Sunday, December 23, 2012

Glory in a broken world

It doesn't take long... You watch the news, read it online, on paper, heck, on twitter... If you spend much time at all ingesting the events going on in our country, it doesn't take long to understand and realize that this is such a broken world. The problems facing the next generation are not necessarily new problems, undue violence against our fellow man, complete lack of morality, an unhinged understanding of right and wrong... these are problems that we have faced as mankind since our existence started. So, if the problems aren't new, then what are they? I think the scariest part of being a parent right now, is looking into my children's eyes and trying to imagine what the future will hold. They will have to face these same, age-old problems of humanity, but, if the current trends continue, they will face them in bolder, louder, more outrageous, and more consistent ways. The problems are not new, they are just more intense. They are more intense and will continue to increase in intensity as we continue to choose to turn further from God.

The fault of horrific events is never an object or an idea, the fault lies within the will of man to glorify himself above God.

When we place our own glory above the glory of God, we have already accepted Satan's first lie, we have repeated the mistake of Adam and Eve. We have believed that we, as creation, are of greater value than the Creator. We have chosen to believe that God exists for us, for our use, and for our glory... we believe it to the extent that we blame Him when horrible tragedies occur. We question how He could let us do such awful things to one another. God does not exist for our pleasure, to make us happy (by our definition), He is not overly concerned with so much of the junk that happens on this planet, because so very little of it has any eternal significance whatsoever! God's concern is that He be glorified above all things! Why? Because He created all things for that very purpose! 

I don't know why things like the death of children, whether at the hands of crazed gunmen, or the hands of a parent, happen. But I choose to trust that God is sovereign. I choose to believe that there is much greater things going on in this world. I wonder how often Satan uses mass tragedy and hurt to attempt to distract us from something amazing and glorious. Seems too easy to blame God and focus on the carnage, rather than to see the work of evil and focus on God. 

Even in the face of such horrible, painful things... I will try to remember to sing, "Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God... forever."

Our country needs God, and they need Him now... He will run to those who honestly seek Him, He does not hide from those who desire to see Him. Let us use recent events as a springboard, thrusting us back into His loving arms. Let us make a choice this morning to seek out a body of believers, and lets get our country moving back to where it needs to be.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A post about grace

I love God's word. There is rarely a time when I sit and read that I come away feeling like my time was wasted. The times that that does occur, usually has alot more to do with my own focus than it does anything else. When I prayerfully, and intentionally seek out the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am lead into a deeper understanding about God. There are days when I get to the end of a passage and scratch my head trying to figure out what the heck I am supposed to have gathered from that particular set of verses... such as the genealogies of the Old Testament, or the really strange laws and commandments... I know they are there to serve a purpose, and God can speak to today's world through them just as much as He can through the gospels, but still...

Then there are mornings like this, mornings where life doesn't make sense, where I feel that tug of my old nature. My mind whispers to me things like, "really, you believe this stuff is real?" "Aren't you too smart to think that this old book means anything?" "Seek truth in only what you can see and observe, leave the mysticism to those who lack the ability to transcend above such things." It takes me back to a dorm room...

I sat in a  rather sad excuse for a bed, alone, confused, feeling forgotten by so many things. Shocked by the enormity of the world around me, and had chosen to instead turn in on myself for reliance. I was unsure of what to do or where to go... As I sat, alone, without having slept in many days, those same thoughts running through my head, I decided it was time to figure out what was real, what to believe. It was the beginning of an amazing journey, starting with God's word, reading through supportive writings of both sacred and secular historians from the time. I spent time in prayer, asking God to please be real. I spent much of that period in my life afraid that at some point, I was going to have to give up, that I was going to find something too big to ignore... but any time I thought I had gotten there, it was the word of God that spoke into my mind. Often it was the small, still voice, deep within that portion of my being that had long before been indwelled by Christ, His words of encouragement often being, "My grace is sufficient"... that phrase continues to be the answer I get anytime I reach a point of question, or face the pains of this world... "My grace is sufficient."

The next milestone came when  I headed on a trip to Houston, asked to chaperon a youth mission trip, mainly helping out in the kitchen... I said yes, mainly out of a desire to spend time with my, then, fiancee. I had, at that point, felt like I had it all just about figured out... didn't feel like I had a need to continue walking carefully close to God's word. I had allowed Satan to use one of his most practiced tricks, I allowed him to start slowly shifting my focus back to myself. Then, one night in Houston... my reason for joining this trip fell through my fingers. Going from self-sure, self-sufficient, engaged, "souled-out believer" to spiraling, single, and quite angry in an instant, I sought solitude...  I wanted to retreat into myself. I thank a good friend for seeking me out, who knew what was happening... I don't remember his words, I really don't think he said much at all, but I do remember looking into the stars, so mad, so confused, demanding a reason... "My grace is sufficient." If you've ever been here, I hope your immediate response was better than mine, because  that ticked me off more... but, it also did something else, drove me back to the Word. Through the reading I had that night, I found some comfort, and a reassurance that it was under control... if I would just let it be. I loosened my grip some, but it wasn't until a day or two after that I surrendered it. I hit my knees in a worship service, convicted of an undue self-reliance and a belief that I knew anything of God. I left Houston, much different, and much closer to being the man God wants me to be.

The peaks and valleys since then have be extreme, usually the same cycle of surrender, submit, growth, complacency, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, conviction, brokenness, anger, confusion, surrender... and so on.

I am still not the man God desires me to be, I still spend too much time focused on myself. I don't live to glorify God in all things, at all times, to all people... mainly because I can't. Only God can accomplish that life through me, all I can do is surrender and accept that His grace is sufficient in all things. It was sufficient to justify me, it is sufficient to sanctify me, and at the moment I leave this life, it will be sufficient to glorify me.

... that wasn't the post I anticipated writing today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another post on death

When I was in nursing school, I thought I was special... I believed that I was going to, somehow, some way, never lose a patient. I was going to save them all! People would be amazed and awestruck by my ability to heal! God was going to use me in this way to show everyone just how good, and awesome He is... and then, I graduated, started working in my little slice of MICU, and I've learned that my grandiose plan of exactly how God would use me was just plain wrong.

I lose a lot of patients. Above the average among my peers. For awhile, this kind of bothered me, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong... I easily joked with others about the numbers, there is even an angel of death that greets me on my locker every morning, but in actuality, it bugged me for awhile. Until I started seeking God in this area of my life.

The vast, vast majority of the patients I have lost have been due to withdraw of care. Families deciding that we are moving beyond the wishes of their loved one, and opting to stop and let them go. This is not the easiest decision to come to, and as I have become more comfortable in my role, and how God is truly using me, I am realizing the depth of importance that exists in the nursing care of the patient and family during these times.

A deeper understanding of my place in God's will came recently with the passing of a patient, as well as discussion with some close friends...

We all can usually recognize one thing, we are all going to die. And until that time comes, we are in a state of always being in the process of death. We feel our own bodies, and can easily see others', breaking down over time. We know that no matter what we do, this physical form that we indwell is destined to decay, break, and wither. It is the recognition of this finite timeline of our brief life on earth that can often cause us to look into eternity and try to figure out what is there. For the Christian, we must recognize that the soul that resides in each and every physical human body has eternal life. We will all live forever, somewhere. Jesus reminds us over and over again that He is more concerned by spiritual health. He, being God incarnate, knows how much longer each of us will be dying, how much more decaying, pain, and brokenness we have left to endure... He also knows that at the moment that our physical life ends that we are either healed to the uttermost, perfected in glory with Him... or we endure torment and pain apart from Him for all eternity in a place called Hell.

With a better and deeper, and much more cognizant, recognition of this truth, I am more readily available to take part in helping with this transition. It's humbling to help these people understand the truth if passing from this life, as a believer, and into heaven. I can now gladly accept Christ's working through me, to comfort, support, and ultimately help people as they pass from physical life into their eternal destiny. For those who do not have a personal, saving relationship with God... It serves as a reminder to seek to build relationships the way Christ did, keeping their spiritual life the priority over their physical.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The beauty of redemption

As I was sitting in church this past Sunday, I experienced a slow, painful gut check...

We continued on our journey through the gospel of John, arriving this week at the story of Jesus' miraculous healing of a man at the pool of Bethesda. While examining this story and looking at the awesome power and love that Christ showed to this man who had been confined to a laying position, on a mat, by the pool, for 38 years, I was listening intently, grateful for the work that Jesus has done in my own life. Shortly after this healing takes place, we encounter Jesus again, in the temple, where He finds this same man, worshiping... and Jesus said to him, "See you are well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn't happen to you."

The verse instantly struck, but I didn't know why. I wrestled with why the verse had hit me as it had, and prayed to God saying that I didn't know why I couldn't get past those words and asked simply for some clarification. Brought into the forefront of my mind was my recent mindset and attitude, the last post or two that I had written, and discussions that I had had with my wife and with some other folks. Echoing those thoughts were words that we had discussed in our ongoing study of The Saving Life of Christ, we do not have the right to remember that which God forgets.

As those thoughts went spinning through my mind, I realized something... I've been stuck. My thoughts and my attitude have been much more often on the sins of my past, and on the condemnation of the flesh, than on redemption. I was trapping myself in a self-imposed prison of depravity! I was focused on the condition of my self, outside of God. I had allowed Satan the foothold of washing over me with my failures. I was making it all about me, what I did, and what I cannot do I was forgetting the beauty of redemption.

Its a common, and nasty, trick that Satan uses on us all, but in particular, to steal joy and freedom from a Christian... get us to focus on ourselves, instead of on the glory and love of God. By focusing on the lostness of the flesh, its easy to forget that, as a Christian, we are hosting two natures. we are both condemned flesh and redeemed soul. Too much focus on either is unhealthy, we are to remember our flesh as God does, and live our redemption as Christ does.

How does God remember our flesh? His word says that at the moment of salvation, He remembers our sins no more. Its important to know that remembering no more is vastly different from truly forgetting. It means that, though we are dead in our transgressions, as a sinner by nature, and by choice, that we are offered to share in with the righteousness of Christ... and when we choose to share in that inheritance, God no longer allows our sin to be present in his consciousness. When He looks upon us, He choose to see only our redeemed self, price paid by death of Christ. Martin Luther called this the great exchange, the sins of all humanity, past, present, and future... traded for righteousness. God's word tells us that the price for sin must be paid, and that the price to be paid is death. Therefore, each of us, for the sins we choose to commit, and the nature of sin we all possess (thanks for that one Adam & Eve), are guilty, and are required to pay the price for these sins... we must die, not only physically, but also spiritually. Jesus, on the cross, chose to pay the price for us... transferring His righteousness to all of humanity. The biggest thing about this to me is that the price for your sin, and mine, has already been paid... the price of the sin of everyone, everywhere, no matter what they believe, was satisfied at the cross, and the exchange is offered to us all. We just have to accept the gift... when we make that choice, we become co-heirs of the righteousness of Jesus!

Our flesh then becomes only a memory, a necessary portion of our being that allows us to keep in perspective the price paid for me to be called a friend of God. It is to be remembered only to bring glory to God, to show others His might in rescuing us from it. From that grounding and humility, of understanding the state of our existence without God, we are then able to walk forward humbly in redemption. Doing all things first for the glory of God, and second to advance His kingdom. By properly balancing the memory of our flesh, and the beauty of our redemption, we can keep our focus on the glory of God. Keeping the focus where it needs to be allows us to better understand who God is, and that growing understanding allows us to better serve others and love them as we are called.

I am thankful for the conviction found in the words of Jesus, to realize that I am healed. And equally thankful for the warning to not continue in my sin. I had allowed my focus to shift too much, resulting in being out of contact with the life I am called to lead. Continuing that patter of sin could only lead to more disastrous consequences. I am a redeemed friend of God, made righteous by the blood of Christ, and I hope you are too.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Utterly Destroyed

I was struck and convicted pretty hard yesterday, reading through and discussing the next chapter of Saving Life of Christ, Ian Thomas talks about Saul. I just want to take a moment to summarize the story and point in an attempt to help myself remember...
As king, Saul was commanded by God to utterly destroy a people, all of them, all of their possessions, everything. God had determined that there was no salvageable thing within this people, and condemned them to death. They were a people who had been at war with God from generation to generation, who sought nothing other than the destruction of God's people.

Instead of obeying the command of God fully, Saul chose to save the king of this people, their best oxen, and their best lambs. Saul decided that there was some good within these things and that they should be offered up as sacrifice to God. The hitch in this plan was quite simple... God had already deemed all of these people, and all that they possessed as being condemned, they were to be destroyed!

To steal a line from Thomas, Saul was preparing to offer God the best of what God hated.

The implications of this, and where the conviction lives with me is quite plain... How often am I offering God the best of what he has condemned? The book parallels these people with human nature and our self-righteous flesh. Both are defiled by sin, both are deemed, by God, to be unsalvageable, and both condemned to total destruction. As followers of Christ, we are called to lay our lives down, deny ourselves, allow our flesh to be, in essence, utterly destroyed by accepting utter and complete dependence on Christ within us. We are commanded, as Saul was, to allow God to wipe out the evil at play. Yet, when the battle begins, we start to hang on to things that we deem are worth saving. Things we think are good! Things we like, and we offer them as things we can do for God's glory. We offer what we decide is the best of ourselves as a sacrifice to God, forgetting that God had condemned all that we were, without Him, to be destroyed.

I have nothing, outside of surrender and submission to the will if God, to offer. There is nothing in me that is good... Nothing in my flesh that is holy, righteous, and deserving of sacrifice. There is only dead flesh...

All that is within me that is good, has come from God, and its only His Spirit in me that is right or good... my decision to submit to that spirit is all that hinders me from doing the will of God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sins of a father

I am not one to tout things as being life-changing, or to say that someone else's words change my outlook on life or caused me more than a moment to reflect. Outside of the gospel of God's inextinguishable, undeserved and unmerited favor to bestow grace upon us to the extent that, as Paul says, while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me... that truth is truly life changing. I am a sinner, and so are you... until the day I cross into the eternal glory of a perfect Heaven, and until I am undertaken through what I can only imagine to be the beautifully excruciating and perfectly sublime experience of full glorification, when I will shed the beaten and destroyed shell of my flesh and enter into a glorified, perfect body... on that day, and only then, will I no longer be a sinner. I sin by choice, not because I don't know how to not, but because I still fall prey to trying to satisfy the hunger of my soul with things of this world. Often with good things, things like my wife's love, or my children's joy... great things, intended by God to be blessings and glimpses into His reality... but I use them so often to replace God. I forget that it is my obedience to His will, and submission to His work through my life, that I will walk, filled by the spirit and pouring out those wonderful fruits of love, and joy. They are to be celebrated as glorifying to His splendor. I forget that often, and worse, I sometimes choose to fulfill my thirst with things of this world that lie in direct opposition to  the glory of God. I struggle through the battle of my two natures, as Paul called it, and I choose to fight the battle on my own, not seeking the strength of God that resides within me...

I am a sinner, that much is for sure... but something different happens now when I find myself making decisions based on my flesh... It starts when I remember a phrase. A phrase I would actually call life-changing... one of the first messages I can remember hearing our pastor preach after coming to our church, he said these words (or at least something like them)-- If left unchecked, the sins of the father will be multiplied in the sins of the children.

Conviction begins, so often, with those words echoing in my mind... followed by scriptures relating to parenting, and righteous living, and being a man of integrity... then, I see my kids, their smiles, and most of all their eyes. My kids were blessed to receive the deeply beautiful, piercing eyes of their mom. They have long been my favorite physical feature of her, and when I see those eyes, I feel the weight of my sin. I think about what the future will look like through those eyes. My heart breaks when I think about the sins they will endure through their lives, and the role the my current sin will play. If left unchecked... I am passing along a foothold for Satan to use to get to my kids. If I continue to take back the control and refuse to give it to God... I hate to think of what my kids will have to go through. Life is hard enough, dealing with your own bad choices, you don't need the sins of your father following you around. But what breaks my heart more is knowing that if I leave my sin unchecked, my kids will have to check it for themselves, or let it ruin them... we see this in families where dad's an alcoholic, son grows up, either compounds it as an abusive alcoholic, or has never touched the stuff because he wasn't going to be like his dad. A graphic example, but a true look at the concept.

This all goes through my head, the weight of it slamming through my soul, when I am confronted with my sins. It happens so fast, but the feeling lingers, my innermost being cries out to the God who created all things, I echo once more the words of Paul... searching out why I continue to do that which I do not want, and not do that which I desire... and this Creator of everything, forgives me... reminds me that my sins were nailed to the cross. my sins were part of that darkness the Jesus felt, as He was torn into separation from His Father. It was for that sin, the one I just committed, that Jesus cried out in agony as His heart literally, and brutally broke. My God reminds me that it was no small price to reconcile my sins, but that it was paid. He reminds me to stand up, and lead my family. He comforts me with words of grace, and promises of love.

I am a sinner, and I am redeemed... at a high price, that was willfully paid.

My sin is real, and needs to  be checked, so I can lead my family... so that maybe, just maybe, my sins won't be theirs to bear.

I am a sinner, saved by grace through faith, it is not of myself so that I may not boast...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few things I've learned about the kingdom

As introducing the kingdom as already but not yet here on earth, it is very easy to be confused. It's a concept that many of us out there accept without giving a reason or having an understand of what Jesus meant when talking about His kingdom. I'd love to say that I have a lot of answers to the mystery of the kingdom of God, but I don't... Between a few books and studies, and the Kingdom Advance Conference,I have learned some things over the last year or so though:

1) Jesus initiated His kingdom with His first coming. Jesus' time here on earth signified the beginning of the end for the rebellion of this earth. Jesus uses His time here giving us glances and glimpses of what the kingdom will be like. When he raises from the dead, when he he heals the sick, when he feeds the hungry... These are all foretaste of what life in His kingdom will be. Much like the manna from heaven falling to the Israelites in the wilderness, these acts are to appetize us for what is to come in our promised land. These moments of pure holiness are not meant to satisfy and quench the whole world, as the kingdom in its complete splendor will, but rather to motivate us for the beauty that awaits us after going through the pain of this life.

2) The kingdom, having not been fully consecrated, shows us that there is still time and work to be done. The earth's people, still actively rebelling against our creator, through intent and deed, are evidence that this world is still broken. Sin is still the major influence over the people of today. If the kingdom were already here in full, there would be no sickness, pain, death, or anything that does not glorify God. This alone should be enough motivation to get up and join together as Christians, not as Baptists, and Methodists, and AG, and, and, and... but as the body of a living Christ.

3) it is not by anything, any effort or doing of any person, no matter how many, that the kingdom will be consecrated... we can not do anything to defeat the rebellion. But, if we, as the body of Christ, submit and surrender our entire will to the power of Jesus within each of us, through the Holy Spirit, we can become the tools of His righteousness. Through His power we can be used as builders of the kingdom. By obeying His call and command, we can stand against the rebellion, we can love as Christ loves, and we can advance the kingdom, until it is a completed work. Then, all the sad things of life, the pain, sickness, hunger, death, and destruction will be tossed into the lake of fire with their father Satan. The last of the old will pass away, and the new earth will come forward.

We need to recognize what Jesus started, allow Him to work through us to continue it, and look ahead to its completion through Him... we need to live as though we believe.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

God hated Esau

I am often confused when I read the Old Testament. One particular story from way back towards the beginning that would always make my brain wrinkle was Jacob and Esau. Mainly the line that tells us that God loved Jacob, but Esau He hated. As I have worked through this story over the years, I have began to better understand God. It is a story that shows the truth of who God truly is, it should shatter the belief that is growing in popularity that because God is love, then no one will have to spend eternity in Hell. This belief is charged by people who want to say that a loving God could never send anyone to Hell, that we all must be given a final chance to accept our place in Heaven. To paraphrase a little Francis Chan here, I wish this were true, I wish I could sit back and believe that each and every person's eternity were not at stake. But the scriptures are clear that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and it is made clear for us that there are people headed to both. 

As we furthered our study in Ian Thomas' The Saving Life of Christ this week, we were again introduced to the story of Jacob and Esau. We were challenged with answering some pretty tough questions, and in the end gained a valuable understanding of God. The question that sits at the front of my mind this morning was this, Why did God hate Esau?

I was initially struck by the fact that this was not the question I usually think of, I usually get stuck on the Did God hate Esau? In itself the question that our pastor posed was convicting for this reason: I had missed the very point of the story, it is never about "if" God hates Esau... God says He does... its about why. We, or more specifically I, think that the Bible is so mysterious and I must do some deep, deep thinking in order to understand what its really saying. What I realized at the posing of this question is that sometimes, God is very clear in His word. Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. So, why did God hate Esau?

We were charged, in our small group, to come up with a condensed, to the point argument to place before the class to show why God hated Esau, and why He loved Jacob. Those who know me have probably figured out by now that I am not condensed, and rarely am I to the point. I have learned along the path of my life that if I talk long enough, I can usually convince someone I am right. (thats a whole different post)
So, as discussion ranged at our table from this specific story of Esau despising his birthright, to the New Testament and the words of Jesus, we developed a very lengthy, very solid answer... or at least a very disorganized idea of what we knew to be a great answer. My proclivity to talk alot, and I mean alot, landed me as my groups spokesperson, and somehow, our answer came together as  the first small group to present our case:

Why did God hate Esau, but love Jacob?
To steal the words of Major Thomas, Esau was Satan incarnate. Although he was, by the standards of the world around him, a great man... a man's man... Esau had become full of pride, he rejected his birthright from God, stating that he had no need of God. He did not want anyone to dictate how his life was going to flow, where he should go, or what his future would hold. Esau, by the guidance of his own flesh, turned and rejected God. We learn later that this is the only unforgivable sin in existence, the failure to recognize our own need of God and our dependence of Him. God, being God, and ultimately just, and right, had no choice because of His hate of unrepentant sin, but to hate Esau. Jacob, on the other hand, was a scum. He was a liar, a cheat, and a twister... just as his name means. He was a weakling, tied to his mom's apron and by all standards of the world, a useless piece of dirt. He conned his way into the birthright of Esau, and deceived his brother. But, Jacob was different. He hit a point at which he realized his need for God. Jacob approached God and told Him what he was, honestly and truly seeking forgiveness. Jacob had come to realize his own filth and unworthiness of the birthright he had stolen. His repentance was pure and his desire to allow God to change the path of his life was honest... we learn later in scripture that God delights in the honest heart of a pure seeker. God had to love Jacob. So much so, that God does not just tell Jacob that its all ok, He changes Jacob's name to Israel. Just as Paul teaches us, when we come to God with open repentance and a desire to allow God's power to change us, the old life passes away and we are a new creature. 

Thats about as condensed as I can really get on such a topic, and it bears noting, as Pastor Derek did, that in order to truly understand what all of this means, we must strengthen our understanding of God. We must not confuse our own belief of what hate and love are for their true meaning. Hate is simply an intense, emotional dislike. It is not associated with action, or even anger. Godly love is an act of the will for the benefit of someone other than ourselves. God had a strong, emotional dislike for Esau because of the choices he made, but God would still act for the benefit of Esau, allowing him, time and again, opportunities to make things right. God had the same strong, emotional dislike for the choices that Jacob had been making. But when, out of His love, God offered Jacob another chance to make things right, Jacob chose to lay down his useless existence and to pick up God's purpose and power. 

God is all encompassing, and in Him we find grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness... but just as much, we find work, judgement, punishment, and hate. These are the same attributes we find in each one of us, and if we truly search ourselves, we will find that they are greatly out of balance. If we will submit our will over to the power and perfection of Jesus Christ, allow Him to be our Lord, and if we will make that choice to surrender daily to His will, He will work through us to put these qualities into their rightful place. It is through that submission of will, that dying daily, that allows us to follow Him, and allows Him to work through us to complete the good work He has already begun.

If you are sitting there this morning, and happen to read through this, have you ever felt like God hates you? If you say no, I'm going to think you are a liar. I know there are times that God hates me. If thats where you are this morning, do yourself a favor, pray. Ask God why... be open and ready for His response. Ask with a desire and willingness to allow God to work through you to make it right. Know that there is nothing that you can do to fix it, to make it right, to be forgiven. Your forgiveness is already available, your victory over the weight and wages of your sins has already been won... all you have to do is accept it. Pray to God, as Jacob did, call yourself by your own name, seek with an open and honest heart. God promises that if we seek Him in this way, He will allow us to find Him. If you are unsure how to go about this process, I suggest finding a local church this morning... they're everywhere (if you haven't noticed). They should exist to help us in these times. If you are anywhere nearby, I shamelessly plug First Baptist Nixa... please don't go any further in your life feeling the hatred of God upon you, move forward in repentance and love. Allow God to remove that burden from your shoulders, and to wrap you (as is His deepest longing) in His love. God's love is unconditional, and unending. It exists in perfect balance with His wrath, we choose where we sit on that scale.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Defining a miracle

Shared this story this evening with my fellow men during our meeting and discussion of the second chapter of Samson and the Pirate Monks, thought I might as well type it out and get it posted... for those who are around and have talked to me about this, you've heard it before for those who haven't I hope it might be some encouragement... When we first learned that my mom was sick, having been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer (just as so many women in her family had been before her), I was not where I needed to be in my relationship with God. I had drifted into a comfortable place of living my compartmentalized Christianity. I was who I needed to be based on who was around me, and I put very little thought into growing or maturing in my relationship with Jesus. Mom's diagnosis and ultimate prognosis woke me up and sent me searching through scripture in a renewed way. I defaulted into a mode of life that reflected my truly immature Christian self. I searched for scriptures to make me feel better and prayed prayers designed for me to get what I want. I often fall into this pattern of thinking that I can manipulate God into giving me what I want, I am apparently that clever... So, one night, around 2AM, my phone rang... mom was headed to ICU, a pulmonary embolus had attempted to end her fight right there. My prayers intensified in earnest, and I pleaded for God to heal my mom... in the still, powerful silence of one of these moments God revealed something to me that has changed my life forever... I am perfectly free to ask of God to perform a miracle as I had been, but I had no right to define the miracle. Beggars can't be choosers... I was encouraged and comforted in that moment as God laid out before me the train of thinking to show that if I was truly willing to accept that God is God and He alone is God, then I could take solace in knowing that He would heal my mom, but I had to accept the fact that her complete and total healing was going to be on God's terms. It is not for me to decide what, how, or when that healing would take place, but it was enough to know that it would. My prayers changed after that, I was able to much more easily pray for God's will to be done, and even pray that I might get to bear witness to her healing while she was still on this earth... but I also began praying that no matter the how, when, where of her healing, that there would be no doubt in the end that it was only by the power, grace, and love of God that her healing would ever be possible. I prayed that anyone who witnessed her time remaining would be unable to doubt that it was God alone who made it all possible. God was faithful, as He always is, my mom has been fully, completely, eternally healed and is alive in full glorification with our Lord and Savior. God gifted us 4 years more than she ever should have had (from a medical point of view), including getting to be at my daughter's first birthday party. God even granted her something that most of us only wish we could have, she got to say when... at the point that the cancer was over running her, she got the chance to say that she was done playing by the rules of this disease, she was going to finish her life by her rules. In her last few moments, surrounded by her family, in the home she and my dad built to raise that family, God answered my selfish prayer. I had continuously prayed to see her healing on this earth. Again, teaching me that He is in control, God granted me that desire, just not as I expected it. Though I might be the only person who saw this happen, I will remember it the rest of my life, at the moment my mom passed from this life, she looked into my eyes and smiled. The image of it is burned in my mind... in that split second, God allowed me to see my mom, not as the diseased, decimated, broken body she had become, but her face looked younger, I could see the long, curly hair she once wore proudly, her bright eyes and her unforgettable smile. Its how I will always remember her, and its how God always saw her. I came away from my mom's death with a deeper understanding and a strong encouragement... I learned that I cannot place God into a box and confine Him by my own desires and understanding. I learned that sometimes I have to get out of the way and let God be God, and simply worship Him. I don't get to define for God what His miracles are, I just have to be paying attention to see those that happen around me. We can petition God for anything, but we have to be willing to understand that His answer may not be what we were looking for, but that does not make it wrong. If we are willing to accept that God is perfect, and therefore His decisions are right, then we have to accept that He gets to define the miracle. When we allow Him to define the miracle, we get to bear witness to amazing, powerful, beautiful things.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I don't know

In discussion of Saving Life of Christ last night, I was reminded of many teachings and thoughts that have been shared with me before. I am encouraged by this change I have been seeing in my life lately. It seems as though in many situations, my first thoughts and reactions have been pulling out a scripture, or a sermon, or some other study I have done. I find myself in conversations with people of varying beliefs, and there being answers to questions... It's an exciting thing, as I have been feeling God working in me and through me, maturing me as a follower, but it us also a frightening thing. I am learning that there are times that the right answer to a question can sometimes be, "I don't know."
In the past, that answer would make me feel weak, and I'll-equipped to engage in conversation and discussion about belief, and life in general. But God has blessed me over the last year or so with a deepening understanding of who He is, and who I am. He has taught me to grasp the idea of it being ok to admit that sometimes all I know us that I simply don't know, and being able to admit that, openly and honestly can be the strongest statement we can make to an honest, curious seeker.
The lost world we live in is tired of Christians who act as though they have no questions or struggles in day to day life... tired of those of us who answer questions by simply stating a book, chapter, verse and look at them with condemnation when we have to explain the reference. What they want is honesty, and the ability to say that life is friggen messy, and it doesn't make sense all the time. We need to be honest with people in order to engage, and love them. Without that vulnerability and desire to have raw, honest relationships, we can not hope to reach our communities who desperately need us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28 NCV)

Among the "good" church-going Christians of this country, you will often find this verse listed as a favorite. It's a great verse to give us hope and understanding and encourage us that in times of confusion and chaos, God has a plan. I count myself among those who have come to this verse to help when things get tough.
Here's the rub though, many times people will throw this verse around trying to make themselves or others feel better about a situation that they don't like. They will use it for an excuse, or to almost blame God for things happening... Saying things like, "I don't understand why _____ is happening, but I guess God has a plan, I know he works all things for good, so I guess I just have to accept it." Ifs often that we want to lop off the end of verses, especially verses that have a qualifier attached. In the case of the often abused Romans 8:28, we lose "of those who love God." I think that at times we drop the ending because we figure its a no-brainer... of course we love God, so of course He is working things for our good. But is that really what this verse is saying?
Among the words that our pastor uses often, the phrase "scripture defines scripture" ranks pretty high on my list. It has helped me many times as I read through God's word. He also helps us, as his church, to understand that the Bible, in its entirety, from beginning to end, not in part, but the whole, is true, infallible, and perfect. Verses, taken out of context, with their words twisted, inflections and stresses changed, can be used to create entirely new ideas and whole religious practice and belief structures are often based on this type if false teaching... it is also the most common tactic of Satan to lure us away from a right understanding of God.
I say all of this to get to a story, and I think there is a point...

I was recently turned down for a job, a shift in careers that seemed truly perfect. Better hours, more money, growth potential, and a way to impact my patients in a much different way. I first applied for the position a few months ago, and was initially rejected. I went on and continued looking for other opportunities, applied for other jobs, trusting that God would open some doors. I then found a position that sounded intriguing, a leadership position in the same office as the other job. I sent my résumé, and waited. One day a couple weeks later I received a call to let me know they were hiring an internal candidate for that job, but they wanted to interview me for a different position... the job I was initially rejected from months before. Romans 8:28 flashed in my head. Everything went smoothly, interviewed, and waited... everyone assumed I was moving on, including my current supervisors, it's was too perfect. Romans 8:28 in action... It couldn't be stopped... until last Friday, a call let me know that, to their surprise, they had received a couple of unbelievably good applicants for the position and they were going to move ahead with them. Romans 8:28... shattered.

Except not... a couple of things happened as I went to God in prayer following that phone call, the biggest was the conviction I felt when I asked God what more I could have done to deserve the job. When I pleaded to know how this was to my good. What I got back was a sense of needing to (again) reevaluate my understanding of scripture.
We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28 NCV)

The first thing was to focus on the qualifier that we so often drop from the verse, "of those who LOVE GOD." How does the Bible define love in this sense? How do we know if we love God enough for Him to work things out for good? At the instant that I quoted Romans 8:28 to God (note: never quite scripture to God unless you are ready for a response) He responded with John 14:15 & 24
“If you love me, you will obey my commands." (John 14:15 NCV)
Those who do not love me do not obey my teaching. This teaching that you hear is not really mine; it is from my Father, who sent me. (John 14:24 NCV)

Ouch... God responded

My brain put it together as:
We know that in everything God works for the good of those who obey the commands of Jesus, and anyone who does not obey the teachings of Christ does not love God because those teachings come from God. Therefore if you do not obey the teachings and commandments of Jesus, you are not living within the will of God. However, if you will surrender, and die daily (as Christ commands is necessary to follow and obey His teachings) then you will be aligned with the work that God is doing. Because God is working all things for good for those who fit His definition of love, we can trust that if we are submitted to His living through us, as Jesus teaches, that God will complete His good work through us.

Romans 8:28 is a promise that the will of God is for the advancement of His kingdom and a better understanding of His glory among His people. Those who are submitted to His will are vessels of His work that will lead to that good... It is not a promise that we will get the job we want, or the car we think we need, or win the lottery if we just love God enough.

The love of a child

When I get home from work, it takes less than a second for my hand to hit the doorknob before my daughter starts running into the kitchen, excitedly yelling "Daddy!!" Its as though all she has wanted all day long was for me to be home. All she wants is for me to pick her up, give her a big hug and then play with her. Its really hard to resist, but after spending the previous 12+ hours in the ICU, I need a shower and fresh clothes before I go touching anything! One day this past week, I got out of the shower, grabbed some dinner and had a seat on the couch... this little lady crawled up onto my lap, and cuddled in, just wanting to be close to me. She didn't want or need anything from me, just closeness. After I finished my dinner, she hopped down, grabbed her bag of blocks, sat down and said, "Now, daddy play blocks with me." It was an evening of pure, simple, love. No agenda, no manipulation, no worldly corruption... pure, simple, child like love. I am long-convinced that of the many blessings that come with having a child (or in my case, children) is the easy and evident snapshot of love. And not just any love, but the love that exists between parent and child and, at its best, how it mimics the love of God to His children. But in this case, the example of the love that His children should have for Him. Jesus tells us to be child-like. Not in a sense of immaturity, but in a sense of purity. When we feel God's presence near us, when He is rattling the doorknob, we should run excitedly to Him. When we ask to be, and plead to be in His arms, we need to understand that there are times we must simply wait, and that there is a reason. When we are in His presence, sometimes we should just sit with Him, sometimes we should play. Never with an agenda, never with a manipulative heart, never by the standard of our world... we should delight in His presence. Our requests should be pure and centered on our desire to be closer to God, and to want to be active with Him. Its not possible to put into words the feelings of reciprocal love between parents and children. To try would be a disservice, and would fall immensely far from the truth. It is something that can only be experienced by those who are actively taking part in the relationship. The beauty of the love is in its simplicity and completeness, it depends on nothing outside of itself. It is sustaining, unending, and perfect. It is not without struggles, pain, discipline, and heartache. We accept that those hard times come, and through them, we grow in the depth of this love. I pray that my life would reflect a love of God that is anywhere near as pure as the love my children have for me. I pray the same for anyone who happens to read this... there is a God that longs for you to experience His love. No one on this earth can put into words the depth and beauty of that love, only you can experience it for yourself. Seek it out.

Monday, October 8, 2012


We often talk about, or hear others talk about, milestones... mile-markers that can be looked back on through our life in an attempt to measure growth. It's often a tactic we, as Christians, will employ in order to make it easier to see how God has worked in our lives and changed us, how He has worked through us from the moment of our redemption through our acceptance of Jesus, and how our spiritual life has matured. It's a wonderful practice, and a great encouragement in the times that God feels distant, or we find ourselves struggling.
Yesterday, as I was thinking over the first chapter of Nate Larkin's Samson and the Pirate Monks, I noticed something else though... the same milestones and markers are there in our descent to sin. As Larkin details his own dealings with lust and sexual sin, he shows the moments that decisions are made and deceptive schemes are hatched. His own experience is so readily transposed no matter the nature of one's sin and at the moment of brutal honesty in looking at our own sin, we easily recognize the stops we made along the way. In the same way that you do not become a mature Christian overnight, you also do not become an adulterer. It is a pattern of action and thoughts... choices made at certain stops along the path. The difference between a person growing in the love of God, and one struggling in the grip of sin is very small... It is, or should be, humbling to remember, as we look on others who are struggling that the only thing different between the two is a simple choice. I could have chosen differently, at numerous stops along my path, and I shudder to think what my life would look like today. By the grace of God, and only by His actions through me am I who I am. And even still, I am a moment by moment choice away from headed straight down the same path. It's my prayer that by knowing and recognizing both the milestones along the upward slope and the downward slope and by relying on the love of God, that I can continue living in a pattern of obedience, and growth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stop living for God

After reading and discussing chapter 2 of Ian Thomas' book The Saving Life of Christ, I have been struck by a couple of ideas...
The absolutely inadequate way that the Christian life is portrayed and offered by our churches- how many of us grew up hearing sermons proclaiming that we must live for God? Everything we do must be done for God! Witness to the lost... For God! Every aspect of our walk with God was to be focused on a life lived for God. It's an easy misunderstanding, and no harm was meant by the fantastic men and women that taught these principles, but they are principles that shift the focus and the burden of the Christian squarely on our own shoulders. It leads to massive amounts of people who come into a saving relationship with Christ to be radically changed and excited about going about and doing good works to advance God's kingdom... They are excited about living for God's glory... but then, as they get further into it, the same excitement begins to fade, our fruits begin to wither, rot, die, and decay... We get tired and burnt out, it's too hard, the burden is too heavy, and we become just like the majority of Christians that we have ever known... The kind that the lost world looks at and says, "why do I need God? I'm already tired and defeated"
We've missed a very crucial point... It is never supposed to be us living for God, us living for Christ, because that places us in a religion that is just like so many others with the believer at the center, trying to earn goodness... Christianity is different, we are to live surrendered, not for Christ, but with Christ living through us! It is saying at that moment that we ask Jesus to forgive us and become our Lord and Savior, that we surrender our bodies and mind to Him so that He may come and live through us. The burden of living for God is lifted by God living through us. The joy and peace of the Christian life is knowing that I can't live for God and accomplish anything, but if I choose to allow God to live through me, He can accomplish everything. It is only when we forget and try to again do something for God's glory that we are back on the road of defeat. We must choose daily to surrender, to find the strength to surrender, and by doing so, having an unspeakable joy just knowing that through you, God can do anything. Jesus told His disciples that even though they witnessed Him doing great things on this earth, that they would do even greater things once the Holy Spirit was descended upon them. It's because it allows Christ, through the surrendered flesh of all who believe, to work in all places, in all things, doing all work, for all time! It's not because we are somehow more able to do something for God, but rather we are more able to submit to His doing something through us that His glory would be magnified!
Stop living for God... He can do it better. A life lived in regular submission is a life filled with abundant joy that makes a lost world curious. A life lived in recognition that all God has ever expected from man is failure, is a life free from the burden of hoping that you're good enough. A life lived consenting to the will of a loving God is a life that is fulfilled in a way that can only be experienced, not described. The only way to experience that joy and freedom, that true peace, is to step out in faith and tell God that you want to surrender. Tell God that you are tired of trying to live for Him, and you are ready for Him to live through you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Morning Conviction- 9/9/12; Love or Hate

Love presupposes hate... those words struck me this morning as I sat in church. Love presupposes hate. Among the most sure ways we know that love exists is because it is easily apparent in our world that hate exists. It is impossible to love without also hating, both must be active in your life. If you express a love for something, you are saying that you hate anything that strives to harm that love. If you do not hate that which seeks to harm the thing you claim to love, one could argue that you do not truly love. We have been offered a watered down truth that hate is wrong. Hate that calls us to stand up for that which harms our love is righteous and biblical. Because God loves us, He must hate that which seeks to harm us. Because God must hate that which seeks to harm us, He must deal with it in a very serious way. If he does not act against these things, then He does not love us. But because we know that God does love us, we know He will work against those things that seek to harm us. But, also, out of His love for us, God allows us the free will to choose His love, or the things of this world that we try to use to find love. If we choose to love the things of this world, and thus place them at a higher priority in our lives that we place God, then we are telling God that we love those things, and therefore we hate God. We are allowed to make that choice, and the consequence is very clear... the wages of sin is death. To choose against God is to choose eternity apart from His love. To choose against God, is to choose Hell. Or, we can choose to place God as our priority, and ask for His help in placing Him higher that the problems of this world, and we are then choosing to live in His love... to live in His love is to follow Christ... and that is to choose an eternity in Heaven. The choice is ours to make, the details of how to make the choice, and the consequences for each choice is clearly lined out. It is a decision to made sooner rather than later. It is a decision that alters the path of our lives on a daily basis. What choice have you made... love, or hate?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Resetting my prayer life

Was thinking back to the last time I posted... It's been a little while... So I thought I'd share a little of what God has been teaching me lately.
I felt strong conviction about the laughably weak prayer life I lead. It got to the point that if I managed a heartfelt prayer a week, outside of church, then I was feeling pretty good. I really felt like things were running smoothly, i didn't feel the need to pray. I was coasting along no problems... Except, the problem was the stunting of my growth in spiritual maturity. God kept reminding me of passages on lukewarm belief, and the propensity of stagnant believers to backslide. And then I kept being reminded of some advice my dad gave me repeatedly when I was younger... it's easiest to coast downhill.

There were multiple people in my life that were struggling with one thing or another, each time I quoted this advice, it seemed to help them... Yet I never listened to it myself.

I was coasting, and by doing so, opening myself up for influence from an enemy that seeks to destroy us, one step at a time. I needed change, progress, growth. I was convicted of that anemic prayer life. I wrote out a prayer list and scheduled a time to pray over it every morning. Mostly the needs that my friends had made known to me that week. And then I made a list of the men that most influence my walk with Christ... I scheduled a time to contact and pray for 2 of them each day. I say this, not to boast on what I have done, but in how God has used this to minister to me. To focus on the needs of those around me, and to simply spend time in the presence of my Lord, has been an incredible experience. It has helped maintain my focus on how I can advance to Kingdom work of Jesus, and how I can simply serve those who are around me.

I also say this to encourage anyone who reads this (all 6 of you) to let me know if there is something you want me to add to this list.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Convictions: Aug 19th, 2012

First off, its my birthday... wouldn't you like to think that on your birthday God might take it easy with the conviction?? But, alas, once again God is more concerned with ensuring that my life is advancing His Kingdom, and making sure that I am paying attention... its almost as though He truly loves and cares about me that He would make sure that I am listening... So, a few things that I will be thinking about as I fall asleep... 1) I have to stop waiting for God to open a door and place me in His service... At the end of this morning's message Pastor Derek was talking about the ongoing needs within our varied children's ministries. My immediate response was, as it often is, to shut down and counter with the oft uttered phrase, "That's not my calling". But, as I reviewed some of what he said later, and in talking with my wife... I was convicted of my attitude. First, I apparently believe I am so special, or so important that I can't be trifled with the needs of the children? Really? Second, I believe that there is something that God is working on building through our church, some kind of new ministry that I am going to be called to be a part of... I have no idea what it is, but I've been feeling it for a couple of years now. First Baptist Church is an amazingly exciting body of believers and many of us in attendance have voiced a feeling that God has been prepping us for something amazing. So, I think my attitude often extends from not wanting to give myself to some other cause or service because I don't want to miss whatever this new thing might be... because I apparently don't trust God to take care of me. And then, Derek said something that shattered my view of service (not because it was something new, I have read and done more than one study that puts out the same point) it was something like this, "You will never be ready to serve where God calls you, if you are unwilling to serve where He needs you." Its not even about the actual service... I was not even willing to consider the need. God has been continually working on my willingness to follow Him. It started with deciding to go to dayshift, it continues with actively seeking a shift in jobs to allow more freedom for service, it includes a point where I finally had to tell God that I would move wherever He needs me to go if thats what He says to do. Conviction #1- be willing to serve wherever I am needed,in order to be ready to serve wherever I am called. 2) I am in a class with men, we are married men, and we have diverse and sorted pasts that give us an opportunity to support one another and build each other up in so many ways. I don't appreciate the individuals of this group enough, I often get lost in just appreciating them as a whole, but not as each man. I am thankful that as I have problems in my marriage, there is a man, who is my peer, that I can talk to... and chances are has had the same issue. Anytime I have shared about the ways I have managed to nearly wreck my own marriage, at least one other man in that group has said to me, Hey, I've been there, let me pray for you, if you need to talk, let me know, etc, so on and so forth... If you are reading this, and you are a man, find a group of men that can give you this... come check ours out if you'd like. Conviction #2- I need to appreciate the men that have been placed in my life and realize that I can learn so much from each of them, if only I would shut my trap and listen sometimes. As a somewhat random side note to end this little blurb, I strongly recommend Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer... whether you have read Stetzer before or not, it is an amazing look at what the Kingdom is, what it will be, and what our role in it is. If we as believers, and by extension, the church, would live as the Bible commands (and Stetzer manages to make easily readable and understandable) our world would be radically changed. I think thats all for now... I really do hope that at some point, I will be able to post much more frequently

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thoughts while driving home...

Its a good thing i live close to the hospital, if I had a longer drive home after work, who knows where my mind would wander... Praying on my way home this morning, and I got stuck on the sovereignty of God. I don't like to give over control of anything, and I don't like the idea that God doesn't have to answer to me... I like to believe I am of such great importance (as evidenced by the, roughly, 4 people who read my blog) that God should revolve around me. He should choose His actions based on what I have done, or how they will affect me.
But, He doesn't... God exists in His own glory, and acts in ways to increase that glory. He works to extend the reach of His glory by extending His kingdom. He extends His kingdom by calling more people to Himself that we might be accepting of the gift of salvation. He allows this gift of salvation by making Him who knew no sin, to become sin so that through Him we might become the righteousness of God. He achieves this through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ, as a member of the trinitarian God, chose to humble himself, and take on the flesh of His creation, to live a sinless life, so that He alone could be found righteous as judged by the law of God, as is found in the Old Testament... But then, through an act of immense love, chose to gift that righteousness to US in exchange for our eternal condemnation... This allowing a sinner like me to be called righteous, a friend of God. And as such, I am to give myself over to accepting that same sovereignty that I struggle to enjoy. Because, Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Not a Fan: looking back

We finished up our church-wide study of Kyle Idleman's book, Not a Fan, tonight... I just wanted to put some words together on what I am taking away from the book: 1) What are the times in your life that you can distinctly remember Jesus calling you to follow Him? Did He ask you to give something up? What sacrifices have you made to follow Christ? If you re-walk your life up til now, what mile markers are along the way that you cling to as moments that Jesus really grabbed hold of you? I keep looking, and finding instances in my life in which I would say I was close to God. I remember Him asking me to let go of a relationship (an engagement actually) so that I could follow... I remember Him asking me to give up my pride, countless times, to better follow... I remember Him asking me to give up my career ambition... and most recently, I remember Him asking me to give up some financial comfort and personal comfort. I struggled in different ways which each of these sacrifices, but looking back, the times I willingly and joyfully was able to say "Yes Lord" have been directly correlated to times of great contentment and growth in my life. They led to closer relationship with God, better understanding of the man I am to strive to be, a better comfort with who I am, following Jesus led to my wonderful wife and our 2 gorgeous kids (instead of stuck in a residency, or graduate program), and my hope is that following in this latest way will lead to a greater opportunity to serve. 2) Salvation is not a one time choice, it is an active pursuit of a growing relationship. I thought, for a long time, that having said a prayer was good. That those words established my relationship with Christ, that I was no longer a sinner. What I have come to better understand is that salvation takes time. Yes, the moment you make a choice to turn to Christ and place Him the priority of your life, your salvation is sealed... but it is a start to a journey. I have learned that there are some sins that I have to renew my commitment against daily. I have learned that we do not come to God, trying to pretend that we are clean, we come saying, "God, I know I'm filthy... I want You to clean me... I want you to reveal in me the depth of my sin, let me know what they are... and work in me that I might turn from them and to you." In this way, we see that we truly can come to God as we are, without fanfare or facade. We don't even have to know what all of our sins are, we just have to be willing to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and allow God to shine His light on our darkness. We are called to recognize when God does convict us of our sin, that we will honestly and truly deal with it... recognize it as sin, and desire to turn away from it. We also see through this why, as Paul says, we are saved by grace, not of our works so that none may boast. We are all on the same journey, simply at different points along that journey. 3) I must, every day, look in the mirror, commit to emptying myself of all of me and allow that space to be filled by the Holy Spirit. I must allow myself to be aligned to God's will, and be willing, no matter the call, to act. God does not require perfection in this, but authenticity. I must accept that I will fail, but still strive to never do so. I must accept that I have to live in God's grace in order to have true joy or meaning. 4) I hope that anyone who reads this would allow themselves some time to honestly, openly, and intentionally reach out to God. I hope that you will remain open, and give the thought that He might have something to offer to you, or that He even might truly exist (in a very real and personal way), a fair chance. When we walk to God, he runs to us... when we seek Him, He allows us to find Him.

Friday, July 13, 2012

An open invitation

I'm probably going to get Dengue Fever... Ok, so probably not, but there was totally just a mosquito on my hand, and it's been pretty much a sub-tropical climate out there lately... Not to mention, we've had a case of it recently. But that really has nothing to do with this morning's post, this morning, I want to ask, why do you not like Jesus? Even more pointedly, why do you hate him?
I think most people would say that they don't hate Jesus, they may even say they like him just fine... Then why not learn more about him? Why not dig into seeing if you want to follow him? I think there are plenty of people who are afraid of stepping into a church because they think we are going to bombard you and try to force you into deciding right away, or that if you don't decide, then we will shun you... That shouldn't be true.

There are those churches... too many of them I'm sure, that are still I'm the turn or burn business. Bit the church should be a place where ALL are welcome to come and learn about who Christ is, what He has done, and what He is doing. A churches job is to share the truth of the gospel, it is up to those who attend to decide what to do with it. The church is there to answer questions and help guide one's understanding of scripture so that you can reach a well-informed, properly educated decision on who Christ is in your life. The church's hope is that through the proper guidance and understanding of the Bible that those who congregate would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but it is not a choice we can make for you, or a choice we should thrust upon you forcefully.

I hope that this Sunday, you might make a choice to visit a local church, I pray that the one you visit has its priorities in proper alignment to serve. I hope you enter with a heart and mind that is truly open... I also hope you don't expect to learn it all in one visit. If you need a suggestion for a church that meets that criteria, I recommend First Baptist Church in Nixa, we're right behind Braum's and we'd love to know how we can better serve the communities we impact. We'd love to introduce you to a God that requires nothing more than for all to come, as they are, and recognize His love for them. We'd love to deepen your knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is.
I hope to see you Sunday morning, but if I don't, I hope you pop in another church... If you don't, I'll still be praying for you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kingdom Advance: what I learned

After a day of listening to some great teachers talking about advancing the Kingdom of God, and reaching out into areas of high influence in our world in order to make a higher level if impact in a positive way, on an earth that is in rebellion against its Creator, I am even more convicted by something that God has been trying to teach me...

I touched on the subject in a couple of recent posts that when we are far from Christ, we open ourselves to the deeds of Satan. This truth led to some personal struggles that I have discussed and also to some thoughts on one aspect regarding the struggles of the church in our current culture. Listening today to men that have given much of themselves passionately to advancing the gospel just shines light on the brokenness of so much of church culture in America.

There are too many churches in America that started to loosen their grip on Jesus, and as they have, Satan has gradually moved in, and (as he does) he started influencing little changes. Knowing that leaders were searching for ways to get more people into their church, and to advance the kingdom, Satan began twisting their understandings... he slowly gained more control by whispering lies about cultural relevance, and tolerance. He masked his words with perversions and out of context scripture, meanwhile leading otherwise well meaning leaders further away from the basic message of the gospel. This lead to a movement of churches who suddenly stopped speaking of sin, and the brokenness of our world, instead teaching that if you love God, then God will accept you. Gone was repentance and the need for salvation... Gone was the cross and shed blood that is needed for the atonement of sin... and I'm came a further broken and lost culture that no longer has any sense of its own lostness. Satan has created a culture of religion that thinks it is Christianity... he has used God's word, out of context and twisted it to turn people into all manners of self-righteous and self-sanctifying religious nuts that are lost in darkness that they can't see because the light of Christ has been nearly extinguished.
Through this there has been such damage to the work of true Christianity to bring the good news of a true salvation that you cannot earn, but must accept. I am thankful to serve a church that does not compromise the message of Christ, and a pastor that will not accept anything less than committed followers and believers in the words of Christ.

I am thankful for men like Ed Stetzer, Aaron Coe, Steven Pike, and John Marshall who will put on a conference that encourages us, as believers. To advance the Kingdom that is here and yet to come, that all might hear and come to faith in Christ alone.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not a Fan: week 5

I think week 5 is right, with work I've had to miss some...

I've heard it said by many different pastors, authors, and friends that when we stray away from Christ it opens a foothold for Satan to come in and do some work... This week in the Not a Fan series, we get to see this at a high level.

What I took away most is how a person, living as a fan... who would even classify themselves as a Christian... can be used by Satan. In the absence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we leave ourselves open and vulnerable to the will of Satan. Remembering who Satan is, we realize that possibly the most damage he can cause to the Kingdom of God is to infest the life of someone who believes that they are in fact a Christian.
We all know the type... like the character of Bill, can quote the Bible, knows the laws, and is often in line with the world's stereotype of Christianity. Combine that with the amazing abilities of Satan, and his knowledge of the Bible, and his love for twisting the words of God... What do you get? A religious zealot in the express lane to Hell.

Without the personal relationship with Christ, Satan will use God's word to convince us of our salvation through being "good". We will overlook the need of grace, love, and faith that are so evident in scripture. Satan uses "good people" to do damage to the ministry of Christ. He uses them in church ministry to deceive, he causes otherwise right-meaning people to use God's word to cause pain and hate instead of to promote love and grace.

We need to check ourselves and make sure we know that, as James says in his book, nothing that is evil comes from God...

We need to be in daily conversation with God, strengthening our relationship to Him... Minimizing the space for Satan in our life, protecting ourselves from his tricks.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catharsis... very personal

Since I was very young, at least since early elementary school, I have been aware of something. There has always been a sense inside of me of a very dark, evil, part of me. When I would allow it to, this part of me would fantasize about things such as hurting people, animals, or anything really. I have long been afraid that at some point in my life, I would lose control of this part of my nature, and would become a very bad person. This deeply ingrained sin nature is not unique to me, it resides within every person. We are filled with a propensity for bad things. None of us are exempt or unable to perform acts of varying degrees of shame and wrong. It is this same sin nature that condemns each of us to an eternity of conscious torment in a place called Hell. Without proper acknowledgement of this part of our being, we are helpless. We can, by our own efforts and will, battle against this nature. We can even succeed to a point, we can be a "good person" on our own... but at our core, we will still be susceptible to a nature that is opposed to God. Only through the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice, and the willingness to allow His nature, through the Holy Spirit, to come into our lives, can we hope to truly have victory over our own nature. This is not to say that a simple, one time, decision to follow Jesus will cure us of our nature. Christians sin, and will continue to sin, because the natures of sin and of God will rage war within us. Sometimes we follow the God nature, sometimes we don't. I have heard many people say that the worst sins they have committed in their lives occurred after they accepted God's grace. I count myself in that number. The biggest difference between a Christian and one who is not, is the level of awareness of the depth of our own sin and need for help. I recently ran headlong into this deepest fear, that I would allow my sin nature to control me in some way. Satan, in his smooth and quiet way, began to tempt me. My thoughts began to feed that part of me. Once well nourished, the thoughts started to become desire to do some pretty evil things, the details of which are of no importance. I, at some point, seemed to choose to lock God out of this issue, I decided to let my sin nature run, it felt good (the way sin does). I was blind to it, was convinced that there was no harm in it. Satan, as is his practice, used God's word... twisting it to make me feel I was doing something good and right. I gradually relinquished more control, continued to feed my wrong desires. I thank God, and never enough, that He gave my wife the courage to step in... She opened my eyes one day, and God worked through her to place a small crack in Satan's work. Even still, I failed to rely on God to help me out of the situation. I fell into another of the devil's common traps. I started to believe I needed to clean myself off and make myself right before God would accept me back. The raging battle of my two natures was incredible. There were days I truly felt ripped in two, my life was echoing the words of Paul... I continued, with much pain and defeat, to do that which I knew I must not do. I felt times of immense pain, and yet pleasure... I fell for Satan's lies that I could control my sin nature. He was stronger than me, and I began to give up the fight. I inched ever closer to allowing that part of me to destroy my life. And again, God stepped in, through my wife. This time was much less gentle, but no less loving. The battle rages on, but, thanks to a God who never fails me, and a wife with the unimaginable loyalty and courage to step in, I know that it is not a battle for me to fight. God is fighting the battle for me, and He wins. I am thankful that all of this happened before I allowed the darkness within me to take over completely. I am thankful that it never went that far. It destroys me to know that it got as close as it did... and that it took that much pain to remind me of my need for God. I sit here today, working down a road of repentance and reconciliation. I walk hand in hand with a wife I don't deserve... being led by a God that never fails. I woke up this morning humble, and more in love with both. Thank you God for reminding me that without you, I'm a pretty terrible person... but with you, I can do anything. I don't deserve your love, I don't deserve Christ's atonement for all I have done and will do, I don't deserve your gift of grace, but you give them anyway.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Burning leaves

I wrote about this a couple of years ago, in response to a question posed during a study called "Sent" by Ed Stetzer...

What change can your church make in the world?

I pondered this, and kept being reminded of the days in my childhood that Dad would burn leaves. We would start by getting our rakes and preparing the leaves into piles, strategically placing the leaves to allow for the most efficient and complete burn as possible. Usually ending up with 5-7 piles all over the yard. Dad would then go to the first pile of his choosing, and strike a match. He would light one leaf on fire. soon, each leaf in contact wit this first leaf would ignite. Within moments, the single burning leaf had led to an eruption.

Dad would then take his rake and lift some of the still burning leaves from this first pile and begin to place them in various other piles. These transplanted leaves would then ignite these other piles, and soon, every pile was burning...

At the end of the day, there would be leaves that did not burn for various reasons, and we would save them for another time, when they are more ready to catch fire... but for the leaves that were ready, the job was done.

The point being this... if our church is sure to make itself ready to be used, and is accepting of its place in the world, we can ignite our corner of the world... and once that flame is set, God's word tells us that nothing, not Hell itself can overtake us.We must also accept that some leaves are not ready for the ignition, we don't treat them any differently, we just wait...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mom beat cancer...

Probably a few posts this week about my mom, approaching the 1 year mark of her passing... This first one is a long one, the others (if they happen) will likely be shorter... So, here goes-

Been spending alot of time, and it will probably get worse before it gets better, throwing myself little pity parties. I have been stuck in a pattern of thinking about my mom and losing her nearly a year ago... In a little more than a week, it'll be the 1 year anniversary. Life getting back to normal seems to be the biggest culprit, I've finally gotten to where I am using some of her recipes, and accepting that she is gone. It makes me feel that I am not grieved enough to not have her... Like I must be broken because I'm not distraught (nor have I truly been during this) over losing her.

I love my mom dearly, she was the o e person who could flawlessly follow my logic, and her straightforward honest approach to my upbringing made me so much of what I am now... But I rarely "miss" her. I know there are times when it'd be nice to tell her something, or have her be the ONLY person to laugh at my joke... But ultimately, I'm so happy for her, so proud of her, that I can't bring myself to say I truly wish she were still here.

My mom is with our living God and Savior. She chose to tell her cancer to take a hike and that she was going to go to the Master Physician and get healed. Not only does my mom not have cancer anymore, but she also has a place in a heavenly choir. She doesn't have to think about, dwell on, or worry about this sad, broken, sinful world. She was done putting up with the filth that Satan spreads on this earth, she was ready to be in a world that has never, and will never be marred by sin. I'm jealous that she is there already, but encouraged that I am still here because there is work to be done. I have a mission, assigned by the Holy, Living God... I am His servant.

One day, I'll get to leave this earth, just like the rest of us all... We will all spend eternity somewhere... our soul is eternal, it has to dwell someplace... do you know where you're headed? Mom knew where she was going, and she was excited to be going.

How do I know that?

It the last conversation we ever had. I went to her hospital room at 2AM. She was awake when I walked in, just staring at the ceiling. We had just that morning been told that her cancer had overtaken her liver. The only treatment options left stood a better chance at just making her death slow and painful. Her decision, as she put it, was to stop playing by cancer's rules. She was tired of the disease dictating her life, she was ready to go home.
When I walked into her room, her gaze to the ceiling looked prayerful. I can honestly say that I don't remember seeing my mother pray often. Her faith was private in so many ways. I waited until she noticed me standing there. I has just lost a patient of my own, like my mom, much to young for their body to have put up with what it had. I had made a habit of visit mom's room while I was working, particularly if it had been a bad night. She was in the hospital so often, that I knew that I would have someone to talk to.

She noticed me standing next to her bed after a couple moments, I told her about the patient I had just lost... She smiled and gave me a hug. As she released me I caught a glimpse of her eyes. There was something different, peace... they were no longer tired, dying, they were (in that moment) youthful and joyous. I asked, "You ready to go home tomorrow?"

We talked briefly about the arrangements at the house... Her bed positioned in front of the front bay window, overlooking her flowers and the timber... at last, I asked the only question that really matters, "Are you ready to go Home." She smiled (her unforgettable, gorgeous smile) and simply said, "yes." We hugged, cried, and she told me she was sorry about the patient I lost that night. It was the last time we spoke, the rest of the week she had left, there was hand-holding, and smiles... there was peace and comfort. And, I will stand by it forever, just before she left this world, she looked me in the eye, smiled, and then moved her gaze beyond me... looking past this broken world. Her faith, though quiet for many years, became abundantly clear sight. She beat cancer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VBS reminded me

It's VBS week at FBC-Nixa... One of the many great things that our church does is adult VBS. this is the first year that we are attending the event, and it's so good to spend some extra time in God's word, learning about His power. It has been a great reminder that, with our priorities in proper alignment, life is much easier to navigate.

I was reminded of the need for proper priorities while we're reviewing the first lesson from this week. From the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan in Joshua 3-4. Normally we read this as another account of how powerful God is to help us through our troubles. But this time around, as I have been struggling through a process of following God, the story spoke from a different angle.
God told Joshua to first send the Ark of the Covenant into the river. God placed Himself (or at least this representation of Himself) into the river. He told Joshua that if he would put God first, that the raging flow of the flooded Jordan would be stood up like a wall and Joshua's people would cross on dry land!
God promises us over and over again that He will be with us always. He will help us in all our trials, by seeing us through them, and at times, by removing the obstacles. We get angry and doubt His existence when we perceive that He has lied to us, or failed us... but, look again at this story, God gave us a standard and condition... We are to place Him first.

Friday, June 8, 2012

An honest question

Something that has been a recurring theme lately in books I'm reading, sermons I'm listening to, and, most recently, in some VeggieTales I was watching earlier... Sometimes and, it seems apparent to me, most of the time, forgiveness not only requires repentance, but also repayment/replenishment.

We see it in the story of Zacchaeus, when he became a follower of Jesus, he felt he not only needed to repent, but to give back what he took and more! And in the VeggieTales telling of Esther, we see King Xerxes, upon learning that it was Mordecai that saved his life, not only asked forgiveness, he lavished him with royal gifts!

The fact that this principle keeps cropping up makes me wonder what kinds of things we miss in day to day life to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong, help me make it right." In a sermon from Luke, Mark Driscoll talks about this by describing it if you let a "friend" borrow your Hyundai, and he never returned... Until one day, he apologizes, and then hands over the keys to his new BMW.

So, what I am asking is this, if you read this... How have I wronged you that I have not apologized for, and how can I repay my debt to you?

I will ask that you keep in mind that I am not capable of gifting you a Beamer...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not a Fan: week 2: "Follow me"

Last night was the second installment of our church-wide study of Kyle Idleman's book, "Not a Fan". We focused mostly on the accounts of the gospels' recording how Matthew became a follower of Christ.

While discussing the verses, we were to look at what it was that stood out to us about Matthew's conversion. Many pointed to how he immediately followed, or how he left everything to follow. For the purpose of our study, those are awesome points. It gives us a great example of how a terrible sinner like Matthew can be accepted, as he is, by Christ. It is also an impressive and inspiring story to see someone as wealthy and powerful leave everything and, immediately, follow.

For me, and where I have been struggling lately, the words that stuck out most to me were the words of Jesus, "Follow me". That's all He said to Matthew. It wasn't a request, Jesus wasn't asking if Matthew wanted to follow. It was a command, "Follow me."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The girl with the tattoo

Talking with a friend this week, she told me of something that she saw recently that broke her heart. It was a young woman she came across, on the back of her leg was tattooed the phrase "this knee will never bow".

I've spent some time the last couple days thinking about it, and I just think I need to get some thoughts out... In case a person stumbles across this blog who has a similar attitude.

1) I don't know this person, and have zero idea about their life or any of the circumstances that led her to get this tattoo. I don't know what her true spiritual condition is, or what she truly believes about God. I would guess, from the evidence, that she calls herself an atheist.
I would argue however, that a person who would get such a tattoo is in no way an atheist. It is more likely that she knows that God exists, but chooses to live her life as though he does not... probably believing that life is easier that way. She doesn't have to be responsible for her behaviors if she can tell herself that there is no God. The worst part of this, to me, is that her lifestyle is eerily similar to many people who profess Christianity. The motivations behind the behavior is different... we tell ourselves that we are covered by the grace of God, or that our sin is less important than others'. We suppose on the love of God, choosing to live as if we are outside of His wrath. The end result of both of these types of people, is a life that is fake, sinful, and wasted. The final product is two lives that, when observed for the outside, look the same. They are both lives that are useless to the Kingdom of God. The hope for both is remembering who God is and truly coming into relationship with Christ. Both would then have a chance if amazing testimonies, and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, could do amazing things to the Glory of God.

2) As I thought about all of that, I thought, "wouldn't it be great if someone just walked up and (lovingly) explained those things to her." Which reminded me of something Chan wrote about in CrazyLove: saying that those moments when we imagine what the world would look like if we all started living radically for the cause of Christ... in those moments, we need to remember that that behavior is not considered radical to God, it is what Jesus expects out of us, as followers. We are expected to converse with people like this young lady, get to know her story. We are supposed to invest in her and try to understand why she felt it was necessary to tattoo such a bold statement against God on her body. We are supposed to understand the depth of God's love for her, allowing us to recognize how to best display that love to her. We are supposed to open her up and allow the Holy Spirit to bring that deep, eternal heart change that I spoke of earlier... If we fail her by simply brushing past her, and judging her for that tattoo, her life may never change.

One day we will then stand in the presence of God, He will replay our life... I fear the when He stops the film and asks, "What about the girl with the tattoo?" I hate to think of all the times that I have not been obedient in living as Christ commands us to live. I break to think of the potential persons who are now, or someday may be, in the eternal torment of Hell that may have just been waiting for one person to care enough to listen, and allow them to see God's perfect love.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Elementary Truths: easy does not equal right

I have recently, the past month or so, finally realized the sometimes a person can't always do what is easy. I have learned that we have to do what is right, and sometimes, that is really hard. I know, we all think that this is pretty basic, and that everyone knows this truth... But here's the thing, if everyone knows it, why do so few do it?

It's a message that is shoved down our throats from elementary school and to eternity... And yet again, we live as though the concept is foreign.

I have made 2 major decisions in the last month that I consciously was aware were not the easy choice. I struggled mightily, claiming that I was pursuing God's will... But I knew, very clearly, in each case where God stood. I was trying to find a way to blame God for making the easy choice.

You know what happens when you do that? You get nailed by sermons, personal bible study, books, peers, your wife...everything. Resisting such a strong call and direct guidance of our God opens you up for a gauntlet of conviction... I, personally, went into bargaining mode. I knew that my choices, though right, would cost me some things. And not just small things, things that I rank as pretty important in my life. They would probably even hurt some folks who are close to me. So, how could they be the right choice?

Because, the things that I would be sacrificing are all things that I often place at a higher priority in life than God. From that perspective, it becomes a matter of whether my relationship with Christ is truly the most important thing, or if it is one of the many other things I put in its place.

It is this act of melting down my own golden calf, and being able to tangibly feel the personal sacrifice that has given me peace that these decisions, while hard, are right. It is that knowledge that has brought me to the place of finally, truly KNOWING that sometimes, the right choice is not the easy choice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not a Fan: week 1: feeling alive

Started a new church-wide study tonight with Kyle Idleman's Not a Fan... During discussion we were asked to imagine a time that we felt truly alive and our focus was not on ourselves. For me, I feel most alive in the first few split seconds of recognizing the rapid deterioration of a patient who is headed to cardiac/respiratory arrest.
In that moment, all of the skill, knowledge, and some instinct culminate deep down, and I am in my element. The utter chaos of a code is like a hurricane; violent, intense, relentless... But at the center of that chaos there has to be those who serve as the "eye"... We feel most at peace within this storm. It feels natural, and we see order and beauty in these moments.

So, that's what makes me feel most alive... I truly believe that God has blessed me in ways that allow me to thrive in such circumstances, and I try to remember that it is only to His glory and greatness that I am able to perform these tasks. But I often struggle with my pride... forgetting that without Him I could do nothing, not the least of which to help a patient in need. When I can keep the focus on my Lord before, during, and after a code... not only do I feel alive, but also, I feel grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to serve in such a great way.

A great start to this study, to this point I feel that the fan/follower designation must be viewed on a continuum. We all fall on the spectrum somewhere between being simply a fan of Jesus, or truly being a committed follower of Christ. We should strive to, every day, decide to move closer to being a follower. I hope I do just that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


God promises things... He does it quite often. Not only does God make promises, but (like the perfect father He is) God keeps those promises. Over and over again in the Bible we see God promising things to both those who honor Him and those who do not. Then, at some time in the future, we see those promises kept, both for the good, and the destruction of those to whom the promise was made. I ramble through these thoughts to say this... what makes us think that the promises that God has made to us are any different? Perhaps for some it is the lack of a father figure that is to be an example to us of who God is, and how God loves us. If our earthly father has failed and harmed us, then how are we supposed to be excited about a God that is our Heavenly father? For those of us who have amazing earthly fathers, maybe we blow off the present promises of God because, despite our best efforts, we just simply are terrible at faith. We don't trust anything, up to and including God's very existence. If we have trouble firmly placing a belief in His existence, then how can we believe in His promises? The Bible is too old, it was written by crazy zealots, those people are soooo out of touch with the reality of today... this list continues for awhile. Sooner or later, this list boils down to one thing, pride. Pride says that, ultimately, I don't care if God is real or not, and even more so, I don't care about what He promises, cause I am in control, and I know best... But what does God think of that? God says, as the man Jesus, that the proud will be made humble and the humble shall be exalted. He says, basically, "Look, either live with humility, or I will humiliate you." We are warned to either live with reverence and humility in the presence of God, or, at some point, between now and eternity, God will humiliate you as only He can. Far more a warning for those who claim to know God, and be in relationship with Christ, than those who don't... those who live apart from Christ will meet a known and determined humiliation in the reality of Hell. Those who claim a relationship with God, through Christ, humility is demanded in order to serve others, without it, our humiliation could be being deemed unfit to serve God in a meaningful way. Outside of the ongoing, conscious torment of Hell, I can't imagine a pain worse than being deemed useless to God. God makes promises, and He keeps them... both for the good, and the destruction of those to whom promises have been made. He gives us the choice, humility or humiliation- we are free to choose either, the consequence of the choice is clear.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I came to a realization a moment ago; or rather, God revealed something to me... Something so basic that I practically face palmed in the shower.

I've been dealing with some stuff recently, focusing my life back on Christ. I haven't written, mainly out of feelings of inadequacy. Gladly, have reached a point of understanding that it's not like I was adequate or worthy of writing before, so why stop?

Part of the newly refound center of my life is the realization that I need to leave my job. I absolutely love my job about 90% of the time, I thrive on the adrenaline of a code situation, or needle decompressing a tension pneumo... But here's the thing. I put so much of myself into this job that there is rarely enough left to lead my family as God has called me to do. There is even less energy to participate in any ministry opportunities that arise in my life. (those opportunities are a rare occurrence, but I hate that I feel I would have to reject any instance)

This has lead to an unhealthy level of anxiety in my life, loss of sleep, massive amounts of heartburn, and so on. I have been placing applications, and sending resumes and all such things. I am trying to be patient and prayerful through this time... And while in the shower just a bit ago I was praying that God would remove the hindrances that exist that keep me from serving Him... And that's when it happened, this simple revelation: God gently let me know that He was not the one placing those hindrances in my life. It blew me away... Of course I know that God has plans for me, to prosper me and not harm me... but I was living as though the difficulties I was having in service to God were from God. I placed them there, or allowed them to be placed by Satan. Furthermore, the ability to remove them is already at hand through the Holy Spirit. It is through His guidance and counsel I will find the place I am to be to fully serve God, as a father, a husband, and a Christian.