Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow....Great Performance, God!

Frozen precipitation falling from the sky is something you don't see very often in Texas. Perhaps that's why we all go so crazy when we see a little bit of it begin to fall. As I write this, my two little boys are in the back yard making snow angels. Well, not really making snow angels but they are laying on the ground making the motions of making snow angels. Although the snow is falling, there is not any on the ground. Of course, all those from up north look at us and think we're all crazy because it's something that they see regularly. Its just a regular part of life for them come winter time.

But, think about it for a minute. The amazing process of evaporation, condensation, and then precipitation is a pretty awesome thing. And when that precipitation is in the form of small ice crystals it's even more amazing. And when it coats the landscape with a layer of white, its a beautiful thing. Whether you've seen it a million times or once in your lifetime, this act of God is still an incredible thing to behold.

How often do we get so accustomed to all the amazing performances of God that we fail to be wowed by it anymore? He paints the sky like a canvas as the sun rises or sets and we hardly even notice. Every night we nod off to sleep under a vast expanse full of planets and stars and rarely stop to take it all in. The flowers in the spring, the leaves in the fall, thunderstorms, and boisterous winds are all breathtaking performances by our Creator that we don't always allow to take our breath away anymore. The birds sing melodies and the squirrels do death defying acrobatics jumping from tree to tree and we seldom pay any attention to them. God's miraculous works surround us everyday and if we'll pause for a moment to take it in, we will indeed be wowed by it all.

The miracle of tiny ice crystals falling from the sky is just as awesome today as the first time it ever happened. The only thing that's changed the "wow" factor is our perspective. We've seen it before so it no longer blows us away like it does our children. Slow down today and take in part of His creation and allow Him to wow you with it again. I mean, come on, we're talking about tiny, little, intricate ice crystals that were formed thousands of feet in the air and then slowly float to the ground...that's an awesome performance by our Creator!!! I'm thinking He deserves a standing ovation for that!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Poem About Complaining

Complaining comes easy, like second nature I suppose
We look in the mirror and can’t stand our nose
We think we’re too fat, too short or too tall
Our butt is too big, or we have no butt at all
Our hair is too curly, too straight, or too gray
When we look at our toes, “They’re too crooked we say”
We don’t like our skin, it’s too dark or too light
Our teeth are too stained, and our clothes fit too tight
Our car is too old, we just pray that it starts
Our house has mold levels that’s way off the charts
We need new carpet, and the sink drips non-stop
And our surround sound just doesn’t have enough pop
Our TV’s too small, 52 inches won’t do
We don’t have enough channels, even with pay-per-view
We’re out of bottled water God forbid we use tap
And by the way our neighbor needs to turn down that rap
And his dog better quit all that barking at night
Cause we’ll call the cops, yeah we know our rights
We love our church but hey, something’s got to give
Don’t talk about sin, just 3 points on how to live
It’s way too hot, or too cold, Who controls the A/C?
Is there any way we could get more comfortable seats?
They sing too long or they need to sing more
10:30’s too early, or what about 10 or before
That guy across the room we can’t really stand
We hope the pastor’s message is not dull, but grand
Our kids better behave cause we’re going insane
The stress of this week has taken a toll on our brain
Complain yes we do, every hour of every day
Yet, tell me wherein lies the cure, tell me I say
For a complaint fixes nothing, yep, nothing indeed
But reveals what’s in our heart, what’s down deep
It shows us a heart dissatisfied with life
A heart that has become a battle field of strife
One that has forgotten the nothing we deserve
Yet, the goodness of our God and this life He’s preserved
The grace we’ve been given, and mercy without end
And the love without measure, that overcomes our sin
If nothing more we received, therein is enough
Never to complain, nor grumble about stuff

copyright © 2009 Tim Stone

Friday, November 6, 2009

A World At War

As I stood glued to the television yesterday afternoon, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Here, on our soil, our enemy struck. Sure, he was dressed in a uniform that made him appear to be one of our soldiers, but the truth was, he was the enemy. An enemy with an agenda. An enemy who set out to take down as many of our soldiers as he possibly could. I'm sure as the whole story unfolds, we'll begin to find out what it was that made this man go off. What it was that made his brain snap so that he would carry out such a horrible attack. Was he in opposition to our foreign policy? Was he part of a much bigger group with an much larger agenda? Was his recent conversion to Islam a contributing factor? Or, was he just chemically imbalanced?

Perhaps, it was all of these or then again, maybe it wasn't any of these. Whatever the motivation, the fact still remains that he set out yesterday with a plan that tragically took the lives of several American soldiers and wounded many others. I think that for most of us, we expect to hear about this kind of stuff happening on foreign soil. But here in America, at one of our Army posts, now, that's a really hard pill to swallow. I mean lets face it, as long as there are enemies miles and miles away from our country's boundaries we aren't all that rattled. But when we find one here, we are often left scratching our heads.

Here is something we all have to remember though. We have enemies. The United States has always had enemies. Since the time we declared our independence, we've had to fight to keep it. All the freedoms we enjoy, have come at a heavy price. Countless men and women have spilled their blood to give each of us these freedoms. As long as we live here, that fight will never end. I know there are those who oppose war and other armed encounters but their very freedom to disagree with it, was purchased by that very thing. I'm not saying I like war, I think only a fool would say that. But I'm not so naive as to think that freedom doesn't come with a price. There is never a time when I meet a man or woman who is either serving in the military or has served that I don't go out of my way to express my appreciation for their service. I understand that it is because of them, I can walk outside and breathe a breath of freedom every morning. That's a freedom I pray I never lose sight of.

Since the fall of man, this world we live in has been a world at war. It is a world full of evil people with evil plans. They are often motivated by hate, and a desire for power and wealth. It would be great if that wasn't the case, but it's the truth. If there is not a force or forces committed to thwarting evil, then evil will rule. Peace would be great, but true peace will never come until Jesus returns. Even that peace will come as a result of him thwarting the plans of the evil one by a war unlike one this world has yet to see. Peace isn't the result of avoiding conflict, it is only produced by refusing to back down from necessary conflict.

Kimberly Munley, the officer who took down the shooter at Fort Hood, who I'm sure will say she was just doing her job, is a hero. She chose to confront evil and as a result, who knows how many lives were saved. It's people like her and all those who wear the uniform to whom we owe a debt we could never repay. Let's remember all those who were wounded and their families as well as the families of those who lost their lives yesterday. Earnestly pray for them. And take note that Veterans day is coming up next week on Nov. 11th. Determine to find a veteran and tell them thanks. They are extremely easy to find. They usually pridefully wear a cap or have a bumper sticker that promotes a branch of service or declares their love for this country. Trust me, I search them out all the time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pets...You Got To Love Them...Or Do You?

I'm not much for pets. Although, growing up we always had pets in our home, I was never the one that took "ownership" of those pets. If I remember correctly, I have personally had only two pets that I would call my own. A gold fish and a rabbit. The gold fish lived a very long time, while the rabbit was not so fortunate.

Now, although I don't own any pets nor do I want any, I do like animals. I remember growing up, my grandfather had a small farm with chickens, dogs, a mean rooster, and a pony. I loved spending time there in the summer. Hanging out there with all those animals was great. Well, except the mean rooster, that thing I hated. I love going to Seaworld, wildlife refuges, and the zoo, as long as its not in the heat of summer in southeast Texas. I remember when my wife and I went to the Canadian Rockies, how fascinated we both were as we encountered elk, moose, sheep, reindeer, and other forms of wildlife. Then there was the time we went to the zoo while in Belize City. We knew from the get-go that this adventure was going to be great when we encountered the swarming African killer bees at the entrance of the zoo. Yes, someone in our group got attacked by them, but lived to tell about it. To be honest, that wasn't near as exciting as the Tapir that sprayed body fluids out of its hind-end on a lady in our group. Oh, I almost forgot the time I stopped on the side of the road to check out what these people were looking at only to see a nest of bald eagles. I love that kind of stuff.

Even though I like animals, still, I don't really care that much for pets around the house. Maybe, its the responsibility of taking care of them. Maybe, its the trail of hair, or smell, or damaged property they leave behind. Maybe, its the rubbing up against my leg when I don't want it to, or the jumping in my lap when I don't want it to, or the barking at night. I'm not sure, but for whatever reason, I don't like pets. By the way, as I'm writing this there are some dogs in the neighborhood barking. I'm not sure what they are barking at, but they are barking. Barking non-stop. There are times that doesn't bother me, then there are times when it drives me up the wall. Right now is one of those times, its driving my up the wall.

While I'm not all that much into having pets, I know there are those who will read this and be floored by that fact. There will be cat lovers and dog lovers, cat/dog lovers, fish lovers, bird lovers and other pet lovers who will struggle with the fact that there is someone who doesn't really care for their Fluffy, or Spot, or Polly.

Isn't it wonderful though that we are created so different? There are those who own one pet and that's plenty. There are those who own a lot and want more. And then, there are those like me who have none and want none. God made us all so unique. It's really an awesome design by our Creator. It doesn't end with our affinity for animals either. Some of us like rock, others like country, while others like big band, or rap, or pop. Some of us like broccoli, while others like potatoes. Some like steak, while others like fish. Some of us are athletic, while some are artistic. Some of us are creative, while others are logical. On and on the list goes. We are created so vastly different that even though there are those with like interests or talents, there is still nobody just like us.

Think about that... Over 6 billion people on this planet and you are one of a kind. God created us in such a way that only we can love and respond to Him in the way that we were uniquely created too. I truly believe that God is glorified in us simply becoming the person we were created to be. It is in that moment when we genuinely become fully alive that God's glory is clearly revealed in us.

What is so crazy is that there are those who try so desperately to attempt to squeeze us into a mold that we were never created to squeeze into. They struggle with the idea that one could actually be different than they are or have different likes and dislikes. Scripture tells us to be careful not to allow this world to squeeze us into its mold. Rather, we are to allow God to help us to become all He has created us to become. Only then will life be completely satisfying.

I'm not sure how I got all of that out of me not being a pet person, but somehow I did. I do know one thing, I've got to take a break now and find out what these crazy dogs are barking at. They are driving me up the wall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Day The Snake Got Loose In Our Church

While growing up, one of my Dad's favorite story tellers was a man named Wendy Bagwell. Over the years I've probably heard this man's retelling of his encounter with a back woods snake handling church close to a hundred times or more. If you want a good laugh, you can check him out here on Now, Westlake Fellowship is not a snake handling church. And it was obvious by my "handling" of this snake that it was not something I did often.

Fortunately for all the members of Westlake, this snake encounter happened on a Saturday when I was the only one in the building. It all started while I was on my way out of the door to put up some signs. When I opened the door, there in front of me was a nice size water moccasin. I won't try to guess the size as I'm sure in my mind he was at least 5 feet longer than he actually was. Now, my first instinct when I see a snake is usually to kill it. This day was no different. Because I was headed out to put up signs, I had two large poles in my hands so I used them as my weapon. While still inside the door, holding one pole in one hand, I attacked with the other. However, the snake was not in defense mode, but he himself was in attack mode. He lunged for the pole in an attempt to strike it. Every time I tried to hit him with the pole, he leaped into the air trying to strike it. After a few futile attempts at hitting a moving target, I was thinking of a new strategy, when all of a sudden that crazy snake came in the building. Not only did he come in the door, but he proceeded to come after me. I was retreating to safety up some stairs, trying to think how I was now going to get that thing out of the building. The snake on the other hand was not taking time to think. He just kept coming. Up the stairs, mouth wide open, this snake just kept coming after me, leaping in the air trying to strike me.

At this point, I began to sweat just a little bit. Thank God I had a couple of long poles in my hands, but the fact is this snake was extremely fast and I didn't want him to get upstairs and crawl somewhere where I couldn't get to him. In my mind while attempting to keep a safe distance from him, I was thinking of the possibilities of what could happen come Sunday morning if this crazed snake was still in the building. I had to get him out. I finally dropped one of the poles before I put a hole in the wall and went back into attack mode determined to get this intruder out and then deal with him appropriately once outside. Somehow, someway I managed to get enough of him with the pole that I was able to sling him down the stairs and out the door. Once outside, neither he nor I relented. He attacked, I attacked and when the dust had cleared, my opponent lay motionless on the ground in two pieces. Ok, if you've ever killed a snake they aren't really motionless at first, but I thought that was really a good line.

I stood there chuckling for a moment thinking to myself, "Did this really just happen?" I mean this was a crazy encounter. I have come across numerous snakes in my lifetime, but never had one come after me like that. Here weeks later, the memory of that snake with its wide open "cotton mouth" striking at the pole and at me, is still extremely vivid. At the time all I knew was I had to do whatever was necessary to get that thing out of the building.

In scripture our enemy is referred to as a snake or serpent. There are times in our lives when like me, we open the door and we allow him to enter. Maybe we didn't want him to, but the truth is once the door is open, he doesn't ask permission. Like that crazed snake that day, our enemy just storms right in. Perhaps, it was something we saw on the Internet that opened the door, or perhaps it was an unhealthy thought we meditated on too long. It could have been endearing yourself to a co-worker of the opposite sex, rather than with your spouse. Maybe, it was a choice we made to compromise in an area, or a time we let our eyes see something we should never have allowed them to see. There are thousands of ways we can open the door to the enemy and once he's in he can be very difficult to get out.

One thing is true, once the enemy has made his way in the door, the intensity at which we war with him has to increase. Like me on that day facing that snake, it is at this moment we have to determine to do whatever is necessary to get the enemy out. If we do not, trust me, it will eventually effect every person in that house. Perhaps, we need another hand in the battle with us, and we need to swallow our pride and solicit the help of a trusted friend. Whatever the case, if we choose not to go into attack mode and deal with the enemy, his work of destruction will be evident everywhere.

Although, that snake had me backtracking at one point that day, the truth is I didn't take it all that seriously until that happened. It's when I quit playing around and got serious that I defeated that snake once and for all. The same holds true for us when dealing the devil. As long as we don't take the fight seriously, he'll have us backtracking. It is only when we begin to take the fight seriously that the enemy starts to encounter defeat.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Help, I Need A Break!!!

Have you ever needed a break? Have you ever needed to escape? You know just get away. Just take some time to forget about life and all its responsibilities. Perhaps, a vacation once a month would be ideal. Not the kind of vacation where you are doing a million things but the kind where you just get to kick back and relax. Ok, I know that unless your bank account is running over and you're self employed, retired, or have a very nice boss, that's not at all practical. And no I'm not offering you an all expense paid vacation somewhere.

The truth of the matter is that we are busy people. We wake every day with agendas that often could never be accomplished in a 24 hour day. As a result, we often go to bed at night with unfinished business. Some of us are often walking around on the borderline of burned-out constantly. And because vacations only come once or twice a year, it is imperative that we find some kind of escape, even if it is for a few moments.

Some head for the movies. Some hit the la-z-boy chair and vegetate in front of the TV. Some run to relationships, while others pop pills, drown themselves in drink, or sit around with a laptop on their lap for hours gaming, surfing, or engaged in some other Internet activity. There's a great deal of other activities that people choose as their "escape" and I must admit I have a few myself.

The truth is that we all need some down time. The problem is, we often err in how we approach this. God created us in such a way that we would need a break. He set up a system in which we could have a day off. He called it a sabbath. Religion took that day and made it into a religious thing, but God himself says it was created for us, not Him. God, the Omnipotent Creator created us and gave us permission to take a day off. What a concept!!! Think about. One day every week to escape. To take the pressures of life and remove them from our shoulders for a day. Go ahead, rotate those shoulders around and roll your neck around a time or two. Now that feels good. When is the last time, you took a day off? A day when you spent the day with the ones you love the most. A day when the agenda was nothing more than to take a break. Trust me if we could learn to do that, we would be more equipped to handle life during the rest of the week.

In addition to taking a day off, what do you think would happen if during the moments of needing to escape during the week, we chose to run to God rather than run to all our other "escape" mechanisms. I'm not saying that all those things we do to escape are negatives, just that often times they are a substitute for the only thing that can really work. Scripture tells us... that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their be still and know that I am God...come to me all you who labor and are heaven laden and I will give you rest. All throughout God's Word we are instructed that in Him is where we find true rest. Sure, we can escape using lots of other ways, but we were created to find our escape in Him. When we choose to run to Him, not only do we find rest but we find a renewed strength.

Running to Him is not a religious thing. It can look like a few moments of silence and solitude. Or, perhaps a few moments of scripture reading, or prayer. It can be time spent in meditation. No, meditation is not just some wacked-out eastern religious practice, but a scriptural practice that God instructs us to embrace. It's a practice of pondering or thinking about what God has said and what He's saying. I'm convinced that when we learn to practice "escaping" like this, it puts us light-years beyond any of those other escapes.

Next time you feel the need to escape, try running to Him. I think you'll find that He is better equipped to meet your need for rest and strength than any other thing you try.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Best Football Game Of The Week

Believe it or not the Monday night game that pitted Brett Favre against his old teammates was not the best game I witnessed this week. Oh, sure it was a good one and Favre once again pulled some Monday night magic out of his hat, yet I can't say it was the best game of the week. As a matter of fact, no NFL or NCAA game even compares. This game wasn't watched by millions of fans and to be completely honest wasn't even played in a big stadium.

The game starred two rookies who attempted to get the best of a wily old veteran team. A veteran team who has lost some speed and agility through the years but has gained in wisdom in order to compensate for its losses in physical ability. There was a lot of chatter going into the game, but as we all know the outcome is always determined on the field. It was apparent by the opening kickoff that the veteran team was in trouble as one of the young rookies took the opening kickoff the length of the field.

By the time the dust had cleared, my young boys, er, I mean the young rookies had pretty much whipped the older, wiser team. Ok, so I let the cat out of the bag. The fact is these little one's of mine are just way too fast. And although it's tough for them to bring me down, its nearly impossible for me to even catch them. It was quite a one-sided affair. I don't much care for losing, but the truth is I'll lose to that tandem anytime.

Naturally, nobody else would find this backyard game of football of much interest. Oh, I'm sure there are a few that would pay to see this overweight, out of shape, increasingly gray-haired man trying to track down his swift-footed boys, but lets face it other than that, this game offered very little that would appeal to anyone but those involved. Yet, for those involved, it was a blast. Sure, the day after, I felt every tackle, every hit, and pains in muscles I didn't even know I used. Still when compared to Favre's Monday magic, the Texans romp of the Raiders, and the Cowboys, (well, let's not even go there) this game of football with my boys wins hands down.

If you're a Dad or a Mom, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Nothing really compares to those moments you spend with your children. At least that's the way it is for me. I love it. I wish I had more time to spend with them. Let's face it, there's coming a day when they'll grow up and those moments when they come to me and ask, "Daddy, will you play with me," will be a thing of the past. Those with older children have already experienced this I'm sure. That's why is so important to cherish those moments while we have them, and place a priority on spending time with our children while we can. Having spent 15+ years in youth ministry, I never once had a teenager come to me and tell me, "My parents spend way too much time with me." On the other hand, if I had a dime for every time a young person came to me struggling with the fact that their parents never had enough time for them, I would be a wealthy man.

Time is the commodity most needed by your little ones. Not money, not stuff, but you. I must admit, there are those moments when I fail miserably at this. Those times when they are screaming for my attention and my time, and something else take priority. Yes, its obvious that there are moments where it is impossible to set aside everything and focus only on them. We have to work, we have to run a household, we have to do a million things it seems some times. I'm referring to those moments when something takes priority over spending time with my children that in the grand scheme of things is of little importance. I mean let's face it, can't I do my internet surfing later? Is it possible to record what I'm watching and come back to it later? Yes, I know you're tired from a hard day's work, but do you have 20, 30, 60 minutes left in the tank? Maybe, its just a few minutes but if you'll put everything you've got into those few minutes, trust me, you'll not regret it.

I mentioned my experience with teens earlier, but the same holds true with so many parents. I can't recall a parent ever complaining that while their kids were growing up they wished they wouldn't have spent so much time with them. However, how many parents have you known that regret the fact that they were always too busy to spend quality time with their children while they were growing up? Determine to spend time with your children. Turn off the TV, turn off the laptop, and get in the floor or go outside and have a blast. Trust me when I say, it'll be the best time of your week.

I enjoy watching 40 year old Favre run around the field and throw the football like only he can. But watching him could never compare to the moments when this 42 year old, gets to race around a back yard trying to catch my 3 year old and my 6 year old. Its true they came out on top this time, but I've been working on a new game plan for our next encounter. And next time, they're going down baby, they're going down!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Slow Leaks

I have a leaking tire on my car. I've looked and looked, yet I haven't found where the air is leaking from. It's a very slow leak, but if left alone, I would come out one morning to find it flat. It may take a couple weeks or so, but becoming flat is inevitable should I do nothing.

My life has felt like that leaking tire before. Slowly deflating and doing nothing to remedy the situation. It reminds me of a song by Casting Crowns called "Slow Fade." The song is about how easy it is for us to digress if we aren't careful. Like the slow leak in my tire that left unchecked will eventually deflate completely, we can slowly drift until we come to the place in our life where we are asking ourselves, "How in the world did I get here?"

It rarely happens quickly. It often starts with a small compromise or a wounded heart that refuses to forgive. Or, a heart that begins turning cold, or ears that grow increasingly deaf to God's voice. Whatever the case the outcome is the same. Slowly we begin to spiral downward and without a course correction can end up in a place we never wanted to be.

Obviously, we have a God who can rescue us at any point along the journey. Whether its at rock bottom or at some other point. The key is to recognize when there is a "leak" and determine to do whatever is necessary to fix it. We have a God who not only will reveal those slow "leaks" in our life, but is also the One who can help us remedy the problem.

I'll be taking my leaking tire, to a tire shop to fix. As for those times my life is leaking, I take that to God who can fix me right up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Squeeze Me Too Tight!

A couple weeks ago, my 3-year old son came running down the stairs screaming, "Daddy, Daddy!" Thankfully, this was a happy proclamation and not one of alarm. I could tell from the excitement in his voice, he couldn't wait to tell me something. When he finally got to me in the living room, he was grinning from ear to ear as he said, "I asked Jesus into my heart?" Of course, I gave him high fives and hugged him real tight like any father would. He stepped back for a second and let me know that I can't hug him very tight anymore because Jesus was now in his heart and if I hugged him too tight, I might kill Jesus again.

Kids say some pretty funny things don't they? I get a kick out of it when they say things that reveal their simplistic way of looking at life. I couldn't help but laugh just a little. But as I sat there chuckling, I began thinking, how awesome his reasoning was. He literally believed that Jesus came to live in his heart. Think about that for a second. He prayed and asked Jesus to come live in his heart, and he really believed that he did. The excitement that he came down the stairs with was not because of the prayer he prayed, but at the fact that Jesus actually now lived in his heart.

As we walk through our Christian journey, wouldn't it be great if we could remain this innocent and full of trust and faith in God. Let's face it, my 3 year old isn't tainted with religious ideologies and all the junk we often acquire through the years that suck the very life of God out of us. He doesn't care if we are going to heaven pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib. He doesn't care about whether or not he goes to a seeker friendly church, spirit-filled church, or liturgical church. He doesn't care if we have to pay tithe on our gross or our net earnings, he just loves giving in the offering. All he knows is that his mommy helped him pray and Jesus now lives in his heart. And from what I can tell, he's pumped up about it.

Jesus speaks of coming to Him with a child-like faith, and I have to think this is exactly what he's talking about. Years have a way of shrinking God and his ability to do the miraculous in our minds. We grow up and we start putting God in some type of religious box and limiting him in our minds. So often rather than growing, our faith starts to shrink. How God longs for us to just believe Him and trust Him. Naturally, he wants our knowledge of Him to grow beyond that of my little 3-year old, but in doing so he wants that 3-year old kind of simplistic faith to remain in us throughout the process. He wants that kind of excitement that my little one ran down the stairs with to be evident in our lives.

My son will eventually learn what it means to have Jesus in his heart, but I hope he never allows his simplistic faith in God to waiver. And by the way, I still hug him real tight, taking care not to squeeze his heart too much.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Let's See Will It Be 8-Track or Cassette

Do you remember 8-track tapes? Ok, so I'm dating myself, but yes I remember them. I even remember the 8-track tapes that I had. I won't bore you with that bit of data, but I'm pretty sure I could list them all. I remember popping them in a listening to the songs. I remember getting to the end of a track and if the song wasn't over there would be that little pause as the 8-track player would switch tracks and then the song would continue. It was a bit odd, but it was the best technology we had. Afterall, it would have been really difficult to drive down the road trying to play an LP or a 45 in the car. You think the early CD players in cars skip a lot!

Anyway, I remember working one summer mowing lawns in order to save up money to buy a new stereo. I had the perfect one picked out. It would be one with an 8-track player, turn-table, AM/FM radio, and the biggest speakers I could find. It was going to be awesome. I gave my money to my Dad who was going to pick it up on his way home. I couldn't wait. I was going to rock the house. Then, when he got home, the stereo looked a little different. I didn't see a place to play my 8-track tapes. For some reason the 8-track tape player had been replaced by this little bitty thing called a cassette player. I was devastated. Ok, maybe not devastated but definitely angry. Never mind, that this was a dual cassette player and this new technology could actually record. Its not what I wanted. I wanted an 8-track player.

I'm sure my Dad was taken back by my reaction. Afterall, he had just purchased something far superior to 8-track tape technology. This was cutting edge stuff. He had even thrown in a few bucks for the upgrade. It was the best thing on the market. And unlike me, he knew 8-tracks were about to be history. Sure, it wasn't what I wanted but it was better. It was the best. And that's the way my Dad always was. He always attempted to do what was best for us, even though it might not be what we wanted.

It kind of reminds me of our Heavenly Father a bit. He's really good at giving us what He knows is best for us, rather than just always giving us what we want. Years ago, Garth Brooks recorded a song that had the line in it, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayer." It's a song about those crazy prayers we pray when we want something but God in his infinite wisdom knows all too well, that the thing we are praying for will not benefit us. Have you ever prayed those kind of prayers? Let's face it, there are a great deal of things we long for and even pray for, that its better for us never to have them. Those desires for things that are birthed as a result of our selfish lusts that in the end they prove to be so empty and unsatisfying when we get them.

I know Scripture tells us that God will give us the desires of our heart, and that's the way some of us quote that scripture. We totally forget the part that says, "If we will delight ourselves in the Lord." I actually think we often misunderstand the whole scripture to be completely honest. I think the context of the scripture indicates that He'll place new desires, His desires in our heart. After all, Scripture also tells us that he'll take out our heart of stone and give us a new one.

The truth is, God longs to bless His children. Sometimes that blessing is not always exactly what we want. But He sees the big picture. He knows what lies up the road for us. He knows what we need which always trumps what we want. Sure, there are times when He lays something in our lap that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what He's up too, but we can rest assured He knows what He's doing.

As the pastor of a small church, my wife Lori and I are on the adventure of a life time. It's the biggest leap of faith I've ever experienced. There are literally times we have to believe God for our needs to be met. That's not a complaint, its actually an incredible place to be. It is a time in our life that I wouldn't give for anything in the world. The growth in both of us has been incredible. It's not been easy, but man, its been great. Naturally there are things we would love to have. Things we both desire. However, when we are blessed, I'm talking over and above what we need, I have to admit, what I want often takes a back seat. There is constantly an inner struggle inside of me when I know that literally every minute of every day there is a child somewhere in the world that dies because of the lack of food. Or, that every day somewhere in the world there are hundreds of children, not all that different than my two, that are sold into a life a sex trafficking. Or, that somewhere out there hundreds of children are orphaned every singe day. I struggle with appeasing my wants at the expense of just one of these little ones.

I'm not a saint. I often spring for the 8-track tape player because that's what I want. Thank God though there are those shining moments when His desires win out in me and I'm ok with the cassette player, the better thing. I'm not writing this to be judgmental or critical, I'm just sharing my heart this week and what I often struggle with. It is true that God is constantly at work in my heart trying to remove the desires of my heart so that He can give me the desires of His heart. I just long for the day when its no longer a struggle to opt for God's desires rather than mine. Perhaps, that'll take place the day I leave this planet, but hopefully along the journey the struggle gets easier and easier.

My Dad's decision turned out to be the right one in the long run. It wasn't long and 8-track tapes were gone. That stereo lasted me well into the CD era. My Dad wasn't perfect but that day He was spot on. Our heavenly Father on the other hand is perfect and is always spot on. I can only pray that when He's offering me His best I am willing to run with that rather than insist on the stuff I want.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tell Me A Story, Daddy

Tell me a story daddy! I hear that a lot at night. Both of my sons like me or their mommy to tell them a story as they lay down at night. I've told literally hundreds of stories over the years. Stories of knights chopping off the heads of two headed dragons. Stories of Jedi knights whippin up on the bad guys. Stories of little boys who grow up to be race car drivers, NBA superstars, fighter pilots, etc. Stories of giant bugs, or giant dinosaurs, or giant something else attacking cities and how two boys save everybody.

I don't mean to brag, but I think I'm pretty good at telling stories. At least, my two boys think so. It's crazy though when I don't tell the story just the way that want to hear it. Both of them will let me know in a hurry when I take the story in a direction that they don't agree with it. There have even been times when they've attempted to have me deviate so much from my original story that I just tell them to finish the story. Afterall, there is only so much compromise a story teller should have to make. Of course, they never want to do that, so onward I push, even though my creativity has been tampered with.

The truth is they want me to tell them a story, but most often they want the controlling rights to the story. They want the license to change it up, if in fact the storyline strays from the way they want it to go. As I sit here thinking about that, I really think our response to God is often the same way. As a believer, we come to God wanting Him to write our story. We truly want Him to be in charge and we want to follow His direction for our life. At least until that story goes a direction we don't want it to go. We think to ourselves certainly, this can't be God taking us down this road. He would never tell the story this way, and if He does then we want a re-write. We want to take back some control as to how the story should go.

It's as if we sing the song, "I Surrender All," but we sing it with a disclaimer at the bottom of the page that says until we get uncomfortable, or don't agree with the storyline. The bottom line is we want to be in control. We want everything to go the way we want it to go and when it doesn't, it is so easy for us to get all bent out of shape. We pray prayers that often try to manipulate God to make everything go our way, rather than praying the kind of prayer that Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. You know that one right? "Not my will, but Yours (God) be done."

Ouch, that even hurt writing it. It's the truth though and we all know it. If we truly want God to write our story, then we'll let Him write it. And when it takes a turn that we don't particularly like, we'll trust that He knows what He's doing. He truly is a masterful story teller, and the story He writes for us, has Him walking through each scene with us. Trust me, Hollywood can't write a better story than the one he has for us. Let's choose to allow Him to write our story and then just walk through the adventure with Him, trusting Him the whole way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Go-Kart, A Jr. High Driver, And An Aching Back

I have a bit of a chronic back problem. Nothing serious, or at least I don't think so. It's just a lower back pain that visits me from time to time. Although, I'm sure my over-sized gut doesn't help the problem, the real culprit is the result of a poor decision that I made years ago.

Have you ever made a choice that afterward you regretted big time? Ok, so that's a ridiculous question. The fact that we are breathing puts us all in that category. We all make mistakes in judgment from time to time. We all jump into things without giving it much thought only to realize mid way through we should have put more thought into it. Or, we fully weigh the consequences and jump in anyway. Whatever our method, the fact remains we've all been there and done that.

As for the decision I made years ago that's still affecting my back today? I was teaching at a school a few years back and was on my way home when I saw one of my jr. high students driving his new go-kart in a field. I stopped simply to watch him. He pulled up to where I was and wanted to take me for a ride. Reluctantly, I hopped on board. Now, the thought that flew through my mind at the speed of light was, "Tim, he's a jr. high student. Don't you think you should drive?" Of course, I pushed that thought aside and hopped into the passenger seat.

Its was fun at first. We went flying across the field. Wind blowing through our hair. It was great. Up until the moment. It seemed as if everything slowed down into slow motion. I looked over at him and he was grinning from ear to ear as if to say now watch this. Assuming he was about to show me some move he had perfected I braced myself. Then this jr. high student while at full throttle jerked the steering wheel as hard as he could, throwing me from the moving vehicle. Had that been all, I would have simply escaped with a few bumps and bruises. But, that wasn't all. Every part of me escaped the vehicle except my foot. Somehow my foot stayed in the go-kart a bit longer than the rest of me. Then the roll bars, which are meant to protect me, along with the entire go-kart, driver still in it, rolled over me. Remember the foot that was stuck in the go-kart? It finally came out after bending my back in a way God never intended for the human back to bend.

As I lay there with my face buried in the dirt and pain shooting through my body from head to toe, I remember thinking, "I think I broke my back." In order to make sure I was not completely paralyzed, I remember beginning to wiggle my fingers and toes. Thank God, everything worked. Yes, everything hurt, but at least everything worked.

Now, there were several mistakes I made that day. My first mistake was stopping my car. Had I just waved and continued on my way home, everything would have been fine. My second mistake was getting in the go-kart with a novice at the wheel. My final mistake was not having a camera on hand to video the event. Had I done that at least I would have had a chance to win money on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Life is full of choices. We're faced with them every day. Some of them are big, some of them are small and some of them are life altering. There are those of us who jump in before we think and then there are those who think so long we never jump. On that day several years ago, I jumped and then while I was lying on the ground in pain, I decided to think. Prior to getting in that go-kart, I would have never thought there was a possibility of feeling the results of that decision, years down the road. But, the truth is I do.

I know my story is a bit funny and truth is I get a lot of laughs when I tell it. And I would consider my choice that day to be a minor one. But throughout my life, as it is with everyone else, there are those choices I have had to make that are huge. The ones that we often wring our hands about and lay in bed contemplating. The ones that you just wish God, Himself, would speak audibly and tell you exactly what to do. Of course, if the truth be told we would probably haggle with Him a bit if He did. The truth is, I've never heard His audible voice and I think its safe to say if not all, most everyone else would say the same.

That being said, it doesn't mean God can't direct us. He can. When Jesus walked the earth, He made the statement that he doesn't do anything that He doesn't see the Father doing. Ok, so I know what your thinking, we can't hear God's voice audibly so how in the world are we going to see Him? We see Him in how Jesus lived His life. Jesus said if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. That's great, but how does that tell me whether or not to take a new job that's half-way across the country, right? Here's my point, Jesus lived His life by a set of principles. He lived His life by including God in every part of it. He didn't block out a part of His life for God, He made God the center of it. His life revolved around God. He lived His life in such a way that he put others first. All of His choices were made, remembering that there was a bigger picture than what He saw on any given day. Jesus came to show us the Father and His journey would include a cross. Everything about Him, moved Him in that direction. He lived His live on purpose, with purpose.

When we choose to live our lives consistent with the way He lived His, choices become easier. No, I didn't say we should all be headed for a cross, just that we should be headed somewhere. There are wonderful opportunities that come along in life, and if we're not careful we'll jump on board not realizing how far they are taking us from where we should be headed. I grew up thinking that open doors were God's way of directing us. Through the years I've discovered that open doors are often ways the Father tests us. God has a destiny, or destination for all of us. If we are headed nowhere, we'll flounder through life not getting anywhere. It is only at that point where we know our destination that our choices in life become easier. When we choose to live our life with purpose and we choose to live our lives by the principles that Jesus lived by, then choices become a breeze.

That being said, when it comes to getting into a go-kart with a jr. high student at the wheel....that just takes a little common sense.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Really Matters

As we journey through life, it is so easy to lose track of what is really important. We can lose sight of what really matters in life. Here in America, the great American dream can lead us astray if we are not careful. No, I'm not dissing the opportunity we have in our country to accomplish whatever it is that we want to accomplish. Its just that our striving for bigger and better stuff can end up being a pretty empty pursuit even when we end up getting what we pursue.

This week while watching some of the coverage on Michael Jackson left me thinking a bit. Now, I didn't know the man personally, but I think anyone who followed his life would have to agree that his life was riddled with inner turmoil. He was indeed a bit bazaar, but I think when you look at the whole picture, you have to agree it all stemmed from some major inner struggles that he seemed never to reconcile. Here's the point, no amount of money or fame he seemed to acquire was able to fix it. As a matter of fact, it might very well have made it worse.

The tragic truth is that he's not alone. Countless numbers of people go through life thinking that more money, bigger houses, a successful career, and nicer things brings about contentment and happiness. What often happens is it produces a desire for more money, bigger houses, more success, and nicer things. It can often become an endless pursuit that ultimately ends with one still wanting.

All of this reminds me of a line from a movie made several years ago, "Cool Runnings." It's a movie about the first Jamaican bobsled team to participate in the Olympics. John Candy plays the part of the team's coach and he's having a heart to heart talk with the team's captain. Referring to winning a gold medal, he tells the young man that, "If you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it." I know its Hollywood and its a bit of a comedy, but there's still a powerful truth in that line. The same holds true with everything we pursue here on earth. If we aren't enough without it, we'll never be enough with it. It makes no different what the "it" is. "It" can never complete us, satisfy us, or fulfill us.

If your life is filled with stress and turmoil, more stuff will not bring peace. If your life is riddled with guilt and shame, a bigger bank account won't fix it. If your marriage is struggling, a nicer house won't solve the problem. If your striving for success is a result of trying to prove your worth, ability, or talent, trust me you'll not remedy that with a successful pursuit. If you find yourself unable to sleep at night because of inner struggles, nothing you pursue can set your heart at ease. Nothing, absolutely nothing on this planet can help you find contentment. It's all just stuff.

No, its not bad to have stuff. Its just a huge mistake when you think it's the answer to your problems. God told Abraham that He (God) was his exceedingly great reward. He didn't just say that he was going to give Abraham lots and lots of stuff. God said that He, Himself was Abraham's true reward. God had blessed Abraham with lots of stuff, but that wasn't the point. What really mattered was that Abraham understood that God was his reward. Sure, he could enjoy the stuff, but God was his reward not the stuff. I mean think about this, Abraham was called a "friend of God." God, the Creator of the universe and Abraham were buddies. Does anything else really matter?

So often we approach God with a list of wants and can become easily upset when we don't get what we want. We fail to realize that God, not the stuff He chooses to bless us with, is what matters most. Contentment can only be found in Him. He is the One that completes us. He's the One that helps us find peace when turmoil surrounds us. He's the One that helps us fix the mess in us so that we can walk through life complete and whole. It is Him who can help us get to the place where we can be completely content with who we are and where we are. He's the One who can help us look at our bank account and be ok, while at the same time looking in the mirror and being ok. No, I didn't say that we are always gonna stay there, just that we are ok, while we are there.

Paul said in scripture that he had learned to be content with wherever he was in life. That's what we're talking about. It's coming to the place where we are enough with or without stuff. Here in America, we have truly been blessed. Even those who have little, have much when compared to other places around the world. As a result, our view of things can be a little skewed. Believe it or not, there are those throughout the world who have little compared to us who are much more content than we are. It's because contentment has nothing to do with the amount of stuff we have.

Throughout the world there are those who are victims of human trafficking. There are those who are bound by slavery, victims of injustice, and children who are treated in ways that would break everyone of our hearts. There are places without electricity, running water, and other conveniences that we enjoy. There are orphans for whom we could build a home for less than many of us pay for a used car. See how blessed we are! I'm just wondering what God thinks when we pray for excess, while this is the plight of so many throughout the world.

Here's my point...What really matters? I'm thinking it's coming to a place where we realize the greatest treasure we could ever obtain in life is a relationship with God. When we understand that, then the stuff just doesn't matter anymore. We are content with it, and we are content without it. I think it also puts us in a place where we are not so attached to it, so that when presented with a need, we are compelled to action.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Awesome Place To Live happens during those moments when we have more confidence in an unfavorable outcome than we do in a favorable one. It occurs when we have little or no control over a situation and the outcome is completely out of our hands. Worry leads to stress which in turn can lead to some major physical problems.

So, why do we do it? Why do we sit around wringing our hands worrying about those things we can do nothing to fix? It's as if something inside of us just takes over doesn't it? We can't fix it, remedy it, or control it so everything in us tells us to worry. Of course, our worrying always fixes the problem. Yeah, right. Truth is, it never does. Worrying never fixes anything.

Think of all those moments when you've sat around worrying about something and the end result proved that you had nothing to worry about in the first place. Or, how about those moments when you've worried about something that turned out just as bad as you expected. Honestly, did the worrying help? Of course, it didn't. Here's my point, there are things in life we can do nothing about. Now, all you faith people don't shut me out here. I'm talking about those times when we've prayed, we've believed, we've quoted scripture, and done everything else we can possibly do in order to affect a situation or circumstance. Once you are there, there is nothing else you can physically do.

So, we worry. We panic. We get all stressed out. We sit around wringing our hands hoping things somehow, someway turn out better than we anticipate. It is only when we get to a place in our life when we truly trust God that worry is no longer our default state of being. It is only when we really trust that He's got our best interest in mind, or that we have total confidence in God's ability to be in control. Yeah, we know He's God, but our problem is sometimes we're not really sure He's up to the God role. At least, our actions say that.

When we can lay our head on our pillow at night with the confidence that God's at the helm and because of that all is well, that's faith. No, I didn't say that all is well with the world around us, just the fact that God is the one that's sitting on the throne. He's the one in charge. When we know that, I mean really know that, our actions and reactions take on a much different look. When we know, not just hope, that He's working in our life, righting the wrongs, fixing what's broke, and preparing us for what's ahead, it affords a confidence that we could have no other way.

Faith isn't quoting scripture or claiming something through the power of positive thinking. It's knowing. It's not a formula or a ritual. It's the point where my hope has given way to a confidence so sure that it no longer requires me to hope. It's the point at which the thing I hoped for, I know I have even though I've not actually touched it, smelled it, tasted it, or seen it. As a result, my life becomes a reflection of that confident knowing. Do you think a person who knows acts different than a person who hopes and wishes? Absolutely!

God longs for us to trust Him. He so desperately wants us to know that He's trustworthy and faithful. He wants us to live in such a way that our lifestyle screams all is well because God is on the throne even when what we see is telling us different. The truth is, this world around us and how our 5 physical senses navigate through it, can be a constant challenge for our faith. The main problem is that we are so acquainted with this world and the way it works. What is necessary for us is to become more acquainted with God and how He works. When we determine to do that is when our faith and confidence in Him begins to grow. Its a journey. Its a process of learning to trust and believe God. The final destination is a sweet one though. Its a place void of worry, and fear. Its a place of perfect peace, and complete confidence in One more capable than any other. Its a place of rest and relaxation. It's a place called faith and believe me when I say, you've got to go there some day. It really is an awesome place to live!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Missed Free Throws And A Perfect God

While watching the Lakers and Magic last night I was once again reminded of man's constant battle with imperfection. Missed free-throws down the stretch, turnovers, missed shots, blown defensive assignments, and blown calls by the officials. How many times have you been watching a sporting event in which the outcome is more a result of the losing teams lack of execution rather than the winning teams execution? It happens all the time.

We humans as good as we get, still aren't all that good. We sit around comparing talents, skills, and abilities and yet our best falls far short of perfection. In baseball we call a man great if he can hit .400, yet that means he gets an out 6 out of 10 times he steps up to the plate. Kobe Bryant who has become known as "the closer," has made 14 game winning shots in the last 5 years. But his 56 missed game winners seems to indicate the need of another nick-name. Here's the point, because we aren't perfect we sit around celebrating man's attempt at being less imperfect than the other guy. In the end, our best is still quite pathetic when compared to perfection.

I wonder if God chuckles at what we consider great. Think about it. While we sit around toasting our success, He keeps all the planets in orbit. He paints yet another sunset sky. He kicks back on His throne and props His legs up on his footstool called earth. I'm thinking he does indeed chuckle at our attempts at greatness.

God is perfect. Perfect in all that He is and perfect in all that He does. Scripture tells us that He is incapable of being tainted by anything or anyone. He is pure and incorruptible. His greatness is off the charts. While we strive to better ourselves, He can get no better. He is, always has been, and always will be at the top of his game. His performance suffers no slumps, ruts, or inconsistencies. He is who He was and will always be who He is. He never changes and He never waivers. He is perfection personified.

It's not wrong to celebrate mankind's achievements. What's important is that we keep things in proper perspective. So, next time you find yourself celebrating man's imperfect achievements, just remember who's achievements can never be matched.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can You Handle The Truth?

"I want the truth!"
"You can't handle the truth"

Do you remember the scene? Tom Cruise is hammering Jack Nicholson on the witness stand in the climax of the movie, "A Few Good Men." Tom Cruise is a young lawyer and Nicholson is a seasoned Marine of many years. Cruise is going after him with some heavy questioning and the tension in the court room gets so thick you could cut it with a knife. Nicholson of course the prideful man that he is, refuses to back down from this young punk and spills the truth pretty much convicting himself.

We live in a world much like that. One where the truth is so often hard to find. Much of the time its because we're not looking for it. We don't want to really know the truth. What so many of us want is someone to put a mask on it. Cover it up so we won't really have to face it. We walk through life with this crazy ideology that what we don't know won't hurt us. How many people do you know that are hesitant to go to the doctor for fear of what they might find? It's crazy isn't it?

On the show American Idol, Simon gets a lot of flack for being so rude. Sure, he could tone it down a bit, but I'm convinced much of that is for the cameras. Still, the fact remains he tells the truth. I can't believe how many young people show up who really think they can sing only to be heartbroken when they are told they can't. All their life, they've been convinced by people who don't want to hurt their feelings, that they can sing. I don't know about you, but I would rather somebody hurt my feelings before I get up in front of a crowd of people and make an absolute fool out of myself. When we coddle people, we do them a great injustice. Sure, we can determine to speak the truth in a much more pleasant way than Simon, but still we should speak the truth.

We live in a culture today that is so wrapped up in fear over hurting somebody's feelings. What is this crazy philosophy that is prevalent in our culture today that casts shame on those who might say something that offends another? We have a whole generation that has been coddled and God forbid we do anything or say anything that might upset another. Tell me, who does that help in the long run? Why is it that having a differing opinion so threatens people? So, someone disagrees with me, what's the big fuss. So many try so hard to be "politically correct" that they fail to be correct. They fail to be real or share how they truly feel or what they really think. And of course, we think that makes everything so much better.

We try so hard to walk on pins and needles in an effort to make sure nobody gets offended. Are there really people who get offended by a Christmas display of a baby lying in a manger? I mean really? That offends somebody? Or, worse yet saying Merry Christmas truly ticks somebody off? Or, God forbid someone disagrees with somebody else's lifestyle choice. Do we honestly believe that everyone is going to be down with everything we believe and how we do life? Come on! The truth is, we as a people need to grow up and quit wearing our emotions on our sleeves. No matter how you choose to live life, there are going to be those who oppose it.

As a believer, there are those who have never met me that already don't like me. Trust me, I won't lose sleep over it. There are those, both believers and non-believers, who disagree with some of my theology and life philosophy. Again, I won't lose sleep over it. There are very few people who's opinions matter to me. Yes, there are some, but not a great number. Trust me when I say, I am not in the least threatened by someone who believes different than I. I know what I believe and why I believe it.

My life's journey is a constant search for truth. I despise lies, half-truths, and deception. That could be why the older I get the less confidence I have in politicians, but that's a different topic altogether. Naturally, as a follower of Christ, my philosophy in life has been greatly influenced by Him and the Word of God. Because I believe God's Word to be true, I hold fast to it. If I believe Jesus to be the one and only true way, even if it's not "politically correct," why does that bother anybody? Why should anyone get up in arms about that? I'm simply holding true to what I believe to be truth. Does that really threaten people?

Could it be that those who it threatens aren't confident in what they themselves believe? There are all kinds of differing religions and philosophies, none of which threatens me in the least. Naturally, I believe that what I believe is right. And that's really the point isn't it? That everyone believes their way to be right? Which brings us back to the truth. Do we really want to know the truth? Or, do we just want to live our life in such a way that we just assume what we believe to be true? Can we really know the truth? I believe we can. I believe that whoever truly searches for the truth will find it. The real question is can you handle the truth? What if in a moment of time all that you've ever believed, you discovered to be nothing more than a carefully disguised deception? Do you continue in the deception or to you run with the truth? Believe it or not, many choose the false deception because that's what they are comfortable with.

It's like that crazy stringed quartet playing music on the deck of the Titanic while it's sinking. Or, it's like the religious leaders of Jesus day that determined to pay the guards at the tomb of Jesus to perpetrate a lie rather than face the music that they were wrong about him. After all, they would have to admit they crucified the Savior they had been praying God to send them. Much easier to continue in the deception, huh? Trust me when I say the truth is out there. You have to determine though if you can indeed handle the truth.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Face To Face Encounter With A Deadly Beast

Have you ever found yourself face to face with a ferocious beast? I'm talking about a beast that could devour you for his between meal snack. One whose claws could cut you like a razor and whose teeth could rip your flesh from the bone. I had such an encounter yesterday. Believe it or not I found myself literally inches from the claws, jaws, and teeth of a ferocious lion. What's so amazing is that I stood there without an ounce of fear. Perhaps it was the power of God flowing through me, or maybe it was just that thick piece of glass that stood between me and that killer beast. Yep, it was at the zoo that I encountered this big cat.

I know, that little fact changes the dynamic of the story just a bit, but as I stood there glaring into the eyes of that creature I couldn't help but think how different this encounter would be had it happened in the wild. Truth is I would be toast. Checking the size of this lion's paws, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt one swipe from one of those is all it would take to bring me down.

But here, on this day there was no chance of that happening. As a matter of fact, the lion was actually laying down as I approached and before I left had fallen asleep. I couldn't help but think how boring this life must be for him. I don't know his story, but I do know that the wild animals you find at the zoo are often pets of private owners or have been found injured in the wild. Regardless of where they came from, the truth is zoo life was not the kind of life they were created for. It makes no difference how hard designers try to make the "cages" in the zoo represent the animals natural habitats. The fact is, they are still cages. So, here we have a wild, ferocious beast tamed, and bored out of his mind. He's got no antelope to stalk, chase and bring down. His biggest challenge is finding shade in the hot Houston heat. What a tragedy!

As I stood there gazing into this lion's eyes, I thought to myself I've seen that look a million times. Not in the eyes of a lion, but in the eyes of people I meet. Life has a way of taming us. It can strip us of our zeal and passion for living. It can reduce our life to little more than a routine. A series of events put together in a boring cycle that seldom deviates from the norm. Just like the lion, we can find ourself doing life in a way we were never created to live it. We were created for adventure. We were created to dream big and to strive to see those dreams come true. Scripture tells us that without vision, people perish. Can I say it another way? They become tame and bored. Their life becomes void of life.

Do you find yourself there right now? If so, determine to dream again. Determine to engage in life. Refuse to allow circumstances in life to steal your passion and zeal for life. Jesus came to give you abundant life. He came so that you could enjoy the life that you live. He longs for you to live life to it's fullest. Don't be like the lion whose life has been reduced to a meager existence. Engage in life like you never have before. Shoot for those dreams that have been on the back burner for years, engage in those relationships you hold dear, and determine to enjoy living your life.

I'm just wondering, what God can do with individuals who a fully alive? Men, women, boys and girls, who just refuse to be tamed by the world around them. I'm thinking the possibilities are endless.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Do You Think God Is Worried?

Do you think God is worried? I mean, after all, things are getting a bit crazy. Oops, did I say a bit crazy, I meant extremely crazy. It's like with each passing day, something else happens that makes you stop and think, "What in the world is going on here?" The Middle East is as unstable as ever, the world's economy is tanking, and our government, well lets just say needs the wisdom of God and leave it at that. Ok, I can't just leave it at that. Think about this, we now have a national debt that if you counted by ones, you could never count in several lifetimes. Then, there's the never ending insistence that we move further and further away from God and the Biblical principles upon which our nation was founded. Ok, now we'll just leave it at that. Add to that the current threat of the swine flu, natural disasters, the new nuclear arms race, talk about a one world currency, and God has to be worried, right?

After all, this can't be part of his ultimate plan, could it? I mean certainly, things in the world have gone in a direction God had not planned, right? Hardly. While we sit around wringing our hands, God has propped His legs up on His footstool and is at perfect peace. Worry is not an emotion, He is acquainted with. His plan was established eons ago, and nothing and no one, can keep it from playing out. Trust me, God's not worried, stressed out, or running for the hills. His anxiety level is not increasing, and He's not losing sleep. He's not concerned about how global warming or a possible ice age could mess up His whole plan for His Son's 1000 year reign.

In Matthew 24, Jesus instructs us not to become troubled or worried when we see things getting crazy, because all these things must happen for the end to come. He says that because he wants us to understand that God has everything under control. He wants us to understand that God is God and everything will play out according to His plan.

The challenge for believers is to live as though we believe it. When we get worried about all that's going on around us, we are really saying that we don't truly believe that God's at the helm. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be involved in the great political process here in our country and doing our part. What I am saying, is that when we totally trust God, we shouldn't get bent out of shape when things don't go the way we think they should. It's at moments like that, when we need to hit our prayer closet. Being involved in the political process, engaging in prayer and fasting, is our responsibility. The only thing left after that, is to trust God. Worrying and freaking out will not change one thing. Trust me, I've tried.

As believers, its time we learn how to completely trust God. He's got things mapped out, and they will go exactly the way He's planned. He's not worried. He never has been, and He never will be. Come on, He's God, remember!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gone Fishing

I went fishing the other day with my family. Although we didn't land the kind of "miracle" catch that Jesus helped Peter catch, we did catch a few perch. My youngest son, convinced that there were sharks in the lake, was pleasantly surprised when we reeled in the small fish. Neither one of of my boys cared to bait their hooks with the slimy worms so I took care of that. After all, you can't catch fish without bait. Whether it's rubber worms, live bait, fancy lures or whatever, you have to use something to catch fish.

Peter, James, and John and all the other fishermen that eventually followed Jesus knew all about catching fish. When Jesus called them to follow Him, He said, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men." Jesus was building a kingdom and was recruiting men to help him bring others into the kingdom. Like those men, those of us who are followers of Jesus, have the responsibility to be "fishers of men."

There is no better time than right now to engage in this type of kingdom business. Our bait? Hope! There's not a great deal of good news to be found right now, but we as believers always have a source of good news. We always have hope to share with those who have none. Psalm 91 declares that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God will always take care of his children.

Sure, the economy looks bad, and there are wars and rumors of wars, and the spirit of anti-christ is seen everywhere. But, God is still on the throne and he is a refuge for each of us. Look for opportunities to share hope with those you meet. You don't have to be preachy, just confident that the God you serve is who He says He is.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good Friday?

I know it seems a bit strange to label the day Jesus was brutally beaten and killed as "good." At least my 6 year old is struggling a bit with that terminology. After all, it was a moment that Jesus asked the Father if it was possible to spare Him from it. Of course, it was the only way to redeem lost man, so Jesus followed through with the plan. A plan that would require an innocent man to be arrested, mocked, ridiculed, beaten, abused, whipped, nailed to a cross, and ultimately killed. And we call that "good."

Good, because we know what it all meant. At least what it all meant for us. The "good" was what it meant for us. Redemption, restoration, salvation, and much more. It was a moment in time where the mercy, grace, and love of God met at the same point with the justice, and judgment of God. We being the recipients of His mercy, grace, and love and Jesus being the recipient of His justice, judgment, and wrath. Its the point where God poured out the punishment for sin and Jesus agreed to take that punishment for us.

Scripture tells us that He became our sin. Is it any wonder, God had to turn His back on Him? Jesus became the very thing God hated. Think about that for a minute. Jesus, who is God, became the very thing God hates. God, Himself, became something He hates in order to rescue what He loves. We've all seen Hollywood try to illustrate what happened that day, and I believe none of their attempts come close. Sure, Mel Gibson's, "Passion of the Christ," probably is the closest, but even with all its detail of the crucifixion, it still falls short. There is so much going on at this point in time besides a crucifixion. Our sin, all of it, was carried to that cross that day. From Hitler's inhumanity, to our little white lies. Every murderer, adulterer, pedophile, liar, thief, gossip, or drunk. Every abusive parent, rebellious child, or uncompassionate, unloving, selfish person. Jesus became that sin! Ponder that for a moment. Jesus became all of that sin. It brings a great deal more understanding as to why God the Father, couldn't stand to look at Him.

The wages of sin is death. The payment, punishment, and judgement of sin is death. All of us have sinned. Every single one of us fit into that category of deserving death. But God stepped in with His grace, mercy, and love. He came in the flesh and became sin so that He himself could take on our punishment of death. Isaiah tells us that, it pleased the Father to bruise Him. It pleased God for Jesus to be crucified. That's sounds a bit odd, without knowing the whole story, but when you know what all was going on that day, you understand very well why it pleased the Father. Redemption, restoration, and salvation was made available to us all that day, because of what Jesus did. Because, Jesus, who is God, submitted his eternal, immortal self to death as a man, mankind could once again have the eternal life he was designed to have.

I'm sure the disciples thought that crucifixion day was anything but "good." But on that resurrection day can you imagine what type of emotions stirred in them all? Every doubt, every question, every tear was gone in an instant as they realized it was all true. Everything He said he was and everything He said he would do, had to have come racing back to them as they stood at the door of that empty tomb. That sin he took on Himself, He shed, having never sinned himself, and in an instant God raised Him from the dead. For the disciples, all the pieces of the puzzle came together that day, as they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the man they had dropped everything to follow, had dropped everything to save each one of them. He was indeed the Messiah the world had long awaited for and His salvation was available to all.

It was at that very moment, I think they all realized how "good" that crucifixion day really was. We have grown up celebrating this day as "Good Friday!" Many workers just see it as another day off, while many retailers see it as another day to make some money. For the believer though, who understands what happened on that day some 2000 years ago, he/she sees it for what it really is...."Good Friday!"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Is The World Coming To An End?

With all the events going on in the world it makes you think a little doesn't it? The economies of the world are going crazy, Iran and North Korea are trying feverishly to develop nuclear capabilities, world leaders are discussing a "global currency," and Israel is proclaiming if somebody doesn't stop Iran they will. Put all that together with the whole global warming thing or the coming "ice age" and things seem to be a bit unstable.

But does it mean that the world is coming to an end? We are all leery of all those who proclaim the end is here because of all those who have missed it in the past. Remember the Cold War of the 1980's and the fear that somebody was going to push that button that would send this world into global thermonuclear war? How about the whole Y2K thing? Truth is though, this world is coming to an end. At least, this world as we know it. No, I'm not saying that it's happening in the next few months, although it could. I'm just saying that all you see is setting the stage for the final act. Maybe it's a year, 10 years, 50 years, maybe more, maybe less, but there is coming a day when Jesus will step in and change everything.

What I find so puzzling about times like this is that Christians so often go into freak-out mode when they feel the end is near. They become overwhelmed with fear of what is to come. For the believer, however, the end is actually a wonderful thing. Scripture tells us that when we see all these things happening to look up for our redemption is almost here. Jesus said, I'm going to prepare a place for you and there is coming a day when I'll come back to get you. At times like these, it is important for the believer to live like they believe that. Whether we are close to the end or its still decades away.

If nothing else, we have an awesome opportunity to bring in the harvest by utilizing the times and our assurance of our future as a launching pad to share the gospel. Trust me, people all around you are concerned about everything that is going on. If we as believers walk around in fear, we'll have very little ability to make an impact in the lives of others. However, if we have confidence and assurance in our Savior to do exactly what He said He'll do, then we'll be primed and ready to share that hope with others.

One more thing, Jesus also said it's very important that we not allow ourselves to get weighed down by pleasure seeking and the cares of this life or we won't be ready for that day of His return. It is important that we press into the things of God now more than ever. This is not a time for shrinking back, but for turning up the intensity in our walk with God.

The end is coming. It may be this year, or 50 years from now, but for the believer the only thing that should mean is that we are determined to be about our Father's business. But, then again, isn't that the way we are always suppose to live?

Friday, March 20, 2009

All Of This From A Chicken

I visited a farm this week. A real working farm. Complete with chickens, pigs, cows, horses, and dogs. While there, I learned some things about some of the animals, I didn't know. One thing in particular, was a fact about chickens and laying eggs. It appears that the frequency in which a chicken lays eggs is a direct result of how much sun light they are subjected to. During the long summer days, chickens lay more eggs than during the shortened winter days. Now, maybe you already knew that, but I had no idea. Of course, you may be wondering how knowing this fact really helps you, and I would have to say unless you're raising chickens, I'm not sure it's really something you have to know.

Its just that facts like this often get me to thinking. Thinking about the awesomeness of our Creator. When you mix truths like this with other truths it speaks volumes about God's intelligent design. How anyone can question the idea of a divine Creator leaves me dumbfounded. I mean just think about it. Bees and other bugs fly from flower to flower helping to pollinate them. Accident or divine design? A process in which water evaporates, condensates, and then falls as rain. Then there's forces like gravitational forces, electrical forces, and magnetic forces. A sun that constantly burns but is never consumed. An earth that is exactly far enough away from the sun to keep us from freezing or burning up. A never ending space full of innumerable galaxies.

Of course, nothing I've ever seen screams intelligent design quite like the times I've held my two newborn babies in my hands. How anyone can hold to the philosophy that somehow all we see around us is the result of nothing more than chance truly astounds me. Evidence of our Creator is all around us. From chickens to far reaching galaxies.

Man's futile attempt to deny God's existence will always fall short. I wonder how tickled God gets when mankind in his arrogance tries to drum up arguments disproving the very Creator who gave them the ability to make any kind of argument. I kinda feel like He just kicks back, paints a sunrise sky with colors He created, in the sky He created, so that on the earth He created, mankind, who He created, can catch a glimpse of the creativity of a God who is real.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lessons From A Six-Year-Old Knight

Last week we took our two boys to the park. They both love the park and like any other kid, they ran, climbed, and slid. About 30 minutes into our visit my 6 year old grabs a stick, and for the next 20 minutes or so, he's in a world of his own. Apparently, he had been swept away to a place in need of a knight. I'm not sure if it was a galaxy far, far away where Jedi knights attempt to curtail evil or back in time when medieval knights fought dragons and rescued princesses. Wherever he was, one thing is for certain, the bad guys didn't stand a chance. His technique made it obvious to everyone around him, he was no novice. Utilizing spin moves, and quick lunges, with both left hand and right hand assaults, the pole, er... um... I mean the enemy would receive no mercy from him this day.

Isn't it funny how young ones can so quickly escape to another world? Whether it's pretending they are a knight, a basketball player hitting a last second buzzer beater, or pirate in search of a buried treasure. Or, maybe a little girl pretending to be a beautiful princess, or a famous singer complete with hair brush microphone, or pretending to be a mother taking care of her little dolls, dressing them, feeding them, and rocking them to sleep. Truth is, most little ones have very little difficult forgetting about this world for a few moments.

Maybe, its creativity? I don't know. I kind of like to believe that its a bit more than that. Perhaps, it's a part of our DNA. Part of how we are wired. After all, the world we live in, is not the only world we live in. Ok, that statement doesn't make a lot of sense, but let me clarify. Believe it or not, parallel to the world we live in, is a world we can't see. Or should I say, can't see with the natural eye. Yet, it's a world that we are a part of. Actually, we are more a part of this "unseen" world, than we are of this "seen" world. Scripture tells us that we are nothing more than pilgrims, or travelers through this "seen" world, but we are citizens of another place.

Ok, I know that sounds like some sci-fi flick, but believe it or not, it's true. The kingdom of God is a real place, a real kingdom. Although our natural eye can't see it, we can still "see" it. At least those who are born again can see it. How can you see something that you can't see with your natural eye? Remember algebra? At first those concepts were hard to get, hard to understand. But, then one day, finally that light went off and you got it. You could "see" it as clear as day. Ok, so maybe you never got the algebra thing, but hopefully you can follow that line of thinking.

To those who are born again, Jesus tells us that we can see the kingdom of God. We can understand it, and comprehend it. Though, oblivious to our natural eye, we can begin to see it clearly. As a result, our lives take on, or should take on, a shift from doing life the way we've always done life. We begin to do life with the knowledge and understanding that although we are in this "seen" world we are not of it. Our citizenship belongs to an eternal kingdom and the 70, 80, 90 years here is nothing more than a vapor. We learn to walk through this life not becoming too attached to the things in it, too overwhelmed by the problems in it, or too worried about the uncertainty of it.

To those who can't see the kingdom of God, it's nothing but foolishness to them. They don't understand it. They struggle with the concepts, principles, and character that lay at the foundation of this kingdom. While we live there, because they can't see it, they view us much like those watching my son fighting evil in another world. To them it's foolishness.

Next time you see your little one's pretending to be of another world, remember it's not foolishness. I would go so far as to say, it's simply training for that day, when they can "see" that other world that they are so much a part of.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reflecting His Image

I caught my reflection in the mirror the other day. One of those full length, can't hide anything, kind of mirrors. You know the kind that makes you do a double take, because you are convinced there is no way you are that big. Problem is, mirrors don't lie. What you see, is an accurate representation of the real thing. I would love to say that the gray hair and excess weight I saw in the mirror was a result of bad lighting, but let's face it, the mirror was telling the truth. It was a reflection of my actual image.

It's moment's like these that I wish mirrors could do what Photo-Shop can do to pictures. Take a few pounds off, remove the blemishes, and make you look years younger. But, then again the result wouldn't change the real thing would it? The reality is when we gaze into a mirror, the image that we see looking back at us, is really us. So, whether we have a firm 6-pack or if we have 6-gallon abs, we can rest assured the mirror will reflect the truth.

Like a mirror, we too are to accurately reflect an image. That image is of our Heavenly Father. As a believer, our lives should be a reflection of God to the world. Trouble is, sometimes we are like those mirrors in those crazy houses you see at carnivals. You know the kind that offers up a warped view of the original image. As a believer, the world sees in us a reflection of who God is, and if we aren't careful, we will reflect an image of Him that is in no way an accurate representation of Him. No, I'm not saying we are going to be perfect at this, but too often we aren't even close.

Let me give you an example. One day, Jesus and the disciples where traveling through Samaria. Samaritans and Jews, didn't exactly get along and the Samaritans were anything but accommodating. They did not welcome Jesus and the disciples. James and John had the answer to the problem. They approached Jesus and asked them if He wanted them to call down fire from heaven and kill all the Samaritans. I can picture Jesus, stopping and looking at them like they had just said something absolutely unacceptable. He goes on the rebuke them by telling them that they have no idea what spirit they are of. Or, in other words, they have no idea whose image they are reflecting. Ouch! Remember, when Jesus looks straight at Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan!" Same thing. In both instances, these guys were not allowing their lives to be an accurate reflection of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, was able to perfectly present to the world, an accurate reflection of our Heavenly Father. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father do. He told His disciples time and time again, if they wanted to know what the Father was like, all they had to do was watch Him. Jesus spoke like the Father, acted like the Father, and lived like the Father. His life served as a mirror image of God, so that the world could better know what God was like.

It's been said that the greatest cause of atheism today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their mouths but deny Him with their lifestyle. Let's face it, as believers, we've driven more people away from the kingdom of God than any other entity in this world. The world is looking at us, and it is vitally important that we learn how to be a reflection of God's image.

Are you like James and John and reflecting a perverted view of who God is, or are you like Jesus and reflecting accurately the image of God? We are often good at reflecting judgment but often fall short on reflecting grace and mercy. It is true that God is a God of judgement and justice, but He is also a God who is full of mercy and grace. He is love, He is full of love, and loves each of us unconditionally. Trust me when I say, the world will never listen to what we have to say until they see in us, a reflection of God's goodness. Our lifestyle will always serve as a much powerful testimony than empty religious jargon.

Choose today to reflect the character and nature of God to the world around you. Choose to become better acquainted with Him, so that when the world sees you, they will better understand who God is. We are His mirrors to the world. Let's learn to reflect Him well.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In God We Trust

In God We Trust! Really? No, I'm not referring to our country here, I'm just talking about us. Me and you. You and I. Do we really trust in Him? Is our confidence in Him? All around us, things are a bit unstable. Hardly a day goes by without some major corporation laying off large numbers of employees. The markets are crazy, banks are in trouble, foreclosure is common place, and what in the world is the deal with gasoline prices? If you dare to watch the evening news, you'll more than likely go to bed praying Jesus, come quickly.

The real problem with our economy is that we've learned to trust in other things. Things like debt, Wall Street, banks, unions, capitalism, and the hard working American worker. And of course, when those things become shaky there's always our leaders in Washington to lead us out of financial destruction and into the paths of good ole American prosperity.

Well, here we find ourselves as a nation in debt, Wall Street going crazy, and banks without cash. We have unions who could face the impossible task of protecting workers when a complete industry could go belly-up. Capitalism as we know it is being tainted with the ideologies of socialism, and the hard working American worker is finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to be a hard worker. As for our leaders in Washington? They have no answers. No real solutions. They are about to throw nearly a trillion dollars out there hoping that maybe it'll do something.

Before you start to think that I'm down on America, and its leadership, let me assure you I am not. I love this country and respect and pray for it's leadership. Sure, there are those in Washington, I disagree with and long for the day when their tenure is up, yet while they are there, they have my respect as one of our nation's leaders. The truth is, that through the years I have just learned that everything in this world that I put my confidence in, will somehow disappoint. That's not being negative or pessimistic, it's called living in reality.

When we choose to place our confidence in anything other than our Creator, we have placed our confidence in something that has the ability to crumble. In times like this it is important for all of us to assess what our trust is in. Is it in your job, your education, your bank account, your investment portfolio, your government, our economy, American Express, or some other unstable thing?

Scripture tells us of a story of two men who were building houses. One chose to build his without a good foundation. He built it simply on sand. The other built his on a good, solid foundation. Of course, as in every life, storms came. The one house built on sand was washed away, while the other stood firm. Our generation is being hit with a storm right now. Those who put their confidence in anything but God, run the risk of it all crashing down around them.

Enough of the bad news, now lets talk about those who choose to trust in God.

Psalm 5:11 - But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them...

Psalm 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 - As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Want more?

Psalm 31:14 - But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD;I say, “You are my God.”

Psalm 31:19 - Oh, how great is Your goodness,Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men!

Psalm 56:11 - In God I have put my trust;I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Now, that kind of news is so much better than listening to the evening news, isn't it? We serve a God who is unchanging. He is not affected by the economies of the world, increasing unemployment, or anything else that's going crazy in the world. He created this world by speaking, and it remains as a result of His power alone. This world and everything in it will one day fade away, but the God who always has been and always will be, will still be on His throne. When we trust in Him, we have placed our confidence in something that can not come crashing to the ground.

In saying all of this, I'm not saying that we forget about everything that's going on around us. We are in this world, and it's important that we seek God for wisdom on how to handle the storms that life throw our way. In the middle of it all though, the fact is that life goes a lot more smoother when we choose to place our confidence in our Creator rather than His creation.

So, where is your confidence? Can you honestly say, "In God I Trust"?