under pressure

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James1:2-4, The Message.

Enough said!

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why 2?

One may ask, “why attend two small groups?”

 I’m glad you asked!  One group I attend is a men’s small group early in the morning.  I have been meeting with one of the men (Randy)  going on 2 years. 

During our time together we have reached out to several men.  We had a couple of other guys join in from time to time but we never really experienced any “numerical growth.”  I know why… it was all about God’s timing.  I was serving on staff in a church while going through a divorce.  That was a lot to go through.  While at the same time trying to cope with the emotions of not being with my children daily (I still deal with that)… this was more than I could ever bare on my own.  Randy saw me through a lot. 

I knew it was time to step aside from “the ministry” (for a season) as I struggled with my personal life.  I told my former pastor Brad (who is still a great friend), “I just can’t do this (ministry) right now because I have nothing to give.”  Every-time I tried to get filled up there was nothing left to spill-over or to give away.

So, Randy and I kept meeting together.  Back in August of ’07, I for the first time in 1-2 years began to experience a breakthrough.  God began to overpower the hurt and darkness that had me bound.  Simultaneously, God was also at work in the lives of several of my friends.  As a result, numerical growth began to take place.

Joel was asked by Tim (our small groups pastor) if we would come and be a part of the small group network of our church.  So here we are.  It’s been amazing to see the guys who have come to be a part of this group.  Guys coming to know Jesus… reunite with Jesus.  Today, we are always on the look out for other’s who may come and get to know Christ.  Through our one-on-one relationships and through the group.

The second group is a couples Journey Group from our church.  Five months ago I got married again.  Me and Lori attend this one together.  This week was our 4th week (I think).  It is something we need for each other.  What a miracle it is to be a part of this group!!  I feel like I have known these folks for much more than 4 weeks.  The great thing about our journey group is that it is not about us.  It’s about Christ.  It’s about the “one”.  It’s about prayer.  It’s about accountability.  It’s about serving our community.  It’s about celebrating life’s victories.  It’s about serving our church.

“Doing life” with other believers is awesome and it is something that I would never forsake.  Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name – I am there too.” 

But we should never forget the “one”.  Who is the “one”?  It is the person you work with that does not have a relationship with God.  It is the neighbor who needs to be reached with God’s love.  It’s the person who waits on our table.  It’s the person at the checkout stand in the grocery store.  It’s the stranded motorist on the side of the road. 

The beauty of building relationships in group life is for the “one.”  On my own, God can use me to lead someone to Christ.  But when I can get the “one” connected with other believers there is so much more that can occur in that life. This person will get a much bigger picture of God through others.

God didn’t call us to come together just to sit, soak, and sour and be a bunch of spiritually over-weight stinky Christians!  He wants us to be filled up with his fresh water so that we may spill over onto others.  To impact other lives in the name of Jesus.  We need to care for the lost.  We need to not only pray for them but we need to be with them.  Make time to be with them.  Matthew 28 tells us to go into all the world…

one

…Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…

…One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One…life

One

— Bono, “One” U2

Attending two Journey groups in one day is something else!!  Men’s group @ 6:30 AM and the couples @ 7 PM.  What an amazing experience today. 

But to hear, see, and experience what God is already doing is incredible.  Sunday’s message and challenge of “the one” followed up with the focus of the groups and accountability.  All I can say is that I am encouraged, inspired, and very focused on “one”.  Not sure if I will get any sleep tonight.

Jeff defined accountability tonight as “encouragement driven by love.”

“Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going.  He always keeps his word.  Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshipping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25, The Message.

trains!

Got to love ’em… not me!  I can’t stand ’em!

My Jeep is down… in the shop. I am patiently waiting for it to be fixed.  It’s already a stressful thing just to put your car in the shop.  I found out today that it will not be ready until Thursday.  Ouch!  But no worries – right?  Almost, I still have to pay for the thing to get fixed.  That’s a bit of a worry.  I can wait to get it back.  And patiently I will wait.

Funny thing happened on the way home today.  I have no ride so my good friend… Let’s just call him “Tony” for the sake of the story.

We were driving home and I was explaining how I typically go home.  That’s not the way we went home.  So we continued on toward the construction zone!  Guess what appeared in the midst of the already bad traffic?  If you guessed a train… no a slow moving train you are right. 

Well, Tony turned around to go a different way to my house.  (The way I would have gone in the first place). We are heading down Mission Rd and guess what!  That same train was headed straight for Mission Rd!  A funny thing happened –  we got caught again.  He starts to turn around – AGAIN.  I said, “Listen you of little patience.  Just chill for a minute…” then the brainstorm for my next thought to share with you happened in that moment.  I told him he would be in the center of the story.  I believe he said, “I can’t stand you!”

Often times God allows slow downs in our lives.  He may even block the road for a minute or two.  But it’s all for our good.  It could be for any number of reasons.  It could be he is wanting to teach us something.  It may be to let us have a quite moment for whatever reason.  It could be that we are getting ahead of Him.  Maybe He is protecting us from something else up ahead…

Whatever the reason for the little slow downs in life.  There is a need to take them in stride and see what God has in store.  I know that can be painful at times.  James says, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

military. prayer. chaplaincy.

I would love to be a Chaplain in the US Army.  I still think about it everyday.  Not sure why I didn’t make it.  I heard from the recruiter a few months back.  I still can be one.  But I need 6 more hours of seminary to make it happen.  I have a little over 4 years to get it done.  I know God has a plan… He has a reason why I didn’t become one.  My heart is still very tender over it.  Kind of breaks when I spend too much time thinking about it.  Who knows maybe he has something else that He has been preparing all along anyway.  I still think about it none-the-less.  I may not be wearing the uniform serving our country the way I would like to be.  So I will serve my country anyway… a little differently.  I’ll serve by praying daily.

I pray each day for Maj. Steven Cantrell (Chaplain), Pvt Todd Trowbridge, and Pvt Steven Scroggins.  I’m proud of you guys!!(Jason you don’t have his name on your blog but Joel seems to think it is Steven so that’s what I’ve been praying since your post.  Let me know if it is different… until I know for sure I still pray for your brother daily.)

Who do you know serving our country that you pray for?  Someone that you would want others to be praying for?

random… sort of but not really

God’s love never quits.  His love endures forever.  His mercies are fresh everyday.  God is my rock, my comforter, and my shield.  He is my help in times of trouble.  He is the Rock that makes me roll.  God’s love never quits. 

How many times have you tried something… and you absolutely loved it for a season then quit… gave up, got bored with it.  God’s love never quits.

God is who He is.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  God never fails.  God loves me.  God loves you.  God’s love never quits.

God has purpose and meaning for all things.  We may not understand it.  But He does.  That’s enough for me.  It’s got to be.  God’s love never quits.  God is eternal.  He is the Alpha and the Omega… the beginning and the end.  He is here.  He is there.  He has always been and always will be.  Love him.  Celebrate Him.  Worship Him.  Put nothing else before Him.

God’s love never quits.  Check out Psalm 118.

the garden

(Originally posted on Even Adam‘sMySpace – January 21, 2008)

I was reading the Bible tonight in James.  As I read this passage I thought of you guys and wanted to pass this verse along to you as well as the idea that went along with it.  This is out of the Message, “In simple humility, let our Gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”

I love this verse and how it reads in the Message – the wording of this is a beautiful picture of how God wants His love to appear in our hearts and through our lives.  We are His… we are his garden.  He is the Master Gardener and we are his garden.  As I thought about you guys, you are the fruit if His garden.  You are writing music and expressing God’s love and Message through the lyrics He gives.  What God is producing are seeds that He will use in others lives.

Now lets turn back to the Book of Genesis…

Genesis 2:4b-5, “When the Lord God made the heavens and the earth, there were no plants or grain growing on the earth, for the Lord God had not sent any rain. And no one was there to cultivate the soil.”

God created Adam in order to cultivate the soil.  This was an earthly soil.  Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it.”  God has raised each of you (Even Adam) to cultivate soil that is found in the souls of man.  This cultivation will occur as an overflow of how God works in your lives.

The book of James in Chapter 1 deals a lot with faith and standing through trials that come our way.  “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced out into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”  God desires for us to live by faith.  To seek Him out with everything that we are made of.  James says to ask God boldly, believingly, without a second thought.  I like the Message when it says we are not to be “people who worry their prayers”. 

Live your lives with an attitude of faith and that built on prayer.  It is out of your life of faith, prayer, and devotion to God’s Word that He will speak.  And when He speaks, “Act on what you hear.”

ROYE