What Is Love?

“Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….”

 

February is called the month of “Love” by many. This is largely due to that Valentines Day is celebrated during this month. All across the world especially in America, Americans go “Ga-Ga” when it comes to showing people and things they love are care for how much they mean to them.

 

I did a bit of research and here are some amazing “stats”:

 

  • 61.8 % of consumers celebrate Valentine Day.

 

  • An average of $130.21 per person is spent on Valentine’s Day.

 

  • 145 of women buy flowers and send them to themselves.

 

  • 73% of flowers that are bought are by men.

 

  • 58 million pounds of chocolate are bought.

 

  • 224,000.000 this is the number of roses that are produced.

 

  • 19% of consumers buy gifts for their pets.

 

  • $26.00 is the average a consumer spends on their pets.

 

And this last stat made me stop and ponder “…why?”.

 

  • 53% of women said they would end their relationship if they didn’t get a gift on Valentine’s Day.

 

I have to admit I do love giving flowers and gifts to my loved ones and I do love getting gifts myself. However, when I look at these stats and compare them to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I feel that the best way to show one’s love to someone is by living and walking out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is far the best and is everlasting.

 

The Greatest Gift of Love that you can give is “Giving of yourself, all in” and being an example of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

 

Three things that will last forever---Faith, Hope and Love--- and the greatest of these is Love….

                                                                                                                                      1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Invite Him In

Last night at 24:6, our Worship and Prayer gathering, Jim challenged us out of Romans chapter 8 to live free of condemnation. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” is a reality that most of us struggle to fully embrace.

As I stood at the front praying over our church body I kept seeing a barrier between our body and the freedom in which is described in Romans 8. It was unclear to me what that barrier was. I went home that night with a heavy heart for our church. I woke up the next morning with the same heavy heart. I kept asking God “what is the barrier? What is preventing us from fully embracing this freedom offered in you?”


This morning I heard God say to me, “I stand at the door and knock.” They have let me in but they are keeping me in their entryway.”


“I’m a guest in their entryway not a cohabitant in their home”, was the statement I heard loud and clear. Then this followed…

“They haven’t invited me into their kitchens. They are hesitant because their kitchen is a mess and they are unsure of how to prepare a meal for a King and Savior. They are fearful that they won’t have the right things or knowledge to prepare the meal. What they don’t’ know is that I will cleanse it and prepare a meal for them. I have everything they need.

They won’t invite me into their dining rooms because it’s cluttered and unused. They haven’t been in there in years. They avoid intimate conversations and vulnerability which has caused them to feel isolated from me and those close to them. I will bring new life to this room if they will let me in.

They won’t invite me into their bedrooms because they are ashamed of the things they have hidden in there. It’s a place of intimacy that has been mishandled by some and neglected by others. They don’t realize I can bring complete freedom to that room if they will just let me in.

They won’t even invite me into their living rooms because of what might be brought up in conversation. There are hurts, thought patterns, illnesses, and addictions that they don’t believe I can or want to help with. I can set them free.”

If any of this rings true in your soul I’d encourage you to say this prayer with me.

Jesus, I apologize for keeping you isolated in the entry of my soul. I invite you into every room of my life. There is no place that is off limits to you. No area that is too private for you to enter. I invite you into those places in my life that need new life. I invite you into those places that I’ve been ashamed and embarrassed of. Bring your healing and cleansing presence into my whole being. I ask this in no other name than Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen!


Two Parts of Prayer

Prayer is made of two distinct parts.

The first part is when we speak to God. We believe that God listens to us and cares about us. Honesty and modesty is an essential characteristic of this part of prayer. We often pray for others, our church, and for ourselves. The Bible tells us that we can confidently bring our concerns before God.

The second part of prayer is when God speaks to us. This is the part that we often skip; it is also the most difficult part to learn. Most of our prayers sound like this, "God thank you for X and please help Y and Z, amen." The gap between our final request and amen is non-existent. We need to learn how to pause and listen. 

“Listening to God requires us to silence our hearts.”

Listening to God requires two things. First, we need to stop talking. Second, we must learn how to become silent. To stop talking is an act of humility. In a world where the loudest person wins, shutting up can seem counterintuitive. You can do it. Just shut your mouth and put down your phone. The second act of listening is far more difficult: you must learn how to silence your heart. This is not about external noise as much as it is about internal noise. Be still and know that God is in control. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you; don't take control of your inner-dialogue. Trust God and listen.

Practicing the art of listening in your prayer life will change it dramatically. Begin by silencing your mouth, your mind, and your heart today.

The Powerful Effects of Encouragement

My wife and I have a 6-month-old boy named Cooper. Cooper is our first child and we love being parents. Last week, he did a few new “tricks.” He started holding a sippy cup by himself, he learned how to clap, and he figured out how to crawl. As far as my wife and I are concerned, Cooper’s new abilities are the most incredible thing to ever happen. We get so excited each time! If you’re a parent, you can relate.  

But here’s what I love the most, when we encourage Cooper and celebrate his victories, joy washes over him.

Encouragement leads to greatness. Celebration of others brings Glory to God.   One of the challenges of humanity is that we compare ourselves to others and, in turn, tend to envy other people’s successes and times of growth; however, we are called to rejoice with others. Paul says it like this in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.”   

Imagine how different our world would look if every believer took the time to encourage one another in our endeavors and celebrated them with on their accomplishments. Joy would wash over others. We would be united with one another. And peace would follow. All of this and more, brings glory to God.  

Who is someone that you have been holding back encouragement from? Encourage them today!

The Power of the Pack

I have become convinced that the worst thing in life is being alone. There are tons of terrible things that can and do happen to people, but nothing is worse than being alone. Even when things are amazing, we long for someone to share the news with and to help us celebrate or rejoice.

Loneliness sucks.

That means that one of the biggest strategies of our enemy is to isolate us - make us feel like no one understands, cares or can identify with our situation or condition. Predators always look for strays - those left behind because of weakness, injury, or lostness - and those are the first to get attacked.

That also means that one of God’s greatest strategies for you is to live in community. This is the first problem He solved after creation. It was not good for man to be alone, so God went to work to solve the problem. One of God’s greatest gifts to you is community.

“The strength of the pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the pack.” (Rudyard Kipling)

A lone wolf has no protection. And neither does a lone you.

If I could wish one thing for you today, it is that you would prayerfully and intentionally form a pack. Pick some candidates and invite them to consider forming a pack or squad with you - a small group of 3-8 people who will get together at least once per month, have honest conversations, commit to praying for one another, fight for each other and process their lives together.
This is an incredible gift to your life and to theirs, and it rarely happens organically or naturally - it requires effort, choices and commitment. And the rewards far outweigh the risks!

Go ahead - get started talking to God and processing potential candidates today. How about right now?

FINDING PEACE

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

This is a verse we love to quote around this time of year. These are the various titles given to Jesus. These are the promises of what He came to do. There is one in particular I want to focus on: Prince of Peace. 

I’m sure you’re like me and have a lot going on. There’s work, family, church, volunteering, baseball games, soccer games, piano practice, and on and on it goes. We’re almost obsessed with our busyness. We love to talk about how busy we all are, and wear it as some kind of badge of honor. But deep down we feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. And all we want is some kind of calm, some kind of peace! How do we find peace? 

Well, maybe you need to clear your schedule a bit (I’m joking, but for real). It can be challenging to find peace when there is so much going on. Maybe finances are a struggle, a family member is sick, or there’s just too much pressure, how do I find peace? Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. What does that mean? Jesus says in John chapter 16 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus speaks this to his disciples as encouragement during his last meal with them. This is just before he is crucified, and the disciples are scattered. Talk about a chaotic situation! 


But Jesus encourages them, He has overcome the world. Jesus is the source of peace. Jesus is our complete source of peace. He has completely overcome this world, and He has victory over all the troubles of this world. In Philippians chapter 4 the Apostle Paul gives us a lesson on how to partake of this peace that Jesus gives:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So I leave you with this. Rejoice in the Lord in every circumstance. Whatever is troubling you, bring it to God. Lay it at His feet and find rest in His presence. And if life is just too busy, find the quiet moments to remember that He is your God who loves you and cares for you. Spend time with your Savior. He is the Prince of Peace, and you will find peace in Him. 

DO YOU SEE YOUR OIKOS OPPORTUNITY?

Don’t miss the easiest opportunity you will have all year to invite your Oikos to church!

Have you taken a moment to observe the opportunity Christmas provides us with to share the hope of Jesus to our friends and neighbors in our Oikos? Think about it, no other time of year is there a holiday, let alone a religious holiday, that the majority of people embrace, celebrate, and participate in. People from all walks of life, nationalities, and religions celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm and vigor. I know it’s commercialized and the true meaning of Christmas has been lost - but what a huge open door that we could use to present the gospel if we are willing.

Lifeway conducted research of over 1,000 people in 2016. These were their results:

  • 61 percent of people attend church at Christmas time

  • Of those who don’t attend, 57 percent would be open to attending if invited by a friend

  • “Even among the “nones” (people with no religious identity) nearly three in 10 (29 percent) “had plans to go to church.” 

  • 77 percent said their primary reason for attending church during the Christmas season is “to honor Jesus.”

  • Even among the “nones” (people with no religious identity) nearly three in 10 (29 percent) had plans to go to church

  • 47 percent of “nones” who attended church named Jesus as their primary reason for attending in the holiday season

This shouts an Oikos opportunity to me. No other time of the year provides such a natural non-threatening opportunity to extend an invitation to church.

So I have one question for you. Who you are going to invite from your Oikos to our Christmas Eve gatherings?

I pray that God gives you divine insight on who to invite and provides a divine opportunity to extend the invitation. Do your part and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest. I’ll see you, and hopefully those in your Oikos, on Christmas Eve.

DOES HEARING ABOUT MAJOR EVENTS MAKE YOU AFRAID?

Do you see stories about people dying, and get filled with worry that something similar might happen to you?  Recently we heard about a shooting at a Jewish Synagogue, a nearly new airplane crashing into the sea, and three kids getting struck by a vehicle as they attempted to cross the road to get on a school bus.  This world can be dangerous.  If you avoid activities because they might harm you, consider Psalm 139:16; All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Oh yes, our days are numbered.  We don’t know the number, but God does. 
 
So how should we proceed with all these dangers lurking?  Matthew 10:29-31 gives us some assurance; Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 

God doesn’t even allow a nearly useless bird to die before he’s ready.  The Lord has us in the palm of his hand, and he won’t allow any danger to happen to us before our appointed day.  Being of more value than many sparrows illustrates how dear God’s children are to Him. How can we be anxious and fearful, knowing of such care and protection by our Heavenly Father?
 
So, go to church, get on that airplane, and cross the road when you need to (but look both ways)!  Regardless of whether you live life to its fullest, or stay home out of fear, God will be ready to take you home to be with him on your appointed day.  And not a moment sooner!

DO YOU TRUST GOD WITH ALL?

WHEN YOU SAY ALL, DOES IT REALLY MEAN ALL?

Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP) TRUST in and rely confidently on the Lord with ALL my heart.

And do not rely on my own insight or understanding.  In ALL my ways know and acknowledge and recognize HIM, And HE will make my paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

Blaring truth is flashing before me right now as I read these couple of sentences. This verse that I have called my life verse for over 50 years.

TRUST, ALL, UNDERSTANDING, ALL, ACKNOWLEDGE, ALL, LORD, ALL, HIM, ALL, HE, ALL, my.

Trust ALL my understanding to the Lord; acknowledge Him in ALL things and He will lead me!

What about you, any specific words flashing at you? Are you asking the same question?

Does all REALLY mean all? When I begin to filter ALL things, ALL decisions, ALL emotions, ALL thoughts, ALL my finite understanding, through my TRUST in HIM; The ONE who has never failed me and never will! Who is always on my side! AND, when I ACKNOWLEDGE HIM as the never changing, always loving, ALL knowing person of the trinity, who gave HIS life for me; AND I ACKNOWLEDGE that HIS Word is true, dependable, proven both by His followers and historians, then, I can and will ACKNOWLEDGE HIM and TRUST HIM to lead me on ALL my paths, to lead me!

COME WITH ME ON THIS JOURNEY OF TRUST

DOING TOO MUCH WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH

I have good news for you: doing too much will never be enough.  We try to improve the qualities of our lives by working harder. If you are not good at reading your Bible, then you schedule morning devotions. If you are bad at serving, then you volunteer at the food bank. If your marriage is struggling, then you register for a seminar. But doing more does not make us better people.

Our culture places great value on hard work. We draw straight lines between business and productivity. But does this work when we are trying to improve the quality of our soul? Can we become better followers of Jesus by booking more Jesus-activities?

God is less worried about the work that you do than the person that you are. People often ponder the relationship between our actions and our character. Does being Christian cause us to do Christin things? Or does doing Christian things cause us to be Christian. The answer to this question: yes. Our being and doing have a profound impact on each other. But don’t get twisted, the character of your heart is the primary concern of God.

I give you permission to stop stressing out about doing enough “Christian” things. The ancient poets remind you to, “take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). You can’t work your way into God’s good graces. And you can’t build trust by taking more things into your hands. Make your shining accomplishment the ability to constantly love the things that God loves. And remember: doing too much will never be enough.

"HOW ARE YOU DOING?"

“FINE.”

In Pastoral Care, I hear this word used often when I ask someone, “How are you doing?” At times I find this perplexing, especially when I am with them in the ER, or visiting them in the hospital awaiting surgery, or struggling with a deep personal issue. On the flip side, I also hear this word used a lot in everyday passing. We say, “How are you doing?” to start off conversation. I just finished reading a book on Pastoral Care. One of the chapters is called, “Creating a Safe Place.” This chapter talks about how we spend time creating a safe place when we are hurting, and the high cost it takes. For the one who is hurting or struggling, it takes a lot of energy to hide those feelings and to put on a “happy face.”


It got me to thinking and reflecting: How often do I ask people in passing, “How are you doing?” And how often is the response I get, “Fine?”


I decided to do a survey myself and see how true this was. Over the last month, I have stood in our church hallways, observed in our classes, and listened to people talk to each other. I heard them ask each other, “How are you doing?” and the overall response I heard back was, “Fine.” What is surprising and amazing is that I know these people, and I know what they are going through.


When people respond politely to questions like, “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” I can only imagine how many are actually wondering, “Do they really care? Are they really interested in what is going on in my life?” They might say, “Fine” out loud, but they are thinking, “You really don’t care,” “You don’t have the time to really listen,” or “You are not interested.” These are just a few of the real thoughts that go through their heads.


My intent is not to sadden you, or get you to stop asking people in your traffic pattern, “How are you doing?”. You have it within your power to create a safe place for those who are hurting and suffering, whether it is physically, emotionally or spiritually.


As I said earlier, hiding feelings takes a lot of energy, more energy than it takes to be straightforward. Hurting people don’t have a lot of energy, because they are spending their energy coping with the circumstances and pain. In the end, hurting people just tell you what you want to hear.


My encouragement to you is this: Don’t stop asking people, “How are you doing?” especially those you know who are doing great, that is just being friendly. However, to those you know who are struggling and hurting, ask them, “Have you had anything good happen to you this week?”. Ask in a way that shows them by your voice inflection and body language, that you really want to know, and are prepared to spend some time with them talking and praying over them and their circumstances.


Our ability to take the bad news as well as the good is such a gift to a suffering individual. This openness gives the suffering permission to be honest, to share freely and save valuable energy. Sharing openly and honestly about being “not so fine” can actually be energizing.


1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us: “Therefore let us encourage one another and build each of up.” I would also add to pray for each other.


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE

What if there was one thing that had the power to calibrate every other thing in your life? One thing that, if you got this right, would drive, empower and produce everything about you in the right direction? Maybe not a silver bullet, but rather the secret sauce that made everything about you to be powerful and attractive?


Turns out there is. And not only does its presence in you align everything else, but its absence is more defining than any other positive, beautiful, or powerful thing in your life.


“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)


According to God’s Word, if I don’t have love, I am nothing, I gain nothing, and I have nothing to say.


Love truly is powerful and defining. It defines the kind of person we are, the kind of relationships we will have, and the value we will add to the world. It reveals God.


What is love? Well, love is primarily a decision that creates an action for the good of another person. Just try to practice making these decisions and see where they lead your actions today.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (vv4-8a)


We are most like God when we love like God.

SEEING THROUGH THE ROUTINE

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I Give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”

 

Scripture: Acts 3:1-10

 

Routines. They aren’t bad as they provide practical ways for us to plan our day and navigate our often-cumbersome schedules with a little less stress and a little more ease.

 

Most of us probably take the same paths to work, stop at the same places for coffee or breakfast, get up at the same time, you name it. I am sure as soon as you read the word routine that you started thinking about things that are part of your daily path.

 

My mornings are fairly routine, to the point that the employees at the place I stop to grab ice water and a quick bite to eat all know me by name!

 

Again, nothing wrong with routines like that, however, what could we be missing in our routines? Perhaps we get so used to the same thing every day that we may not see opportunities that are staring us in the face!

 

Here, in Acts 3, we see our friends Peter and John doing something they did all the time, it was the king of routines. Jews and devout Gentiles went to the temple daily to pray. This was a common practice and took place 3 times a day: 9 AM, 3 PM and sunset. This specific occurrence was 3 PM. #routine

 

There was a man that was never able to use his legs, ever. This man was carried EVERY DAY to the temple gate. #routine

 

As people went to the temple, the majority of people preferred to go through the gate called Beautiful. People like this man caught on and realized they could sit there and ask for money because the Jews are constantly walking past it to go pray. Lucky for these beggars, Jews thought it was an act of praise to give money to them, so they cashed in!

 

Now, that really only works when the people passing by have money to give. Peter and John, they didn’t have that to offer.

 

What we have here are two people whose daily routines are intersecting. They probably passed by each other multiple times! They probably both focused so much on their daily routine that they didn’t think much of what else was going on around them. It wasn’t new for Peter and John to be going to pray at the temple and it wasn’t new for this man to be begging for money. It probably wasn’t new that they would pass by each other either.

 

The beautiful thing that takes place here is that Peter and John yielded to the Holy Spirit here and used the routine as an opportunity to bring the miraculous to the mundane/ordinary. They had no money to offer but offered something far greater: the use of his legs (and ultimately, gave them a powerful, personal experience with God)! Peter said “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”.

 

What a powerful moment! What’s greater is the way the man responded. He didn’t grab a railing or ask people to help him up to see if he could walk, no, HE LEAPT! Not only did he jump to his feet but he jumped up and leapt around praising God!

 

And ALL the people saw him walking and praising God. Since he was there every day being carried in, most everyone knew who he was! To see him walking, jumping and giving all the glory and credit to God, what a testimony!

 

So, I will end this with a simple question: How does God want to use what you may write off as just an ordinary part of your day or perhaps just a necessary path to get where you really want to go to bring something greater to the world around you? This man being healed was only a fraction of the miracle here! The most amazing part of it all is that he praised God and revealed God’s glory, power and goodness to those around him!

 

Therefore, let us live ready to yield to God’s guidance throughout every part of our lives, even the parts that we may just think of as mundane and ordinary, because God can do amazing things at any time!

TRANSITIONS

Throughout our lives all of us face transitions.  Some are easier to handle than others, but each one comes with unique challenges.  I can remember when I went from 6th grade to junior high. My friends changed, hormones changed, interests changed and it was a trying time.  I can remember when my grandma placed herself into the nursing home. We could not stop at grandma’s house anymore and every time we drove by a touch of sadness came into my heart.

 

Often times, we can try and prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally, or even financially for such transitions.  We may know a certain stage in life is coming or a move is in the making, but there are those changes, such as the loss of a job, a divorce, or the loss of our health that can catch us off guard.   These and others can be unsettling, even scary.

 

So how do we properly approach and handle them?  Will we walk in a fear that becomes debilitating?  Will we harbor anger or bitterness towards an individual, or perhaps even resentment towards God?  Do we find ourselves stuck and unable to move forward in life?

 

Here are just a few scriptures that can encourage and challenge us as we try to move forward.
 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 46:1-3

 

“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:1-2

 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

 

Remember, all of us face change.  Nothing ever stays the same - only God!  He is The One constant in the midst of everything that you and I will ever face.  May we lean heavy and whole heartedly on Him during each and every transition.

AUDACIOUS HUMILITY

Audacious Humility? When I first heard the expression I thought, “well that’s an oxymoron!”  However, after looking up definitions on these words I came to the deep conviction that I want to live my life with audacious humility. Because if I do, my dependence will be fully on Jesus and I will be unstoppable in Him.

 

When you look at the word audacious you see Mr. Webster describes it as showing a willingness to take a surprising bold risk; and kids I’m here to tell you that walking in humility is a risk; it means that you no longer believe that you are a self-made, hardworking, top of the food chain success and that you are free from pride and arrogance; instead you depend on your creator. This type of humility is grounded in the character of God. He stopped at nothing in humbling Himself, from the manger to the cross; giving grace to the humble and resisting the proud.  This is God, who became man for us.

Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

To truly experience audacious humility, you must exhibit Jesus’ character which means that you don’t just act like Him, but you are like Him; He who demonstrates the most extravagant humility; He was God; He served the lowliest and willingly gave His life up on a criminal’s cross. We must emulate Christ’s example to truly understand this; we must lay our crowns at His feet as this is the realization that it is nothing that we did, but our creator who gave us the capability of using those gifts to do something great and successful. That is where credit is due and will keep us dependent and in a place of audacious humility.

 

Allow this type of humility to be the remedy to, “pride and arrogance, which comes before the fall.” And, then and only then will you be unstoppable. Philippians 2:3-8 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”

 

“…an often-overlooked element that turns strength into genuine success is humility. Holding your power, whether physical, financial, intellectual, or political for the good of others, not personal gain. Embracing humility will radically transform your personal relationships, leadership abilities and professional dealings.”  John Dickens

 

I invite you to live this kind of life with me.


I COULD NEVER DO THAT...

I’m late for church again. I am standing at the kids check-in desk scrolling through all four of my kids’ names and trying to match each one with the right classroom so that I can get them into kids church before the end of worship. Then I hear the statement “Your kids are so wonderful and what you’re doing is amazing, but I just couldn’t love a child and watch them leave...I would get too attached...I could never do that.”

As a foster parent I hear these comments often and usually when I’m not expecting it. I understand this fear because I live it. It is natural to avoid heartache and even more to avoid breaking the hearts of your own biological children if your foster child leaves. Self-preservation is comfortable, but the Lord rarely calls us to comfort. He calls us to an adventurous obedience and to say yes to the unknown.

After two years of fostering and advocating for my children - and at times facing the possibility that they could leave my home I have often asked myself why I do this. Sometimes it isn’t even the big issues that make me question this choice. Sometimes it’s missing the confidence you have when no one can take your kids away because they are just yours. Sometimes it’s the everyday grind of having lots of small kids who need me and not feeling how I used to. So, in exhaustion I ask myself “Why do I do this. Why do I obey?”

I do this because I am a Christian, so I can do hard things. I choose to bare the name of Christ so I will imperfectly try to be like Him. It is so imperfect at times I feel like I’m crawling. The exhaustion is worth it because I don’t want to just raise a good family I want to use this season of my life to give my family to a child who has been removed from theirs. I can do hard things because God is with me.

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph...See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!” - Isaiah 50:7-9

The bible shows that the God of the universe goes before us, when Christ died the veil was torn and we were given direct access to Him, then when Jesus ascended he gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us. God is fully with me so I can do hard things.

Jesus moved toward hard and broken situations so I will do it too. Some people go overseas to do missions, but I will take the mud of the mission field and drop it in my house as I watch the glory of God shine in my home. I will see the broken healed in my home. I will see a generation changed in my home. Where there was history of abuse and neglect I will see the beginnings of restoration in my house. This is not about loving a child who may leave or my ability to let go after being attached. This isn’t even about responding to a great community need. I do this because I want to be like Jesus. This is my personal obedience and God is with me as I obey.

My relationship with God is reflected in how I obey Him. I believe He is who He says He is. He is Father to the fatherless, He is the provider, the healer, the protector, He knows the beginning to the end. I praise Him with obedience because I trust that He has not spent eternity lying about who He is.

I do foster care because this is how God has asked my family to obey in this season of our life. When I see my little one light up like sunshine I thank God for the opportunity to be his mommy. When I watch my older kids embrace their siblings as if they’ve always been there I see the love of Jesus. When I watch my husband get up in the middle of the night with our kids I see Christ in him. When I write update letters and send pictures to my children’s biological parents I thank God that I can share Jesus with them. When the days are hard and I face a courtroom or receive challenging news I thank God because He is with me.

This obedience of doing foster care has allowed me to trust and know God in a way that I wouldn’t have. If I remained afraid and believed I could never do “that” I would have missed the adventure. It’s in the moments when I’m asking myself “why do I do this?” that I hear God the loudest. One day I may love a child who will leave, but I can not risk missing this walk with God because of fear of where it might lead.

WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE SINGING

I want to paint a picture for you. It’s Sunday morning and you’re getting ready to go to church. You and your wife have spent the last hour getting the kids out of bed. They’re screaming and crying and you’re exhausted. You pull into church, get them checked in, and finally get into the auditorium halfway through the first song. The worship leader is encouraging everyone to sing, but after the morning you’ve had, you really don’t feel like it.

            This is a common situation for many people. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s been a hard week. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or had an argument with a spouse or a loved one. It can be hard to come in and sing praises to God when you’re in the midst of trials. We come in tired or hurt by life. Sometimes we wonder why we would praise God and sing to him when all of this is going on in our lives.

            Hebrews 13:15 says “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”. What does it mean to offer a sacrifice of praise? A sacrifice means it costs us something. We praise God not because we feel like it. We praise God because He is simply worthy of it. We profess of his greatness and worth. This can sometimes feel like a sacrifice! It can be hard. But to praise God despite our feelings helps us to unite our hearts to His. It reminds us of the great work of Jesus in our lives. It reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus name.

            So, I encourage you, the next time you come to church and you don’t feel like singing, or you’re dealing with the weight of the world, sing even louder. Offer a sacrifice of praise to the One who has saved us, to our God who is worthy of it all!

 

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.

Psalm 145:3

LOOKING FOR THE BURNING BUSH AND MISSING HIS WHISPER

1 Kings 19:12-13

 

The year was 2008, my wife and I had been sensing that God was asking us to leave blissful Colorado and obediently follow him into a new chapter of planting a church. The looming question that we couldn’t seem to get a clear answer on was… Where?

 

There were two areas that we sensed God might be leading us toward. So my wife and I set out on a quest. A quest to hear the confirming voice of God, a quest for a burning bush if you will. Our plan was to spend one week in each area walking, praying, and seeking Gods direction and confirmation. We fully anticipated a burning bush experience. An experience where God would meet us with some obvious supernatural neon sign that read “Plant Here!”.

 

We headed out with hearts full of excitement and expectation. We arrived at our first destination, spent the week praying, walking the streets, discussing ministry in this area, and looking for the burning bush. It never came. As we boarded the plane to destination number two, we assumed God’s answer. Well, guess what? No burning bush there either. God didn’t show up in a burning bush, however, he did show up in the wise counsel of a pastor.

 

While in the second area I seized the opportunity to meet with a pastor friend of mine who planted a church a number of years prior. I explained to him this journey we were on and I will never forget the words he spoke over me. He said, “Ken, I think you might be over-spiritualizing this endeavor. God will use you no matter where you go. My friend, pray, read His Word, seek counsel, then act out of obedience in faith and God will surely honor that.”

I can’t tell you how much pressure this removed from my wife and I. We were so fearful of “missing” God’s plan.

 

As we returning to our home in CO we began to identify the whispers of God. They first came clear through His Word, then they came through consistent words of knowledge through trusted friends, and finally, we sensed the confirmation in our hearts.

 

We had peace and we moved forward. A new church was planted, people came to know Jesus who were once far from him. We saw many miraculous moves of God, my wife and I grew closer to Him, our faith exploded, and we were refined and pruned more into the image of Jesus.

 

You see, it really was never about finding the right place to plant a church, it was never about getting in the right location so God could do something profound through us. It was and is always about posturing ourselves in faithful obedience so God can lead and grow us into the image of Jesus.

By the way, while He is doing this he will probably do some awesome things through you.

HOW GENERATION Z'S THRIVE IN THEIR FAITH

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

 

For what seems like forever now we have been talking about Millennials, what they are like, why they are that way, and what this means for the world. What’s interesting to note, however, is that the last Millennials are graduated from High School now and every student who is in Elementary, Middle, and High School is considered to be a part of Generation Z. Over 25% of the world’s population is made up of those in the Generation Z category. If you’re a parent of a child born between the years 1998 and 2018 you are parenting a member of Generation Z. So what does this mean for you and for how your child processes their faith?

 

1. Allow Your Student to Publish

Fun fact: The number one gift being asked for today by 9-year-olds is a YouTube channel! I remember being nine-years-old and asking for a monster truck remote control car! Gen X (Millennials) are considered to be consumers, but Generation Z is all about publishing. Think about how much is posted on Social Media each day. Students today internalize their faith, morality, and direction in life when they are able to process and publish the ideas themselves! Before directing and demanding your student to do something, provide them with conversations and opportunities to publish ideas themselves!

 

2. Be a Safe Place

Another way to foster moments and environments for students to process and publish their faith is to be a safe place. I’m not talking about the Safe Places that are all over the news and media right now, but I’m talking about us as parents and adults being a safe place for students to think out loud. Being a safe place requires authenticity, confidence (they know you won’t make fun of them around other people), and grace. Live out James 1:19 and be slow to speak and quick to listen!

 

3. Converse About Doubts

Most adults would consider doubts about faith to be a negative thing. But I would argue that doubts are not the most dangerous thing to faith, silence is. When students encounter doubts about what they believe, why they believe, or why the world is the way it is, they are bumping into an incredible opportunity to deepen their faith or leave the faith. Adults and parents must allow students to process their doubts in a safe environment and come out on the other side with deeper convictions on what they believe!

 

Resources: “Meet Generation Z” by James Emery White // “Growing Young” by Kara Powell

WHO WILL YOU ENCOURAGE TODAY?

I spend most mornings reading the Bible. Whenever I have an honest encounter with that book I walk away encouraged and challenged to live a God-centered life. This is always good for me and it is never easy. 

Today I recognize that few people invest the opening moments of their day in the Bible. I also recognize that many people whom I will interact with have never spent a morning in the Bible. This places me in a unique position to pass on what was passed to me. My daily routine is a novel experience for most, particularly those who need to hear from God the most.

“As God’s words give me life, let my words give life to others. ”

As God's words give me life, let my words give life to others. Today I must choose to speak life to those who have not heard an encouraging word in a long time. Their ears are filled with dissent, disaster, and demoralization. This morning, I am uniquely equipped to share truth from God. They may not be God-fearing people, but the power of God's word never fails to transform our lives. 

Who do I speak to today? What do I say? Will I embarrass myself with incomplete or incoherent ideas about life and love? Or will I be prompted to speak a simple word of encouragement to someone who is in desperate need? All I know is, if I don't say something then I have failed to invest into others what God has invested into me.