Graves Into Gardens

New record for 7 years between posts…

The craziness of this time has me thinking about my friends and family, those in my community, and those around the world who are living in the midst of fear.  Any time something tragic happens, I often wonder how people cope with it without the hope that comes from a belief in the King of Glory.  I know that people all around me are waking up each day in fear, with each and every news headline and tweet feeding more fear into their hearts and minds.  We seek comfort and control, but nothing feels similar or common.  We’re working from home, teaching our kids, communicating via video chat, and unable to offer even a simple handshake or high five, and especially not a hug.

We need to fight the desire to seclude ourselves during this uncertain time.  Yes, we need to keep our physical distance from others, but we must find ways to let others know we care about them when we are all feeling a bit alone and scared.  I also pray that we have people that we love and trust enough to tell them when we’re struggling or feeling fearful.  Our pastor made the comment that “it’s okay to have fear, but it’s not okay to act fearful.”  We need others to come alongside us in those moments and remind us of the power of the Lord.  He moves mountains, parts seas, brings the dead to life, and lives inside every believer.

My Friday morning men’s group has been reading through Ephesians, and there is some big language from Paul that comes up.  He talks about things like “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and being “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” and “making known to us the mystery of his will.”  Those are things that I can’t even wrap my head around, but then I read things like this…

“…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and the know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

– Ephesians 3:17-21

None of this is a surprise to Him.  He’s still on His throne, and we still won’t understand what’s happening.  But, we can know that He loves us more than we can ever know, and He desires to use us to bring Him glory in this time.  Friends, let us remember that He has done great things and will do greater things than what we are facing.  Let us be His hands and feet and love well in this time, knowing that He is good and He will be glorified!

Lord…be our Hope, our Confidence, and our Redeemer! Amen!

Holy Week

Once again, it’s been about a year since I wrote anything, but here we go! Go ahead and play the video and listen along as you read.  This is from Hillsong United’s new album Zion…it’s pretty awesome.

Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I have had the opportunity to truly experience some of God’s grace on me.  I have been doing a bible study called BSF, and after several years of doing some more topical studies related to Men’s Ministry, all of which I have enjoyed, it is awesome to be back into a deep study of God’s word.  As we work through the book of Genesis, I am continually amazed by God’s master plan and the continual mess that we make of this thing called life.  God planned the coming of His son to save us all from the beginning of time, knowing that we are all a royal mess.

As we enter into this Holy Week, we head toward the event that literally changed the world forever.  As I heard Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty say, “This is the man that time revolves around…” All of time is based upon life before Jesus and life after Jesus, for all of creation, but especially for us as believers.  Even as I type that, I think back to a line in my BSF notes that challenged me to live every day, and make every decision in the light of my decision to follow Christ.  In that moment there was incredible freedom and excitement, feelings that I desire each and every day, but easily miss out on in the midst of my day to day activities that keep my focus away from Him.

Cris and I have been watching The Bible series and have enjoyed getting to see some of the artistic interpretation of God’s Word.  As we watched last night, I particularly enjoyed the scene of Peter being called from the boat to meet Jesus on the water.  As he did so, the others around him were terrified and told him not to do it, but he followed the Lord’s command.  He followed all the way to a place where his feet would fail, and they did…  While it is easy to focus on his lack of faith in that moment, he had a mountain of faith in the moment it took to step out of the boat in the first place.  It is often so hard to take that first step because of fear of the unknown, or maybe even fear of the known things that I simply don’t like.  Peter did not fear when he first stepped from the boat…but his fear crept in on him in the middle of his experience with the Lord.

Not a single bit of fear is from the Lord.  Yes, the Lord desires for us to fear Him, but that is out of reverence.  We are to fear Him as Sam should fear me; fear of the authority, but completely and utterly covered and filled in love.  Fear without love is oppressive, but fear in love is protection and guidance.  My personal fears do not have an ounce of love in them.  They are usually surrounded by pride instead…

Throughout this Holy Week, I will be challenged to not look forward to the grace of Christ’s resurrection, but to try and understand the fear that drove the people to kill our Savior, only days after witnessing His miracles.  How often do I allow my fear to kill His grace-filled gifts for me?…

What Do You Live For?…

Have any of you ever felt stressed at the end of the day because something didn’t go as you had hoped or planned?  I put a lot of pressure on myself to not let people down and do the right thing.  But sometimes I over think things to the point where I paralyze myself rather than acting confidently.  So, the other night I began to think about what it is that I really spend my time focusing on, thinking about, and yes, even stressing over.  The more I thought about it, I began to realize that all the things that I spend time thinking about and stressing over have taken the place of the Lord.  I know that may seem a bit extreme, but think about it with me, when I stress out about work, money, friends, and even family, I am placing some type of excessive value on approval or success defined by those things.

Scripture is very clear that we can only serve one god and gives specific examples of how to address each of these in relation to Himself.

Work:  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

Money:  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 ESV)

Friends & Family:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 ESV)

Don’t get me wrong, there is a fine balance between doing each of those things well, as we are called to in Scripture, but we are never told to allow them to take His place.

So, what is it that you put an exorbitant amount of energy and focus in each day?  And what do you need to do to correct that focus?

Working Out @ Home!

This will be something to remember in about 6 months!

Beautiful Things

I know that I am a “hot-mess”, as my Crissy would say.  I go through life trying to do things as I think I need to do them, often trying to live up to expectations, real or false.  What I end up doing in many instances is over-thinking and completely jacking it up.  I do truly believe that I have been extremely blessed by the Lord with some amazing gifts and talents, but He didn’t give them to me for me to control and analyze every opportunity to use them.  And He sure doesn’t teach me things daily so that I can dwell on them either.  He has given me such gifts and taught me such lessons so that I can honor Him.  Only when I submit to Him and His Will can I be considered a Beautiful Thing.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 reads:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, the day that we reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us, individually.  On this day, He made the sacrifice to forgive our messiness and make us Beautiful Things.  “Out of chaos, life is being found in YOU…YOU make Beautiful Things out of us!”

Revelation Song

(Sorry for the video closeups of Kari Jobe…I just wanted to have the album version instead of a live version.)

Day by day, I fight the urge to look out for my interests.  I do the things that I feel like I need to do in order to be successful, whether it’s work, or school, or things around the house.  I allow myself to become burdened with these things.  Sometimes, it even gets to the point of becoming so burdened that I don’t do any of them well…

Then I hear the booming voice of this tiny woman and the truth that she speaks from the Word of God!  ““Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”  How trivial are my silly responsibilities in comparison to the Glory of the King of Kings?!  “With all creation I sing PRAISE to the KING of KINGS!”  He has conquered all things and we know that from Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

And the mercy seat that she’s singing about, we’re told that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34)!  For that we can be nothing less than filled with wonder!  I will adore you Lord!

Like An Avalanche

All day, pretty much every day, I have music playing.  Sometimes it’s worship music, and sometimes it’s not.  While I really like any good music, there is just something about good music that worships the King!  So here is what is going to happen…I’m going to start posting some of my favorite worship tunes that are current or old, and include some reasons why I like them so much.  The way it will work best is to click play on the video, then read the few lines I have posted.  I know you all have better things to do than to spend 5 minutes reading my blog, so thanks!

Cris and I had the privilege of seeing Hillsong United live a couple weeks ago and they were freakin amazing!  There is such an amazing feeling of standing in worship with 15 thousand folks making a joyful noise.  “Like An Avalanche” is one of my favorite tunes these days!  First, I can relate to feeling of finding myself on my knees worshiping the Lord of Grace!  In Romans 7:15-17, Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now If I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin who dwells within me.”  When I first read those words in high school I will never forget the feeling I received.  I could relate perfectly Paul (and that may be the only time I can say that!).  What it comes to is that when I try to do things on my own, I usually mess them up because of my prideful and foolish ways.

But, 2 Corinthians 12:9 also says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness!  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that he power of Christ may rest upon me.”  Knowing this truth, how can we ignore Him and turn away from such an amazing gift?

Jesus, take my heart and take all that I am!  With all that I am, I will love you!  Take my heart, take all that I have, Jesus how I adore you!  And I find myself here on my knees again, caught up in grace like an avalanche!  NOTHING compares to this love!

Pain of Discipline

I know it’s been like 6 months since I have posted anything, and for that I am sorry.  For the past couple of days my heart has been heavy and I felt like I needed to spell some of this stuff out this morning, so here it goes!  Fair warning, this is gonna be a little weird to some folks…

I have a good friend who is not acting like the man of God that I know him to be.  To put things directly, he is simply not well right now and is not acting like himself in any sense at all.  I feel very privileged to have a big brother who is an amazing man of God, so I talked to him yesterday about what was going on with my buddy.  The only reason I reached out to my brother is because I know he has experience with spiritual warfare, and I simply wanted him to start praying for my friend.  Well last night I got a call from my brother who said that as soon as he began praying, the Holy Spirit opened him up and told him that we need to go get my friend.  Needless to say, that scared the crap out of me, which is a pretty good sign that God’s pushing me that way!

Recently, I have had Hebrews 11 and 12 on my heart a lot after listening to a sermon from Matt Chandler.  There are so many parts of this passage that that are applicable to this story.

33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises,(A) stopped the mouths of lions, 34(B) quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness,(C) became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35(D) Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even(E) chains and imprisonment. 37(F) They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a](G) they were killed with the sword.(H) They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38of whom the world was not worthy—(I) wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39And all these,(J) though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better for us,(K) that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 12

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and(L) sin which clings so closely, and(M) let us run(N) with endurance the race that is(O) set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,(P) who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising(Q) the shame, and(R) is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary

3(S) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or(T) fainthearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

(U) “My son,(V) do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For(W) the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7It is for discipline that you have to endure.(X) God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline,(Y) in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to(Z) the Father of spirits(AA) and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good,(AB) that we may share his holiness. 11(AC) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields(AD) the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore(AE) lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and(AF) make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint(AG) but rather be healed.

  • 11:33-40 – God allowed men and women by faith to receive amazing gifts, but others received death.  But both were true to God throughout their entire lives.
  • 12:1 – When we do not throw aside our sin, it entangles us and allows Satan to gain a stronghold over us.  Also, when we feel that weight or that hindrance, it is God pulling us toward Him.  Therefore, when we fight that hindrance, we are fighting God.
  • 12:2-4 – Jesus is perfection!  He fought sin to the point of death on the cross for the joy that we would be saved.  We do not fight sin to the point of bloodshed, we fight until it gets too hard, then we give in.
  • 12:5-7 – God disciplines us as a loving father would discipline his children.
  • 12:8-10 – Without discipline, we are separating ourselves from God.  There is no life with God that is without discipline.  This also implies that we will always be tempted by sin, and it will always require discipline to turn from it.
  • 12:11 – Discipline is never painless, in fact it is often full of pain.  But out of discipline comes growth, which can also feed others.
  • 12:12-13 – Discipline leads to healing!  To be disciplined by the Lord is to be healed by the Lord, and nothing is out of his reach!

Test of Time

clockI was reading through the fifth chapter of Acts this morning and came across something that really stood out to me toward the end of the chapter.  Remember that Acts is basically the story of the early church and the “acts” of the apostles after the death of Christ.  The Sanhedrin (the group of political officials who voted to kill Jesus) are fighting the Apostles because they are basically telling everyone that the Sanhedrin killed the Son of God, which was true, but who wants that on their conscience?…  The Sanhedrin has jailed them multiple times and they keep getting out, most recently by an angel who opened the door for them!

So, in verses 35-39, a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood before the group as they were plotting on how to get rid of the Apostles.  He said the following:

“Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

Good call buddy!  How’d that one work out for you?  The thing that amazes me is that it is the truth!  If the Apostles were following someone that was not of God, they would have dwindled and definitely would not have been willing to be killed for Him.  Peter was crucified upside down…I mean who would be willing to die that painfully for something that wasn’t true?

So, nearly 2000 years ago, good ole Gamaliel challenged the officials around him to just wait out the Apostles and to see if it would just pass.  I wonder how people are still waiting and wondering if this Jesus guy is legit…

Everything Is Soooo Difficult…

I was reading through the second chapter of Acts this morning and hit a couple of things that really stood out to me.  The book of Acts is written by Luke and is actually considered to be a continuation of his first book (the Gospel) kind of like a sequel, sometimes called Luke-Acts.  Acts documents the beginning of what we now know as the Christian church.

  • Acts 2:1-13 – In verses 1 through 12, we see that the Holy Spirit has filled the people with His power.  It says that the people were speaking in languages different from their own.  This is not to be confused with the prayer language of tongues that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, as each persons’ speech was understood by the people around them.  However, the crowd thought they were all drunk because they did not understand this power of the Spirit.  How often do we dismiss someone because they may act in a way we don’t understand?…even in church?
  • Acts 2:22-41 – Verses 22 through 36 put Jesus in a context that the Jews would have understood.  Jews knew the facts about David and had no question that David was a servant of God.  When Luke puts Jesus in the context of David and shows the Jews that Jesus is much greater than David and was the Lord that spoke to his Lord (verse 34), it’s like a light bulb goes off!  Verse 37 tells us, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart.”  3,000 people then gave their lives to Christ and joined the church, AT ONE TIME! I don’t know about you, but I would love to see 3,000 folks join my church!
  • Acts 2:42-47 – After joining the church, verses 42 through 47 tell us about how they acted toward each other.  They were “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, breaking bread, and prayer.”  They were filled with awe and many miracles were performed.  Verse 44 is the kicker for me…”All the believers were together and had everything in common.”  They sold everything they had and continued meeting together every day, breaking bread in their homes, praising God, and “enjoying the favor of all the people.”

So…that is the basic story of how the church began, and I can see some pretty massive gaps in where we are now…  I believe that we try so hard to make our lives into something that we desire that we manage to make the most simple things difficult.  These early Christians were full of joy from the Lord and didn’t analyze every single thing.  They just enjoyed the Lord and enjoyed it with each other.  So, let’s make an honest effort to quit making everything so difficult, and just enjoy the Lord!