Archive for August, 2010

Waiting to Start

I drive a 2001 Suburban and this week it will hit 178,000 miles.  It still runs great which is a good thing because with one child driving, one more to hit the road in a little over a month and then one more coming two years from now, I need my car to keep running for as long as possible.

The one problem I have been having is that it takes three or four attempts to actually start.  I asked a mechanic friend of mine what the issue might be.  He asked if when I get into the car and turn on the ignition if I wait between the time I turn the key to the time that I actually turn the ignition to start the vehicle.  He explained that the fuel pump needs time to pump gas to the injectors in order for there to be fuel at the proper place to start the engine.  What I just explained may have been Greek to you and quite honestly, I tried to explain something that is above my pay grade so I am not sure I understand it either.

At any rate, for the last couple of weeks I have been trying to remember to turn the key on and then wait before trying to start the vehicle.  It has been one of the most difficult things I have tried in some time.  I gave up Diet Coke for Lent and I think that was easier than waiting to start my car.

Sound crazy?  I guess it is, but I am the type of person that is always in a hurry – I always have a plan and part of the plan is completing the plan as quickly as possible to get on to the next plan.  I have to consciously strive to slow down.

Slowing down is so important in our spiritual journey.  If we fail to slow down, often we miss what God is doing all around us.  It is also important slow down and not jump into things without taking the time to pray and lay the plan before God.  So maybe, we should wait before we start on many levels.  Just a thought.

Take time today to slow down and look for God.  I assure you that God is at work – you just need to look.

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Today is the first day of class for my oldest son.  He is headed to college and today is his first day.

I remember when Kristi and I walked him into his kindergarten class for his first day of school.  I remember all the school programs, awards assemblies and other school functions.  I remember soccer games and basketball games and all the other games in which we watched him play.  I remember the surgeries and the doctors’ visits.  I remember the hiking trips.  I remember the mission trips and the church activities.  I remember the awesome privilege of baptizing him.

Today is full of memories as I think about the man my son is becoming.  My prayer is that God will direct him in all his ways as he acknowledges God in all things.

Jared, I am extremely proud of you.  Please know that I am always here for you!

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Talking to the Football Team

I have the opportunity to speak to the high school varsity football team this morning.  The coach asked me to come and do a devotional for them.  I am pumped.  However, he said he wanted me to talk for 30 minutes.  People in church don’t listen for 30 minutes, how in the world am I going to keep the attention of high school guys for 30 minutes.

The good thing is, I have a couple of football stories from my school days – that should buy me 5 minutes.  Now – what to do for the other 25?!

Seriously, I covet your prayers as I head off to talk to them.  I pray that God will use this opportunity to touch some lives today.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Don’t Be a Faker

One of the best movies I have seen in recent years (yes, years) is To Save a Life (for more info on the movie click here).  It is a story of a high school senior who comes to realize that there is more to life than being popular and having fun.  He and a childhood friend had become estranged.  He had gone the popularity route and his friend had been left behind and shunned.  After years of being alone, the friend took his own life.  At that point, the main character realizes that there has to be more to life than what he is experiencing.

He begins to give God a try – trying out a youth group in a local church.  But there he finds a bunch of kids who are just playing at being Christ followers.  In one scene, out of frustration he asks the youth pastor why the church is full of of fakers.

That scene still haunts my thoughts and burdens my heart.  Why?  Because it is true.  People are hurting and even dying all around our manicured lawns and pristine buildings while we sit inside and play Christian so that we can feel better about ourselves for another week.

Wow, that was harsh!  But please understand my heart in saying it.  God has no plan B.  God’s one and only plan is for Jesus followers to be salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark.  If people are going to be drawn to God then Jesus must be lifted up and if Jesus is to be lifted up, that must happen through us – the way we live, the way we love, the way relate to others.

I realize, if you have even made it to this point in this post, that I may have offended you to the point that you never visit this blog again.  I certainly pray that is not the case.  Rather, my prayer is that every person who reads my ramblings here would take this as a challenge to be real.  Jesus would rather have followers who are passionate – the lukewarm are of no use to him (Take a look at Revelation 3:15-17).

God has created the church of this generation for this particular time and place.  Are we as a church doing what God expects?  Are you as a Jesus follower doing what God expects.  It’s time to be real.  Don’t be a faker.

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Just Minding My Own Business

Late yesterday afternoon, a very dear friend of mine was involved in a car wreck.  She was sitting at a stop light when a tanker truck tried to make the corner too fast and rolled over and hit her car.  She is fine, but as a I stood with her in the emergency room and listened to her relay the story to me, she said on more than one occasion: “I was just sitting there minding my own business.”

How many times are we involved in less than desirable circumstances at no fault of our own?  It happens all the time – it is a part of life.  Bad things do happen to good people.  What drives me crazy is when the commentary on these occasions sounds something like this, “Well, I guess God is testing you.”  Or, “God caused that to happen to get your attention.”

I do not propose to know or understand the mind of God, so I suppose I could be wrong, but my view of the God of scripture does not include a God who would deliberately cause injury to a person to teach them a lesson.  I believe bad things sometimes happen to good people as a result of living in a messed up, fallen world.

I also believe that what God expects us to do is rise to the occasion and handle these experiences with faith, grace and love.  Each experience is an opportunity to grow in our faith – if we allow it.

So the next time you find yourself in a less than desirable situation at no fault of your own, try to grow through it.  God will walk with you through the whole ordeal.

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Fresh Starts

Today is the first day of public school here in our town.  As I dropped my 8th grade son off at the middle school, it dawned on me that he is now in the top grade of the school.  This is a new experience for him.  It is the same school as last year but now, because of his age he is in a new place.  In some ways, it is a new beginning.  Really, all the students have a fresh start today – an opportunity to do things differently this year – to try harder – to make an impact.

The beginning  of the school year, in some ways, brings a fresh start for parents as well.  Our schedule has changed –  again!  But it is our opportunity to approach our kids and parenting with a fresh perspective.  What can you do this year to make your child more successful.  What can you do differently to impact your child’s relationship with Jesus.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to spend the next 9 months focused on your own relationship with Jesus.  Then allow that vibrant relationship to impact your relationship with your children with the intent of seeing their relationship with Jesus flourish.

We can do this!

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Today marks somewhat of a milestone for this ministry.  Today is post number 300.  When I started writing Clay In The Hands a little over 16 months ago, I honestly didn’t know what would come of it or even where it was headed.  And to be 100% transparent, I am not sure I have a better feel for where it is headed even today.  It truly is a day to day ministry.

But today, I thought I would do something fairly simple.  I have reflected a bit on what I have learned along the way over these last 16 months and 300 posts.  Here are three things that come to mind.

3.  The internet has a life of its own. It is amazing who God brings my way through a simple search.  The search that brings more random visitors to the site is a search with anything to do with broken mirrors (I did a post a year ago called Focus in a Smashed Mirror)  I guess there are a lot of superstitious people in the world.  But I think its cool that God uses the internet to link superstitious people to my blog – you just never know!

2.  It is more crucial than I had imagined that I keep my heart and soul in tune with God’s heart and soul if I am going to have anything to say. I knew going into this ministry that this would be difficult.  And honestly, there was a part of me that decided that committing to write 3 to 5 times per week here would force me to stay strong in protecting my time in prayer, reading and meditation/reflection.  I wish I could say that I have been committed daily to those things as I should be, but there are days that my prayer time gets pushed out.  (I’m working on that)  It has been proven over and over again that without spending time with God, I have nothing to say!  And that is as it should be.

And the number 1 thing I have learned is . . . .

1.  You can never tell what God will do and who God will touch with what you say. I have noticed that Clay In The Hands, much like when I preach, can be used to touch folks regardless of how well it is written or even what I say.  There are days that I post something and I turn around and look at it and think to myself, “What a pathetic attempt at saying something creative or inspirational.”  And yet, I may get an email or a comment from someone who says, that is just what God needed to tell me today.  It is an extremely humbling experience but one I wouldn’t change.

I would be interested to hear from you today.  How has God used this ministry to touch you?

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The other day I was looking through the upcoming concert dates for one of the bands I heard at Rock the Desert two weeks ago.  As I was scrolling through the venues, the name of one of the churches caught my eye – The Third Reformed Church.

Now, many of you know me personally and thus probably know that I have somewhat “unique” sense of humor.  As I read the name of the church, my first thought was, “Third time’s the charm – maybe they got it right this time.”  I mean, how many times does a church need to reform before it gets it right?

After repenting . . .  I began to reflect on the idea of a church needing reform.  Honestly, I think if a church ever thinks it has “arrived,” then the folks probably ought to shut the doors and find a new place to socialize.

The New Testament refers to the church as a body.  I am no anatomy expert but I am pretty sure that when a body stops growing and changing, it needs to be buried because it is dead.

The church should be seen from the same perspective.  The church should never stop growing and changing – adapting to the environment in order to minister in a relevant way.  (Now don’t hear me say that the message should be changed – just the way we minister)  Just as individual followers of Jesus are in a constant state of being formed to be more like him, the church should also understand that she is being formed and reformed as well.

Maybe every church should consider putting “reforming” in its title.

Something to think about.

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In yesterday’s post I told you about my car troubles on Sunday, and how it took me quite some time to get to church due to the fact that my car thought it was over heating.  Yes, it is a little spooky when a car can think on its own.  But it is down right frustrating when it makes stuff up.  At any rate, that is not where I am going with this post.

The Reduced Engine Power light came on which, as I said yesterday, is a safety feature to prevent any damage to the engine due to over heating.  The result of the reduced power was reduced speed.  Yesterday, I reflected on the fact that even at a reduced speed, as long as we are headed in the right direction, we will eventually get where we are going.

Today I want to think about this power issue.  I experienced first hand what reduced power means.  It was frustrating to try and get where I was going with only a portion of the power that I knew should be available.  It took forever to get where I was going and on more than one occasion, I held others up as they waited for me to pass by or they waited for an opportunity to pass me.

How often do we neglect the power that is available to us through the Holy Spirit?  Francis Chan’s newest book, Forgotten God, deals with this subject (you can read more about the book here).  As believers and followers of Jesus, we are promised by Jesus himself, that we will have the very power of God residing within us.

Do you live your life as if the Spirit of God is alive and present within you?  Today is the day that you must begin living your life boldly as a true child of God.  The world is depending on it!

Be bold!

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Yesterday morning I went out to my car to head to church.  I had a meeting at 9 and I was on schedule to be early.  I got in the car and the battery was dead.  So I pulled my wife’s car around to give my car a jump.  My car started right up so I removed the cables, pulled my wife’s car back into its spot and got behind the wheel of my car to head to my meeting.

As I pulled out of the driveway, I noticed a new warning light I had never seen before.  It said, Reduced Engine Power.  I had no idea what that meant (other than the obvious) so I looked in the manual.  The manual told me that it is a safety measure the engine is programed to perform when the car is over heating.  Of course my car had been sitting for over 12 hours so I knew that could not be the problem.  Under that explanation was another that said, it could just be that the sensor telling the motor that it was overheating could be faulty.  That made more sense.  So I headed off to my meeting with Reduced Engine Power.

What I did not know was that Reduced Engine Power translated into Reduced Engine Speed.  I think I topped out at 7 miles per hour!  I was nearly late to my meeting.  In fact, at one point it dawned on me that I could walk faster than my car was moving.  But at least I was creeping along in the right direction.

As I have reflected on that experience, it has caused me to think about my spiritual progression and the speed in which I progress as well as the power it takes to get there (more on the power idea tomorrow).  We talked about that subject last week.  We often get in a hurry to get where we are going.  We easily grow impatient and think we will never “arrive.”  We need to remember that where we are headed is much more important than how fast we get there.  I have heard it said, “I have no idea where we are headed but at least we’re making good time.”  Where we are headed should be the bigger concern.  If we are a followers of the Way, then as long as our focus is on becoming more like Jesus and pleasing God, then the time it takes to get there is not nearly as important.

God knows that as humans, we will never be Jesus, so I believe God is not so concerned about whether or not you and I “arrive.”  God is ultimately concerned about who we become.

So today, make sure you are headed in the right direction but don’t panic if you don’t arrive by lunch time.

Be blessed today!

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