Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stephanie Bailey, Catelyn Griffin, Daniel Griffin, You're Awesome!

     Special thanks to Stephanie Baily for sharing her Europe experience with us.  The blogs were incredible.  Every single one was "out of the park", "over the fence" home runs.  To hear her share how God showed up in a fresh and new way was refreshing and encouraging.
     Most Christians measure the Christian experience within the context of their church and activities within the Christian community.  We seldom measure it by God's involvement in the context of our interaction with people in a non-Christian environment. 
     Not only did Step have an influence on some new friends, but she discovered the daily interaction God so wants to have with us.  He wants to use us, teach us, change us, enjoy us simply by being with us every day.
     How about you?  Being placed in a secular society, are you seeing God at work every day?  Do you have a sense of His using you?  He doesn't just watch from a distance, but He is in the trenches with us.  He delights in partnering with us to accomplish His purpose, of which He chooses to depend on our cooperation to get it done.  The thought of God depending on us for anything is a stretch for my mind.  It is not because He can't do it without us; it is because He doesn't want to do it without us. 
     God has designed us to interact with each other.  In that interaction, God triggers things in people's hearts that would not be triggered without our participation.  THAT IS COOL!  A God who could do it all without us, chooses to little without us.  That is His plan!  You and I are His plan to move the world toward redemption territory.  It simply is magnificent how He does it.  It is exciting to be used.  Every time He uses us, it is a testimony to His creative genius.  He are His masterpieces!    JOIN THE JOURNEY and be used and enjoyed by God!  That is His intent!
     That is exactly what Catelyn Griffin did for a month this summer.  She will be sharing her trip to the Jungles of Ecuador.  Tune in tomorrow and Friday as she shares her experience and what she learned.  Daniel Griffin will be doing the same upon his return.  I am very proud of the these young people serving God in these unique trips.

Friday, August 12, 2011

God's Big Surprises

Overall my favorite thing about the Europe trip might be the Sagrada Familia, but a very close second is Assisi, Italy. I loved Italy in general; relaxed, yet exciting. Beautiful, yet simple. Happy, yet tranquil. Italy was just generally a great blend of everything, and Assisi was especially wonderful.

The city is small and built into a mountain {as were most of the cities we visited}. The city has a village feel; all the buildings were old and stone and arranged around winding cobblestone streets. While in Assisi, we actually got the opportunity to visit a real monastery. {It was, in fact, THE monastery where St. Francis of Assisi lived.} We even got to meet a real monk.

But the thing is, I'm not Catholic, as I'm assuming you know, so I was a little skeptical about the whole thing. Was the monk going to go off on tangents about saints and mass and Hail Mary?

My first impression of Brother Alesandro was what I expected. He was an average-sized, unassuming guy with a special air about him that comes from being close to God. But then he surprised me.

He told us the history of the church first. Inside the beautifully grand monastery is tiny chapel, a church within the church. Hundreds of years ago, the tiny chapel was in the middle of the woods, and St. Francis lived there. Eventually the bigger church was built around the chapel to preserve and expand it, but the little chapel is the very same one where St. Francis once stood.

Then Brother Alesandro explained to us what St. Francis was searching for: the ultimate life. St. Francis realized that to find complete joy and fulfillment, man has to look outside of himself. St. Francis looked to God, and found THE truth, THE life, THE joy in Him.

"There is only THE truth," Brother Alesandro told us, squeezing his eyes shut. "Truth must always have 'the' in front of it, because if it is 'a' truth, then it is not Truth. If there is more than one truth, you may have a truth and I may have a truth, and if they are different, neither of them is the real. Truth must always be 'the truth,' and the only way to find it is through God."

Next Brother Alesandro led us down the aisle of the sanctuary into the tiny chapel that sat at the front. "I would encourage you to pray," he said. "Even if you do not believe in God, pray anyway. And I will tell you how: prayer is to go inside your heart, to open up your heart, and find the deepest, greatest questions and to give them to God. Find the biggest questions in your heart and offer them up to God. That is prayer."

I thought that was the most beautiful explanation of prayer I'd ever heard.

Next we went into a room downstairs and sat down. Brother Alesandro told us that he preferred not to talk anymore, but to let us ask him any questions we wanted and he would answer them as best he could.

Now, the group I was with was not a Christian group. Oh BOY were they not a Christian group. I just knew that if I didn't ask a question, no one would at all and we'd sit there forever in the most awkward silence the monastery had probably ever seen. So I asked God to give me something to say.

He didn't.

I sat there, without a single good question coming to mind. Come ON, God! I thought. Give me SOMETHING! But he just didn't. I sat there panicking quietly, hoping Brother Alesandro wouldn't hate us for being so completely silent as the grave--

Someone raised their hand. Who was that? It couldn't--no...

It was one of trouble-makers, probably the worst guy of all.

Then after Brother A answered his question, the trouble-maker's main partner in crime raised HER hand.

And then the girl I'd vote Least Likely to Speak Up asked something.

And then something amazing happened: this girl, quite possibly the most morally bankrupt individual I had ever met in my life, started crying. Huge tears and quiet sobs and hopeless shoulder shaking wracked her tiny little body.

I think my jaw actually dropped.

Now, I knew all things were possible with God, but I did NOT see that coming at all. This girl, just the night before had been in one of the guy's rooms for a just a LITTLE {okay, a LOT} longer than appropriate. The night that before she'd snuck out and gotten just a LITTLE {or a lot} more alcohol than she could handle. And not two hours before she'd been cussing like an absolute sailor.

And somehow, God had her right where he wanted her.

Our hotel that night was close to the monastery, and the girl went back. She talked to Brother Alesandro that night. And the next night, she went back again.

Two days later, she was almost back to her old antics, but I know something special happened to her in Assisi. God is seeking her out, and I know he's not giving up. He works in the strangest, most mysterious ways.

Just think, if I had spoken up and saved the day with my wonderfully spiritual questions, none of that might have happened. It just goes to show you that sometimes when it FEELS like God's left you hanging, it's because he has something even better in the making. Believe it or not, God knows better than I do XD {Shocking, I know.}

So if you ever think about the crying girl in Assisi, say a quick prayer for her. God hasn't forgotten her, and I hope I never will either.

Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Was Your Favorite Thing?

It's the question I get asked most about my Europe trip, and people usually expect me to say something like, "Oh my gosh, it was all so amazing, I just couldn't choose!"

But they're wrong. I have a very clear "favorite thing:"

The Sagrada Familia {Barcelona, Spain}.

{It's weird, too, because my favorite country was actually Italy. Spain was too claustrophobic and France was too stiff. I feel like Goldilocks XD Italy was juuuuust right. But back to the Sagrada Familia. *closes parenthesis*}

I had heard of the Sagrada Familia before {thanks, Cheetah Girls 2}, but I didn't know much about it. I didn't even have a clear picture of what it looked like. To be perfectly honest, I had no picture at all. I had no clue what it looked like. I knew it was old, I knew it was a church, and I knew...no, that's pretty much it.

Luckily our tour guide for Barcelona was great and I learned a lot. I can now tell you that the Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a ridiculously talented Christian architect. He liked to model his designs after nature, incorporating natural shapes and ideas. He also designed the the Parc de Guelle, which contains the longest bench in the world--200 meters!

The Parc and its Plaza and marketplace are incredible, but the Sagrada Familia surpasses it all. Gaudi worked 43 years on that church, putting all his creative energy into building a house to glorify God. After learning about the work Gaudi put in, I knew the Sagrada Familia would be pretty cool. However I was COMPLETELY unprepared for the absolute magnificence of the church.

It rises up from the ground in detailed towers that drive the eye crazy. Every inch of the church is busy with delicate carvings and statues gasping for breath. You could literally stand in front of the church for HOURS and never see it all. I cannot even begin to fathom having a vision for something that incredible, much less trying to build it!

At first glance, the Sagrada Familia actually looks like a dink castle. You probably don't know what that is, and that's NOT because you haven't traveled to Spain. The term "dink" is entirely American, created by my mother to describe the castles you make at the beach by dripping wet sand. Like THIS {<--click}. Of course, when you look closer you can see the story of Jesus, scene by scene, across the church.

Inside the Sagrada Familia is EVERY BIT as breath-taking as the outside, but in a different way. Where the outside is humbling and ornate, the inside is all cool and clean and calm. From the outside, the church felt like the greatest building I'd ever seen. From the inside, it felt like the greatest building the world will ever see.

Gaudi modeled the inside after of a forest. Huge, marble "trees" grow up from the floor before spreading into branches that hold up the mighty ceiling. Stained glass windows cry out with colors brighter and bolder and more beautiful than colors anywhere else. Smooth, winding stairs and glorious altars quietly proclaim God in very real ways. The Sagrada Familia felt like God.

It FELT like God.

Gaudi must have had a tremendously strong, real, beautiful relationship with the Lord because it flowed into his work. Every stone sings God's praises, the very air in the church feels charged with the Holy Spirit.

As I stood in the church, trying to breath it all in and knowing it was impossible, the tour guide told us about the religion in modern-day Spain. Spain used to be a very religious country, he said, but it isn't so much anymore. When the Sagrada Familia is finally completed {which won't be for another fifteen to twenty years!}, it will probably be used more as a museum than a church.

For some reason, that hit me really hard. For a shocking moment, my heart felt broken. How sad! How terribly, deeply sad. Gaudi must be rolling over in his grave, I thought. Something so beautiful, so purposeful, can only be meant for God.

I know that's just a simple sentence, but it's the one that played over and over in my head as we explored the church. Something so beautiful, so purposeful, can only be meant for God. It kept hitting me over and over and I finally began to understand something my teachers have told me for years:

The very best artists were always Christians. It's almost like artists who have a special relationship with the Creator get a special peek into His mind. When you make something beautiful for God, you reach a level that can never be reached when you create for anyone else.

Even thought Italy was my favorite country, I think my biggest takeaway from my trip was the Sagrada Familia in Spain. It literally took my breath away; it literally made me speechless. I have never, EVER seen anything like it before. It's greater than anything I could ever imagine. I think it's greater than anything ANYONE could ever imagine--without God.

Gaudi no doubt had something special, and that something was God. I think we as Christians should strive to be like Gaudi in that respect: he took his talent, gave it to God, and got it back a thousand times over, creating something that should exceed human ability in every respect.

Exodus 35:31-32: "and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze..."

Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..."


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


     Just wanted to get your attention.  I know you are busy, and normally my blog is not high on your "to do list", but you don't want to miss this week.  Stephanie Bailey (aka Kendra Logan) is sharing about her "non-mission" "mission trip" to Europe.  Yesterday blog was tremendous.  Take time to read yesterdays.  You will be glad you did.  She will also do tomorrow's and Friday's blog.   TAKE THE TIME TO COMMENT!
     George Strait recorded a song a couple years ago, I Saw God Today, that pointed out how we can see God in the most seemingly common occurrences of everyday.  If he read Steph's blog yesterday, he would add another verse to the song.  #1 hit by the way.
     Steph, thanks for the God sightings.   GREAT job.  He is honored!  Can't wait til tomorrow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Prayer: It's More Than Just Warm-Fuzzies

Hello all! Sorry this post is a little bit later than I'd hoped. I'm here now, though, and ready to put into words my amazing trip to Europe. Well, TRY to, that is.

Seeing other countries for the first time opened my eyes more than I ever expected. I saw breath-taking sights, both natural and man-made, and met people that changed my life in all different ways. But my journey really started before I got on the plane. My journey started right here at home as I prepared to take the biggest leap of my life. My journey started with prayer, and it remained a theme that followed me throughout the 19 day trip.

Now, I've been a Christian virtually all my life, and I've seen God do great things through prayer, but there's something completely different and special about having people pray for YOU specifically. Two days before I got on my VERY FIRST PLANE, some people from church came and prayed over me.

I'll be honest: usually when I'm involved in a prayer meeting like this, I get a tiny bit bored. I mean, I love hearing all the sincere prayers and sweet thoughts, but sometimes the prayers can get really long...and my mind tends to wander.

But WOW! I know this sounds really selfish, but it's different when the people are praying for you! I felt God's presence through my church family. Every prayer was PERFECT. Every prayer strengthened a different piece of my heart and opened my eyes to the amazing love that has always surrounds me, both from God and my friends. Their prayers made me feel ready to face the mind-blowingly long amount of time I would be away.

Of course, two days later when I realized I wouldn't see US soil for a good SEVENTEEN DAYS, I started to unravel a bit. I've always been kind of...um, extreme in my emotions. When I'm happy, I'm the happiest person in the world. When I'm sad, the deepest, darkest pit of despair does not touch the depth my sorrow.

On Day 2, I was sad.

So I prayed. I prayed a LOT. Prayer became my default, which I think is how it's supposed to be. I'm not saying that I became this amazing Christian person, but when God is the ONLY familiar face you have access to, where else are you gonna turn? I prayed when I got up, I prayed getting ready in the morning, I prayed walking down the stairs, I prayed on the bus, I prayed on the street, I prayed in the bathroom, I'm tellin' ya. I was never far from yakking in God's ear.

{But it's cool 'cause he likes it :)}

I felt the prayers of everyone back home, too. I never really understood that phrase before. I've heard people say it for years {"I really felt your prayers this week!"}, but I never GOT it. It feels...wonderful. Feeling peoples' prayers is unexpected peace. It's the strength to look on the bright side. It's a warm, close, safe feeling in the middle of unsettling chaos.

But prayers helped me in WAY more concrete ways than just warm fuzzies, let me tell you that. Personally, I'm not a warm-fuzzy person, so if I were you I might be rolling my eyes right now. So allow me to share with you some of the most amazing God-moments I had on the trip.

I have some kind of nerve problem in my left shoulder, and when I do lots of walking or standing up, my shoulder starts to throb. On the Europe trip, I did 19 days of walking and standing. And I never had to take a single ibuprofen for my shoulder. I honestly have no idea how God did that, but I know, I KNOW it was him.

I have TMJ, which basically means that my jaw pops out of socket when I eat really chewy stuff. Like Spanish, French and Italian bread, which I had three times a day for 19 days. My jaw? It felt the best it had in about a year. I had no problems with it whatsoever.

One night after we all sat down to dinner, I got the overwhelming urge to pour my water. {The waiters would leave several pitchers on the tables and we'd serve ourselves.} That was a random feeling because I never poured my water right away, and I wasn't even thirsty. But I followed the urge and poured my own glass, as well as the two girls beside me. My friend Hayley got her water from another pitcher.

For a couple of minutes, everything was normal. Then Hayley took a sip of her water and her eyes got huge. "This is alcohol," she said, getting up. She took her glass to the leaders and they sorted things out:

Apparently the pitchers were usually used for storing wine, and there must have been wine left in the pitchers--except the one I got my water from. Thanks to God's random nudge for me to fill my glass RIGHT AWAY, I was one of three people who got non-contaminated water. Crazy, huh?

I get easily dehydrated, and I never had bad symptoms, even after forgetting to drink at lunch.

I always had my rain jacket when it rained {Thanks, Momma and Mrs. Martha!}.

I slept well every night, despite rooming with the loudest people more than once.

A girl shattered a wine glass on my flip-flopped foot and somehow I didn't get so much as a scratch.

I never got a headache {not even when I CLOCKED myself on the bus TV}, a stomachache {not even on the hairpin-turn bus ride up a mountain}, a bug bite {not even when everyone else was eaten alive}, or a scrape the entire trip. I'm pretty sure I've never even gone 19 days at HOME doing that well. The difference? Prayer. Please don't underestimate it.

Matthew 18:19: "Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven. For when two or three gather in my name, there I am with them."


Friday, August 5, 2011

Attention: Guest Blogger Stephanie Bailey "On Mission"

     One of the greatest thrills in life is watching young people develop into leaders.  Seeing them make decisions that you know honor God and stretch them.  All of us need to try to do things that are just above our abilities,  just beyond our reach and outside our comfort zone.  We often miss great opportunities because of fear of failure or fear to get out of our comfort zone.  I have failed at so many things that you would think I would quit trying.  I know I'm a little weird, but failure, somehow, fuels me.  Who wants to be known as a failure?  Sooooo, each time I fail at something, I am motivated to try something else, until I succeed.  I will not be called out at the plate watching the ball go by.  I will go down swinging.  Keep watching:  I will succeed!
     That brings me to Stephanie.  Here is a girl that chose to step waaaaaay outside her comfort zone, and experience a tremendous trip this summer.  Next week she will get Choosethejourney back into the blogosphere with three days of sharing that experience. 
     This was not a "mission" trip, unless you are a young girl that sees everyday life as a "mission".  Steph went with a "non-Christian" group of students to Europe, Spain, Italy (I'm already lost).  She is going to share her perspective of her "mission trip" that was not a "mission trip". 
     I know her blogs will entertaining, informative and I'm gonna guess, challenging.  Take the time to tune in.  Young people get all your friends to read and COMMENT!  If you can't figure out how to comment on the blog, then comment on her facebook.
The following week, I am going to bribe Catelyn Griffin to try her hand at blogging.   She just got back from the jungles of Ecuador.  She has some great stories to share.  STAY TUNED IN!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Set Your Sails

     As a part of my journey in learning to hear the voice of God, sense the heart of God and understand the will of God, I am reading through the Bible.  As I read it, I am looking for neat stories that are tucked away behind more familiar stories that are full of treasures that allow us to expand our image of God.  Ultimately, how we live our lives is based on what we believe about God.
     Chapter 11 introduces us to one of the most significant characters of the Bible, Abram, later to become Abraham.  Our first intro is simply his genealogy.  Not much to go on.  Jump to chapter 12 and boom, the story of Abraham begins to unfold. 
     Right off the bat, God asks of Abraham to do something extremely difficult: "Leave your country, your family, your father's home and go to a country I will show you."
WHERE?  "A country I will show you."  Abraham was asked to leave "everything" to go to a place that God had not even revealed to him yet.  That is like telling me to jump off a cliff  before I have looked to see what is below.  A "blind leap of faith" is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is one of the most liberating spiritual acts you could ever do.
     Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were asked to step into furnace without knowing the outcome.  All indications were that they would become crispy critters.  What was their posture?  "Our God can deliver us, but if not we are prepared to burn!"  It is that abandonment of self  to His will for His glory that I so want to become a reality in my life.  Willingness to leave everything without knowing where I'm heading or give up my life for His story and glory.
     The truth is, that is not my reality.  Nor is it the reality of most I see around me.  I am more concerned with houses, horses and home fries than I am the glory of God.  The sad part is that it is not my intention.  My generation pretty much sold out to the pursuit of the American Dream.  Let me be quick to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with picket fences and two car garages, but if it is what determines you life path, then the cart is before the horse. 
     Our sails are set toward acquiring rather than relinquishing.  Getting instead of giving.  Saving instead of spending our lives.  We live this way even after we have been told in order to find our life we have to loose it.  To have we have to lay down.  I don't care how spiritual you are, that is hard to do.  To act in the present based on what God will show you in the future.
     Abraham teaches us a significant lesson in his response.
  1. He understood he would not get a raw deal.  He could leave country, family, inheritance, security and he would still come out ahead.
  2. He understood that obedience always heads us in the right direction.  He did not have to know where he was headed, he just had to know who he was following.
  3. He understood the blessing would not stop with him.  Blessings are always intended to spill over to others.
God, teach me to let go of everything that might block me from the "I will show you" moments in my life.  It seems our energy is spent servicing debts rather than serving Him.  What percentage of our money feeds the banks rather than feeding the hungry?  This is not an effort to beat us over the head with a spiritual club, but rather to acknowledge that somewhere along the way everything got out of whack.  "Serving God" is often held hostage by "debt, comfort and possessions."  What we do is dictated by what we have.   I AM GUILTY!
     My challenge for all of us is to set our sails toward a lifestyle that affords us the opportunity to serve more freely and to give more generously.  Life will be fuller, more meaningful and God will be more pleased.  It is not an easy road to travel, but the right one.  JOIN THE JOURNEY.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stop Wasting Time!

     Have any of you ever been to a "pity party"?  Not only have I been to some, I've thrown a few myself.  We all have had our moments when we realize life just hasn't turned out the way we thought it was going to.  What a bummer feeling.  It seems as though all the failures seem to be saying, "I'm present and accounted for".  Those moments when we play the videos in our minds of all our successful friends and all they have accomplished.  We are happy for all of them, but their vids only add to the decorations for the pity party.  The feature film for the party is "All the Things I've Tried and Failed Miserably At" followed by the sequel "All My Great Ideas That Amounted to Nothing".  Now that is stuff that makes for a great pity party.
     If there is a big crowd that shows up for the party, it just heightens the storyline.  Now everyone can see what a failure I've been.  If no one shows, then we add to a future storyline, another sequel, part III, "No One Gives A Flip".  Let's all be honest, you've been there in your mind and emotions haven't you?
     Well, I just attended one.  It was my own.  There were only two of us that attended.  Me and God.  I didn't even invite Him, but He crashed the party.  He had a different idea about what was to take place than I.  I didn't want to be rude to Him so I began to play the featured films that were scheduled for the night.  I just knew He would put His arms around me and say, "I understand how you feel.  You've tried hard and I am proud of you for that."  No such pity.  He was the wrong person to show up to a pity party.
     Wanna hear what He had to say?  I thought you might.  He opened up a can of  spiritual whup- _ _ _ , and let me have it.  Keith, you're pathetic.  You are only 57 years old and you are acting like its all over.  You think you've blown it, you've missed your window of opportunity.  How stupid can you be.  Let me get Noah, Abraham and Moses on the line and let them share with you how old they were when I did the greatest work in their lives.  Its not what you accomplish that counts.  It is what you get started that outlives you.  Its those you help get on the right path that will still be journeying long after you receive your harp.  Its not about you and your accomplishments.  Its about Me and my kingdom.  I'm not done with you yet or you wouldn't be breathing.  You can not even imagine what I have ahead for you.  Then He said, "Remember this: I am just as passionate about you serving me today as I was when you were a 17 year old surrendering to preach.  I have as many exciting plans now as I did then!" 
     So much for the pity party.  One thing I learned from the party:  I'm too young to give up on my dreams and I am too old to waste any more time.  I bent over, took a swift kick in the butt, which was part of the can of "whup- _ _ _" and am looking forward to tomorrow.  Why don't you come along with me and JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Monday, June 20, 2011


     I'm back.  Whew...life has been a whirlwind lately.  I have been chasing myself and haven't caught me yet.  One iron out of the fire was Choose the Journey blog.  As of this  morning I am placing that iron back in the fire.
     The last time I left you we were sharing things we have learned about God.  We will continue on that journey today.  I want to focus our thoughts on the word "NOW".  It seems like such a simple word, but it is extremely difficult to find yourself in that time frame.  We want to focus on the past, whether it is past failures or past successes.  That is the poorest use of "NOW" possible.  If your "NOW" is filled with what happened in the past you probably are not headed anywhere good in the future.  The past is the least important part of our lives in the heart and mind of God.  He can completely change the past in the "NOW".  In a single moment of repentance,or forgiveness,or surrender, the past's hold on us can be wiped out.  Sure, there are consequences of our past, but its power to shape our future is demolished in the power of "NOW".
     Imagine what could happen right "NOW" if everyone who needs to forgive someone decided to get on the phone or go to that person and say, "I forgive you!"  How about those who need to say "I'm sorry" did it right "NOW".  Everyone who needs to deal with sin or destructive habits in their lives decide to cry out to God for help right "NOW".  Those who have given in to fear and failed to do something God has called them to do, decided to push fear aside and move forward "NOW".  Cease the pursuit of things that don't have eternal significance "NOW".  Pursue the dreams God has placed deep in your hearts "NOW".
     John Wooden use to say, "Make everyday your masterpiece!"  In other words, live in the "NOW".  Plans for the future are important, but do something "NOW" to make those plans a reality.  Your future is made up of your "NOWS".  Do nothing "NOW" and your future is doomed.  Focus on your past and your "NOW" is wasted.  If I could orchestrate repentance, forgiveness, pursuits, dreams, encouragement, giving, etc, to all take place in the "NOW" can you imagine the heavenly power that would be released on the earth at that very moment.  Well, I can't do that, but I can grab hold of my "NOW" and do something with it.  So can you.  Do what you need to do "NOW" right "NOW"!
      I had a dream last year.  I haven't shared it with many folks because it is so improbable that it is embarrassing to even share it.  Well, here goes!  Louie Giglio called me up on the stage at a Passion Conference and asked me to take 5 min. and share one word.  I said, "The word is  "NOW".  If we all surrender our failures, our successes, our plans, our dreams, our wants, ourselves to a God who wants more for us more than we want for ourselves, "NOW", heaven would open up and pour out power that would sweep across America.  Not at the end of this conference, not at the end of this day, not at the end of this session and not even at the end of what I am saying, but right "NOW"!  God responds to "NOW".  Begin to fall on your knees in surrender "NOW" and God will move."  I turned to hand the mic back to Louie to find him on his knees.  I hit my knees and all across the room others did the same.  God moved and we changed.
     That was all there was to the dream, but the message of "NOW" has been ringing in my heart and mind ever since that dream.  So "NOW" I challenge you, where you are to surrender yourself to a trustworthy God.  JOIN THE JOURNEY  on the knees of your heart "NOW"!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anatomy of Worship

     What would you have done?  150 days on the Cruise ship, "The Ark" and now dry land.  I never forget my first trip to Brazil.  We were there for two weeks, building a church.  That was the longest I had ever been out of the good ole USA.  Guess what the first thing I did was.  Kiss the US soil?  Nope.  Hurry to the baggage claim area to meet our friends greeting us on our return?  Nope.  I walked straight to the Golden Arches and bought two "biggie" fries, dumped them into the bag and chowed down. 
     We had a great trip and accomplished something good for the Kingdom and for a group of people.  Some even entered the ranks of citizenship for heaven.  I know a good mission trip when I see one, but this no "Ark" experience.  Imagine feeling the boat hitting against the peaks of the Ararat mountains, bouncing from one peak to the other until it found a resting place.  Probably a lot of jarring going on.  Maybe a goat on top of a camel, or maybe a chimp squealing as the hippo has him penned against the stall wall.  Then all of the sudden, perfect stillness.  Door opens and everyone looks around to take in the view of  a flood washed cleansed earth.  A sense of awe as they stood there, reflecting on the last 150 days.  Then it happened.  Confetti, horns, everyone running around, jumping, yelling, back slapping, high fiveing (new word), kissing the ground.  That may be a little overkill, but I guarantee there was some celebration going on.
     Noah, more than the others, felt the magnitude of all that had happened.  Through him, God is giving the world another chance. He had saved mankind because Noah had walked with Him.  The flood is over and now it is time to start fresh and new.  Wow, where do you start?  In verses 20-21 we find the answer.  WORSHIP!  Noah built and altar "to"  God, not "for" God.  It wasn't a matter of  obedience at this point, but rather, a matter of expression.  Noah had gotten a fresh look (150 days worth) at God.  A God powerful enough to bury the earth in water, yet compassionate enough to save mankind.
     We all come to places in our lives where we since God is saying this is your second chance.  No better way to start over than at the altar.  As we look at Noah's "do over" , mankind's mulligan, notice the anatomy of  his worship.
  1. Worship involves action or effort.  "He built"  - Sometimes I think we believe worship is something we "feel" rather than something we do. 
  2. Worship involves our best .  "He selected"  - God did not get the leftovers.  Noah carefully selected what He offered to God.  God forgive me for giving you my leftovers.   Help me to put the effort forth to give my very best to you.
  3. Worship involves our all.  "from every species" - Noah did not want to miss anything.  He didn't just offer animals he didn't like.  He was thorough in what he offered God. 
  4. Worship involves our sacrifice.  "he offered...burnt offerings"   We sometimes excuse ourselves from sacrifice because He paid the ultimate sacrifice.  His sacrifice cleared the way to God, but our sacrifice clears the way to a useful, fulfilling life.  Paul implores us to give our bodies as living sacrifices.  
Remember our purpose here is to learn about God.  My take away is this:  God responds to real worship.   There is no better way to start fresh and anew with God than to life your hands, fall on your knees and worship Him.  Let us exhalt Him together.   JOIN THE JOURNEY of  worship.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, May 23, 2011

Side Street - Hope Sunday

     Hold on, we are on the exit ramp of our Journey.  We will return to see one more thing from the Noah story.  We will look at Noah's first act once he got off the ark.  It wasn't kiss the ground.  That's what I would have done.  That and ordered a "biggie fry" from McDonalds.
     Our side street today is in response to a great day at our church.  We had Hope Sunday, which is a day on which the church has the challenge and opportunity to sponsor children in third world countries.  World Vision was the organization that was featured today.  Just a bit of trivia, World Vision is the world's largest non-profit organization.
     I don't want to focus on World Vision, although it deserves all the attention it gets.  I don't even want to focus on the children that were being sponsored, as adorable as they each are.  What I do want to focus on is what it did to our church.  We sometimes fail to see all the peripheral benefits when we are responding to World Vision, Compassion Int'l, Feed the Hungry, etc.  All we see are the faces of these precious children.  However, it was far more than these kids getting sponsored.
     Let me make three observations of what took place Sunday.  Before I finish writing this, it might turn into 5 observations.  Some significant things happened that I feel will have a lasting impact on Crossroads Community Church.
  1. The Youth stepped up and took the lead without being asked to.  They did it on their own.  The first three children sponsored were by three teenagers who plan on using their own money to flip the bill.  That means that "things" moved down the priority list and the "least of these" moved up the list.  That is huge.  That first step or action toward a life of selfless response puts these young people on a course that will change their life forever.  It may have just saved them from the "American Dream" of more and better.  It shows a sense of personal ministry developing within their hearts.  It is easy to go to church for years without ever developing the idea that we are all ministers and must personally respond to God's tugs on our hearts.  Our young people provide a spark that we adults need.  Youth, I am proud of you!!!
  2. Our adults were challenged.  We should be the leaders, not the ones being led.  Masks seemed to fall and some real honesty showed its beautiful face.  One lady shared, "It's just a matter of making adjustments so we can do what is right."  That was truth unleashed.  Things that consume so much of our budgets have such insignificant value compared to investing in the lives of the poor and needy and in many cases the orphaned.  Once again, as with the youth, it is a step in the right direction.  It is step toward laying up treasures in heaven, rather than laying up earthly treasures.  Not only the desire to do it, but the desire to share it and validate it was evidence  that God was working in the hearts of our people.  We can go weeks without any tangible signs of God's working.  That is sad, but true.  Hearing the testimonies of those who have been sponsoring for awhile validates that obedience to God is a fulfilling experience.
  3. God responded.  The objective was to sponsor children.  The result was that hearts were moved toward authentic ministry.  We all felt the divine moments.  Our hearts were lifted as God responded to our giving and obedience.  When you do right, God deepens you, which will eventually expand you,  ministry capabilities grow.  Children were sponsored and that's a good thing, but as significant, hearts were challenged and changed.  Do we really need to pray about this kind of thing?  Do we need to ask God who we are to be neighbors to?  Do we need to ask if we need to help the widows? Do we need to pray about whether or not to witness, to serve, to love?  Of course not!  When we do these things we invite God into the equation. That is when the journey gets exciting.
I consider it a privilege to be a part of growing people.  People who are actively seeking to be real and make a difference.  Proud of my fellow travelers.  You moved me more in the right direction.  If you were one who was nudged, but not moved, you still were turned in the right direction and together we can JOIN THE JOURNEY.

Friday, May 20, 2011

God's Google Clock

     600 years old and the captain of his own ship.  That's what you call living a long full life.  Imagine, at any age, boarding the Ark knowing that when the cruise is over the only living things in the world will be what is on the cruise with you.  What went through Noah's mind when God Himself  "slammed shut" the door to the ark.  THUD!  It had to have been a solemn moment.  What was Noah thinking about God at this time?  Is He sure about this?  Me, my sons and their wives.  Why me?  God said, "In seven days"... I'll see you on the boat."  I bet that week went by fast.  Following the "thud" of the door came the sound of pouring rain.  Springs from beneath the boat and thunderstorms above.  For forty days and forty nights it did not stop.  I wonder how long it took before the boat moved.  "Did you feel that?"  "Feel what?"  "That! The boat moved."  "Are you sure? Oh, I felt it!"  Fear or fun?  The cruise lasted 150 days. The Bible is full of some really cool stories.
     What was God doing during those 150 days?  Interesting question.  Nothing alive outside the ark.  No disobedient wicked people to deal with.  No mountains to float into, they were all under water.  Twenty feet above the highest peak.  Just a free floating boat full of poop!
     I know one thing God was up to.  He was counting the days.  Chapter 8 starts with a cool statement, "Then God turned His attention to Noah..."  Chapter 8 gives us some insight into the mind of God.  13 times in chapter 8 we see "day", "month" and "year" mentioned.  There seems to be a significant attempt to frame the whole story in time segments.  It is as though God has a Google Clock.  We are all familiar with Google Earth, the ability to see the earth then zoom in to see your dog in the driveway.  It it amazing the see.  God has the ability to the same thing with time and our lives.  He is not limited to a 24 hour clock.  He sees the big picture and He knows when it all fits in.  He knew when the ark would nestle among the mountain peaks, when the water would subside, when the birds would find a place to nest.  He had it down to the day, the month and to the year.
     When we are in our "arks" and apparent destruction all around us, we are frantic because we are being swallowed up by the present.  Example: the disciples in the boat with Jesus asleep.  Life's splash gags us while God seems to be sleeping.  We have to understand that God sees the big picture and works accordingly.  What we see in hind sight, He sees in the present.  We have to trust the fact that God wants what is best for us and everything we are going through that seems to be crushing us is just a "day" or a "month" in the journey of where God is taking us.  I never doubt God's ability to handle my situation, but I do have a difficult time seperating my trust in Him from the pressure of the moment.  His timing seems to be off.  I find myself thinking, God where are you.  I need you to come through NOW!  Know this; He is looking at His Google Clock and is very aware of what is going on and when it will end.  It will end before it destroys you because He is in control.  So buckle up and JOIN THE JOURNEY!  Your ark will find its resting place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God's Aware of the Time!

     Hello!  It's me again.  Two weeks ago, I was on the road for a week and then, upon my return, Blogger was having technical difficulties.  So it has been two weeks since I've set at the desk and shared some thoughts about what an awesome God we have.  Feels like it has been months.  Your joining me along the journey trying to make sense of life is your ministry to me.  Just knowing that you are out there wanting to count for Him, encourages me to do the same.  As we journey together, we learn together.  Satan does not want that to happen.  It has been a challenge just to sit down at the computer and get rolling again.  Buckle up because we are on the road again, discovering more about the most exciting journey in the world.
     Let's recap for a second.  We spent our first couple of months looking at all the different ways God tells us He loves us.  He uses circumstances, people, nature, struggles, successes, blessings, Scriptures and and endless list that will continue to grow as long as we live.  God always wants us to relate to Him from the understanding that everything He does in our lives is based on His love for us.  That is so very important to grab hold of, because when life doesn't make any sense at all, knowing that He is at work on our behalf  simply because He loves us, gives us a anchor to hold on to.  Once that thought becomes a part of our fiber, we will face all of live differently.  I can't think of anything more important to know about God than the fact that He is passionate about you and I.  His power, His wisdom, His creativity means nothing apart from His love.
     We are now on the second part of our journey.  Examining the stories of the Bible to learn things about God that we can carry into our relationship with God.  We know why He does everything, LOVE, but how do we recognize what He is up to.  What has He done in the lives of those He loves.  How does it all relate to His big dream and how that trickles down to His plan for our lives?  That's the real question I think we are all asking.  What is God doing in our lives?  The more we look at His Story and recognize the different roles people have play in that story, the more likely we are to understand Our Role.  We sometimes have a tendency to separate His Story from Our Story when they are one and the same.  We are a part of His Story!  We have no real meaning apart from His Story.  We have to interpret our lives in light of His Story.
     Here is an assignment for you to help us get back on the same page.  We are looking at the life and story of Noah.  Look at chapters 6-8 and notice how many times there is reference to days, months and years.  On Friday we will try to draw some interesting observations from His attentiveness to blocks of time.  We will see that God's aware of the Time!  Glad you decided to JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Monday, May 2, 2011

See Ya Next Week

     So many of you have been so kind and such encouragers.  Join the Journey has been a good exercise for me.  It gives me the desire to look at familiar passages with a fresh approach, looking for nuggets I missed previous times.  I so appreciate you joining me on the journey.
     This week I will be on the road traveling and will not have access to a computer from day to day.  Take the week off.  I will return next Monday.  We will take one more look at Noah to notice God's attentiveness to timing.
     See you Monday.  Have a great week.

God Bless,  Keith S.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Can Relate

     Thanks for joining me on the side streets, Bad Friday and The Rolling Stones.  Had to take a detour to focus on resurrection weekend.  I hope all of you had a great Easter and once again were reminded that the resurrection power was not a one time event, but the fuel that drives us today.
     Back to our journey of discovery what we believe about God.  While we are on the entrance ramp, let's review what we have seen so far.  We want to notice things that we don't often mention when we are talking about God's attributes.  His power is certainly evident in the creation story, but we wanted to highlight His apparent delight in the creative process.  Being creative is a part of His nature that didn't end after seven days.  God has placed that creative quality in all of us.  He loves to be creative with us.  Just as he pulled Adam into the creative process by asking him to name all the animals and tend to the Garden, He still looks for us to be creative about His business today.  Creativity is the earmark of many churches and ministries that are impacting our world today.  Most people have more creativity inside of them than they ever realized.  As a whole, we are not encouraged to use it because our jobs don't  required it and in most cases it would interfere with the job.  We have substituted excellence for creativity.  We keep getting better at what we do, but we keep doing the same thing.  Your boss might not like your creativity, but God loves it and smiles every time you use it.  You were created in His image and He is creative.
     Not only did we see His creative pleasure and abilities, but we saw how relational God was.  So far we see that God does very little that does not involve relationship.  From the plurality involved in creation to the relationship with Adam and Eve and God in the Garden to Noah and the Ark, it was all about relationship.  God has never been preoccupied with the obedience to the letter of the law, rather, He is interested in how it all shakes down relationally.  Everything He created, every law He wrote was to define and enhance relationships.  That was a huge distinction for me to discover.
     He is all knowing, all powerful, all wise, ever present, and whatever superlative you can think of, but those qualities gain their maximum meaning when they are fleshed out in relationships.  What good are these qualities if they don't relate to man.  It is all about relationship.  What was the first thing Satan attacked?  How they related to God.  When we properly understand these superlatives, we understand relationship.  God is God and He deliberately chooses to interject all of His attributes into His relationship with us.  That is pretty awesome.  JOIN THE JOURNEY and experience God in a the most incredible relationship imaginable.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Side Street - The Rolling Stones

     What a great day yesterday.  The messages on TV were awesome, our Pastor preached a great message.  We had baptism in a horse trough.  Really cool.  Lunch with friends.  A great Easter.  However, it seems hard to escape the holiday mentality.  Traditions continually perpetuated generation after generation.  Nothing wrong with that, except it sometimes obscures the message.  How can you enjoy the traditions and keep the true meaning of Easter at the forefront.  It is so easy for the religious activities to become a part of the decorations to make the traditions more viable.  Now, I am no bah-humbunny or anything, but the need for expression of the true meaning of the resurrection must transcend all the traditions or eventually the traditions will fade away with the real message.
     I'm far from a techy geek, but I found that the addition of Facebook and Twitter did as much to bring the real message to the forefront as anything I have seen in years.  It was delightful seeing all the kids in their Easter outfits.  Absolutely adorable!  But the highlight of my day was the early morning FB status posts celebrating our Risen Lord.  It wasn't your usual Happy Holidays, but heart felt expressions of enthusiasm about Jesus rising from the dead and what it means to people's lives today.  The hope of seeing loved ones again.  Victory over sins devastation and penalty.  Resurrection power to live by, to do battle with.  You could sense it in the air.  The tweets were awesome.  To be able to hear what was on the minds of the guys we follow in the Christian community.  The tweets were like a clarion call.  An announcement to the world.  World, you may think were crazy, but this is what we believe and we loudly, gladly, unashamedly pronounce it.  HE'S ALIVE!  THE STONE ROLLED AWAY, THE TOMB IS EMPTY.  HE AROSE THE VICTOR FROM A DARK DOMAIN AND HE LIVES WITH FOREVER WITH HIS SAINTS TO REIGN.  HE AROSE, HE AROSE, HALLELUJAH, CHRIST AROSE.
     The two Marys were the first of His followers to see the empty tomb.  The angel sitting on the rolling stone, announced the news that Jesus had risen from the grave.  "Come see where He laid."  Some of us today need to see some "rolling stones".  We have not experienced the power of the resurrection because some "stone" in our life has blinded us from seeing and really believing that Jesus is alive.  Oh, He fits in our traditional Easter decorations; He is a part of the story and makes the holiday complete, but is He really alive to us.  What stone needs to roll in your life so you can get a fresh real glimpse of a risen Lord?  You don't have to move it your self, you just need to recognize it.  Heaven provided the movers of the first stone and heaven will provide the mover of your stone.  Is it unforgiveness that blocks your view?  Is it doubt, fear, unbelief, anger, bitterness, possessions, envy, jealousy.  There are all kinds of stones, but none to big to move.  I've always heard the Rolling Stones were great to see.  My prayer now is that some day soon we will see the "rolling stones" reveal a risen, empowering Jesus and our lives too will be changed forever.
     In Acts 3 Peter and John were going to the temple to pray.  They were met at the gate by a lame man asking for money.  Peter and John gave him no money, but gave him new legs.  "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, Rise up and walk!"  He went around leaping, showing and telling everyone what had happened.  They could see.  They recognized the man who had been lame since birth.  They all ran together to discuss what had just happened.  Peter saw it as a great opportunity to proclaim the resurrection power.  Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but you asked for a murderer instead to be released.  I love verses 15-16 of Acts 3.  These are my favorite Easter verses, because it shows the resurrection had not lost significance and power some time after the actual event.  It is the resurrection that fueled the early church.  Listen to what Peter said to those gathered around.  "...you killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead.  To this we are witnesses.  And His name - by faith in His name - has made this man strong..."  It is seeing the resurrection power that makes all of us strong.  God, help us to see the empty tomb and its power so we can JOIN THE JOURNEY with the same enthusiasm as Mary and Mary.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Side Street - Bad Friday!

    Had to detour off our journey today to share some thoughts about the cross.  For a cool video, go to Godtube and search, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."  Friday must have been a pretty gloomy day for believers.  That day seemed to crush the hopes of all who followed Jesus.  Making it to the top of the hill was not a good thing that day.   A hill called Mt. Calvary  represented everything but the top.  It was occasion for despair, disillusionment, depression and distrust.  Instead of seeing Jesus on the cross as the first step of the destruction of death, they saw His death as the destruction of all they had lived for.  They had left their careers and many their families to follow Jesus to the cross.  That was the farthest thing from their imagination.  In a weird way they felt His willingness to die on the cross was a betrayal of all they had sacrificed.  They thought they were going to follow Jesus as He ushered in a new Kingdom.  They might even have a prominent place in that Kingdom.  They thought the future was bright when Jesus said "follow me".  Why else would you leave everything to follow someone you had just met?
     Good Friday to them was Bad Friday.  No kingdom in sight.  Not only did they stare defeat in the face, they watched someone they loved endure the worst imaginable punishment, torture, ridicule and shame.  What had just happened?  This invincible leader was powerless in the hands of these arrogant wicked men.  This man who had healed the sick, delivered the possessed and oppressed, restored dignity to sinners had been betrayed by that very same public.  They swapped Him out for a criminal.  Their hearts were full of pain as they witnessed this horrible degrading treatment of their master.  They followed the trail of blood from the public square to Golgotha, where it now puddled at the foot of the cross.  We must do something!  Not a muscle would move in protest, for their hearts were as full of fear as it was pain.  There was nothing they could do, but fear for their own life.
     Torn up inside, because they felt He could do something to save Himself.  They had witnessed His miracles.  They knew storms calmed at His command, cripples walked, the blind could see and the dead rise to life when He spoke.  Why would He not do something?  Speak!  Defend yourself!  Do something for Heaven's sake.  Too much is at stake for you to stay on the cross.  Their minds had to be exploding with these kind of thoughts as they stood at the foot of the cross.
     The real question is what was going through the mind of Jesus.  Talk about mind explosion.  Physical pain beyond comprehension.  The weight of sin of the world on His shoulders.  The eyes of His mother gazed up at Him, revealing her love and her pain.  For her sake why did He not end it all.  He knew He could have called ten thousand angels and they would have rescued Him and slain the whole bunch responsible for this horrid day.  He could have done anything He wanted.  You and I would have in a second.
     It is one thing to be willing to die for someone, we all would diefor any one of our children, but it is another thing to endure the shame and pain of the cross when at any moment you could step down.  It was not the religious leaders that kept him on the cross.  It was not the political leaders that kept him on the cross.  It was not the soldiers that kept him on the cross.  It was not the public that kept him on the cross.  It was not even the nails that kept him on the cross.  It was you and I that kept him on the cross.  Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us it was for the "joy" set before Him that He endured the cross.  Thoughts of you and I on His mind kept Him on the cross.  He knew the finished work of the cross meant freedom for you and I.  It was the only way that we overcome the power of sin, the victory of the grave and sting of death. 
     His passionate love for us and the thoughts of an eternity He would get to spend with those dear children was enough to resist the temptation to step down.  He endured for YOU!  Wow! Wow!  Lord make me more willing to bear the burden and shame of the cross.  Let my love for Him give me an enduring spirit in my service to Him.  He gave His life for me, let me spend my life for Him.  It will certainly be an adventure that only the hearty will endure.  I want to be one that endures.  How about you?  JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He Celebrates Us!

     This week is flying as we approach Easter Sunday.  I bet heaven's choir has been practicing all week getting ready to join with earth's choirs to celebrate our risen Lord.  Wish there were some way to be able to hear them all sing the same song at the same time.  Maybe next year I'll send out a notice for all choirs, congregations, bands to sing Oh Glorious Day in the same key, time and whatever else would make sense.  Everyone send their recording to someone in Nashville, mix it and wah lah, 15 million voice choir.  Oh well, just a thought.
     Hope you are enjoying the second leg of our journey, "what we believe about God".  We've looked at creation and the flood to gain some insight about God through these magnanimous events.  These stories have always left me thinking about how powerful God is.  His ability to create it all and then destroy it all is mind boggling. 
     However, on this journey, I have prayed for a fresh new perspective about God.  I so need it at this point in my life.   As I try to figure out the best way to spend the rest of my life, a fresh glimpse of  Him would be essential to making some really big decisions.  Some decisions, I have a sneaking suspicion,  are going to require a lot of faith.  Rediscovering God is the best way to rediscover myself.  This is kind of like a mid-life spiritual crisis. I want nothing more than to have a "I can't wait to get up tomorrow" kind of relationship with God.
      That is what I am praying to get out of this blog journey.  I imagine there are some of you that are just like me.  That is why I invited you to JOIN THE JOURNEY.  So far, my prayers are being answered, as my take away from the first two OT stories we've looked at has drastically changed from previous take aways.  I have been blown away with the heart of  God.  His emotional connection to man is incredible.  His desire for man's participation in His world.  From the woman He created for Adam, simply because man needed her, to His asking Adam to name all the animals.  He was enjoying man enjoying His creation.  He was having fun right along side of Adam.  Even the fall was followed with a deep desire on God's part to restore relationship.
     Then the disappointment that led to the flood.  His heart was broken because His fellowship was broken.  Even in the midst of all the wickedness, He walked with Noah.  That relationship was so precious to God that He saved His creation as a response to the intimate friendship He had with Noah.  It is so obvious that God, more than anything, wants to have a relationship with people, that being us!  He loves all of created, but the rocks crying out is not quite like you and I crying out.  His promises and covenants are His way to relate to us.  He binds Himself, by His own words, to us.  Not out of obligation, "Oh, I created them, so I guess I'm stuck with them," but out of a passion for us.  He can't wait until we get up each day to spend time with us.
     Tomorrow, His pleasure continues.  He delights in us.  His creative juices are satisfied as He plans and executes our steps.  It is like a celebration we are all going to and He doesn't want to miss out.  What is He celebrating?  US!  Don't miss this.  While we drag fear, failure, doubt and disappointment into each new day, His intent is to replace every bit of that with adventure and celebration.  No "killjoy" in Him.  John 10:10 says it so well.  He wants life abundant for us.
     How about you?  Do you need a fresh look at God?  Does your life need "life" in it.  Is God a distant belief, the One who created it all, or is He the one who joins you tomorrow to create more wonder?  Let's journey together and rediscover a God who desires to be with us.  He will be found when we search for Him.  JOIN THE JOURNEY this week as we celebrate His ressurrection, which is our ressurrection , and the fact; He celebrates Us! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let Me Out of Here!

     Well, those of you that tuned in for JTJ Friday, saw I was awol.  I was stuck in the airports and on the road through the weekend.  Did not even see a computer until late Sunday night.  I must say that I missed talking with you.  It is funny how the blog kinda of becomes a living thing and takes on a personality that you interact with.  I'm sure I missed it more than you, however, I do apologize for missing Friday or at least giving you heads up.  You have been kind enough to give me your "ears" every MWF and I left you hanging without word.  Sorry.  Enough groveling!
      When I was last with you we were talking about God's broken heart because of the wickedness of the "apple of His eye", man.  The emotional response of God being "grief" instead of  "anger" spoke volumns to me about the heart of God.  If it had been me, I would have been nothing less than pissed.  Not God, He was heart broken.  The reason being, He was not only aware of what it was doing to Him inside, but He knew what it was doing to man inside and that broke His heart.  God always wants more for us than we want for ourselves.  That is a true sign of love.
     After Noah built the ark, filled it with all the pairs of animals and rounded up all of his children and their wives,  God "shut" them in.  God was watching after them to the very last minute.  Then the rain came down and the springs flowed up for 40 days and 40 nights.  I always forget that it was 150 days on there without "kitty litter", "elephant litter", "rhino litter", you get the picture.  Sound effects I can handle, but smell effects, no way.  I would have been yelling, "Let me out of here!"  I definitely get cabin fever alot sooner than 150 days (7:24).  I would be going crazy.  However, 150 days to think about what had happened over the past year would certainly frame your opinion of God.  He liked me, asked me to build a boat to save my family and mankind, flooded the whole earth, destroying every living creature, shut me in, protected the boat from crashing while the tub filled up and then drained the tub. There is no record of any communication between God and Noah during those 150 days on the ark.  Noah was thinking about the fact that when he comes off the ark, he and those on the ark would be the only living human beings alive.  Everyone had been destroyed because of  their wickedness,  You think Noah wanted to get it right when he got off the boat.  I should think so!
      The doors open.  Exit Noah and his gang.  The first thing Noah did was build an altar, offer sacrifices to God.  God's response:  That smells good!  He said in His "heart".  Here is the heart thing again.  God responds to man with His heart.  It is not cut and dry laws or rules.  It is heart interaction with man.  God says, " I will never do that again."  As a sign of His promise, He gave the rainbow, a beautiful reminder even to this day.   Notice what God says about the rainbow.  "Every time I see the rainbow, I will be reminded of my covenant."  Didn't you always think the rainbow was to remind us. God too!  It is not like He was going to forget.  Why did God need a reminder?  Just a thought, but I think He got pleasure out of being reminded of  His covenant, because it defined relationship.  God called the troops together, Noah and his sons, blessed them and made a covenant with them.  That means that God would always be involved in their lives.  That is the nature of God.  His plans are always long term when it involves us.  He plans to be there every step of the way.
     God puts His heart on the table.  He knows that His promises and covenants mean He will be involved with us for the long haul, even if we fail Him.  His choice is to invite us on an up and down journey and He is committed to JOIN THE JOURNEY! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ride The Big Boat!

     Wow!  I just read the story of Noah's Ark.  I think it blows my mind more now than it did when I was just a little boy in Sunday School.  I don't know what kind of shoes Noah wore, but I don't think they would fit me.  In the first part of Genesis 6, we find God pretty ticked off.  The wickedness of man was rampant and seemed to be getting worse.  There was a total disregard for all that God had done to give man a great place to live.  We've come from the Garden of Eden to a moment in time when God regrets even making man and all of creation. Their mode of operation was shear wickedness and He was really upset.
     He made a decision: Destroy the earth and all that is on it.  Wipe them off the face of the earth.  BUT, (this is a really big but) Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8).  Wipe your forehead, ...phew(sound effects)!  You and I were almost not.  If Noah, one individual, had not walked with God we would not be here.  Talk about the power of one life!
     God, being relational by nature, wanted to discuss His plan with Noah.  Imagine being Noah.  "Hey Noah, God wants to run something by you before He does it.  He wants to see you right away."  Noah: "You sure.  I mean, I walk with Him, but He has never really discussed any big plans with me."  "Yep, He has something really big for you to do."  Noah must have been a little apprehensive going into that meeting.  "Noah, I want you to build a big boat and get ready for the ride of your life.  I want you to make it as long as a football field.  What's a football field?  Oh, that's right, we haven't done that yet.  Never mind.  About a hundred feet wide and 60 feet high." (read 6:14-16)  "That's a big boat!  What's a boat? A housebarn that floats.  Ooooh!  What does float mean?  Stays on top of the water.  I see.  Where's the water?  It's going to rain. Okay.  What's rain?  Sorry for all the questions God, but I'm new at this boat building thing."
     Long story short, "Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him." (7:2)  I could spend the remainder of the year just talking about this guy Noah.  He was a really cool dude.  Noah was successful in this story, not after boat doors closed, but the first day he put on his tool belt and went to work.  So much to learn from Noah, but I want to shift the emphasis back to God's response to Noah. 
     It is very interesting that God wanted to discuss His plan with Noah.  God wanted Noah to understand exactly what He was doing and why.  He also wanted Noah to know what he needed to do and why.  We get a peak from their discussion into the heart of God.  It appears that God was really angry and that was why He was going to destroy the earth and everything on it.  WRONG!  It never says that God was angry because of the wickedness, but it does say two times that He was "grieved"  and" His heart was filled with pain"(v.6, 7)   Our sin breaks the heart of God far more than it makes Him angry.  It breaks His heart because He knows what it will do to us.  Most of us respond to God as though He is angry with us when we mess up and we have a tendency to avoid Him or at least distance ourselves from Him.  What we need to do is recognize His heart has pain and we should approach Him with our broken heart because of where we failed Him.  The really cool thing is that the two broken hearts heal each other.  His heart is healed by our brokenness.  In Psalm 51, David realized that God did not want burnt offerings and sacrifices, but rather a broken and contrite heart.  Out of His healed heart full of love, He heals our broken heart and restores the joy of our salvation.  Once again we see the relational side of God.  When we are not right with God relationally, He is grieved.
     The next important lesson we learn here is: regardless of all the wickedness around us, God always notices and rewards a heart that is locked on Him.  In James it says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  We will always be surrounded by those who ignore God, by those who are defiant to God, but that will never block His view from seeing those "walking" with Him.  God made a covenant with Noah (6:18) based on His appreciation for Noah's walking with Him.  In 7:16 we find God "shut him in".  Is that not a picture of a caring God making sure Noah was secure.
      We can never over state the pleasure God gains from our "walking with Him"  We are here today because one single man chose to "walk" with God and "obey" everything God commanded.  Thank you Noah for willing to be different. We wish you were here today with us on our journey, however,  we can JOIN THE JOURNEY and walk with the Lord.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God, Not Enough!

     The creation story has proven to be a fun one to read.  God seems to be having a good time sitting back at the end of each day, admiring what He has made.  "It was good" seems to be the theme of His thoughts.  To top it off, He cranks creation up a notch and creates man after His own image.  Let's make man different than all the rest of creation so we can have a special relationship with him.  We will give him charge over all that has been created.   For man's pleasure, he made the animals then gave him the task of naming them. What an awesome job.  God said, "Whatever man calls them, that's their name."  I'm an animal lover and think that must have been a blast.  Its cool God pulled man into the unfinished task, relative to the animals.
     What happens next is huge.  It introduces us to some insight about God.  Remember, this leg of the journey we are discussing what we believe about God.  I believe a spot light is placed on the heart of God.  We are able to see something here that will prove to be a pattern that God will repeat over and over throughout history.  It is something you will find Him doing in your life as well, time and time again. 
     If you don't have your Bible in front of you, you're probably saying, "...alright, already.  What did He do next?"  He looked around and determined that man needed a companion, a helper so He created woman.  I don't want to focus on "woman" at this point.  I don't understand them very well and am sure that if I say too much, I will get myself in trouble. 
     What I want to focus on is the thought process that God had.  He looked around and saw that man needed a helper.  How many times in our lives has God looked at us and said, "He needs some help with skin on it."  God seems to always be attentive to those times when we need someone else.  I could go down a long list of people God has placed in my life, most significantly my family (thank God for Marcia), but many others at desperate times.  We need  helpers.  It may be in the form of someone who offers a word of advice or a word of encouragement.  It may be a friend that is honest with us about something we might not see about ourselves.  It may be a partner in a risky adventure God has given.  It may be a comforter after a tragedy or a celebrator after a triumph.  He puts people in our lives when we need them.  This is the first time God saw that man had a need.  He had created everything, pretty much gave it to man, thought it was great, and it was.  However, it was not enough.
     I going to say something here that may sound heretical.  I already want to say bad things about myself for saying what I am about to say.  Rob Bell may have some company after this (except only 20 people will read this instead of 20,000+).   Here goes (gulp!)  God is not enough.  He never intended to be!  In His genius design, He created man with the need for companionship beyond just Him.   We need each other.  As soon as God recognized the need for man to have a helper,  He wasted no time in creating one.  Whenever we think we can travel this journey alone, we will be sadly mistaken and highly disappointed.  From the very beginning of creation man needed someone else, in addition to God.  Let's recognize that too, and travel this challenging road together.  I need you and you need me.  Together we have God right there with us always attentive to what we need.  There is nothing too risky, too dangerous, too difficult, too big  for us when we travel together with Him.  So strap in, hang on and JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Said God

     Sorry about the missed post yesterday.  Worked a double shift at the airport and didn't get a chance to hit the blog.  Today's will catch me up.
     Let's return to this creator thing we were talking about in our last blog.  You gotta think WOW!, that was pretty awesome.  A God who can do all He did, regardless of how you count the days, deserves some attention.  If you believe Him to be the creator of the world, you can't easily dismiss Him.
     However, let's shift our attention from the fact He made it all, to the fact He enjoyed doing it.  It was far more than the function of being the creator.  He got a kick out of each stage of the process.  Take time to stop and read chapters one and two before you go on reading this blog.  You will get more out of the blog if you read it.  If not, still continue reading because I want you to get a glimpse of how the "creator' interacted with creation.  It kind of destroys the idea that the Creator just started everything spinning and just sits back, uninvolved, watching it spin.
     If you took the time to read Genesis 1 & 2, you saw seven times in chapter one the phrase, "He saw it was good."  Verse 4, He liked the light; verse 10, He like the view of earth like the Astronauts; verse 12, He liked the veggies and fruits; verse 18, the sun, moon and starts; verse 21, He liked the birdies (like those at the Master's) and the fishies; verse 25, the puppies, kittens, chickies, calves, colts and phillies.  Verse 31,  "I like what I've done."  He gained pleasure every step of the way.  He never intended to create and then step away.  In verses 22 and 28 we see the Creator giving His blessings.  Further indication that He planned on being involved over the long haul.  In 2:9 He even gives attention to the beauty of the trees, making them "pleasant to sight" and "yummy for the tummy".  I know the Creator must love a good salad bar.
     But it is in 2:19-20 and 2:26-28 that gives us every indication that God, the Creator, created man to enjoy what He had created, with Him.  There is a definite "partnership" set up here.  I made it, you take care of it.  Even if we believed in "intelligent design", but failed to see the continued involvement and interaction between the creator and the created, we would miss the most significant part of creation. 
     It is the "relationship" that is the crown jewel of creation.  The relationship between man and the rest of creation, but more importantly, the relationship between man and God.  As long as there is an earth, there will be relationship between man and God.  He intends to be interactive with us and passionately wants to enjoy us, His creation, every step of the way. 
     What an incredible thought.  We can say, "Hey, you know the guy that made all this stuff, he put me in charge of it.  Yeah, we work together every day!"  What a journey.  To live every day as a partner of the Creator.  Who knows what He might create next.  Maybe something out of your life.  It is His nature to create.  If you think He was done in Genesis, you are nuts.  Oops!  Didn't mean to call you nuts.  Yes I did!  If you don't see that You and I are His best opportunities to flex His creative muscles, you fail to see His true nature.  He will finish the work He has begun in us.  That's why journeying with Him is exciting.  Come on and JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Big bang or Big?

     As we continue our journey together, the road we are traveling down for now is, What Do We Believe About God?  We could go in a million different directions with that question and I'm not sure how long we will travel down this road.  But one thing for sure; I get excited contemplating specific things I believe about God.  We will be building the framework that will determine how we respond to God.  My good friend Guy Andrews pointed out the four stakes the Wesleyans use for their discovery of God: 1. Scripture, 2. Reason, 3. Personal experience and 4. Church history.  That covers a broad spectrum of input and certainly gives us plenty to ponder concerning who God is.  Scripture being the GPS, the measuring stick, the balance, the magnifying glass by which we look at all the evidence.  If it does not measure up to the what the Scriptures teach us about God, then it is not reliable information to build a belief about God on. 
     So let's start with some things we know about God, based on Biblical teachings.  Genesis is a great place to start, "In the beginning God created?  Wow, that is a mouthful that explodes with meaning the moment you hear it.  Say it to yourself, listen, just let it soak in.  "IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED".  If there is smoke coming out of your ears, don't worry.  There is more in that phrase than our human minds can handle.  Before there was anything, there was God.  Everything that followed "before there was anything" comes from God, because He was all that was there, "before there was anything".  I think I hear brain sizzle.  He made it all.  You know what He made it out of.  NOTHING!  (more sizzle and some smoke)  "Before there was anything", He was and out of nothing He made everything.  Ouch!  My head hurts. 
     When I let that really soak in, I am in awe of God.  Right off the bat, I try to crawl into His thinking and wonder what was going on in His mind and heart when He began to put it all together.  Darkness to light, water to dry land, quietness to the sounds of life.  All in a matter of days, simply spoken into existence.  That boggles my mind, strips my mental gears.  Not only did He have to make it, but He had to decide how everything related to the other.  So not only was there all this new stuff, but there was order to it.  The moon, the stars, the sun, the planets and life.  It all fit together.  The sun was not too close or too far away.  The moon played with the waves and man splashed around in them.  This is just too cool.
    When you really believe that God did all that, then it is easy to understand why evolutionist have a different explanation.  One must respond to God if they believe He is as Genesis One says.  However, if you don't want to be accountable to a "creator" then simply eliminate Him with another explanation.  How bout a "big bang", then puff a single cell, then you.  "Oh, you look just like your amoeba.  (who care how you spell it?)  A chip off the ole cell."
    That is why Paul hammers home the point that all creation is "through", "by" and "for" Christ.  When we believe that, we must respond.  What is your belief in the creation story?  Big bang or Big God?  It makes all the difference in the world.  Your place in all this is either a shake down or a set up.  I think, He set us up for the most incredible journey imaginable.  JOIN THE JOURNEY!