Living What You Say

August 28, 2013

It’s easy to say we believe this or that all day, but when it comes down to it, how we live shows what we really do, or don’t, believe. My speech teacher in college used to ask us if we believed what we were saying in our speeches, and if we did, then we needed to say it like we believed and meant it. Speaking with conviction is good. Living with that same conviction is a rare thing. We live in a society that twists words and meanings, and loves to rationalize. Actions, however, always have and always will, speak to the heart of the person. You can hide behind words and forced actions for a while, but your real colors will come out eventually. Jesus gave great sermons and wonderful parables and told many people they were healed. What if those words weren’t backed up with actions? What if he didn’t live out the lessons from his sermons and parables? What if those people he said were healed weren’t really healed? He would have been debunked immediately and thought of as a lunatic (which some tried to say he was, but it wouldn’t stick because he spoke with power and backed the words up with actions). Words have real meaning and power, but only coming from someone who backs those words up with action. If someone who is a chronic liar and promise breaker tells us something we tend to disregard it. However, if someone who follows up with what he says by what he does tells us something, we listen. Be a person of integrity in word and deed. Follow through on what you say with what you do. People are always watching Christians, wondering if we really live out our beliefs. You never know when your living out what you say you believe may make a difference in someone else’s life, drawing them to the point where they will believe.

Speak boldly for Christ! Live boldly for Christ!

More Thoughts on Prayer

August 9, 2013

I’ve been continuing to think about prayer and how to pray. Specifically I’ve been thinking about the times when I’ve felt I couldn’t pray. Either I’ve been so distraught, caught up in a sin, or doubting whether God cares and hears (he does care and hear by the way). I can’t believe I’m the only one who’s dealt with these things and the feeling that I can’t pray or don’t know what to say. My answer for these times is to go to Scripture. I know that sounds like a Sunday School answer, but let me explain. I pray through God’s promises, not to remind God, he remembers them, but to remind myself. I pray through whatever Psalm or Psalms fit the situation I’m in (they cover a lot of ground). The Psalms are really ready made prayers. Many times just getting started will fix the prayer’s block going on. The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful starting place too. On paper (or screen as the case may be) it sounds too simple, but it really works. Use the resources God has given you and work through the block, whether it’s being mocked by Satan as being insignificant or feeling like you don’t know how to do it right, God calls us to be a prayerful people.

What do you do when you’re at the end of your prayer rope?

What is prayer in your life? I don’t want the “Sunday School answer” either. Of course prayer is how we talk to an almighty God, through Jesus our savior, but what role does it really take in your life? I generally see two main roles it can take in a personal life (though in a public life it can be used in different ways too, some good, some bad). Either we tend to use prayer as our last resort when everything else fails or we have it as our way of life. I either am “praying without ceasing” or only praying when my world is falling apart. There isn’t really any in between for me, and I think a lot of others are that way too. We know what prayer should be and shouldn’t be, yet we can’t get it together in our own prayer life. Prayer shouldn’t be what I call the “gimme, gimmes” (translation: give me this, give me that). I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask for anything, we’re told, “ask and you shall receive,” but we shouldn’t center our prayers around a want list of all the coolest new stuff. Prayer should be a privilege. We should look forward to praying. It shouldn’t be a chore. It should involve praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (asking for what we need). We tend to think of prayer as a given, but it wasn’t always. Jesus shocked people with The Lord’s Prayer. It was radical to call God father. The personal prayer that we are all used to started there and rocked a lot of people’s world. There are a lot of books on prayer and how to do it out there, but all the good ones have at least two things in common. One, you have to start praying more, and two, prayers have to start being centered on God, not on yourself. It’s not easy, but I’m convinced a healthy prayer life bleeds over into other parts of our lives. It’s worth it.

Do you have any thoughts or success stories on helping your prayer life?

Time to Get Real

July 31, 2013

It’s time to get real. We have people who have grown up in the church who are leaving it and becoming atheists. Some people blame Sunday school for accidentally teaching a be good and have faith and you’ll get super physical rewards way of faith vs. the actual Gospel of no one is good enough, but God loves us and sent his son to do the work for us so we could be redeemed (see here). This may be part of it, but I think there must be more to it. What is it that drives them from Christianity and to atheism? As more and more groups try to water down Christianity I see more and more people simply wondering what the point is of calling yourself a Christian when you are exactly like the rest of the world. Does God forgive sins? You better believe it. Is that a reason to sin all the more? The apostle Paul says no, but it seems many “Christians” today disagree. I see “Christians” in out of wedlock family situations all over the place, but it’s ok they’re not married, living together, and have kids because God understands the stress of being married and he will forgive them. I see “Christians” who take sex as a trivial thing instead of the ultimate way of knowing and becoming one with a spouse. I see “Christians” who go to church on Sunday, but Jesus never comes up the rest of the week. I see “Christians” who lie, cheat, steal, are dishonorable, and don’t love anyone but themselves. What does this show the world? Are we really being a people set apart? Are we living the calling we have received? Are we clinging to our first love or are we clinging to the love of stuff? Real Christianity, Gospel filled Christianity, is what the world needs. People who are different from the rest of the world. People who are set apart and seeking to do God’s plan above their own schemes. Until there is revival in the church and all the modernistic allowances and gimmicks are kicked out, I think the trend of people leaving the church is only going to increase.

What are your thoughts on this?

Editor’s Note: It has come to my attention that this could be viewed as me whining and complaining about my church specifically, or the Presbyterian church in general. I’m not. I love the Presbyterian church. In looking at many different denominations throughout the USA I’ve seen this trend and I think it’s dangerous. Also, I’m using the example of the church to bring to light certain issues we tend to have as individuals. Why else would it be an issue in the church other than that the church is made of sinful individuals.

I see a trend of, “this is how we’ve always done it”-itis in many churches. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Where some members fight any kind of change because its not what they’re used to or what they prefer. There are two huge problems I see with this mindset. The first is quite simply, it’s incredibly selfish. As a body of believers, we are supposed to be looking out for ways to promote Christ and for one another, not just number one. Secondly, if this is your thought process, even outside of church, how can you ever grow as a person or a church? If you never try anything new, you will only experience the same things over and over again and you can easily become cold to those things you loved at first. Then, you start to resent them and you shut yourself away and become bitter. I’ve seen this happen to people and I’ve seen it happen in churches because nobody wanted to try anything different. I’m a truly reformed Presbyterian, so you know I’m not talking about anything too out there, but, with that said, stagnancy is not the call of the Christian, perseverance is. In order to persevere one must be moving forward. I don’t want to change the Bible to appease the general masses the way some have. I simply think it’s ok to change some things around in worship. It doesn’t need to be the exact same order of worship that you’ve had since the church was formed. The tunes to hymns don’t have to be the same. The instruments used to lead worship and praise God are not what makes the praise heard. In pre-marital counseling, my wife and I were told that we would have different ways of doing things. These differences weren’t right or wrong, just different. I think the church in America could benefit from realizing that different ways of worship aren’t wrong, just different, provided of course, the Scripture is being preached in its entirety.

What are your thoughts on this?

We live in a world where belief systems and religions are thrown at us from every direction and it’s easy to find whatever sounds good and easy to us and say we believe that. That’s why it is so important for people, Christians especially, to know what they believe and why. It’s common for young people to believe what their parents believe without ever making it their own. Then, once they grow up, we have a generation of people who claim they believe something but don’t know what exactly they believe and/or why. We need to make our faith our own. We need to find out what exactly we believe and why we believe that. If we don’t, our faith will become lip service and complacent. Study the word. Talk to your pastor(s). Seek to know as much about your faith as you can.

I see so many people floundering in their Christian walks. I see myself growing stagnant at times, and I can’t help but think, “What happened? Have I ‘lost my first love?'” So what do we do about it? First I think you need to realize that it’s something every Christian goes through. You’re not alone. Second, I’ve found some steps that help me get out of the valley and I’d like to share them with you.

1. Pray, pray, pray! Prayer is our radio to God on this battlefield of life. It’s how we get in touch with our home base while we’re behind enemy lines. I’ll sometimes remind myself to pray continually by never saying amen until I get in bed. So I’ll start praying in the morning and I won’t close it until the night. That way, my whole day becomes a prayer. Even if you feel like you can’t or don’t know how, pray. Pray through the scriptures (Psalms works really well for this) or get a book of prayers from one of the fathers (or mothers) of the faith, whatever you do, just pray.

2. Get into the Word! How do we know God is in control and has a plan, or even what his plan is? The Scriptures. We’ve gotta be in the Bible daily, looking at what he has to tell us, asking for wisdom and understanding. This is our guidebook. It tells us the overarching truths of life and gives us the basic plans for how to deal with all the situations that pop up.

3. Get to church! I don’t mean just going on Sunday morning and checking that off the list. We need to yearn for Christian fellowship and building others up. We need to get involved and join a congregation and commit to being there and building up the church. We need to use our gifts in the church however we can. Don’t just go, sit in the back, and leave ASAP, get plugged in! Again, this comes back to praying for the right heartset and mindset. We aren’t an interdependent people by nature, but that is what the body of Christ is called to be.

These are just a few things, but I’ve found they help immensely when going through the valleys of life. I hope it helps you the next time you’re going through a rough patch in your walk.

Looking Out for #1

February 16, 2013

Whatever happened to looking out for each other? Everyone just seems too busy or self-involved these day to bother with looking out for their fellow man/woman. I was reminded of this today when my wife shared how sweet our nephew was with taking care of his sister. My wife was picking them up from school and daycare and our nephew told her he would take care of getting his sister settled in the car. He let her pick where she wanted to sit, got the seatbelt hooked, and got it adjusted. I think there’s a great deal we can learn from his example. We need to take time to take care of others. Christians especially should be seeking to look out for other people. This is an area I’m convicted in. It’s so easy to just worry about “#1” but it’s so vital for us to remember who “#1” really is; God. If we are looking out for God as “#1” then we will be looking after his church and people, and his mission for us. I hope this helps you remember who really is “#1” in the Christian life. I know our nephew helped me remember.

Question: Do you have any stories about someone looking after their fellow man/woman? Please share them if you do.

Just a warning, this is a little bit of a longer one. Apparently I had a lot to say and get out on the subject matter. I hope you’ll take the time to read it, share it, and comment on it.

I’ve been reading a really interesting book called “How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training” by Michael Cheshire.

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I don’t agree with everything Cheshire says in the book, but it is full of great stories to encourage and ideas to enable other churches to reach the people around them. When one member of the church was asked why he did all the extra stuff he did for the church (because he worked a crazy schedule and had a wife and kids, but was still always making time to help out and volunteer) he answered, “Because I can, and you can’t,” (he mainly helped with ministries the staff weren’t able to do, like the car repair ministry). This is the same philosophy my grandmother had. When she made my father, as a young man, go to a party that he didn’t want to go to because it wasn’t going to be a good party, he asked her why and she told him he should try and make it a good party. Again, he asked her why he should have to do it, since it wasn’t his party, and her simple answer was, “Because you can.” This was the way she lived her life and she left that legacy to her sons and all her grandkids. We’ve all asked, “Why should I be the one to have to do/deal/suffer this?” in our lives, and I think the appropriate answer is always, “Because you can.”

What would it look like if more Christians lived life this way? Why do something undesirable or hard? Because you’re the one who can do it. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Why did he come and live the life he did, do the things he did, and die the death he did? It wasn’t for the sheer fun and excitement of it. It wasn’t a slow few decades in Heaven with nothing going on for fun so he figured, sure, I’ll give this a try. It’s because he loved us and he was the one who could do it. I now there is much more you can get into with scripture and theology, but I really think it can boil down to these simple facts of love and ability/capability. What if more of us in the church lived life that way. What should be motivating Christians? Should it be fear of rejection and damnation? How about just “covering all the bases” just in case? While there should be a degree of fear involved in the Christian life (a reverent fear of the almighty creator), the thing that should motivate us is love. Why? Well, “We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:13) God loved us and sent his son for our redemption because he loved us while we were wallowing in sin and spitting in his face. His love is based on himself, not on anything we do. Our love should also be based on God’s love, not on how we’re feeling or how others treat us. We are called to be set apart by love for one another. John 13:34-35 talks about a new commandment being to love one another and how that would set them apart to be know as his disciples by their love for each other. How much backbiting, tearing down, and vile gossip goes on in the church, which is supposed to be a place of Christian love, one for another? Too much, I know because I’ve taken part in it. If we don’t love one another, how can we love our communities? The I John passage above goes on to talk about how if we don’t love our brothers, whom we’ve seen, then we cannot love God, whom we haven’t seen.

In light of all the above, how should we, as Christians, and the church in general be acting? Should we box ourselves away and guard against the evil, sinful world by never coming into contact with it, or should we love the people and communities we have been put close to? I thing we all know the answer. We should be loving in the same manner that Jesus loved those around him. He didn’t tell anyone they weren’t dressed the right way, or they didn’t talk the way he did, or they weren’t cool enough. No, he took in the broken, the hurting, the sorrowful, the sick, and the little kids and he forgave their sins and healed them and accepted them. This is the Christian’s job. We are to love the people. We are also to hate the sin, but I think we’ve got the hating part down as good as anyone, so I really think we need to love those around us simply because we can. We need to do things for our church, even things that we think of as “bellow us” or “above our pay grade”, because we love God and his work on earth, and we are able/capable. It really has to start in our personal lives and our churches. We have to be known by our love for Christ, one another, and then for those around us and in our communities. You can’t just say that some outreach program looks good so you’ll plug it in and it’ll work great. You have to be a friend and come along side people in love, not superiority, without pressure or expecting anything in return. Then, once the relationship is formed and needs have been met, you move to the everlasting needs of the soul. This isn’t new ideology. It’s very old, but in our society of diminishing returns, instant gratification, and health and wealth doctrine, we’ve lost this and just want instant converts ready to work in the church and already mature Christians. We expect the church staff to do everything and forget that the body of Christ is just that, a body. We depend on the same very few people who run all the different programs in the church thinking that they do such a good job, why should we be involved. Think of all the things that could go on in a church life if there was 100% buy in to getting plugged in/involved/whatever you want to call volunteering to help out with church stuff. Why go to a church regularly without being a member? Why go and be a member if you’re get so little from the church that you don’t want to be involved? In some cases it is a problem with the church, but only some. Most of the time it is a problem with the church-goer. My father once told me that if I wasn’t getting anything from worship I needed to look at myself first. Was I preparing my heart for worship? Was I praying for God to open my mind and heart and move me by his word spoken and taught? If I could answer yes to these questions, then I could start looking at the church as the problem, or, honestly, start looking for a new church. If the true word of God is being preached, no matter the source, a Christian can benefit from it. I firmly believe this to be fact.

Now for the “you” part. You can probably guess what I’m going to say because if you’re reading this you must be pretty bright (and good looking and stylish and a generally groovy person), I want to challenge myself, and you, to do things for others, not because we have to or feel obligated to, but because we can and we want to share the love God has poured out on us. I think it’s going to make a difference. The movement of doing things for others, church or not, “because I can” starts right here and right now for me. Join me in it. I think it will revolutionize our societies and communities and churches as well as our individual lives. We act because we can, not because we grudgingly feel like it is a duty we have to fulfill. If you have a gift, use it to reach out to those around you, use it to help your church, use it in ways to honor God, because he gave you that gift. Welcome to the oldest revelation around, the one started by Jesus Christ.

Question: What do you think? Can we make this work? Is it important? Will you join me?

Feeling lost

November 29, 2012

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? I do all the time recently. Overwhelmed isn’t really the right word though, it’s more of a totally lost sort of feeling in most aspects of my life. My faith and my wife are about the only parts of my life that feel stable and secure right now. I’m not where I thought I would be when I was younger, and I’m not where I feel like I should be either, yet I’m here so this is where God wants me to be. I don’t understand why. I don’t see the reasons, as is so often the case with God and life in general. I feel like the scene from the Firefly episode “Serenity”

Inara: [to Simon] You’re lost in the woods. We all are. Even the captain. The only difference is he likes it that way.
Mal: [walks in] No, the only difference is the woods are the only place I can see a clear path.

I wish I could convince myself I could see the clear path through the woods, but I can’t right now. My biggest comfort is that I’m at a place where I can look back into the woods I’ve gone through and see the path I followed , unbeknownst to me at the time, to get out of them, so I know God is in control I just don’t know what he’s got planned. I’m at a place in my life I don’t like. I’m in a rut. I don’t really like where I’m at, but I’m afraid of what may be around the bend. To quote a Rich Mullins song

I can’t see how your leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led.

That’s how I feel right now. So many things have gone wrong in the past couple years and I’ve had so much heartache and sorrow. I’ve been in a deep valley and I’m ready to come out on the mountaintop. I’m sorry if this post has gotten you down. That wasn’t the intention. I guess the main point was to get this out there for others who may feel the same way or worse. My sister once told me that sometimes it helps us to “call God out on his promises.” Not to remind God, but to remind us. That’s what I’ve been doing. I know God is with me because he said he would be. I know this dark time is for my benefit because God seeks out my good (Romans 8). I know he loves me because I could not love without his love being poured out upon me first. If you’re feeling low and broken, lost in the woods, you’re not alone. I’m there too.

On a different note, the Bearded Bloggers campaign is almost over. We’re $160 from our goal right now (11/29/12 @ 9:00 AM). If you’re able, please give for those who don’t have access to clean water. 1 in 9 people in the world have no access to clean water. Please help by donating and/or sharing the link with others. You can go here to donate http://mycharitywater.org/the-bearded-bloggers-2012. Please help these people not have to drink disease infested water. Here’s my latest pic of my no shave November for Charity:Water

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On another note...

This is about my struggle to confront my fears of changing my direction all for a better life.

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