Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Counterfeit Gods

This will be a short post...I am reading (among a seemingly neverending pile of other books) the book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope that Matters by Tim Keller. What an incredible book! It has been socking me in gut with each chapter. The main premise focuses on the fact that the human heart is an idol factory, meaning we have to worship something. What is it for you?


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Great Banquet



What a feast! Last Monday, thanks to several generous folks who teamed up with the Justice League and the great people from Peter Shear's, we had an amazing dinner to enjoy together! It was a great time for us to come together as a community and enjoy a fantastic meal! We filled the room with 50 plus guys, who over the last 2 and a half years were or are a part of the community at the Refuge of Hope and specifically the Streetlights ministry. We are so thankful for those whom the Lord prompted to give in order to make this happen. I suspect that the opportunity had an effect on our hosts as well. We were a well behaved bunch. The night was finished off with a good game of cornhole. It's truly good to see what the Lord builds, provides and accomplishes through His people!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Potato

If you are anything like me, God help you if you are, you may sometimes have a hard time deciphering if some nugget of wisdom is for you or for someone else. Let me explain. Have you ever sat and listened to a sermon and said, “Wow, Sally really should be here to hear this,”? Or maybe listened to something on the radio, heard something in a conversation, read something in a book or heard something explained to you by a friend or mentor and said, “ I need to tell so and so about this, because it really applies to them,”? If you have done this, then you aren’t alone. I very quickly go into teacher mode and want to take whatever I may be hearing or reading and tell the person that I think needs to work on this particular thing. Have you ever considered that God might be just telling you something? I know, it might be hard to take, because it is for me too. It is much easier to shift the focus on someone else and think about how you could tell someone else about how they are screwing up and you are going to swoop into help them with this great nugget of wisdom. Stay with me now. If every conversation that you have with someone where they are perhaps doing what we are talking about above and you in turn do the same, then nobody would ever receive what it is God was telling them. We just play hot potato with convictions, words of wisdom, scripture, accountability, confessions and opportunities for improvement. As we all play hot potato, none of us are actually ever having to deal with anything! It’s pretty ingenious really! It feels so much better to simply pass the buck!

The next nugget of wisdom you receive, I challenge you, don’t tell anyone about it! Nobody! In fact as you are receiving it, don’t even think about anyone else that the particular thing might relate to. God might actually be trying to tell YOU something! Yes, I am joining you in this journey. If you preach or teach in any context this will be especially hard because we seem to always be looking for the next sermon illustration, but resist the urge!

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. - Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1-3


And so our purpose is to grow in Christ. We need to be concerned with our own growth or we will never be helpful to anyone else.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hamburger with an Egg

I stood in a kitchen Monday night chatting with a guy who has become a good friend. Let's call him Frank. Frank had been having a great couple of days for a multitude of reasons. Doesn't sound that extraordinary yet does it? Let me give you some background. Frank has had a rough few years. He watched many of the things in his life slip away: his family, his job and much of his hope. Frank struggled with things that had a grip on him and he was unable to get free of that hold. Frank was homeless for a time. We met months ago and in one of the first conversations we had, Frank shared his testimony with me. Frank had recommitted himself to Christ and was trying his best to live for Him in the midst of his situation. Frank was a faithful attendee of Bible study and continues to be. Every week I was privileged to hear Frank's honest feelings on God and where he stood with Him. I was always encouraged by Frank and all that he brought to the group. God was stretching Frank inside and it was great to watch. This isn't even the best part yet!

Frank was able to save up some money over a few months and based on what he felt God was telling him to do, he bought a house for about $1,000. Day and night, Frank worked and continues to work on the house. His vision is to continue to do this, buying these houses that need a great deal of love and work on them. He isn't interested in the ever popular trend of flipping houses or anything like that. He wants to help bring homeless men to their feet and give them an opportunity to get back into a normal life. God provided Frank with heaps of donations (washer and dryer, lumber, tools, etc) to repair his house. He has brought a few guys to live with him and he hopes to be able to continue.

Now for the best part! For months Frank would ask for prayer that he would get to see his kids again soon. He longed to be the father that he should be to his kids. I called Frank on my way to drop some things off to him on Monday and he told me that his son was there with him. His initiative, refusal to quit and trust in Christ, led him to this point. We stood and wept together in his kitchen Monday night at the greatness of God's grace, mercy and provision. Meanwhile, Frank made what meal he could for them, hamburgers with a fried egg on top (in a hot dog bun to boot!) His son watched cartoons, while we stood in the kitchen. I couldn't help but be amazed at our Lord, though I should know that this is what He is all about; Jesus Christ is a Master Builder, a Great Redeemer, a Repairer of lives, the Great Provider and He never tires! What a God we serve!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Evangelicalism’s Fads and Fixtures | First Things

Evangelicalism’s Fads and Fixtures First Things
There is a part of me that smiles when I read this article. But most of me cringes, because these things greatly shape what non-Christians think of us crazy Christians. It comes down to tradition versus scripture. Tradition can be scriptural, but scripture is not defined by tradition. What do you think?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Decline of Marriages

Marriages declining both locally and nationally - Massillon, OH - The Independent
I would dare to say that the decline is not as much tied to a recession or any sort of economical reason. I would instead say that the root cause is deeply rooted into the younger generations. There is, as those in the article point out, a very lacksadasical view of marriage currently. It is seen as something to just try out or as something that is a next step in a cohabitating, semi-monogamous, intimate relationship. So what if it doesn't work out! In fact, why even get married when you can get all the joys of marriage without the commitment? This is the sentiment of not only my generation, but the one before and after it. Marriage is less and less seen as a covenant before God reflecting the love Christ has for His church. What a tired, worn out ideal that is! We are living in an awakened time, why on earth would you view marriage to be something so archaic and oppressive!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. "This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. - Ephesians 5:25-33

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What do you know?

Atheists, agnostics most knowledgeable about religion, survey says - latimes.com
After reading the above story, what do you think? How accurate do you think this is? If it is, what does this say about the teaching that the "C"hurch is providing? Should we aim to have congregations full of baby Christians who don't even know what they believe and/or why they believe what they think they believe?

After reading this, I am left with questions and challenges.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preparation

I am really impatient. I had a talk with a friend yesterday and expressed for probably the thousandth time that I really desire to pour myself completely into ministry. We came to the same conclusion that we always do whenever we have this discussion, "It's not God's timing yet." I know this in my head, but I don't know that I really live it. This goes beyond my desires to be fully in ministry, it pours into every aspect of my life. I know God works in His time. I know that He uses things to prepare us for what is next. I know that things cannot always happen just because I want them to. Yet, I go against the things I "know" and continue to be impatient. I want things to happen now. Meanwhile, it is not as though nothing at all is happening in my life. Things are busy and my time is full of many good things. So why am I so discontent? 

God takes his time and prepares us for what He has planned for us. I feel like a piece of metal being hammered out over an anvil. I am being stretched, reshaped and smoothed out in rough places. I fight against this process of preparation though, but God continues to do His work. In times like yesterday's talk with my friend, I realize that God is moving, He is preparing things and moving things into place. He does it so masterfully, yet I am often blinded by my own selfishness, pride and impatience. 

When I was younger and living at home I would help my stepdad with projects out in the garage. One thing that he did a lot was weld; he was always building something. If you know anything about welding you know that it is good to have a fairly clean surface before you weld and that sometimes entails grinding down the two surfaces that will be welded together. I would hold the piece of metal while he ground the metal, looking away as the sparks flew and burnt my arm occasionally. Then, I would hold the two pieces together while he welded them. I had to be very steady, while still looking away from where he was welding. Again, sparks flew and sometimes burnt my arm or went in my ear! By the end, the two pieces were molded together. I say all that because there is great preparation needed for the things God has planned for our lives; cleaning and if needed some grinding. At the end of each season of preparation though, God molds us with the end that He has purposed for us. He is truly a master builder.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our life is now hidden with Christ in God...

Preached out of Colossians 3:1-4 today and I was overcome by the great comfort in the truth that our lives our hidden with Christ. They are locked up, secure, safe and not going anywhere. We wait for our lives to be made fully manifested upon the return of Jesus. We live, or we should be living, setting our hearts and minds on the glorious return of our Savior! Presently, we are succumbed to the world around us, worries, stress, illness, death, decay and the like, but we are to fix our eyes on heaven. That is our home, we don't belong here. This isn't it! Do you know this to be true?

What would our witness look like if this was really how we lived?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Make Christ Look Great!

The Cross

It’s Monday, I have an insanely bad headache and my shoes are squeaking when I walk around the office. That’s how I am doing right now, in case you wondered. Despite that, I am actually doing some worthwhile thinking. I will share, “The Cross is a sweeping declaration of man’s inability to save himself from his predicament…” (The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Leonard Verduin). Yeah, I know, pretty awesome. You have seen the necklaces, the tattoos, the trendy shirts and the bumper stickers with Crosses on them. We could talk all day about the cultural uses of the Cross as more of a trendy icon that really does not equate to a bloody death of the Son of God 2,000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. The real point here is this, the dread of Mondays, the fact that work is hard, headaches, stress, worries, sins, illnesses, disasters, evil, discontentment, strife, murder (shall I go on?), it’s all here because of a grand disease. The disease is sin, it has infected us all. You can argue against it, you can call it an antiquated, mythological idea, you can say it’s only our DNA’s way of surviving, you can say it’s science or whatever…


As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."
"Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."


But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:10-18, 21-26

Thank the Lord on days like today there is hope, a hope in something better than this. Thank the Lord that he carries us through days like today. Thank the Lord that as we persevere through what life has to offer, we bring glory to God. May the thought of bringing glory to God in our lives carry us through not only today, but the days to come until our faith becomes sight!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Light of Christ Service Project

The-Press-News.com - Free summer breakfast program is successful
Some of the wonderful members of this congregation have sought to serve Christ by loving on and providing food to those in their area.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Samurai

So I watched The Last Samurai for like the billionth time last night. You may know that the word samurai means, among other things, to serve. The movie portrays the discipline and dedication of the samurai way of life. Obviously, this is a movie and there are some dramatizations, but I found it to be inspiring. I have moments like this, watching a movie, reading something, talking with my wife or just thinking and BAM! it's like God gives me these little "Wow" moments. I realized how much I lack discipline and how much I don't continually view my life as a constant service to Jesus Christ. Rather than beating myself over the head or just talking about it, it's time to take some action!  Do you do that?  Do you just have these epiphanies and talk about how much things need to change and the next day everything is the same? Don't worry, you aren't alone, because it is a terrible habit of mine. Well today I am going to stop talking and start doing.

There are extremely important things happening around us. God wants us to stop focusing on ourselves and love the people He has put around us. He wants our undivided attention. He wants our devotion. Best of all, He knows that on account of our sinful nature (flesh as Paul like to put it), we are at a disadvantage to actually do those things, so He helps those who trust in Jesus Christ.  He gives us His Holy Spirit and actually helps us to do those things that he wants from us. It sounds so easy, but there is still a struggle.  We have to submit to Him daily and consider Him more important than our iPhones (I don't have one), our jobs (I do have one of these though) and whatever else keeps our attention.

I enter my second month preaching in Waynesburg. I continue to learn a great deal. I led my first communion service and I helped with a baptism. Beginning this week, we will start to plow through the book of Colossians. I love this book!

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.


Colossians 1:13-23

Friday, July 9, 2010

Changes

It's always nice to have things planned out, to know what is coming, what to expect and how to prepare yourself.  And then, life happens...That's where Anna and I are at right now.  Not in a bad way, but I think we are surprised, we weren't expecting the changes that God was preparing to bring into our lives.  Up to this point, the ministry that I was able to be a part of was what I saw myself being a part of for quite a while.  I didn't expect a change, but God had other plans.

A few months ago we heard about a group of people who for various unfortunate reasons were brought to the decision to step away from their denomination. They were hurting over their decision but felt it was where God had led them. Given what they went through, I agree. They came to a place where they needed a pastor.  Things were discussed over the last few months and God has collided their lives with mine. So, here we go, Anna and I are going to be a part of their congregation for a while and see what God does. I don't know if I feel like Pastor Nick, but that is what I will be. To be honest, I am a little freaked out, but I am also extremely excited and I think now more than ever I am going to have to totally rely on God. Anna and I feel so comfortable with them and feel that God could do something good with this group of people.

I am not sure how long or until when, and I won't even try to guess since we all know what happens when we plan. My life, my ministry and now my blog will be changing. Pastor Dale always says Ora et Labora (yep, Latin again) Pray and Work, and that is what I am going to do. I will seek to be faithful to God's Word, to glorify Him and pray...a lot!

More to come with my new adventures...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

God is...Holy

Our new question that we are dealing with is who is God?  Obviously, this is going to take us a little while.  We started off by dealing with God's holiness and what exactly that means.  We throw the word holy around, but I wonder if we really understand it?  Being as we are not holy and since we do not have anything tangible that is holy, it is hard, I think, for us to really grasp holiness.  We know that it means things like: perfect, separated, other, whole, pure, clean, sinless, etc.  But since we are not those things it can be hard for us to grasp.

When we looked through some Old Testament passages that talk about God's holiness, it portrays him being angry at disobedience.  We lose our perception of God in the New Testament and some have mistakenly thought that God changed from Old to New Testament.  It is obviously still the same God, though now after the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God has put his wrath all on Jesus.  So when we are saved, we are saved from our sins, yes, but we are ultimately saved from God, because he hates sin.  God, in saving us, demonstrates his great love for us.  And that is a love that is not deserved, but certainly deeply cherished.  Speaking of love, that will be the topic for next week.

Before our Bible Study we were getting ready to sing together and a guy that I have talked with a few times grabbed my guitar and sat down to play.  I was amazed, he put me to shame.  It was pure blues that I could only hope to play.  He talked about how when he plays it just helps him to mellow out and connect with God.  It made me think of what a great gift music truly is.  God gave it to us as a way of connecting with him and my new friend gets that. 

We stood outside and talked after the study.  He expressed to me his feelings of confusion and emptiness about his life, his purpose and where he was with God.  He said that he felt tired, tired of all the struggles and consequences of his actions.  He said that he is ready to get his life on track and he wants to quit running back to the same old stuff that used to trip him up.  We had a good conversation, prayed together and he had to get inside to check in.  I kept thinking about him though as I waited in line for my raspberry italian soda at the trendy coffee shop across the street.  I like to eavesdrop on people's conversations in there, because they are just plain interesting.  What an eclectic group of people!  But as I continued to think about my guitar playing friend from the shelter and the despair that he is living through, the coffee shop was full of affluent young kids who sipped their coffee, dressed in odd, trendy clothes and poured over their Macbooks.  What an interesting world we live in!  Just across the street about 40 guys are laying their heads down in a humid, damp room full of bunk beds, focusing on the day behind them and the one yet to come, hoping for a change in their seemingly hopeless situations.  Jesus Christ died for the trendy kids and the lost men.  Both are in need of the saving blood of Jesus which was shed for them while they were still in their sins. 

God can do great things in a life that is surrendered to him, but we have to, in faith, surrender.  How hard that can be!  We take small steps and God meets us with each step.  My friend in the shelter, the trendy kids and the idiot typing these words are all loved by He who spoke the very creation into being.  That's something to surrender to...that is something to have faith in...He is someone you can trust...because He is holy.

Questions, Pt. 6

We finished up our series on answering questions that the guys wrote down on these small pieces of paper.  The last question dealt with what to do and/or how to deal with family members, friends, etc. who seem to be straying from the path.  In addition, we also talked about our own experiences with weak points in our spiritual lives.  It was a very good discussion.  We wrestled with the idea that if someone appears to be falling away, one naturally asks the question if they were ever truly in Christ in the first place.  We talked about how easy it would be to act the whole religion thing out.  As scripture tells us, only God knows the heart.  Therefore, the solution we came to, whether it be someone else who seems to be slipping in their walk or ourselves, we start with prayer.  Yet, the only way that we start with prayer is by making prayer an instinctual reaction to life, be it good or bad.  And how do we learn to pray?  By praying!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Refuge Interns

Check out this story about some friends at the Refuge who are seeking to get their lives back together.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Coram Deo

Latin...isn't it great!!  What the heck does this mean?  Simply, it means "before the face of God".  Our friends during the Reformation coined this term and it refers to how we should live our lives as Christians.  Everything we do is before the face of God; all that we say, all that we look at, all that we think about and all that we do or don't do.  I want to get this tattooed to the inside of my eyelids so I don't forget this.  When I think about this, it gives me chills.  But don't confuse my chills as terror, instead I feel an immense sense of reverance and awe to know that God sees not only my life in this way, but all who live.  That means you too!!  Whether you "believe" in God or not, you are living your life before the face of God.  I pray that this phrase has the same impact for you as it does for me.  Have a blessed day! Jesus Christ loves you deeply!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Questions, Pt. 5


Two weeks ago we talked about God's plan for us.  We spoke about his plan for our salvation.  God desires for us to come to faith in Christ.  In terms of God's plan for our own personal lives, that is a harder question to answer.  The thing is, God does not give us a road map, he doesn't tell us all the things that our lives will entail and each detail along the way.  Why?  Because what if I knew I was already going to get the job that I have, do you think that I would have worked hard to get it?  What if, in high school, I would have already known how my life was going to turn out, what would have been the point of trying, of living?  God gives us a little at a time, because that is all we can handle.  He gives us what he knows we are able to be responsible with.  That can be a hard truth to swallow, but take a look back at your life.  I'm sure there have been times where you had no idea a few months prior that a certain something was going to happen.  What if God would have came down and told you that thing would have happened?  Would you have been able to handle that?  Think about it...

The cool thing about that night was our time of singing.  We sat out on the street in a circle and worshipped together in song.  It was one of the many great moments of worship that I have been able to be a part of.  As I sat and tried to keep up with the guy's singing with my minimal guitar skills, I thought about the quality of singing that I was hearing.  It wasn't about the notes, the melody, how expressive they were, if they had their hands up in a showy manner or anything else that we think worship is.  These men were singing from the depths of their souls.  Singing loud, singing to their God who was smiling and enjoying the praise that was rising to him in that moment.  I wonder if you sing in this manner when you attend church to worship together?  Or is it all about wanting to sound good, not feeling like singing, not liking the song, only liking a certain song, not being impressed with the guitar player today, feeling tired of the organ, or maybe you just aren't the singing type...  It is our privilege to worship our Lord and we don't just do it in song, that is just one way.  Do you see it as a privilege?  Do you know that you were created to worship?  Did you know that your purpose is to make much of God?  That night on the street, I think those guys knew that... 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Questions, Pt. 2-4



So it has been quite busy lately, so I have not been able to post, but I want to say that this Questions study has been good.  God has blessed it and truly been with our discussions.  Week 2 we talked about the question, "Who am I to God?"  The truth of what scripture tells us comes down to the simple truth that we are loved.  We are loved far greater than we could even attempt to understand.  Even if as you read this you know nothing of God and don't feel that you care much for him, He loves you!  God loved me before I knew him, while I was ignoring Him and doing things as I saw fit.  He loved me and he loved the men that are a part of our group at the shelter before and through all the stuff in their lives that led them to the point of homelessness.

Week 3 was good and actually somewhat of a comical week.  We dealt with the question, "How do we get the fruits of the Spirit?"  We looked at the misconceptions that are displayed even in how this question is asked.  First off, if you know Christ, you have the fruit of the Spirit.  Secondly, notice I said fruit not fruit(s).  Take a look at Galatians 5:22-23, you will notice that fruit is not plural.  So that long list that Paul gives of what we have commonly packaged as fruits are really all a part of the fruit of the Spirit.  They are intertwined.  The funny part came right when we started.  I began the study with a simple question, "What is a fruit?"  Without hesitation, an older gentleman, who talks sort of like Ronald Reagan said, "It's a vegetable!"  We had a good laugh, but eventually got back to really having a good conversation.

Last week we dealt with the question, "Why does God go quiet at times?"  We found that at the center of God going quiet is really us not listening.  That is caused by a number of things, a sin issue, the hurry of life, not being in prayer or in the word consistently or apathy.  God never goes anywhere, he doesn't leave us.  We sometimes just drown him out and then wonder where he went.  At the end of the study we had a good time of prayer and open confession.  We confessed things together and prayed for one another.  It was really good!

We are planning on beginning to sing a few songs for worship next week before our study.  I am excited for it, because as quirky as it may work out, I know in singing God will truly be praised.  There is such a hunger in those men for God...it's something to behold.

More next week....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Questions, Pt. 1


I asked the guys a few weeks ago to write down on a small piece of paper something they would like to study or a question they had about the Bible, God or anything.  What you see above is what they wrote down.  We started last week by talking about why we serve as Christians.  It was a good discussion and we looked at Matthew 20:20-28.  We serve because Jesus served.  I am excited to see where God takes this study.  More to come...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Size of the Throne Room

I don’t know if I am the only one…I doubt that I am, who is incredibly excited that Spring is finally here. Last night, we had the cornhole boards back out on the street and things seemed back to normal. With all the excitement, I figured that we really wouldn’t focus if we tried to do the Bible study, so I decided that we would spend time in prayer. We broke off into 2 groups and prayed first for each others’ needs and then for those people that God put on our hearts. I think there is wisdom in dealing with your own stuff first before you can effectively pray for someone else. I don’t think that is wrong or selfish…sometimes there are needs, struggles or just stuff to get off our chests. Well we did that and it was good!

A new guy, who has recently come to the Lord joined us in prayer and it was encouraging to hear him explain what was happening in his life. The funny thing is, is that he could not really explain it. How can we explain something that we have never experienced? He tried and stumbled a little and had his theology off a bit, but it was genuine. I couldn’t help but think that the Nick from a few years ago would have jumped on him and corrected him. Boy, would that have been inappropriate and wrong. Unfortunately, I did that a lot, thankfully God has helped me with that. So he prayed and said it was the first time that he had ever prayed in a group like that. He asked if he messed up? I smiled. To think of what God feels when he hears this guy pray, I know that he is not thinking, “Man, you really screwed that up!” Like a father is excited to hear his child talk for the first time or see him walk for the first time, our heavenly Father was probably feeling in a similar way. My new friend has things to learn, things to unlearn and steps to take, but God is working in his heart and the light that has never known darkness is invading every deep recess of his soul.

We stood under the streetlight and prayed and I realized the size of God’s throne room. We enter his throne room when we pray, and how big and vast it truly is! He turned his ear to everything we said and felt, all the hurts, all the prayers for families broken, relationships that are on the fritz, struggles, health concerns, hopes for jobs and feelings of hopelessness. He hears all these things. He works in all these things. He uses all these things. His Spirit dwelt there among us as we prayed. We breathed Him in and he was as close to us as our skin. How amazing that the Creator would stoop down to us and hear us! And that he would help us with the stuff we don’t really know how to say. God does this, this is real and He is eager to hear us and have us hear Him. Do you long to communicate with God in this way? Do you understand prayer? Or do you see it as the way in which we simply ask God for stuff? He knows our needs, we don’t have to ask, but its the process of communication and growing in relationship to Him that prayer develops in believers. When did you last enter the throne room?...What are you waiting for?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More Than Hot Dogs...

No this isn't a fine dining restaurant, this is what you'll see on Monday nights at the Refuge of Hope.  My man Dan Grimsley is usually slinging dogs and heating coney sauce.  We have had some pretty awesome burgers made by Ted as well, which are incredible!  The cool thing is that there is so much more than hot dogs happening.  Many of the guys who are staying at the shelter chip in and buy food for everyone else.  It has become a family.  It is far beyond a couple guys bringing stuff to cook at a homeless shelter, we share some good grilled whatever and enjoy each other's company.  Come on down!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What I need....what we need!

I have had several conversations with different guys at the Refuge of Hope and many have told me that they really need someone to walk alongside them and help them in their walk with Christ.  I have been thinking about this lately and quite frankly, this is what I need, it's what we all need if we are trying to learn how to live our lives for Jesus.  If I was homeless, I would need this just as much as I need it now.  The difference is, is that I am blessed to have so many to walk beside me, and many who walk before me so that I can follow. 

What if all the people in my life were gone?  What if I was all by myself?  It doesn't matter how that would have happened, maybe it would be my fault, or maybe I was just left alone.  Could I survive?  I doubt it.  I am sure I could learn how to exist in that, but not survive, and certainly not live.  That is what it seems that many of the guys I have met are doing, they are existing.

Any of us can get caught in this rut, just existing.  If we have someone in our life speaking truth, encouraging us, and pointing us to God's Word, we would be less likely to slip into this.  Here's the challenge: If you have someone in your life that God has put there for the specific purpose of you to pour into them, do it!  If you are in need of someone to pour into your life, speak up and seek that person out, for your own sake!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Doing What's Necessary

Check out this article, I think this guy is on the right track. Last night at the Refuge we talked about giving things up to please God.  We talked about how there is a cost involved.  One of the guys asked me, "does that mean I have to buy God a gift?"  I don't know Dan de Vaul's heart or where he is with the Lord, but he is giving up a great deal.  He is opening up his home and risking a lot.  I realize that he has asked for some finances from those that stay with him, but I don't really see a problem with that.

What do you think?

US
A Fight for the Homeless and Against Authority
By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: January 12, 2010
Dan de Vaul, who has made his ranch a refuge for the homeless, faces jail time for housing code violations.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/us/12homeless.html

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Part of the System

So I had an interesting conversation with a guy who has spent nearly 15 years of his life, off and on, in a homeless shelter. Aside from struggling with substance abuse, he has served some jail time and was in a place where he says he felt as if he had nothing. No feelings, no future, no hope and no motivation to climb out of where he was. He was numb. He begin to tell me that “the system” made him this way. Between jail and shelters, he feels that those things stole his hope and made him dependent on the system he was a part of.

He told me how we are just like the frog in a pot of boiling water; we don’t even know it when we have burnt up and died. I agree with him, we don’t see our lives heading towards death and despair, things happen and we finally realize where we are, but its too late. Or is it?

My new friend began to tell me about the good things in his life now. He knows Christ, he is going back to school and hopes to have his own house by summer from the money he has been saving. So for him, I don’t think it was too late. What else are we to feel when we are without Christ, other than hopeless and alone? Yet, now that Christ is working in his life and repairing his heart, the darkness that was there is fading. Christ, who is the light that has never known darkness comes into our hearts and invades the deep, dark corners that we rarely talk about or share with anyone. It was encouraging to see this happening in his heart.

Going back to the system, even now he feels that he needs to get away from the shelter and try to associate with what he called, “positive influences”. He feels cynical about the system that he feels only perpetuated his place in life. He feels sorry for the guys that are where he was. He does not claim perfection now, but he feels the progress God is making in his life.

While he was talking to me and even after we prayed, I couldn’t stop thinking about who then will show the other guys that they are in the pot of water as it boils? How do any of us come to a realization of our place before God? Can I truly come and relate with those guys enough to show them the way out? Maybe…but Jesus himself did not distance himself from the tax collector and sinner. He walked with them, ate and drank with them and shared his life with them. And now through the Holy Spirit we are convicted in our hearts, brought to our knees before He that spoke all into existence and made into His image.

We have a part to play in the salvation and growth of a person in Christ, but we do not do the hard work, God does. Does your heart break for those friends, family or people in your life that are lost? Stop trying to do all the work and just love them as life moves along. God is doing the unseen work in their hearts and sometimes we get to see that happen, but ultimately we are called to love.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 13-21