Monday, May 30, 2016

Character Study: Joshua

During the month of May our Young Adults ministry studied the life of Joshua. We were looking for a person in the Bible to study that you normally wouldn't study. That meant we wouldn't be looking at; David, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Elijah or Moses. It made perfect sense to look at Joshua's life.
(Graphic created by Matt Riley) 
Joshua is first introduced to us in the book of Exodus as Moses' helper. Joshua had a front row seat to the hand of God in the life of Israel. Think about his life real quick. Joshua was born in Egypt, saw the ten plagues, fled from the Egyptians, crossed the Red Sea, saw the Ten Commandments, explored the Promised Land, wandered in the desert for forty years and lead the Nation of Israel to the place God had promised them. That is a full life! That is a life that has seen some of the major things God did for His people.

For this series we broke it down into four weeks like this:
Week 1- Leadership Beginnings (Numbers 13
Week 2- Crossing the River (Joshua 3)
Week 3- Sun Stand Still (Joshua 10)
Week 4- Who Will You Serve? (Joshua 24)

The entire series was a huge win. I spoke the first and last week. The second week we had Christian Huang from City Impact share. Week three we had Adam Darbonne, our High School Director at our North Campus, come and share with us. Thinking back on the series, it was great for our young adults to see a man who served the Lord his entire life and led well. You can listen to any of these messages online.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Reading with Leah

Earlier this year Leah invited me to read in her class with her. When I first got the invitation I thought that I was the one to do the reading, I soon realize that it was Leah who would be reading to me. 

Each Friday I walk Leah to school. We stand in line together. Then when her teacher comes out I don't give her a kiss outside the door but I walk into the room with her. She goes to grab her book while I head over to the carpet and sit and wait for her. When she brings over her reading bag she snuggles in my lap and reads to me. 
It's been so fun spending this time with her. Every Friday this has become our routine. They're not miss these Fridays because Leah will let me know how upset she is.
What I'm trying to share here is quite simple; as a dad I have an opportunity right now to spend time with my daughter. She wants me to be a part of her life. I want to take every chance to be a part of her life at this point because there may come a day where she doesn't want me to be there. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ten: How the Commandments Set Us Free- Book Review

Book Title- Ten: How the Commandments Set Us Free

Author- Mark S. Mitchell

Publisher- Discovery House

Pages- 127

Quotable- "We can't truly love one another unless we love God."

I always thought the Ten Commandments were a list of laws for Christians to follow, boy was I wrong! Mark's book has opened my eyes to the true purpose of the Ten Commandments. In this book Mark goes through the Ten Commandments and explains how they have been given to give us freedom!

Reading this book has revealed a misconception I had as a young Christian. I always looked at the Ten Commandments as rules that kept me bound, like a set of handcuffs. They seemed cold, tough and unyielding. As I matured in Christ I realized they were far from that. Mark explains how the commandments are far from that. The Ten Commandments are more like a map, or a guide, that helps to point people to God's Son. Because in God's Son there is freedom.

Not only is this book exegetical and solid in theology (as Mark always is) but very applicable. Each chapter has different illustrations and life stories to help you ponder how the commandments apply to your life. I highly encourage you to stop reading this review, purchase the book, and find out how the Ten Commandments can set you free!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My worst nightmare- getting drunk

People have told me that we all dream when we sleep. Sometimes I remember my dreams and sometimes I don't. Last night I had some crazy dreams. Not scary, but very interesting as to what I was dreaming about. For example, I was driving around in an old VW Bug with a poodle on a leash that was running in the snow trying to get to church because I was late to preach. Not sure where that came from at all.

There are times I have great dreams where I see my old friends who have passed away.
Other times I'm shredding 3 feet of fresh pow and every run I get fresh tracks.
Other times I'm catching a huge fish. I mean a monster! It's so hard to reel in but always the biggest fish anyone has ever seen.
But most mornings I just wake up, rub my eyes and get out of bed. It was another dreamless night.

There are the few mornings I wake up in shock and brokenness. My heart is racing. Sometimes I'm a little sweaty and confused. I wake up and it takes some time to grasp the difference between dream and the reality I've just entered. The dream, no nightmare, is so real that I think it happened. Its not always the exact same but it always has the same thread.

It goes something like this: I'm hanging out at a party or a bar. No one ever offers me anything to drink, I just have it. I drink it all. Then I drink some more and some more and some more. Sometimes I am drinking or sometimes I am just drunk in the nightmare. I may get in an argument or a fight. When the night is over I have lost it all. My family is gone, my relationship with God is done and my peace is gone. I can never seem to find my family again. I long to see them but can't find them. I have this feeling that I used to live with. It's an empty feeling. A feeling of my own selfishness desires. It's the only way to describe that is why I call it my nightmare.

After fifteen to twenty seconds of being awake I come to my senses, see my wife in bed and know it was another nightmare. The nightmare is a stark reminder of my past. I've been sober for sixteen years now but it seems the pain of my past decisions still haunts me.

I try to think of the positive in the situation. In the end it is a good reminder for me. See I believe there is a spiritual battle out there. The battle is for my soul. The nightmare is a reminder of this battle. In the battle I need to fight against the unwise decisions of my youth and focus on the life change Christ has done in my life. Its a reminder to never let me nightmare be my reality again.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Devoted to something

What are you devoted to in life?
Or another way to ask it is: what would others say you’re devoted to?

I've ben thinking about this question in my life. If people observed my life for a week, what would they say I am devoted to?
Where do I invest the majority of my time?
What apps do I check/use the most?
What would my checkbook reveal about my life?

I recently finished preaching through the book of Colossians and this question of what am I devoted to was highlighted for me when Paul wrote:

Paul shares with the church in Colossae about what he would like them to be devoted to. Paul saves some of the most important parts of a thriving Christian walk for these last sentences in his letter.

Paul instructs the people on is to be devoted to prayer. The word devoted is not a word we use much in our conversations (at least, I don't hear it). To be devoted means to: persist, endure or be committed to something. The something in this case is prayer. We are to be devoted to prayer. And in our prayer life we must be watchful and thankful.

Being devoted to prayer reminds me of Chasing God by Roger Huang. Roger is the founder of City Impact. Roger is a living example of being devoted to prayer. When he started City Impact, it was all through prayer. When they needed something it was all in prayer. Through prayer they shut a strip club down by prayer and fasting in front of the mayors office (read Philippians 4:6). You have to pick up this book and read about being devoted to prayer.

I am in a stage of life where I feel God calling me to be more devoted to prayer. I'm trying to figure out what it means to be devoted to prayer as a husband, father and pastor. I feel like I have a decent prayer life but I want to be more devoted to prayer. I want conversations with God to consume me. I want closeness with God to normal, not random. My goal is to intentionally look at my life, starting today, and move myself on a trajectory where people could say that I am devoted to prayer.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Book Review- Surrender To Love

Title- Surrender To Love

Author- David G. Benner

Pages- 112

Publisher- InterVarsity Press

Recommend- Yes

Favorite Quote- "The point of the spiritual journey is not simply to be received back into the welcoming arms of love of the Father but to become like Father." (page 89)

I'm not really good at surrender. In fact, I'm really competitive and not much of a quitter. I've never really thought of my life as a Christ-follower of being about surrendering to love. I've thought about surrendering to Christ. I've thought about learning to love. I've thought about giving up my desires. I've thought about how to love those I don't love. I never really thought about surrendering to love.

In this book David G. Benner talks about surrendering to love which is, in essence, surrendering to Christ: "Christians often focus on obedience more than surrender." (page 10)

I started reading this book a few months ago (a side note: I have 15 books I've started and haven't finished right now). When we were heading out on vacation last month I knew I didn't want to watch TV every night. That meant I needed a book. Since this was only 112 pages it was the right choice. I knew I could finish the book, learn and feel like I accomplished something.

I'm not a ferocious reader. Reading is hard for me. This book made me think a ton. I don't think I ever picked it up and read an entire chapter (its only 5 chapters long). The way Benner writes is in such a way that it required me to stop and think. It made me evaluate how I've been living my life. It required me to stop and pray. And all of those things are really good when you're learning to surrender to love.

If you're looking for an easy read, don't grab this book. If you're looking for a challenging read that will press up against what you've thought about life and your part then go ahead and pick this up. But I am warning you that you might learn more about surrender than you wanted. Once you've learned about it, you will have to do something about it. And that could be the best thing for you!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

How a note from my 7 year old encouraged me

Every now and then my kids come and raid my office. They check my drawers, play in my chair, relax on my couch and usually thrash my office. Most of the time I am cleaning up in their wake. Sometimes it upsets me and sometimes I just chalk it up as another day of parenting. But sometimes they write me awesome notes!

The last time Sophie stopped by she did all of these. I had popped out of my office for a minute and came back to her completing this note on my board. She was standing on her tipi-toes stretching to write. She found the markers in my drawer and wanted to share something with me.

It's such a joy to find little notes like this. What it got me thinking was, "How come this is so meaningful?" Then it hit me:
We all need a little encouragement! 

My daughter provided this little encouragement that added a little more gas to my tank.

I believe we all have a certain amount of gas in our tank at any moment. Not our car gas tank but the gas tank of our life. The level of gas we have in this tank varies day by day and sometimes minute by minute.

When that tank is running low we are:
*living on the edge

When our tank is full it's a whole different story. We have:
*encourage others
*smile more
*give life to others
*have a better outlook on life

When you think about your life today, where are you living? Are you living with an empty gas tank? If so, what can you do to fill up your tank? If you're tank is full, how can you encourage others today to add some more gas to their tank?