Spiritual Thermometers

I didn’t know this but I have some spiritual thermometers. One of them is this blog. I can tell when my relationship with God is slipping because I can’t come up with anything to write about. I can skip reading my Bible and praying for days and not realize it but there is something about having a specific set of days to post a blog that makes you look at the calendar and go- CRAP, it’s been over a week since I posted a blog.

I’ll be honest, my relationship with God has gone downhill of late. We haven’t been attending church regularly, nor have I been reading my Bible and praying like I should. Basically I haven’t been spending time with God. You know what? I miss Him. I miss the relationship, I miss the serenity, I miss the calmness in His voice when He speaks to my heart. I have once again let life get in the way. I have reduced my witness to a whimper and my ministry to a crawl.

A lot of it has to do with not having a church home. I have no root. I’m not grounded. But that’s not a good excuse. I still have a Bible, I still have the ability to talk to God anytime I so desire. I just don’t. I wake up early and check Facebook before I check in with God. I read my email before I read God’s word. I am doing life without the giver of life and it really just sucks. My empathy is gone, my compassion is low and my patience is small.

I see it most of all with my kids. I am meaner to them than usual. I snap at them instead of listening to them. I ignore them instead of getting down on their level and listening. I am quick to punish and slow to praise.

I don’t like me when I’m like this. I don’t recognize the man in the mirror. I know the face but the countenance is unfamiliar.

1-3 Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Scrub away my guilt,

soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been;

my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen

it all, seen the full extent of my evil.

You have all the facts before you;

whatever you decide about me is fair.

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,

in the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes,

give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me,

shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash,

or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways

so the lost can find their way home.

Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,

and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

Unbutton my lips, dear God;

I’ll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,

a flawless performance is nothing to you.

I learned God-worship

when my pride was shattered.

Heart-shattered lives ready for love  Psalm 51:1-17 The Message


It’s all about Him,

ShawnReblog this post [with Zemanta]

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I’m not Einstein!

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The Forgiveness Formula- Part 2

800px-Pi_plate Part 1 can be found – HERE.

In part 1 we scratched the surface of forgiveness.  We talked about the fact that we are commanded by God to forgive.  I also presented my first equation on forgiveness: Forgiveness = Freedom.  Today I want to look at the second equation in my Forgiveness Formula;

Forgiveness + Love = Restoration

This goes beyond the command to forgive.  This is to tap the barrel of love that Jesus has given us.  This is a slightly irrational response to being hurt.  Normally, we’re hurt and because of the command to forgive, we move past the hurt enough to not hold bitterness in our heart and forgive the offender.  Sometimes that’s all we can do.  Sometimes the pain or the offense is so horrible that achieving forgiveness is the extent of our ability. 

But as Christ-Followers, the limit or our abilities is the beginning of Jesus’ abilities through us.  This is what separates us from non-Christians.  Here is the difference, our ability to forgive and love someone that hurt us, regardless of the circumstance, is the love of God working in us and through us.  Even if they didn’t want or ask for our forgiveness.  Jesus is an irrational guy.  Rationality tells us that when someone hurts us we should be mad and hurt them back, an eye for an eye if you will, but Jesus turns this on it’s head and tells us to love our enemies.

43-47"You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.  48"In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."  Matthew 5:43-48 The Messagereflect

Grow up!  Live out your God-created identity!  Be different from everyone else.  Go the extra mile.  Think beyond yourself.  Reflect God! 

This is a hard thing to do.  It’s a little revolutionary. 

 

Now check out Romans 12:1-2 in the Message;

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

You see, it’s our calling to be different, to go beyond the norm.  That passage said at the end that “God brings the best out of you.”  What’s the best?  Love.  The two Greatest Commandments start with love; Love God and Love others.  Jesus ends that passage by saying that EVERYTHING hangs on these commandments to love.  Paul says that out of faith, hope and love the greatest is love.  1 John tells us that love comes from God and if you don’t know or have love you don’t know or have God because God IS love.

When we begin to love someone that hurt us our anger fades and the ability to care for that person replaces it.  This could take a while.  It is probably not an overnight thing.  Give it time.  Start slow.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you. 

Quick Hits about how to find love for someone that hurt you.

1.  Pray for yourself– Pray that God would change YOUR heart, not theirs.  Pray that God would help you to love them.  Pray that God would quench the anger or hate in your heart with His love.

2.  Pray for them.  Pray for them.  And,  pray for them again.  Don’t pray against them, pray FOR them.  Don’t pray that God would change them.  Don’t pray that God would “Get them”.  Pray that God would bless them.  If you know some of the sins in their life you can pray that God would teach them and soften their heart to His will. You can pray for restoration between that person and God.  You can pray for healing if they are sick.  The key is to only pray for good things.  The longer and more earnestly you do this the more love you will feel for them.  It will be hard at first but don’t give up.1117094_73120387

  Forgiveness + Love = Restoration 

Restoration of a relationship, restoration of family, restoration of unity.  Restoration of a person to God, restoration of life.  Forgiveness + Love is a powerful thing!

 

One caveat, this doesn’t mean you should place yourself in danger.  I am NOT telling someone to stay in an abusive relationship.  I have counseled many people to get to a safe place and not go back.  However, this does not preclude you from forgiving and loving that person.  Trust is an altogether different issue from forgiveness and love.  I can love someone and not trust them.

Coming Soon- The Forgiveness Formula- Part 3

It’s all about Him,

Shawn


Did you like this post? Did you hate it? Please share it with your friends and leave a comment below. I would love to read your thoughts and opinions.

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You can also check out the Other Resources page for Bible Study Helps as well as links to media downloads, all free!
 
Want to show God’s love in a practical way and let people know where they can go for more info or help? Take a look at the DUO page.

Questions? Don’t forget to visit the Questions??Questions?? page and let me know. I will try to answer it the best I can. No Quantum Physics or Time Travel questions please!

Einstein 

I’m not Einstein!

When the Needles on E

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I feel drained today.  I feel almost empty.  I feel like I’m disconnected, from God, family, friends.  I feel worn out.  I am really struggling to even write this post.  Anyone else feel that way sometimes?  Alone, emotional turmoil?  Like life keeps sending these giant waves at you and you are trying to tread water and keep your head above the tide?  That’s me today.  I don’t feel this way often.  Usually I am a positive person with an upbeat mindset but sometimes you look and all you see is hurt and pain.  You see relationships struggling, people walking like zombies from some horror film just going through the motions.  Families torn apart by pain and bitterness.  Good people that you love just trying to get through the day.  A friend of mines daughter had a door fall on her, a door.  She has a spiral fracture on her left femur.  This little child is in a cast that covers both her legs.  She is immobilized for 6 weeks.  Other friends are struggling with their marriages.  Another friend is struggling with homosexuality.  Broken relationships between mother and child.  Another friend is sick and can’t teach, this is her passion.  Another is fighting with family, leftover anger from a death.  Some are drowning in debt and see the needs growing faster than the bank account.

People, real people, hurting, alone, abandoned. 

My passage today was going to be Matthew 26.  The part where Jesus goes to the garden to pray.  He prays three times to God to remove the suffering that is coming.  I wanted to bring out how we feel bad about asking God for stuff over and over and offer up Jesus as an example of how it’s ok to keep going to God with our problems.  But as I started praying today and spending time with God I saw something different.  I saw something more.  It goes deeper than that I think, a lot deeper.  There is so much pain in this passage.  There is depression, anxiety, a glimpse at the human side of Jesus.  The ability to connect with the God that became fully man, a chance to recognize our fight with our own fears, pain and worries.  Jesus allows us to see His inability in His own strength to handle the path before Him.

36-38Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, "Stay here while I go over there and pray." Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, "This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me."

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?"

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, "My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way."

43-44When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.              Matthew 26:36-44  (The Message)

Did you feel Jesus’ pain?  Did you feel His depression?  Did you see His humanity?  He told his friends, “This sorrow is crushing the life out of me.”  Like He felt He had this boulder on top of Him that He could not carry.  It’s as if His life was so heavy it was crushing Him to death.  He goes a little further away from His friends and falls on His face.  No strength, no “Power of Positive Thinking” in His stride.  This isn’t a good day, all is not all right.  Then He prays.  Not a prayer of thanksgiving to God, He doesn’t use all the little methods we use to remember what to pray for, just an honest cry to God.  “Dad, is there any other way?  Does it really have to be this way?”  His humanity shrinks from what is to come.  He wants to pull back.  To avoid taking this path.  And then the word “But”!  Here is where His divinity takes over.  “BUT, not what I want, what you want.”  In this one sentence He is saying “I know I don’t want this, I don’t want to go through this, but I humble my human side to You.  I put my desires behind Your desires.  I subject my will to Your will.”    

He prays twice more.  The prayer is a little different the next two times.  The decision has been made.  He has decided to obey God and trust that God will see Him through.  He prays, “If there is no other way, I am ready.  Let’s do it.  Let’s do it your way.” 

People ask me for advice and wise council all the time.  People are drawn to me because they know I care about them and because they know I will give them Godly advice.  They know I will pray for them and listen without judging.   They know that God has given me this gift and I use it and share it freely.  It’s not me, it’s God through me.  Sometimes though, I have no answer for them.  I have no words of wisdom.  God doesn’t reveal to me what to say.  Sometimes there is no answer readily available for the pain and sacrifice we go through.  When the words from friends are not enough to remove the pain from our lives, or when, like Jesus, our friends fail us and fall asleep while we struggle just to stay alive, we can look at this passage.  We can feel what Jesus felt.  We can sense the desperation in His prayers and take strength from the willingness to do Gods will no matter the price.  You see, we as Christ-Followers have two sides as well, a human side and a God side.  The Holy Spirit lives in us.  It is the Holy Spirit that comforts and strengthens us.  Our humanity cries out for God to take us out of the situation, but it is the Holy Spirit of God inside of us that says, “But not what I want, what you want!” 

Sometimes the answer is not what we need, sometimes we just need to humble ourselves and say, “Yes God, if this is Your will, lets do it.” 

And while we don’t have our answer, it is enough to know that Jesus shares our pain, our struggles and our desire not to suffer even though sometimes we must.


Did you like this post? Did you hate it? Please share it with your friends and leave a comment. I would love to read your thoughts and opinions.

Questions? Don’t forget to visit the Questions??Questions?? page and let me know. I will try to answer it the best I can. No Quantum Physics or Time Travel questions please!

I’m not Einstein!

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Annoy God

15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”  1 Samuel 1:15-16 (Holman Christian Standard Version)perseverance

In our family my Mom is known as a Prayer Warrior.  A Prayer Warrior is a person that prays hard and continuously.  She has an abnormal success rate with her prayers.  My wife asked me about it one time and I told her that it’s because she annoys God until He answers.  She is like a pit bull in the sense that once she begins praying she doesn’t let go until God answers her, just like Hannah in the verses above.  If you read the whole story which you can do HERE, you will see that Hannah wanted a child.  She wanted one so bad that she was desperate about it.  For a Hebrew woman to not have a child was a disgrace.  Add to the fact that her husband Elkanah’s other wife had children and constantly threw it in her face and you have a situation that bred jealousy and misery.   Year after year she went to Shiloh to worship and pray and year after year she received no answer from God.  But she had perseverance.  She also had faith, the faith of the desperate.

Romans 5:3-5 says “3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

In our lives we run headlong into problems.  And many times these problems seem to have no solution.  The outcome is undecided and it scares us.  What is going to happen?  How will I get through this?  What am I supposed to do?  These questions race through our minds and our hearts.  Unfortunately most of the time we don’t turn to God.  We instead turn to friends or family.  We turn inward not upward.  We turn to artificial means of support such as alcohol, drugs, sex or anything that makes us feel good for a time.  But the true Christ-Follower has a better place to turn.  That place is a place of hope.  A hope in God to turn things for His good.  A hope that is not a pie-in-the-sky hope, but a trusted place of refuge.  But along with hope we need perseverance.  The ability to annoy God until He answers.  The patience to show God that we are serious about waiting for His reply.  Day after day, week after week, month after month and even year after year we need to worship and pray to God until He answers.

My Mom prayed for my Dad’s salvation for years and years.  It took about 15.  Fifteen years of annoying God, fifteen years of knocking on the door before God opened up and my Dad became a Christ-Follower.  Here’s the kicker, not only did my Dad, who hated church, become a Christ-Follower but he also became a pastor.  God finally answered and when He did, he answered in a big way.

Did you read the rest of Hannah’s story?  After years of praying and years of ridicule God answered her and He answered her in a big way.  He gave her a son and she dedicated Him to God.  His name?  Samuel.  The same Samuel that has two books in the Bible named after him.  The same Samuel that went on to become one of the key characters in the Old Testament.  The same Samuel that became a leader of Israel.  He also anointed the first two kings of Israel, King Saul and King David.

He accomplished some incredible things for God, but it all started with a woman who had the perseverance to annoy God until she received her answer.

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The Lady in the Parking Lot

I met this older lady the other day, Mrs. Elizabeth, she was at the jail, visiting not residing with us, and she was lost. She asked if I knew where she could drop off some money for a young woman in the jail. I told her yes and showed her where to go. She made the comment that she was not very familiar with places like this to which I replied neither was I until I started working here. I told her I had grown up a good church boy. As soon as I finished that sentence she attacked, “So then you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour and you know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven.” To which I replied “Yes Ma’am.” I was wondering if she had one of those big 45 pound Bibles tucked away somewhere. I’m just kidding, she did ask if I had a relationship with Jesus and I said yes, then I asked her if she had a relationship with Him? She said yes. We talked a little more and she found out about the new church we are starting and she prayed for us right then and there. She said, too many times we say we will pray for someone and then don’t, she wanted me to KNOW that she was going to pray for me, my family and our church. I felt good.  It was just what I needed.

Sometimes God just amazes me. In the parking lot of a jail I find a lady that will pray for me.

Ain’t God Great!!?

Remember- God knows what you need before you do.

Need a Medic Over Here!

There is a lady in our church named Miss Deb. Miss Deb is the kind of person that all pastors wish they had about 300 of. However, I have to admit, when I first met her I wasn’t sure about her. She seemed a little “out there”. (Sorry Miss Deb) But as I got to know her I found out that she wasn’t “out there” but “Up There”, as in she was just really in love with Jesus. Once I figured that out we have put Miss Deb to work. She handles two of my kids and my nephew on Sunday morning, as well as any other kids who are at church. Mine are enough, let alone the others she has. My kids LOVE Miss Deb. She comes over to play with them and they talk about it for days.

Last Sunday we prayed for Miss Deb because she had to have surgery this week (it happened yesterday and went well), we asked the kids to hold hands around her and we prayed. After the prayer my son asked what was wrong with Miss Deb. We told him she wasn’t feeling well and needed to go see the doctor. He started crying and cried for half an hour because he didn’t want her to have to go to the hospital.

Here is the funny part of the story, when Miss Deb showed up to our church she didn’t have any interest in kids, I believe she wasn’t that fond of them. But she was asked if she would help in Children’s Church one morning and her love of Jesus wouldn’t let her say no. The next week she came to church ready to be with the kids. She fell in love with children, and they fell in love with her.

I said she is every pastors dream, why? Because she is humble and obedient, not to the pastor but to God. Because she is willing to try anything if it will help God or His church. Because she realizes that it is all about God, and not all about her. I pray we would all be so in love with God that we allow Him to use us however He wants.

Remember- God’s sense of direction is never wrong. He knows where He wants you!

A Painfull Choice

coyote-061.jpg I have a choice to make. It involves choosing between two of my passions in life, God and football.

Background Story- For those that don’t know, I am a Christ-Follower and my Dad and I, tired of churches that don’t do anything, set out to start a church for people who don’t go to church. One without pretense or pomp. Where people can come and be themselves. We started out fairly well but now we are down to 4 or 5 people. So Dad and I have been praying and wracking our brains to find out what we are doing wrong. This is our calling from God but for some reason it isn’t working.

The Doubt- So Dad and I have been trying to figure out what went wrong and what we need to do to fix it. Is it us, did we fail, did we misunderstand God, did God fail? I know, I know, “God never fails!” Let me say this, the person who says that in a pious, holier than thou voice has probably never stepped out on faith with something that was more than they could handle. Those that have taken a leap for God know that there is a point in your arc as you are flying out into the great unknown that you wonder, will God really catch me. So thats where we are, asking, “Is God going to catch me?” Cause right now I feel like Wile E. Coyote as he is falling off the cliff. The ground seems to be getting closer and closer and we seem to be falling faster and faster.

The Choice- So we have been praying and Dad and I have come to the conclusion we need to fast and pray. Why fast and pray? It’s what Jesus did, and if it was good enough for him, it is good enough for us.  But fasting doesn’t always have to be about food.  Anything that is important to you can be given up as a fast.  For me, I think God is asking me to give up the Super Bowl this Sunday!!

…….to be continued!