Photo Friday: Majesty

 

Wake Up Sleeper!

Salt Lake

Last weekend I made a quick trip to Salt Lake City to ski with a friend from work.  The schedule was to fly in, ski two days and fly back.  A quick trip.  I have never been to Salt Lake City.  Along with that, I had not experienced the breathtaking beauty of the Wasatch Mountains.

We had a little time on Monday before our flight so we had the opportunity to visit Antelope Island which is an island located in the Great Salt Lake.  It was a cold morning and it has snowed overnight so the area was blanketed with a light covering of snow.

The views were fantastic!  Although the island had few visitors, we did notice visitors taking pictures of the amazing scenery.  The best word I could come up to describe what we saw is majesty.

Majesty is a unique word.  It describes something large.  Something powerful.  Something a bit overwhelming.

When I see something that I would call majesty, I think of the hand of the Creator.  The potter and the clay.  The architect and builder of our amazing planet.

There is a verse in the Bible that says that we have no excuse to be ignorant of the hand of the Father.  Creation screams His name.  I cannot believe that all of this beauty was created by chance or by accident.

I asked my friend if he felt that looking at the mountains each day would dull this feeling of majesty.  He quickly told me no.  He believed that the mountains and the beauty would never get old.  They would retain their power over anyone who looked their way.

So the key is to look!  Look for His hand.  Look at what He made.  Look at what He does in your life.  Look at the way He blesses you.

An accident, good luck or chance?  Can’t be.  Chance does not have this order.  Chance does not have this variety and beauty.  Chance does not produce majesty.  Chance is not this good.  Not even close!

LOOK and wake up sleeper!        

So what do you think?  Can you see His hand in creation?  Do you think this world was created by chance?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

 

 

 

 

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Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

The Power Of Your Story

 

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Yesterday, we visited a women drug and alcohol rehab center in Alajualita to minister to the women at the center. Kathy had been there many times, but this was my first visit. During our time at the center, our group shared some of our own personal stories of addiction, rejection and shame. As we shared through an interpreter, you could visibly see the connections being made between their situation and our struggles and our stories. This instantly broke down the walls between our cultures, our distances, our languages.

I’ve seen this before. Being transparent has a way of connecting people together. Having the courage to share a painful story or your personal struggle confirms that you are not alone in your struggles. There are others that are just like you. You are not weird. You are not broken. You are not alone.

If you don’t tell your story, how will they know?

One of the persons in our group shared a miraculous story of deliverance from a very serious drug addiction. They came to the end of the rope. They were tired of the cycle of failure. They gave up the struggle, asked the Lord for help, and finally surrendered. Completely. None of this “one foot in and one foot out”. Quit trying to do it one their own.  They realized that it was impossible without His help. And like the gracious father that He is, in an instant, it was gone. No more hunger for drugs. No more depression. No more shame.

They were glued to every word. I sensed that the ladies were most afraid of failing again. You could see the fear in their eyes. They had all tried to stop before. One woman shared that she was a “rehab expert”. She had been in rehab twenty times. They all wanted it to end.  They desperately wanted this instant transformation and change.

Radical transformation is what they are seeking. A new beginning. Freedom from the slavery of drug and alcohol abuse. Freedom can be instantaneous or it can be a process. We want it quick, in an instant, but the Lord may have other plans. The key is to surrender. Completely. Give up the fight and give it to Him. You cannot do it on your own, with your own will. It’s the Jesus story. We couldn’t live the perfect life so he sent His son to the rescue. To give us a way out. He is the good, good Father!

The good news is that in the end He always wins. He wants the very best for you. And, if its not in an instant, you will get stronger each day. You can do this. Wash away the old and fill yourself up with the New. The Lord is gentleman. He won’t do anything without your permission. Move towards Him. Surrender. He’s waiting for you!

So what do you think?  Have you experienced the power of your story?  Have you seen the walls come down?  Why do we try to hide?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Photo Friday: Beautiful World

Flower

We are surrounded by beauty.  The Creator’s hand is evident everywhere you look.  What could possibly create this kind of beauty and diversity?  If it was “survival of the fittest” we would have one aggressive flower, right?  He’s given us amazing beauty everywhere we look in abundance.

Are you looking?

Vacant House

I am a noticer.  I see things that many others miss.  The beauty hits me in the face everyday.  Even in the strangest places, like this vacant house.  The picture above is the yellow flower you see in the yard.  Same flower.  Your just have to look past the noise to see the beauty.

Slow down.  Notice.  Your will enjoy what you see!

You Can’t Look Back!

Kathy and I were having breakfast with a man after Street Corner Saturday morning who was recovering from a brutal beating which almost cost him his life.  He was in a coma for several weeks and the doctors were not optimistic about his recovery.  While he was in the coma, the Lord spoke to him and reassured him that He still had work on the earth for him to complete.  He told us that he remembers being separated from his body and looking down on the doctors and his family similar the common near-death experience.  He eventually recovered and has had a dramatic life change as he is convinced he has been given a second chance at life.

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This man had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was associated with some bad people.  As he continued with his story he began to express self-doubt and a feeling of not fitting in with the other men around him.  He continued to share about his past failures and insecurities and I stopped him mid-sentence and told him-

Stop!  You can’t look back! 

We all have junk in our past.  We have all made mistakes.  You simply cannot dwell on the past.

I told him that he was a new person that has been transformed and forever changed.  The old self is gone.  The voice telling you that you about your past, your previous failures, that your not good enough …is NOT the voice of the Father.  This is the voice of the enemy.  You cannot listen to this.

The enemy uses self-doubt, shame, and guilt to take away our power.  When we turn inside of ourselves we have destroyed our ability to influence others in a positive way.  We cease in our ability to make a difference in the world.

He shook his head yes and thanked me for the reminder.  He viewed many of the other men around him as hypocrites for just “talking and not walking” in their faith.  I reminded him that he can influence them by doing the right thing and walking in the light.  The rest is up to God.  He needn’t carry that burden.

Looking back can bring you down but it can also be an encouragement.  Look how far you have come!  You are not where you used to be.  And you are moving forward.  You are making a difference.  Push that negative voice out of your head.  It is not doing you any good!

Realize that you are here for a purpose much bigger than yourself.  To change lives.  To build up.  To restore and create.  This is the voice from heaven.  Listen for it!

So what do you think?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!  If you like this post press the share button and post it on your Twitter feed or Facebook page!  Yep…I can use some encouragement too! 

The Mad Scientist

I used to work for a boss who liked to do experiments. He wasn’t a scientist and the field that he was experimenting in was management. He would actually conduct experiments with people. He would do things without their knowledge and then see how they reacted to it. One of his self proclaimed tests was to load up an employee with work until they said “uncle”. Keep piling it on until they came back frustrated or beaten. The experiment was designed to see how much they could handle and determine their breaking point. All the while the unsuspecting employee was killing themselves to keep up with the workload in order to try to measure up.

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Little did they know that the ultimate goal was to overload them.

The effort was designed to frustrate them.

They could never measure up because he would just add more work.

I couldn’t do it. I thought that this strategy was cruel and stupid. I thought that it was not fair for the employee. I knew that by putting that much pressure on the person they could make a big mistake. They could also get really angry or they could burn out and quit. Why would anyone do this?

Through the years, I have seen others do these experiments. Let’s see if they can figure it out. Let’s give them less resources and see if they can get through it. Let’s push and see what happens. Let’s double things up and see if they crumble.  This just seems crazy to me.

I believe that honest communication is a better way. Rather than experiment, ask them what they think. Ask them how much can they handle? Ask them if they can work through the problem. Ask them if they are ready to come up with a strategy to do more with less resources? Give them more work when they want it. Give them a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Give them the help they need to be successful.

Experiment with things, not with people. Don’t play games with their heads. Don’t be the mad scientist.  Ask them for help. Ask them what they can handle. It’s better that way.

So what do your think?  Should we experiment with people?  Have you experienced this before? Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!

Serving Others…Without the Exchange

One of the keys to being a servant leader is serving others by putting their needs ahead of yours.  A great example of this is being a parent.  When you raise a family, you learn that the needs of your children naturally come before yours.  Children do not have the ability to take care of themselves.  They do not have the experience to make good decisions.  They are yours- so you love and nurture them and make sure they have the things needed to stay healthy and to grow and prosper.

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This is an easy one.  What about another tougher example.  What if the person that needs help is not your child?  What if they are not your relative?  What if they are an adult?  What if this person lives in another country?  What if they don’t speak your language?

Shouldn’t matter.  You were made to serve others.  Unconditionally.  Without strings.  Everyone.  Period.

This is tough stuff for someone who is used to the exchange.  I give something and then get something back.  This exchange can be very subtle.  Often when we lead others- we still get something back, right?  Is this really giving?  Serving your children benefits you by benefiting your children and your family.  Serving your workmates helps you while helping them.  You get something back for your hard work.

Can we give without getting back?  Giving in it’s purest form should be one sided- right?  Give and don’t get back.  If you skip the exchange, what is the great equalizer?

Kathy and I are leading a missions team to Costa Rica  May 21-June 1 to minister to the poor and support the local church. We will be staying Alajuelita which is in the central valley of Costa Rica near the capital city of San Jose.  This is a poor area of Costa Rica and we will be ministering in the poorest barrios (neighborhoods)- tin shacks with dirt floors.  These areas are full of families and children are everywhere.  We will be helping to feed the children and will spend time with the moms and the elderly.  We will also be ministering at a woman’s rehab center.  Drug abuse and prostitution (legal in Costa Rica), is a big problem in Costa Rica.  Many women are often forced to sell themselves just to feed their families.

Missions is very important to me.  I know that we are blessed beyond measure in this country and I have a burning desire to give back and serve the poor and needy.  The greatest gift that we can provide those in need is the reassurance that there is a God in heaven that loves them unconditionally.  Love makes all the difference.  This is often all we can hold onto when we are in the toughest situation.  This truth has helped me during tough times in my life.  And I have seen with my own eyes what this truth can bring to a Costs Rican who feels hopeless.  This is the power of the Gospel.  This is what we will share on our trip to Costs Rica.

Will you please partner with me on my trip?  We are trying to raise all of the funds through donations so that your money, prayers and love will actually travel with us and make a tangible impact in Costa Rica.  Without leaving your house, you can be part of the work that we are doing in Central America!  Any amount would be greatly appreciated.  This donation is also tax deductible- the church will send you a receipt for tax purposes.  You can send a check to me or you can donate on line by credit card (secure connection through Pay Pal). Below is a link to the online donation to our church- River City Church:

http://www.rccjax.com/give

Please click on “one time donation” and fill out the information.  This only takes a few minutes.  Do it now or you will forget! (I only say this because this is what I do!).  If you donate on- line please contact me  (Click on “Contact” tab on this website) and tell me that you donated.  I have to alert the church about your donation or your donation will NOT be appropriated to our mission trip.

I am so excited to be going to Costa Rica to spread God’s love to the poor and needy. Please give to help us fund this trip so you can be with us as we work to make a difference in the lives of those we reach.  Giving them our time and our love.  Taking your love to others far away.  Giving unconditionally.

God bless you and your family!

So what do you think?  Do you give without the exchange?  Is love the great equalizer?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 

 

The Daily Do Over

His eyes were tearing up while he shared his story.  A story we have heard before.  Trying hard to hold down two jobs.  Twenty years in the prison system.  Wife addicted to crack cocaine.  He tries his best to keep her inside the house in order to keep her away from the neighborhood predators.  Health problems.  Car problems.  All of this is overwhelming.  He’s trying hard to keep focused- but it’s really hard.  He looses his cool sometimes and lashes out.  He struggles to stay on the right side.  Things are not fair.  He’s tired.  He’s VERY tired.

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Life is hard.  We have a tendency to put pressure on ourselves for our failures.  Our mistakes.  I shared with this guy that the Lord has given us a great design to help us handle these failures.

Every morning, the sun comes up and it’s a new day.  Each day is an opportunity to forget about yesterday and do it right today.  And if you fail again, you can try again tomorrow.  We get a “do over” every single day.

Some days are magnificent.  Everything just falls into place.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Family.  Hope.

Some days are tough.  Really tough.  You just want to crawl in a hole and wait for it to end.

Then the sun comes up again!

What a great design- huh?  If our lives were one really long day we couldn’t do it.  We would get completely overwhelmed.  We would be discouraged.  Beaten down and unable to recover.

I encourage him.  I told him the stay focused on what is good.  Don’t be deceived by the enemy who is trying to hold you down.  Keep fighting the good fight.  Don’t listen to those voices that are trying to make you feel hopeless.  You have much to be thankful for.  You ARE making it.  You CAN find your way out of this.

You get a do over.  Every single day.  You can put yesterday behind you and look forward to a new day of promise, opportunity, and hope.  He designed it this way.  Don’t look back.  He made a way for you to recharge and refocus.

He makes all things new!

Have you ever considered what it would be like to live one enormously long day?  Do you take advantage of the daily do over?  Is the morning your time?   Click on “leave a comment” and let me know what you think!

Dancing with the King!

I recently lost a friend named Pete to cancer. He fought very hard against the disease and we prayed very hard that the Lord would heal him. Yet, the Lord had other plans. He chose to take Peter home.

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Pete was known to get up during worship at church and dance a bit as an act of worship to the Father. Not a big flashy dance, but a little two step that was all his own. I loved to watch him dance.  You could see the laser focus on the Lord as he worshiped though his special dance.

Pete understood that worship was about giving and not getting. He chose to leave his seat and dance in his delight to worship the King. Leaving your seat at church is not easy. You may get a bit of an eye roll from the purists and your flesh is telling you to keep your butt in the seat. And I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for Pete who was suffering with strength and pain from the disease. Yet he chose to dance. He couldn’t stay in his seat. He had to give back to the Father. Too many Christians focus on what they get at church instead of what they give.

Was the message or music good for me?

Was I able to catch up with my buddy about the game yesterday?

Did I get the information on all the upcoming church events?

I need to sign up the kids for camp?

We are turning our “worship service” into an intellectually stimulating social hour. Where is the worship part? The worship seems to focus on worldly things like “doing church” with all the events, theology, groups, and pageantry. Have you ever left a church because you weren’t “getting anything out of the service”? Emphasis on getting.  Didn’t agree with the theology or offended by the message? Where is the focus on the King who made heaven and earth?

The glimpse of heaven we get in the Word illustrates a constant adoration and worship to the King. Can you see yourself worshiping 24/7? For me, I get it. I enjoy worship. I love the way it changes me and transports me to a different place. I love the way it can change my attitude and realign my focus. Every Sunday. Without fail.

I am so thankful for Pete and his dance. The dance has caused me to reflect on how I see Sunday mornings. On how I often want to get instead of give. Worship has a way of making you small so he can make Him big. Pete understood this. Pete chose to dance. He chose to give. And now, right now, Pete is dancing with the King!

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men- Really?

Is the Christmas message really relevant?  How can we truly believe the angels who made this declaration upon the birth of Jesus with all of the turmoil that we saw this past year?

Continued terrorism, violence and beheadings.

Demonstrations and violence over police actions and racial strife.

Sluggish economic conditions and unemployment.

The struggle for fairness and equity.

Immigration rights and yielding to the law and authority.

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I’m sure you can come up with many more.  This year has been a poster child for the struggle of life.  The  struggle to provide for our families.  The struggle for justice and fairness.  The struggle to be heard.  So why don’t we have the peace that the Christmas story seems to promise?

The reality is that the Christmas promises are personal.  The peace that Jesus offers is for you.  If Jesus was truly looking to fix things here on earth he certainly would have freed Israel from Rome’s brutality.  He would have ended the inequities of the rich and poor.  He would have taken away hunger and disease.

What Jesus offers is simply love.  See, love is more powerful than all of these things.  Love will cure all problems.

Jesus knew the struggle first hand.  That’s why he had to live amongst us.  So we would  know that he knows the struggle first hand.  Jesus did not promise to take evil away from the world.  At least not until the final victory.

So how does the promise of Christmas provide me with peace?

I don’t need to worry about fairness.  I know that the Lord will take care of me.  The fixation on fairness and equity can be disguised pride.  That making things equal fixes things.  I know that things will not be completely fair this side of heaven.  I will be taken advantage of.  I am OK with this.  He will take care of me.

I don’t need to worry about provision.  I know that the Lord will provide for me.  He always does.  I have been continually blessed.  He will take care of me and my family.

I don’t need to worry about controlling everything.  I know that the Lord is in control and he will take care of things.  I can take my hands off the wheel and let him steer.

I know that he loves me and love drives out fear and worry.  So how do I know this?  I have seen with my own eyes the power of this love first hand.

I have witnessed changes in my life and others.

I have watched connections made and provisions that cannot be explained.

I have watched his peace invade lives, change hearts and restore what is broken.

I have witnessed his power, his truth and his promises.

The promise of peace this Christmas season is your peace.  Are you at peace ?  Can you relax knowing that he’s going to take care of you?  Do you know that he loves you and wants the very best for you?  If you struggle- his offer stands.  Just reach out to him.  He’s waiting for you!

Blessings to you and yours!  May your Christmas be filled with wonder, joy and peace!