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TO BE OR NOT TO BE... A BLOG

Saturday
Jul252015

The Traveling Vagabond: Hinds Feet Day 4

     

Jeff Porter gave me a wonderful going away gift.  He took my two boys and I an hour of off-roading on a path that leads half way up North Peak mountain in the Red Rocks.  From there we got out of his jeep and began hiking 2 hours up to the peak.  It made memories of a lifetime.

As I was walking, Psalms 18 kept coming to my mind, particularly vs 33:

“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet,

And sets me upon my high places.”

“Hinds” are like gazelles, deer or mountain goats. 

Life is never a strait forward path, everyone has twists, turns and obstacles.  But we do get to choose as to whether we go to the low places or the high places.  What gets thrown at us we often have little control over, what we inwardly do with our daily reality is where our choice comes in.

The low place is always the path of least resistance.  The parent who constantly is found in self-pity.  The business person who’s gain was found, in part, by looking away of the moral implications of how that gain was achieved.  The twenty something who approaches life with a sense of entitlement.  The person who’s generosity is enough to feel good about oneself, but not enough to feel the loss in his/her lifestyle.  The low path faces life, yet is given to self-preservation.

High places are always narrow paths where you choose to do the tough inward work, despite the fact that life is already throwing you enough curve balls as it is.

The high places are beautiful, and they produce the kind of peace the Creator intended for life to have.  There is an inexplicable joy found up there.  Hope is based on a real confidence as eyes are wide open, rather than stumbling through life with eyes closed and fingers crossed.

Jeff, Caleb, Levi and I spent almost an hour on the mountain top in total silence.  We each took a rock that had a spectacular view and spent the hour taking it all in, meditating and prayer.  Technology hardly worked up there so even if the cell phone asked for attention, it could only last for a few minutes at best.  The path to get to this high place was long and treacherous, but the payoff was so big that we created memories that will last a lifetime. 

Earlier in the Psalm we read:

 “He took me to a safe place.

    Because he delights in me, he rescued me.” (19)

I learned back in college through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that our basic foundational needs are physiological (food and shelter), safety and security.  He would say that ultimate healthiness is to reach love, self-esteem and self-actualization. 

The older I get I have learned that worry and anxiety about the basic needs will never allow my inward self to focus on those higher needs. In life I get caught in a vicious cycle that keeps me in the low places. It is not a safe place. Personally I have found, and am finding, that God’s words are true.  If I trust in the Lord with all of my heart and lean not into my own understanding, He will make my paths strait to the high places. (Prov 3)

Friday
Jul242015

The Traveling Vagabond: The Middle Finger - Day 3

Fear is a voice that we give credit to, but it is most often not based on reality.  Never is that voice from God.  Never.  Scripture teaches that God is love and perfect love drives out all fear (1 John 4)  It would surprise some that “Fear Not” is the most common command in the Bible. To be certain, God does not want his children to be afraid.   Fear, anxiety and depression are frequent and should never be ignored, but it is never God’s strategy for your life.

As my family and I neared our vagabond era, we agreed as a family to work hard towards two things.  We don’t always get them right, and as a way of confession I will admit there are plenty of times I fail.  Nonetheless, we are striving toward them both.

The first is faithfulness.  For me that means being faithful to my current employer in serving them so well that I bring them honor in my departure.  It also means for me to be faithful in my job hunt, never growing complacent in my efforts.  It means doing what I need to do for this move.  It means reaching out to friends to let them know that they are of value to me.  Finally, it means to fight against escapism.  Anger, excessive hours on the internet, lust, excessive alcohol, self-pity – the list goes on as to what shape it can take for people.  We all have dysfunctional ways to avoid reality, I have mine.  Again, some days I am only going on one cylinder rather than firing on all four, but I am really working hard on being faithful to what is healthy and right.    

The second is to give fear the middle finger.  There is no place for fear, I need to not allow it to have dominance in my life.  One day I will write about how Mathew 6 is changing my life.  Unless the Lord wants me to write about something else tomorrow, I will talk about a Psalm that is influencing me.  Back to todays entry, I am finding that one of the greatest ways to fight fear is to have fun.  Terri teaches me this.  Wherever Terri goes, the atmosphere turns into a party.  When I am with her I am having fun, I find it to be a brilliant way to give fear the middle finger.  

Life is filled with the crazy.  About 90% of it is totally out of your control.  Be faithful to the 10% you have been given and roll your eyes in laughter at the other 90 percent. 

Thursday
Jul232015

The Traveling Vagabond: Prayer Garden Day 2

If you have not read the intro yet: START HERE

I drove over to Fuller to spend a few hours there before I headed to Vegas.  I found myself thumbing through my dissertation in the library.  

As I randomly opened it up to the middle, I found what I wrote on meditation.  At its core, “Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word. It is that simple.” Thomas à Kempis defines meditation as a familiar friendship with Jesus: “The perpetual presence of the Lord . . . moves from a theological dogma into a radiant reality. ‘He walks with me and he talks with me’ ceases to be pious jargon and instead becomes a straightforward description of daily life.”  

There is a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament seventy-four times, seventy one of which are in the Psalms. The word is Selah. It means to stop and listen. It could also be said that it means: “Shut up! Pay attention!” The Amplified Bible translates it as, “pause, and think of that.” It is an invitation to become attentive to what God is up to.

Christian meditation is a way of experiencing God beyond what the ego can grasp or attain. God wired humans to have a deep longing for what is healthy and what is right.  Christian meditation is the process of being open, vulnerable and honest of areas of brokenness and to reflect upon what God would have to say about being reconciled in this area. For example, if a person wrestles with being fearful, it is clear in the Bible that God is love and perfect love casts out all fear (1 Jo 4:18). The problem is identified and the biblical context is clear. This identifies the problem and the final solution, but it does not identify the source of the anger. This is where meditation becomes helpful when building one’s identity in Christ. Meditation invites God to guide the follower of Christ to identify the source of the problem and navigate solutions towards the biblical principle.

Upon reading what I wrote for others, I realized that God had me write this a year ago, so He could use it as an instrument to speak to me in a California library on this day.

I went to Fuller’s prayer garden and spent a few hours meditating 

Wednesday
Jul222015

Day 1 The Traveling Vagabond - Laguna 

If you have not already: READ INTRO FIRST

Today I got up early and dove four hours to spend the day hanging out with Michael Bischof, founder of Soul Leader, in Laguna Beach as we simply talked life.  I decided to mark this day as the first day of my Vagabond travels, as I am standing on a west coast beach.  Each day I am asking God for wisdom and direction.  I will not always share all of it, but I would like to share some.  Some with be new, much will be reminders.  Some days I may write a lot, some days I may choose not to write at all.  For the first time in my life, I am literally making up each day, having very limited knowledge of what to expect that day or any day following.  God has put me in quite a position of dependency. 

 

A few of the things I found myself reflecting on during Day 1

  • The “do not worry about tomorrow” passage in Mathew 6 takes on a whole new meaning when you are positioned to be utterly dependent upon God.
  • God longs to grant the desires of your heart but first you need to let him transform the desires of your heart.
  • Deep river spirituality: God wants us to live out of the overflow, leading on empty is a dangerous trap many followers of Christ fall into.
  • To have your identity in Christ to be built, you have to let go of the roles you have chosen to identify with.
  • We have an empathetic God.  You are never alone  Jesus felt no need to give quick fix “christianese” answers, he told us to rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those that mourn

 

Wednesday
Jul222015

The Traveling Vagabond

I write this sitting on the west coast.  Yesterday I spent they day strolling Laguna Beach with Michael Bischof, a dear friend and wise beyond words.  He is the founder of Soulleader, a holistic leader coaching network.

Today I am at Fuller theological seminary.  Why?  I really don’t know.  Sure I had some books to return, but I could have mailed them.  I just wanted to sit in the place that changed my life so much.  Earlier I found myself in the library thumbing through my dissertation.  I then spent time reading though my Uncle Thom’s dissertation as well as his and his wife Marcia’s books. Currently I write this from the prayer garden. 

Over the next month I will drive across country and will eventually standing on the shores of Virginia Beach.  I will have the privilege of making this cross country journey by car with my son Levi.  Terri and Caleb will spend the bulk of that time in the Dominican Republic with Pastor Esdras Ellen and their family.  Santa Rosa / Bani is in the heart of the island and where we have done mission work for over 10 years.  We love them dearly.  When we first went to the DR, we were serving a mission trip.  Now it is just like visiting family

We are closing up our time in Las Vegas.  I have nothing but positive things to say about our time here.  The Crossing has been wonderfully supportive as we have been in search of where God has us next.  We are moving out of our home in a week and at that point we will become Vagabonds.  We have lots of family and friends that love us, God is using them to help us in this transition.  

I have decided to blog during this season.  I have asked the following things of God:

  • Transform the desires of my heart, then give me the desires of my heart
  • For God and I to be in active dialogue throughout the day, listening and to be in regular conversation.
  • That each day He will guide my steps, as I am highly dependent upon Him
  • Each day He would give me nuggets of wisdom
  • For peace that surpasses all understanding because of a rooted confidence that God is in control

As much as I can, I will share those nuggets of wisdom I gain with anyone who cares to read.

Friday
Apr172015

SELF AWARENESS

Do you know who you are?  Do you really?  I am continuously surprised about how people who are followers of Christ have no idea who they really are.

We are all called to the ministry of reconciliation (another blog post) One of the four areas we are reconciled unto ourselves in is: reconciliation to self.  When we build our identity in Christ, we discover what our created intent is, how God want to use you in a powerful way

Ephesians 2:10 says that you are God’s masterpiece.  The dictionary defines a “masterpiece” as “a person’s greatest work of art,” or a “consummate example of skill or excellence.” Now, when God’s Word describes you as His masterpiece, what comes into your mind? Do you accept His assessment, or do you think, Well, He must be talking about someone else…if He really knew me, He wouldn’t think that!

Unfortunately, Your personal identity—how you see yourself—is often shaped by your early experiences in life.  Yet the apostle Paul teaches in Colossians 1:27 that my joy—and my identity—had to be found in Christ alone.

Does that mean life was created to be smooth sailing?  Hardly.  In fact we learn in Ephesian 6:10-18 that we need to put on the armor of God.  Why?  Truth is that life, and the evil one himself, is going to throw a lot of crap your way. 

You would think as a pastor and church planter I would have it easier because the very nature of my job is to serve God all day!  Truthfully, while every believer faces temptations, those who step out with the armor of God on become targets.  The temptation of escape with things like porn, or the hunger for power, the discouragement that comes when your family is attacked, or the pressures of lack of resources, or the pressures on your marriage, or the temptation to take short cuts… and much more – is all intensified.

Why would any sane person sign up for that?  How can there be any good in this at all?  Where is God in all of that?! 

If you are going to sign up for a big boys game, you have got to be deeply intertwined in the bigness of God.  You are God’s masterpiece and He is willing to be in step with you!  He wants to change the world and you get to be a part of that!  When I become self focused though, throw myself a world-class pity party – life plows me over.  When I build my identity in Christ, though, when my self-awareness understands who I am in Christ – even in the crazy mess the evil one throws my way:

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)

 

Saturday
Mar212015

Tackle Tough Topics With Grace

It’s funny how the more a church grows, the more the temptation of “fear” starts to set in within her leaders.  Churches start out with a good cause: to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and to spur on Kingdom living.  The ramifications grow though, when the church grows.

Kingdom living sometimes involves having tough conversations.   If we truly love each other, we need to be honest about each other’s dysfunctions.  If we truly love each other, than we would be troubled when someone makes decisions that are hindering their own walk, or worse leads others towards unhealthy living or pain.

But that that kind of love is uncomfortable 

Some deal with this discomfort by being bullies.  They hold on to truth, but if they can dehumanize someone, than it is easy to judge them or categorize them.  Other go the opposite route in being “nice”, masking their insecurity by avoidance in the name of, “lets all just get along”.

Ironically, church leaders can be the worse at this.  Honest healthy living, along with honest healthy conversations, can have a severe impact on numbers.  You see, most people really don’t want to hear truth about themselves, so confrontation means attendance can go down. Even giving goes down if you tick of the wrong person!  So some church leaders live a life of avoidance to keep weekly numbers up.  Other church leaders can go the opposite extreme and become legalist (bullies).  By being strict there are actually large numbers out there that will attend because surely the church is standing for truth and that is Kingdom living – right?

Kingdom living means handling tough topics with grace, but also is courageous in truth. To honestly teach what the bible teaches on the subject, but to find yourself at the same time deeply loving and caring for this hurting person.  That’s grace, honesty must always go hand in hand with deep compassion and desire for long-term health.

Of course in the long run, even worse case scenario, if the numbers go down and stay down, what do you think: What appeals to Christ more: a large crowd that talks of Kingdom living but ignores an underline dysfunction OR half the crowd doing their best in being like Christ?

Saturday
Mar212015

Do You Want To Get Well?

 In John 5 Jesus, early in His ministry, leads His disciples to a place called, “Pool of Bethsaida”.  This was a natural spring that periodically would rise up and start bubbling up like crazy.  There was a mythical belief that the first person who jumped in the bubbly water would be healed of what ever aliments they had.  As a result, in a culture where the disabled were discriminated against, were abandoned by the pool being told, in effect, get well so you can come home and be productive.  A side note, this was by the “sheep gate” which would have been a dirty foul area to spend your days and nights (not to mention the aroma of a bunch of neglected sick people)

One dude had been dropped off 38 years earlier.  His disability did not allow him to get down to the water, much less be the first.  Can you relate to this guy?  At first glace perhaps not, but think again.  Do you have an area in your life that has been a physical, emotional or spiritual issue for a very long time?  Do you have an unhealthy habit that you know holds you back more than helps you? Do you have a pain, a memory or a regret that haunts you? 

Back to Jesus, He and His 12 apprentices go to this nasty part of town and Jesus marches up to that dude and ask what would have seemed like a really dumb question.  I mean seriously, are you ready to hear this question that might have caused his followers to say, “Ut oh, mother was right, this guy is a tad off!”  So Jesus approaches this disabled guy who has spent most of his life trying to get to the healing waters and ask “Do you want to get well?”  Weird right?  Can anybody say, “Duh?”

Yet over the years I have determined this to be quite a profound question. 

I find that most people who come to my office for help don’t take to practical spiritual wisdom.  They like the idea of being well, they talk about it, they long for it, they blame others for not having it, or even God… yet the thought of making the change evidently is too much.  Perhaps what was once a curse in their life has become so familiar they cant imagine life without it.  Perhaps they are filled with fear that as bad as the negative is, even anger as an example, it can provide a temporary source of comfort and they might loose that.  Perhaps they don’t feel worthy.  Perhaps they really don’t trust the God they proclaim to follow.

How about you?  Think of the thing that has beat you up the most over the past several years. For just a minute push aside all of your explanations or even blame.  On a very serious note, do you really want to get well?

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