Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side.
They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”
Luke 19:42

This portion of today's passage could have easily be written for our country.
Or even for the human race as a whole.  It may seem that peace is hidden from our eyes.  If you look at current headlines you would think that there is no peace anywhere in the world.  That we are a world full of only tormented souls.

The question is who are our enemies who encircle us?
Is it anyone who does not subscribe to our own brand of religion or denomination?  Is it anyone who offends us?  Is it the unlovable?

No! It is not.

In some cases our most relentless enemies are ourselves.  We throw ourselves to the ground, protesting the consequences of our own decisions.  Our real enemies love for us to focus on that.  I think our enemies are much harder to see.  They work to see us at each other's throats and pointing fingers and dividing ourselves.
They love to see husbands and wives divided by a pile of little things.
Love to plant the seed that our wives are the enemy.
Our real enemies will show no mercy.

Before it is too late...
How can we keep Jesus from weeping over our country?
What is the way to peace?

Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

We can build a strong foundations and walls!
It begins at the trail-head to Jesus.  A path of which may be scarred with switchbacks, wrong turns, forks, deep valleys and heaven scraping peaks.

I will call on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, for he saves me from my enemies.
Psalms 18:3 NLT

Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. At His Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the LORD with music.
Psalms 27:6 NLT

It begins with your heart and your relationship with God.

The results of us having relationships with God can change the landscape if the world. It can move mountains and swell rivers. Washing away and filling in voids and caverns that separate us from God.  What is it like when our children only spoke to us when they need something?  What is it like when we get up in the morning and our wives don't say 'good morning'?  We need to turn away from our enemies and their work and turn towards our God and His salvation.

repent=turn around/change direction=change one's mind.

Then He will be able to protect us from our enemies who surround us.
We can shout with joy and praise Him for our protection and salvation.

He replied, "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!
Luke 19:40

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear God, Thank you.

Dear God,
Thank You for another chance at getting it right today.
Thank You for my wife  that you have given me!
Thank You for her beautiful dark hair and big beautiful eyes.
Thank You for her love and care.
I am so grateful that over the years that I was not loving her the way that You had designed me to love her, she stuck it out and loved me through it all.

Thank You for my oldest son!
Four years ago You handed him to me and I held my first son.
The world stopped, all the worries went away
and all I could do was look at him.

God, thank You for my youngest son!
When You handed him to me a year ago, everything was up in the air, hanging in the balance.  But You stopped my world again and all I could do was stop and stare at that little face.  Thank You for this abundance of time to spend on my wife and two boys.

Time to spend getting to know You.

Thank You for this home to live in!
It has a roof and walls and heat and a fireplace that if I wanted to I could just push a button and it would turn on.  It has this lever in the kitchen that when you push it back cool and hot water comes out, clean enough to drink!  I can use the bathroom in private and the toilet flushes.  I can take a hot shower.  I have a closet full of clothes that for the most part don't even have  any holes in them.  And they are all clean and if they aren't clean; I could put them through the washer and dryer and they would be!  Thank You for all the shoes I have in a pile at the bottom of the closet.

Thank You for transportation!
God, You have given, LITERALLY GIVEN,
two vehicles to this family and they are
How cool is that!

Lord, thank You for seeing me fit for fixing.
Thank You that you have put me in the furnace, heated me up and put the hammer to me.  I could not be who I am or who I am going to be without Your tempering.
Thank You for removing cigarettes from my life.
Thank You for removing the desire to drink excessively.
Thank You for squelching the desire to look at pornography.
And it may seem quaint to some but thank You for removing all those four letter words that I don't need to use.  There are far better words out there that are considerably more expressive!  I know there will be more times in my life that will require more molding and shaping and tempering.
I am grateful for those times.

These are some of the things I am grateful for.
Things that I can only credit to the Father.
I can trust in You that there will be more to be thankful for in the future.


Your faithful servant.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All Fail and Fall Short.

I tend to get caught up in the idea that a president of this free country can pull us out of this mire we are stuck in.  But when I sit back and take mental notes of each person vying for this position I find myself disappointing on every front.
Some are so far from God that there is no way to comprehend how I could stand behind them.  Others have stuffed so many skeletons in their closets they can't keep track of them all.  Everyone is trying so hard to get their choice in the front that they will say and do anything it takes get them there.  All of them have stumbled at some point.

We are left trying to make sense of it all.

Where is the truth in all this?

We can only look to God to find direction, stability and truth.
We can only rely on His judgement.
We can only look to Him for leadership.
Let all else fall away.

With all this a story in the bible is brought to mind, when the Israelites are crying to Samuel to give them a leader since he is getting old and needs a replacement.
God wants them to look to Him for leadership.
God is not even in their radar.

He wants US to look to Him for leadership.  We want someone we can look at and deem good looking.  We want someone who can talk to us, say words to us and we want to believe it all to be true.  We choose those with the slick hair, great smiles and well read speeches.

God is standing right in front of us, saying, "Here I am, I will lead you."
We just look right through Him with a thousand mile stare.  Trying to focus on the earthly leadership to make it all right for us.
We reject Him.  We say, 'Lord, give us a leader!'

Samuel was very upset with their request and went to the LORD for advice. 
"Do as they say," the LORD replied, "for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don't want me to be their king any longer.  Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually forsaken me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment.  Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about how a king will treat them."
1 Samuel 8:6-9 

But we push Him away with more and more fervency.
Pushing back against what we need and clutching at what we want.
As it all slips away, we may be left with nothing.

But the people wouldn't listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We will have a king to rule us!"
1 Samuel 8:19 

As we can see from day to day, not one of the earthly candidates, even by adding them together, will add up to what we need.
They will all lie, at some point.
They will all fail, at some point.
They have all fallen short.
No matter which side you choose.
No one can lead us like the Father.

They've all taken the wrong turn; they've all wandered down blind alleys. 
No one's living right; I can't find a single one.
Romans 3:12

Then Jesus answered, "I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world."
John 18:36

I have to continually remind myself to not get caught up in the details of who will lead this country.  I have to trust that God will appoint who is supposed to be there for this season.  If we are supposed to go further into the ditch for more people to cry out to the Father, then that is what we need.

Until the leader of my home, Jesus Christ comes to re-establish His throne,
we will wait and watch.

Come quickly Lord Jesus!

For at the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed 
and only almighty God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
1 Timothy 6:15

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trust and Obedience: A Season of Building.

  Confident expectation of something; hope.
  One upon which a person relies: God is my trust.
  To have trust or confidence in; rely or depend on. believe.

About three years ago I entered into a season that I am referring to as the building season.  In which God has taken me in as a formless lump or pile of clay, slowly building me up into a vessel to be used as He has designed.  When this whole building process began I would say to people, "I'm just trusting in the Lord, that He will provide."  Partly (in the beginning) because I knew that's what I was supposed to say.  I thought if I said it enough times, people (including myself) would begin to believe me.  In the beginning  it was a molecule of  faith.

  A belief in or confident attitude toward God,
  involving commitment to His will in one's life.

I had to trust that, even though God was not providing our family with enough income to save our house from foreclosure, that He would provide what we needed and another plan.
A better plan.
This trust could not come whole heartedly by me saying it a thousand times but through prayer.  I had to trust that even though owning a house is the "american dream", it is not a God given right and He would provide a home to live in.

God asked us to lay down our house at his feet.

After months of trying to come up with an alternative plan, we began to believe that we didn't need a huge house full of possessions.
We began to lay it at His feet room by room.

Memory by memory.

Dream by dream.

Trust me I am no bohemian or minimalist or revolutionary on a public binge to rid everyone of their fortune.  I don't believe you need to where sackcloth and cut your hair and rub ash on your ears three times a day to be a true believer.  But previous to this building period I was drunk with success and progress and all the trappings that came along for the ride.
Alone and angry.
Buying and consuming to fill the whole in my life that could only be filled by Jesus.  God has since stripped these things away.  Pealing the layers back to find something worthwhile.

We had to trudge through pride, feelings of failure and confusion.  Maybe it was the act of walking and trudging with confidence that God would give my family a place to live, that fostered the faith that God was instilling in me.

Through prayer and obedience... faith was born.
Through providence, trust was born.
Asking God to give me more faith, not once but countless times.
Even when I was tired of hearing the asking.

Our God answered by using his children, stepping out in obedience.
In this season of building, we have received so many gifts and blessings.
Gifts of checks, gift cards and home supplies and a new home to live in.
Our God used his children as conduit to supply the needs of our family at that present time.  Giving more faith by showing in real terms that He was there, providing.  Even though I was tired of being the receiver.

Building trust.

I began to want to receive the builder more than the gifts.
More than a big house.
More than pride.
More than my own feeble plans.

God has provided me with hope.

Now, I can honestly say that I trust in God.
That He is providing, time and time again.
I can walk in confidence that He will provide for us if we can go to Him seeking faith.
Loving by obeying.

I believe we are being prepared to enter into a new season.
God has asked me to go in a direction.
A destination to be revealed later.
My foot is in the air stepping out in that direction.
Into another wilderness with eyes up... waiting for manna.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."
John 14:23

  In both the Old and New Testaments, the word obey is related to the idea of hearing.
  Obedience is a positive, active response to what a person hears. 
  Obedience was the basis for knowing God's blessing and favor.

  To submit to...
  To conform to...
  To comply with the wishes, instructions, and commands.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knowing God's love: My son's first days.

This month we will be celebrating my oldest son's fourth birthday.  Which in itself is an example of God's love because prior to finding out my wife was pregnant, we were told by our doctor that we weren't going to be able to have kids of our own.  We spent some time begging for it not to be true.  We spent more time trying to figure out how we were going to afford adoption.  I had a hard time being completely satisfied with this conclusion.  Once, I stood at the kitchen counter pleading with God for it not to be true.  But, I conceded that day that we would be happy with who He brings to us.  There wasn't full blown bitterness but to be honest, I had felt defeated.

Soon after that I got a strange message from a crying woman, who I had assumed was my wife, saying she just took three pregnancy tests that turned up positive!
I was working construction at the time and had to sneak all my phone calls in the port-potty, which made for an uncomfortable phone booth.
I sat there in disbelief, with what I assumed was a dumb grin on my face and tears running down my cheeks.  I listened to that message a few times before I realized I was going to have to face the jobsite with red teary eyes.

Fast forwarding to the day he was born, I got another call at work but was bold enough, under the circumstance of having a wife due at any moment, to not use the jobsite phone booth.

My wife's water broke!

Something I had resigned to never hear.

At the hospital, after what I deemed to be a successful drive full of honking and flashing headlights, we were excited and calm in our room.
Checked in and waiting for the doctor.
Nervous and trusting.
Trusting in God, like two newborn deer with wobbling legs.
Ready to fall over at any moment.

I even managed to snap a photo of my wife laying in bed with a thumb up in the air and smiling.

That's when it hit the fan.
Our son's heart monitor dropped out.

We looked at each other as we listened to multiple sets of feet running down the hall towards our room.  Nurses came crashing in, destroying our nerves.  One of them barking orders at my wife to get on all fours on the bed.  My wife cried out for me to pray for us.  I have no idea what I prayed for, I'm sure it didn't make any sense.  I was just as scared as she was and in too much shock to react.

They said our son was not responding in her womb.
They said there would have to be an emergency c-section.
I sat outside the operating room begging for Jesus to be with us.  Then begging for Him to leave me and be with her because she needed Him more.  Little did I know, at the time, how much I needed Him and how easily Jesus could be with both of us.
All of us.

We spent the next eleven days in the hospital running antibiotics through our new son's body.  I changed his first diaper in a plastic chamber with wires running from just about everywhere.  That was the first diaper I had ever changed.  Seems kind of  small looking back, after witnessing friends run chemo through there ten month old for six months. But at the time it was all I could do but cling to God.  I had to drive home thirty minutes each way to replenish clean clothes and clean myself up.

Those drives were some of the most memorable in my life.
God's love continually washed over me like a warm waterfall.
I poured my heart out to Him and He listened.
As cliche as it may sound, I am grateful for those days now.
Those eleven days changed my faith.
Those drives showed me how He loves us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Real Christmas Story.

This may be a strange way to start a blog, to tell a Christmas story two weeks late,
but that could be the story of my life.
Two weeks late.
This story could have played out a million times over this year.
A family of four, barely scraping by.
Begging for direction.
Praying for God's will to be revealed.
Assuming the money will come around by the time we need to buy Christmas presents for our two young boys.  But, with a struggling budget, $30 is what we had to work with.  With the oldest of the two boys being four years old, he will be the one who may remember or may be asked at church what he got for Christmas this year.  So, he would get the lions share.

That's how a broken conversation ended between parents.  Both walking away hoping we are both wrong and that something will break loose or change.  Hoping we wouldn't have to argue whether we should spend $30 on presents again.
Nothing changed.

But God spoke to another family.
Compelled them to give joyfully out of love.
Being the hands and feet and body of Jesus.
To not let that old-time spirit of Christmas die.
From that day, my still cynical view of Christmas and the gifts and the carols and the drinking and the consuming was broken.  My hidden view of people and these days of american greed and self-absorption was crushed.

We came home from a family Christmas party to find a note on our front door, saying, "Go check out your back patio. Merry Christmas".  As I unlocked the front door and looked out the kitchen window to see what might be going on, there were Christmas lights strung out on our patio table.  We hauled the sleeping one year old into his crib and excitedly told the oldest to put his coat and shoes back on so we could go check out our back patio.
He kept asking, "Why? But, I don't want to go back outside!"
"Hurry! C'mon!" we replied.
I picked him up so he could see out the back window.  Once he saw the lights he hopped down and went straight for his coat and shoes.

The three of us marched out the back door.
The boy made it there first.
My wife and I walked slower and slower as we got closer.  Our son was going on and on about what was on the table, pointing and yelling and jumping but I could hardly listen to what he was saying.  I could barely see through my own tears.

A mound of Christmas presents meticulously wrapped and lit up by the lights.
What seemed to be another mound of household items and food and drinks neatly arranged.  Paper towels, baby wipes, wine.

I finally thought to look at my wife, who had been maybe laughing/maybe crying,
standing there in disbelief with her hand over her mouth.

It seemed like we had been standing there like that for a while.
The boy still rambling off the list of things in the baskets.
Pointing out each thing, "Juice! They got us juice!"

As my son and I walked the presents into the house, which took multiple trips, I realized something.  I can't take my faith, my family, my friends, my life and my Jesus for granted anymore.  I can't hide under a bushel anymore.
Hide what God is doing for me and my family, anymore.

I hope this real Christmas story reaches you.
I hope it crushes your cynicism like it did mine.
I hope you have a new found love for people like I do now.
I hope it inspires you to create a real Christmas story to pass along.

All praise and glory be to God.