Archive for June, 2012

My Friend Wayne

I received a call yesterday that changed the course of my day.  I got word that the life of a dear friend and colleague in ministry tragically ended.  For the first 30 minutes or so, I was numb – and to some degree, I still am I suppose.  The last time I saw Wayne was at a Walk to Emmaus back in February and he was loving life.

He was one of those guys who had a unique grasp of the grace God had shown him and it changed the way he related to God and to others.  There are few people in my life that are any more authentic and real than Wayne Horton was everyday that I knew him.  For nearly ten years he has been an encourager and cheer leader for me.  And I say, “for me” because that is how he made me feel.  I know that is who he was for every person he met, but he had the true gift of making you feel like you were the only person in the room when he was talking to you.

I read, years ago, that Jesus had the knack of simply loving the person in front of him.  Wayne understood how to do that and I am a better person for it.

Even though I will miss him terribly, I know when he passed from this life yesterday morning, he walked right into the throne room of the most high.  Somehow, there is peace in knowing that fact.  There is also satisfaction and comfort in knowing that I had the distinct privilege of calling him my friend for the past 10 years.

My life will forever be different because of our friendship, but the coolest thing is that I am just one of literally hundreds who can say the exact same thing!

Wayne, I love you and will miss you and I’ll see you again before too long.  But until then, we will just be keeping it real around here.

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When is the last time you stopped long enough to really think about what God has done for you and in you?  It is really easy to get wrapped up in our lives and fail to see God at work in our everyday.

In Psalm 86:11-13, David says, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”

This is my prayer today.  Maybe it could be yours as well.  I don’t know about you but I get pulled in all sorts of directions each day and it is easy to become distracted from what is really important.  In fact, over time, the constant pulling can even begin to divide my heart.  I find myself being passionate about a lot of things and the result is often that instead of being effective in a few things, I am ineffective in everything.  Usually, when I find myself in this predicament it is because I have forgotten to keep the main thing, the main thing.

So what is the main thing?  I think David hits on it here.  We need to be laser focused on God and the love, grace and hope God offers to us.  David makes the point that God delivers us from the grave.  Without God in our lives, we are dead people walking – walking around with no lasting purpose, no joy, no peace – no point, just dead.  That was me before God intervened – a dead man walking.  But God delivers us from that existence.

We need to stop long enough today to remember that God is at work in our lives and give thanks.  We need to refocus our attention on the fact that without God, we are dead.  We need to get excited about that fact and offer our whole being back to God in gratitude.

The results: a joy-filled, peaceful existence that will make those around us see something different in us.  And when they see the difference that God makes in us, I believe they will seek God for themselves.

Take a minute and think about what God has done for you and then live today in gratitude.

Be blessed today!

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As I said yesterday in my post about Father’s Day, my sons have moved me and inspired me.  Case in point, Ethan is reading through the Gospel of Matthew.  I decided last night I would begin to read through it as well so that he and I can have discussions about what we find there.

So this morning, I read the first 8 verses of Matthew 18 as part of my prayerful reading time (or Lectio Divina).  As I meditated on the passage, I was overwhelmed with the idea that I will never see God’s kingdom unless I change by humbling myself and become like a little child.

In the context of the passage, the disciples are looking for a little boost to their egos.  Basically, they want to know who is the greatest in Jesus’ eyes.  In other words, they ask Jesus, “Who is more important to you?  Would it be us – your dedicated followers – or one of those other people – the . . .?”  Fill in the blank.

As Jesus always does, he cut right to the heart of the question – the intent behind it.  He took this opportunity to teach them, and us, that the true greats in the kingdom are humble servants.  They are content to simply serve God and not worry about who is the most important.  He illustrated his point by focusing their attention on a child.  A child is innocent and humble – not tainted by worldly pursuits.  A child is content to be loved and to love.

You see, humility has a sister and her name is contentment.

If we are to truly be the people God called us to be and to be great for God’s sake, we must start with realizing who we are in relation to who God is and that leads to humility.  Rather than worrying about making a name for ourselves, we need to be content to strive to make God’s name great.

How will you become like a child today?

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This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  A day that is often set aside to give a tie or maybe a dozen golf balls to our dads.  Sometimes it is hard to come up with just what to give our dads.  Often I resort to a gift card or even worse – a check – in a card mailed too late.  At least that is how it happened this year – sorry again dad!

But it is hard to find creative ways to say thank you and show our love and appreciation for our dads.  That is not an excuse – just the reality.

However, this year, my sons made my Father’s Day experience one I will never forget!  They moved me, inspired me and gave me an overall sense of pride in the men they are becoming!  Each of them, in his own way, touched me deeply.

It began at about 11 PM on Saturday night.  I went in to tell Ethan, my middle son, goodnight and we started a conversation about his spiritual walk that went for 3 hours.  It was amazing to see and hear what God is doing in his life.

Then on Sunday morning during our worship service, Bryson, my youngest, decided during our response time to come to me.  It is customary in our church for people to come forward during this time to pray or talk with me about things they are struggling with or decisions they need to make.  Often, they come just to have me pray for them – which by the way is always wonderful.  But Bryson came with a different idea.  I assumed he was coming to ask me to pray for something going on in his life but that was not the case.  His first words were, “People always come for you to pray with them, but no one ever comes up here to pray for you.”  At that moment I began to weep.  And the tears didn’t stop as I listened to one of the most powerful and moving prayers I have ever heard!

Then, as I was trying to compose myself to finish out the response time, I looked up and my oldest son, Jared, was standing before me with tears in his eyes.  He put his arms around me and said, “I want to re-dedicate my life.”  For those of you not from our tradition or familiar with church-speak, what he was saying was “I want a closer walk with Jesus and I want my life to count for something.”  It was a moving time.

So, this past Father’s Day was one I will never forget!  I thank God for allowing me to be a dad and blessing me with a beautiful, amazing wife who has given me three incredible sons!

What about you?  How was your Father’s Day?

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Some days I wish there were less hours in the day.  You know what I mean?  You just wish the day would end.

Then other days, you wish there were more hours in the day – just too many things to get done and too little time.

It seems that Monday’s often fall prey to one of these attitudes (and sometimes both).  I got to the office today and the first thing I did was whittle my To Do list down because I knew there is no way I can get all that done today.  I was stressing about making meetings, making follow up calls, planning for Sunday and making a couple of hospital visits when God reminded me of a passage in the Psalms.  Psalm 46:10-11 says this:

Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Regardless of how important all the things on my To Do list may seem to me, God is still in control.  God will be exalted.  It is God’s work, not mine.  It is God’s desire that should be my focus.  And according to this passage, God’s desire is for me to slow down and be still long enough to remember and know that God is God!

Sounds simple enough.  Will you be still for just a few minutes today?

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On the Ropes

Today, our students from the church are headed to a ropes course.  It is going to be a blast.  They will be involved with the high challenges which are my favorite – in fact, I wish I could go and participate with them.

The elements they will face are designed to boost confidence and build team work.  It is amazing how climbing to the top of a pole 20 feet in the air and then jumping off in an attempt to grab a trapeze bar 8 feet away builds inner strength.  It is also amazing to see people who may not associate together much, all of the sudden become huge cheer leaders.

I am no stranger to such things.  You can read of one of my experiences as a flying squirrel here.

The take aways from a day like today for our students should be huge.  I am excited to see what God can do when they open themselves up to being uncomfortable and taking the challenges with courage.  The beauty of these elements is that, as scary as they may seem, they are very safe.  When they climb that pole, they will be harnessed and tied to a rope that will not let them fall.

Our walk with God is very similar to being on a ropes course.  God calls us to be uncomfortable and take risks.  Each day, we are faced with opportunities to impact people around us but they all come with the risk of being rejected or persecuted.  But the beauty of it all is that even though it may be uncomfortable, as long as we are trusting God, in the bigger picture, there is no way we can fail.

Will you live your life on the ropes today?

Go be uncomfortable today.

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Have you ever struggled with sin?  If you answered no to that question, then . . . you need to quit reading and do some soul searching.  All of us struggle with sin – with wanting our own way – choosing certain things that go against what we know would please God.

That is part of living in a sinful world and being human.  But what about those sins you keep going back to regardless of how many times you ask God for forgiveness and say, “I’ll never do that again.”

I ran across this thought today from Thomas Merton and found it meaningful, I hope you will as well.

Shall I drive evil out of my soul by wrestling with my own darkness?  This is not what God has planned for me.  It is sufficient to turn away from my darkness to his light.  I do not have to run away from myself; it is sufficient that I find myself, not as I have made myself, by my own stupidity, but as he has made me in his wisdom and remade me in his infinite mercy.  For it is his will that my body and soul should be the temple of hisHoly Spirit, that my life should reflect the radiance of his love and my whole being repose in his peace.  Then I will truly know him, since I am in him and he is truly in me.

Let that sink in for a minute.  “It is sufficient to turn away from my darkness to his light.”  I don’t know about you, but I wrestle a lot with my own selfish desires.  I feel guilty for not being the person God wants me to be each day.  Reading this thought from Thomas Merton this morning gave me a breath of peace – even release – to remember that God simply asks that we focus on what is ultimately important and turn from our own desires.

It is a constant struggle, but the picture of simply turning away from the darkness of my sin and turning to God’s glorious light is a picture of mercy I needed to remember today.  Maybe you do too!

Be blessed today!

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We are starting a new Bible study class this Sunday and I am excited to see what God is going to do.  We have been busy this week preparing the room that will house the new class.  We have painted and cleaned and moved furniture.

One of the downsides to having a church that will celebrate 100 years in a little over a year is that the building is not new.  The lighting in the new class room was original to the building and gave the ambiance of a remote cave at Carlsbad Caverns.

So part of the room renovation involved taking down the old, single bulb light fixtures and putting up new florescent lighting.  On Tuesday, my oldest son and I tackled that project.  But the first thing we learned is that those old 200 watt bulbs put off some heat.  We turned the lights off and then turned the breaker off to the room and got ready to take the old fixtures down.  The fixtures were so hot, we could not touch them.  We had to wait 20 minutes to begin the process.  Once they cooled down, we were able to remove the old fixtures, install the new ones and increase the amount of light in the room by at least 150%.

Yesterday, I ran across this quote from Woodrow Wilson that went along with our experience with the lights.  He said,  “One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.”  What a great thought!

So often, we try to offer our guidance or wisdom to a person in need and in the process of shedding light on the subject, we also apply heat.  It is all in the way we go about it and our attitude toward the situation.

Think of it in relation to how Jesus followers are often perceived by the world.  The media does not find stories of Mother Teresa’s self-sacrificial, illuminating work nearly as news worthy as a fundamentalist group burning the Korán or torching an abortion clinic.

Don’t get me wrong, physics would tell us that a by-product of producing light is nearly always heat.  But I can tell you that the new florescent lights put off a lot more light than the old ones and half the heat.

We need to focus on being light for a dark world without driving people away because they can’t stand the heat.

Go be light today!

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In some of my reading this morning, I picked up My Utmost For His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  Today’s reading deals with Philippians 2:12 and the working out of our faith.  But the words that have been ringing in my heart since reading them earlier are these – “exhibit the evidence” of a life of faith.

Exhibit the evidence.  I have to ask myself, does my life always exhibit the evidence of faith?  There is no doubt that all our lives exhibit evidence of something.  Our actions tell the story of our heart.  People see who we really are through what we do and say.

I pray that today, I exhibit the evidence of a life committed to Jesus.

Is that your prayer today?

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Never Alone

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  That is God’s promise to us found in Hebrews 13 verse 5.  Let that sink in.  Never.  Never alone.  Never facing life by yourself.  God will never turn away – God will never walk away – God will never give up on you.

That is not to say we cannot turn away from God.  In fact, when we do turn away from God and choose our own way we find it is most often the starting point of our pain and troubles.  We have it in our nature to try and do it on our own.  It is inherent.  Think about small children as they learn to do things.  I can remember each of my boys saying, “Me do it.”  It is a part of our makeup to want to do things for ourselves – to be independent.

God created us with a desire for independence so there is nothing wrong with that but it causes problems when we begin to think we don’t need God.  The farther we allow our hearts to get from God, the more often we choose paths that lead no where.

But, the good news is that God will never leave us and God never gives up on us.

So regardless of how far you have run or how long you have been away, God is still right there with you.  Peace and grace is only a prayer away.

Be blessed today!

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