Friday, April 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Royal Wedding

I doubt this quote will be popular among many Christians, but I also think its unpopularity will be a reaction from people who know the depth of truth the quote contains.
I was grieved further by the seeming inability of genuine Christians to be offended at what we witnessed. Is the gospel adorned by an openly fornicating couple, forced into church by obligation, led in prayer by resurrection denying-Green Peace-ministers who care more about carbon footprints and unity at the expense of truth than fidelity to the revealed word of God and the gospel? (if you doubt it, google Arch Bishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London) - From Pastor James McDonald's blog
I never got into the Royal Wedding business.  There was something about the world's almost worship of these two young people that I didn't like.  The expense and extravagance of the wedding is hard to stomach in the face of the financial needs of the world.  I don't understand the consumerist lust and voyeurism of people (especially woman and young girls) who watch this thing.  Now a whole generation of girls have been exposed to the seeds of a false dream of what their future 'perfect' wedding will have to be like.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What to Do When We Ask and Do Not Receive

Jesus gathered his followers around him one day on a mountain side and he said to them,  
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"  (Matthew 7:6-12 ESV)
This teaching is something my wife and I have been talking about a lot recently as we journey through this season of unemployment.  We are both constantly in prayer asking, seeking, and knocking before God.  However it doesn't seem like there is much giving, finding, and opening.  We are before the Lord trying to discern the lessons he has for us during this time and where he is leading us.  It is a difficult process and provides many more questions than answers.

What I reminded Stephanie (and myself) of last night is that through it all God's loving goodness does not fail.  There are many verses in Scripture that provide additional insight into what Jesus taught about asking, seeking, and knocking.  The Bible teaches elsewhere that there are occasions we don't get what we ask for because our hearts are not right before God (James 4:3).  Another reason we don't get the answers we desire is because God has another idea about how the situation goes.  The Apostle Paul writes multiple times about desiring to see a brother or sister in another town but for various reasons (physical and spiritual) he is prevented from doing so.  There may even be some greater spiritual reason why our prayers seem to be temporarily unanswered (Job, Daniel 10).

What is most important is that we continue to put our hope and trust on God and his promises.  He WILL provide for us as he provides for the birds.  He DOES have a plan for our life to prosper us and not to harm us.  He SHALL raise us up on wings like eagles.  He IS our rock and firm foundation. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We Receive from God to Pass Along to Others

What if the circumstances you go through in life (success, failure, health, illness, unemployment, etc.) were not meant just for you alone, but so that you could care for someone else in your path who will go through similar circumstances?

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 the Apostle Paul teaches this very concept to the people in the church in Corinth,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Paul writes that Christian brothers and sisters receive the comfort of God in our troubles, so that we may comfort others in their time of trouble.  This is a key aspect of the Christian experience and life.  All that we receive from God is to flow through our lives into the lives of others.  Christians are to be pipelines of Jesus' love and grace and mercy and comfort to one another.  It began in Genesis 12 when God tells Abraham, "I will bless you so that you may be a blessing" and the moment our pipeline is capped and the works of God dead-end on us, we cease to function fully as God intended. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who Is Jesus Christ - Must Watch Video (2 min)

No matter what you think about Mark Driscoll, PLEASE take a couple minutes and watch this.  I watched it this morning and the question, "Who do you say Jesus Christ is?" really messed me.  In the middle of frustration and fear of the future I have to look deep into my heart and answer that question.  In the middle of what ever you are going through, how would you answer the question?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Obedience Brings Blessing

One of the worst parts of parenting is when your discipline of a child ends up feeling like a punishment for you as the parent.

Yesterday Andrew had some trouble being obedient and so I made the decision to not let him play with his best buddy outside that afternoon.  It was the only consequence I could think of that might help him focus on making better choices.  However yesterday ended up being a beautiful afternoon for playing outside.  So, Andrew and I were both stuck inside 'feuding' with one another instead of being outside having fun.  It made for a not-so-fun afternoon as you could imagine.

Thinking over the situation today I'm reminded of how my heavenly Father works.  He desires to give me god gifts, and yet I remove myself from the place of blessing when I choose to live in ways that go against his desires for my life.  In arrogant, selfish foolishness I go my own direction and in doing so I forfeit the things that are best for me.  Obedience leads to blessing and joy in God.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Monster Within Us

Tonight at our church's Good Friday service the pastor referenced the old TV series Incredible Hulk and he talked about the monster of sin that lives within each person.  It was fitting due to the fact that I spent most of the afternoon battling the monster within myself.

There are days while a person is out of work that can really bring you down.  Today was one of those for me.  I found out yesterday that a good lead I had wasn't going to work out.  So I spent a couple hours today scanning job boards and reading about necessary qualifications and experience that I don't have.  It gets extremely draining to feel unqualified over and over again.  Then I went home and began cleaning (which is sometimes therapeutic for me) only to discover some bills with balances higher than I was aware of.  This set of a chain reaction of fear and anger inside me.

I KNOW that God is going to work out my job search for GOOD and his GLORY but days like today are tough.  I feel like a swim suit being twisted until the very last drop of water drips out.  I feel like the end of this journey is covered in fog and I'm forced to keep pressing into the unknown.  I feel alone and frustrated and scared and exhausted. 

At least I did feel that way until I went to church.  That's because at church I looked up at picture after picture of Jesus hanging on a cross: twisted, alone, frustrated, scared, and exhausted paying the penalty of MY sin.  He died so I wouldn't have to.  He took my place and endured the wrath of God instead of me.  Because he loves me. 

So I trust his words and his power and his goodness as I press into the fog.  He WALKED the path set before him, and he IS WALKING the path alongside of me.

Cheap Sin Wastes the Hard Work of Holiness

A couple weeks ago I was disgusted by the scale in my bathroom and I decided it was time to do something about it.  I rejoined the local YMCA and have started lifting and running 3-4 times a week.  Another thing I did was instituted a 'no eat after 8pm' rule.  I'm not sure how much that is helping but it does limit the amount of worthless calories I consume each day.

Speaking of calories, one part of my program that is really cool is the My Fitness Pal app I downloaded to my phone.  The app lets me track all kinds of health data including calories, exercise, and water consumption.  I also have a personal page on the My Fitness Pal website.  If you're trying to lose weight I recommend checking it out.

I've noticed something else during my weight lose journey.  When I am working hard to eat healthy and exercise and track calories my desire for worthless calories goes way down.  I think how much work it will take to burn off a candy bar or mayonnaise on my sandwich and I don't even want to eat it.

I think there is a strong correlation here to my spiritual life.  The closer I am to Christ the less desirable sin is.  Taking a moment to consider how stupid it would be to give in to temptation makes the appeal of sinful behavior disappear.  It reminds of the song 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.'
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gut Check Time

Gut check.

This is a phrase that you often hear used in reference to sports.  I remember back to when I was a junior in college and my hockey team (Bethel) was playing in Game 2 of a play-off series against the powerhouse University of St. Thomas.  The Tommies had beaten us pretty handily the previous evening and if we lost the game our play-off run would be over.  Our back were against the wall that night.  We were tired, emotionally drained from being pounded a day earlier, and slapping us in the face with doubt was our school's record against St. Thomas 21-0-1.  It wasn't a game many thought we could win.

It was gut check time.  Would we throw in the towel and concede defeat?  Or would we stand up and fight?

That night our team choose to fight and that game was one of the hardest, intense, emotional games I have ever played in.  We gave it everything we had.  Our goalie was phenomenal.  And after 60 up-and-down, blood and guts, scrap and claw minutes we had defeated St. Thomas for the first time in over 10 years.  It was amazing and a memory I will have forever.

Right now I'm facing another gut check.  I am needing God to come through in some pretty big ways.  I've faced a few employment set-backs and the idea of finding the right job that will provide me with happiness and my family with reliable income is becoming a big weight crushing my spirit.  I sometimes feel like I'm back sitting in the locker room feeling stung from the previous game and questioning the odds of winning the next one.

This is a good place to be on Holy Week.  Many years ago Jesus had his own gut check in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, wept, begged, and sweated blood in agony about facing the weight of sin and the rejection of his Father on the cross.  But Jesus was a fighter and a hero and he faced his challenge with determination and humility and confidence in his Heavenly Father.  That is what I must do as well.

I am so grateful that my Savior provided me with the example I need when it is gut check time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Common Courteous Behaviors to Teach Your Kids

1. Turn off lights when you leave the room
2. Close the door when you go outside
3. Put dishes in the dishwasher after you eat
4. Put dirty clothes in the hamper
5. Put the top back on a pen/marker
6. Say please/thank you/you're welcome
7. Let people out of the elevator before rushing in
8. Stand a couple feet away from a door after ringing the doorbell
9. Only ring the doorbell once
10. Hold the door for other
11. Put the top back on the toothpaste
12. Flush the toilet, close the lid
13. Respect elders
14. Put ladies first
15. Don't talk with food in your mouth
16. Don't interrupt others

Any other ideas?

    Christian Living 101

    James 1:19-27

    19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

    22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

    26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Christians Don't Make Gay Jokes

    LA Laker's star basketball player Kobe Bryant was fined $100K by the NBA recently for shouting a disparaging homosexual remark at a official during a basketball game.  The situation is receiving ALL KINDS of media attention and just about every talk show host around the country is commenting about it.

    At the end of March I watched some pastors confess how God was leading them to a place of repentance around using homosexual terms and behaviors as jokes.  I was impacted by their explanation that since Christians don't joke about the sexual sins of pornography and adultery (which are as great of sins as homosexual behavior) they shouldn't make gay jokes either.  Great point.  Someone living a gay life is not going to be open to the Gospel if the pastor is making jokes about their lifestyle.

    Showing respect for someone is different than affirming and advocating for the decisions they make.  As Christians we should show the love of Jesus to homosexuals by building honest, caring friendships with them - not by labeling and making fun of them.

    I really like what Perry Noble says at about the 3:30 mark about how Satan has tried to normalize homosexuality in the minds of a culture by getting people to laugh at it.  If you look at the portrayal of homosexuality on TV and in movie it is often a very likable, funny, agreeable character.  As that person becomes normative in the minds of viewers if gets to be very difficult to view their behavior as sinful.  This is why I am so cautious about watching (and allowing my family to watch) shows with homosexual characters. 

    Here's the clip:

    Jokes About Gay People? from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Weekend Mind Dump

    - Man/Sports weekend comes to a close.
    - Had a great time playing hockey.
    - My team was 3-1.  I had 9 goals.  Some assists too.
    - Chipotle is not a good pregame meal.
    - Grateful my mom and sister came watch.
    - Also loved having my wife and kids there.
    - Jon Bradley is a great guy with a great family.
    - So is Mike Frost.
    - I'll be icing my knee for a couple days.  Hit with a puck.
    - Masters golf tournament was amazing!
    - Really bummed for Rory McIlroy.  He's handling his blow-up w/ class.
    - Exciting to see Tiger get back into the hunt.
    - I can't wait to golf again with Jon Towey.
    - Thanks to my brother Aaron for opening his home to me.
    - Missed being at Bible study and church though.
    - Did not eat well today.  Too much pizza.
    - Watched Top Gun last night.  Classic movie.
    - Ready to start working out again.
    - I might even start swimming.  Maybe.
    - My wife is AMAZING.  Never complains.  Always serves.  Love her!

    Friday, April 08, 2011

    Reflections on Today

    - Awesome day.
    - Had a job interview that felt like it went well.
    - Got a couple $2 six-inch sandwiches at Subway that tasted great!
    - Tiger's comeback at the Masters is amazing.
    - Lots of great Masters story lines.
    - Golf on a big HDTV is fantastic to watch!
    - Red Sox take down the Yankees for first win of the year.
    - Scored 2 goals in a 7-6 win today during the Christian Cup.
    - One of them was shorthanded.
    - Thanks Mom for coming!
    - Ate Japanese Pan Noodles with my Mom for dinner.  Yum!
    - My cell phone is operating like it is on dial-up.
    - Ended the day watching Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with the kids.
    - Sad to hear about the retirement of Manny Ramirez.
    - I'm hungry.  But it's after 8 so I can't eat.
    - My body is seriously sore and I have 3 more games.

    Thursday, April 07, 2011

    2011 Weight Loss Plan

    Yesterday I signed our family back up with a membership at the local YMCA.  I have gained 20 extra pounds in the last 4 months and I finally decided now was the time to do something about it.  It great to lift some weights and exercise again, although I'm a little sore this morning.

    My life of fitness has been a bit of a roller coaster.  My weight has fluctuated between 195-225lbs for the last 10 years.  In that time I've stayed fairly active by running 2 marathons ('05 & '10), playing softball, occasional weight lifting, and general activity with my family.  However I have also abused myself with small amounts of sleep, late night snacks, some slothfulness, and the irrational desire to finish the food on each of my kids plates at meal times.

    My goal is to slim down to 200lbs by July. 

    Here are some reasons why I want to lose weight.
    1. I want to honor and glorify God with the only body he has given me.  This is stewardship.
    2. I want to be an example of health for my wife and children to follow.  This is headship.
    3. I want to remain active and healthy with my kids as they get older.  This is involvement.
    4. I want to improve my self-confidence and present myself well to others.  This is leadership.

    Here's a few of the specific, measurable steps I'm going to take to get there:
    1. No eating after 8pm.
    2. Not eating ALL the food off my kids plates.
    3. Lifting weights at 3x a week.
    4. Getting to bed before 11pm.
    5. Avoiding candy and 'munching' during the day.
    6. Limit the use of condiments with meals.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    Chandler/Furtick at Elephant Room

    Great video from a conference I attended last week.  Matt Chandler is one of my favorite preachers.

    Chandler and Furtick from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    Reading in 2011

    My mother is a reader and I have been a reader for as long as I can remember.  My bed light was a prized possession.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do during childhood was laying awake in my bed late at night turning the pages of a great story. 

    One of my 2011 goals was to read 30 books.  Thus far I have read 11 (you can see the titles these books on my Reading Page).  I wanted to avoid reading in just one genre, so the books I've read this year include biography, nonfiction narrative, personal development, ministry/theology, Christian living, economics, and history.

    My Top 3 for 2011 so far are:
    1. Money, Greed and God (Richards)
    2. Radical (Platt)
    3. Ordering Your Private World (MacDonald)