Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Call To Die

I and the two guys that I meet with each week for accountability have recently completed the "Love Dare". If you are married, could I suggest picking up that book today. I guarantee you that God will use that tool to help shape and refine your view of your role as a husband or wife as well bring a deeper level of intimacy into your marriage. There probably will not be anything in the 40 day "Love Dare" challenge that will be new for a married person, but it is the powerful day to day reminder of what God wants for our marriages that makes this little tool so effective. It is a small investment in time that can breath new life into your marriage.

Well, since we have completed that and as we strive to not allow the "Love Dare" to be just a 40 day challenge that you do and put away, but a practice to implement every day in our marriages, we decided we would go through "A Call to Die". This is another 40 day challenge to do exactly what the title says "die". Not literally die, but to die to ourselves, to die to our pride, our sin, our lust, our selfishness and anything else that is trying to rob and kill the life that God longs to give us through Jesus Christ. I am in my first week of the challenge and it has been awesome. I am being reacquainted with Jesus' words that "those who lose their lives for His sake will find true life..." I am being reminded that the motive to dying to myself daily must be to glorify God! The study thus far has been a powerful reminder of the fact that I must kill this flesh daily and I must deal ruthlessly with my sin, because my sin does not deal gently with me.

The Scripture verse that the study had me memorize this week is John 3:16, yeah that is what I thought...come on, challenge me here. John 3:16 like that is the Christian gold standard. I bet some Christians memorize that verse as if it is a part of the membership into this Christian society or something, but once again in my ignorance, God gripped me and showed me the power of this TRUTH.

For God so loved the world (the world, that includes me) that He gave His one and only Son, (God didn't give a second rate gift, He gave His best, He showed in this act that He does not hold or hoard from me) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish (God did not leave me in my state of depravity, but instead He sent a remedy and built a bridge) but have eternal life. (God has given me life eternal, abundant life, real life, joy that can not be quenched, a life that is now worth living)

God did all this for me, not because I was worthy, but because He is merciful, good and gracious and if I am truly appreciative of this unbelievable act of love, then my only response would have to be to die to myself and live for Him. Now that sounds easy enough, but the reality is that it is not, but we have a God who is faithful and who offers His grace to us daily. Have a great day and may you answer God's call to die today! God Bless!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blessed Be The Name

Today my wife and I took our amazingly beautiful little girl, Emily, to the neurologist. This was an appointment that had been made months ago at the request of our pediatrician. Emily has not been on a growth chart yet. She is this little fire ball, with a strong will and a lot of personality. Our pediatrician has been a little concerned and suggested that we have her checked out to make sure she does not have microencephalus, which is a fancy way of saying small head syndrome. Like I mentioned before, this appointment had been made months ago, so it's been one of those things that you didn't want to think about too much or for too long. We have just been praying and trusting that all of this is in God's hands and we know that and do believe that. Well today the doctor told us she is fine, in fact her head size is actually on the growth chart, barely, but its there. There was this huge sigh of relief for my wife and I as well as just an attitude of gratitude for God's grace.

When I got back to my office, I began to reflect on what had just happened and in a matter of seconds it felt as though I had been hit with a two by four of emotions repeatedly. I was relieved that everything was okay, but at the same time I was broken because good friends of ours were in the middle of the state at a neurologist appointment for their unborn child and the news they received today was not good. My heart breaks for this couple and what they are facing in this moment and in the months to come. I reflected on the fact that the same God that steered my daughter clear of harm today, is the same God who is allowing our friends to go through this storm. And once again I came face to face with the reality that whatever the news regarding Emily had been GOD IS STILL GOOD and He alone is worthy of all my life. It is one of those things that is easy to say, easy to hear in sermons, great to sing in Christian songs, yet we don't fully understand until we are faced with the reality and the profoundness of that TRUTH.

My prayer is that heart would be ready to say as Job did though he slay me, yet I will praise Him...because the truth is that is the surrendered life Christ calls me to. It is one thing to sing "blessed be your name" on the weekend and sing it in the midst of our storms, in the midst of our crisis, in the midst of those moments when God's ways don't make sense. I long to live there, but I would be less than honest if I did not say at times it is tough. And in those moments I am thankful that God is forgiving, God is patient and God is willing to grant me His grace. I know that this is a rambling of all ramblings but I leave you with this challenge and this question...Do you truly believe today that in your heart of hearts you can say "God is good" even when His ways don't make sense or worse, even when His ways may hurt? The answer to that question isn't in a song, a sermon, a great quote, it comes only from our intimacy with God. It comes either from our lack of or richness in our relationship with the Father. May we live so connected to Him, that regardless of where our journey with Him may take us, may we sing and live loudly the truth "He gives and takes away,blessed be the name of the Lord!" A crazy rambling, I know, have a great week just the same. God Bless You.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Psalm 104

This morning I was reading Psalm 104 and I was confronted with the true majesty, power and sovereignty of God. I was reacquainted with the fact that everything I see is sustained by God and for God.

27 All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them,they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified;when you take away their breath,they die and return to the dust.30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works— 32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,who touches the mountains, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.

As I mediated on these verses this morning I was convicted by the fact that I fail a lot of times in recognizing the manifestation of God's glory and power around me. Whether it is in a sunrise, a sunset, a conversation, my interaction with my beautiful wife or amazing kids or evidence of life change in those I minister to, I miss a lot of what God is doing. There are countless reasons for my ignorance or inability to recognize God's beauty and activity, but none of them are justified before a Holy God and I was powerfully reminded about that today. My honest prayer this morning was "God let me rejoice in you and let me not squander the opportunities that you present before me to delight in your beauty and participate in your activity!" If you get a chance read and meditate over Psalm 104, I guarantee you won't be disappointed. I pray that you also will desire not to miss the beauty of our amazing God at work all around us. Maximize the day and ask God to set your feet in the cleft so that you will have a front row seat to the display of His glory-what's better than that? Just a rambling from someone on the journey. God Bless You!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Weekend

Alright attention all Summit Church attenders, this weekend is a huge weekend for our church. It is a great opportunity for us to partner with God in reaching our community. According to a recent study done by George Barna 83% of people will say yes to an invitation to church when invited by a friend, co-worker or family member. I like those odds...We are praying for God to move mightily in our services this weekend.

Everything gets kicked off tomorrow with our Good Friday Services at 6pm and 7:30pm. There will be programming for pre-schoolers birth to 5yrs old at the 6pm service only. Our Good Friday Service is an extremely reflective and experential service. It is the perfect environment to truly relfect on the magnitude of Christ sacrifice for us. You will not want to miss this service. I guarantee you will leave blessed. Then we will have 5 Easter services. Two on Saturday night at 5pm and 6:30pm. We will have free Chik-Fil-A following each of the Saturday Night Services. Sunday we will have services at 8:30, 10 and 11:30am. We will have an Easter egg hunt for kids after every service. So let me challenge you to invite a friend or two and join us in praying for a powerful and life changing weekend. It is going to be awesome!!!

How's Your "I"?

Over the last several weeks God has been wrecking me with His Truth and it has been so liberating, humbling and encouraging. One of the things that God has been revealing to me in this season is the detrimental destructive power of the word "I" in my walk with Him, in my relationships, and in ministry. One letter, that forms one word can truly hinder and destroy all that God desires to do in and through your life and mine. Let me explain what I mean by that.

The word "I" in so many different ways and forms can put me in the center of everything. The word "I" can easily fool me into believing that some how I am the most important thing on God's mind. The word "I" can mislead me into thinking that somehow I am more important than others and that somehow "I" have become the center of God's universe! Now I know as you read those statements you must be thinking that is a little much. That is not what happens, that is not what "I" or others believe when we are, well for a lack of better phrase, "in love with myself."

Now I am not saying that we can never use the word I, that would be ridiculous. What God has illuminated and convicted me of, is the danger of failing to recognize who I am in light of Christ and what God has called me to be and reflect.

Let me give you some food for thought here...when I am consumed with "I", I will always struggle to live out the biblical mandate of Phil. 2 which commands me to look out for the interest of others. Whenever I am locked in on "I", I will always struggle with Jesus challenge in John 13 when after He washed the disciples feet He said "go and do likewise." As a husband if I become blinded by the distortion of "I", then you better believe that I will also struggle to be the spiritual leader that Ephesians 5 commands me to be to my wife. If my heart becomes clouded and darken by the trappings of "I", then you can bet that I will never be the friend that God desires me to be to those in my circle of influence. You see whatever way you slice it, "I" can be a slippery and dangerous slope to self-destruction. I mean the Bible is pretty clear that "pride goes before destruction."

Being in ministry can be a double whammy...and as a pastor a constant chant should be no whammy, no whammy, no whammy, right, you maybe too young to remember that game show. Ministry puts a person in the lime light and in ministry you can easily become attracted to the praise of men, just being honest-it happens to the best of us. The danger is that the more you listen to the "press" of people's delusion of how great they think you are, you just may start believing it and once that happens, watch out. The next steps that follow are statements and beliefs like this ook at what "I" have done", that was an awesome sermon "I" preached, "I" built this church from nothing, "I" saved this number of people and so on and so on it goes. Now most pastors are good communicators so it may not be as blatant as I just described but if you listen close enough, it's there.

These are the some of the things that God has been convicting me and stripping me of. In short I am hearing God's small still voice shouting hey buddy "get rid of the "I" and remember who you are in light of who I AM. It has been a wonderful ride and I pray that God would keep His mighty hand on my heart and continue to purge my soul of this little destructive word "I".

Here are the "I"'s that God has been reacquainting me with...they are powerful. I encourage you to try them...

"I have sinned." 1 John 1:9

"I can do nothing apart from you, God." John 15:5

"I need you, God." Psalm 73:25-28

"I am wrecked!" Isaiah 6

"I am just a voice." John the Baptist John 1:23

"I press on towards Christ." Phil. 3:7-14

May our prayer echoes John the Baptist, may "I" decrease so that the Lord could increase in and through my life.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Doers of the Word...

It has been a crazy two weeks. My computer crashed while I was in Peru so I basically have been working off of my Blackberry. So needless to say I am pretty behind in keeping off with my blog. So here is my attempt to capture some of the cool God-events from the last few days.

This weekend absolutely rocked!!! Through the servants of Summit Church we were able to moilize the largest group of volunteers Habitat for Humanity Lee County has ever had. We had over 150 of our people serve this past Saturday to put the walls and trusses up on four houses in a low income area of LaBelle. It was absolutely awesome! I was so proud of our people. They never cease to amaze me.

This past weekend we also continued our series through the book of James entitled "Mixed Up, Messed Up, 'Fess Up". It was a really great weekend, for no other reason then God's Spirit was at work. On Saturday night, right before we were going to close the service down I felt God telling me to present the body with an opportunity to be doers of the Word, which is what we talked about. I have got to be completely honest I was as hesitant as all get out, but one of things God convicted me of while I was in Peru was being a man of complete obedience. When God speaks I want to act and when God tells me to say something I want to say it. So anyway before the close of the service I told our people that I had been contacted by the Fort Myers Soup Kitchen and that they were need of men's tennis shoes and bug repellent. So I asked our body this question, "what would it look like if we the body went to Target and bought a pair of shoes or a can of bug repellent?"

The response absolutely floored me. I will tell you in a moment the totals, but here is the cool part. As soon as I walked down of the stage a lady came up to me and said you won't believe this but on my way to church I felt the Lord leading me to stop and buy a pair of men's tennis shoes and bring them to church...YUP! That's exactly what I thought, NO WAY! She handed me the box of shoes and every hair on my arm was sticking straight up. God is so good! Through the generosity and obedience of the people at Summit and God's amazing grace we collected 300 pairs of shoes, close to 200 cans of bug repellent, globs of toothpaste, tooth brushes and soap. It was so amazing, and thanks to the kindness of some friends we were able to sort it all on Monday night and thanks to some good buddies of mine it is all being delivered today. Every pair of sneaker was stuffed with a new testament bible, track or personal encouraging note from one of the great people at Summit!

"Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says...Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look out for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:22 & 27

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Just A Rambling

I am still processing all of my thoughts from our trip to Peru and I still have not downloaded my pictures from our trip, so I am not quite ready to share about my experience and our time. So instead I thought I would drop the Truth that God revealed to me this morning from Psalm 119:33-35

33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight

Currently we are engaged in our new series studying through the Book of James entitled "Mixed Up, Messed Up, 'Fess Up". I love this book. Scholars say that the book of James is probably one of the least theological books in the entire New Testament. It's not that James was not interested in theology, but he was much more interested in the practice of our faith over the profession of it. This week I have been hammered to the core as I have been studying the remaining verses from chapter one that I have to teach on this weekend. James talks about that we need to make sure that we are not just hearers of the Word but doers!

So the questions that continued to rise up in my heart and mind were, is God's Word truly being seen through my life? Is the Word of God so implanted in me as James states that it is truly making a change from the inside out? Then I read this passage this morning and what God illuminated for me, was this, I need to be very careful not to read God's Word to finish, or even read it as a form of study, but to truly read it because it is my delight. Read the Word, come to the Word, study the Word because as I do my heart is filled, my life is strenghten and my joy is found.

I think a lot of times as Christians we do our devotionals as though it was a rote thing, or something to check off our to do list. And the danger in that is that we miss the wonder and the awe of coming before God and we may even lull ourselves into not expecting God to reveal His glory to us. The Word of God is active, alive, sharper than any two edged swords, and so much more and with that it should be our greatest need, our greatest treasure and our greatest delight. Good reading to you today...God Bless You!