Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Weight or sin

Hebrews 12:1 ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

So a few weeks ago my wife and I had a brief conversation. It went something like this...

Tash: You know, we've not been as focused as we should be with the youth group. It's not right. We're losing them.

Me: I know.

Tash: Something has to change. We need to do something.

Me: I know. I've been thinking about that for a while .

Tash: Things have been crazy with all the doctors and appointments but still we can do better.

Me: I know.

Notice something there? Did you see it? Let me expound if you will.

God was moving in Tash to bring up and point out a lack of devotion to our calling. He had brought it to my attention previously but honestly I thought "I know, no one has said anything yet so I'll try harder. I'll change, as soon as I square things away with work and my back. Then I'll have time." I didn't bring it up even though He brought it up often.

I have no way of knowing how many times He brought it up to Tash before she responded.

In Hebrews 12:1 we are told to lay aside every weight and sin. Laying aside sin makes sense. We know that, so when we read that we go "yeah, get rid of sin". We are missing something there though. Something key.

The verse says every weight AND sin. Meaning the weight is different from the sin. What does that mean? What weight?

Further on, he uses the illustration of a runner. So let's say the runner trained hard, ate healthy, rested appropriately and did everything correctly in preparation for his race. This is the same as an individual that through the Holy Spirit battles his flesh and brings it into submission. He avoids situations where he can be tempted to sin, he studies the word, fellowships with other believers and understands the importance of "be still and know I am God".

So this runner shows up to run his race wearing jeans, combat boots, heavy flannel shirt and a wool trench coat. How well is he going to run? Not very. He did everything right except one thing. He is carrying a lot of weight.

You're probably thinking "okay, what does that have to do with believers?" I'm glad you asked.

The weights in the verse are things that aren't necessarily sinful but can be a hindrance to you. The best example of this I heard in sermon by John MacArthur so no need to reinvent the wheel.

Is it sinful to take your spouse out Saturday night for a wonderful late dinner, take a ride afterwards, end up at the beach and go for a walk on the beach and be out until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. Then come home and go to sleep. The answer is no.

Now what if you had to get up Sunday morning and teach the word of God at Sunday school? Is it sinful now? Still no, however it is unnecessary weight. By not getting a good night's rest you are making teaching more difficult than it already can be.

Is watching television a sin? No. However, if you find it hard to find the time to connect with your family but never miss your shows it has become a weight and may be on the verge of becoming sinful.

Is being a diligent worker a sin? Definitely not. But when performing for your employer begins to encompass a large portion of your time, it has definitely become a weight.

This is what happened with me. There were so many peripherals that had moved out of the periphery and into the forefront that I was bogged down. I was trying to run with a backpack full of rocks. These things were important but not all important.

There was the youth group responsibilities, there was the guys I minister to, the Trail Life troop, being given even more responsibility at work, the problems with the deteriorating disks in my back, the children's various special needs and illnesses along with a myriad of other things. All culminating into a lot of unnecessary bulk. Not really sin but a lot of weight. That weight began to distract and take over. All of it was important but I allowed it to crowd in and take a prominent place. When in reality if I kept Christ where He's supposed to be, in front, then He'd have guided me through and shown me how to handle each thing.

Now there are some things I will have to cut out, and others that need realigned but all through the power of Christ.

The sad thing is, it wasn't until my pastor, Kevin, talked with me Sunday. He explained that some people were concerned. It seemed like I wasn't engaged and was disconnected. There were other things that were said but no need to go into full detail now.

After the conversation and then Kevin's sermon. I went to the altar and knelt down. I prayed that Jesus would forgive me for becoming weighted down. For losing my zeal, for moving Him from the center of my life. Then the Holy Spirit prompted me to get up, and publicly confess my failings over the past few months and ask the church to forgive me.

Now for a split second I thought how's that gonna look, one of the ministers admitting to a failure to remain focused and failing to honor God as he should. The response "it will show the power of God's Grace".

So I got up, signaled Kevin, he had Jake stop the music and I poured it out before the church. Through tears, I confessed my failure and asked them to forgive me.

Do you know what happened? Someone else got up and confessed his sins. Then the church gathered around us, laid hands on us and prayed over us and for us. It was awesome.

The love and grace displayed was truly amazing. The Holy Spirit moved and as a church we pulled together to move forward. They forgave just as Christ did. Now it's time to get back to work and live up to the calling that God had placed on us.

So join me in laying aside the weight AND the sin so we can run this race with endurance and excellence. Ditch the coat and the combat boots (weight/distractions). Get on the track and train (study the word/listen to the Spirit). Get a training partner to urge you on and help you stay focused (accountability/fellowship). Keep in mind, following Christ is a marathon not a sprint.

Just one question remains, do you have on your running shoes?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wondering How Long

As I sat there on the curb at lunch today I had one of those wondering moments. I was wondering how long would I have to wait before God moved me into what is considered full time ministry (if you are a follower of Christ you are in full time ministry). I sat there painfully aware of the damaged nerves in my back from a quad accident a few years ago. I was also aware of the invisible ice-picks being jabbed into my knees. My shoulders (both of which were dislocated when I had the quad accident) were screaming at me for carrying the backpack blower for 3 hours solid. All I could think about in that moment was "How long do I have to endure this Lord before You provide the means for me to be a full time Pastor? This sucks Lord. I hurt all the time. I don't have the time I want to invest in these students you have placed in my care. I want to be able to go have lunch with them at school. To spend time with them outside of the church setting. I want to be able to study for more than a few minutes a day." And so on and so on. 

You know how you can talk to someone and when they don't respond there is that dead silence that's almost awkward. Yeah that feeling, that didn't happen. 

My mind was taken to David. David spent years tending stinky sheep in the wilderness. He fought bears and lions to keep the sheep safe. That prepared him to fight Goliath. Before he could fight Goliath he HAD to spend years going unnoticed in a field somewhere. Then it went to the fact that David was anointed king over Israel when he was about 13 years old. He wasn't appointed king over Israel until he was 30. He had to wait 17 years before he was appointed to the position that God anointed him for.

Now my mind moves to Abraham. God promises Abraham that he will be the father of a great nation. That he will give him a son. Abraham's like cool, I've always wanted a son. Well Abraham was about 75 years old when God promises this. Abraham and Sarah wait 25 years for the promised son. 25 years. Then they have Isaac after waiting 25 years. Let me reiterate, 25 years. Abraham was 100 years old when they had Isaac. Then when Isaac was older God asks Abraham to sacrifice this promised son, the son that God swore to grow into a great nation. He asks him to offer him up as a burnt offering. Abraham is about to and God stops him and provides another offering in its place.

So now I have switched gears. I start thinking about all the biblical saints that had to wait a really long time before they could fulfill their purpose. Jesus waited till He was 30 to start His earthly ministry.

Then I hear in my spirit "you have to wait till the sifting is over. once this sifting is over you will move to the next place I have for you". For those of you that don't know, sifting refers to the separating of grain. When you sift grain you beat it and sift it till the chaff separates from the kernel. The kernel is what you are after. Its what has value and purpose. The chaff is almost useless. Looks kinda cool when the wind catches it and it blows away. 

So I stop and take inventory on being whats called bi-vocational has taught me. 

  • To work with excellence at whatever I do. This one is important because anything worth doing is worth doing well. The reason being is all of life is worship. Do I want to worship God in a flippant sorta way, no I want to worship Him with every fiber of my being so that means I have to put that into everything I do. This is one that I also struggle with. I don't always put my whole heart into some of my projects, they still come out great and people think they are awesome but I know that I could have done better.
  • To use my time wisely. I don't have a lot of spare time so I try and make the most of every moment. Make every single one count. Again I don't always do this but I try to. I try to make sure that when that teachable moment pops up I'm all over it like white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snow storm(Major Payne ref.).
  • To pray like I breathe. Prayer for the Christian is like oxygen to the body. We really really REALLY need it. While I'm working, nine times out ten I'm also praying. While I'm in conversation I'm praying. I pray a lot and that's a discipline that I know I would not have if it weren't for how hard my job can be some times.
There's more but that's all I'm going to list for now. I'll probably do a post on that topic later. 

Anyways, I know I will have to wait for that ministry position but I am okay with that. I am thankful to have a job right now with a boss that is truly a caring individual. When he asks how are you, he really means it. I have an amazing wife that helps me prioritize things and keeps me on track when I get distracted. I have two wonderful girls that remind me not to be too serious and sometimes you just need to hold hands and skip through Home Depot together. I have a son that plays WoW with me on Saturday nights. I have friends that care about me and will be there when I need them. Most of all I have a God that loves me and wants me. He says I have value and purpose. Before time began He thought about me and wanted to have a relationship with me.

That's true of you too. Before the world was created Jesus loved you and wanted to have a relationship with you. Its easy to have that relationship too. Just believe He is who He says He is. Believe that by dying on a cross and raising from the dead He paid that price for your screw-ups. Its that simple and when you do that its a done deal. No take backs. You are forever forgiven.

Its awesome how everything comes back to Jesus. Even aching knees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why I love Dare 2 Share

Hey guys, I didn't get a chance to share something this morning. I wanted to let everyone know why the youth group going to Dare 2 Share is as important to me as it is.

When I was 16 my pastor challenged the whole church to seek God hardcore about our calling. So I did, I spent hours and hours of time in prayer everyday, and studied extra hard. After a week I had a dream about standing at a podium(pulpit in Churchese) talking to students about my life and what Christ had done in and through it. I told this to Pastor Petty and he said, "Sounds like God is calling you to Youth Ministry. Well that freaked me out. I didn't want to be a pastor to anyone let alone teens. I wanted to be an army Ranger. Well that didn't happen.

Super long story short, I spent the next 10 years disqualifying myself from ministry. I did some pretty terrible things. Things that I should have gone to prison for but somehow didn't. During this time I met Tash. Tash and a Doctor friend of mine named Chad that I use to go to church with convinced me to start going to church again.

Well for years Chad had been trying to get me to go to Dare 2 Share with his parachurch youth group called Salvaged Youth Ministries and I always had a reason not to. My thing was I had no right to tell anyone about Jesus after all the stuff I did. There was no way God could use me. I'd done too much.

Because I was somewhat intimidating and the kids at the church we went to listened to me, I was recruited to basically be the youth group hammer at the church Tash and I went to. Well that happened in October and come March guess where I had to go. That's right, Dare 2 Share. I went with our church and they happened to be going with Chad's group.

Still thinking I had no business being there, there I was sitting in the Dodge Theater in Phoenix Arizona surrounded by literally thousands of Christian teenagers. It was unreal. I had never felt the presence of God like that. That night they did a skit called The Door and it changed my life forever.

This girl is sitting in her room txting this guy that's trying to get her to go out tonight. Then these two adults come in her room and ask if shes been talking to that boy again and how she needs to stay away from him. Hes bad news and all that. Well as it goes on you see her deal with severe issues and she starts hearing this knocking and the parents come in and tell her its nothing she just needs to take her meds. Then they start telling her that since life is so hard and shes obviously so crazy she should just end it. Go ahead and kill herself. The boy calls again and is inviting her to youth group but she has to hang up real quick because the parents come back in and start pressuring her again telling her this knocking was all in her head and on and on. She starts pacing and is getting panicky. She remembers the boy telling her something about being saved and she tries to remember what he said but the "parents" start yelling and trying to drown out the memory, she falls to the ground clutching her hands to her head, shaking it side to side, while the knocking gets louder and louder and the "parents" are trying to drown it out, and then she just yells out at the top of her lungs "JESUS" and this door towards the back of the set is kicked almost off its hinges and Jesus(played by Derwin Gray aka The Evangelism Linebacker) walks through it and over to her. The "parents"(if you haven't figured out by now were demons in her mind) instantly fell to the floor when Jesus kicked opened to door. He looks at both of them as they lay there, then he holds out his hand to her and points to his wrist and says I have scars too. He helped her up, dried her tears and they walked out together. At that moment I was almost sobbing, even now as I type this I cant help but cry when I remember that moment. The spirit told me that all that stuff I'd done didn't matter. What mattered was that Jesus loved me, that He had taken all that garbage in my life and nailed it to the cross. That I was a beloved child of God and I could never uncall what God had called. I felt something change inside me that night. I felt the chains that had been coiled around my heart shatter and fall away.

Over the years I've seen amazing things happen at and because of the Dare 2 Share ministry. That same conference I got to see a girl that was caught up in witchcraft be saved and then turn around and start witnessing, I saw a 13 year old boy answer the call to be a missionary, not to mention the hundreds of others that were saved the first night of the conference.

Last year when we went one of the girls that went with us led a friend to Christ through txt message while at the conference. Another one called her mother to witness to her, then when we got back witnessed to her cousin that was in the army station in Georgia and didn't believe God could be real because of what he had seen in Iraq. She kept on witnessing to him anyway and convinced him to start going to chapel services on base.

Dare 2 Share is a different breed of student conference. They don't just hype the kids up and then send them back home. And its more then just an "I love Jesus, yes I do, I love Jesus, how about you?" thing. They train everyone at the conference to share their faith in an easy and non-jerk way, teach what it means to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, along with a whole lot more. Then they unleash everyone to do just that on Saturday afternoon. These students go out into the city and share the gospel. For a lot of the students they just got saved Friday night and now they are out there telling others about Jesus. Its real, its raw, its awkward and its awesome. Then they challenge them to continue the journey with Christ. To not just do evangelistic events from time to time, or try and program it into things but to live out their walk with Christ. To go and spread to the gospel in everything that they do. That all of life is worship and is to be lived to the glory of God.

We don't have a lot of money at the church so we have to be picky about things. So when I have to choose what youth event we should spend money on, its going to be Dare 2 Share. Its solid, biblical truth, that is presented in a way the students can get and get into. There are literally thousands upon thousands of testimonies about how God has blessed people through this ministry. When you get people together who love God wholeheartedly and are devoted to fulfilling His calling on their lives no matter what the cost, God does amazing things through them and that's whats going on here.

So what do you say, you wanna go with this year?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Home Kids and Jesus

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. 

So tonight was the last official meeting that a number of our students were able to come to. Due to some stuff I'm not going to get into the students from the children's home are no longer allowed to come to our church. This doesn't just break my heart, it has shattered it. I just want to ball my eyes out. The girls from the home are upset as well. And they are not quiet about how upset they are.

When I first was told about it almost a week ago, I was angry. All I could think was "These girls are actually forming relationships. They are beginning to get excited about the Gospel. God why is this happening?"

They were able to come to Sunday service which was great. Then they were able to come tonight. It was bitter sweet. It was great to be able to minister to them. Tonight we talked about praying for our enemies. Then we actually prayed for them. I started by praying for the person I loathed (nicest way to put it). Great thing is even while I was praying for him God started to soften my heart towards him and that came out in the prayer and by the end of it I was almost in tears and so were they. Which opened it up for them to be honest about their feeling towards the people that they were angry with. We prayed out loud in front of everyone. Not everyone participated but it was awkwardly awesome.

Then came the hardest part, the dismissal. Saying goodbye was terrible for a moment. Then great because I said," Just because you cant come here, doesn't mean I cant go there. I will come and visit you at the home." A few faces lit up at that. Then one girl asked," Could you come and do youth group type stuff at the house?"

I know why this happened now. To show them that they ARE worth pursuing. To help them understand that the living infinite God of the universe loves them and is pursuing them.

So now we are filling out paperwork and going to pay for background checks and what not in order to be approved to take them on outings and such.

Pray for us that we may boldly and clearly display as well as proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray for the girls that their hearts would be softened to Christ, that His love fills their hearts, that He resurrects their broken lives. Pray that the enemy's attacks be halted. In the name of Jesus Christ, the one who was, is, and is to come Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Wonder

"I wonder..." Its a simple enough statement. Most of use it frequently. Many of us used it today. Now stop and think about this statement. Look at it close. I wonder. Wonder. 
Merriam-Webster defines wonder in this way: 

won-der (noun) \ˈwən-dər\
1 a: a cause of astonishment or admiration : marvel <its a wonder you weren't killed><the pyramid is a wonder to behold>
   b: miracle

2 : the quality of exciting amazed admiration

3 a: a rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience
   b: a feeling of doubt or uncertainty

wonder (verb)

intransitive verb

1 a: to be in a state of wonder
   b: to feel surprise
   c: to feel curiosity or doubt <wondering about the future>

transitive verb

    : to be curious or in doubt about <wonders  why birds sing>

Well now that that's out of the way you are probably thinking well thanks for the vocabulary lesson but why is that important. This is why.

I wonder if you have ever stopped to just wonder. Just wonder about stuff. 

Life, love, clouds, mountains, puppies, ants, dirt, rocks, people, men, women, children, air, wind, work, careers, whether to choose the chicken or salmon. Wonder why am I here, what is my purpose, am I loved, am I doomed to failure over and over and over again. Is God real, is He as powerful as some of these nut jobs say, I wonder what He's like.

I wonder at a lot of things. I wonder why anyone would choose Pepsi over Coke, I wonder why someone would choose vanilla over chocolate. I wonder why most people lie and say they like ketchup and then ingest that nasty stuff. I wonder how, when face with the full magnitude of the love of God, people can still turn their backs and walk away. I wonder how "believers" knowing full well the ramifications of a life lived apart from Christ remain silent while those around them struggle through a living hell. I wonder why many "believers" make a sin and Jesus sandwich in their day to day lives.(ex. facebook post about getting drunk and trashed, then a post click like if you love Jesus, then a post about sex stuff with an almost completely naked person on it, then click like if Jesus is your Lord scroll past for the devil, then a post about slappin the taste out of someone's mouth and so on and so on) I wonder am I truly sold out for Christ, am I truly giving Him all of me? Sometimes I wonder how long will I struggle with this sin. I wonder why am I so afraid to talk to people. And on and on.

I also wonder in this way, "Wow, the stars are so beautiful tonight. The storm rolling in is so magnificent and powerful. That breeze feels so good. Thank you Lord."

Seems like I wonder a lot. I guess I do. But through all my wonderings I always ask God about 'em. Sometimes He shows me in His word answers to my wonderings, sometimes its through a friend, or a song, or a butterfly on a breeze. The answer doesn't always come in the same way but it does come. He tells us "ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you."(luke 11:9) The idea isn't ask and BAM there it is. Its ask and keep on asking, seeking and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. Keep going till the answer comes. The preceding verses point that out with the whole irritating neighbor who wont stop bugging the guy after dark for some bread for a guest of his that arrived unexpectedly. The text states that because of his persistence the neighbor will give him whatever he needs. How much more so God who is good and never asleep.


What do you wonder about?

P.S. Still waiting on an answer for the whole Pepsi over Coke thing.