Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is you is, or is you ain't Johnny Bravo?

Greg Brady as Johnny Bravo.
Several years ago I bought a really cool journal.  I had heard that journaling was a great way to remember the things that God had done, or that you were learning.  I figured if I was going to journal, it needed to be cool.  So I bought one.  That was several years ago.  So far, I have only one journal entry, and I'd like to share it here.

I have many skills and abilities that I can and have used for you God.  Many things you have allowed me to do.  But how many of those things are what I'm supposed to do?  How do all those things relate to what you have called me to do?  John Eldredge has a quote in one of his books.  "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that...." it's attributed to someone else, but I read in Wild at Heart.  So anyway, I sit and I think about that.  What makes me come alive.  And then it hits me.  There is only one thing that makes me come alive, and that's youth ministry.  God I've put that desire aside for a season because I thought you were leading me other places.  Turns out that God it wasn't you leading me.  It turns out that for too many years, I've let people tell me that because I can do this or that,  that that is what I need to do.  But God, that's no different than that episode of The Brady Bunch, where Greg gets  a record deal, not so much because he has the talent they were looking for, but because he 'fit the suit, man.'  God, I DON'T WANT TO BE JOHNNY BRAVO!  I don't want to do anything just because I can.  I want to do what you called me to do, and what makes my heart come alive.

What is funny is that since that writing, I've found myself off and on being Johnny Bravo.  I hate that.  I remember writing that line 'God, I DON'T WANT TO BE JOHNNY BRAVO!' and the freedom I felt at that moment.  I'm shouting that out right now, because I find myself in a pivotal time that is causing me to re-think, re-evaluate, and re-group on a lot of things, and I'm not going to let anyone tell me that I need to be Johnny Bravo, just because I fit the suit, man.

So my question to you:  Have you let someone convince you that you are Johnny Bravo, just because 'you fit the suit, man?'  If you are, can I suggest you find your suit, not Johnny's.  You'll find your heart starting to come alive the moment you do.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The story of how God came through, again.

As I promised, and at the subtle urging of my good friend and brother, Dave, I know share with you, "the story."

About a month ago, I was rushing around on a Friday afternoon, to pick up some freebies that my wife had found on Craigslist, that we were going to add to our items for a Mission fundraising Yard Sale. As I was driving, it was a beautiful, sunny day of about 82 degrees, and I saw this guy on a motorcycle come zipping by. Which caused me to think,"man, I wish I could be on my bike today." At which point I distinctly heard this voice say, "yeah, about that bike... I want you to sell it."

Woooah. What? No way! Really? Was that God? Satan why would you tell me to sell my bike?!? God you gave this to me, you couldn't possibly want me to sell it, could you? (these are all the thoughts that rolled in my head in the span of like 2 seconds)

And again, "I want you to sell the bike."

Now first, let me say, I fully believe that God speaks to people today. But at this moment, I was positive it was my lunch talking or the heat getting to me or something. But at the same time, oddly enough, I felt a peace about doing it. It was weird.

So I did what any God-fearing man would do, I tried to argue with God over why that was not such a good idea. Now at this point He was done talking. Especially quiet when I asked the question "why?"

Not wanting to do something that I wasn't entirely positive was God, I sent a request for prayer to a trusted group of friends, with a question similar to this, "Please ask God if it was Him speaking to me about something I feel I'm supposed to do." That was it. Not a whole lot of detail. Within a few hours I had heard from a large majority of the group, with variations of the same answer: "Yes it was God."

Naturally, I resigned myself to submit to the will of God, all the while clinging to a hope of an 'Abraham and Issac moment', which never came.

I put my bike up for sale, and lo and behold the battery is dead. So I have to invest in a new battery, which by the way was the second most expensive battery at the store. The bike is up for sale now God, send the buyer!

Jump now to the week before my vacation, the week of June 13. I have had at this point a grand total of '0' interested buyers. Oh sure, I've had my share of Craigslist whacko's, but nothing worth getting excited about.

But now, not only is this becoming a sore subject between God and I, (don't judge me, just try looking at something every day that God tells you to sell, and still seeing it, taunting you) our personal financial situation is becoming grim. (I didn't have this particular issue when God started this whole thing) and our vacation is 3 or 4 days off and I have not a dime for a weeks worth of much needed rest.

But wait, I now have a potential buyer! He is excited about the bike, willing to pay the asking price, if I can meet him halfway between where I am and where he is. He'll call me Wednesday at 11 am to arrange a meet time. Ten or fifteen exchanges up to this point, and then Wednesday morning, nothing. No answer, no return call, text or email. Nothing. And nothing equals no buyer. At this point I'm thinking 'what is the cash value of this thing on an insurance claim?', not really, but you get my position.

Late Wednesday night, i hear from an acquaintance who might be interested. And at the same time, hear back from one of the original 'flakes' that contacted me, she is interested. So now I have two people set to look at it Thursday night. (I'm leaving on Friday) Thursday night the 'flake' has to cancel, and the acquaintance shows up and likes it, but they (understandably) want to pray about it, and they'll let me know Friday morning. i tell them that the 'flake' says they are coming down Friday at 8 am, so if she backs out, or declines, I would let them know.

Jump to Friday at 8 am. Franny and I wake up early to head down to the church to be there at 8. Now I'm not generally an impatient fellow, usually pretty laid back. But after having read this far, I hope you can understand why at 8:01 I'm calling this lady. She says 'didn't you get my text and email?' I said, I got nothing from you since our conversation yesterday. She said she had to work a little over and was tired and on her way home, but now she felt 'guilty' and would turn around and come see the bike. Deep breath and sigh. Ok. At least I've got someone coming.

She gets there about 10 minutes later, and she's not a flake. She is a single lady who is a E/R nurse at one of the college medical centers. She is a former Sheriff from the same area I grew up in. She is a former truck driver, and EMT. Now she has moved out here from Idaho I think because, wait for it, wait for it, she felt God telling her to come to San Diego to live with her sister to save as much money as she can to, again, wait for it, but a home to use as a halfway house type of thing for a woman's recovery home. What? Can it be?

Then she goes on to say that she used to ride, and quit when her niece was killed in a bike accident. But that she eventually felt God say that she needed to ride again. So she did, and she had a really small bike. But she said about, wait for it, 3 weeks earlier, she felt like God was releasing her to buy a bigger and newer bike. What? Are you serious????

She asked why I was selling it, and so I told her the reasons, and she says, well that's good that God told you to sell it and you were obedient. Because He's telling me I need to buy it. What?? (seriously folks, on the inside, I'm doing a little Pentecostal shuffle, but on the outside I'm reserved) Done deal.

Buuuuuut, she didn't have any cash, would I take a check? Well long story short, it was drawn on our bank, and the teller says, oh yeah, it's good, she has way more than that available.

You remember over the past few weeks how I kept clinging to the fact that God shows up just in time, often at the last minute? Yeah, well, one more time, He has not failed me.

We were able to take that vacation, and have a better time than I would have even imagined. We took care of all of our financial obligations, and took great pleasure in the way that God chose to smile on us for that time.

Long story short, it seems evident to both Franny and I, that the reason for the sell was not so much that the bike had usurped God's place in my life, or for our financial issues (God has seriously pulled the coin out of a fish for us on many occasions) but rather it was because He wanted my obedience to do what He asked, not so much for me, but more for the 'flake'. She needed that.

Oh and by the way, the 'flake' has a name. It's Tracy P. Pray for her, and her soon to be set up woman's recovery home in Prescott, AZ.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marks of the True Christian

I may not gather a lot of fans with this one. But really, that's OK. The reality of it is, if you have a problem with what I'm about to say, then you should take it up with God, because it's based on His word. Here we go!

Romans 12:9-21.

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Unless you live under a rock, or have no cable TV, or have no connection at all with the outside world, then the major news announcement from President Obama should have had time to settle in your heart.

If you are like me, those are words that you never thought you would hear. "Osama bin Laden is dead." I never imagined that we would ever catch him, much less kill him. But at the same time I was watching the special reports I was so overcome with feelings that I couldn't place. Feelings that I thought were a mix of joy and jubilation. Feelings that I thought were the culmination of the events that have defined this generation. Feelings that I fear are fueled by watching too many seasons of 24. Feelings that I wanted to jump and shout. Feelings that I wanted to sit and weep. So what did I do? I went to bed.

But when I awoke early this morning, as is my custom. I was burdened with the thought that maybe, just maybe, this was a bad thing. For lack of a better term, I feel maybe we, the US, have awakened a sleeping giant. I went to bed with the thought of a night of safe sleep, that the beast was dead. But I also had a feeling that this beast probably has more heads. I awoke this morning thinking that OK, it's a cause to celebrate, because the personification of evil is dead. But I still wasn't sure what to really think. In fact I asked on facebook, what if he confessed Christ and denied Islam, turned himself in, and faced the consequences. What then?

As I sit now, in Big Apple Bagels, here in Ramona, I am led to the verses above in Romans. I'm convinced that because of verses 14 to 21, that God is not jumping up and down on the streets of heaven, chanting 'USA! USA!' But rather, I think there may be sorrow in His heart, for the loss of one of His creations, denied the opportunity to know Him, to receive salvation, forgiveness and grace. (Rob Bell lovers, stick it) The gospel is clear.

I'm still maybe a bit numb to this all, but still, I'm burdened by what has happened. While on the one hand, I'm happy that not a single one of our SEAL Team 6 was wounded, I'm wondering, if thanks to George W. Bush, we as Americans, didn't digress to John Wayne status, and want to call bin Laden out for a shoot out in the streets of the Badlands of Pakistan.

I'm not going to tell any of you that celebrate, rejoice, party or whatever over the death of bin Laden, that you are wrong, that's up to God. I'm just going to say, for the Christian, maybe you need to rethink your attitude on this.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Dumb & Dumber moment

This morning I had a moment that I like to call a Dumb & Dumber moment. Regardless of your take on that movie, the illustration works. In this film Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, is in a bar in Colorado, and as he walks out he sees this framed newspaper that proclaims "MAN WALKS ON THE MOON", and he shouts out 'No way! That's great! WE LANDED ON THE MOON!' Now what makes that even funnier, is that the film takes place in 1994, about 25 years after the moon landing took place.

So here is my Dumb & Dumber moment. Sitting at Big Apple Bagels (my new 'office') I sat down to read some Word, and continued where I left off. Starting at Hebrews 1, I had to stop at verse 3. I don't think I'd ever read that before. It goes like this:
"He is the radiance of the Glory of God, and the exact imprint of His nature....."
I kid you not, I almost shouted out "No way! That's great! He is the radiance of the Glory of God!" That is how new and fresh that one verse was to me.

Now, before you say I shouldn't call myself dumb, I get that, and I don't. I said Dumb & Dumber moment, because, I've read Hebrews probably 50 times, or more. And I don't think I've ever picked up on that. So it was as if God had just scribbled it on the page right before I read it. Very cool.

But that wasn't it. There were several more Dumb & Dumber moments that took place for me throughout Hebrews, and I gotta tell you, they were awesome. You may say it's a sad day when a 20+ something year Christian gets a piece of the bible that they've never seen before. I say, it's stinkin' awesome because, it means God is still speaking to me through His Word.

And so I will leave you with this: Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fulfill your ministry

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

1. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom; 2. preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3. for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5.As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

When Paul was writing to Timothy, his protege, little did he know that on March 28, 2011, I would be sitting in Big Apple Bagels, in the small town of Ramona, California, feasting on the Word of God. Little did he know, that apparently my name is Timothy, as well. Also unknown by Paul was how his words would impact me today.

In Verses 1 & 2 he is basically saying to me:
Look man, it's not me telling you this, it's God. And so right here in front of God and Jesus, I'm telling you this. You gotta do this: Preach it, all the time. When you are ready, and when you aren't. Teach it well, patiently, correct and love.

I've known this for years, but I haven't KNOWN it. I haven't lived it. I haven't owned it. If anything, maybe I've rented it, but I've never owned it. Not until today.

Paul says a lot here, but verse 5 says it all so well. 'As for you, always be sober minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.'

My ministry.
Not mine in a selfish pride kind of way, but mine in the sense of 'the one God has laid out for me' the one He's entrusted me with.

Father, I will own that which you have given me. That which you have trusted me with. Lord give me strength to do so. Amen.

So what is your ministry to fulfill? You know you've got one.

Get totally wrecked for God today.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Here we go!

Something I've been toying with for a while, (and by toying what I'm trying not to say is running from God) is putting on paper, or in this case flash drive, the thoughts that God has placed on my heart regarding parenting.

Now before you say it, I'll beat you to it. What do I know about parenting? Well, considering I've fathered two boys, and 'parented' well over 100, I've discovered that I "know" a little. Not a lot. But the things that I know, I know only because God has revealed them to me. What did I know about parenting before my boys were born? Despite the underlying knowledge of every teenager that they know everything, I really knew nothing. There was no manual! There was no Wiki-parent! I had nothing! Nothing but God. And that, by any stretch is way more than enough.

So some of my knowledge comes from first hand experience with my boys. Other pieces come from the 'parenting' of countless teens through over 15 years of youth ministry. And still other pieces come from my Jerry Springer like family members and their 'How Not To Parent' examples. And yet some come from very good friends and their real life moments of parenting genius or lack thereof.

What I'd like to offer you is this. An opportunity to sit back and read some tales of parenting triumphs and tragedies, masterpieces and mishaps, and epic advances and epic failures. Not to read it with the thought of 'This book has all the answers to all my parenting issues!' But to read it with the thought of, 'Hey, real people have raised real kids, and they turned out ok, for the most part! Maybe I can do this too!'

So, this journey begins with the title, and a short thought. I could have titled this:
  • Parenting Today's Teen: Lessons To Learn From
  • I've Done a Great Job of Raising my Kids, and Now You Can Too!
  • Ten Tips to Raising Spiritually Mature Teens: A Guide to Successful Parenting.
But that would be too 'normal', no what God has placed on my heart is to title it this:

Has A Llama Sucked Your Toes,
and Other Things You Never Thought You'd Have to Talk to Your Teen About.

This title came out of a talk we had with our oldest son about a year ago (he gave me permission to share) about a really rough spot he was in. We had realized that Satan was having a field day with him, his heart, his worth, his very existence, and we knew that we had to press all the way in on this one, or it was not going to go away or get better. So we stayed up very late hashing things out. Asking question after question, trying to get to the root of the problem. Nothing seemed to be working. But still we trudged on. Finally after what seemed like hours of getting nowhere, my wife felt the Lord leading her to ask the question 'Has a llama sucked your toes?' in the most serious manner she could muster. That was the pivotal moment in that battle for our boys heart and life. The freedom that came out of that entire transaction was huge. That is the reason for the title, and maybe also it might carry with it a little of the freedom of God to be just a little bit non traditional in our parenting techniques.

Now for the thought.

Too many times, we as parents want to be "cool" to our kids. We want to be their friends. We try hard to make them happy. (I said 'we') When those things don't 'work' we feel like we've failed. I would offer you this, nowhere in scripture did God ever call, commission, or anoint you to be cool to your kids or to be their friend. He did however in both Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 charge us with the responsibility to make Him known to them and to raise them in His ways.

I would challenge you with this:

Can you take a step back and look at your relationship with your kids, and ask yourself, 'do I try harder to be a friend or a parent according to Gods standard?'

I'm in no way casting blame, guilt, or shame on any of us. My goodness, I've found myself way too many times to count, falling into the friend category, but God, in His infinite grace and mercy gently brings me back.

That is my prayer for you, that God would direct your parenting the same way He is directing mine. After all, He is the ultimate parent!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I will rejoice!

All too often, I find myself in a place where I come up short. In my sports abilities. In my teaching abilities. In my finances. Whoa! Hold on, did I just say that?

Yes I did!

But how can that be? Don't I serve an amazing God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills? As a matter of fact, I do. Then how do I come up short there? Well the answer lies in the fourth word of the first paragraph in this blog.


You see that is my, and I'm assuming your problem as well. But I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about me. (this is my blog after all.)

I have always been the type to try to fix things when they go bad. To try to straighten out my problems. You can ask my mom, and she would be the first to tell you, my catch phrase growing up was, "don't worry, I got it covered." Used anytime things didn't seem to be going right.

Well, that is something all through life that I've carried. But recently, God has been working on me and my Mr. Fixit status. I say recently, but what I really meant to say is for the past 2 years. But what I really meant to say is, it seems like decades. But really it's only been a few years.

My good friend Dave says, its fun to watch from the outside. I'm glad you are enjoying it Dave. :) (people in Oklahoma must be lacking for good entertainment!)

And I must admit, to the casual observer, there might be some enjoyment. And to the deeply spiritual observer (i.e., Dave) I'm sure the "fun" he speaks of is the pleasure of seeing God at work.

But from time to time, I wonder, who connected me to Job. Except for losing everything valuable, worth anything, family, possessions, and stuff, oh and the boils. Ok, so maybe I'm not Job.

But I sure do feel like I'm at the point of serious bad juju.

However, in that, I also know that the promises of God are Yes! and Amen! So I rest in that, knowing that my God, my Dad, my King, loves me, cares for me, and provides. No matter what the circumstances look like around me. No matter what is crashing down.

I will STAND!