Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Who is this?"

Mark 4:35-41 contains a passage I’m pretty familiar with, recently as I was reading through, the thought struck me how this is a typical Sunday school story, one often repeated to kids in church. Every so often I come across passages like this and have to intentionally slow down, and really ask God to show me something to chew on.

This time He directed my thoughts to how the disciples really questioned God. They question whether he cares about their well-being, and once he actually calms the waves and the wind, they question “Who is this? Even the win and the waves obey him!”

This led me to ask myself the question how often do I question God? Surely not often I tell myself, I trust God completely I think to myself.

But the more I pray, the more I realize I question God, just not in obvious ways. My questioning, my doubt in him comes in subtle ways such as acting without seeking his direction, assuming I know best.

Questioning God seems preposterous, like the disciples wondering if Jesus even cared whether they drowned or not. The answer seems obvious, and yet we doubt God anyway.

When I choose not to be obedient to his word, to not give a tithe, to not pray his will, or ask his permission, I question his sovereignty and declare I know better.

Father, enter into my questioning heart. I know I will question you in the future, but speak louder in those cases and challenge me to place more faith in you. Let me actively seek to corral my heart into trusting you more.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Under the hood currently

I’ve come to discover two things over the past few months, made clear more recently like a giant mental billboard.

I have some amazing opportunities at both jobs to reveal Jesus. I may not have the opportunities to sit down with a Bible, or pray with someone without being asked by a manager to stop chatting and keep working, but I still have opportunities to display what Jesus is about, and to go against the stream of where culture is headed today.

My co-workers see that I don’t go out and get myself wasted on weekends, that I use clean language, etc. They find it odd/different how I’m dating/courting a girl, like how we don’t stay in the same apartment/house as each other when we visit. Some of the other boundaries are crazy to them too. That I will pause my job when human need arises at a very personal level reveals a work that is in me that is far beyond anything I can humanly be intentional about. It’s not campus ministry where I can take someone through scriptures over the course of an hour or two, and provide guidance to someone who is at a stage in their life where they are deciding the course of their life, but I can have a huge impact all the same.

Secondly, I am finally coming to realize how big a need I have to be fathered right now. I’ve known for months that I crave time with father figures in my life. I leap at chances to even cut wood with someone, assemble a sign, or any other activity that puts me in company with older men. I have a dad yes, and he was there for me growing up. He read bed-time stories to me, showed me how to shave, how to drive, change oil etc. But that wasn’t nearly enough time spent together. Living in Wilmington, getting home every two-three months, I realize I miss this even further.

I have a huge void in my life. Working with Glen while I interned with UNCW temporarily filled this void, but now since my internship wrapped up, I’ve only seen him on a few occasions, and never more than ten minutes. I’ve reached a point where I have to let God father me, and rely on him to provide fathering through humans as He sees fit, providing gifts I treasure.

Not an area I expected to discover in my quiet time last night, but a place I want to travel now with God.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Aiming High

Recently I’ve been thinking about who I am. Am I who I want to be? How do other’s see me? I’ve been taking a self-inventory if you will.

I’ve become aware over the past few years that to some people, I give the impression of having it all together. To them I appear as one who struggles with little, a poster boy of what being Christian means. I appear at peace.

Some of my friends know otherwise. They know how I’ve struggled. Like when I seek to resolve conflict, I become pushy while seeking resolution. I’ve struggled with confidence, and insecurities, some dating back to middle school. I scrutinize myself under a fine microscope, comparing myself to the life Christ lived himself, to Paul, and others. I try to hold myself to a high standard because as I face hard questions Christianity presents, I seek to answer them the way I feel God would have me.

But I fail so many times at being where I want to be. I don’t find myself compassionate enough to the homeless and the hungry. I’m not humble enough to admit a mistake to an arrogant co-worker. And so I berate myself, and say I’ll do better.

Paul says it well in Romans 7:14-25. “I have desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.”

I am reminded like the Lost Son in Luke 15 that I cannot work to bring about my own redemption, I cannot earn my own restoration, cannot work enough to restore what I’ve lost and continue to lose. Last year God taught me much about having faith in Him, this year it is about faithfulness to Him.

And in light of all this, Paul’s words finally lose the sound of being cliché, and a truth hammers home for the first time. “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-Through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Only God’s grace through Jesus can save me from myself, and only His grace can take me where I want to go. I am powerless to do anything except to throw up my hands, admit futility, and receive God’s grace.

By the same token, I’m finally accepting that I cannot force growth and maturity as a Christian. I have to surrender and accept growth from God. I am a plant that is dependent upon rain, sunlight and, nutrients in the soil. I cannot control them, or place them on a cycle. I must receive what comes.

I must surrender, even as my human nature fights to have responsibility for my growth and my sanctification. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

The trap of speculation

Last night before I went to bed I spent some quiet time in a devotional by John Eldridge. He’s one of my favorite author’s.

He shared some thoughts about a conversation his wife and him had over breakfast about sanctifying one’s imagination. Part of his thought process went on briefly to consider speculation as part of one’s imagination. From there it hit me just how big a trap speculation can be. Satan is known as the father of lies, and like a master of strategist, he knows in a war to attack the lines of communication. He knows to distort the truth, and to heighten fears.

Speculation preys upon fears, and failed expectations.

“They haven’t called yet. They probably would rather talk to someone else.”

“My car engine’s making a funny sound. The engine is probably about to blow up.”

Speculation takes advantage of fear to sow seeds of mistrust. Speculation turns those fears into anger, and further into pain. Eldridge hit the nail on the head when he called speculation godless. We have to be careful not to let speculation run rampant.

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

We have to focus on what is fact and what is truth, and often remind ourselves of the two to combat speculation and to see through Satan’s attempts to trap us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why I think a recession is good for America

Yesterday evening I met up with some guys at a local McDonalds and we began to share what God’s been teaching us lately, and what we’ve seen on the mission field recently. Why we shared about some different destinations each of us has visited in the past year, we ultimately circled back to America as a mission field.

Did you know there are countries that send missionaries here?

There are. Recently some Americans were flying to South Korea and while at the airport, ran into some Koreans inbound from their destination. As they talked the Americans shared about their missionary journey to S.K. The Koreans to the Americans surprise were headed to America for the same purpose!

Many people groups across hundreds of countries have never heard the name of Jesus in their language; many don’t even have scriptures to turn to. And yet here in America we find barriers to the Gospel as prevalent as anywhere. And a majority of people could only tell you very little to none about the Gospel.

Wealth has lulled us into complacency, given us a false security. We rely on ourselves, seeking peace, love, and a good moral conscious. We seek to find a great playing job, have some stocks in the market building interest and bringing in a bigger return. Our very culture is one of endless forms of entertainment to pass away the time.

Our culture bombards us with enough to distract us, to turn our attention from God. We supplement the good things he desires to give us with our own provisions.

And here is why I think a recession is good for America. Great for the church even. We are forced (some of us, but not all) to make do with less. We must look beyond ourselves to fulfill our needs. We are reminded what is truly important.

“But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given unto you as well” Matthew 6:33

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coming to Grips

For the past year God’s impressed upon me in various ways and through various sources a truth contained in two verses.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Those two verses carry the core of Christianity, the way of following Christ. Those two verses set us apart from indigenous religions that attempt to manipulate God into doing our will. Those two verses set us apart from religious which tell us we have to complete specific good works to earn our redemption with God. And I’ve known for some time now in the grand scheme of my life that I can’t do enough good things to make myself right with God.

But I’ve found recently that while I know I cannot commit any action to improve my standing with Him, I still buy into the idea that by omitting certain actions I will find myself more in the right spot. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s the same false belief.

I think if I choose to be less selfish for example that I will be more in step with the Spirit.  Oswald Chambers points out in “My Utmost For His Highest” that we can only be right with God by accepting the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. We have to admit we are powerless to affect our own righteousness and must depend solely on God.

Ultimately by reaching this point, we should find freedom. Freed from the burden of constantly striving to improve our condition, we can be wrapped around by the arms of God even more. Thus we have surrender in freedom, although freedom through such means goes against our human nature and intellect.

For me personally I know this will mean more wrestling and even down the road I will struggle over this at times. But moving forward, I’m spending time in prayer and coming to grips with all this.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wonderful Overkill

This past week has been rather crazy. A couple of surprises and a couple of turning points. Some good, some bad. But they came all at once seemingly, and I've not had time to truly process them all yet. Add in work, and feeling disconnected from the larger body of Christ, and I've found myself quite exhausted physically but especially spiritually.

So I went in to work at 7am, got off by 4, packed, ran an errand and hit the road for home to attend some memorial services for a great aunt. On the ride home I switched through some different tracks to keep me awake and alert. Eventually I turned off the music and answered the whispers of "Come unto me" that I'd felt more urgently the more tired I got.

What started off as a rushed, clumsy voicemail of a prayer led me to spiritually fall on my knees. (I was still driving, hands on the wheel and feet where they should be so key word there is spiritually).

How often we misuse the word wonderful. We go out to eat, devour some friend chicken and we call it wonderful. Break down the word, and let's focus on wonder. Not as in "I wonder why Hawaii has an interstate" and yet you can't drive to another state on it.

When were you last filled with true wonder? Something that left a lasting impression on you? Like seeing a shooting star so close over head it's really a huge blue fireball? (Saw one such with a group of ECU friends back in 2010).

God is wonderful. The God of wonders (to use a popular but sometimes overplayed song). The God of wonders so amazing, each of them leaves a life impression on us. Similar is awesome (another overused word) to leave us in awe.

Suddenly throwing out "God you are awesome, and you are wonderful" is more than words, more than a cliche, more than a rushed automatic greeting at the start of a prayer. Suddenly they overwhelm us and make us truly worship.

And somehow in that moment, the burden gets a little lighter.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What does God delight in?

Recently I began to read My Utmost for his Highest, and devotional by Oswald Chambers (some have called it the best devotional out there). One of the readings two days ago was taking about joy. Chambers wrote that one of the last marks of intimacy between people is to share secret joys. Things that really bring you happiness.

I'm still undecided on if I believe that's really one of the last marks of intimacy crossed between two people. Maybe it is, but this got me thinking as Chambers went on to ask how often do we ask what brings God joy?

This brought me to a screeching halt, much like if you're driving down a highway and a deer runs out in front of you.

I haven't given all that much thought to what God delights in. Sure there's some obvious passages like Isaiah 58 or even children that might suffice as answers, but I've never really spent time in prayer asking God to show me what He delights in.

For the next few days I'm going to be intentional about setting aside prayer time to just ask God what He delights in, then to sit and listen.

Maybe this is what the line "joy of the Lord" really means, understanding what brings God joy, and having our delights transformed to match his.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post Internship Update

Hard to believe I’m not a CCF intern anymore, or presently with CCF, after 5 years of my life consisting of such. Still adjusting to thinking of the internship in the past tense. Work’s been good, seem to be excelling there, and I can see myself advancing given enough time.

 Picking up extra shifts at work has helped tremendously, but I'm also seeing few opportunities to enjoy time with friends. I missed church this past Sunday which turned out to be a bigger deal than I would have first thought personally. I assumed I'd be able to make it up with some focused quiet time, but there's no substitute for real fellowship.

 I also really miss the staff, especially just praying together. I'd give an awful lot, just to visit the beach with somebody around sunset and just spend an hour praying together, which I was custom to do most of last summer. I am searching for a post college small group, but all I'm finding is a handful of other guys who are searching in vain for the same thing. Maybe this means us banding together and starting one ourselves.

 But in all this, I’m finding that even post internship, I’m faced with the need to rely more fully on God. I can turn to him for fellowship, turn to him in prayer and pour out my thoughts and emotions, and if I quiet my mind enough, I can hear him speak to me on them, and receive the advice and viewpoints I need to make sense of life as I know it currently.

 Let me also be clear. I may not vocationally be in ministry, but I’m continuing to study, and grow more in knowledge and in God’s word. I’m praying about beginning discipleship with a friend of mine who recently moved to the area from Oklahoma, and I intend to continue to make God famous in however many ways I can until I can return to ministry full time.

P.S. Expect thoughts later this week on some of my recent quiet times including why I meditate better on a beach overlooking the ocean

Monday, March 26, 2012


I’ve noticed lately, that I’ve become envious of friendship. Envious of friends who get dinner together, friends who go places, who enjoy each other’s company while I myself am alone during those times. This is not a good place to be.

So I started praying and asking God why I’m so envious. As I asked and listened God drew me back to some wounded places in my heart that still haven’t healed. I find in this desolate, bombed out place, memories from middle school and high school. Memories where I was rejected by dozens of people, told to my face “Why are you hanging around us? Go somewhere else.” I vividly recall one in the cafeteria, another in a classroom, and another where a teacher even asked me why I showed up to class 30 minutes early every morning and wasn’t out talking with anybody else. I could show you the exact places where each of these took, that’s how scarred I am from these moments.

During college I finally began to discover who I am, and found myself accepted by people for the first time. But over the past year, I’ve found my heart attacked numerous times, more bombs falling, I’m being herded back to that same wounded place in my heart.

And in the middle of all this pain, there’s a longing to be accepted, which grows up like a weed manifesting itself as envy when my friends hang out without me.

“Father come into this desolate bombed out place. Wrap your arms around me, and whisper truth to me. Heal my heart, transform these broken places into beautiful memorials that reflect your love. Remind me often that I do have friends who enjoy my company. Transform that weed into a flower, removing the envy, leaving only the need. Fulfill that need as you see fit Father. And draw me to others, who have been hurt in this way. Show/Inspire me to be a friend to those who have no friends, no one to hang with. Let me be Jesus to those who need just one person to accept them, just as I seek acceptance myself. Let my heart again overflow with joy, that those around me might be blessed.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PCB Wrap Up

Our last night giving rides and putting a team on the street brought many significant conversations including lives we believe we impacted the most on the whole trip. Having had several days to adjust to the environment, learn the layout and get into a flow of what the Spirit was doing in PCB, we found ourselves eager and bold.

Coupled by praying for each assignment before picking them up, we found many conversations turning spiritual. As I drove the van, I found myself privileged to be supporting and assisting all the students in conversation. What time I wasn’t focusing on traffic, I was either praying for conversations as they happened or listening to the spirit, and timely asking different questions to open up conversation about God and letting students take back over once the corner in the conversation had been turned.

I can’t express how much of a joy it was to hear students pouring out in conversation all the teaching we’ve presented this year in CCF. I heard material from our discipleship books, from aCRe, our retreats, the missionary convention, and even teaching from the talks I gave just recently. Seeing that teaching get regurgitated was awesome!

Close to midnight, we picked up a group of girls, and as we dropped them off, one girl got back in and asked to keep riding with us. Maria didn’t previously tell her friends of her intentions, and soon they were calling/texting her to ask why she stayed, and what was she thinking. She told them she was fine, that we hadn’t abducted her and that she wanted to talk with us more.

For the next 3 hours, she rode with us as we picked up other assignments. She poured out her heart, expressing her brokenness over sin, feeling lost towards God, and about her friends who she knew would chastise her for staying and not partying with them more. During all this time, she cried as the rode in the back and shared her story in between tissues.

Our group talked with her extensively, counseling her, and praying with her at various moments. We ultimately dropped her off as our last drop off of the night around 3am. Our hearts remain broken for her.

Be praying for her to find reconciliation, peace, and to remember what we shared with her. That the love and compassion we had on her will encourage her to seek out other Christians and that she would find her way into God’s arms.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

God Humbled Himself

I've been tracking through Luke as I spend quiet times, often spending several days on a single passage asking God how what he reveals applies to my life, and seeing what He reveals about himself. Tonight while in the prayer room at PCB doing Beach Reach, God pieced together something awesome.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place." Philippians 2:8

God, the creator of the universe humbled himself. Re-read that last statement and let your mind grasp that.

This is why God is glorified, why He is worthy of our praise. God as our Father humbled Himself in reaching down to us. Remember in the Lost Son how the father ran out to his son, disgracing himself when custom would have been to send a runner instead? That's our heavenly Father. And Jesus humbled himself by offering himself as a sacrifice. God humbles himself by making us a priority, not at all getting into the territory of low self esteem.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Beach Reach Update

Last night we began ministry on the streets of PCB. Our van #winning (Based on twitter hash tags usually associated with Charlie Sheen) was out giving rides from 9pm-1:30am (10pm-2:30 Eastern Time).

So far we've witnessed
-A failed arrest
-A successful arrest
-Numerous other cars pulled over, DWI checks
-Guys relieving themselves in public
-One of our students got proposed to by a drunk guy
-One guy from Wisconsin who was excited about trying CiCi's pizza buffet for the first time
-Spring Breakers in need of medical care (alcoholic poisoning)

Last night before my group switched off the streets and into the van for a rest, we met a girl who came up on us from behind while we were walking the strip. She was accompanied by another girl. She told me she could tell there was something different about us, like we were glowing. She asked me about how to find God and find the life of being close to him that she desires.

She grew up going to a Catholic school, but doesn't believe in the teachings or traditions. I explained to her that finding God doesn't happen instantly, it's a process of grace and restoration. The best advice I could give her came from our discipleship materials at UNCW which consists of "Read the Bible every day, pray ever day, and plug in with a fellowship of believers." I shared different verses with her, as well as the story of the Lost Son (Luke 15) and grace, and prayed with her. We exchanged numbers because she wants to look at more scripture this week, and even join us for worship in the evenings.

I let her know I'd be praying for her the next 30 days. Join with me during this time in praying for her to encounter God who is running out to meet her. I hope to follow up with her this week. More than anything I know she needs to be discipled, to be shown over time what it means to follow God and how. Although that is far more than can be accomplished in a single conversation, I pray God sends others across her path, and draws her to believers back home.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Importance of listening

Currently on my way back to Panama City Beach with a team from UNCW. We've stopped in Savannah Georgia for the night. While spending some quiet time, I came across an amazing nugget for the first time. Wanted to share it.

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.

Praying cannot be uploading a voicemail to God. We need to ask him his will, then listen. Then pray for his will to be carried out. We need to ask what his will is for our lives, every step of the way. When the Israelites overtook Jericho, God directed every step of the process, which led them to victory. Afterwards, the Israelites tried tacking the next city without consulting God and just acted. They got embarrassed.

We need to listen as we pray. God will answer our prayers if we pray in his will. To know his will, we have to first listen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Remaining in Him

11 times in the span of 6 verses Jesus tells us to remain in Him. (John 15:4-10) For Jesus to keep repeating himself means He’s trying to convey something really important to us. And “If Jesus must tell us to remain in him, then he seems to be assuming that it is quite possible not to remain in him.” (John Eldridge “Walking with God”)

Jesus is clear in this passage. We are the branches, he’s the vine. We’re dependent on Him for life, to be held up. We can’t bear fruit/bring glory to God on our own. We have to remain in Him.

Biologists/Botanists will tell you that the stem/vine of most plants draws nourishment from the roots and pushes it out to the leaves/fruit. As branches, we don’t have to force nourishment from God. He’s sending it our way! We have to remain in him and receive it through prayer and scripture.

Remaining runs counter to our human selves. We fiercely desire independence and to not owe anything to anyone. We cry out for freedom. We took the forbidden fruit in the garden because we wanted to be like God. We in effect declared, “We can do what we want when we want to.”

Isaish 43:7 tell us though that we were created to bring God glory. If we remain in him, we fulfill our purpose, brining him joy, and receiving joy ourselves (John 15:11). If we don’t, we’re useless. You might as well try using a single hand size rubber band to tow a large truck. That’s not what a rubber band that size was intended for.

Neither were we intended to support ourselves but to remain in Him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What if we prayed...

I was continuing to read in Prodigal God last night, a book that has astounded me with insights into the story of the Lost Son in Luke 15. Here's another thought that got me seriously thinking.

The oldest son strived to please himself. He remained loyal to his father, not out of love for him, but with a mindset of thinking "Loyalty will get me what I want." How often do we approach God with that mindset? How often do we worship him in order to get the blessings we feel we deserve? I know I often find hidden motives in many of the things I pray for.

What if we instead prayed and asked God to show us what would please him most in any situation? What if our aim, our desire even was to please God before pleasing ourselves? How much different might our lives look? I will say this much, praying such would be dangerous because we might be led to places our flesh does not want to go. Praying such might mean being humbled, trading away things that we want in order to give to others the things they need.

When faced with those choices, in praying to please God and not ourselves, would we still follow or would we turn and walk away, as the rich young ruler did? (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Picking up where I left off

I'm not one for new years resolutions or believing that the start of a new year means a new beginning. The calendar starts over sure, but everything else is a continuation.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure where to resume. Whenever I spend quiet time I still feel overwhelmed by questions, and feeling tugs from the Spirit. The tugs I'm working on acting towards (some deal with this upcoming summer). Living out of suitcases the next few days also has me more scatterbrained than I would have thought. Hoping to move into the new apt this weekend, but I now have to find another roommate.

Caught up in so many changes and even within all the chaos I'm taking solace in Habakkuk 1:5: "Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."