On my knees

Actually, I sit here tonight surrendering to the voice that keeps telling me to write.  Whether it is for you, someone else, or myself – I don’t know.  I am here and you are there.  It remains to be seen if either of us will be there by the 2nd paragraph.

I don’t take the time to write for public “consumption” rarely any longer.  Why?  Time, I guess.  It’s hard.  I’m tired. I question, “Does it really matter?” Possibly it has gotten to a place of becoming too vulnerable with my life that I have begun to guard it.  I’ve got this one friend that would slap me in the back of the head about right now… funny thing about this guy – I haven’t seen him since – 1989?  You are there… You know who you are.

Love.

I love my family.  I love other people. At least I say that I do.  Yet, how do I really show it?  Do I play favorites in the love I have?   Is it in what I buy that shows love? (The debt I take on in the name of “love”).  Seriously, I say I love, yet I question how I really show it.  And if I don’t show it, then, is it really love that I have? Do those around me ever get a chance to see it, experience it, receive it?

I sat down to read the Bible a few mornings ago.  In fact, it was Sunday morning.  I never stop reading in the middle of a chapter or the middle of a thought. (Kind of like riding a bicycle.  I can’t stand to stop at 44.3 miles…. I’d much rather press on to get to that 45 mile mark).  I’m reading in Luke right now and the first sentence I read made me see why I stopped reading in mid thought.  I needed that thought on Sunday morning.  In fact, that thought kept me from checking a few more boxes on my read through the Bible plan for the day.

The verse that messed up my reading plan for the day was Luke 6:27.  Jesus said,  “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this:”

So…. love.  I love.  But I have a funny way of showing it… or not showing it.  I guess my circumstances in life have led me to become rather cynical at times of love.  That’s in the giving and the receiving.  Do you ever feel this way?

The battle for our hearts and minds are greater than anything any of us will see on CNN or FoxNews.  In fact, it’s a battle that neither network would really care to cover.  (Ha, they don’t even cover the news beyond their own agendas – I digress – and where did that come from?)

What really matters is what goes on in our hearts and minds.  It’s the surrender of ourselves and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that really matters in this life and the life to come.  Too often, I know it’s the case for me, we tend to look the other way and not dwell on those things that really matter.  We don’t stop what we are doing in the midst of a busy day to really hear what really matters.  We don’t listen to the world around us who is hurting and in need of an ear, a caring heart, a friendly smile at the store, opening the door for someone else… God forbid that we ever let someone out in traffic!  Love.

Why is it that we don’t really care about the needs and hearts of other people?  Why is it that we’d rather have our own needs met before we lend a helping hand to someone else?  Maybe this isn’t you – and now you are questioning, “What’s eating at this guy?”

Surely the world isn’t as bad as that!  You know it really is.

I’m the only one to blame for this… some how it all ends up the same

Love

What is love?  Is there really such a thing as love… true love?  Love beyond the Hallmark Channel?

I’d bet those of us who have experienced true love – Experienced it in the act of sacrifice and giving that we have done for someone else.  Or that reality of, “How did they know I needed that?”  You know they met a need in your life – like God Himself met the need through someone else.  They gave out of what they didn’t have or  what they had that God told them to trust Him over.

With a world I try so hard to leave behind.  To rid myself of all but love – to give and die…

I don’t know… what’s this the 13th paragraph?  You still with me?

Take my world a part. I am on my knees. Broken on my knees.

To love you – take my world apart
To need you – I am on my knees
To love you – take my world apart
To need you – broken on my knees Did you really have to die for me? All I am for all you are is what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

All said and done I stand alone Amongst remains of a life I should not own  It takes all I am to believe in the mercy that covers me.

Too often what I say and do is far from what I truly believe.  That’s why tonight… this season of my life I am stopping and asking Jesus to take over.  Take my world apart.  (It already, in many ways, feels like it.) Ha!  One friend asked me earlier today if my name was Job.

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

From my little corner of the world, I’m stopping the madness… I’m stopping whatever it is that is keeping me from loving the way Jesus would have me to and pausing from my knees and asking him to take my world apart.  That I may love and serve those around me for His purposes and His glory.  That He may take my life and use it for His glory… after-all, that’s really the only reason to get out of bed everyday.

Quotation blocks from Worlds Apart by Jars of Clay.

Oh yeah, there’s that thought from Luke 6:27….

 

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Thank you for my freedom!

This week I had a conversation with my friend who is a Chaplain in the U.S. Army.  I am so thankful for him and his family!  They are all beautiful and I am so thankful for their service to God and our Country!  I look forward to seeing them over Christmas before heading to their new Post.

Tonight I have been watching Ty Pennington’s Behind the Scenes of Extreme Home Makeover.  It’s a typical night of watching… I can’t help but cry.  Normally I can hold the tears back enough so no one can tell what’s going on… not tonight!

This Christmas look for opportunities you can serve others.  Maybe there is someone you know who serves in one of the branches of the military… how can you serve them this Christmas?  Sears has set up a way to do so if you don’t know someone personally… check it out here.

Walk On

I just watched Saving Pvt. Ryan – again! 

I cried – again!

The sacrifice made by the WWII generation is something those of us who reap the benefit of freedom today will never be able to comprehend.  I’m thankful to those who served then… I’m thankful for those who serve now!

There have been so many lives given so that our Nation may be free… so that many in other nations may live in freedom. 

That last scene in the movie is so moving… it stirs the soul.  “Tell me I’ve lived a good life.”  Those men gave their lives to save this one Private. 

When it is all said and done the bottom line is… How did you live?  What have you done with what you have been given in this life.

We can work and work and work some more… we can gain all the stuff our houses can hold… but without love what’s it worth?  Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”(Mark 8:36, NIV).

I was listening to U2 this weekend.  “Walk On” always moves me.  I was driving down the road while it was playing.  I leaned over to my oldest daughter and said, “Look, this song does this to me every time.” 

I love the first verse,

And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage that you can bring…
And love is not the easy thing…
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind (From, “Walk On”, U2)

At times, I find it so hard to love.  To put aside all the “stuff” that goes on in and around my life.  I find it hard to put down the troubles and let love rule in my heart.  Jesus is the source of true love.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 13:15, NIV).

We all have something greater than ourselves to live for… to sacrifice our lives for.

Nourishment for others

Difficulties and trials… don’t you get tired of them? 

I do. 

I have learned through my many trials that there is much more I need to learn.  And that there is much more to share with other people.

The book of James begins with a talk on trials:

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. (James 1:2-4, The Message).

I like the wording here, “…your faith-life is forced into the open…”  How often do we hide our “faith-life”? God will easily draw that life out of us through a time of trial.  What if we just lived naturally the faith-filled life all the time in obedience – would God have to send us through so many trials? 

Sometimes trials come just because there is something God really wants to teach us. 

Several years ago I began going through a tough time of testing… it was at the beginning of what seemed to be about three years of testing and trial.  At the very beginning, I recall one of my friends, a pastor non-the-less, ask me, “What sin are you committing to cause this trial?” 

Huh? 

Why would God choose trials as a classroom? 

You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.  My Utmost for His Highest, June 25.

There are hurting people all around us who experience trials of all sorts.  Many of these people do not have the hope of Jesus Christ… how are they going to make it through unless we go to them and become nourishment for their souls?

What’s the focus of your vision?

This morning’s group was a bit different. We met at Starbuck’s instead of the usual Bridges Agency location. It was nice to sit outside and enjoy the nice 54 degree weather… in July! We talked through prayer requests. More than anything, we just talked and enjoyed the morning.

Joel did bring up a passage of Scripture from Mark that was excellent. He stated, “I have a Scripture to share but nothing else to go with it.” You know – God has promised us that His Word will not return void.

He read Mark 9:46-48,

Then there was an argument among them as to which of them would be the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

 I’ve been thinking so much lately about vision for my life. Wanting and desiring a vision from God as to what I need to be “doing” for Him. Jesus said it all in these verses… the vision is to serve. No matter what you’re “doing” it is about serving… being the least among men… serving Jesus by serving others. We aren’t to serve in order to wear a title… to be seen by others but rather to serve Christ so that we may know him in our service.

Jesus goes on to instruct his disciples in Mark 10:2,

“The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers for his fields.”

 

I’ve worked in, around, and with church plants since 1999. It’s so easy to get one’s focus on the object of serving over the One being served. It will be a sad day to meet the Lord and say but Lord, “We put out signs in your name, set up chairs in your name, ran the sound in your name, sent out post cards in your name, transformed schools into churches in your name…” just to hear him say, “Depart from me I never knew you.”

By no means am I mocking and putting down church plants and church planters. I just know how easy it is to fall into the trap of “building” the machine to the neglect of the Master Builder. This is true of any Christian worker. If we aren’t careful we can lose our vision of getting to know Jesus and get lost in the work we are doing.

A true disciple doesn’t get his focus on the task of serving but rather the One being served getting to know the Lord of the harvest.

Growing like Peter

Following God will always be one of the greatest acts any person could ever do. Too often when one tries to follow God in obedience others ridicule and tear down… judge whether this or that is a “wise” thing or not. The sad part is that more often than not it comes from “brothers and/ sisters” in Christ. Jesus experienced this himself from Peter. Jesus’ response to Peter was, “Get behind me Satan.”

One of the pressures a believer in Christ will face is the “approval” of those watching. The approval each Christian is to seek is that of God… and that approval can only be found in His Son – Jesus. Unfortunately, as humans we desire that nudge from others who affirm God’s working in our lives. Sometimes to the point of not moving unless all around agree or approve. Sometimes God just says, “Do this thing.” Our only response should be to obey.

Sometimes when we set out in following God’s dream for our lives we discover that the decision we’ve decided to make is not the right one (or the best one). In light of eternity, that’s alright. God’s grace is more than any of us could ever dream. It’s through making mistakes we get to know God… after-all that’s what He desires… for us to know Him. Think about the exchange between Jesus and Peter referenced above. Peter got to know God, His purposes, and His plans through his speaking out against His plan. We get to know Him when we do the right thing too… but for some reason it’s through those trials in life that the knowledge gained sticks with us all the more.

I’ve made some decisions in life (I’m sure have appeared to others as dumb… not well thought out moves.) But that’s ok… even though I’ve had to learn some tough lessons… I think I have come to know God in a much richer and deeper way. I’m still learning and growing in following Him. Even today as I pray through things on my heart… I’m getting to know Him

We should never think as though we have messed up God’s plan in anyway for having made a decision that may seem rather ridiculous to others. It just may be that those things that seem foolish to everyone else was indeed what God wanted all along.

Peter expresses what he came to know of God in 1 Peter 4:12-13, 19,

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world… So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.

 

 

Before you tell Him, “No.”

 James 4:17, “To know to do good and not do it is sin.” 

I don’t want to find myself in a place where I am out of touch with God and His working in my life.  I don’t want to get to a place where the needs I have are the first thoughts I have each day.  There are people all around in need of help… in need of God’s love and encouragement.  I don’t want to be like the words in the song Beautiful Day by U2:

You’re out of luck and the reason that you had to care,
The traffic is stuck and you’re not moving anywhere

I don’t want a traffic jam in my life to be the thing that slows me down so that I can actually have the time to be available to help someone else in need.  The best way to not get stuck in traffic is to choose a road less traveled.  Sometimes it is necessary to step back away from the crowd and do something against the grain to be used by God. 

Just like James says… to know to do something for good and not do it is an act of evil.  To make a decision to not do the right thing is to communicate to God and tell Him, “No.”

The next time you have the opportunity to do something for someone else remember the words of Jesus, “If you’ve done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.”  Matthew 25:40.