all put down our 'hypothetical weapons' and start loving one another in such way and seek wholeness and shalom (the way things ought to be).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When Doing the Right Thing Comes Up Short

Many of you have heard of the controversy surrounding the Olympic Fencing Semi-finals (okay, maybe you haven't because fencing is on the top of everyone's radar), but if you were a citizen of South Korea you would be well-acquainted with what happened with the Fencer, Shin Lam in the semi-finals. I want to make it clear that I do not know how fencing works, however, as I understand it there is a clock and when the clock hits zero the person with the most points wins... sounds simple enough, like most games (with the exception of soccer). She was battling it out with Germany's Britta Heidemann and was tied with one second left on the clock. However, this second was not one that would fall off the clock so fast, as a glitch in the system left one second hanging on the clock for significantly more than a second as Heidemann scored her go-ahead point to win the match, technically after the time ran out, however the clock didn't strike zero until after Heidemann scored, sending her on to compete in the Gold-medal round, every Olympic athlete's dream and sole ambition.

As you can imagine, Shin Lam's coach challenged the happenings, and to make matters worse, because of a by-law Shin had to remain on the mat as the judges made their decision on the review. The deliberation lasted over 30 minutes. Talk about agonizing! As Shin Lam sat there with a towel covering her tear-soaked face waiting on the officials to decide her fate. My speculation is that she had to have been thinking about the past years of her life and how, from the time she was a little girl her dream was to win an Olympic Gold. While I did not see the event live, I merely saw pictures and read the story, my heart went out to Shin Lam and her coach and parents and anyone involved in getting her to the place she was. There is no doubt in my mind that she had spent years training and didn't miss a single day of practice or workout to get to where she was; she had done the right thing all along only to have her fate decided by a malfunction of a clock that should have struck zero a little sooner than it did.

The decision was made that the score would stand and Heidemann would advance to the Gold-medal round leaving Lam just short of her goal that she had set out for from the start. As if it was a consolation she had the opportunity to compete for the bronze, but after being shaken up by the disappointment, she came up short of victory once again leaving her standing on the sidelines as three other athletes stood on a podium and watched as their nation's flag was raised into the air. She was so close she could nearly have heard her national anthem as she could have been watching her flag raised. Thus enters one of the most difficult leadership pills to swallow: sometimes you can do all the right things and it will still leave you short of your expectations.

This must be where Paul was coming from when he tells the Thessalonians to "never get tired of doing what is good." Sometimes you can make every right move and be in the right places and say the right things, but some outside factor that you have no control over can thwart what you have worked so hard for. It leaves you wondering if you really did everything you could, but when it comes down to it there are simply some things that are out of your control and that are out of my control. When those things happen you are left where the only thing you can feel is your heart beating a harder than normal, you can't quite formulate a complete thought, and all you can do is wonder at how things would be different if were in control of it. But the truth is, you cannot control all of the little details and you cannot control how people respond to the things you do. You can hope for the best and pray that it happens, but that is about the extent. Because sometimes you can do all the right things and still come up short. But don't let that discourage you, never, EVER get tired of doing what is good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Work it Out

"Now it is back to the ole grind stone."

If you have ever said this about job that you have worked then I hope this post is encouraging for you. There are countless ways people describe jobs that they can't stand, whether it is a full-time job or a part-time job, if you don't enjoy doing what you are doing, then there is a chance you are doing the wrong thing. It is also possible that you have the wrong perspective of the work you currently do; you just can't see the big picture, so you don't see how your work lines up with and adds to the bigger picture of what is going on around you.

There are two reason someone will work:

1. The most common reason is because they have to. As they say, "you gotta eat" and while this doesn't referring to a Rally's slogan, it is simply truth and in order to eat you need to have some money. In order to get some money, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and sometimes that thing you have to do isn't all that fun to do. Nearly everyone at one point in their lives will have to do something that they may not get an overwhelming enjoyment out of, but they simply need to do it. (some of you might be thinking, "I have been there for 20 years!" bear with me)

2. The less common reason people work is because they have a great passion for what they do and if they don't do it, then it won't get done. They have a burden to do what it is that they do and they would never refer to their work as a "job," rather something they do. If you are unhappy because you have been working a "job," counting down the hours until the day ends and spending all your free time (or work time) planning your next vacation, then I have good news for you: you don't have to stay where you are!

Seth Godin says: "Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need escape from." Most people spend a fair amount of time going through their day doing a lot of things they would rather not be doing, but few people ever sit down and make a plan for the day, let alone a plan for how they can work their way out of the work they are currently doing and into something more meaningful. You would be amazed at how much more you can do in a day when you sit down to write out the things you are going to do.

Imagine what you could do if you sat down and planned out your next year and the things you want to accomplish. What if you sat down today and wrote out a plan for how you can start doing what it is you want to be doing. I know as well as you do that there might be some things that you simply must do right now, but if you apply yourself to reproducing yourself then you won't have to do what you are doing because you have successfully trained someone else to do it. I pray that your work will be meaningful and used to build others up. That you do not hate what you do, but you find joy in it. That your life is filled with purpose and you wake up every day excited about what you get to do that day.
I'll leave you with something Malcom Gladwell says and I hope this brings some hope to your future: "Hard work is a prison cell only if the work has no meaning."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Above Morality

While many would describe Christians as bland, avoiding of conflict, haters of homo's, weak, cliche, lack of adventure, and hypocritical, that is not, however, the picture that we are painted throughout Scripture. In fact, Jesus was the opposite of all of these things. He was never afraid to pick a fight if there was a fight that needed to be picked. He was who He appeared to be. He was bold, loved all humanity, and took on whatever came His way.

So why is it that so many Christians live in such a way that would suggest these things to the casual observer? This shouldn't be the case, yet for so many it is. Life in Christ should mean a life filled with freedom, yet so many do not actually live as if they have this freedom. Is there a reason? Has someone or something sucked the joy out of life? Jesus says that He came to give life and life more abundantly, but where is that life and when does it start? He never said anything about waiting until we die in order to get this more abundant life into gear. Life was a part of God's plan from the beginning. He breathed life into His creation. He created so much simply for the purpose of enjoyment. There is no reason we need an endless array of colors, yet we have all these colors and they are designed for us to enjoy and for us to feel. Every color is to produce a feeling, which shows that we don't have to be emotionless, rather at our core we are emotional beings meant to feel a broad range of feelings as reaction to what is around us. There should be a sense of adventure and exploration of this world that we are supposed to live in.

Has something squelched our dreams of a better world and our desired creativity that will lead us to make those dreams reality?

I'm afraid that over the years our teachings have been too focused on what we are not allowed to do and has veered totally away from what we are to be doing as people who follow Jesus. Who cares what we aren't allowed to do, we need to be awakened into this world that He created for us and engage in the endless options of things we get to participate in.

Justice is at the core of everything we are able to do. When we participate in bringing justice to areas of the world where justice is lacking, then we are participating in things that Jesus Himself participated in. Everyone has a thirst on some level for justice, however, many have somehow convinced ourselves that things will never be made right. Our dreams of a better tomorrow have been damaged, but they won't be crushed. That dream will always live within us.

Yet, instead of pursuing justice we try to manage how many times we "sin." We try to be the best person we can be. But, Jesus didn't call us to be good people. He called us to be game changers. He called us to have character. To get mad about things that were not a part of His original plan. To live a life worthy of the calling we have received. Yet so many have settled for trying to be "good." And it's a wonder why all these labels Christians have been given are out there. If good morality is the goal than we have greatly missed the point.

Henry David Thoreau summed it all up in one beautiful statement:

"Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Atmosphere of Expectation

What would it look like to walk into an atmosphere of expectation?

It happens all the time. Whether it is at a concert where a crowd of people have gathered expecting to be blown away by their favorite band. There is anticipation welling up to the point of tangibility. Everyone might be talking, but they still have one eye on the stage just waiting to get the first glimpse of the lead guy as the band walks out on the stage. But once the band walks on stage the anticipation doesn't end there. As the screaming dies down, it starts right back up at the first note or at the sound of the lead singers voice simply saying a quick "hello" to the crowd. And then the whole time the band is playing the expectation and anticipation turns into joy and infatuation and a sense of awe as you finally got what you were hoping for.

What about the delivery of a child? There is a lot of anticipation built into the delivery of a child... months worth of anticipation! There are preparations made for where the child will sleep, the purchasing of a diaper jeanie, rocking chair, and more clothes than the baby could possibly wear before he or she grows out of them. It also effects the eating habits of the mother because there is an expectation that the baby will be healthy, but that will only happen if the mother takes care of the baby while she is carrying. There is months of expectation all culminate to a new life being brought into the world! Now I won't say that the delivery is the height of the anticipation, because I have never given birth to a baby and chances are I never will, but the anticipation of grows during that time. But then thing you have been expecting for months turns into a reality in the form of a living, breathing being of which you can hold in your arms, you can hear cry, and you can simply enjoy. All of the expectations and months of anticipations turns into total focus on the infant after that. Sometimes it is as if the parents don't even exist.

It seems like the main things that we have high expectations for are all things that we pretty much know will happen anyway. Now I know that there are always circumstances where these things might have complications, but for the most part we know pretty much when and where these events will take place. It seems like the things we have high expectations for only come around once or twice a year, but why is that? My guess is that it has something to do with how exciting your prayers are. Is there anything you are praying for that seems impossible, but if it happened would cause the same reaction as if a baby were born or your favorite band walks out on stage? Would excitement well up inside of you until you couldn't help but squeeze someone or yell and scream until you have no voice?

An atmosphere of expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.

There was a woman who was hemorrhaging for 12 years and no one could heal the woman. In fact, doctors took advantage of her and would take her money and leave her worse than she was before. But then she heard that Jesus was in town and she knew that there was something special about him. One day there was a large crowd gathering around him and Mark says that the woman thought to herself, "If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well." But the phrase "she thought to herself" when translated better paints this picture that she continually thought to herself... it was as if she was saying, "If I can just get to him. I need to get to this man. When I get to Jesus I will be healed. Let me get to the man. I need what he has to offer, now let me at him." And the crazy thing was when she touched the edge of his robe she was instantly healed. Jesus knew that she had been healed, but when he turned to ask who touched him, the disciples thought he was going crazy because there were tons of people around constantly bumping into him. But he knew that someone very deliberately touched him. When he found the woman and she told him the story of why she had touched him, his response was, "Daughter, you to a risk of faith, and now you are healed and whole." Because of her expectation of what would happen when she touched Jesus she was healed. Because she had faith and had a very specific picture of what would happen if she could just get to Jesus and touch his robe, she was healed. Lots of people touched Jesus that day, but she was the one that was healed because of her faith and expectation of what would happen when she touched the Son of Man.

An atmosphere of expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.

Faith is not some sort of feeling it is a cognitive choice that we make. So what is it that you are asking God to do that only God to do? And will you choose to have the faith to wake up each day and live expecting something great to happen in your life?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Furtick: on Miracles

After an interesting discussion with some people tonight about 'acts of God' or miracles, I thought it was interesting to hear what one pastor out of Charlotte, North Carolina had to say. None of this is my original thought, however I do like what he has to say and looking at scripture he comes up with some interesting points. So, I hope you enjoy and this broadens your view of a subject that has a wide scope of perspectives already.

When you look at the miracles in the Bible, you see two themes consistently emerge when it comes to the person involved in the miracle.
1) Many biblical miracles were the person’s own initiative, not God’s idea.
• Like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.
• Or Namaan who went to Elisha for healing for his leprosy.
• Or the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant.
2) many biblical miracles involved the person’s natural action, not just God’s supernatural intervention.
• Like when the Israelites had to walk through the Red Sea after God parted it.
• Or when the blind man had to wash himself in the pool of Siloam.
• Or when Joshua and his army had to march around the walls of Jericho before it fell.

The bottom line is that when it comes to the miracles you want to see in and through your life, God wants your involvement. I’ve said it before, but most Christians don’t want miracles, we want magic. We want God to wave a magic wand at our problem or need.
We want God to send the money out of the sky.
God forbid we would cut up our credit cards.

We want God to heal us of our physical ailments.
God forbid we change our eating habits or start exercising.

We want to see God do miraculous things through us.
God forbid we get off the couch and give God a platform off of which He can work.

I’m sorry, but God’s miracles don’t work like that. Of course they involve His unmistakable power and provision. Otherwise they wouldn’t be miracles. But they also require your initiative and involvement. Otherwise they would just be magic.

Maybe we could sum it up like this:
Without God, you cannot.
Without you, God will not.

Ask yourself two questions today.
1) What miracle do you need or want to see God accomplish in or through your life?
2) What involvement is God requiring from you before He accomplishes the miracle?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Best of 2012

I'm not much of one to do plugs for books, but this year I have read a couple books that have really shaped my thought in lots of ways and really changed the way I view myself, God, and prayer. I know it is still pretty early to say that these are a couple of the most influential books I have read this year, but they are changing my life little by little.

Soul Print is the first book that I read this year. It is all about being comfortable in your own skin and finding your unique identity. Mark Batterson talks a lot about how you have the unique ability to worship God in a way that no one else has because God has made you different than anyone else. He says that we rob ourselves of our true identity when we try to conform to the way other people do things, but we really just need to be ourselves. I don't want to ruin the whole book for you, because you really should read this, but here is what it looks like:

The next book has made an even greater impact on my life has been The Circle Maker. This book gets its name from the story of a man named Honi who lived in Israel about 100 years before Jesus. There was a great drought in the land and the people were worried, so Honi went out where people could see him and he stuck his staff in the ground and drew a circle around himself in the sand. He said he wasn't going to leave that circle until it rained, and then he began to pray and God brought the rain. This might sound weird, given my profession, but I have never counted myself as a really good pray-er, but this book has changed that for sure. He talks about praying for big things that seem impossible and watching God work before your eyes. I am in the process of reading this book with a small group of adults that I am in and I have to say, since we started reading this book it has been incredible watching God answer some big prayers every week. This book will change your life, not just the way you pray (I mean that most sincerely).

Batterson talks a lot about dreaming big in this book and setting goals and then circling your dreams and goals in prayer. Perhaps my next post I will share some of my dreams that I have listed while reading this book. In one night I came up with about 32 goals. I'm not a big goal setter, but it turns out I have a lot of goals! The list continues, but that is for a later day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ

I did not write this piece, but it was too good not to share. This came from a man from a church in Australia called, Hillsong Church. His name is Robert Fergusson and he has a pretty good picture of what the church is. I hope this is inspiring to you as you read it.

The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ

She is the plan of God on earth; always in her Father’s eye: Cherished, mysterious, beautiful and potent beyond measure: King empowered and life infused. She emerges triumphant; limitless with potential; a harbour for the hopeless and an answer for the ages: The church resplendent - a bride for His Son.

She is the body of Christ on earth; born, like her Head, amidst tribulation, under jealous skies. Cradled in her innocence and guarded for His purpose. She grows in wisdom and stature with victory on her lips and freedom in her hands. Hers is an unstoppable cause. She embraces the world with dignity, honour and compassion; gives vision to the sightless and life to the dying.

She is the family of God on earth. Within her compass, the hungry find sustenance and the weary receive strength. She is a haven for recovering humanity, enthralled by grace. She invites the broken, the vulnerable and the outcast to be immersed in love. She stands imperfect but perfection resides within her. She is flawed but is washed with forgiveness. She has a treasury of faith and a wealth of belonging.

She is the house of heaven on earth: A representative, resolute to reconcile. The Word within her accepts the receptive but challenges the heartless. She is the ecclesia, called out to serve the world: Calling out to welcome in. Blood-washed and armed with testimony, the cross on her lips liberates the chained and offends the unchanging. Like her Master she is pursued and persecuted. Yet she rises with strength in her heart and fire in her soul.

She is the bride of Christ on earth; readying herself for the day when all eyes will be upon her. Prepared and presented before the Lord: The Lamb for whom the world waits, who comes like the rising sun, majestic and magnificent beyond description, while she dazzles with reflected glory. Spotless, perfect and mature, she bows low to cast her crowns and passionately worship Him. Her temporal focus becomes her eternal gaze. She is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.