Archive for February, 2012

Elephant in the Room: Jesus

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Let’s talk about the Elephant in the Room….

Have you ever heard that statement before?  Essentially it means, there’s this BIG issue that is apparent to everyone and everyone knows it needs to be addressed and talked about, but people aren’t willing to talk about it.

I use this phrase in my student ministry.  I will usually say, “Let’s talk about the Elephant in the Room.”  We will talk about things in a group of one or two or even sweep it under the carpet, but when we talk about the Elephant in the Room, it means it’s time to talk about what everyone is thinking but no one is willing to say it out loud.

So here at this blog, every once in a while we will have “Elephant in the Room” posts that are on the minds of many people but many aren’t willing to talk about.

The first elephant in the room is Jesus.

In the context of student ministry, I will say that Jesus is the elephant in the room.  We like Jesus and some even love Jesus, but when we get in a small group of people to have Bible study, the last thing everyone wants to talk about is Jesus.  It’s funny that we can talk about everything under the sun except Jesus.

We can spend thirty minutes on our prayer request about how our cat’s uncle got ran over by a car, but when it comes to what Jesus has done for us, it’s like crickets in the room.  There is usually complete silence.

Have you ever seen this happen before?

  • What if we were as excited about what He has done for us as we are the latest gaming device or game we got?
  • What if we talked about how incredible He is rather than who’s likes who?
  • What if we spent as much time in the Word and in worship as we did on our cell phones….I am guilty on this one!
  • It seems as if Jesus is the appetizer and the main course is our life, our idols, and worldly stuff.  Agree?  Disagree?

It seems as if we use the excuse that we have ADD, so we have an excuse to claim when it comes to talking about Jesus.

As I write this post, the Spirit convicts me and I realize that I make Jesus the elephant in the room in many of my conversations.  I am not willing to bring the obvious Hope up to people.

Have you ever been there?

The Lord replied, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you in the presence of all your people.  I will perform miracles that have never been performed anywhere in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people around you will see the power of the LORD–the awesome power I will display for you. BUT listen carefully to everything I command you today.”

The Israelites could have seen much more than they saw–they would have seen much more amazing miracles–they would have seen HIS AWESOME POWER…..IF they would have listened.

God wants to give his best to you!  He wants to lavish His love on you!  Many times we think God is a Cosmic Killjoy–someone who doesn’t want us to have any fun.  He has such a desire to give you the desires of your heart.

BUT…….

There are strings attached.  Yes, I know God loves us unconditionally but at the same time there are conditions.  Throughout Scripture, we see where God wants to deliver a promise but there are conditions on the Israelites part–there is something they must do.

The same with us.  We think sometimes that God owes us something because we go to church twice a week and we sing some songs and listen to a message.

Listen, God has given all of Him to us–we simply need to seek Him!  It’s that simple.

The thing though is we can’t handle God’s but because we think He owes us something.  Many in the church get mad because God desires something–there is an expectation.

“What do you mean I have to go and make disciples of all nations?”

“What do you mean I have to deny myself if I want to follow Jesus…..seriously?”

Let’s admit it for many in the church, God’s BUT gets in the way.  We are more willing to be obedient to a coach or a teacher rather than Yahweh.

As I said to our students a few weeks ago….sometimes we think that God’s BUT means giving up something but in actuality, following those demands actually brings LIFE–ABUNDANT LIFE.  He has so much more that He wants to give than we can ever imagine, but we can’t stop at God’s BUT.  God’s BUT also brings life.  We need to get over it knowing that God has a better plan for my life than I could ever imagine.

“For the wages of sin is death, BUT, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.  And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Galatians 4:7

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

So, what BUT is causing you to stop in your spiritual tracks?  Have you ever thought that you haven’t seen God’s awesome power displayed more because you haven’t been obedient in fulfilling the but?

Maybe it could be YOUR BUT that gets in the way!  Are there excuses that you have given that keeps you from being obedient to Him?

Thank God for Crooked Roads

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Have you ever wondered why life can’t just be SIMPLE?

Why can’t life be like connecting the dots?

I look back in my life and see what a crooked road it’s been.  Yes, I’ve lived a great life and God has been soooo faithful, but I look at all of the turns my life has taken up to this point in my life.  I definitely can’t say it’s been a straight path, but in the midst of the crooked turns, there has been portions of my life on a straight road.

So, why can’t life be one straight highway?  Why does it always turn at the the most inopportune times in life?

Reading in Exodus, I believe I have stumbled upon that answer.

If I was Moses, stepping out after having gone through all of the plagues and the stress of convincing a hard-hearted Pharoah to let the Israelites go, I would have thought as I took the steps of freedom that, “ok, now life is going to get easier!”

Wouldn’t you have?

Well, that’s not exactly what happened.

“When Pharoah finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through the Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land.  God said, “if the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.  So God led them in a round-about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.  Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.” Exodus 13:17,18

Thank God for crooked roads!!!

God knows that we will have to trust in Him through all of the turns in life.  If it was all one straight path we could easily put everything on cruise control and be in control and not depend on Jesus to be our sustainer, but I wanted to encourage you that through this journey maybe God is doing some refining by putting you on the crooked road to depend on Him and not yourself.

Do you think that maybe also God may lead us the long way around so that we don’t face the danger that may lurk if we took the shortcut?  Could it be that this “long” journey you are on is to protect you?

Let me give you an example in my own life.

I have been a part of a ministry about two miles from our church at a manufactured housing community called Shannon Valley.  About three years ago, our church had been doing ministry every once in a while.  After going to Mission Arlington the summer of 2010, God used that opportunity to speak to hearts in regards to an ongoing ministry opportunity to build a ministry there on the campus.

We knew it was what God wanted.  We had to decide do we continue to do “spotty” ministry every so often or do we bite the bullet and see if we could do a weekly ministry.  We moved forward as a team asking the management at that time if they might have a home we could use to do an after school program and do ministry in the community.

At first, they were against us coming in.  We were disappointed, but continued to pray and seek.  In October of 2010, we began a weekly ministry on Tuesdays and Thursdays providing an after school program along with a clothing closet.  Man, what a victory!

We were pumped and excited!  We had great plans and thought in no time, we would have a significance presence on the campus at Shannon Valley being able to minister to the needs of the community.

That is not the way it happened.  Through the course of these last two and half years, we have gone through five different managers and each time a new manager came on, we would have to build up trust again, so a cycle began.  There would be times we would have no kids for our after school program.  Most of our initial team took on other ministry opportunities at the church and so we began to wonder if we heard God right.  There were many times, we had the conversation about just hanging it all up.  We could get our Tuesdays and Thursdays back and we could back to a normal life.

The interesting thing was though every time we had that conversation about quitting, God would bring someone in the community center as a reminder of why we were there.  God used a drunk guy one particular day.  We were five minutes from closing and here comes a drunk guy.  God used a drunk guy to say, “STAY!”

There have been countless opportunities to minister to the needs of one and many.  Now, we have been at Shannon Valley for two and a half years and guess what?  We are still there!  Being faithful through the crooked, long road has allowed us to build trust to a once drug-ravaged community.  Hope is being restored through the incredible managers at Shannon Valley: Donny and Deliliah–talk about a God story!!!!

We get to minister to kids after school through simple things like listening, praying, playing a lot of the game “Sorry”, Ninja and kickball.  For a period of time every Tuesday and Thursday, it’s just a great opportunity to be in their world.

Plus, God has opened up a door for us to buy some homes to maybe offer some transitional housing.  This could be a huge opportunity to help people in genuine need!  Along with this, we are getting an opportunity to help provide furniture and other needs to the residents.  Last week, I received an email from a sweet lady who asked for prayer for a family that was about to move into the community.  One of the children in this family has cancer.  Here’s the thing though, this lady who asked us to pray….we had never met!  Isn’t God good!  (Thank you Ms. Sherry!!!)

I could write a lot more about the simple stories that have happened as could Jennifer Grant and Pam Harris(feeding the community during Thanksgiving with the help of generous Foundation members), but I say all of this to say…..for the last two and a half years we have been on a wild and crazy road.  What we thought would be simple has turned into heartache, laughter, but most of all God-sized stories that we could not have dreamed up, but it took so much time for us to realize that it’s all up to God.  Through all of this, he has

  • taught us how to be patient
  • taught us how to wait on Him
  • taught us how to pray and stand in faith
  • taught us to look for God in the small things
  • taught us to realized it’s not about us
  • taught us to let God do what He does best: Change Lives.

So, you may be on a similar road that the Israelites were on.  Please know that the road to the “Promised Land” will probably not follow the short cut.   This journey you are on is one determined and planned by God himself and He wants to teach you through this.

Also know that you may be someone’s Moses!  You may feel pretty unqualified but join the ranks of us who feel the same way.  You are to lead them out of their Egypt.

It will be difficult, but He will be your Provision if you let Him.

  • You will be tempted to “go back to Egypt”.
  • You will wonder if you made the right decision.
  • You will have bad days.
  • You will laugh (at yourself) a lot.
  • You will step in camel poo.
  • You will encounter wonderful people.
  • You will feel inadequate.
  • You will experience God.
  • You will be changed as you follow Him!

As you come to the next bend in the road, know that as a believer in Jesus He is not just with you on this journey, but He is in you on this journey–He really will “take the will” :)…..just remember He knows what He is doing even though it may be a long journey.

Blessings!

By the Way….Some big things are in the works for this ministry and we are hoping to take this ministry to other communities as well!  We have a group of 5th/6th Graders coming from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas coming our way to invade this area with the Gospel in July through the L.I.T. Ministry….check out http://www.preteenmin.org

*I am a die-hard Keith Green fan.  Keith Green was a musical genius but was also a musical prophet.  The words of his songs are powerful.  This song, “So You Want to Go Back to Egypt”, is funny but also has truth in it as well.  For more info., google Keith Green and check out his stuff.  He died in a plane crash in the early 80’s.  My brother introduced me to his music and am grateful.

Blessings!           God has a plan!

Did you have to read the title twice to understand it?

When I was a kid, my mom always said the opposite.  She always said, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”  She was implying that I needed to move my tail to help in the situation.

Moses said the same thing: Don’t Just Do Something….Stand There!

‘But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.  The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.  The LORD himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm.”  Exodus 14:13, 14

What events surrounded this backward way of thinking?  Well, the Israelites were essentially being chased by the Egyptian army–600 charioteers–coming full force to destroy them.

Can you imagine the panic?  They did.

“Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?  Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt?  What have you done to us?  Why did you make us leave Egypt?  Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt?  We said, ‘Leave us alone!  Let us be slaves to Egyptians.  It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!”  Exodus 14: 11, 12

What would you have done?

I probably would have done the same thing plus I probably would have royally wet my pants and curled in a ball hoping it would all go away.

I/we think we can take care of things, but for me when I “take care of things”, things get worse.

But Moses responded differently….all that he had heard and believed came to a head as he stood in complete faith knowing that what God said all along would come to pass.

What panicked situation are you facing?  Does it seem that the world is against you and your back is against the wall?

What do you do?

Our flesh says to fight back.  Our flesh says to give up.  Our flesh says there is no way out.  Our flesh makes us think unreasonably.

Don’t be afraid.

Just stand still.

Don’t do anything in your own strength…Apart from Jesus you can do nothing.

Watch the LORD rescue you today.

The LORD himself will fight for you.

Just stay calm.

Do you believe the same God who rescued from the pit of despair and hell can help you fight the battle you are facing?

Be a Moses ….. respond differently….up to this point in your life all that you have heard and believed comes to a head as you stand in complete  faith knowing that what God said all along will come to pass.

He will never forsake you or leave you.

DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING….STAND THERE! (AND WATCH GOD RESCUE YOU)

The Month I Left My Egypt

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

The year….1990….the month I left my Egypt….the month I crossed over from death to life….the month that Jesus saved me.

In Exodus 13:3, Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever–the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery.  Today the LORD has brought you out by his power of his mighty hand.  On this day….you have been set free. “

I was set free in 1990.

I remember like it was yesterday.

I grew up at a boys home called Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch located outside of Amarillo, Texas.  I was sixteen at the time and we were on a chapel choir tour. On one particular evening, we went to a Drug Rehab Center for teenagers and presented the gospel through music. From that presentation, many of those teenagers in that center gave their lives to Christ. I even had an opportunity to lead one of the teenagers to Christ.

Later that evening on our way home back to the Boys Ranch, I was sitting by myself in one of the bus seats and someone had placed a Romans Road Gospel tract on the seat next to me. I had read over that tract and thought about what God just did in the midst of those teenagers at the rehab center and I began to evaluate my own spiritual condition and my past.

As I read over each of those verses–Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, Romans 10:9,10– I realized that if I were to die that night, I would not have gone to heaven. Jesus was not the Lord of my life. He was more of a religion. God’s Word pierced my heart and I realized that I was a sinner and I needed God’s forgiveness, so I simply asked Jesus to rescue me and I committed my life wholeheartedly to Him.

That’s my story…..No, I wasn’t in Egypt, but I was in bondage.  Just as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, I was a slave too.  I didn’t have iron shackles nor was I forced to work, but I was indeed a slave to sin.

I was reminded as I read the Scriptures in Exodus, that I need to celebrate  and remember what I used to be a slave to and how Jesus rescued me.

“You must explain to your children, ‘I am celebrating what the LORD did for me when I left Egypt.’  The annual festival will be a sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord: ‘With a strong hand, the LORD rescued you from Egypt.'”  Exodus 3:8-10

How awesome would it be if we took the same energy, planning and excitement to yearly celebrate our spiritual birthdays–when Jesus saved us from our Egypt?  What would it communicate to our children?  What would it communicate to our friends?  What if we were to celebrate every year and remember that “with a strong hand, the LORD rescued you from Egypt!”

My challenge for me and for those that read this blog is for us to put this most magnificent decision on the priority list for 2012!

 

Let me know how it goes….if you wish share your day/month when you left your Egypt!

Stepping in Poo

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

OBEDIENCE.  Sounds simple, huh?  One would think that if we step out in faith in obedience that the automatic result would be an automatic answer or solution to the condition you found yourself in, right?

The reality is….MY OBEDIENCE TO GOD DOESN’T GUARANTEE WHAT I WANT OR MY DREAMS.

Sometimes, stepping out in faith means your first step may be a step in poo.  It may mean that the first step may be uncomfortable or even painful.  It may mean giving up a friendship.  It may mean giving up time for yourself.  It may mean giving up something you really enjoy.

We forget/I forget that obedience is not about my fame, but it is all about God’s fame.  There is no guarantee of physical needs met if I step out in obedience.  There is no guarantee that I will always get what I want.  One thing though if I step out in obedience, I am promised a closer walk with Jesus and that my friends is worth it.

I may not receive presents, but I will receive Presence.  The presence of God is a great gift than gold, a new car, a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.

In Exodus, we see this principle unfold.  In Exodus 4 it starts out to be one of those movie minutes where the dramatic music is playing and the feel good part of the movie is when the good guys win.  It just seems that it’s going to be like the movie where everything is resolved in two hours.

We see that God calls Moses out of Moses’ self-imposed retirement through a burning bush.  Moses and Aaron get called up to deliver the Israelites from slavery.  Every excuse that Moses gave, God gave a rebuttal reminding him that He was with him.

Things are going well….

The next step is he meets with the elders and the elders are okay with the gameplan ready to get out of the dump they have been working in as slaves.  Trusting Moses and Aaron, the Israelites cheer them on to go and talk with Pharaoh.

Things continue to go well….

Moses and Aaron go and talk with Pharaoh.  In boldness, they say to Pharoah, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:1)

Pharoah responds…..

“Is that so?  And who is the LORD?  Why should I listen to him and let Israel go?  I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.”

Beads of sweat I am sure are forming on Moses brow…his face getting beat red.

I know what I would have been thinking.  I would have been thinking, “Did I hear God right?  God, what in the world is happening?  God, I’m ticked at you–look at what pickle you have put me in!”

To make matters worse………..

Pharoah sends orders to the Egyptian slave drivers to “load them down with more work….make them sweat.”  They had to get all of the straw for themselves and still be required to make the same number of bricks as before.

“But God, I did as you said…….I stepped out in obedience!”

First step in Camel Poo…….

Not only was Pharoah against Moses and Aaron, but it royally ticked off the Israelites believing that Moses and Aaron just sentenced them to death. (Exodus 5:19-21)

Second step in Camel Poo…..

Moses responded, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord?  Why did you send me?  Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people.  And you have done nothing to rescue them!”

The smell is atrocious!

Have you ever felt this way?  You clearly sensed God leading you in a certain direction and you hit a wall or you felt like you stepped in poo.  The results you expected were no where in sight?

Yeah, me too!

When Sarah and I clearly heard God wanting us to have more kids, we excitedly moved forward.  Who doesn’t like to do what it takes to make babies? 🙂  We knew God wanted us to have  a new child.  It was one of those movie moments where we anticipated smooth sailing….heck, what could go wrong when we clearly heard what God wanted?

2 miscarriages….consoling my wife……telling our children…..worried about the prospects of being able to have another kid.

Talk about wondering if we heard God right.

Over 2 years later……Judah Daniel!  2 years!!!!!!!!!!!  Let me say that again-2 years!!!!

2 years allowed God to do some pretty extraordinary things in our lives.  We probably would not have learned much if everything had gone according to plan, so regardless of the time it took, I am very thankful for the gift He gave us!

Stepping out in obedience is all about God’s timing, not ours.  Moses had to go through multiple encounters with Pharoah and go through many hoops in order for Pharaoh to release them.  Even with that after being delivered, Pharaoh’s army chased after them.  I am not for sure of the time frame all of that happened, but the chain of events I am sure Moses was not expecting.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves in these situations?

Hang on…..to Him!

I love Exodus 6:2, “I am Yahweh–‘the LORD.’ ……..You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians.  And I am well aware of my covenant with them.”

Friend, you can be sure that Yahweh has heard your groans–he is very well aware of your condition.  You may feel like you are walking in poo–but in time you will be delivered.

Keep walking in obedience!  What if Moses gave up after his encounter with Pharoah?  As my friend Walker Moore always says, “My disappointment may be God’s divine appointment!”

And remember…..”HE IS YAHWEH–‘the LORD’.

Praying for you!