Saturday, March 31, 2018

The power of a look

It's been a while since I blogged. To provide a bit of a life update, Alaina is now two years old and keeps my wife and I pretty busy. Last fall I left my position with Christian Student Fellowship at Penn State. I won't go into the reasons behind that decision, but since that time I've been able to be more present with my family. Getting Alaina to go to bed and stay in bed has been a struggle recently and despite the time spent each night, I'm glad I can be home to help put Alaina in bed.

Earlier tonight Alaina was cuddled in my lap as we sat in the rocking char. I had just finished singing the hymn "It is well with my soul" which is one of our regular bed time songs. As I rocked her she looked up at me at one point. I looked down and smiled. She saw my smile and smiled back. This went on for several minutes with her looking up, me smiling back, and this big grin spreading across her face. 

At two years of age Alaina can already tell when we're happy and when we're upset. And she takes her cues from us. When we celebrate something she claps her hands. If we get scared because she's about to do something she shouldn't, she get's upset. 

There's a lot of power in a simple look. Each expression communicates a message, intentional or unintentional. 

This weekend we are observing Easter. Not willing that anyone should perish apart from Him, God sent Jesus into the world to communicate face to face His heart for His people. In Jesus we see the compassion God has for the lost (Matthew 9), the anger He feels over man's greed (John 2), and the heartache He experiences when He sees us suffering (John 11). In Jesus we see God's delight in His Son (Matthew 3) and we see a glimpse of the delight He has with us. Romans 8 tells us we are co heirs with Christ and if we are brothers and co-heirs how much more does God also delight in us?!

In Jesus we also see the Father turn his face away (Matthew 27). Jesus takes our sin upon Himself. He takes our punishment upon Himself. He takes God's wrath upon Himself. Everything Jesus experiences on the cross, the rejection, the mocking, the suffering, was meant for us. Before we accepted Christ God was turning His face away. But because of Christ He turns His gaze back towards us. 

And He smiles. 

As we celebrate the risen Savior, let us reflect on the face of Jesus. What do you see in His face this Easter? Joy? Sadness? Delight? Concern? Whatever you see, know that God wants to delight in you. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Power of Transformation

One of the key stories we look at during Foxholes here at Penn State is Mark 5:1-20. In the story Jesus encounters a man possessed by demons. This man had been alienated from his family, and culture. No one could help him. He broke chains that tried to subdue him, and cut himself with stones, crying out every day/night.

Then he meets Jesus. As powerful as this man was, Jesus was stronger. Jesus drives the demons out of the man, and his personality instantly changes. Now the man is calm, sober, and even dresses himself in new clothes. The people were amazed and terrified of Jesus at the same time. Amazed because Jesus made whole the unreachable. Terrified of the power Jesus wields to change lives.

And when the man begs to follow Jesus, He gives him a different assignment. Why didn’t Jesus accept this man as a disciple? Jesus instead sends him home to his family to share what God has done for him. The result? The people in his hometown were amazed at this life changing miracle.

Sure he could have impacted the world as one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. We might have even learned his name down that path. But instead Jesus sends him to be a witness for him in a city that Jesus likely never visited Himself.

As Christians we know we should be telling others about Jesus. But often we feel unprepared, inadequate. This man had only spent a single day with Jesus. But he recognized how Jesus had changed his life, and that alone transformed him into an effective witness for God.

We don’t have to know the Bible cover to cover, or have a seminary education to lead others to Christ. The power of our own story and how Jesus works in our lives is enough for God to use.

Don’t be afraid! Tell the world your story and what God has done for you. I have found that often the world will pay more attention to your story of transformation, than the life of one man changed thousands of years ago.

Who will you share your story with?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Noisy Lives

I have returned to the blogging world. My wife and I continue to do ministry at Penn State. Our baby will be here in 8 days or less!

This past semester we have been speaking on spiritual rhythms at CSF. Last Tuesday I spoke about the listening to God. The following are some of the thoughts I shared.

There’s a difference between knowing truths about someone and knowing someone. Example: Have you heard of God’s goodness or have you experienced his goodness for yourself? God doesn’t want us to just know things about him. He wants us to know him personally.

How we get to know someone personally is by spending time with them. But in our culture today undivided attention is at a premium. We talk to one friend, and text another. When we think about it, our lives are very noisy.

In 1 Kings 19:1-18, there’s a story about a man who hears from God, but has to look beyond the noise to do so. Elijah was a man on the run, ready to throw in the towel. Elijah desperately needed to hear encouragement from God.

But when God speaks, he doesn’t speak in a spectacular or supernatural way. Instead God spoke to Elijah as a gentle whisper.

God still speaks to us today, but often His voice is drowned out by the noise in our own lives. When Jesus was on earth, his life became very noisy with all the crowds following him to see miracles, or to hear his teaching. When Jesus needed time with God the Father, he would separate himself and seek quiet time with God. In Mark 1:34 we read:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

If you desire to know God personally and not just know things about him, then you will have to cut the noise out of your life, detaching yourself for a little while in order to hear that still small voice.

Don’t be afraid to turn your phone off for 15-30 minutes. If you’re out for a drive, leave the radio off, and spend time praying to God. God wants uninterrupted time with you. You will have to decide how much you want to experience God.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Meaningful Prayer

It's been too long since I last regularly updated my blog. I will be making more of an effort to share what God is teaching me as well as observations from my walk with God. So let's get back at it!

During the summer our CSF (Christian Student Fellowship) staff have been starting our staff meetings on Monday morning by spending some time in Psalms. This past Monday we read Psalm 5. As we dug into the passage one verse really caught my attention:

"In the morning Lord you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Lately life has been busy with a seemingly endless list of tasks. You would think summer session would mean campus ministry slows down quite a bit. But between moving, spending time at a church camp, meeting new students, life remains busy. In the middle of that I've noticed my prayers mainly revolve around meal times.

Just the other day as I felt the pressure of everything I needed to get done over the next two weeks I found myself calling out to Jesus. As I asked for his help with these burdens I realized how little I've had meaningful prayer time lately.

Often we pray to God like we're leaving someone a voicemail. We dial, we leave a message for why we're praying, then we say "in Jesus name Amen" This is why Psalm 5:3 stood out to me. Here David would share with God what lay on his heart, then he would wait expectantly. David gave God time to reply, and while he waited, he enjoyed God's presence. Reading that my heart immediately begins to desire some uninterrupted time with God. Time where I can set aside all the "to do's" and just enjoy Him.

Summer may have presented more of a work load than I first anticipated, but some of that load will have to wait until after I take some time in my day to spend with Jesus.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Minefields and Blind Faith

Last week we began to meet freshman who are beginning their academic career here at Penn State. About 20 students new to CSF came out to play Ultimate Frisbee. That evening we also kicked off our Summer Bible study with an introductory night but the real highlight was God showing up and showing off.

For Bible study, we had 4 new students who'd also played frisbee with us earlier that afternoon. After some introductions we took part in navigating each other through a mine field with our eyes closed and only listening to our partners instructions to safely pass through. Some students only got a few steps in before suffering casualties, others made it safely through. (Note to readers, the mines consisted of squares of bubble wrap that popped when stepped on!)

Watching the students display different styles of giving/following instructions became a big discussion topic afterwards as we talked about the importance of knowing who you can trust. Sometimes in life you have to step out in blind faith not knowing what's ahead and have to trust those around you who do  see the picture. Following God is a lot like that.

Between the discussion, and the rousing success of the minefield, and the attendance of students new to the ministry, we had plenty to praise God for that evening and the next few days. Then on Sunday and Monday, I found myself anxious over how well our study would continue this week. "Will we have another great discussion?" "Is Nick prepared enough?" (Nick is a fellow staff member and recent graduate of Penn State). "Is there another activity we could use to engage students interest?"

Then last night while reading through the story of the Ten Lepers in Luke 17:11-19 God smacked me in the face. Once the ten found themselves healed, only 1 returned to praise God. The other 9 continued on with their lives. Even though I gave credit to God last week for our Bible study, this week I'd fallen back into a mindset of thinking our success depended solely on ourselves.

Father forgive me for such thinking. We can only bear fruit by abiding in you.

Which reminds me of a statement Buzz made two weeks ago in our campus minister's class. A statement I've never heard any other church or ministry declare before. "We cannot guarantee our own fruitfulness. God is responsible for that."

I see myself needing time to continue adopting to that mindset. I will likely continue to discover areas in my mind and heart where I still believe it's all up to us. But in truth, it's all up to God.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Preparing for marriage

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been! I still can't believe I drove from NC to PA, then from PA to KS, then from KS to PA, and now find myself in SD after flying. Getting everything moved from two different states to our new home in PA went much smoother than I would have hoped. Even some automotive work on the Jeep before leaving for KS only proved a minor battle.

This morning I'm enjoying a rainy day. Normally I like sunshine, but I can't stop gazing out the house windows today. My spirit is drinking in the rain.

Most of the wedding preparations finished, we just have final details to put together this week. Getting ready for marriage however is a process I see now God has been directing for a few years in my life. Marrying Joanna has not been a decision I entered into lightly, but one I made knowing our marriage would be a means for God to continue sanctifying both of us. While nobody else could make me happier than Joanna, choosing to continue seeking to know each other completely, to love and desire one another will require work on both our parts. And we are ready as we can be.

What I've realized this past week is how much strength it takes. I'm not talking physical. I'm talking about spiritual, mental, and emotional strength required to provide reassurances daily. I'm finding it takes a lot of strength to not only fight for Joanna, but to fight with her against spiritual attack. Yes we have a different approach to grocery shopping. We handle stress and conflict differently. Being humble through those moments, acknowledging that our way isn't the only way, and showing control requires strength.

Abiding in God, walking by his grace, and receiving his love will replenish my strength that I can continue to offer to Joanna. Marriage will continue requiring strength, continue to be a means by which God transforms us. Marriage will at times be hard. But our marriage will be worth it. Our marriage will be worth everything because we will paint a portrait of what God's love for mankind looks like.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Measuring one's life

Yesterday I made the move from the coast of NC to the mountains of PA, leaving the place I've called home for nearly 25 years of my life. After weeks of purging and trips to the Salvation Army and home, my life's belongings fit into my Jeep and a trailer, materially speaking in a box.

Watching the series finale of the Office with two of my closest friends, and getting dinner with two more close friends from my days in Greenville capped off my chapters of life in Wilmington. Having a hard time saying goodbye to those friends (for now) reminded me how dear they've become to me.

Moving, getting married, so many other little things changing essentially means I'm completely starting over within the next few months. Amidst all this change I have to wonder how do you measure one's life?

Life doesn't come down to what you have, don't have, or can't part with materially.

Life doesn't come down to where you live whether its near the beach in a first world country or the jungle of a third world nation.

Life is having friends who will miss you and take some time out of their busy days to say goodbye and to give you hugs. Having friends who check in to see if you made it safely, friends who help you move out/move in.

Life is knowing you've impacted the lives of others, even as their lives have impacted yours. Life is knowing God as worked in you in such a way, that your fiance is proud to take on your name. Life is encountering the beauty of God, and being privileged to experience his beauty not only living in the mountains but in 3 weeks, my wife.

Life is knowing that ultimately this isn't our home, but only a shadow of the things to come. (Colossians 2:17)