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,

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Daddy’s Girl

“Daddy, I just want to spend time with you.”          Those words were uttered  by my 4 year old daughter on July 4th as my family and I were watching the fireworks at a friends house.  I was standing behind my wife holding my daughters hand and she started to pull me.  I bent over and asked what she was doing and she said, “I want to take a walk with you Daddy.”  I asked her why she didn’t want to watch the fireworks and that’s when she hit me with, “Daddy, I just want to spend time with you.”  I consider myself a tough guy.  I don’t show or even have a large emotional side.  I rarely cry, once when I got kicked in the no-no’s and twice during a movie, when they shot Old Yeller and when the Mom in Stepmom told her ex she was dying.  I have no idea why I cried at the last one but I thought about what it would be like for my Mom to die and that got me.  I think those are the three exceptions in a guys life to cry about- death of a good dog, being kicked in the groin and thinking about or the actual dying of one’s Mom. 

  At first I was going to tell her no.  I mean, it’s fireworks, stuff is blowing up!  That’s every guys dream, to blow something up.  We like explosions that’s why movies like Diehard and Lethal Weapon 1-4 were such awesome movies.  But more important than explosions is a father’s love of his daughter.  She is a Daddy’s girl and I am quite happy with that.  She has me wrapped around her finger and we both know it and we both like it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my son and my other daughter just as much, but her and I click.  Don’t worry, my Mom and my son click and my youngest daughter and my wife click. 

  As soon as she said she wanted to spend time with me my heart melted.  I bent down just a little farther and whispered in her ear, “Daddy wants to spend time with you to.” and off we went for our walk.  It wasn’t very far and it wasn’t very long but it was very special.  Holding hands and walking.  Not really talking, not really going anywhere, just a father and his daughter spending time together. 

  Sometimes I miss those special moments.  They are there a lot but sometimes I am just “too busy” being alive and not truly living.  Darius Rucker sings a song  called “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”  Check it out at the end of this post.

  I think our relationship with God is similar.  Not that He is to busy to take time for us but that He is just waiting for us to say, “I just want to spend time with you Daddy.”  He loves us so much and wants the relationship we have to be that intimate, that loving.  He wants us to run to Him, jump into His arms and put our arms around His neck and just whisper in His ear, “I just want to spend time with you Daddy.” 

  Check this verse out-

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What’s next, Papa?" God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  Romans 8:15-16  (The Message)

Papa!  Daddy!  Intimate names used during times of intimate conversations.  Sometimes my son calls me Dad, usually when He is in trouble or wants something.  Other times he calls me Daddy, usually when he is hurt or scared.  We use different names at different times.  Don’t worry about talking to God like you would talk to the President or a king.  Sometimes that is justified, but when we are alone with God, just spending time with Him, we can call Him Daddy. 

What’s your time alone with God like?  Can you call Him Daddy or do you stick to formal names like Lord, God and Father?


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New Updates Installed

I just restarted my computer and it informed me that “New Updates Were Installed”.  Man, wouldn’t that be nice?  As a Christ-Follower, every so often God would send out and update for my software (my head) and all I had to do was go to sleep and the next morning, bang, “New Updates Were Installed”.  I mean, you wouldn’t need to pray about the secret sins in your life, just get an “Update”.  No more reading the Bible, just ask God for an “Update”.  No more worries- “Hey God, I need and update on my worry software.”

Unfortunately there is no “Update” button or, for that matter, an “Easy Button” like in the Staples commercials that just magically fixes everything.  I wish that there was, but there isn’t.    

Every “Update” that we get IS through prayer, reading God’s Word or participating in group worship (church).  When we spend time with God or His Followers we receive “updates” all the time.  Anytime God opens your heart and mind to a new eternal truth about Him it is an “Update”.  Every time we feel God’s prescence and are led to do something for Him, it is an “Update”.

When was the last time you received and “Update” from God?  If it has been a while maybe you need to spend a little more time with Him and a little less time reading “blogs” on line, to include this one!!

Remember– The Great Programmer sends out “Updates” all the time, get yours today- read, pray and go to church.

Paging Dr. House

My wife and I feel like we are in an episode of House M.D. If you have never seen the show it is one of the guilty pleasures out there.  My wife and I love it.  It has replaced C.S.I. as #1 in our home.  This doctor named House, played by Hugh Laurie, is an arrogant, slightly sadistic doctor who figures out the unexplainable.  If you took a man and removed all the social restriction that most people go through life with and then made him a genius you would have House.

Anyway, my wife is sick.  We don’t know what it is, nor do the doctors.  She saw a neurologist yesterday and she said he was very abrupt.  I asked her if she liked living and episode of House.  She laughed and said, “yeah, as long as he is as smart as House.”  I don’t know if her doctor is or not.  Needless to say we are all worried about Amy.  She has an MRI with contrast today so hopefully we will know more soon.

A lot of times in life things will happen and you will go to someone for comfort or advice and they will give you a canned response.  Do you know what I mean?  “Don’t worry, it is all in God’s hands.” or, “It’s darkest before the storm.” or “Jesus is walking with you.”  I am not saying that they aren’t true, it is just as a Christian I have heard them hundreds of times and said them myself hundreds of times.  So sometimes little bumper sticker sayings aren’t enough.  However, God doesn’t use bumper sticker sayings to comfort us, we have made them into bumper stickers.  He does tell us He is always with us and that He is in control and that we can place our burdens on Him because He cares for us.

“God, I give this all to you.  My wife Amy and whatever is going on in her body, I give it to you and I ask you to heal her, either by miracle or through the doctors.  God, give me strength to be a support for my wife.  Help me to be strong for her.  Take away my worry and replace it with trust.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Death Is Only The Beginning

The other day I wrote about living like Christ. You can read it here!

Today we will be looking at the last half of Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. To die is gain? How can that be? Well, as we discovered earlier, living Christ is not easy nor is it always fun. It involves sacrifice and work. But at the end, when life is over, we will understand “gain”-

“I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith. There is a crown which comes from being right with God. The Lord, the One Who will judge, will give it to me on that great day when He comes again. I will not be the only one to receive a crown. All those who love to think of His coming and are looking for Him will receive one also.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (New Life Version)

The gain comes when we enter heaven. You know, streets of gold, crystal seas, your own mansion etc… But to me what makes heaven, well, heaven, is that there will be know more tears. That means my children won’t wake in the middle of the night after a nightmare, crying and scared out of their minds. That means, I won’t stand up into anymore corners of cabinets and gash my head open. It also means my wife won’t need to go to the doctors anymore and let them poke and prod her searching for the reason she is sick all the time.

Heaven is gain, all the bad stuff in life will be gone. You see, this is our hope, the hope of salvation, that we are no longer on a train bound for destruction, we are now first class passengers on a train bound for life eternal in heaven.

Do you want to know what the #1 best reason death is gain for a Christ-follower? Death means we will be face to face with God. Some people might be a little intimidated by that. The first thought that crossed your mind was, I am not good enough to stand before God. Well, that is true, but if you are a Christ-follower you have no reason to be apprehensive. You are clean before God. All your sins have been washed away. God will not be judging you, He will be welcoming you, with open arms and open heart. If you are still thinking, “Shawn, I still am not excited about standing before God with all that I have done. What do I do? How do I have the peace that you talk about?”

The Bible says that “all have messed up or sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection.” Romans 3:23. The Bible goes on to say that “the wages or what we deserve, for sin is death.” Romans 6:23a. In other words, we deserve punishment for our sins. The problem was that God never intended any of this and He found a loop hole in His own rules. “BUT, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23b But just like any gift, you have to take it before it becomes yours. The Bible goes on to explain how to be saved, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10. Thats it, confess or say it out load that Jesus is your Lord, that means you are putting Him in charge of your life and you are agreeing to let Him tell you what to do from now on, and believe in your heart that He was raised from the dead and you will be saved. Here is a little prayer that somes it up best. No worries, praying is just like talking to a friend.

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Now what! If you just prayed that prayer please let me know. You can email me shawn@jointheplace.com or you can reply on this or any blog thread. I would love to know, and I would love to help you figure out what to do next.

Remember- God puts it very plainly- “Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now, choose life! Then you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19. Choose LIFE!

Learn To Meditate On Gods Word

Part 3 on Obedience
meditate.jpg     What does meditate mean in this context?  I am not talking the lotus position, chanting or finding your happy place.  I am referring to saturating your mind with God’s Word.  Lets look at it from a different angle.  You wake up and turn on Sports Center or the news or your Tivo’ed episode of House.  Any God there?  Do they mention Jesus?  If so it’s with a “damn” or “Christ” after them.  Then you get in your car and crank some Hank.  Or maybe you don’t listen to country, maybe you like rock or rap or oldies.  Maybe you turn on Howard Stern or one of a thousand morning shows.  Then you get to work and unless you work in a church (and sometimes even at a church) God is not mentioned once in a flattering way.  Back to the house, radio blaring.  Get home and any one of a million shows are on, most with no mention of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  Or if they do mention Him it is in a negative light.  Finally it is night-night time, we say a quick prayer to God and fall asleep.

Let me ask something, how can you have a relationship with someone that you never spend time with?  Before I go any farther, let me say that I don’t spend every living moment talking to God.  I wish I did but I don’t.  I watch House, CSI, Still Standing and an assortment of Disney shows.  I love Sports Center.  Football is one of my passions.  I read non-Christian books.  I listen to various music and watch movies where God is never mentioned.   I am not throwing a Holier-than-thou at you.  I am just stating a fact.  Most of us spend more time with the TV than we do our kids, our spouse and our God.

Why is this so important?  Charles Stanley wrote in his book, Living the Extraordinary Life that “Meditation and prayer are key elements in resisting temptation.  When you saturate your mind with the Word of God, you will gain God’s viewpoint concerning your life and situation.  Therefore, when temptation comes, you will know right from wrong and can act accordingly.  Never underestimate the power of God in your life.”

It is kind of a “garbage in- garbage out” way of thinking.  If you put nothing but violence, hate and sex in your mind, thats what you will think about.  Again, I am not suggesting we all move to a commune in the mountains and sing Kumbyeya or anything, but the more junk in the more junk out.  Just like you can’t eat Snickers all day everyday and expect to be healthy, you can’t put MTV into your noggin all day and expect to be Billy Graham or Mother Theresa.

Philippians 4:8-9 says it pretty clearly, take a gander- “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”  I especially like the last part- ‘his most excellent harmonies.”  Kind of has a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure feel to it.  OK, thats random.  Anyway, do you see what I mean though.  God is saying, upload good things, not bad things.  Put in things that help you and others, not bring them down.  Build Godly morals in you life.

So what does this have to do with obedience?  Simply this, how can you obey someone that you don’t know?  You can’t.  Obedience is  dependent on relationship.  Not only how but why would you obey someone that you don’t know?  I wouldn’t (excludes military and anyone that works for a living).

Remember- Whatever seed you plant in the soil of your mind is the kind of crop that you will grow.  You can’t plant apple seeds and grow squash.

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.