Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Skyscrapers to Yard Work

My family and I have taken a step of faith out of obedience that I, in my most honest moments, did not see happening for a very long time. We are now tithing 10% of our gross income. This, even as we begin this journey, has drastically changed me, my mindset, and my household already. 

My wife and I have debt. I’ve pretty much always had debt since I began independently providing for myself. Part is due to an instant gratification mindset, and part is due to the inability to say “not right now” to those I love. Between student loans, mortgage, and credit card debt, we amassed a sum that would likely make anyone feel almost helpless. 

My mindset on tithing has always been that we obviously should, but that the debt was the first priority. Once the debt was paid down, we could increase our tithe amount. It wasn’t until a meeting with a wonderful mentor that I realized this mindset was not only incorrect, but also possibly what was keeping us from actually being free from debt. 

We are now tithing 10%, and my view and attitude toward our debt has completely changed. See, debt can seem like you are standing by a skyscraper attempting to push it down. You push and push, but it is still standing tall peering down at you, all the while adding floors and becoming taller.  Since we began tithing according to what God’s word the skyscraper isn’t gone, but it is transformed. It is now albeit large, a pile of leaves. It will still require work to clean up, but one bag at a time we will be able to do it. 

We always seem to think in terms of this physical world when we consider obedience to God. Someone may think, “I’ll start tithing and come into some money to be able to pay everything off.” I’m not saying that won’t happen. But in my heart, I truly believe that obedience to God isn’t a quick fix of our past mistakes, instead it is a path to the wisdom and self-control that we need in order to overcome what has replaced Him. It seems like an oxymoron, but freedom really does exist only in surrender. Its freeing to be able to model my actions based on choices already made for me by someone who knows how this world and I work better than I could ever imagine. 

I’m not saying I don’t have to think about it anymore. I still have to be intentional. Following God doesn’t happen by accident – we have to choose it. But, oh, once we do, we are able to see more clearly, worship more passionately, follow closer, and experience more joy and peace than we ever have before. 

If you’re on the edge of following Him, not just financially, but in any facet of your life, let me give you this small insight that I have experienced personally: Do it. Just do it. It won’t be easy, but the route is clearly marked.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Open My Eyes to Fatherhood

On November 10, 2014 at 1:53 PM, I became a Father.

I look into those big blue eyes, and I see my future. I see my imitator, my sidekick, and my legacy. I see all my hopes, dreams, and fears all at the same time. What kind of Father will I be? What decisions will I make? What, from my Father, will I carry on in my parenting? What other influences will I use, and what will I reject? What will I stop doing? What will I start doing?

It is amazing the thoughts that fly through your head after your child is born. Other parents always tell you everything will change, but they have no way of explaining how and how much. Honestly, some parents may not even realize exactly how much has really changed. We have a habit of normalizing anything. We get into a routine, and pay little attention to detail, nor do we take a moment to honestly look at ourselves or our situation. I say this to say that our lives have changed drastically, and this is how:

My life itself has changed a tremendous amount. My son is almost 7 weeks old now, and I have just now had a chance to sit and gather my thoughts. My priorities have shifted drastically, and my routines have been thrown into a constant state of flux, depending on the needs of this entirely helpless baby. I know what you're thinking, God should always come first. You're absolutely right. But I challenge anyone to welcome an infant into your house for the first time, while keeping your daily routine completely intact. If you have, you're a better man than me. I am having to learn planning and time management all over again. Spiritual warfare also changes. The enemy now has new vulnerabilities to test in order to make you an ineffective Christian. There are so many variables, many unseen, that come with the addition of a baby into your life that cause everything else to go into a state of chaos. But through this chaos comes learning, growth, and ultimately a closer relationship with God.

My relationship with my wife has definitely changed. Everyone always talks about loving someone so much more after seeing them with your children. It is absolutely true. You see how much someone cares for something that God used you both to create, and there is something so mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual that happens, which is next to impossible to explain. What most people don't talk about is that your relationship is also extremely strained. Communicating is often done over and in between the cries of your little bundle of joy. Both of you create new expectations that you didn't even think of having before you had a child. If these expectations are not met, you are mad/upset and argue with your spouse, who has no idea the expectation even existed (likely due to the lack of communication, previously mentioned). learn. You learn how to communicate effectively (often in short bursts of information much like drinking from a fire hose). You write each other notes. You write things down. Period. You have so many more things to remember now that are directly related to your new baby, that your poor brain has little room for other information. You also create your own romance. You let your wife know that you still see her as the hot pre-baby woman you married. You let her know that no matter what changes, she is still yours and only yours. The baby doesn't trump your marriage. That is SO easy to say, but extremely difficult to put into practice. The best thing you can do for your children is to take care of your marriage. No matter what happens, keep that at the forefront of your mind.

My relationship with God has taken a roller coaster ride that I would have never expected. We are supposed to put God before anything and everything in our lives. When we get married, that becomes increasingly difficult as we grow our love for our spouse, but over time becomes easier with practice and keeping God the center of your relationship. When you add a child to the mix, the difficulty increases ten fold. Your morning Bible reading and prayer takes a back seat to early feedings, and short naps to be able to function the next day at work. Your prayer time becomes brief moments of labored cries for more sleep. learn. You carve out time regardless of sleep. You read while holding your sleeping infant. You pray while looking at your sleeping baby that God will give you the strength to lead your family closer to Him.

I have found that my relationship with God is like slowly opening my eyes. I can choose to open my eyes to see the world around me, but I can also choose to keep them closed. I can also squint, and will be unable to see things clearly. There are times in my life where I have seen things clearer, then chose later to squint. What is most consistent is that every time I think my eyes are completely open, and I can see everything, God reveals more and more to me through His word and my life experiences. The birth of my son has opened my eyes to Fatherhood, and things are still so blurry. Through it all, I know that it isn't me I should be relying on, it is my Father in Heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." I always thought of a child of about 4-6 years old when I read this verse. I now think of an infant. They are completely helpless and reliant on their parents for their every need. They communicate these needs by crying out in desperation to have these needs met. They can't differentiate between each needs; however, their parents know exactly what needs to be done in order to calm them: food, cleanliness, sleep, and love. We should approach God in the same manner. We know we are helpless, and we are able to cry out to Him for our needs. My eyes may not be fully open, but I am learning more and more how to be God's baby.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Letter to My Pastor

    First of all, thank you. Thank you for the late nights, the calls, texts, visits, prayers, and persistence you show each and every day to fulfill your role as Pastor. Your dedication to the study of God's word, your constant attention on your relationship with Him, and focus on improving the relationships and lives of those who hear the Gospel from you.
    I believe the best thank you I can offer is for me to give you a gift. My gift are the things which I pledge to do my best to do for you. I have listed these things below not only to honor you, but also to remind myself of my role as a member of this church, as a follower of Christ, and as someone under your leadership.

  1. I will understand that you aren't perfect. I understand that my relationship with God is just that - mine. I will cultivate my relationship with God by reading His word, and praying without ceasing to my heavenly Father. 
  2. I will recognize, but not publicize your wrongs. As mentioned in #1, you aren't perfect; therefore, you will make mistakes both in life, in the church, and in Scripture. Because I am reading God's word and praying, I will be able to recognize these times and offer the best help, prayer. 
  3. I will not gossip, period. This applies to you and your family, as well as anyone else in or outside of the church. 
  4. I will pray for you. I will keep you in my prayers always, and also your family. I will be sure to pray for anything specific I may know about, and especially anything specific happening in the church, from events to changes.
  5. I will be okay with change. I respect your decision, and I am going to honor you by following your leadership and vision for the church, while supporting you in any way I can.
  6. I will encourage you. I will thank you for all you do, appreciate your role in my life, and honor you whenever and however I can.
  7. I will realize that I am not your friend. Because I am being led by you, I am not on the same spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical level that you are as the leader of this community of believers. This does not mean that we cannot hang out, but I will not expect to be the best of friends and spend tons of time together.
  8. If I have a problem, I will come to you with it. As mentioned in #3, I will not gossip; therefore, I will come to you personally with any problem I may have that involves you. I will be respectful of your time, and be patient to get to discuss my issue with you. I realize that the prayer, fasting, preparation, and time spent leading this church takes priority over an issue I may have, so I will be respectful of your time.
  9. I will not pretend to understand your life. I am not a Pastor. I have no idea what you deal with on a daily basis, what attacks you suffer from the enemy, or the demands on your time. I will be understanding if you aren't available for my child's birthday party, baby shower, etc... 
  10. I will be respectful of your family. We are all doing life together, and life isn't perfect. I realize children sometimes make decisions out of immaturity that may not align with your values, or values found in Scripture. I will not assume anything about your life, nor judge you as a parent. I will encourage and support in any way I can. 
  11. I will not depend solely on you for leadership in my life. I will find those who are where I want to be in an area of life, and I will seek to be mentored by them. This goes for finances, marriage, parenting, etc...
  12. I will take personal responsibility for my life. You cannot change me, and I realize that. God changes me, and He does so with my willingness. Your encouragement is always welcome, and I am so grateful for it.
  13. I will accept correction from you. I will understand that by being under your leadership that I am agreeing to you being able to correct me if I am ever out of line in any area of my life.  I will accept this correction, and do everything possible to follow it.
  14. I will lead others. I will not sit, collecting dust, within this church expecting you to do all the work. I will participate, lead, grow, and help others to do the same.
  15. I will be an example of unity. Regardless of what happens, what disagreements occur, what decisions I do not like, I will always, in everything I do, support unity in Christ for our church. The enemy would love nothing more than to work his way into our church through a disagreement, event, or anything else in order to disrupt our unity and make us ineffective. I will pray against my pride, humble myself no matter the situation, and always pray for unity.
Your position is of vital importance to the Kingdom of God. We should be grateful and worshipful to Him to be allowed to be a part of such an amazing movement as spreading the Gospel to those in need. We are the light of the world, and you are carrying the lamp. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Journey Back To God


      Were you raised in church? I was. Did you learn "all about God?" I did. Most may believe this is great, and that I had an amazing jump start on someone who has no knowledge of God or Christ's sacrifice for us. I would beg to differ. This may offend some, but I'm going to say it anyway - there are bad churches. There, someone said it. There are churches that do not teach the Gospel as it is laid out in Scripture.  There are churches that do not teach against sin in order to create a place where everyone is welcome.  There are churches that, simply put, do not know who God is at all. I was raised in such a church. Did the church have good people, who loved one another? Yes. Did I benefit from what I learned in this church? Yes. Before this comes off the wrong way, I'm not saying that my being raised in church was not helpful, or "good."  My point is that my understanding and knowledge of who I am in Christ and who God is to me was skewed and misled, and is in some ways hindering me from growing in my relationship with God.
     The reason I mention this is because I had an interesting experience recently. I have been speaking with a friend for some time now. I have been sharing the Gospel, as well as many thoughts on situations, the Bible, and life in general. This person was not raised in church, as I was.  As of late, I have been reading Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson.  In the first chapter, the author confronts you with an exercise. He asks, "Who are you?" Most would answer, initially, with their name. But that is your name. Who are you? Then they may say their occupation, but that is what they do. Who are you?  They may even respond with "I'm Baptist" (or fill in whatever you like). But that is their denomination. Who are you? At this point, I'm frustrated. Who am I? Finally, the author explains the simple answer that never crossed my mind - You are a child of God. That's it. Done. He goes on further to expose this as an exercise to show us how much we rely on things of this world to define us. Really, truthfully, we are defined by God.  Now here is where my point comes in: my friend answered the third "Who are you?" with "Oh you mean the basics of who I am. I am a child of God." Whoa... First, this person ruined the exercise :)  But what's more is that they completely threw me for a loop. How did they grasp it so quickly, when I was so focused on other things?  You could say different personalities, different spiritual understandings, etc..., but I think it is deeper.  I am coming from a point of extremity. I am coming from a place where God is structured, understood, and defined by my preset beliefs and notions from my childhood teachings.  My friend isn't. My friend is starting from scratch, starting completely new.  This person has no preconceived notions of God, nor any prior claimed understanding. It is so hard to me to throw my teachings of the past away, and let God be God. 
     So I have started a journey. I have to journey past all of the extremities in order to get back to the middle and really know who I am in Christ and to have a real and intimate relationship with Him. I have to scrap everything I have learned and start over. I personally believe this is an introspective moment we all should have. Do you believe you have God "figured out?"  Do you think you know how He works, and what He can and can't do? It definitely takes faith to reopen your mind to allow God to be free. To put God in a box and define Him, limits the unlimited. How can God be all powerful in our lives if we are constantly trying to define Him, understand Him and His ways, and put Him in a manageable box? This is a definite journey. I have to one by one destroy my notions of who God is in reference to this world, and grow in an intimate relationship, through faith, so that I may not define and limit Him, but define who I am in Him.  I do this so that I may be a vessel in which He can do great works through me, works beyond that which I could ever imagine. Let us stop trying to define God, and let Him define us.

God Bless

Monday, July 2, 2012

Driving Force For Victory

    So I've started something new, and it has changed my life.  I have started driving with the power of God. I know this sounds strange, but let me explain. There is a constant battle going on in all of our minds over our thoughts.  The enemy is trying to control us by us allowing control of our minds through our thoughts.  Our battle plan? Captivity. Take bad thoughts captive. Sounds relatively easy, right? Well, here's the kicker. You must not only take the thought captive, but also replace it with God's TRUTH.  Let me give you an example, by explaining my practice in this awesome battle plan.
When I drive, I get mad. I have a bad case of ROAD RAGE.

 This is my main time when bad thoughts are most prominent.  Someone cuts me off, and I am all of the sudden imagining myself throwing knives (which I don't keep in my car.....I promise....) out of my window at their tires.  Wow. Before I even know it, I am not only a master knife thrower, I'm also intentionally hurting someone, even if only in my mind. How did that even happen? I'll tell you how - my mind is a battlefield, and the battle is for my thoughts.  So this is my plan: I take the thought captive, out loud identify it as a lie from the enemy, and replace it with God's truth. So I literally say out loud, "This is a lie from the enemy, I have no right, nor any reason to hurt this person in any way." Then I replace it with God's truth, "Ephesians 4:26, 'In your anger, do not sin.' Ephesians 4:32 'Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.' In the name of Jesus Christ, I claim victory over this thought."  It is so freeing! How amazing it is that the enemy does not control my thoughts! He does not control my mood! He does not control ME! I am free in Christ, and He is free to fight for me! Because, I'll admit, I get so much practice doing this while driving....I have begun to integrate this battle plan into my daily life.  My thoughts are of God - of LOVE, and what a blessing it is to be free.

God Bless

Monday, June 25, 2012

Adding God to My Calendar

   I write this with a million things running through my mind - "What do I need to pick up on the way home today? What do I need to accomplish at work today? Where did I leave that paper that I need? What bills are due soon?".....etc...  It's SO hard to stop. What happens if I do? In my mind, my whole world falls apart. That's what. I have to be honest. That's how I feel sometimes. We all like to say how much we trust God, and how much we are working on trusting Him more every single day (which I'm not saying isn't true); however, we all have to admit that there are times when we get too busy, too focused on our wants, too wrapped up in what we begin to think is OUR lives. This is the great fallacy of our minds. By our very acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, we relinquish control of our lives to God. We agree in that moment, and all the moments thereafter, that God will be our guiding lighthouse into the shore, our driving force behind our actions, and our whole lives. But we're human. Is that an excuse? No. It's fact. Like the fixed time of prayer or David (Psalm 55:16-17), the set prayer times of Daniel (Daniel 6:10), or Peter and John and the Early Christians (Acts 3:1) we also need OUR time of prayer. But it's like we need God to break us to our knees, or we need someone to shake us and tell us that our soul will shrivel up and die without this life giving, relationship building, most powerful time with our Father in heaven. Peter Kreeft said, "Praying is more important than eating because your soul is more important than your body." When we focus on the things of this world and what we think is our own lives, we push out God's voice, and strain our relationship with Him.  I am saddened today, because I realize I have done this. I haven't written a post for this blog since last year. I'm not saying that having a blog is necessary for a relationship with God, but this blog has provoked more study and research of God's word, and given me more clarity and release of thought than anything else in my life ever has.  My prayer time increases and my study time increases when I am searching for answers throughout my daily life, and when I journal them in my notebook I keep for prayer and thoughts as well as transferring them here, for all to see.  This transparency is what I feel led to do, and it builds on my relationship with my Creator.
     I think of it as one of the old school communication devices, a string and two cans.  When the string is stretched tight, the vibrations are carried across it between the person at one end to the person at the other, and communication is possible.  Well God has held his can in the same place the whole time, yet the line is slack. Who moved? Me. My communication with God has suffered because I let the link get slack. The only think that prevents me from praying is more me.  It's my own inflated sense of self-importance, the elevation of my work, of my agenda, that keeps me from prayer and communication with God.  You know what Scripture calls that? Idol worship. I don't pray enough because I'm practicing idol worship. Romans 1:25 says, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." That "creature" became me, myself, and I.  The extent of prayer in one's life is a direct function of whether something else has been set up as more important than God.  In this action, we operate separate from God. Not because He has left us, but because we have left Him.  We consider it "too much to go up to Jerusalem" (1Kings 12:28-30).  Instead we create our own "golden calves" and worship them until we realize how far we are from God.  What is saddest of all is that we then wonder why...   The easiest way to find time for God is to weave Him into every facet of your life. Consider His counsel in every decision, no matter how small. Have a constant conversation with Him every day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Make your prayer time His time, not yours. When all else fails, add God to your calendar

God Bless.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Great. How?

     "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1

   That is an amazing explanation of faith. It tells us not only what faith is, but also how it should be considered.  A lot of us will have no problem admitting that we are lacking in the faith department. We have a hard time entrusting our most prideful parts of our lives to Him. Though, sometimes, we do have moments of unbridled faith and love. These moments usually come in dark times in our lives when we believe we need God's help the most. Other times, these moments occur when we get answers to our purpose and talents in this life. Once we realize God's promise, and we make that jump to have faith in that end, it is easy to believe that it will happen. We have no problem seeing the end result. For example, you realize you have talents in medicine and pray for guidance. You receive a blessing letting you know that medicine is where you should do the work of God and spread His word. You are on your way to becoming a doctor. We have no problem believing that the end result will occur, and it is important that when we realize God's direction and guidance in our lives, that we keep our mind focus on His will. Our problem occurs after this faith in the end result occurs. We tend to ask God "how?" Now this, in and of itself, is not the problem.  Trusting God with every facet of your life and asking His guidance in all you do is a good thing, and is a vital part of walking with God. Our problem becomes our impatience. We want to rush the process. There is a saying that "Faith in God includes faith in His timing." This perfectly relates to our inability to follow God's process to His will for our lives. We want to take shortcuts, or we want to be more than He has asked us to be. This is where pride, and self-glorification can really get us into trouble, and possibly put us in danger of the enemy taking God's plan for our lives and turning it into a negative, if we let him.  We also are tempted to ask Him for or believe things are promised that are above and beyond the end result. Harry Emerson Fosdick said, "God is not a cosmic bellboy for whom we can press a button to get things done." This is, unfortunately, the trap we fall into when we let our minds wander to our desires, instead of His plan.  Hebrews 11:8 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."  Abraham had no idea where he was going or what to do, but he still walked, and followed God's plan for his life. This faith, not only in the end result, but in every step of the process along the way is what is required. No explanation is required, no further instructions, no need for over-analyzing every little detail, just faith in His promises and surrender to His will.