A Monday Above

It's a great day!
It’s a great day!

The world is a tough place.  I don’t need to convince you of that.  There are significant and real terrorist threats around the world today; these are poignant reminders to be vigilant.  This September 11th was the first year we really had an in depth conversation with our oldest son, who is 10 years old.  Watching video of the events that took place 13 years ago are quite fresh to all of us who watched it unfold that day and tough to explain to a child.  There is something in us that still cannot comprehend the evil that needs to be present in a life to intentionally target innocent people.  It rattles us and brings out emotions that are not able to be adequately described.

Terrorism is a insurmountable challenge in the world today.  Peace is hard to come by.  But most people don’t walk around worrying about what ISIS is doing or whether or not we will be attacked by some outside group today.  What is on most people’s minds everyday is daily life.  The kids are sick, the dog ran away, the car won’t start and the mortgage is due.  The battle that most people are facing is an internal one that constantly nags at us about inadequacy or frustration over missed opportunities.   Of course it seems like there is always some other unforeseen situation that comes up, especially during a busy week.   How do we keep our minds in the right place?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2

Why do I set my mind on things above?  Because Jesus Christ is there and He is greater than all I will face today.  I need to think above because it is the only hope I have.

We were driving back from somewhere recently and my daughter, who is almost 3 years old now, was singing the song “Give me your eyes” by Brandon Heath.  “Give me your eyes for just one second.  Give me your eyes so I can see.  Everything that I keep missing.  Give me your heart for humanity”  She had no idea what she was signing, but it brought me back to where I need to be.  There are plenty of places for our mind to dwell.   There are plenty of selfish priorities that I have each day.  Keeping my mind above will keep my mind off of my own problems and position me to do all that God might have for me to do so I don’t miss out.  Thinking above might allow me to love someone today that I might have otherwise ignored.  Thinking above might position me in a place that will allow the love of Christ to be shown through me to my neighbors and community.

Today is Monday.  While that might not be great news for you, maybe what can make it better is a perspective that keeps Jesus in view and your position with Him. I guess we just need to keep our eyes in the right place and maybe keep asking God for His eyes.  What a difference we could make if we set our hearts and minds on heavenly things where Jesus Christ is.

The Journey Begins….or Continues

It is a journey
It is a journey

It was over a year ago now that I started to feel a bit unsettled here.  It is not that I didn’t like something about the ministry, but I just sensed God stirring me to something.  I remember asking the Lord to make His will known in my life, but I really did not want to move.  The truth is Cape Cod is a nice place to live and we have established ourselves here.  We had three of our four children here and currently have two kids in school. Moving with youth children adds a while new level of stress and fear.  I had no idea why I was even thinking like that.  I prayed and set it aside.

Then in November of last year the church burned down.  I thought maybe that was this stirring I was feeling.  Maybe God was somehow preparing me for this big change.  In the midst of all the chaos it definitely was set aside.  I was very busy with day-to-day ministry items that all of this was forgotten.  But God does not let something drop and one day there it was again.  God, by His Spirit, pressing this on me once again.  It was at this point that I said, “okay, Lord, whatever you want.”

Over the course of time God has led me to a place where I believed He was asking me to become a Senior Pastor.  That made me laugh because I was only about a year removed from my Master’s degree where I did a thesis on longevity in youth ministry.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching and thinking that whole thing through.  My conclusion was that I was a youth ministry lifer.   I did not want to be one of those guys who started in youth ministry and then moved on.  God likes to surprise us, doesn’t he?

In the beginning of this year I started to feel like God was loosening the roots here.  I recall hearing from a pastor friend of mine that before God moves you He needs to loosen the roots.  That very thing was happening and I didn’t even know what that very thing was.  This was new territory for me and I was being stretched.

I started to bring this subject up with my wife who always seemed to bring me back to reality.  She did not have the same sense I did and I was okay with that.  In fact I was looking for any excuse I could to get out of it.  We went to a conference in June and God spoke very clearly to me that it was time for me to take this step.  Of course my wife was not there yet, or so I thought.  It was amazing how many different people and speakers during this conference brought this to mind.

I got home and was praying for God to make the path He had for us known.  One night the flood gates opened.  I had been on the phone and when I came out and talked with her she admitted that she had the same sense of stirring.  That left us at an interesting place because what do you do with that?  What was I supposed to do?  Who was I supposed to contact?  How does someone even try to process this all?

Little did I know that was just the beginning of a journey for us where God would open doors very obviously.  There is much more to share from there.  For now I just want to leave you with a thought that I had during this time period.  I kept thinking about how God shows up in unexpected ways but with amazing results.  I wasn’t even looking for it, but when God calls it needs to be noticed.   Perhaps it is that we need to expect God to do the unexpected.  Maybe we get a little too comfortable with our mapped out lives.  I know God has put together something amazing for us and we are just getting started.

Have you ever been surprised by God?  How?

Be Thankful — Be a Blessing

We take so much for granted
We take so much for granted

We take a lot of things for granted each day.  I know this because I take so much for granted myself.  It seems like the month of November comes and suddenly people remember to recognize how thankful they are.   This is a healthy exercise because we all have seen how quickly circumstances change and how quickly we forget all that we do have.   I was pondering this at breakfast this morning as I read an article about the typhoon in the Philippines.  Can I adequately wrap my mind around the devastation?  Can I look outside my own little world to recognize the hurting masses on the other side of the world?  What should I do about it from where I sit in the United States?

It was important for me to understand the human side of it.  We all saw pictures of the storm and were amazed at the power.  I know I saw it buried on some news website and thought how incredible it looked.  I know I was mindful of the people, but I don’t know anyone there.  Last year when we experienced a blizzard we lost power for a few days in the winter.  Our house got down to about 40 degrees and we were greatly inconvenienced.  That was a big deal to us despite the fact that no one was killed.  We went to a friends house and slept by their wood stove.   It was an inconvenience, but we lived.  Now there is nothing wrong with recognizing the problems right in front of us.  I just wonder if we all need to take a step back and consider some of the life or death challenges people are facing each day.  Maybe the day that my coffee grinder failed to work was not as big of a deal as  it seemed at the time.  I did still have a home to live in and breath in my lungs, albeit no coffee.

I read a story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about a 20-year-old woman who had a baby only to watch it die as a result of this storm.  This child suffocated to death because they had no electricity to insert a ventilator.  The story talked about how she sat in the hospital chapel with her first-born baby’s body in a bag next to her.  Can we even understand what sort of grief this woman is experiencing?  That is just one of many.

Who should we bless in our circumstances today?
Who should we bless in our circumstances today?

This year I am making a new effort to be thankful to God for what I do have and to look around for ways to bless others within that.  I think that is what Jesus meant when he told us to look after ‘the least of these’ around us.  Each year my family has given to some sort of need as a Thanksgiving offering.  It has never amounted to a large amount of money that was given, but it was never really intended to be.  We have our kids give something to help people around the world because they need to look outward, as we all do.  Last year it was for Hurricane Sandy relief and this year it will go to help those impacted by the typhoon in the Philippines through CAMA services. It is my hope that when we look at what we have and give it away that we get a vision for how we need to be willing to give that blessing away to other people.  It starts with something small and grows to something much larger.  We all have a part to play and we all have so much to be thankful for.

How do you highlight thankfulness during this time of year?

My Hope

Tonight is the night that Billy Graham’s message “The Cross” is being aired nationwide.  It is an opportunity for the Gospel.  Let’s make it known and pray for God to use this in powerful ways.

Find out where to watch it here — http://watchbillygraham.com/

Why is this funny?

I happened to see a piece of this video on the news this morning.  Of course they were all laughing about it.  Evidently the idea was the have parents tell their children that they ate all of their Halloween candy.  The parents were then to post a video with their reaction.  Then everyone laughs at the kids for crying.

Why do people do stuff like this?  Is there any reason to lie to your children in order to get some cheap laugh out of it?  There were comments on the video saying how spoiled the kids were for crying about their candy.  How about how attention driven the parents are for using their kids as pawns to get attention?  It just does not strike me as the kind of respect I want my children demonstrating to other people.

What do you think?  Am I being too harsh?

Honesty Does Pay

There was a story in the news yesterday about a homeless man who found a whole bunch of money and traveler’s checks worth more than $40,000 and he turned them in.  This has become a big deal because it is so unusual for people to show this sort of honesty today.  He was quoted in one story I read as saying that God has always taken care of him.  This time is no exception.  It appears that through donations he will receive something like $50,000 all for being honest.

This reminds me of something that was written about in 2 Corinthians 9:8:

 “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

We should not lose sight of the importance of honesty in today’s culture.  Sure it is nice to think that money will fall out of the sky and provide our needs, but how much better is it to live life knowing God will provide?   This man proved that honesty still is the best policy.

Here’s the story — Homeless Good Samaritan  (opens in new window)

Sin Always Kills, God Always Saves

On September 11, 2001 I was driving school bus before my college classes for the day.  When I got back to the bus terminal I heard that something had happened, but like most people I really didn’t have a very clear picture of all that was taking place.  When I was driving back to the college, listening to the radio, I knew it was serious.  The rest of that day revolved around news reports and confusion.  I remember a few key points of that day.  I remember how quiet it was without planes flying overhead.  I remember the feeling of despair that came with the realization of the amount of people who had just been killed.  There were just too many unknowns to be fully comfortable anymore.  We know that the world has not been the same since.  How could it be? This became a vivid reality for me when I flew home for a weekend in October of 2001 and there were people with large weapons all through the airport.  This was happening in the United States!

That day put a very real face to evil.  It showed us in vivid and tangible way what the result of sin is.  The Bible says that the wages for sin is death.  Sin will lead to death.  If you remember the story of Adam and Eve you will recall that it didn’t take very long for sin to claim its first victim.  Abel was killed by his brother Cain in cold-blooded, premeditated murder.  I guess things don’t change.

Yet we have seen that while sin still kills, there is a way around it.  Jesus Christ came into this world not simply to show us a better way to live.   He wasn’t just an inspirational leader for people.   He came to die for our sins so that we would not have to die for them.  He paid for them with His life.  The only way out of this cycle of sin is in a Savior.  While the world contemplates evil and how to counteract it, we know that evil has already lost.  We know that in Jesus Christ we have victory over sin and death.  Terrorists will kill.  Friends will turn on each other.  Marriages will break apart because of infidelity and sin.  But there is a better way.  There is an answer.  That answer is in Jesus Christ.

I am grateful that He has saved me from my sin.  He also can save you from anything you are dealing with.  There is no limit to what God can do.  He is truly stronger than the worst evil and sin we experience.

Never Forget