Archive for the ‘devotional’ 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.

The last couple of nights Joshua has been extra clingy (is that a word?).  He wants me by him constantly. While he is playing, he wants me by him. When he is laying down, he wants me by him. I love it, yet it is draining. Sometimes I just need to have a break. I feel drained. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy the fact that he loves me so much. All he wants is for his daddy to be around. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is not alone. He wants to know I am near by.

I want to enjoy these moments. I know that one day he will be older and we will not get this moment back. He will be wanting to do his own thing and I will long to be near him. I pray I learn to embrace these moments.

As I think about Joshua’s desire to be near to his daddy, I am forced to think of my own relationship with God. We are encouraged to draw near to God (James 4:8).  I have to ask myself the hard question: Am I seeking to draw near to God? DO I desire to get closer to Him each day?Do I so long to be with Him that I cannot stand the idea of not being near him? Do I, like Joshua, just want to be near my daddy? I believe God wants me to be that in love with Him. He wants me to seek Him. He wants me to love being with him. He longs for me to long after him. God is my daddy and he loves his child.

I am thankful for the lessons we learn through children. My prayer is that we can all learn to love God so much we cannot stand the thought of not being near Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

It began like any other Sunday. I clocked out at work at 6:00 AM and drove home to try to get some sleep before it was time to leave for worship. We were running late and by the time we checked the kids into their classes, we had missed a couple of songs. A video played discussing mission work in Cyprus, but there was a technical glitch and it kept stopping and starting. When it was decided the video would not play, the band came back up to lead us in a few songs.

In all honesty, my mind was wandering all over the place.  I was thinking about being late and how I hate being late. I was thinking about my day and how I did not have enough sleep. I was wondering what was wrong with the video and why it wasn’t playing.  I was distracted.  I said a silent prayer to God asking Him to let me focus.

Josh (our worship leader) introduced the next song and I was immediately brought back into focus. The song was Chris Tomlin’s Our God. It talks about how great our God is. He is greater, stronger, higher than any other. It then had the words “Our God is healer, awesome in power.” I began to think of healing. My mind first went to my dad, who had been in the hospital for a while and who was not doing well during that stay. He is now improving daily and I thanked God for being his healer. I then thought about my own life and the healing taking place. I had been bitter and guilty for quite some time after losing my last ministry job, I felt like such a failure. Tears were forming in my eyes as I sang about God being my healer. He is healing me more and more each day as I seek His will. He is healing my hurts; my pain; my brokenness.  He is is greater than my pain. He is stronger than my guilt. He is healer of my sorrows. He is Lord. By the time we got to the part of the song that reinforces if our God is for us, what can stand against us, I was so excited to be God’s child.

A little later in the worship time we sang the old hymn My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. The chorus states “on Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” I began to thank God for being the solid rock I can stand upon. I also wondered why so many times, I try to stand on ground that isn’t solid. I look at the sinking sand around me and think, “I can make it across before I start to sink.” That is not true. Every time I try to stand on anything other than Christ, I sink deep into the quick sand. The more I struggle to get free, the deeper I sink. Why do I keep trying to stand on anything but Jesus? He is the solid rock. He holds me up in a world of sinking sand. He heals my hurts, pains, sorrows, shame, guilt, and regrets.  I am so thankful for the way God answered my prayer Sunday morning. He used the songs to minister to me. He always knows just what I need and He is always ready to point me back to him if I am only willing to listen. I pray we can learn to put aside our distractions and listen to His still quiet voice as He so deeply longs to speak to us.

I am definitely not a fan of hospitals. The smell makes me nauseous.  In fact, I have been known to pass out from visiting someone in the hospital (I know I’m a wimp when it comes to that). I also never really know what to say. I feel awkward at times.  However, I am becoming more familiar with hospitals. I have a few memories of them that are great and a few that are not so great. I can recall visiting a grandparent in the hospital and seeing them suffer. Although I was young, I could understand they were in pain and wanting relief. I recall sitting in the hospital visiting my sister who missed a special Christmas party because she was sick and in the hospital. I felt so bad for her. And I recall watching the nurses put an iv into my child’s arm and seeing my child suffer. Those are not great moments. They make you question and hurt and cry.

However, we have those happy moments in hospitals too. I recall sitting in a hospital in Memphis, TN and holding my wife’s hand. The doctor and nurses introduced us to our newborn son. Our first child. We giggled with glee. He was perfect. And just to make sure we knew our life would be much different, he peed on me. I laughed and hugged him and kissed him. We rejoiced.

A few years later I sat beside my wife’s hospital bed again. This time we welcomed Joshua to our family. I was able to cut the cord and to follow the tradition, he also peed on me.

Those moments of holding those children were so special. they were happy moments. The hospital stay reminded me that I am blessed with wonderful children.  When they discharge papers were written, we were able to take our son home for the first time and it was an exciting moment –  a new beginning.

This week, I have also been to the hospital. this time it was for a different reason. My dad was in great pain and in bad shape. My mom, brothers, and sister sat beside him and leaned on each other for support. On Saturday, I went to the hospital and it was my first time to get to see him there. He was admitted Friday night, but I had to work and couldn’t make it until Saturday. When I walked into his room, my heart was aching. He looked so week. My dad has always been the absolute strongest man I have ever known. Now he  sat in a bed looking so feeble. It really hurt as I walked to give him a hug and he was so weak he couldn’t lift his arms high enough to give me a good hug. While I sat there looking at my dad struggling and having a hard time doing the most simple of tasks, my mind began to wander. I recalled all the lessons I have learned from my dad. He works hard everyday. He loves his family with an unconditional love. He is strong, yet he realizes everything he has comes from God. He is not a perfect man, but he reminds that we have a perfect Father who hears our prayers. While I never believed he would not make it through his surgery or the infection he had (I was confident that he would be okay), I couldn’t help but be reminded that my dad will not always be here. The reality of life is that people pass. I began to think about friends and family who have left this earth to be with God. They made an impact in the lives of many people. I was reminded that I must learn to enjoy each moment to the fullest. My is too short to spend each waking moment being stressed. I need to take full advantage of each day given me by growing closer to God and loving those around me. Gos has given us a gift. If you are reading this and you are a believer in Christ, then you have been given a gift. You had someone who cared enough about you to tell you about a Savior. Regardless of how you may be feeling right, you have an opportunity to grow in your knowledge of Christ. You have an opportunity to tell someone you love them before it is too late. you have the opportunity to live in the moment. How hard it is to live in the moment. Our minds like to drift to the past or to the future. We make plans and life passes us by. We talk about the past so much, we miss today. I am thankful for the reminder to live for today. Tomorrow will have its own problems, today I choose to live for today. I will take up my cross today and follow my Lord. I want to learn to live each day with no regrets. I have many regrets in my past. I must choose if I will learn from them and make a better decision today or if I will just focus so much on those regrets that today becomes another wasted day. Will I enjoy this moment with my kids, or will I focus so much on how I raised my voice at them yesterday that I miss this moment that can be so special? Will I spend my time focusing on how I was angry with my spouse last week, or will I choose to enjoy this moment, this day with her? Life is a series of moments. These moments pass quickly. If we are not careful, we will find our self looking at life wishing we had enjoyed those moments more. God is faithful in each moment. He is faithful as we praise Him and thank Him for letting us hold our newborn child ; He is faithful when we question why we suffer. We have a choice of how we will respond to each moment in life. Let’s choose to live for the moment. Choose to follow Christ today; love your spouse today; enjoy time with your children today. We may not get that moment tomorrow. We will not get back yesterday’s time – all we have is today, this moment. How will we use this moment? Lord, teach me to take each moment as a gift from you.

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.