Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jesus - The Ultimate People Person

Jesus spent most of his time with people that were viewed as unclean, unholy, and most of all untouchable. The self-righteous Jews of that time considered the motley groups that he hung out with to be some of the lowest forms of human life on the planet. I praise God that Jesus didn't see it that way. He came for them! As a matter of fact, he surrounded himself with thieves, liars, tax collectors, the poor, prostitutes, and every other person that was an outcast to society and had been rejected by legalistic religion. Why did he do this? Wasn't he worried about his reputation? Didn't he worry about what the so called holy men of that time would think? Absolutely not! If you think about God's nature for a minute you'll know the answer. God is love; Jesus is God; Jesus is the manifestation of God in the flesh. He came from heaven to Earth, wrapped himself in human skin, and lived his life as the human representation of perfect love. When I read about how he lived and who he lived with, it shows me that there is hope for me and everyone else on this planet.

It is well documented in scripture how Jesus liked to spend his time with these poor folks (the you and me of yesteryear). He loved to have them over for table fellowship and share a meal with them. During these meals, he acted out God's indiscriminate love for everyone in attendance regardless of what sins they were carrying. Jesus gave them his acceptance, peace, reconciliation, a sense of brotherhood, and most of all Joy! If you think about it, Salvation is Joy in God. Jesus imparted his saving grace to everyone he met back then and he's still doing it today.

I am amazed when I think about how my savior came for me just the way I am. I'm also thankful that he does not look at me through human eyes that see only my faults. His grace really is "amazing" isn't it?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Men Hiding Out

Today's post is a rant because I had one of my hot buttons pushed the other night at church. We recently started reaching out to men in our church to get into men's study groups in order to build relationships and bands of brothers. I've found it vital to my survival to have other men watching my back. As I've mentioned before, my band of brothers pray for and with each other but it is deeper than that. We are a small but powerful army of warriors that engages the enemy and takes care of each other's needs. I am passionate about seeing men come together and come alive!

One of my brothers recently approached a man at church that's been going through an extremely difficult time in his life. My brother asked him to attend one of the groups if anything for solidarity with other men that will help fight for him. The man in question told him he couldn't because he had to help out with a kids group. I've had similar situations when asking men to come to our men's group and have been turned down because of other ministry commitments. Now, all ministry groups need help, and many are understaffed, but is there no one out there that can fill in for you? Is there any rest for the weary? Or, are you hiding out? I'm starting to come to the realization that men like to hide out in other ministrys of the church. Think about it, it's safe there! You don't have to bear your soul nor do you have to be vulnerable when you are just helping out. I know I'll get some flak from this post but that's ok I love constructive criticism. I also understand that everyone is called to their area of ministry where their fruits can be used. But I also know in my heart that everyone needs to be fed from time to time.

Men, if you are guilty of hiding out, it's time to stop it and get real. You need your brothers! It's time for men to come together and join each other in this battle we are in! Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Prayer - Our Priceless Colorings for God

Did you ever feel intimidated to pray? Let me ask it another way: Did you ever feel intimidated to pray out loud around other people? That may have touched a nerve with some of you, but I will be the first one to admit that I had this problem at one time. My good friend Steve recently testified that one of the biggest obstacles holding him back in his Christian walk was his fear of praying out loud. He was afraid that the words may not sound right or that other people would think less of him. The fear of what other people think is the greatest stumbling block we have when it comes to praying out loud. I've got some good news today, God doesn't care what other people think!

In Sunday School last week, my three year old colored this picture. He was so proud of it when he showed it to me and I was proud of him too. In fact, I was so proud that I placed it on my refrigerator at work for everyone to see. Now, to others, this coloring may be silly. But to me, it is a priceless work of art and I place it on the same level with Rembrandt and Raphael! So, how does this coloring relate to prayer? Just like there are no bad colorings by your children, there are no bad prayers to God. All prayers are a pleasant aroma to Him. God is our father and he wants to have a relationship with us and that relationship begins on the personal level. It all starts in a conversation with our Heavenly Father.

My friend Steve overcame his prayer in a big way. The more he prayed out loud, the more God has equipped him. He is now a mighty prayer warrior! So I will leave you with this, if you are afraid to pray out, you don't have to be. Pray out loud the next chance you get and see what happens. If you're afraid, place a crayon in your pocket and rub it when you pray!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fried Chicken and Potato Salad

My Pastor told me something a while back that really struck a cord with me. He told of the time he preached his first sermon and how he set out to wow the congregation. While preparing for his sermon he made sure he researched all of the Greek and Latin translations and added a ton of large theological words. When the big day finally came, he preached his heart out and was sure that it would go down in history as the greatest demonstration of preaching ever pontificated! For reassurance, he later asked his Senior Pastor for his opinion on how he had done. The Senior Pastor told him "From now on, I want you to remember one thing: Fried chicken and potato salad". In other words, keep things simple and don't try to be something you're not.

So, remember no matter how smart you think you are, no matter what you accomplish in life, no matter how many great deeds you do, no matter how many monuments they erect in your honor or statues they chisel into your likeness, an hour after they bury you in the ground, everyone at the funeral will be eating fried chicken and potato salad!!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

What Mudhole are You Stomping In?

The soccer field for my Under-6 team was riddled with mud holes due to Friday night's storm. I learned that the recipe for craziness goes like this: take water and dirt, fold in eleven kids (under age 6) and whip it up into a frenzy, then serve with one soccer ball and two goals. As my previous post mentioned, coaching this age is like herding cats. Believe me, nothing has changed. But, God is teaching me some lessons and taking me deeper in my spiritual walk through these kids.

This picture is one of my players standing in one of the many mudholes during the game. I put him in the game but all he wanted to do was jump in this mudhole. The funny thing was, in all of the commotion of the game, I didn't notice it until the game was almost over and his Mom had to remove him, kicking and screaming, from the mudhole so he could get his post-game snack. What kind of a coach am I? I didn't notice one of my players wasn't participating! To come to think of it, the game was raging all around him and he was content in his mudhole.

I can draw a parallel between this and life can't you? I will be the first one to attest that many times, I get so wrapped up in one thing that I fail to see the bigger picture of what is going on around me. It is in times like this that I realize I am wearing my "spiritual blinders" and haven't completely surrendered to self. When we stomp in the mudhole of self, it causes us to loose site of God's world and his desires for us. When we put our own selfish desires ahead of Him (and we all do), we are rebelling against his will for our lives and missing out on his blessings. I pray today that God will remove me from my mudholes so I can see the bigger picture of what He wants me to do for him, rather than what I want to do for myself. So, I'll leave you with this question: What mudhole are you stomping in today?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Becoming a Christian a "HOW TO" Guide

I noticed on my hit meter that someone found there way here by searching on Google with the keywords "Becoming A Christian". When I saw this, I was heartbroken that I didn't have a post about it, spelling it out in plain English. So, this is for you, whoever you are in Virginia that visited the other day:

The good news I have for you today is, becoming a Christian is not that hard! It does however, require alot of faith. Jesus has already done the hard part by standing in for you and dying a horrible death to pay the ransom for your sins. No matter what horrible things you may have done in the past, you can be forgiven if you ask and mean it. With that said, the first step to become a Christian is to pray this simple, childlike prayer:

"Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you died and rose again to pay for my sins. I confess my sins and you as my Saviour. Come into my heart and become the master of my life. Guide me in your ways so that I might be your devoted follower. In your name I pray, Amen".

If you just prayed that prayer and meant it in your heart, welcome home, you are saved and are a new creation in Christ! You've been given a new heart and are forgiven of all your sins! Now, your next step is to tell someone the good news and find a group of believers to worship with. It is extremely important to get plugged in with others that will help you in your daily walk. If you don't have a bible, get one! I recommend you start reading in the Gospel of John. And last but not least pray, pray, pray. Prayer is simply talking to God. You don't need a degree in Divinity to pray and you don't have to worry that your words may not sound the way you think they should. Just do it! You are God's child and he wants you to talk to him. But when you pray, pause every now and then to let him speak to you. By doing this, you are developing your personal relationship with Him. As you walk with God, (now this is really neat), He will equip you (To see a good example of how God equips, read the story of Moses).

I hope this post has helped you and I am praying for you. It is worth it!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Eat an Apple, Plant a Tree

On my way to work each morning, I eat an apple for breakfast. This is a new health kick that I've been on for a few months. I always take the same country road to work and throw the apple core out the window of my jeep when I'm finished. This morning it occurred to me that I have been throwing apple seeds in the same spot all winter long! In my mind I pictured a bunch of little apple trees coming up in one little spot and then getting cut down all at once by the road crew this summer. Being a scientist with a love for experiments, I started thinking, "what if I throw the cores out at different places along the road each morning? Would the seeds have a better chance to grow into trees if they are more spread out?".

I thought it would be fun to test these questions, so I said a little prayer and tossed the core out at a different spot this morning. It was then that God spoke to me in my heart. He assured me that his grace is limitless and he will give me all I need if I would only ask him for it. In other words, he never runs out of apples and will give us all we ask with one stipulation: We spread it around and plant seeds that will glorify him. I think he was trying to show me that I need to be about planting seeds for him everywhere I go and in whatever circles I fall into. I need to reflect and acknowledge him in everything I do at work, at the store, at the mall, and anywhere else I may roam. Our calling as Christians is pretty simple; plant seeds wherever we go by being an example of Christ for others to see. This is what an unbelieving world needs to see. So my charge to you today is have a spiritual apple and plant the seeds that will bear fruit in the future.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mentoring the Hearts of New Christians

I've been praying for those that have recently given their lives to Jesus. I've been praying that God will send the right people to mentor them and help them along in their new relationship with Christ. Many times I have seen people saved but shortly after, they are picked off by the enemy and go back to living their old lives. If you think about it, when someone is saved, it is a direct assault upon the enemy. Becoming a Christian means that the Kingdom of God has taken back what the enemy had claimed. Obviously, the enemy is dead set on getting back what he lost by whatever means necessary.

When you are saved, you become a new creation in Christ and the old is passed away. You are given a new heart and a fresh start. What's dangerous is how this new heart is handled. I've heard it put that giving a person a new heart is like handing a monkey a priceless guitar and letting them to play it. That's a bit harsh, but think about it for a second.....A new Christian has lived their whole life by their own thoughts (their mind) and not from the deep heart. So, living from the heart is a new concept for them. They are starting at square one and learning how to have a relationship with God and see everything through the spritiual eyes of the heart. It is only when you live from your heart that you can have true fellowship and a personal relationship with God. It is our duty as Christians to mentor new converts and help them grow to mature Christians. I pray today that more of us will be given a burden for the newly saved and begin mentoring them.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Apostle Paul was a Sports Fan

When I read Paul's letters, it's obvious to me that he was a sports fan. In the letters he wrote to the churches in Greek and Roman societies, he used sports terms to explain Christian principles. He urged them to "run the race" and he also spoke of wrestling and boxing. But why?? My studies led me to research the culture of this part of the world during the time he was writing. What I found made sense, these cultures were a lot like present day America, all wrapped up in sports. And much like today, the best Athletes were given god-like status. Paul got down onto the same level with these cultures that understood exactly what he meant when he said "Run the race". Then I wondered, why didn't he mention sports when he wrote to the Jews/Hebrews. My research revealed that the Jews viewed sports as pagan. Had he mentioned sports to the Jews, it would have only turned them off. Paul sure new his audience as God guided his hands to craft some of the greatest books ever written. If he were alive and writing today, do you think he would change anything in his writing style?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Shofar Horn Has Sounded!

At the very moment Jesus died on friday at 3PM, the Jewish High Priest would have just completed the blood offering in the temple and the Shofar Horn would have been sounded to notify everyone that the sacrifice had been given. Little did the player of the horn know he was signifying the perfect, true sacrifice that would fulfill the old covenant and bring salvation to everyone! Isn't it awesome that Jesus gave the perfect sacrifice that day. I wonder what the High Priest thought when the veil ripped in half??? The good news today on this Easter Sunday is that right now in Jerusalem, there is an empty tomb!! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Thank God for the Irish!!!

I just finished this book and have to say I was amazed! It was so good I thought I would do a Book Review on it. I had a desire to read it because, as best I can tell, I am about 20% Irish. Some of it drags a little bit but otherwise, it is a great read. I bet you're all asking, how did the Irish of all people save civilization? To save you the time of reading it, I'll tell you all about in the quick and simple format.

The Roman Empire fell to uneducated barbarians that did not care for learning and cared even less for the Latin and Greek manuscripts found in the empire. When they took over, all education ended. At this same time, St. Patrick began converting the Irish and many of his following became monks with a passion for prayer, education, farming, and most importantly, copying manuscripts and other works of literature (especially the bible). The Irish monks grew in great numbers because Ireland accepted Christianity much easier than other areas of the world. This has been attributed not only to the movement of the Holy Spirit but also to the fact that the Irish pagan belief system was comprised of a god with three heads (so they easily understood the trinity), Irish folklore was filled with supernatural beings (so they understood the unseen spiritual realm), and they made human sacrifices (so they understood not only Jesus' death but also what a living sacrifice meant).

At this time in history, Ireland was the only place in the world where any type of learning/education was taking place! The Irish didn't just keep Christianity and learning to themselves because the Irish monks had a heart for missionary work. Monks set out in all different directions (even to America) to take the gospel to other lands, converting others, and setting up monasteries wherever they landed. During their travels, they also copied whatever literature they found along the way and sent copies back to Ireland. Ireland was an ideal location to store these great works of literature because of it's location on the fringe of the empire where it was away from the major conflicts and disease outbreaks. Experts estimate that at least 50% of all ancient Latin manuscripts in existance were copied by Irish Monks!

We owe alot to the Irish Warrior Monks for all they did. This book is a great read for anyone interested in how God was working in the Dark Ages. It also has the greatest depiction of St. Patrick's life that is currently in print. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yes Virginia, There Really is a Villain

I found this picture the other day and realized that it pretty much sums up our daily lives. BEWARE! There is a villain that prowls about with one agenda, to do what he can, steal what he can, and ultimately wound you so deeply that you lose heart. When we loose heart, we become like this poor person bound to the track and waiting helplessly for a train to run over us. The tough thing about this life is, we have no physical signs that spell it out for us like this sign does. Because we don't see it, we choose to ignore it most of the time and brush it off with phrases like "Well, that's life!". But, the enemy is real and he's out to get you. Whether we want to admit it or not, we were all born into a world at war with a powerful enemy set against us.

When a problem comes up, most people use the ever popular Murphys Law as an excuse by saying "If anything can go wrong it will". I think Murphys Law should be called "The Enemy's Standard Operating Procedure". Of course things will go wrong when you have a powerful enemy that is set against you! It's not until we become more sensitive to the goings on around us and try to see them through the eyes of our hearts that we will realize what kind of tale we have fallen into. I struggle every day and have a long way to go but I know that with Jesus as my guide, the veil can be lifted.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Herding Cats

My three year old boy wanted to play soccer this year so I agreed to be the coach. Yesterday was our first practice and I had eleven kids show up that range from ages 3 to 6. Wow, what a blessing! The next blessing was that five of the dads agreed to help me. Things started out great and the kids did the drills we showed them and they did a really good job. Then we changed drills and they did OK with that too. I thought to myself, this is great, their attention span is alot longer than they get credit for. Then, it happened, about thirty minutes into practice, one of my players said he had to go to the potty and, you guessed it, they all decided they had to go too. Oh well, it really was fun but after the potty incident, the kids took over practice. At one point, there were kids running everywhere, picking flowers, playing tug of war with the cones, and everything else that kids do. While I was trying to round them up, I had a thought come to my mind: this must be what it's like to herd cats.

I wonder what God is going to teach me through this stint as coach. I've been praying that he will reveal it. Our first match is Saturday and it should be fun. Pray for me!!!!!

Sunday, April 9, 2006

I Yawn Because I'm Tired

We just got back from a short vacation in Virginia and boy am I tired. It seems like every time Marci, Will, and I go on vacation we come back more tired than when we left. I took this picture at UVA when Will yawned at yet another statue of Thomas Jefferson. It makes me yawn just looking at it.

Why are we so tired today? Could it be that we are spread so thin and scared to say the one syllable word that everyone is afraid of.......NO?? As Christians, we are taught to go to church, volunteer for everything, get involved, and don't even think about saying no to anyone for any reason. Don't get me wrong, I love my church and I am tickled to death to be involved in men's ministry leadership and I am not putting down the church or forsaking the sacred assembly, I just want to tell my story.

When I first became a christian and got involved in my church, I wanted to do everything, help everybody, and I felt it was my mission to save the church from mediocrity!!!!! I got busier and busier and ran along great for about a year but then things started getting tough. There was alot of spiritual attacks on me and my family and especially in the ministries we were involved in. Most of it was of the "he said, she said" variety and differences of opinion. But, they were obviously firey darts thrown by the enemy to discourage me and harden my heart against the church. When I was at a spiritual low point, I sought the counsel of a very wise person that told me "the church was doing fine before you, and will do fine after you but you need to let God lead you to where you will make the most impact". It was at that point I realized that I needed to find out where my interests lie and what my spiritual gifts are. So, what did I do??? I didn't quit everything and go on a "walkabout" or have a "vision quest", I just eased my way out of a few commitments and started saying no to some. And guess what, there were people from all over the place jumping to fill the vacancies I had created. But the greatest thing I did during this "sabatical" was pray. I prayed through and asked God to reveal in my heart what my calling was and where his will for my life resided. It took patience but God lead me to concentrate on Men's Ministry as my full time area of involvement. He revealed to me that seeing other men come alive is what makes me come alive! It is a blessing to pour myself into one group and know that my talents are being used. I'm excited about the future too! I wonder what God has instore for me next that I can use my talents on.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Be Like A Salmon Today

Yesterday's post was silly, but today's is more serious. I keep thinking about how as Christians we are to be in the world but not of it. I've heard people say it's impossible to do and I don't agree with them. Most of the time, when I ask these same people if they believe there is spiritual warfare going on around us, they normally say that sort of thing only happens in third world countries.

Every evening I watch the nightly news and it becomes more and more obvious that this world is controlled by the enemy and is in a constant state of warfare. The battle that rages around us in the unseen spiritual realm, spills over into our domain (the visible, physical realm) and is affirmed during the nightly news broadcast. But it's not just the news, look at all of the filth on the internet, on TV, in the mall, at the bookstores, etc that we are bombarded with daily and many have accepted as "just the way it is". But, what can we do to separate ourselves from this unhealthy environment? The answer is, be like a salmon! Yes, you heard me correctly, be like a fish. (Some of you are saying What???, just stay with me). I love to eat salmon but the only complaint I have with it is it needs salt, and lots of it. In fact, when I sat down to eat salmon a while back at the local Japanese Steak House, the first thing I reached for was the salt shaker. Now when you think about it, the salmon spends it's life swimming through a harsh, cold environment and is always surrounded by salt water on the outside, but it's inside remains salt-less. Even though it lives in salt, none of that saltiness permeates through the salmon's skin to it's inner flesh. As Christians, we are alot like the salmon swimming through a world surrounded by evil on all sides. We need to learn a lesson from the salmon and not let the evil of this world permeate through our spiritual skins. So, as you swim through this salty sea of the world today, be aware, be prayed up, and above all else guard your heart!

Monday, April 3, 2006

Famous Personality Test

I guess I'm the larger, Christian version of Gandhi...............I found this test on Jon Dale's blog and had to take it. The first time I took it I was JFK and when Marci took it, she was Che Guevara. I wasn't happy with the JFK outcome so I took it a second time and took the longer more detailed test. And look what happened, I turned out to be Gandhi. It's a silly test but it was fun, give it a try and amuse yourself.