Monday, January 30, 2012

Story: The Deeper Connection (pt.6)

(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke about a year ago.  It is a continuation from Part 1 (The Dawn of Creation), Part 2 (The Separation) ,  Part 3 (The Desperation), Part 4 (The Ability to Connect), and Part 5 (The Reconnect). It is based on the discussion of our connection with God and comes from Romans 8:1-17)

Here is where the beauty comes in. Thus far we have been discussing in these chapters, matters that discuss this connection between God and others, but He also wants you. It may not seem that way, but He does. I understand this may all seem somewhat foreign to you, this connection that we have been talking about is still happening. The Spirit of God, the almighty God, the loving Creator, the One who sacrificed of Himself to break the barrier, the One who broke Himself to heal our brokenness.

This is for available for all, but we must realize, it is for us, it is for you…you.

He wants you to want Him. He wants you to want to hear from Him. He wants you to want to connect with Him. There is nothing you can make happen or conjure up, just be open. Realize that He has so much that He wants to share with you. How He feels about you, He wants to direct you in the matters you are confused, He wants to show you so much in His Word, in His creation…by His Spirit. He wants to be with you. Just like I mentioned before, we often make God out to be someone “out there” we may not say that but we feel it. We must ask Him to reveal to us that He is here and now, and realize, despite how we feel that He IS here!

This is contrary to how we communicate in our version of normal. We communicate in ways that are very material and we expect concrete response. When we talk face to face we physically see people, when we text or type on a website we see the letters of response, even if we talk on the phone we hears audibly a physical response. With God, it isn’t physical necessarily, it is spiritual. It may connect with us in an emotional way, in a connection with our conscious, in a motivation, and in ways that are absolutely unexplainable. It is a God thing that we will never fully understand.

That is the beauty of this connection.

How do we do it? How do we connect? I cannot give you an exact answer because it works differently for everyone as we are individuals. I know we must search for Him, and not in a way that is based on how good of a person we are. We must search for Him in a way where the desperation meets a hungry search because we understand in that desperation how depraved and broken we are. If we have no understanding of our brokenness, we risk the ability to connect. Why? Because if we don’t understand how broken we are, we are being prideful in thinking we are doing fine on our own.

God resists that…

…but, God loves a humble person. If we are selfish enough to believe that we don’t really need this connection because we said a prayer so we are going to Heaven and really that is all we care about…we have completely missed it. Heaven is the byproduct of this journey, not the motivation. The motivation is to be reconnected with our Creator and letting Him use us to glorify Himself through us.

Heaven is not the motivation…it is the byproduct, it isn’t the point of a Christian life…it is the outcome. This is a concept that is lost on many of those who call themselves believers. Instead of asking, “If you were to die tonight, would you know where you would go (heaven or hell)?” Maybe we should be asking, “If you knew you had 20 years to live, what life would you live?” Christ said to “Follow Me,” He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer so you can get in!” He wants us to connect, live life with Him, let Him bring us to a place where we can live life to the fullest as He planned for us to.

We let Him have…us. We seek the connection. We long for the chance to glorify Him. We prepare by continually drawing closer to God by letting go of self. This life isn’t about us, it is about connecting to Him because we believe that is His desire and the design He has for us. We let God be our personal God, not just the “out there” God who is punching our get out of hell free cards. Let Him connect; lay your life open before Him. We often try to pull off the “Adam and Eve hiding in the trees” bit, but we have to remember, they were hiding because they had lost the connection.

Over to you…
1. What is the best way for you…you personally…to connect to God
2. What is your biggest hindrance?
3. Are you willing to hear things from God that are scary? That may cause you to have to change things in your life that are important? Are you sure?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snipping Insecurity

“I lay on the floor listening to my daughter wailing in her crib and thought to myself, I just wish that she felt safe and secure.”

            Arianna recently had a small procedure done to snip her tongue because she was tongue tied a bit and we (my wife and I) felt that there may be some speech issues that would arise from her being tongue tied.  Denise (my wife) scheduled a time for the procedure and we went forward with it.  We never like the thought of our daughter going through something that may cause her any form of discomfort in any way, but we believed (and still do) it is for her best.

            If you know Arianna, you know that she is pretty laid back, funny, almost always walking with a smile on her face, and loves to joke around even at her young age (2).  So we went to Children’s hospital and she was her normal, easy going self.  So much so that the nurses asked us more than once if she was always like this because she was so nonchalant about everything going on.  She recovered quickly, and was ready to go home after the procedure and eat.  
Arianna, as she waits for her procedure at the hospital.

            We came home…and there is a point here, I promise…she ate and went down for a nap.  She slept for quite a while, as expected, and woke up crying.  Actually, it was a bit more of a wail.  Denise checked her temperature and it was a whopping 105.  

Queue the freak out.

We carried out the normal fever reducing measures, and called the doctor.  Nothing to be too alarmed about but keep monitoring as the fever teetered between 99 and 103.  We went to the pediatrician within the next few days and continued our home care, and she slowly began to become less “funky.”  

However, there was…and to a point still is…an issue.  

She was scared to go to sleep.

At least that is what I think.

She went to sleep and woke up and her tongue hurt.

Then she went to sleep and woke up with a fever and felt miserable.

She knew something happened when she went to sleep.

So, going to bed became a fight for the first time in my daughter’s life.  She is the easiest child I know of, so this was so foreign.  We would put her in bed and she would scream and toss and jump and everything a child can do to stay awake and get our attention.  So we tried to teach her the word “safe.”  For some reason, it is very difficult to describe what it means to be safe to a two year old.  

My wife and I held her in her room for a while and laid on the floor with her, then we moved her to her crib as we lay on the floor and this is when she began to cry because she wanted the security of being with us.  

I lay on the floor listening to my daughter wailing in her crib and thought to myself, I just wish that she felt safe and secure.  I wish she knew that she could trust me to protect her.  I wish I could somehow communicate with her.  

And it dawned on me, in the midst of the chaos, the crying, the shrieks of “Daddy!” that this must be very similar to how God feels when I am here crying, screaming, and writhing in the midst of some trial and feeling like He isn’t there or just doesn’t care.  

I have a decent vocabulary of words that I can use, but many of those words (especially those that describe safety) are lost on a two year old version of vocabulary.  How much greater is God’s communication to my limited understanding?

I was within seconds of being in Arianna’s presence when she was in her crib and I was in the other room, but to her, I might as well have been a million miles away because she didn’t see me.  Ever feel that way with God?  

Why won’t you respond?  Maybe He is and we have to trust that He is in His omniscient way.  I could allow my daughter to have everything she wants done her way and I could be her whipped servant, but that isn’t what is best for her.  She doesn’t understand that and gets frustrated with me at times, but, as a father I know what is better for her and am ok with the anger she has towards me because I know it will be what is best for her in the long run.

God is similar, only in a much greater scale.  Do I trust Him though?  Do I rest in the safety of knowing that He has me?  Can I relax and let go of situations that I do not understand?  Or am I the child screaming at Him because I want what I want because I am afraid, hurt, and not understanding what God is doing?  

I hate the fact that my daughter suffered, but I love the fact that she loves me and smiles when I come home and runs to me saying, “Daddy!”  God does too.  Look for the lessons, they seem to be abounding all around.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Story: The Reconnect (Pt.5)

(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke about a year ago.  It is a continuation from Part 1 (The Dawn of Creation), Part 2 (The Separation) ,  Part 3 (The Desperation), and Part 4 (The Ability to Connect). It is based on the discussion of our connection with God and comes from Colossians 1:9-23, Acts 2)

Christ made the once for all time sacrifice, there was an understanding that God connected with us. The issue was, now what? He was gone again. What was mankind to do? Those who followed Him most closely forgot that Christ said He would send a Helper and said that we would do greater things than He did. Greater things? How is that possible? There was a time of celebration in Jerusalem (the capital of Israel) and many people came from all over to this celebration. 

Something happened…

Something very big…

God connected with those who believe.

Think about this, since Adam and Eve, man had not had the connection. Christ came and a few people in this world had a connection with God, now…anyone…anyone who believed in Christ could have a connection. You see, when God created mankind he also gave us a spirit. He gave us an inner person, if you will, that guides and directs us for better or worse. The reason everything changed is because, God sent His Spirit to connect with ours. 

This changed everything.

This meant that we could ask God what to do and feel His presence guiding us in our decisions. In times of necessity, God would speak to us and point us to where we should go. As we read His Word, He can help us discern what it is saying. We just need to seek Him and He meets us. This is amazing. If you have ever experienced the presence of His Spirit, how can you describe it? What words can you use? As an example of this major movement of the Spirit, the first movement, God’s Spirit connected with His followers and gave them the ability to speak in many different languages. Remember I said, people came from all over the place to Jerusalem?

They heard the truth of God in their native tongue. Keep in mind, these followers of Christ didn’t speak other languages.

The Spirit spoke through them.

Can you imagine that? Take a minute and picture that.

A disciple gets up and feels as though He must speak out about the truth of Christ, he goes to open his mouth and He begins to speak Chinese or maybe a tribal language from Africa. The astonished look as the first follower spoke must have been priceless. The feeling of speaking in that language, and then doing so with authority, not knowing how this was happening but the words flowing from your mouth with comfort. 


Many came to know Christ, and therefore, become connected to God through His Spirit. What a powerful display of what connection can do. God plugging Himself into the human spirit, connected, energized, glorifying Himself through His creation as we were intended to. It wasn’t the same as the original connection, but what a powerful connection. Reunited and it feel so good. There is power when God connects with us. God gave them the ability, and the beautiful thing is, we have the ability too. The followers prayed and sought Him, when you seek Him, you will find Him and His Spirit will connect you. 

Over to you…
1. Think about it, what can God…plugging Himself into you do?
2. Explain it, as if talking to a non-believer, how does this Holy Spirit thing work?
3. What are your thoughts on connection with God?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grace, Love, and Murder (pt.2)

(This is a continuation of the post from yesterday.)

Before I go any further, I do not want to make light of the action that Steve carried out.  There are several families that are hurt, broken, mourning, and it is not my intention to make light of the situation.  The hope is that we look at the sickness of sin, examine ourselves to see where God has been gracious to us, and see the areas that we should be growing in grace if we are truly desiring to be more life Christ.

I read some of the comments on Facebook as this story spread to some of my friends, and to others that went to school with Steve.  One comment stuck out to me…

“It is sad, but Steve was always so mean to me in school…”

                In this instance, I was so frustrated with this comment.  I was very close to throwing out a rebuttal that would have surely been overly harsh.  However, I had to be honest with myself, isn’t that my attitude in grace?  

                A sort of, “yeah, he had it comin’” attitude, and I rejoice a little that his life is now (for all intents and purposes) over?  He was mean then, so now it comes as no surprise that this lowlife would do something like this?

               When I was young, a dog bit me and left me with some small scars.  I found out that dog was hit by a car several years later, and to be honest…I was kind of happy.


Is that grace?  

          I can’t imagine Christ walking this earth and feeling a bit vindicated that someone that had treated him poorly, or wronged Him, or was just a liability to society threw their life away but committing a terrible crime.
Would He say there should be punishment?


Would He take joy in that?


So why do we?

I believe it is because it makes us feel better about ourselves, more righteous, and in our works based mindset we believe that we are closer to God when we can one-up someone on the good works list.  

Sadly, this has nothing to do with how God has things set up.

The Apostle Paul was a murder.

I say all of that to say this.  God has shown me great grace in my life.  It has been a grace that has been sprinkled throughout this journey of my life and intermittently mixed with some very grace filled events.  For me to be shown such great grace and for me (in my attitude) to show no grace is a debauchery.  

Grace doesn’t necessarily mean a person is free from being punished. Grace will influence the attitude in which it is carried out.

I believe Steve will be punished, I believe he should.  However, my heart is heavy for a person whom I once knew well and has thrown his life away over something that was surely not worth it.  I also know that God has taken thrown away lives and changed them for His glory and that is my hope. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grace, Love, and Murder (pt.1)

(I am writing a special blog over the next three days.  I normally write a story on Monday's, regular blog entry on Wednesday's, and  a retro post from the past on Friday's.  However, this week I am writing about a former friend of mine that has gotten himself in a lot of trouble and the lessons I have learned from hearing the news of his tragedy.)

When I was heading into sixth grade I had to switch schools.  This would be the second time I had switched schools and as a shy, backwards, and highly emotional child it was frightening.  I knew a few of the other students from the church I attended, but all in all, it was another transition that I was anxious about.  I ended up going to Marietta Christian School for three years.  

I learned a lot.

I learned about the proverbial "sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll", and various other things.  I changed a lot in those years, because I went from being a very innocent child that had been sheltered under the umbrella of a legalistic regime to more of a rebel against that machine.  I had several friends, but there was a small group of us that would regularly hang out while at the school.  I was certainly not the most popular of the group, but I looked to two of the guys who were in my grade as the guys I most enjoyed hanging out with.  

One was named Shaphan.  He was the guy who kind of took me under his wing and helped me become a little less awkward.  Shaphan, and his kindness, helped me out in many ways.  However, that isn’t the story I want to dive into.  The other friend of mine was Steve.  Steve was a bit mischievous, and we all were, but Steve was a fun guy to hang around with.  Every day, I looked to hang around with these two in our little group of friends.  In our seventh grade year the movie “Young Guns II” came out and we all were a part of the “gang”, we each picked a character and thought we were just like them.  

I kind of miss those days.

                I remember one day very clearly (and I share this because I want to provide a window into our interactions).  There was a group of us that played basketball or soccer and we had some time between a game or practice so we decided to sneak out and go to the convenience mart up the road.  We went in with a game plan, I would distract the clerk by asking some questions and my friends would take what they wanted and hide some and buy some and we all would walk out paying for a little, but receiving a lot.  

                Most of them took candy, snacks, and pop.  Steve managed to get a whole carton of cigarettes.  I was happy to help.  We basked in the glory of our haul and honestly, I was amazed that we got away with it.  However, we did, and were so proud.  I also remember the time that our terrible music instructor was yelling at us and I began to cry, Steve patted me on the back and said some kind words to calm me down before I had a complete meltdown.

                Having said all of this, I have to confess to you that this past week has really been eye-opening, gut wrenching, and I have been all over the place in my thoughts as I have tried to wrap my mind around the news I received last Thursday.

                Steve broke into someone’s house, shot and killed a man, kidnapped and beat a woman at gun point, fought with another man and injured him, and led the police on a two hour manhunt.  When I read the news, I just sat in my office and was completely bewildered.  I had obligations to go to, I went, but I wasn’t there.  I kept asking myself, “Steve, what happened?”  

That led to the question, “How am I where I am, and Steve is where he is?”  

                I often say to people, “You don’t know where I came from.”  The reason I say that is because most people that know me now (and really those that knew me years ago had no clue what was going on) cannot imagine that I was the person I was.  

The rebuttal I hear from people was that Steve was allegedly on drugs.  I have been there.

“Well, Steve has made some poor decisions in his life.”  Check, been there too.

In fact, while there are sure to be differences in our paths, I am sure that I could be found guilty of all these precursors to Steve's final fall.  

Then it hit me.

There is an unreal amount of grace that has been poured out upon me as I have walked this pathway of the journey God has put before me.  I walk along this path and fall off the edge and am put back on my feet wholly by the grace of God.  

What does that mean for Steve?  Is God less gracious towards him?  I am not sure how to best answer that except to say that maybe Steve had become completely unaware of the presence of God in his life and was therefore running away from the grace that God so eagerly wants to pour out on all of us.  I imagine, if we looked at Steve’s life, we would see numerous times when God had poured out grace.  

So what does this grace mean for us?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Story: The Plan (pt.4)

(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke about a year ago.  It is a continuation from Part 1 (The Dawn of Creation), Part 2 (The Separation)  and Part 3 (The Desperation). It is based on the discussion of our connection with God and comes from John 1:1-18)

The thought of a God desperate for anything is foreign to us as a whole. God enjoys two things, receiving the glory due to Him and the love of His creation. That is the beauty of His plan to bring us back into a restored relationship. His plan would not only conquer His enemy and ours, it would bring a way for us to have fellowship and be connected again as we should be. The plan would be to take our brokenness, the fractured people that we became when Adam and Eve sinned and break Himself in order for us to be restored. 

Before that happened God instituted a sacrificial system. If a person sinned, they had to make a sacrifice. There were many variances of sacrifice, all to cover sins in a temporary way. While I do not believe it wise to make light of this because of it foreshadowing of Christ’s coming, I do want to focus on the sacrifice that God made on His part. The sacrificial system that was set up was based on man sacrificing for his own sins, the plan that God had would be Him paying the price we could not. One was temporary, the other eternal…once for all. One covered our brokenness temporarily the other would fix it permanently. 

This system was not the original plan or a perfect world, and God knew of a better plan than the sacrificial system that was in place. The connection was still broken; the brokenness was not fixed with the sacrificial system but it was a foreshadowing of what had to take place. Something greater than a lamb would have to be sacrificed. Something would have to be given to draw mankind back to God. For God and mankind to be reconnected…

…He would stand in our place.

Where we were broken, He would be.

This was no easy task; God would send Himself, in flesh to earth to live life with the mankind that He created. While here, He would live a perfect sinless life that no one else could, then He would die. His sinless life would satisfy the requirement or price that was needed to be paid so mankind could be reunited with God. Can you see His passion? His desire to bring us back to that connection? His desire would bring Him glory and honor and in the same breath bring the brokenness to an end. God had a plan. He would come from Heaven to earth, leaving the splendors of His unfathomable home, to walk this dirty earth that He created but we had made into something most foul, a cesspool of sin and human depravity. He would live here in this mess we had created of His creation, live as we were always intended despite mankind, and become broken. This was necessary to reconnect us. 

As amazing as this plan is, it is much deeper. It is a far greater plan than we could ever understand fully. It is a God sized plan, and only He could work it out. He did so, perfectly. God carried out His plan as Christ died for our sins, rose again after three days, and later ascended back to His home in Heaven. That part of the job was complete. The barrier was removed; sin lost its hold on those who accepted Christ as Savior, as the One who died for their brokenness. 

But there is more that God accomplished...

Over to you…
1. Have you ever thought about God’s plan and how elaborate it really is?
2. Do you often sit and think about the magnitude of what God did? Do you see His desire to be connected? In what ways?
3. Take a moment, think about this thought, “God … broken” and write down what comes to your mind.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wander Bread

About 6 months ago or so I picked up a new hobby that I enjoy.  I started going to auctions.  I had been to auctions before, but I actually decided to go to a storage auction.  I have since enjoyed going to an occasional auction.  The feeling is electric as you go to an auction.  What mystery is behind the door?  Or at a more normal auction, who wants what and what are they will to spend for it?  

It is so mysterious and fun.

That is until recently.

Recently, with the popularity of the storage auction television show, when you show up to an auction you will see approximately five times the amount of people there to bid.  The units sell for about five times the amount too.  People travel from all over to come and take part in the mystery in the hopes of getting a unit and making some money.

For example, last week people traveled from two hours away…

…for one unit…

…one unit.

Upon listening to their story, I find that they do this not so much for the fun that I enjoy the auctions for, but out of desperation.  

You see, there are some people who do this for a living, or to pay the bills their job can’t take care of.  They have become reliant on that income.  Now, there are hundreds of people buying units they used to get and the units they can get have the prices driven up and so they get less revenue. 

So it hit me, what I was seeing, this increased population in my area of those that are not “indigenous” to my area.

This was a lot like animal migration due to lack of food.

The predators, the veterans of auctions, have had to migrate to new hunting grounds.  New predators have come in and thinned out the prey.  For example, a lion may move to a different geographic location if a larger lion or other predator comes into his area and thins out the food supply. 

So where there is no food, animals leave.  Where there is no profit, people leave.

This is where my mind went to explore this from a spiritual perspective.

Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life (John 6), and He tells how this Bread sustains and those who eat of this bread will never go hungry.  Those who believe in the teaching of Christ would agree readily to this, that is, those who have experienced God through the work of Christ would.  There are certainly those that call themselves Christians that have never really experienced Christ, and therefore have never tasted of the proverbial bread.

Without getting off track, the basic idea is that those who experience Christ have their spiritual hunger met and have no need to look elsewhere.  They don’t need to migrate to be fed.  They don’t ever have to leave the land that they are indigenous to.  It isn’t that they just don’t leave; it is that they don’t want to.  

This isn’t a guilt trip about anyone leaving a church…please don’t take it that way because if you do…then the point has been missed.

Here is the point…The world is obviously starving spiritually.  Why?

Where are we?

We are called to be a type of bread vendor, and this is a generalization because there are certainly effective “vendors”, but in a culture where churches are often within a stone’s throw of each other… 

…why does it seem like there is so little bread?

Why would people rather migrate away from the “vendors?”

I am teetering on the verge of rambling, so I will wrap this up.

I will admit to you, I don’t have an answer as to how we go about fixing this, but I am searching.  It may be as simple as inviting your neighbors over for dinner…without an agenda of getting them “saved”, but rather just to get to know them. 

Just get to know them.

Love God, love them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Story: The Desperation (pt.3)

(What you are about to read is a selection from a retreat I spoke about a year ago.  It is a continuation from Part 1 (The Dawn of Creation) and Part 2 (The Separation).  It is based on the discussion of our connection with God and comes from Genesis 3:7-24)

I don’t know how it happened; the Bible says that their eyes were opened. I honestly do not know what that looks like. The point is that they understood they did something very wrong. They did something so wrong that they ran and hid from God when they heard Him coming. 

Hide from God.

Can you imagine the desperation that they felt in their hearts when for the first time they felt guilt, remorse, panic, dread, and so many other emotions? 

Hide from God?

They were so overwhelmed by these new emotions and feelings that they had no idea what to do with them. As they wrestle with all of this, they hear footsteps. More of these fearful emotions flood over them…

Hide from God!

They run and find refuge somewhere, but God is the worst person to play hide and seek with. He knew, and yet, He came. He didn’t leave them out there; He went to them to make certain that they knew what had happened. They had never experienced God like this, God the disciplinarian. I don’t know if they understood the weight of what had just happened. They knew it was a serious problem, but it would soon come to a time that they would have to experience the full brunt of what they had done. Not only would life on earth change, but the relationship with God would be forever changed…

…for them…

…for all mankind…


While they dealt with dread, He dealt with great sorrow. His perfect creation fell. Separated to a relationship He never intended. Broken, shattered, crushed, and wrecked the beauty of the free will that He gave man had become the breaking point the enemy attacked and gained victory over. He was forced to drive them away from Himself, forced to become unplugged from them, forced to divorce Himself from them.
God…broken hearted.

The desperation of mankind as they were forced to leave perfection by partaking of the fruit as well as being driven out of the garden had to be unexplainable. Everything was new, but in a horrible empty way. Instead of just gathering food that was in abundance all around them, they had to search for food. They had to learn to plant and grow food, learn to water it, learn to fend off predatory animals, find shelter from weather. Everything that seemed so simple to them and to us now, was not simple because now they had to figure it out for themselves. 

How lonely and desperate they must have felt. If only we could re-do everything. If only we hadn’t listened to that blasted serpent. If only we had known then what we know now, why would anyone want to do this to us anyway? Their children would never know God the same way they did. Mankind would grow and spread all across this earth, but no one would experience God the same as they did. The way God designed mankind for, the way we were supposed to be connected. Desperation to rekindle the connection filled the heart of mankind. A desperation to fill the void, but this desperation is one that mankind could not fill on their own, how could they ever reconnect to God?

Man began to try to find ways to fill this void, but how? Many attempts have been made to fill that void over the centuries; there is only One who can fill. The desperation to fill that void began thousands of years ago when the fruit was eaten; many still suffer from it now. The beauty is that the wonderful God that we serve made a plan. An elaborate plan and the only way to fix the broken relationship was to become broken Himself.

Over to you…
1. The connection was broken, try to imagine what that must have felt like and explain as best you can.
2. What thoughts do you think went through Adam and Eve’s mind as they left the garden? Have you ever felt that way?
3. What are your thoughts so far? Have you ever felt desperation? Hopeless?