Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday morning conviction- 12/11/11

This morning's message was an absolute punch in the heart... as we continued through our series on James, we began talking about temptation. Specifically we talked about being able to recognize the pathway from temptation, to desire, to sin.

It hit me as we explored this pathway that there has been an issue in my life recently that if I didn't stop to recognize, I would be leaving myself wide open and available to full attack from Satan. In light of that, I know that where my relationship with God has been lately, that there was very little chance that I would be fully able to resist the potential desires present. I hate to believe that I could become susceptible to certain sins, but I have to admit that I am human. I have to be real and honest enough to say that I am capable of committing any and all sins. It worries me that I was so blindly walking down such a potentially hazardous route. But that is how Satan often operates. Satan managed to intertwine himself into an area of my life that I know is important, and an area in which God has called me to work. But as Satan does, he twists, ever-so slightly in our minds, the will of God. At moments when I came to realizing that I might be allowing temptation to push me in the wrong direction, I found myself justifying it using the excuse of God's will. How frightening is it to realize that!?

I need to thank God that He always gives us an escape from temptation. I also need to thank my wife who brought to my attention over the past week, that she was worried that I might be headed down a bad path. I sadly blew her off at first, blinded by my own pride and desires. I see now that she was right on the money. I am thankful that her warning, and today's message both came at the point of time that I have not done anything regretful, or hurtful. But, the gut check does allow me to step back and re-evaluate my place in the situation and how to turn it back to how God intends that situation to be.

I hope anyone reading this has someone in their lives who has the courage and love for them that my wife has. I can't imagine it was easy for her to confront me. But my walk with God, and being the man that I need to be, is so important to her that she knew she had to step in. She is an amazing woman, and I am thankful that she said what she had to. If you do not have that person in your life, I suggest you seek one out. After my relationship to God, my relationship with her is most important.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Little drummer

I hope to, sometime in the near future do a series of posts looking at the many misunderstood ideas, words, etc of Christianity. These will hopefully take a closer look at things like grace, love, joy, meekness, and other such things that have been so misrepresented by both the secular and religious worlds. I am really looking forward to these posts, but thats not what I have for today... I thought it was, but then as I was driving home just now, I was listening to Christmas music, and it really smacked me... my pride is trying to creep back into control of my life.

I hate it when my pride does this, but I also acknowledge that my ego is a formidable beast and will often need strong efforts to keep it at bay. I have been bombarded recently with acts that have stroked said ego. I have also sat front row to some impressive displays of pride from others. As with so many other things in life, its is easiest to despise the characteristic found in another that you most despise within yourself... so what does this have to do with Christmas music?

The little drummer boy, thats what... he totally gets it. He understands the idea of missional living and humble service to his King. The line that truly struck me (I'll refrain from adding the pah-rump-a-pum-pums, but feel free to sing them to yourselves) "I have no gift to bring... that is fit to give a King... Shall I play for you... on my drum?"

He gets it! We have nothing, not one thing, that even begins to crest into the realm of a gift that is fit to give to Christ. We have nothing outside of Jesus, Himself. So, what should we give to Him? Whatever we've got, and all of it! Give completely of ourselves, humbly and completely, to the One who gave it all... realize that it is only by His grace that we have anything! Stop feeling like we are entitled anything... God owes us nothing, yet gives us everything... when we feel like we have been shorted by God, we are slapping the death of Christ right in the face. We are entitled nothing, yet we expect more... I feel I deserve something more than I have... when will I realize that I have all I will ever need?

The drummer boy got it, and he laid it down for Christ... and the baby Prince smiled. When was the last time I made my Lord and Savior smile?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Little late Thanksgiving

I had every intention of writing an obligatory Thanksgiving post, but, as one can easily tell, I failed... nothing too new or surprising on that account, but still. So, slightly late, here is an obligatory Thanksgiving post:

First and foremost this year, as cliche as it is to say, I am thankful for a personal relationship with Christ. Moreso than even that, I am thankful that I know what that phrase means. I do not merely proclaim Christianity because I am a white anglo-saxon protestant descended American, but I proclaim it because I have been redemed by a Savior who saught me out and called me to Him.

I am thankful for a wife that is so much my other half that it is hard to picture how I would survive without her. I have learned over the past year a new level of appreciation for the love and support she offers to me, no matter where I am. This year has been a trial of never-before-seen proportion for me. The incredible stress of losing my mother as well as all of the other things going on in my life, and my wife was right there through it all. My wife makes me a better person.

I am thankful for my daughter; truly the light of my world. Her enthusiasm over things as simple as a morning hug, and her unwaivering love for her mom and I are outstanding testaments to the love of God. She makes me a better person as well, I must live in a way that I would want her to emulate. She makes me want the world to be a better place.

I am thankful that my mother is healed. She is no longer sick, and cancer has no more hold over her. My mother was the only person on this earth that always knew and understood what I was saying, where my head was, and how to break me down. She could defuse my ego, and boost my self-esteem at the same time. She was given the gift that so many of would wish we could have; she was able to say when she was ready to pass from this life. She got to say where, and when. I am thankful that God answered a prayer I made when I first learned of her illness that she be healed in a beautiful and miraculous way that would be so evident of His grace. I miss her dearly, but I am comforted by the knowledge that in death she has not once worried about anything, and she never will again.

I am thankful for an earthly father that is so full of grace and intense passion. I can't say enough for this man; watching him through the past 4 years has taught me more about love, true, unbridled, and fierce love, than anything I have ever seen on this earth. I am so much the man I am because my Dad is the man he is. He worked 100 hour weeks, yet still had time to coach, practice, and watch me. He never made us feel second to his company.

I am thankful for my sisters, who help to keep me well grounded. They are both beautiful people, and deserve all they get in life.

Thats it in a nutshell... hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easier said than done

"And then one day, I'll cross the river, I'll fight life's final war with pain... And then as death gives way to victory, I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know he lives"

As we were singing these lyrics this past Sunday, I had to take a moment to reflect... to look back and smile, and well up at the same time. I have tried so many times in the past 4 months to put words together to help explain the way I felt as I watched my mom pass away. It has been so difficult to not have her here, to not have her around so that I know that at least someone understands the ridiculous joke I just told, or whatever... Those words have continued to escape me, but as I truly look at her passing and as I remove myself from the situation, and allow myself to be simply an observer of the human condition, I am reminded of one thing.

At the moment of my mom's passing,there was a look of peace and contentment on her face. I remember at the time thinking it looked as though there was a smile on her face... my mother's smile is something I will never forget, it was such a piece of her, and tying it to these lyrics, I can only imagine what she saw at this moment in her life. She had truly waged war against pain, and she had allowed death to give way to victory... her faith became sight. She saw firsthand the truly incomprehensible majesty of Heaven.

God is greater than whatever battle you are facing, and victory over all trials can only truly be found in Him. We must only remember that it is not up to us to define victory, or to place the definition of a miracle into a box. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that God has failed us simply because the outcome of something in our lives is not what we wanted... we should desire His will in all situations. Easier said than done

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Psalm 39... Selah

"Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man AT HIS BEST is a mere breath. Selah." Psalm 39:5 (Emphasis mine)

One of my favorite things about God's word is that no matter how many times you read through scripture, it can hit us in different ways and at deeper levels depending on our need in that moment. It is a living word that is there for us, and I love it.

This is what struck me today when reviewing yesterdays sermons in light of our small group study for next week, at his best. Even when I am feeling good and life is at its best, it is still just a breath.
Today, as I was laying down for my nap, I was having attitude issues. My pity party stems back to just this feeling that my life has not been going according to my plan, and therefore I am frequently taking out my frustrations on people who do not deserve it. As I was stewing today, I decided I needed to work on this study. Today we were supposed to meditate on Psalm 39. When I got to this (at his best) it really struck me; if even my best days are a mere breath, how insignificant a time is my bad times?

It makes it easier to relax when I am feeling bad about my day to put into perspective how short the time is compared to the eternity of great time ahead of me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A quick blurb on love

God loves you... its easy to brush that off, especially depending on what you believe about God. Its easy for me to just gloss right over it... but that does not make it untrue, or insignificant. It is also easy to brush off in light of what is defined as love anymore. It is easy to look at the cheap, dirty, filth that the world calls love and allow that to taint and diminish the true meaning of the word. Love is not a simple emotion, and it is not propagated by feeling. Love is something much deeper, it is something inherent in our souls. Our core being craves love because that is how we were created. We seek out love in this world because of that inner-longing for what we know we need. It is easy to understand why we are so easily tempted into things that promise us love.

God IS love... To say that we crave love, is to say that we crave God. We were created to bring glory to God, and to be with Him. Due to original sin and the fall of man, we are destined to be separated from God, and thereby, love. We are left with an emptiness and a longing for the thing we know we are missing. We recognize that absence as a need for love. What we forget is that God is love. We have that feeling of need because we need God! Satan has perverted this feeling in us, through sin. We no longer understand love, or God. We get trapped in the worldly version of love, believing that it will complete us. Only God completes us.

I realize that ultimately those two paragraphs say the same thing, and I am totally ok with it. Being someone who has fallen prey to Satan's luring to worldly replacements of love, I thank God that He doesn't give up on us. Never forget that God loves you, and God is love...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Something I learned in the bathroom

I don't know about you, but I spend a legitimately large amount of the time in a bathroom. Think about it, even if you only spend a minute or so at a time, you probably spend 15 minutes or more of your day on or near a toilet, plus you really should be in a shower or tub at some point each day as well. Being a night shift nurse, I tend to spend more time awake than the average person, and often take 2 showers a day. I would estimate that I spend a total of an hour a day in the bathroom... as such, I spend alot of time alone with my thoughts. I find I am quite the thinker when I am let to my own devices in the solitude of the loo... so here's something that came to me yesterday...

We often hear analogies regarding parenthood and its symbolizing the relationship between God and mankind. I have always enjoyed the metaphor, and think it often fits really well. I saw it in action yesterday. My daughter is just over a year old and is very much a daddy's girl. (I am totally ok with this) She wants to spend time close to me, and often gets upset when she can't. This was exacerbated yesterday when I needed to take a shower. She followed me around the house, called my name and wanted me to hold her. She became increasingly upset as I was unable to pick her up. I had just finished mowing and was covered in dirt and sweat. The displeased little lady hit her breaking point when I went into the bedroom and closed the door, effectively breaking her little heart. As I got into the shower, I could hear her cries and her calling out "Dada, Dada!"... then she got quiet. I finished my shower and hoped that she was doing ok, put on some clothes and went back into the bedroom. She was sitting on the bed with her mama, playing and waiting for me to join them.

See the parallel?

We, especially as new Christians, want to be close to our daddy. We desire to follow Him, and to love Him. We love to feel close to His heart and be held in His arms. There are times in our walk that we feel like we can't get close to God, times when we feel like we are running in circles and that God is just ignoring us. We find it hard to understand that for whatever reason in that moment, it is for our own good that God pulls Himself back. It is not easy for Him to sit back and watch or listen to His children cry out, but sometimes it is necessary. So, how do we respond in those moments? Do we run away from God? Do we decide that He has abandoned us? Do we do it on our own? Or do we do what God's word tells us to do? Do we have child-like faith?
Maybe what we need most in that time is to go to someone who has a deeper understanding and knowledge of God. We need mentors who can help us get through those times. We should surround ourselves with people who are smarter than us, and can encourage us. Through guidance and prayer, they can help us get through the times we feel God is distant.

Thats what my little girl taught me yesterday. When she felt that I was far away, she called out for me, and went to find help from someone who knows me better than she does. She knew that her mama could help her. Together they waited and continued to call out for me... and I was all too happy to rejoin them

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

God knows me

During worship Sunday morning at FBC-Nixa (check us out sometime) I was struck in a rather unexpected way when Steve mentioned Lamentations 3:40. I was reminded that not only is God never surprised by the happenings of this world, but also He is never surprised by my own life. Furthermore, it is almost as though God expects me to fail. Read through this verse:

"Let us search out our ways,and turn back to God." Lamentations 3:40

God does not require me to be perfect in my following of Him, He knows I can't do it. He knows that within my innermost being there is a sense of individualism. God made me, and He knows that there are times that I am going to doubt everything, down to the very core of His existence. I've hit that place so many times in my past, both distant and recent. So often I hear that voice in my head laughing at me for believing that anything so ridiculous as a personable and loving God could exist. My own ego mocks that even if this God could exist, that He would send Himself in the form of a baby, and that this child would grow into a man, living a perfect life, to die and take the punishment that I deserve. My inner monolouge tells me I am stupid for thinking any of this is truth... Then I am reminded of the times I bought into those doubts. The lonely days of sitting in a dorm room, unable to get out of bed. The feelings of total abandonment of all things happy and good that preceeded not just one, but two academic suspensions. (not to mention an 80pound weight gain, and loss of many good friends)I remember the night that I finally reopened my Bible... and read "Let us search out our ways, and turn back to God"

I needed to hear those words again... God knows I will get comfortable and complacent and start trying to seek my own ways again.

Thank you God for never giving up on me

Monday, July 4, 2011


When I write, I often wonder who will read my words, and how it will inspire them. Since I am such an influential person, and tens of well... tens of people have read this blog, I envision that I must be really important. I received a bit of a gut check earlier today, and figure I may as well write about it... who knows, maybe it'll help someone.

My wife and I have been struggling in our pursuit of Debt Freedom, ala Dave Ramsey. The last month in particular was crazy because of mom and her choosing to go on Hospice and then expiring little over a week later... but really for several months now we have been all over the map with our money. Then, yesterday, in Sunday School, I was praying with a friend who is also trying to follow Dave's plan. I uttered something to the effect of feeling like I am just sitting here waiting for God to do something to accelerate this process. I managed to shift the blame! When I later recounted this to my wife, she commented that, with the way we've been financially living, there isn't much of anything for God to accelerate.

That idea stung me enough as it was, but I followed it by re-reading some of my earlier posts and came across one about waiting on God. In this post, I railed against people who sit around and wait for God to do something, instead of joining God in what He is already doing around them. Never thought those words were going to be meant for me.
Then I bumped into a very recent post regarding feeling like God was telling me to get back to the things He called me to get to work on in my own life... weight loss, and debt freedom. This ran head-long into a conversation I had recently in which I told my wife that I felt like my mom was nearing her death, and that God had been laying on me that I needed to get our finances and my health in line... I just feel like there is so much that is in store for us that we need to be completely prepared for it and that I needed to lose some of the excuses I would use.

Took me back to 3 things:
1) I am to be in a state of Missional Living, being always ready (physically, financially, emotionally) for whatever service God calls me to

2) I am to set the example of this lifestyle in my home

3) The only thing stopping me is myself

With that said, we are embarking on new weight-loss strategy (starts tomorrow), and getting back to business with Dave Ramsey! After receiving the news of an anonymous donor clearing our Church of debt, I am reminded anew why I was so stirred by Dave's words in the first place. It also reminded me that God is going to use our church for bigger and better things, and I am to be a part of it... so I gotta get crackin'... time to reboot and do it right

Pray for me and my family as we recommit to these goals in our lives so we may better serve Christ, and lessen our excuses.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

God's perfect timing

Shortly after my mother departed this life yesterday afternoon, Z looked at me and told me to look at the date... June 25th.

June 25th, 2011

Had our daughter been carried anywhere near to term, her first birthday party would have been yesterday. June 25th was her original due date, and the fact that it fell on a Saturday would have made that day the day for the party had she been born anytime within a week or so of that date. But God, in His perfect timing and in His perfect knowing, did not allow that to happen. My little lady was born nearly a month early. The days that followed her birth were the most frightened and stressed out days of my life. Her stay in the Intensive Care Nursery was nearly unbearable. At the time, I struggled with understanding why it was that God was putting me through such a time. I know why now...

Because God loves us, and because He alone knows what each day will hold, my mom was able to see her granddaughter turn 1. She was able to give us an awesome memory, and a tribute to her strength and love of family. Mom, with the assistance of Dad, and her doctor (and unknown by the nursing staff) left the hospital to be at this birthday party. They said they just felt strongly that she needed to be there. She got to hold this youngest grandchild on her first birthday, and watch her eat cake. It would not have been this way, without the pain and fear of an early birthday.

None of this was coincidence, or happenstance... it was God's perfect timing

I hope that today, as we head to churches, or golf courses, or lakes, or whatever it is that you do... you'll think twice about the love God has for you, and the importance of Christ in your life.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday morning convictions- June 12th

Alot of us do not care for conviction, it hurts, and forces us to rethink the ways we do things... and it may even make us change! This past week has involved several nudges and kicks that culminated this morning with a couple of convictions that I needed to address.

There are a couple of pursuits in my life that I started 6-8 months ago, and have not been progressing the way they should be. I have been feeling for the last week that I need to retool and step back up to the plate. The first of these involves our personal finances. Z and I started the Total Money Makeover last September, and we have done well. However, the last few months, we have become much more laid back and have lost our intensity. We started because we knew that we were not treating our money the way God calls us to do so... but we became complacent and lazy. We need to step it back up, and get back on the wagon!
The second endeavor, weight loss. I know that it seems strange to feel God calling us to lose weight, but I really do feel that way. Why? Because I believe that as part of our call to be living missional lives, and remain in a state of readiness to carry out what God calls us to do, we must be in a physical state of health that allows us to complete the mission we are called to. It boils down (for me) to the fact that I know myself well enough to know that sooner or later I will tell God, "God, I wish I could join you in this mission to do/help _______, but I just physically can't" I feel that it is important for me to get myself into shape, in order to erase that potential excuse.

These are two things in my life that I know I started because they are in line with what God wants for me in this life. I wish I could say that I started them, and followed through with fervent obedience. I wish this post was to share the awesome progression that has been made to reach these goals. Here's to rejoining God in the work He is doing in my life, and I hope that we can all do the same... here's to obedience, and keeping Christ as our priority.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fast as you can

We were challenged this week in our men's class to choose one meal on Monday to fast. Sitting in a room with a handful of other guys in the 20's-30's at a Baptist church, fasting is pretty much as vulgar an idea as you could find. (Thanks to Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation, and Compelled by Love)

I entered Monday, planning to fast for breakfast. I would be asleep through lunch and didn't think fasting before work would be a good idea. Then I ate pancakes... fail
This defaulted me to trying to decide when I would try to fast at some other point this week. I can't say that I consciously chose to fast for dinner that night, it ended up happening by default. I also failed in spending time in the Word. I was driving to work before I fully realized that I hadn't eaten in about 9 hours. I wasn't hungry, and realized I had been spending most of my afternoon in an open-ended prayer. I prayed more that afternoon than I had in awhile. I thought, wow... I inadvertently fasted!

So, I wanted to just say a few things about this spiritual discipline:
First- The Bible, when mentioning fasting, speaks of "when" we fast, not "if"
We are supposed to do this, we are supposed to place our faith in God, not
our stomach.
Second- One thought that stuck out in my mind was that I kept trying to make it
about me. When would it fit into my schedule? Does one meal really count?
What am I going to gain by just 1 meal, is it really enough for God to speak
to me? The questions continue... and the conviction that kept hitting me in
the gut? I am not to fast for me, I am not supposed to GAIN anything! It is
purposeful and outward expression of worship to a God that is fully able to
sustain my EVERY need.
Third- I keep trying to define God, to find a way to sell God. I apparently think
He needs my help... instead of taking time to just worship Him. He is
powerful enough to make me fast, even when I wasn't going to. He showed me
He is bigger than me, and when I focus more on Him than I do on me... obedience comes with much less thought and effort.

Thanks to people who challenge us to do things differently.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In the way

I often say things that make me sound much better than I am. I often make comments about how I wish I were as filled with the Spirit as Paul was. I often tell people that I have a passion to live for Christ. Most days though, those comments are a lie. They are a lie for the simple truth that if I truly meant them, I would live my life differently than I do. If I allowed God to work through me in the ways that I say I wish He would, my life, and the lives of those around me would be radically different, and so much better. Its strange, because I sincerely do want to be the guy I say I am... so why do I struggle so much? One answer than has been swatting me in the gut repeatedly as I continue to ponder that thought has been something Mark Driscoll said concerning living like Christ... to paraphrase, he said that we often do not live the life we say we wish we could live because deep inside there is still a part of us that does not believe that Christ truly lived, died, and now lives again. My initial thought was something along the lines of, "man, must stink to not have confidence in that." Then I realized, that if someone else were to look at my life, especially if they could see and hear my thoughts, I live like I don't believe.

This has been getting better in my life over the past year or so, and I am prayerful that it continues and that more and more I will get out of God's way.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

4/20/11- Jon Acuff

For those who are unaware of who Jon Acuff is, I hope you take some time to check him out. I am hoping this link works properly, it should be a quick profile on him. He is absolutely hilarious, ridiculously honest about the issues that come about when we take Christianity too seriously.

As we are working though the study "Compelled by Love" on Sunday mornings, and we learn more about the love of Christ and what it should mean to us, I am constantly reminded of what Jon talks about in this video. In reference to the rock that everyone is holding, how true is that? How often do we run into a person who is clearly clenching a rock, looking for an excuse to unleash it through the window of our Christian life? Why are we so willing to give them this excuse? Why don't we focus more on the love of Christ flowing out of us to those we come in contact with? Why not be transparent in our relationships, understanding that to do so will make us vulnerable?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

4/6/2011- Homosexuality and Christianity

I want to preface this by saying something... I have friends who practice homosexuality and they are some of the best people I know. They are truthful, loving, nurturing, and absolutely beautiful people. Some of them attend church and are very active in the Body of Christ. My hope is to write this without judgment. I firmly believe that God loves these people just as much as He does me, and do not make any claims to know anything beyond that. I sincerely hope that any who read this will consider it as simple discussion on what is a very big topic in Christianity today...

I want to start by saying that I can't stand the fact that I have to put that kind of disclaimer on this. It just goes to show the harm done by "Christians" who long ago forgot that Christ came to love everyone. We as Christians today need to understand that it is not up to us to judge sinners. We are called to judge and support fellow believers and to confront them on their sins, and we are called to do so in a spirit of gentleness and humility. We are to understand our our shortcomings and weaknesses, and are to be prayerful in our pursuit of Christlike-ness. I want to start by apologizing to those who have been hurt by the actions and treatment given to some people (such as homosexuals) in the name of Christ.

That being said, here are my thoughts and convictions concerning homosexuality in Christianity:

A study was published several years ago (forgive me for forgetting where and when it was) in a scientific journal concerning the anatomical structure of the brain. They were comparing the brains of male and female humans to decipher the difference between the two in hopes of figuring out why men and women think and act differently. They were looking for structural deviations that would explain why our minds do not work the same way. While doing this research, they discovered that the brains of some men were much more feminine than others. It appeared that there were a few male brains that looked not fully female and yet not male. They inferred from this that these male brains would have belonged to someone who was more likely to have actions and thought processes that were much more effeminate than normal. They touted this discovery as proof that a person is born homosexual and that it is not a choice.

I remembered first hearing this information about 8 years ago in an Abnormal Psychology class. I was a Christian, but hadn't exactly been close to God for a little while. I was living with a guy who was a practicing homosexual, and as such had been bombarded with the idea of being born this way, etc. When I heard this lecture, I came out of it thinking that there was proof that my roommate was telling the truth. Ever since then, I have had this recurring conversation in my mind about the validity of these claims. Here in the last year or so, I feel like I am finally coming to a conclusion...

We are more than willing to accept, as Christians, that we are born sinners. We are born with two natures, as Paul says, the nature of God and our sin nature. We accept that we are born with certain tendencies and attributes that cause specific problems for us. Yet, we reject that a person could be born with a homosexual tendency. Why? The research here clearly shows that there are men born whose brains are much more female than male. Does that not prove that they have no choice to be gay?

No, it doesn't. Here are my convictions on this matter...
Homosexuality is a sin, plain and simple, the Bible is pretty explicit on this topic. It is listed right along side lying, cheating, slander, murder, stealing, jealousy, pride, and the list goes on and on. The argument that it is not a choice to engage in the sin of homosexuality can be substantiated by saying that none of us have a choice but to engage in whatever our sin of choice may be (to be clear, we have the choice, what we lack is the strength of faith to choose to abstain). This does not make it right or ok! I have heard some argue that it can't be a sin because they have felt this way since they were 6... yes, and I have been able to decode a person, manipulate them, and cause them harm with my words since I was somewhere around 6 also... still a sin. We are all born sinners, no matter the sin, they have been there since birth.

Other findings in the previously mentioned study were that in some brains, there were larger numbers of synapses in the pleasure centers of the brain, and in some, larger amygdalas, and so on... what this tells me is that there are anatomical differences in each of our brains that lead to our tendency towards different kinds of actions and thought processes. When we pervert these processes and actions, and when we choose to act on them in ways that are directly against the Word of God, they become sinful. The fact that we are wired a certain way does not dismiss our sin, it simply shows why were are more prone to certain types of sin.

We are called to admit these sins, recognize them, and repent of them. Salvation hinges on our acceptance that Christ died for our sins. He tells us to lay them down, turn from them, and run to Him. Even following salvation, we will continue to sin, God does not require perfection. He requires repentant souls. So, can a homosexual have salvation? I believe they can, but they have to be willing to admit that their actions are sinful, and truthfully turn away from them. They must ask forgiveness for their actions and attempt to live the life that Christ called us to... just like all the rest of us. There is no difference when it comes to salvation, sin is sin...    

Late Night in the ICU- Death

I was going to write this the other day when I got home from work, but I ended up letting it ramble around in my head for awhile to figure out what the point of writing about it would be... I think I got a better handle on it now, so here goes...

I lost a patient one day last week. That is something that, sadly, is not a rare occurrence for us, but it was the first one I have had in awhile. It is always interesting to watch family members as they try to decipher and deal with what is happening in their world when something like this happens. There is the expected tears and anger, sometimes there is celebration and gladness. This time, though, something different happened...

As is fairly normal, the family was in our small consultation room, speaking with the Chaplin. The Chaplin soon came and grabbed me out of doing the post-mortem care and said that the family wanted to speak to me so they could get a better idea of what happened. I am more than happy to have this dreadful conversation, it often allows people to cope better and can help with grieving. After I explained the rapid decline and subsequent departure of their loved one, the patient's child said something that floored me...

To paraphrase, "At least he knows the truth about death now"

After the family left, I talked more with the Chaplin and found that this father and child had talked recently about God. Neither of them knew for sure what they believed, and had come to the agreement that they wouldn't really know until they were dead, so they decided they'd just wait til then to decide. My heart broke for this family. It made me realize how very real this type of thinking is. And I just want to say something...

I envy the fact that this patient now knows, without a hint of a doubt, the truth about God. My beliefs and faith are strongly rooted in my convictions and in my day to day relationship with Christ, but I still have days when the doubts circle from the back of my mind to front and center. But lets take that further... The only thing we will ever truly know at death is if Christianity is true.

What do I mean? If there is no God, if my living as a Christian, if all of this is a lie and none of it is real... I'll never know, because at the moment of death, there will be nothingness and I will have no realization of anything. I will just fade to black and be gone forever. I will have lived a joyous life, and lived feeling as though I had a purpose. I will head to my death feeling happy and content that I will be entering the Kingdom of Heaven... and if it does not exist, I'll never know.
If it is true though, at that moment of death, my faith shall become sight! If Christianity is true, then I will head to death with the same joy and contentment, and I will pass from this earth to an eternity with the Creator!
 If Christianity is true, those who wait until they die to make a decision will realize that it is too late. Their realization that the Bible is true will end with an eternity separated from the God that loves them. They will not get to enter the peaceful darkness of death, because if Christianity is true, there is no such thing... there is eternity spent if Heaven or Hell.

I envy those who already know the truth about the moment of death, and my heart breaks for those who have waited that long to decide what to believe. I hurt for those who head towards death with fear of the unknown and am glad that I head to mine with joy and confidence that my faith shall become sight. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31/11- Who I am

I found several years ago that if I wake up in the middle of the night and allow my mind to wander, it gets into DEEP existential conversations with itself about the meaning of life, the number of stars in the universe, and one time I devised a system of determining your personality based on your favorite flavor of ice cream... like I said, it gets deep

Well, tonight, or more correctly, this morning, Lydia decided the world was in a tailspin and the only thing that could possibly save her was a mom-style snack... the ensuing cry woke me up from a pretty crazy dream in which I was running through Rome trying to get Paul's autograph, and not McCartney... I'm talking the Apostle

This lead to a recapping in my head about how I have arrived at this point of my life, and it excited me to the point that I felt it necessary to write it down. I have long felt that my own path to salvation and my life from that point was a rather hum-drum story, I was not saved from a life of drugs and murder in an organized crime syndicate. I was not holding mass Christian executions in the backwoods, and I was not stuck in the belly of a fish for 3 days because I refused to follow God's call... I was rather simply saved. But for the last year and call it 4 months, I feel like I have been bombarded by the words and messages of Paul. Every Bible study, every sermon, everything has been seeped in Paul-ness. This is further true about the Wednesday night services lately in which we have been covering the book of Romans. As I have delved deeper into Paul's writings, I have become aware of the awesome power that God used through Christ to rescue me from eternal separation from Him. Even someone, whose salvation was so run-of-the-mill, like me has been rescued an an awesome way. And the power that God displayed in the relatively simple salvation is the same power that He uses to save anyone who calls on His name, no matter where they are, what they've done, or what they are doing.There is no sin that can separate us from God, the only thing that keeps us from an eternal life spent in Heaven is our refusal to accept the gift of Christ which has already been given to us.

So, my story begins long ago... I honestly could not tell you how old I was when I first accepted Christ. I was in a Sunday School class at Second Baptist in Springfield, and I always imagine that I was asking the leader questions about God and she probably made some sort of comment about how if I wanted to be with my mommy and daddy after they died then I had to say this prayer.... and thus I became saved! YIKES! It makes me shudder to think now that I was willing to risk my salvation for so long on that "profession of faith". It was shortly after this experience that my family stopped attending church. I was left to figure out who God was and what my relationship with Him, or His relationship with me was supposed to be like. I don't remember too much about my childhood from a spiritual standpoint up until I was in Jr High. By that time, looking back, I had fallen into a relationship with a Santa Clause Jesus. I can distinctly remember saying these prayers, "God, if you really love me, and if you give me ___________, then I will stop doing ________." I remember feeling at least guilty enough of my sin that I knew I should stop, but I enjoyed these sins so much that I felt God owed me something in return to giving them up... (apparently a rescue from eternal Hell was not enough). As foolish as this sounds to me now, I can't help thinking, "well, what can we expect when our entire theology is based upon what is being taught to the young children in church instead of teaching them truth, we are too afraid we will scare them away from God?" (this gets into a whole other problem I have had with "church" for so long... kids aren't taught the Bible, they are so often taught that God loves them if they are good. Why do you think that leads to so many kids who grow up with horribly based reasons for the faith, or their decision to be an atheist?)

Anyway, I went through childhood with my Santa Claus Jesus, praying regularly that I would stop sinning as soon as I got what I wanted. I think it is really sad how much better my prayer life was then than it is now... but I digress, I remember entering high school, I had some core friends who were Christians and some who were not. My life had not been so bad, and so on... Then along comes Zenobia. We started dating in the spring of our Sophomore year, and thus I began going to church. (for as long as I can remember up to this point, most of my bargains with God involved a girlfriend.) To say I took nothing away from my reintroduction to church would be a bit of an understatement at first. I didn't see how it was necessary to attend a service, I prayed, I was a "good kid". At the same time, I start to feel like there was something more to a relationship with God than what I had been experiencing. I felt like I was still missing something.
Young Christian's Weekend that year, I remember sitting through one of the presentations being made. I don't recall who it was, what he said, or anything. I just remember sitting there with my eyes closed as he was telling us to ask ourselves if we had a meaningful, personal relationship with Christ. I felt as though I had been kicked in the gut. I had no idea that I was supposed to have a relationship with Christ, let alone a personal one. I didn't know He actually cared about me. I just knew He made me feel bad when I did bad things and then He didn't give me what I wanted. My mind was blown! At the age of 15, I knowingly stepped into a relationship with Christ.

Fast forward through the roller coaster of high school, relationships ending, restarting, ending... and I arrived to Mizzou. I was 17, had turned down a spot in the Accelerated Masters of Physical Therapy program because I was going Pre-med. I joined a new group of friends, and found myself suddenly unbound by anyone's whims but my own. There was no longer a person to tell me when to get out of bed, when to go to class, when to go to church, what church to go to, what sunday school class to join... nothing... I fell into destructive habits, I began drinking, I laid around my dorm room, ate alot of  food that my parents paid for, and wasted the money they spent on tuition as well. I fell away from the friends I had, stopped attending events at the Campus Christian House. I gained 80 pounds in that one year and ended it broken, and on academic suspension. Looking back, I don't know if I consulted God about any of these things. Apparently I no longer needed Him.

Zenobia had come back into my life towards the end of my year there, and so when I came home on weekends, I began to come back to the church, I found an exciting new person starting to grow inside of me... I was moving forward, moving on, and doing it with God. Zenobia and I became engaged. At the age of 18 I had given up drinking, had lost the first of about 30 pounds, and was asked to help chaperon a youth mission trip to Houston, Texas. I jumped on board. It was an awesome experience, never had I been closer to God. One night during worship, I felt so moved by God's love and the amazing way he was moving my life, I fell to the ground and cried. Little did I know that a few days later, my engagement was going to end. I still don't fully understand the whole event, but I am now thankful for it... My faith was about to be tested again without the context of responsibility to anyone but myself and God. This time, when the ball dropped, I ran to the Bible. I found immense comfort in the words, I found meaning to the split, and reassurance that I would one day be brought back together to Zenobia. God had shown me a story of the need to separate two seeds so that each could grow strong roots and a firm foundation so that one day their branches would meet. (extremely short paraphrase)

I was finally able to attend church on my own, grow my relationship with Christ based on what I needed. I finally officially became a member at FBC-Nixa. I started classes at OTC, trying to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the age of 20, Z and I had found our way back together... we were so different, so much our own individuals. We had grown closer to who God needed each of us to be... we were ready to be together. We became engaged again, and I could not be happier. I was in need of a job, having graduated from OTC with a 4.0 GPA to mend some of the damage of my former self. I found a job at Cox, in the OR... I came home the first day, called Zenobia and told her that I was going to be a nurse. I just knew it. There was that same tug in my gut, that there was something about nursing that was where I needed to be. The drawback was that to go to nursing school and support my new-found family meant that I would have to work every weekend.

It was amazing how fast I became lethargic in my walk with Christ when I stopped attending church. My soul ached for closeness with God. I wanted so badly to keep my relationship with Him strong... but it was too easy to not, and I found the pleasures of sin too enticing. I felt so sick to allow some of my old self back in, but I didn't have the strength or support of a family of believers along side of me to help keep me strong. This part of my life was probably the most spiritually painful, it was the first time I truly knew and felt all of my own sin.And then, I started to baste my sins in pride. I didn't need church, I was strong enough, look at everything I was accomplishing. I got into nursing school... I was going somewhere...

This is about the time that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She spent 90 days fighting for her life. She suffered nearly every complication imaginable... 2 8 hour surgeries, pulmonary embolus, became septic, both bacterial and fungal, coded a couple times... ruptured her colon, went into DIC. Each of these alone has a mortality rate of greater than 50%, DIC alone has a survival rate of less than 10%. I ran away from myself and back to God, the only place I knew I could find help. And He gave me help... God lead me through verse after verse, reassuring me that mom was going to make it through all of those things. I prayed that whatever happened, that God would heal her in such a way that no one would be able to doubt that it was all His work, and for Hid glory. I conceded that it was not up to me to define God's miracles and it was not up to me to define what healing might be for my mom. I was willing to let her go because I knew that that would be her ultimate healing. I feel that God used her in my life to bring me to a new level of maturity and understanding of how He works. Mom was brought through all of those things and is continuing to fight against her cancer. My hope is that sometime soon, she and dad will again draw close to God and rejoin the church...

After this powerful experience in my life, I hungered even more for my graduation so that I could get back to attending church. I knew how much I needed it. I can not handle life without it. I need the closeness of other believers, and to fellowship with them as the Bible commands me to do. I need corporate worship. I need small group study, so that I can grow and understand the Word. I was so excited when I started coming back to church, and it has been 1 year and about 4 months now, and I am closer to God than I have ever been. I still have the war waging within me, but I know I am on the winning team. Heck, I know that war is already won... Christ secured the victory over 2000 years ago. I have been justified by faith, and I am being sanctified every day drawing nearer to the glorification when I cross into Heaven. I could not imagine walking through life without this hope. My salvation was so simple in terms of the awesome power of God... He loves me so much that he would have gone further and deeper into sin than I ever imagined going, just to remind me of His love. I thank God that he has told us that "Whosoever believes in Him with not perish, but have everlasting Life." And that "All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

God thank you that you love sinners. No matter their sin, no matter what they have done, or what they are doing. Thank you that the only sin that can be committed that cannot be forgiven is dying without saying yes to the free gift you have already given. All we have to do is accept it... Thank you God that you never let go, you never give up, you never fail, and you are never too far away.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3/28/11- A Hurtful Burden

A hurtful burden has been floating around my heart lately, and is something I should be spending more time in prayer about than what I do. It is a burden for those many people out there who are atheist, agnostic, or Christians who have turned from God. To be a lot more specific, it is for those who have made these choices because of actions of Christians. I'm talking about those of us who fail so miserably at properly representing the gospel of Christ that we cause people pain. The people who chose to turn from God because of a Sunday School teacher, a Christian friend, pastor, parent, or other loved one. We all know these people. The ones who have turned the Gospel into an argument of preferences and policies, and have long forgotten the words of God. The ones who will turn someone away because of the sin in their life instead of lovingly embracing them and helping them find the path away from those sins. The people who forgot what it was like to be lost as a slave to our own flesh.

We, as Christians, have to get back to living the gospel. Jesus never turned away anyone, he loved and embraced everyone. He drew a hard line on sin, and He never wavered. If the church would treat people like Jesus, I think fewer people would chose to not believe

Sunday, March 27, 2011

3/27/2011- Ghandi was a smart dude

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are nothing like your Christ." -Ghandi

This is a quote I have known for some time, and have always admired the eloquence of Ghandi's words. This last Sunday, this quote was included in our Men's class lesson and it struck a slightly new nerve with me... Ghandi is right.

Approximately 2.1 billion people on this planet claim Christianity... if there were even 1/4 that many people who were truly following Christ, would the world even be recognizable? Lets even cut that down to the 76% of Americans who claim Christianity, that is approximately 225,000,000 people over the age of 18. Lets say that the average income for these people is $20,000, if we gave the 10% to tithing that we are called to do, American giving alone would be in the neighborhood of $5,500,000,000,000... every year. But that is somewhat of a different topic...

Why are we so apprehensive to be Christ-like in our everyday lives? Do we believe Christ is irrelevant for our current world? Is it too hard?

Relevance- Christ's life was spent serving the poor, oppressed people around Him, aiding the sick, feeding the hungry, and showing the people He came in contact with that God loved them. How is that message not relevant to our world? Are there no more poor, hungry, and sick? Do people no longer need to know that God loves them? So, our lack of Christ-like living should not be coming from a lack of need... so, de-bunk this one

Too hard- This one would probably be where I have hidden most of the time. It is just too difficult for me to get outside of my comfort zone and treat someone with the attitude of Christ. It is too tiring to act like I care about some of the idiots in the world. I don't want to pretend to be someone else, I want to be me! Doing anything else requires too much effort on my part, and surely God doesn't want that, right?
... I think the biggest thing that has been working on me in this area in my life is becoming a parent. I didn't become a parent because I thought, "Hey, here's an easy way to get a tax break!" Being a parent, even for these 9 months has been the single most challenging thing I have ever done. I have to shred my wants and my ego, out of love for this perfect little girl in my life. My importance pales in comparison to making sure that she has everything she needs. My identity is no longer the focus. Its hard, but totally worth it.The hard things in life aren't so hard when love is behind them.

So, why do we still struggle... how can we, to quote Ghandi again, "Be the change we wish to see in the world"?

Late night in the ICU- 3/27/11

I think I might have a problem with humility... ok, I know I do, but still, do I have to admit it so readily?

This issue seems to crop up most readily while I am working. I made a comment to a fellow nurse about be "like a doctor". Thats not the ego-maniac side of it, its the fact that when told that I put my pants on like everyone else, I replied... "Nope, my pants are place onto me by songbirds"

Its an obvious joke and shameless Cinderella plug, but even still... I often treat others as though I believe that I am really that special. I'm working on it, but it will take some time. I spent most of my early life with people telling me how special I am, then the middle part being told how much of a screw-up I am... so now I suppose I am over-compensating.

I hope to update while working from time to time... things often get crazy or funny when its late in the ICU

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Body, His Temple

Don't you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 16

So what does Paul mean by saying that we are God’s temple? Consider this, deep within each of us lays something so holy that we cannot approach it as ourselves. God placed in us an eternal piece of Himself, our soul is what makes us created in God's image. It is what makes us His creation and His children. That piece of Him within us is what calls us back to Him. It is part of our human flesh, but at the same time, it is something different all together. It is something that we cannot wish to get too near to, because we are sinful. To enter into the place our soul dwells would result in our own physical death. If we were without sin, we could approach this direct connection to God without fear of death. If we were holy and innocent, we could behold His glory. But, because of our sinful nature, it becomes necessary that only the High Priest can approach God for us. The Holy Spirit is the High Priest within us. Given to those who believe, the Spirit enters us to become the go-between, to be our High Priest. Paul explains this further in the book of Romans. He tells us that it is the Spirit which goes to God with our prayers, our sacrifice, and our worship. The spirit carries these to God and forms them into something that is truly pleasing to Him.
          We must accept the sacrifice that was promised and was given in the death of Jesus Christ. In accepting this promise, we are given the Holy Spirit. This is the difference between the Temple of the Old Testament and the Temple of the New Testament. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have the ability within ourselves to go to God without fear. We no longer need an earthly High Priest to enter the temple on our behalf. As we offer praise to God, the Holy Spirit goes beyond the veil, and enters the Holy of Holies within us, where our soul dwells. It is the piece of God’s image within each of us. The spirit is allowed to enter into God’s presence because it is itself, God. Therefore, the Spirit intercedes and allows us a direct communication with God. He has made us into His own dwelling place, as He created us to be. His presence in us allows Him to use us for His work.
        Why is this so easy to write, yet so hard to live? The beauty of the gospel is in it's simplistic complexity, Jesus tells us in John 6:29 that the work the Father wants us to do is simply to believe in the One He has sent. It is so easy to say that I believe, so easy to write about the revelations that have been given me through study of the Word, yet when I reenter my own little world, it is a minute to minute struggle. Why do I allow my pride to keep me from living my life full out for Christ? It is not for lack of belief, lack of knowledge, it isn't even because of fear... it is sheer pride! I need to get back to the basics of faith. Spiritual maturity, in the words of Paul, is basically being a spiritual minimalist... I know only this, Christ and Him crucified... why complicate it further with grand ideas of my own importance? The simple truth of the Gospel, and this minimalist view underscore what needs to be a deep, life-long study into the fullness of the complexity of God's word. We are to fully arm ourselves with the scriptures in order that we would be able to focus, as Paul did, on the fact that it all points to one focus, Christ, and Him crucified. Back to basics, allowing my service, and all that I do, to be the overflow of my belief in Christ, for His glory, and His alone. May I only ever strive rely on Him for all things, for even my submission to His will in my life is dependent on Him granting me the power to submit my will for His. 

3/26/2011- Let's get started

Time to get the uncomfortable part over-with...

You ever find that the first time you start to write something, you always feel a little strange... I have no idea who I am writing to, right now, I am writing to no one. I hope that isn't always true, but at the same time, I am pretty sure I am perfectly fine if it is. In the world of grandiose delusions about our own self-importance, I hope that I can steer clear of grading the success of anything I might write by the number of people who read it.

Its uncomfortable though, because I want to be liked... I want to be read, and admired. I want to be called inspirational and influential... I want to see how many times I can use an ellipsis in a single post

So, what is this?
This is meant to be a place where I can spill out my thoughts and ideas. A place that I can be honest, and share myself. The plan is to share thoughts on God, life, and other important topics... we'll see what happens from here...