Sunday, September 19, 2010

Staying out of the shell!

I have been in a slightly depressed mood lately. My workload is dwindling and money is getting tight. I have felt each day like I am being repeatedly punched and knocked down. Then I realize I am allowing this to happen willingly. Why? I stand there and let it happen without calling on my God to step in for me. I run and hide from Him and go to the closet of self-pity and self-degradation. I knew I was there, but could not find a way out on my own. It took a brother on Wednesday morning to ask the questions that brought God's answer out me. I had them but did not know how to retrieve them on my own. God wanted me to be obedient to going to the group that day and have a heart that would be willing to answer the question when asked honestly and openly. He does not always just offer the answers for free. He asks us to step into the river or out of the boat and then we are rewarded with His faithfulness. If we don't strive to see Him we can miss what He is teaching during the moment. What was the answer I was given?

"Don't crawl into your shell? Don't shut down! Don't give up! I have your best interests in my hands. Even when it is darkest, my light still will shine! " What does all this mean in human terms. My life was tethered to so many things. Relationships with friends, serving in certain ways at church, financial security, a job that was successful and an image of having it all together. These are all the places that Satan showed up in to try and draw me a away from feeling God's presence in a real way. Ways to slowly chip away at who I am in Christ. I was holding onto those things with one arm and reaching for God with the other. With me grasping at two things I could not move forward. I was just caught hanging until I let go with one hand. What should I let go of? What are you contemplating to let go in your life?

These lyrics from the song "Something Holy" by Stellar Kart gave my heart and mind peace about uncertainty:

You say that the wells run dry.
And there's no more tears to cry.
You're searching for something real.
To make you feel.

You Know that you're incomplete.
A song with a broken beat.
There's a hole in all our hearts.
And there's a reason why!

We were born to be,
A part of something holy.
All of us are restless until we find.
We were born to be,
A part of something holy.
Bigger than, bigger than
You and I.
Bigger than all our lives.

I was born for something more. I don't know what that is down to the details, but it was not to crawl into my shell, but to stay open and honest with God, myself and others. My human nature is corrupted, but by God's design I strive for something bigger than me. Are you in circumstances that are causing you to withdraw from others, move into secret sin, and shutdown. Push out of it by calling on God and others around you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pay Attention!

How many times have we heard this phrase? "Pay Attention!" I know I heard it as I was growing up at home, in school, in sports, and the list goes on. Someone wanted me to stop drifting in my thoughts of somewhere else and focus on what I was doing at that moment in time. Instead my mind was wandering or my thoughts were onto whatever was happening later that day or week. Why is it so hard to focus? Why do we have to be told to "Pay Attention?"

In my opinion, the first part is the reason. In order to get focused a price must be paid. We have to stop where our mind is and focus on the task at hand. We have to surrender our mind to the here and now. In some cases means that we face the pain of today rather than the pleasure in our mind of what might be. It may mean facing some ugly circumstances in our life or the pains of our own sins.

In the book by Andy Stanley, "The Principle of the Path", he lays out the idea that our attention = direction. So whatever we are focusing on, our direction in life will lead us. The analogy he uses is driving a car. If you look anywhere but straight ahead while driving, the car usually drifts that way as a result. So if you are looking on either side of you or behind you will likely go off the road. The same is true in our lives. The distractions in life are usually on the sides of the road. Illicit pleasures and false comforts are placed along the tough and bumpy road of marriage as the mirage. If we take our eyes off of Christ and His comforts then we soon head down the side roads that lead to broken bridges and desolate swamps with signs that read "Dead End"

In the book, He continues the equation with attention = direction not intention determines destination. What destination do you want in your life? I know I have searched that recently since reading the book. These are a few of the places I long to be in life:

1. In a close intimate relationship with Christ
2. In a marriage where one another is fulfilled, nurtured and valued
3. A family that knows Jesus and shows it to others in practical ways
4. Financially strong where I am debt free and providing for the needs of my family
5. Using my failures in life to help others avoid the same dead end roads I traveled.

Those are what I have come up with so far. I am far from achieving all those right now. I am however trying to find the "on ramp" to those paths. I still make mistakes daily but each day I learn how to stop at the "dead end" sign, turn around, look for a way back to the path that leads to God's destination for my life. What is your destination? What direction are you heading and are you paying the price of attention?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Heart of Gratitude

Aug 3rd, 2010

If I really take time to think about the significance of today, my eyes well up with tears and my heart is a bit sad but overflows with gratitude. Today is the day that I married my beautiful wife 14 years ago. I ponder the past years and realize that Andrea is a true gift to me. It has been 14 years of laughter, love, memories, struggle, pain, faith, tears, forgiveness and restoration.
I see how truly amazing the love of Christ is by just revisiting who my wife is through His strength. We have shared in so many trips and vacations, blessed with 3 awesome kids and our needs are met daily by His provisions. He has worked with us, through us and most of all in spite of us.
I take great sadness in the ways that I have hurt Andrea through my actions and thoughts through the past 14 years though. I have not always shown her respect and honor. I have not loved her completely as Christ told us to love. I have been selfish with my own thoughts and desires. My actions have betrayed her trust and caused us to question how we would stay together. She has had a few opportunities to call it quits and leave for justifiable reasons........but through her reliance on Jesus she stuck it out.
She sees me as a work in progress by God. She has shown me His grace time and again. She loves me with all that she has and then digs into His reserves and asks for more when she doesn't have enough. She gives more than I deserve and that is why I see so much of our Savior in her character and heart. Once I push past the sadness of what I have done, I see the joy and gratitude for what HE has done!
So today I stand before you saying after 14 years, I understand each day a little bit more of God's love, forgiveness, and grace because of the undeserved gift of a Godly woman who was entrusted to me 14 years ago today. Andrea, I love you and pray that God continues to use us and know that He has many things purposed for us in the future!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Free or Imprisoned?

How do you live your life each day? Big question right? Well, I have been told that I think and reflect too much sometimes, but I know that God designed me this way so I am going to pen my thoughts for others to reflect upon. Back to the question....I am spurred to ask this question because of words I heard in a song this morning as I ran. The lyrics spoke of how we are not imprisoned by the four walls around us because the One who holds the world has already come and set us free! No matter what the world here does to us, we are still unbound and set free from the captivity of sin. These words spoke volumes to me this morning. It was as if Mercy Me wrote the song for me to hear this morning specifically. Actually my heart was ripe this morning to actually "hear" the words from God would be more accurate.

We are all sinners and fall short in our daily lives. The Bible states this clearly in Romans 3. Once we have accepted that fact then we move into an area of our life that cultivates the need for a savior beyond ourselves. We realize that we can"t save ourselves because we are imperfect and flawed. That is the place we decide to choose to allow Christ to take that sin away through repentance and baptism or we choose to go it alone and try to "do good" in our lives.

For many years I tried to "do good things and be good", but my humanness kept the desires of my flesh up front and ready to be fed. I just could not seem to destroy them or keep them from being my guiding forces in my life. I was willing ,but my flesh was too weak. I then decided to try the other route. I gave my life to Christ and magically all my troubles disappeared!

Wrong....actually more troubles came. You see once the light is turned on in your life, there was more stuff in the corners that needed to be cleaned out that you could not see in the dark before. But this time I had something and someone else to help. When you allow Christ to shoulder that burden and give you strength it becomes bearable, not easy but bearable to withstand the weight.

The question that came to me as I heard the song was "Do I live free in Christ or do I run back to my sins and allow me to be imprisoned? I say that I believe in Christ and His forgiveness, but when things get tough do I creep back to the door or sin because it appears comforting and familiar. If I truly examine myself the answer would be "yes". My heart drifts back to what is known and away from the unknown. This frustrates me because in my mind I know that past sins only bring pain and heartache. The deceptive heart though wanders back to what feels and appears pleasing. This is where a trust and faith in the unknown and unseen God can be interjected. A choice has to be made.............

Today I choose not allow the four walls of my sins hold me in and I will walk out the door with Christ holding my hand. What about you? Watch the video and decide will you be free today?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Do You Hold Onto?

God wants to develop a character in each of us that when we look in the mirror or when others look at us we show a reflection of Jesus Christ. What does this really mean? The characters of Christ are many, but the ones that I am working on right now is patience, acceptance, unconditional love, and a strong faith in our Father. Each day these seem to be so unreachable, but each moment when I am faced with a decision I must go to who I am in Christ. How do I get there? Prayer and a constant continual communication with Him all day long. Sounds a little "churchy" doesn't it? It is more of a state of allowing my heart and mind to not be clogged with the day to day trappings that will slow and stop yourself from being with Him.
Several months ago, I made some bad decisions in my life that were a result of allowing this communication from Him to be blocked by my own sins. I had lowered my shield to Satan's attacks and allowed a long time sin struggle to re-enter my life. Slowly it ate away at my soul piece by piece. You see, Satan is crafty. He knows how to make a person a mediocre Christian that is uneffective to their God given ministries. I made the choice to move into this sin. It was deceptively enticing and full of false pleasures that are empty and hollow. I allowed myself to be dragged away from what was holy, right and true in my life and traded it for sin that was fleeting and destructive.
God knew what choices I would make and then prepared a way for me to return to Him, when I hit bottom and decided that His way was the only way. As humans we always look for the easy way naturally. We drift toward what is comfortable. This is true with food, exercise, quiet times, relationships, and even with intimacy. All of this drifting is a slow fade away from Christ and His fullness for our lives.
I believed the lies even when I felt the guilt and shame of the sin. When it came to where I could bear no more hurt to myself and especially those around me, I felt God's hand with me. He said to me, not audibly, but in my head: "What are you holding onto more than me?" "Is it pride, selfishness, your career, your family, the image that others see in you, or your own perceptions of who you are?" I was holding onto all of those things more than Him and I ended up in a pit of Hell. I allowed myself to be everything that everyone else wanted in me and lost who I was in God's Eyes. This place is scary and lonely. This chasm is a very empty and hollow place where Satan can smother you even while you think you are "doing" good things instead of "being" what God desires.
From that moment on I made a decision to be a reflection of Him. Was this easy? NO! It meant I had to let go of everything that I had grasped so tightly and give it away to Him. Trusting that He knows what is the best for my life. I had to confess my sins to my wife and family hoping for forgiveness, but not sure if it would be offered. Taking a look deep within who I am and the stories I believe in my head. My self-worth was so small and I had to allow myself to learn from God's word who I really am in Christ. All of these and so much more are a daily continual process of submitting myself to the One who made me and knows me. Am I perfect? No! But I am learning from the Perfecter!
You may have seen this video before, but I have found that you can never watch it too much. It speaks something new to me each time I watch it. Gary is God's Original Masterpiece. Do you believe that you are too?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Happens when you are" Undone"

There comes a point in every persons life that we face trials and struggles. It is inevitable in a world that has fallen to ways of sin. God said that there would be toil, anguish, and strife in this life" He did not say that there might be, but He said that there will be. It is only a matter of when not if it happens. What do you do when it comes? Where do you turn? In my own case, when life got hard or I was in a tough situation I turned inward to myself. I tried to reason the situation out in my head and form a possible solution. Sounds like a good answer....but the problem was inside my head I had been feeding lies to myself about my abilities, my worth and who I was meant to be. So when I tried to reason my way through a problem, I told myself that I deserved nothing, I was not worthy of success, and that I would never be good enough to be a success in the world's eyes. Even writing these words depresses me to think that I believed all of those things down to my core.
Many of you may feel this way right now. How did I begin a path of destroying those misconceptions that formed the "stories" in my own head? Confession to others and being a transparent person to others and God. That is the beginning. I learned that no matter how painful it is to share your true faults and failures to God, your spouse, your family, and others God uses this to strengthen His relationship with you. It is not easy, but it is so fulfilling to know that you are who God wants you to be and it does not matter what others think. This was and is so hard for me. I am such a "yes" man and people pacifier that I did not want to let anyone down ever. Except I compromised and let God and myself down by pleasing everyone else.
I now put God first on the list and only strive to please Him daily by running to the cross when struggles take place. Am I perfect 100% of the time? No!!!! I am human and make mistakes, but I do know that I can keep coming back to Him and He is waiting to restore me and show me how to deal with it the next time while resting in His care.
The song that inspired me to reflect on these thoughts weighs heavy on my heart and mind today. It is sung by Mercy Me called "Undone". It speaks of who we are in Christ and that the only place we need to be is at the cross lifting high our chains that He has undone! Please watch and listen and find rest in Him today when you are "Undone".