Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When We All Get to Heaven...

I had a little glimpse into what it might be like one day when we arrive in heaven. Seriously, me, Marci, and about one hundred other folks got to see it. But, I may have been the only one that picked up on it.

Last night, we went to a birthday party. But not just any birthday party, because this one was for a guy that I respect beyond measure and obviously, by the turnout, I'm not the only one that feels this way about him. At 6PM we (and the other hundred or so) packed into a small Italian restaurant and awaited his arrival. "He" was my boss a few years ago and as I looked around, I knew about everyone there because of my past affiliation with them in the workplace. As I looked around there were smiles everywhere and people were coming up to me and saying the usual, "Man, how longs it been?" and, "Wow it's great to see you!", and my personal favorite, "I was thinking about you guys the other day." For about an hour I had the opportunity to enjoy the fellowship with long lost friends and others that I would have never expected to see. It was a homecoming in itself.

As we were all catching up, a lady stood up and announced, "He's five minutes away!" Many of the folks around me cheered, some clapped, but what amazed me was the sheer energy flowing through the room. I can only describe this as an incredible warmth, obviously from the love everyone has for this man, and it was so strong that you could actually feel the electric energy int he air.

As the tension mounted, another lady stood up on a stool and announced, "He just pulled in, everyone get ready!" That's when a hush fell over the packed room With everyone standing shoulder to shoulder and looking toward the front door, waiting, ready to spring forth the single word that will get the party started. I saw a figure approaching from the outside, then the door opened and in stepped the birthday boy. Next came the resounding:


As you can imagine, he was grinning from ear to ear as he stood there looking into this sea of friends that had assembled to honor him on his special 50th Birthday. People started mobbing him with hugs, some kisses, and tons of handshakes. I have to admit that I was smiling with a grin that only the Cheshire Cat could have done justice as I got to wish him the best as he passed by and made his way through the crowd, that were all trying to get to him.

That's when it happened.... God spoke to me. Deep down inside, God told me simply,

"You'll get your day like this but it will be a heavenly one. Everyone will be waiting on you to get there and when you do, they'll wrap their arms around you and eternal party will begin!"

But I don't think I had ever thought of heaven like this before. I'd always thought of streets of gold, mansions, and of course the unbelievable presence of God. But, there are going to be all the other Saints that have gone on before us to fellowship with. And, we'll all know, love and respect each other.

So, right now, there is a party going on. An eternal surprise party of sorts and you are going to be the guest of honor at it one day. Since heaven is everlasting and timeless, who knows, someone may be standing up right now and giving the five minute warning for you, while the crowd is building in anticipation of your arrival. But instead of earthly presents, food, or drink, everyone is going mobbing you with love and trying to get the chance to be the first one to take you to see Jesus.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Voice of the Lord...

What is it going to take for me to accept the fact that God affirms Himself through others? Nothing... absolutely nothing, because I have been there, done that and have the T-shirt to prove it as of late.

As you may have noticed, I have been bombarding the "Blogosphere" lately with posts about hearing God's voice. Lately, I've been hearing Him loud and clear and have even had what he's speaking to me, affirmed through "Life Stuff". Everything from God telling me what a Selfish Crybaby I am, to God speaking to me through teaching the older adults Sunday school class at Church. It's turned into an almost everyday thing and I'm loving it!

For example, yesterday I had my carpet cleaned. No big deal to most, but the guy that cleaned my carpet attends Church with another guy that I just happened to run into in Lexington at Big Blue Madness in a crowd of 24,000 people. Still no big deal huh? Wrong! There is something both of these guys are connected with that just happens to be something I'm praying hard about and asking God to tell me what to do. Obviously, by running into these guys and talking to them, I have my answer loud and clear.

Another has to do with a good friend of mine from High School that is involved in something that is an issue at Church that I've been praying about. If all goes like I hope, it would be incredible, but there are many speed bumps and obstacles in the way. However, there are a ton of God-sized coincidences and connections that tell me it's going to happen and another unbelievable "God Thing" will occur right in front of me.

There have been a few little things too. For instance, I started the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program last week (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND), because I want a Biblical approach to managing money. The first step in it is to have a $1,000 emergency fund in the bank. I decided that I would not take any money out of checking and I decided that I would find this money somewhere else. After some prayers, I listed a bunch of stuff on eBay and let it sell. Guess how much money I made? If you guessed $1,002.37, you'd be correct. How's that for affirmation that what I'm doing is worth it to God!

I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm finding that God speaks through everyday things that are interconnected through a common spiritual thread. I knew this along time ago and that's why I started this blog in the first place. But it's only now (2 years later), that I'm really starting to get a little bigger picture of how He speaks to us. I've learned that when we pray about, ask God to reveal, and seek His face in what we are facing, He'll speak but you have to be ready to hear, or chose to hear/see it.

So, keep your eyes and ears open to what God may be trying to tell you. Or better yet, open your heart to all of those you come into contact with, God will do the rest...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Selfish Crybaby I Am...

I learned a lesson from God today through my son. I guess you could say that God threw a real "zinger" at me and it hit me right between the eyes.

This morning, my wife had to go to the Doctor because she was having pain in her abdomen. Not a big deal normally, but she is 5 months pregnant! So, she goes and calls me to tell me she is not allowed to go back to work and has to get blood drawn. I quickly finished up what I was working on and took off from work. I had to go pick up my son at his preschool and take him to meet up with my wife. I got to school 30 minutes before it normally lets out, and at the exact same moment the class was lining up to go out and play on the playground. Will was excited to see me and greeted me with a big hug. I told him we had to leave because Mommy was sick. And that's when it began...

After telling him we had to go, he started crying and saying that he wanted to play on the playground. I told him no, and followed it up with an apology and an explanation that we didn't have time because we had to get to where his mom was at. This wasn't good enough for him and his cries became louder and louder with objections such as, "Everyone else gets to play on the playground," and my personal least-favorite, "It's not fair!".

I remained calm though, and told him that playing could wait because his mom's and the baby's health was a lot more important. This didn't help the situation, and he continued to cry. I told him that he needed to see the big picture and listen to me, but this was to no avail. After all, he is only 4 years old and playing is his passion. When I had finally heard enough, I simply said to him, "I am not talking to you until you stop crying and get ahold of yourself. Then I'll tell you why we have to go." His cries continued for a moment, but when he realized that I was ignoring him, he settled down with a few muffled sniffs.

It was in this "quiet" that God spoke to my heart and told me,

"This is how you act towards me when I try to get you to do my will and you want to do what your selfish Self wants to do you big crybaby!"

Wow! What a kick in the hindquarters this was as I'm driving down the highway with a four year old sobbing in the car seat next me.

After a little while, I asked him if he loved Mommy and baby Rylan (that's in her belly). He told me he did very much. That was when I explained to him how it's scary to us when she feels bad and we are afraid for the baby. He seemed to understand this and his tears dried up. And better yet, when he got to his Mom, he gave her a big hug and asked how Rylan was doing.

So, now I know how God feels when he tells us to do something and we refuse. What he sees is a grown up crying and stomping around like a four year old denied his playground privileges. The scariest thing is when He decides to stop speaking to us until we come to our senses. My prayer today is not only for the health of my wife and unborn son, but also for my own spiritual ears to be perked up and my Self to be crucified so that I won't be such the "crybaby"...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Listening to God...

I had the honor of leading the Older Adult Sunday School class on Sunday morning. I like to say that I led rather than taught, because I am half the age of most of them and the amount of spiritual and life wisdom in that room was overwhelming. Overall, I was truly humbled to share the message God had placed upon my heart. But I was even more humbled to have them receive it like they did.

All week long, God was leading me to speak on how we hear Him. So, I spoke on how God speaks to our hearts in a quiet voice, even though we expect a vocalized form of communication. I began the lesson by reading through Psalms 29, of how God's voice thunders, shakes, and strips the bark off the cedars of Lebanon. But, I've never had Him speak to me that way, and all the years of wisdom in the room also agreed that they hear a quiet voice within them. So, we talked about the "Still Small Voice" after that.

During my lesson, God revealed something in one of the scriptures that I have read and heard many times before. Isaiah 30:21 says this:

...and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: "This is the way, Walk in it."

I have always considered that scripture to simply mean that God will direct our paths (the right ones) whenever we feel like we do not know which way to go. But, I've never gone much deeper than that. I've always stopped with the idea that we are bee-bopping along through life, and when we come to a place of uncertainty, all we have to do is listen to where God tells us to go, and walk in it. But is this really all there is? Just go through life and when your stumped go to God, just like when you turn to the back of a crossword puzzle book for the answers? Here's what He revealed to me through a co-worker:

There's this fellow I work with that is almost deaf. Before I knew his condition, I had already noticed that he was always looking to the left and/or alternating to the right anytime I talked to him. I thought he had a problem with making eye contact until someone told me he could hardly hear. It was then that I realized he was simply turning his head so that he would have a direct line from my mouth to his ear drum. It took me a while to get used to this, but realized that the good thing about it is that he was paying enough attention to me that he would turn his head and aim his ears at me so he wouldn't miss anything.

So what about how this relates to listening to God? Sure, God is always talking to us and directing our paths and hoping that we will listen. But the sad fact is, we don't always listen to Him either by choice, or because of the millions of distractions and endless chatter thrown up by the world and the enemy that cause us to be hard of hearing. God revealed this about hearing Him:

To hear Him, we must focus on Him by aiming our whole self at Him so that we will not be distracted and so that His voice will have a straight line from His mouth to our hearts.

This is illustrated through the scripture by turning to the left or the right so that we are in direct "ear-shot" of His mouth. Now I realize that to better hear God, I gotta' be like my buddy at work and act as if I'm hard of hearing. No more "Selective Listening" as my wife called it one time...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Exercising Our First Amendment Rights...

I always knew that the First Amendment to the Constitution gives all Americans the right to freedom of the press, religion, speech, and peaceful assembly. But, I never dreamed that I would finally find the exact place in the Smokey Mountains that is set apart and sanctified for this very purpose! Last week, we stopped at the North Carolina/Tennessee border that is located at the top of the mountain. This is the traditional stop for just about every person that ever goes to the Smokey Mountains because it has bathrooms and it gives you a chance to recover from the car sickness you may have developed on the curvy road up.

Since Will had never been there, we thought it'd be a good time to stop and let him see the mountains, take a few pictures, and of course allow my pregnant wife to visit the restroom. While walking to the restroom, I noticed this sign and just new it was a blog post waiting to happen.

Signs like this are very peculiar to me and they make me wonder what the real story behind them could be. I imagine that at sometime in the past, someone felt their first amendment rights were violated so they "Made a Federal Case out of it", and obviously won. Their victory granted them the privilege to stand by this sign, erected in their honor, and express themselves in whatever way they felt led. As you can see, Will and I expressed ourselves in this shameless manner, while countless tourists filed by us, just wondering what the heck we were doing.

This sign makes me wonder if we sometimes wait for a certain location or time to express ourselves for the Lord? Over the past hundred years or so, our society has grown to believe that Church and Christianity is simply a "Sunday/Wednesday Thing". I'm pretty sure that if you were to walk up to a stranger on the street and ask them when do people go to Church, you'd get this answer. Even I grew up believing this way. That is, until I realized that God is too big to put in a box and drag out whenever it's "His" time, of which we have deemed to be between the hours of 6 and 8PM Wednesdays and 9 to 12AM Sundays.

These truths I know: God is too big to put in a box, We are on God's time and he is not on ours, and most importantly, Christianity is a lifestyle of worship that occurs every day, all day in everything we do.

So, if you go to Church on Wednesday and Sunday that's great! Keep it up!! Just realize that Church services are not the only times that are set aside for worshipping God. Church services are simply a time to come together with other Christians and celebrate the worship you have been doing all week long.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gone to Hell, Could've Been Saved...

I've been thinking about the story "Jonah and the Whale". Yeah, I know it wasn't necessarily a whale. Could've been a whale, a shark, a whale shark, or any other 'Great Fish' that swims in the sea. Anyway, I've been thinking about the story, and how God told him to "GO!" and Jonah went. He went so quickly that he ran the other way, stowed away, was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a leviathan and spent three days and nights in it's belly repenting.

But to do the story justice and go deeper, I have to start at the beginning of the story where God tells Jonah to "Go". God told Jonah he needed to get himself over to Nineveh and preach about the town's wickedness. Obviously, the whole town was a mess and God was pretty fed up with them. The part that strikes me funny, is that God gave Jonah a taste of the message he was to preach when he got there (the wickedness part), but later we find out that God gave the rest of the message after the whale/fish puked him out on the beach. If you'll recall, the rest of the story is that Jonah goes to Nineveh, tells the town it's going to be overthrown/destroyed if the people don't repent, the whole town repents and is spared.

The big question that I have is this:

What happened to those people God was trying to reach that died sometime during the three days and nights Jonah was in the belly of the great fish and not reaching out to them as God instructed him?

Obviously, the town of Nineveh was thoroughly wicked. So much so that God was getting ready to destroy it. But since He is gracious, He would send Jonah to warn them. But when Jonah ran and didn't get there when God wanted him to, people were still doing the same wicked things, dieing, and going to hell. Nineveh was a large town so I'm pretty sure they had several die in those three days. I can't help but wonder how many of those that died and went to hell could have been spared and eternity of separation from God, had Jonah not been a coward and RAN AWAY WHEN GOD CALLED HIM.

So, is there anything you are running from today? Or better yet, is there a conflict or disagreement that you know is going to turn into a fight, so you have resigned yourself to run from it, and take a coward's stance? Remember, if God is for you who can be against you...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dancin' Across the USA...

Once again, it's that time of year when we load everybody up, and head out in the family truckster for another vacation adventure. But this time, it's off to the mountains, rather than the beach.

I'll be back in a bit with lots of stories to tell about what God has taught me on this trip through His creation and my family. I'd appreciate prayers for safety and an unveiling of some mystery that He would allow me to have a glimpse of. ..

"Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away? "

--Clark W. Griswold, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

How My Son Got a Soccer Partner...

As I announced in an earlier post, we are expecting our second child on leap day (Febraury 29th). Today, we found out that it is going to be another BOY!!! So, my son now has a soccer partner on the way, just like the kid in this video. I've had this vid on my myspace page for a few months. Do yourself a favor and watch it. It's authentic in every way, even down to the Manchester United jersey...

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Interlocking Pieces, Unlimited Restoration...

    A few years ago, we spent a week at Disney World in the Wilderness Lodge. The day we left to come home, we bought the coolest set of Lincoln Logs for Will (he was 2 years old at the time). This set was comprised of enough interlocking pieces to build a model of the Wilderness Lodge, and it even came with the entrance arch and the Disney character totem pole. I thought it was really cool, and couldn't wait to get time to build it with him.

    A few weeks later, he and I unpacked the set and started building the Lodge. I followed the instructions to the 'nth degree and an hour later, had constructed an exact replica of the Wilderness Lodge. I was very proud of my accomplishment, so I went to get Marci to show her. While I was in the other room, I heard a loud crash, followed by several other strange, wood-on-wood tones. I hurried back to where the noise came from, and of course, the Lodge I built was now in pieces. And as you can imagine, I was a bit upset that the masterpiece I had so painstakingly crafted, now lay in pieces on the living room floor. But it was not only in pieces, there was a two year old boy wading through the bits of wood, kicking them as he went.

    I tried to build a few other things with him right after this incident, but he wasn't too interested. He wouldn't help me build and opted for playing with his other toys. That is until I had built something large enough to destroy and he would return and smash, crush, and stomp. By now, it was crystal clear that Will wasn't ready for Lincoln Logs, so I packed them back into their tin, and stored them away.

    While cleaning out a closet a few weeks ago, I found the tin and decided to reintroduced the logs to our older, "more mature" son (now he's four going on five). This time, he fell in love with them and we've spent a lot of time as of late, building towers, forts, planes, and even dinosaurs out of Lincoln Logs. But, I still see a little bit of the wild side (that I love) in him when we finish playing with what we've built, and it's time to start over. Of course, before you can start building again, you gotta' tear down the old one. And believe me, Will still has his uncanny talent for tearing down in a couple of seconds, what took us hours to build. But, since it's not the Wilderness Lodge, I actually enjoy watching him tear it down.

    I've always heard that things have to get to there lowest point before they can get any better. But just where is the "lowest point"? In the case of the Lincoln Logs, its when there is no structure, just pieces. But what about in the real world? Obviously, the lowest point is when you feel all hope is lost, you think there is nowhere else to turn, your back's up against the wall, and you have hit the proverbial "Rock Bottom". But, the good thing about hitting bottom is that it makes you realize that there is nowhere to go but up! I bet you are ready to charge out of the tunnel and kick your problem in the butt after that motivational speech aren't you! Not if you're human...

    Here's the deal spelled out as simply as I can. When "the wheels come off" in our lives and it seems like everything is torn apart (like the Lincoln Logs), there really is hope. No matter what sort of shambles things are in, be it in your family, finances, or even your church, God designed you to be an over comer. You were crafted by the Master and are comprised of a multitude of parts and pieces that are unique to you, and fit together to in a certain way that maximizes your talents and gifts. The problem is, many times some of our pieces aren't put together the way they need to be and our lincoln-log-existence may be leaning, or even worse, fall down and crash into pieces. But, Jesus is there to put us back together and make us whole, and even better, to make us NEW. It is only that we ask Him, turn it over to Him, cast our cares upon Him, and humble ourselves enough to realize that we just can't do it on our own.

    So, if you are finding yourself at the rock bottom side of something today, look up! He is above, waiting for us to ask for help and calling us to turn to Him. His shoulders are big enough to carry any burden we have, even while He's doing a a NEW thing in our lives through His divine restoration.

    Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look! I am making everything new." Revelation 21:5

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    Hearing God...

    Praise the Lord that He always thunders His voice to us so that we can here Him over every distraction! His voice is so loud that I have to carry extra ear plugs to pass out to all the people within a mile of me whenever he and I are "hanging out". If it wasn't for His unique clarity, I wouldn't know what choices to make, how to behave, or where to go if it wasn't for the crystal-clear, booming voice of God...

    Did you ever hear the voice of God? I mean, did you ever have a voice boom out at you and speak truth to you in such a way that you knew it was none other than the Almighty? I guess if your name is Moses and you lived in the Old Testament times, this was quite normal. But what about today?

    A few years ago, my wife and I were at Disney World in Florida with our Student Ministries Pastor and his family. We had been in the Magic Kingdom for about 15 minutes when suddenly, out of nowhere came a booming male voice that said,

    "Attention Children of all ages, the Magic Kingdom is proud to announce that the parade will begin in five minutes."

    None of us were expecting this voice. I'm pretty sure that all of almost jumped out of our skin when this voice came from wherever it came from (I didn't see any speakers), and assaulted us. I'm sure that some of it was due to the fact that were a bit road-wearyh having just completed the 16 hour journey by car. But, one funny thing that I do remember doing was turning to Pastor Peter and saying something to the effect of, "This must be how Moses felt."

    He replied with a witty, "I know, I was getting ready to take off my shoes and lay down face first on the ground!"

    It's a shame that God doesn't speak in the Old Testament style as He did to Moses. I know it would make my life a whole lot easier because I could simply do as I'm told and follow like a sheep should. But then again, I humbly admire the fact that God loves us so much that he is willing to risk it all with us, and allow us to accept or reject Him. But it all starts with hearing Him. Or better yet, learning how He likes to speak to us.

    I've heard people say that God speaks to them through everything from movies to songs on the radio. I even heard a man at Promise Keepers tell an incredible account of how God uses birds (yes I said "Birds") to speak to him. I personally hear God in my heart through daily life and the "STUFF" that it entails. Actually, that's the reason I started this blog because I realized that God was speaking to me in the mundane, daily life stuff, and I was afraid I would miss it if I didn't collect my thoughts and write them down on this weblog. But the funny thing is, when He shows me what it is He wants me to learn, He whispers it. Not like an audible whisper, just a quiet little assurance in my heart that this is from Him, and is intended for me to take and use.

    So, always remember that God is speaking all the time, in hopes that we will listen. Our problem is that we are looking for a verbalized speech instead of a quietness. I guess that's why they call it a whisper because it is so quiet. But to be able to hear God, we've got to draw close to Him in everything we do. Just like we cannot hear another person whisper to us from across the room, we cannot hear God if we put distance between ourselves and Him. I guess that's why God used this picture of whispering in someones ear to remind me of how important our spatial relationship to God really is...

    "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you..." (James 4:8)