Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jessica and Kevin

Today (June 25, 2011) my dear college room mate marries her high school sweet heart!  We are thrilled to be able to be at their wedding and pray that God would bless their marriage!  Here are some thoughts we wanted to share with them on their wedding day!

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

Build Your House on the Rock
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:24-27

We pray that the Lord works in your lives and in your marriage.  We pray that he would build your house so that it will last.  Blessings to you both!

Lily got to join us for the big day!

Husband and Wife cutting their cake together.

Me and my sweet friend!  So glad that you get to experience the joy, adventure, and blessing of marriage!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A war waging

There's been a war waging in my mind recently.  Its a war between my Savior's deep and weighty humility and my own overbearing and selfish pride.  I'm fighting to get to that place were I can truly say with all my heart "More of You and less of me, Jesus."  I'm struggling to know that this "growth" is not my own doing and NO I can not boast.  Each time I lay aside my pride, I find more just below the surface.  I'm feeling like a snake.  Constantly shedding my skin.

I'm feeling convicted.  That which I see as my enemy's sin is really my own.  Only mine is uglier, sneakier, and more deeply rooted within me.  I'm in denial.  I'm hypocritical.  I lie to myself all day long.

Lord, please speak to me Your words.  Help me put them ever before me.  May I cling to the truth found in your scriptures.  May I daily be amazed by your love, grace, mercy.  Change me from within, my inmost parts, that the overflow of your work would pour out in my word and actions.  May I authentically live in pursuit of Your glory and not my own.  May I genuinely pray that "Your will be done" and not my own.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all you blessed enough by God's grace to have children! And happy Father's Day to all you who serve the body of Christ and have spiritual children you help nurture into the kingdom and who you mature into righteousness that comes from our Heavenly Father alone! It truly is one of the best blessings that God has bestowed upon me. He continues to show me what it means to be a father, as He teaches me lessons about parenting my kids and how He treats me, His child. My prayer is that all my brother's in Christ with kids will teach the next generation the hope of the gospel and the power of life Jesus gives to us!

I lived a certain way in the past, and so God has given me both the desire and the resolve to live differently this year. My exhortation to all us fathers out there is this: This Father's day, stay humble like Christ(Plp2:3-8) and allow others to build you up(Ths5:11). Do not exalt yourself(Pvb27:2) with expectation(Jas1:15) because you think you deserve it(Mtt5:5). We deserve no more than our sin gives us(Luk23:41). It is by grace that we are blessed with anything good(Psm103:10,11).
  • "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus[many translations say "the same as Christ Jesus"], who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:3-8
  • "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips."Proverbs 27:2
  • "Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." James 1:15
  • "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5
  • "And we [the thieves on the cross] indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong" Luke 23:41
  • "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." Psalm 103:10
Allow me to expand on this exhortation. Firstly, Dads, remember to stay humble and allow others to build us up!  Sometimes we get confused about what it means to be humble.  We think a humble person is someone who rejects gifts or blessings that he is being offered because he wants to receive nothing. While that is sometimes the case (especially when someone is offering a gift which praises self above God) sometimes not excepting gifts is actually a prideful and selfish thing to do. What I mean  is while God calls us to be humble he also calls us to build each other up. So if we take our "humility" to an extreme and therefore do not allow others to serve us, we might as well say any blessing we receive is bad. Because we want to be "humble" we reject other peoples act of service and, in essence, stop them from serving when they are trying to be like Christ. But true humility will recognize that self praise is bad, and not allowing others to serve can be just as selfish. So then real humility is not just the sacrifice of self, it is forgetting that the self has needs or desires, and fully supporting Jesus' cause and his bride (the church). If we want to build up the community of Christ, we have to allow others to serve us because it is one very real way they can imitate Christ as it says in Philippians 2 quoted above. This will present others (especially your wife) as righteous servants of Christ. The distinction can be difficult to make.  Do we allow ourselves to be served so that others can be built up, or do we  allow others to serve us so we can feel loved, or served, or blessed?  Father's day, despite American belief, is not now, nor will it ever be, about Father's. Like all other special and ordinary days alike, it is about remembering the blessings Christ gave us, and celebrating Him and His blessings.  Sometimes He blesses us by allowing others to serve.

The second part of this exhortation to Fathers is to not have expectations or to exalt ourselves. This is to combat the pervasive idea in America that on Father's Day, all men everywhere have the excuse to be lazy, to neglect responsibility, and to let people celebrate us. When we have expectations about what we deserve, things can go very badly. For one, if people do not meet our expectations, we end up sad, disappointed, or upset. If we come to any celebration with zero, absolutely none, no expectations, then everything we receive will feel like a huge blessing.  We will be so grateful. It also guards our hearts against feeling like we deserve anything. If we start to feel like we deserve something, then we get proud, and celebrations don't feel like a treat, they feel like a necessity to fulfill the idea that we deserve something. I know as a father I find myself feeling like I deserve certain traditions, or rights.  Especially as an American father. Then I am reminded of my Sacrificing Savior and the call to be as He was on this earth (again Philippians 2). To give-up equality with a father, and make myself nothing is my new goal this Father's day. A far cry from my usual self seeking attitude on a day of celebrating me. Please pray for all us father's as we seek God's Spirit of sacrifice-and deny our flesh.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Learning to Lean

Proverbs 30:8b-9
...give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

These words have been challenging me lately.  We've lived on very little money in our married years, and riches haven't been a desire or temptation for either of us in the way these verses describe.  Instead I've been challenged by the concept that these words represent.  I've found myself praying like this often recently: "Lord, give me no more or less than I can handle."  This prayer and idea has both challenged and encouraged me as I live life that is constantly filled with frustrating moments with a crying, itchy baby; or two almost three year olds who are trying to push the limits; or that life long battle of figuring out how to love the people in your life who are o so difficult for you to love.  If God would give me only the challenges that he would also allow me to overcome than I would be unstoppable!  I would just continue to grow and be amazed at how the Lord can work in my life!  And so I face each challenge confident that if the Lord has put it in my life that He has seen that I am ready to face it.  And if I don't get lazy, or overburdened, or impatient, or selfish I will be able to bring His name more glory and honor!  Amen?!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Pressure is off!

I was reading in Proverbs the other day, something I hardly ever do (HA!  I actually read them daily).  Anyways I read a proverb, one that I have read many times, and it just struck me in a different way than it ever has before.
  • "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord." Proverbs 21:30
This is such a relief.  It is so in two very different ways.  First we can be reassured that no one in their evil schemes can succeed without the Lord's allowance.  So we know that nothing being done is Satan controlled, but instead is allowed by our Lord God.  If we can see things through this perspective, then we also know that God is trying to teach us something so we can better serve him and bring him more honor and glory for His Name.

My second point can get a little messy... well both points can be rather messy actually (God allowing bad things to happen to good people for instance), but the Bible is very clear. Even in our sinful human nature there is nothing that we can do to mess up God's plan: the pressure is OFF.  Sometimes we (Christians) fear that we aren't making the right decisions.  But there is NOTHING we can do to mess up God's plan.  If everything we do is an act of worship to God, the details are not a concern, it is our heart attitude that is important.
  • "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship" Romans 12:1

Some people use this as an excuse to be allowed to do whatever they want.  We can act on our human desire to fulfill our needs while saying, "We can't mess up God's plan anyway."  That is by no means what the Bible gives us freedom to do.  In fact God tells us to:
  • "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." 1 Peter 2:16
Perhaps the problem is that Christians fail to see that we are bought with a price and no longer are our own. That means our time, our reputation, money and thoughts do not belong to us.  They belong to Jesus.  We fail to recognize that even though we can't mess up God's plan, if we choose to live for something other than God's glory, God does not have to use us.  We should live so others know we belong to Christ.  Another verse in Peter says:
  • "For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men." 1 Peter 2:15
  • "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
How can we claim the name of Christ, and neglect what God commands us to do?! Just because we have a ticket to Heaven and we cant mess up God's plan, should we go on acting in our own self interest?!

So then, since we cannot mess up God's plan, but we still cannot be free to do what "we" want where does that put us?  Well God tells us that if you:
  • "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 
I believe this verse is saying that if we delight ourselves in the LORD, he will put in us the desires he wants for our lives. If we give our lives to Him, His desires fill us up.  Its not that if we first delight in the Lord he will let us waste our time and resources on things that used to matter to us.  As we find ourselves drawing closer to Him, our desires change more to bring him glory than what our old selfish sinful nature desired.  I love that God does this.  We're all like, "Man if I delight myself in the Lord he will let me play sports and watch TV and hang with my friends ALL DAY LONG, and have zero responsibility, 'cuz that's the desire of MY heart." But little do we know how awesome God is.  As we get to know him, he changes our hearts.  That's called the regenerative work of the Spirit, and I am so thankful everyday for Him working daily on me!

Don't be fooled! This is what happens to those who think they can't foil the Lord so they do what they want because they already got their free pass to heaven.  They call themselves Christians because their parents are, or their girlfriend is, or they don't want to go to Hell, etc.  But then, since they got the free pass to heaven, they don't live like Christians should, and don't give up everything they are to follow and pursue Christ.  Here is what the Bible says about those people.
  • "Then he (Jesus) told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'"Luke 13:6,7
So....what does it look like if we do bear fruit and are useful to God's kingdom.
  • "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" Galatians 5:22,23
Scary thoughts for some!  If we call ourselves Christians but the fruit of the Spirit is not pouring out of us.

So lets recap....
-There is nothing we can do to mess up God's plan.
-We either get in line with Jesus through the work of his Spirit so we can be used by him
-Or we fail to recognize Jesus as our King and Father and he punishes us justly.