Archive for the ‘bible’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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So much time has passed since I last posted. In fact, I do not know that I have updated my blog since just after the new year. So much has changed in my life and I have been trying to process it all. Life is like a roller coaster ride. It is filled with ups and downs and sudden twists that take you completely by surprise. Sometimes all we can do is hold on tight and trust we will make it through the ride safely and with a better appreciation for the calm moments.

It feels as though the last 10 months or so have been a giant roller coaster with sudden turns and corkscrews and loops with no area of straight track. It feels as though I am holding on tight and trying not to fall out. What I am learning is to trust the ride operator. God is guiding and leading and I am slowly learning to trust Him, loosen my grip on the safety bar, and enjoy the ride. In all honesty, it has been an incredibly painful  and emotional lesson, but I am thankful for what I am gaining from the ride.

Back in October, our then one-year-old son, Joshua was admitted into the hospital. We were told by the hospital staff and doctors that he was near death. We brought him in just in time. Our life was rocked. Nothing else mattered to us except making sure our baby was okay. We cried; we prayed; we worried; we stood strong; we struggled, but still trusted in God. After about a week in the hospital , he was released and doing well. This was one roller ride we did not want to experience again. We learned valuable faith lessons, but no parent wants to see their child suffer like that.

Fast forward a few weeks. I sat in my office responding to emails and working on a children’s Christmas musical for the church. An elder approached me and said I was needed in the conference room. I sat down and listened as the elders asked me to resign as children’s minister. My heart sunk. I did not know how to respond. I was always told that I was a great teacher and the kids were learning so much, yet it was explained that because of my struggle to find teachers, I needed to resign my position. Every emotion imaginable overtook my spirit: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, and even relief. It is hard to explain. I was quite bitter for a couple of months. I felt like such a failure. I was depressed.

I struggled to find any type of work at all. I applied at retail stores, restaurants, and even fast food places. With each rejection, I sank a little lower. I finally took a job cleaning a department store and probably wouldn’t have even found that job if my brother-in-law hadn’t recommended me. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered how I could have my ministry taken away from me. Nothing seemed to matter at that point. Rather, I didn’t think I mattered at that point. I felt so low; so useless; so powerless. I sat in the worship service not knowing what to do. I had always had some role to fill – preach the sermon, teach the class, lead the communion, be up front, share a word of wisdom – now I just sat there. Yes, I understand that one does not need to be up front to participate in the worship and life of the church, but that was all I had ever known. Now, I felt…insignificant. All I had ever worked for was gone.

I was one the roller coaster of life and it was making me sick. I became disoriented from all the turn and sudden drops. I cried the ride operator (Jesus) for help. He didn’t stop the ride, he didn’t even slow it down –  but  he did teach me how to learn from the ride and even enjoy some of the moments. I learned a very valuable lesson. My identity is found in being God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. My identity is not a title of minister, it is not a great sermon, or a good lesson. My identity is not found in being a good teacher. My identity is not wrapped up in my ability to organize. It is not found in being an introvert or an extrovert. My identity is found in Jesus. My identity is not others expectations of me. My identity is God’s son. I had never realized I viewed my identity in being a minister and having a title, but when that was taken away, I had never felt so insignificant. I have now learned my true identity. I am God’s and He is mine.

Do I miss doing full time ministry -yes, I miss parts of it. I miss teaching and preaching. But I will not trade the valuable lesson I have learned. It nearly cost me everything, but I have gained the only thing that mattered. I have gained an understanding of my true identity.

The roller coaster did not end there. You can read about Kellie’s job change and see that God is still trying to teach us something. Sometimes, I just want to scream out, “Okay God I get it. You can stop now.” But I am so thankful for this new-found identity. It was there all along, it just took a major wake up call to realize I was burying it somewhere and didn’t even realize it.

My life looks much different today than it did a year ago. I am now a forklift operator at a local warehouse. It is so different from what I am used to and I struggle to find my place there sometimes. I used to preach about staying faithful during the darkest times of life and now I am experiencing what that means. I once talked about freedom in Christ and now I am truly experiencing it. I am God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. Lord teach me to always find my identity in you.

John records a scene in chapter thirteen of his gospel about Jesus that is so heartbreaking. Jesus knows that his time to bear the cross is drawing near. In verses 37-38, we are told of an incident that brings tears to eyes of many. “Peter asked him, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Can you see the tears in Jesus’ eyes as he speaks those words? Can you hear the pain in his voice? He knows that Peter loves him. He knows that Peter is sincere, but he also knows that Peter will indeed deny him three times.

How many times do we deny Christ? How many times do we say with all sincerity, “I will lay down my life for you,” but when the hardship comes we deny him? With a compassion that can only be felt by our Lord, he weeps and cries over us. With tears in his eyes and with nails in his hands and feet, he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave Peter for denying him, just as he continually forgives us.

Today, make up your mind to celebrate that forgiveness. Rejoice with Peter in experiencing the grace and mercy of a God who loves us beyond all comprehension. Even now as you have so many thoughts on your mind and heart about all those times you denied your Jesus, you can take comfort in those words spoken on the cross and for eternity, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Joseph and Mary began the search. They traveled about looking for a room so that baby Jesus could be born in some type of dignity. They arrived in Bethlehem only to find there was no room. The hour was drawing near for the time when our Lord would enter the world, and there was no place for him to be born. Instead of a room at the inn, there was a stable. Instead of a crib, there was a manger. Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls was born in a stable. There was no room for him.
As I look at the world around me, I find that there is still little room for Jesus. People fill their lives with so many other things that there is no longer room for Jesus. I want to have room for Jesus. I want to stress to those whom God has called me to minister the need to make room for Jesus.
Lord, I’m sorry there was no room for you. I’m sorry there is still no room for you. I want to give you room in my life. I want to empty out all the junk I hold dear and make room for you. May my purpose always be about making room for you. Search deep within me and find room in my heart. Do you see room, Lord? If not, please show me what I need to get rid of in order for you to have room. Fill my life. Be my only desire. Lord, please find room.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12

The time was coming for our Lord to be born. Joseph and Mary were on to way to take the census and the announcement was made to some shepherds that Jesus was going to be born. The words that encouraged me the most in this text were those that surrounded the announcement to the shepherd from the angel. The angel proclaims, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” The shepherds set out immediately to find Jesus.

The fact that Jesus put on flesh and came into this world is good news. A goal for my life is to never forget how good it is that Jesus came into this world to live as a man. Will my response be to seek him and see for myself how good he is?

When we look at the world around us, we can see so much pain and suffering. It gets depressing just watching the news these days. We hear of another rape, another murder, another robbery. We see another terrorist act, another casualty in the war. We see suffering all around. Many of you can recall where you were the exact moment a tragedy such as the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 occurred. Bad news is all around us. Tragedy often seems to be around every corner. Human suffering invades our lives on a continual basis.

We live in unstable times. We can recall the things that once seemed so safe and how they now have been scarred. Recall the group of people shopping in a mall when someone opened fire and claimed innocent lives. The tragedy that took place at a college campus when an alienated student went on a shooting rampage. What about the people attending a worship service that is suddenly interrupted by gun fire  – it wasn’t in a communist country it was in the heartland of the United States. We live in a time of uncertainty. And the people cry out, “Where is God?” They say, “If God is such a loving God, then why did this happen? Why did He allow it? Why didn’t He stop it?” We live in uncertain times. Each day people face tragedy: loss of a loved one, unemployment, bankruptcy, victims of violence, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and the list could go on and on. And they cry out, “Where is God? Does He care? Does He even exist?”

I have faced some tragedies of my own and I have found myself asking the same questions at times. I think back to driving in the car on Christmas Eve from Oklahoma City to Muskogee after leaving my grandfather’s funeral. Christmas Eve was always such a special time in our family and yet this one carried with it the loss of a dearly loved man. I think back to those times when I felt so rejected by people. I think back to the kid who was one of the leaders in a gang who said he wanted to make a change. When he asked if I could meet with him the next day, I responded yes and as I went to the housing project where he lived and hugged the kids in the neighborhood who were my friends and talked with parents, uncles, and siblings I hear gun shots and there lies the gang member who said he wanted a better life…And I cried out, “Why?”Why didn’t I make a choice to take him home with me the night before to get him out of the neighborhood? Why did God let this happen?” Tragedy has a way of slapping us in the face and daring us to respond.

Bad news is all around us. Not much has changed over the last couple of millenia. Since the beginning of sin, people have questioned why. Since sin entered the world, bad news has been showing its ugly face. And it is in those moments of bad news that we need hope. It is in the midst of tragedy that we need peace. It is in the eye of the emotional storm that we feel helpless to control that we need to experience the calm, gentle breeze.

God looked at this world and saw the hurt and pain that seemed to have overtaken us as a people. He sent prophets to the people and he sent various messengers, yet God still seemed so distant. He still seemed so far away. God knew the perfect solution. While He would still use people, He would do something that would truly impact the world. He came into the world and walked and talked and lived among us.

Luke 2:8-11 states: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This time of year is a reminder that God made a decision to come to this earth in the form of a baby named Jesus. He could not sit by and watch His people suffer, he responded by becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. He went through the trials we go through, he suffered like we suffer – that is good news. And although tragedy still occurs, we know how to deal with it because He put on flesh and blood and taught us how to live. He understands what we go through. Have you experienced the death of a loved one, he understands. Have you ever been abandoned and betrayed by a friend, he understands. Have you ever put all your effort into helping someone only to have them reject you, he knows what that is like. That is good news for us. We have a God who understands pain. That is the Christmas story, that is God being proactive. He put on flesh and entered the world as flesh and blood so you and I could have a more peaceful life. This isn’t about nativity scenes, it’s about a God who gave himself as a gift.

Jesus life was spent serving others and bringing them hope, peace, and good news. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” DO you need some rest? The world is full of bad news. Wouldn’t you like to take a rest. That tragedy has been heavy on your heart for so long – wouldn’t you like for him to carry it for you? That guilt and shame has taken your peace for too long now – wouldn’t you like to rest? God’s response to this suffering world is an invitation to rest. We live busy lives. We have appointments and deadlines. We have stress and burdens. We get tired and want to rest, but we say we must continue. We think we must keep carrying this weight, we must stay stressed. We feel that life is meant to be stressful, but Jesus offer rest.

When I look at the tragedies around me I wonder, “Where are you, God?” His response is that he is right here offering me some rest, but I look everywhere else. Don’t you think you have looked everywhere else long enough? Wouldn’t you like to rest in Jesus?

I have three questions for you to think about . Feel free to respond on this post or just to quietly answer these for yourself:

What personal hardship has affected your life?

How has it changed your life?

How do you need God to respond?

A man was very much in love with his wife. He longed to show her that he loved her. He told her that he would one day prove his love to her. He decided to show his love to her by swimming the deepest river. He was so proud of his show of love that he set out to walk across the longest desert. After accomplishing that feat, he decided to prove his love by climbing the highest mountain and shouting, “I love you!” As it turned out, his wife divorced him – he was never home.

The story above illustrates something about people. We long to be a success. We want to do things in a big way. We want to be the best at what we do. We want to prove our self worth by doing bigger, better things.   We want to be best at our careers; to be successful. We long to build the biggest companies; to plant the most churches; to grow the biggest program; to be the biggest and the best.

I have to wonder: is bigger really better? Is more really more?

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have it all. They are in a beautiful garden called Eden. They have have no stress, no job, no pain. They in a total state of paradise. They enjoy total fellowship with God. They have it all. Or did they? The crafty serpent enters the scene and begins to place doubt and desires for more into Adam and Eve. He approaches Eve and asks, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” Eve responds by explaining that they could eat from any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden – if they ate from that tree, they would die. The serpent begins his crafty twist of words, “You will not surely die. God knows if eat from that tree, you will be like Him and know good from evil.”

Did you notice what happened? The serpent, in a subtle way, tells Eve she can have more. The text of Genesis 3:6-10 explains this longing for more, the giving in to the craving, and the result.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. but the Lord god called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:6-10 NIV

Adam and Eve had all they needed in the garden. It was a perfect situation; total paradise. Yet the serpent convinced them they could have more. They could have more knowledge, more power, more – so they ate the fruit. They gave into the power of more.

Have you ever noticed how we, the human race, struggle with the desire for more? We want more power, more influence, more money, we want more! We buy a new computer and it has everything we need. We are perfectly content. Our friend buys a computer that is newer and nicer and has more features and all of the sudden we want more. We want more speed, more memory, more software, more features, more compatibility. We were content, but all the sudden a seed was planted in our minds that we needed more.

We have a car that gets us from point A to point B. It has decent gas mileage and is reliable, but it seems to not be enough. We see a commercial or ride in a friend’s car that has more features. Soon we want more power, more features, better gas mileage, we want more. We are no longer content, we want more. the desire and pursuit for more begins to drive us.

We want more – but at what cost? Adam and Eve had great fellowship with God, but their desire for more caused them to be banished from the garden and suffer a disconnect from God. Their desire for more cost them everything. They ended up with more work; more pain; more suffering; more rebellion; and a murdered son. They got more than they bargained for.

I find it interesting that the first thing Adam and Eve do when their eyes are opened to their sin is to cover it up. They try to hide their sin. The fig leaves are symbolic for all of mankind to follow. We feel the need to hide and cover our sins. Their response is not one of realizing they have sinned and seeking to make it right; it is instead to realize their sin and seek to hide it – to cover it up. Our own pursuit for more often makes us want to hide. What are you trying to hide? What are you covering up? What is in your life that you do not want others to know about?

This post is titled Making a Mark. We are all making a mark in some way. Adam and Eve left a mark that has affected all of mankind. When they realized the mark sin would leave in their lives, they tried to hide from God. What will your response be? Sin has left a mark on you – will you go to God and confess your weaknesses; or will you try to hide from Him? The choice is yours – what mark will you decide to make?