Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are You Alone In Your Suffering?

If that word doesnt fit, try struggles.
Or circumstances.
Too vague?
Need me to be more specific??
How about your unemployment or job loss.
Or in your pain and illness.
What about the death of a loved one?
Or divorce, bankruptcy, even natural catastrophe?
Maybe even in prison, depression, or rehab.

“The disciples couldn’t see Jesus in their grief.
If you’ve had a loss like that,
you may have missed the fact
that God has walked through the entire experience with you.
You were never, ever alone during that time.
You couldn’t see him,
but he was there.
Ask God to show Himself to you.
He wants you to see Him.
He wants you to know you were never alone.” -Rick Warren

 

  • How does God show his presence to you?
  • How do you think grief blinds us to the ways that God is providing for us?

Rick paints a beautiful picture which we may still yet miss...
Christ walks with us wherever we go,
but we must invite Him through prayer.
Prayer is more than praise and thanksgiving,
it is a conversation with our best friend!

God doesn’t prevent disaster from happening so that we can know Him better.
He comes to walk with us in the midst of calamity
so we understand that this agony was never part of His plan.
(In Genesis, everything God created was good.
And only after Adam & Eve ate of the fruit
did God condemn man, and the earth we walk upon.)

If evil and hardships never happened to us,
we may miss God completely.
We may run on by, happy in the fulness of a life “well lived”.
But would we still honor God?
Would we seek to know and worship Him?
Or would we seek our own pleasure first??

As a father myself, I realize
that I cannot protect my daughter from all harm.
But if I can, I will walk with her through it all,
and if I cannot, then I will teach her
that God walks with her everywhere she goes
calling to her for an invitation
to share in the love He has promised!

Christ has the power to redeem and restore you,
no matter where you are in your walk.
You can claim the victory in Christ now,
and know the comfort only His love can provide.

This “place”... is temporary.
It is not our home.
Nor was it ever meant to be!

 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Labels We Wear

When you awoke this morning,

did you put on a ‘Name-Tag’?

If so, what does it say?

Many of us awake each day

with a strong sense of who we are:

Mother/Father,

Son/Daughter,

Employee/Boss.


And yet many of us add a label to our names.

We do it ever so slightly...

never meaning to undermine ourselves,

but simply acknowledging the fact

of who we are

and how we expect others see us:

Failure,

Sinner,

Fearful,

Criminal.


We mess-up in raising our children,

and in loving our parents and spouses.

We have sinned against God

with our lustful idolization of others and what they have.

We have sinned at work on our expense reports

adding costs to pad our pockets, stealing from our employers.

So we rationalize our faults

by comparing ourselves with other people,

until we have nothing left

but the companions of guilt and remorse.

Then with that sad burden we believe a lie from satan

that our name-tag should include a qualifying label:

Worthless.


But then someone confronts us,

and says the label is a lie.

We get angry with them for pointing out our flaws,

and disregard the love they share

because at first it tastes sour like vinegar.

Many of us will turn and run until we hear

the inescapable truth deep inside us;

that God loved each of us enough

to reclaim us through Christ’s blood.

The same red-blood that stains

will make us clean again.


The labels wash away in His blood

and our days can begin anew.

We do not have to accept  

the failures of our past

for we have a new choice to make;

living in the joy of Christ’s light,

or the continued weight of an old label.


The sweet taste of victory will not come

by carrying the guilt of our mistakes,

but by handing them over to Jesus

and allowing His light

to burn brighter in us each day.


Others may not believe us at first

nor may we trust ourselves.

But we can trust Jesus

and believe in the change He can make.

No longer are we - Worthless.

Instead, we are immensely - Valuable.

because His death on the cross

makes all the difference!


God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family

by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do,

and it gave him great pleasure.

-Ephesians 1:5


(re-posted from July 25, 2011 - The Labels We Hate To Wear)

 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Do You "See" Your Life?

Each day, you and I make a choice.
We see ‘something’, and decide if it is good or bad.
Or rather, our life unfolds by both chance and intention
and we feel the results have but one meaning-
either to be positive, or negative.
But what if we could learn to see both?

How much effort would it take for You to stop,
and before concluding with a specific result
you looked to see anything else?

Our first(although simple) example -
My wife works as a nurse, yet sometimes is put “on-call”,
which means she doesn’t work, and instead stays home.
Is either one good or bad?
You choose:
My wife worked last nite, therefore she earned us an income.
OR
My wife didn’t work last night, and we got to spend additional time with her.
Some would say, “yeah, but... she didn’t earn an income when at home.”
And that is fact, but that forces us to look at the situation in only one manner.
The truth is different, depending on how we choose to see it.

When I went to prison, we all saw the “fact” of my incarceration.
But I chose to view it with different eyes.
So I began with a question, “How could this event be any ‘good’?”
This forced me to make a list of intentional goals,
and the most important - was to reach others for God.

Now, what I see of my “time-away” has more than one effect,
of which - I grew in faith,
I learned more by reading & studying,
I mentored and tutored men,
my relationship with my wife took a deeper intimacy,
and I pray that a seed of faith in God was planted
so others could come to know salvation through Christ.

Now, when my “business” struggles to make money
I have more time at home with my daughter,
and I can learn to be the father she needs me to be.

How will you view the events of your life?
Is there anything positive in the circumstances?
Could you choose to see it that way instead?
Because then life takes on a more beautiful color
and we can learn to trust God more in each moment,
where every situation can used for “good”.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Do You Stand For?

Before prison, I am not sure
how I would have answered that question.
I enjoyed sailing, learning, teaching, mentoring,
being a friend, relaxing & enjoying life.
But, what did I stand for?
Anything which held my interest.
Yet nothing in particular.
I had a loving belief in God,
yet I didn’t stand for God.

If you walked into the same room with me,
it may have gone unnoticed,
that I had any joy or purpose
beside that which fancied my immediate concern.
Was God important to me?
Yes.
Although you wouldn’t have known it.

How would you know if someone loves Christ?
Would they wear a “cross pendant” hanging from a necklace?
Or have an ink tattoo with a favorite bible verse?
Would they profess their “love” with their every other breath?

Maybe... just maybe, it would be in their behavior.
And perhaps they would show their love for God
by continually denying themselves,
to instead lift up others,
and to show Christ in their actions.

Did I love God? Yes.
Did I deny myself? Rarely.
Did I help others? Sometimes.
How can it look different for me, now?
By giving up my more of my comfort,
by letting go my fear of the unknown,
releasing my false ‘control’ to God,
to willingly walk in the places where Christ calls me,
regardless of how I am to be “perceived”,
or whether I could be rejected.

Have you heard the concept of a six-word “biographical sketch”?
It could be considered a ‘motto’, or personal mission.
For King David: “A Man After My Own Heart.”
So recently I came up with one for myself:
“To boldly love God and Others.”
Because if I am truly a “believer”,
then I want to truly look like it.
I dont want their to be any doubt.

Where did I get this idea?
In a beautiful post by Dave Branon in
Our Daily Bread - for March 21, 2012, link Here.

“You cannot make it as a wandering generality.

You must become a meaningful specific.”

-Zig Ziglar

And isnt that what Christ wants of us?
To be either “Hot or Cold”, and not "luke-warm"?

What will your “sketch” be like?

 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

God Celebrates the Prodigal Sons Return

My first day in jail, God brought me to a book
that changed my whole view of Him;
“Power In Praise”, by Merlin Carothers.
It is an older book, but I can summarize its entirety in one bible passage:

“in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God...”

- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

And it is difficult to do, praise God in everything.
But here is the primary reason why:
because the purpose of everything in existence
is not about me, nor my comfort or desires.
And I had to learn this the hard way,
by wasting what God had given me
and instead ‘spending’ myself in foolish pursuits.

In the process of earning an early release
through the SUMMIT Boot-Camp program
I began to see myself in a new way...
the lost son returning home.

Visualizing my eventual release,
I began to see a celebration coming!
The celebration would be like King David-
dancing before the Lord, to worship Him,
even if it meant that I too may look ‘undignified’.

So from the last incarceration I hope to ever know,
we went to the nearby beach.
I ran, jumped in the water, and did handstands...
want to see some pictures of the event?

 

When I fell to my knees I gave God thanks... for everything.
And when I ran, I felt Gods pleasure
as if He was running with me
celebrating my return.

I like to think I see God loudly exclaiming to everyone nearby,
“My son has returned to me!
What a joy it is to see him happy for My love in him.”

Do you ever think that God longs to celebrate with You?

Luke 15:7 - “I tell you there will be much rejoicing in heaven...”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Disciplined, then Returned Home After 70 Years

Why would God bring His people out of Egypt,
then later let them be exiled in a foreign country?
Not only did He do this, but it was foretold(before it happened).

The Jews began their captivity in Babylon
at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar,
lasting 70 years as prophesied in Jeremiah.

Why would a loving God allow this?
Get ready for this, because it is the hard truth...
because He loved them 
and He wished them to love Him in return.

When I was a child, I knew God was part of my life.
I never understood why, nor what it meant.
Later, in my anger, I rejected God
because I didnt understand Him.
After, when I gave up my anger
and finally came to accept Him,
I thought that was all it took.
But God wanted more of me;
to love Him, and do His will.

That often meant doing the “uncomfortable”,
the things I wished to avoid.
It meant joining God in doing His work
through the body of Christ, the church.
Like loving others - even when inconvenient.
Like feeding the homeless.
Like teaching and leading His flock.
These ideas scared me, and it felt awkward
so I found reasons to disengage and ‘bow out’.

On the day of my accident,
I clearly heard the instruction of God
but I rejected His word,
because it seemed odd for Him to speak to me,
and my plans seemed “good enough”.
But still I injured two people
and went to prison for it.
Where was God in this moment?
He was there - protecting me from myself,
and my victims from being injured worse.

God allowed me to be disciplined
so I could lose everything,
and in turn learn to completely rely on Him.
And what is the point?
God loved me too much
to leave me as I was.

And that is the same thing He did with the Jews.
Because when they returned home after 70 years,
they had a renewed faith,
and rebuilt the temple of Solomon,
re-igniting their passion for serving Him
through the love and obedience He alone deserves.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

  and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

  and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

- Hebrews 12:5-6, & Proverbs 3:12

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Comparing with Moses, the Murderer

How do you compare your own sins
against the act of murder by Moses?

Most of us cannot claim to have taken a life,
whether in the heat of anger, or accidentally.
Some have killed while in the military,
and those memories may haunt us,
but is it the same thing as murder?

We all seem to know the difference,
and in our hearts we feel it is wrong.

The dictionary defines the act different
depending on which word is used:
to kill, slay, assassinate, slaughter, butcher,
but the result is the same - life was taken.

And yet... God did not condemn Moses.

In the bible, Moses murdered a man in anger,
yet was it still a sin
since the Ten Commandments had yet to be given?
Did Moses know in his heart that it was wrong,
and if so, how?
Did Abraham, Father of the Jews,
(who lived long before Moses), know such rules?

I believe God places inside each of us
the knowledge of Good & Evil
yet because we live in a fallen world
we are sinful by nature
and choose it more frequently.

And I believe that God allows us each to live
instead of striking us dead for our sinfulness
so that we can learn what His love looks like,
and so we can become part of His story of redemption.

How was Moses made right with God?
He believed.
Then he moved forward with Gods call on his life.
And that is what God asks of you.
To believe, do His will, and learn to love Him back.

Moses was not perfect, but he did Gods will.
If God can forgive Moses and use him,
do you think He can do the same with you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning to Rely on God

When people ask about my time in prison,
there is little I like to discuss.
But when people ask how God has worked in my life,
they are hard pressed to keep me quiet.
Because I had to learn to completely rely on God.

After my accident (you can read more about it HERE ),
I couldnt control what the DA would do,
if my victims would recover,
the outcome of the trial,
whether I would keep my job,
lose my house, my wife, or my life.

I had to release to Him any thoughts of what I believed should happen.

I had to rely on God to protect me from physical harm
because I knew no one in prison, and was not part of any group or gang.

I had to rely on God to provide for us in every area:
in finances, health, and our day to day spiritual struggles.

I had to give up my control every day to God,
because I could do nothing to change the circumstances I was in.

I had to give Him my fears,
so I could trust in His plan for me and the future.
I had to learn to be grateful
for everything God had already done to sustain us,
and continue in the knowledge
that He would continue to equip us as we followed Him.

And He provided more than enough.

God blessed us with everything we needed,
even if it was not what we wanted.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

-Proverbs 3:5


What will it take for You to put your full faith in God?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Mask the Pain

When a starving woman in an African hospital was asked if she would like anything for the pain from the injury she received during the nearby war,

she said no - 'because the pain was useful to her'.


When told the food was all gone at the hospital,

she asked to receive prayer for her family.


Then when offered a bible in her native tongue,

she devoured it daily as she recovered.


Each day she waited until everyone else in the ward

had received their portion of food,

meaning she sometimes went hungry when it was all gone.

Her reasoning?

“I can survive another day on the word alone.

And when the pain is all gone - I will know I am heaven

with He who loves me eternally.

But if the hunger and pain fades,

I may wonder where I am, and shall consider myself lost.”


There is a beauty in the mournful truth of her words.

Yet I know she will never be “lost”.

Because she walks with Christ now,

and He is her Savior everyday,

in every situation.


When your pain and hunger is gone,

do You turn to the Word? Or the World??