Archive for the ‘My Journey’ Category

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat down and kept guard over him there. Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!” In the same way even the chief priests — together with the experts in the law and elders — were mocking him: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! He trusts in God — let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.

– Matthew 27:33-50

I have to admit that Good Friday bugs me. What is so darn good about it. Let’s just take a moment and think about this. The greatest prophet, teacher, leader – the very son of God – is dead. He would no longer be around to teach us, lead us and guide us. We would have to be happy with the words and teaching he had given us to this point. It does not seem like it is a good Friday. In fact, we believe that he ascended into the very pit of hell. He suffered horribly. Why does that make such a good day. Okay, so he would rise again in a few days. He would come back to life and his church would greatly expand. That makes Sunday a good day, but not Friday. Friday is really a pretty crappy day, isn’t it.

This is exactly what I used to think, but then Pastor Jason St. Clair preached a sermon on Easter Sunday morning that brought it home. See Good Friday really had nothing to do with Jesus. Sure he died on that day, but it had nothing to do with him. It had to do with a sacrificial system that God had set up hundreds of years before. A substitutionary atonement was necessary for our sins to be covered. That is why animals lost their life at the altar. They were innocent, but they had to die so our sins could be covered. In fact, there was always one goat, the scapegoat, that received the sins of the nation on the Day of Atonement. That goat was not sacrificed like the rest. Instead, it was lead out into the desert and was watched until it died. When the animal was dead the watcher would come back and announce that the sins had been forgiven. See, Jesus is our scapegoat. He is innocent, but he hung on a cross he did not deserve. He was not the sacrifice that covered over our sins. He was the scapegoat that provided permanent forgiveness.

We have a choice. We will have atonement for our sins…

Will you atone for your own sin and therefore receive the ultimate punishment – separation from a Holy God.

Will you accept the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ that was brought on Good Friday and receive the ultimate reward – eternity with a Holy God.

Who will atone for your sin, you of Jesus?

A few weeks ago, I was commenting on another blog about how I think we may be asking the wrong questions about God when it comes to the idea that specific answers to prayer are promised. I have become more and more convinced that prayer is really about changing us. Prayer is really about us being on mission with God.

When I wrote these words in response to the blog post, one of the comments I received in return is what does this mean. What does being on mission with God mean?

The truth is, I have avoided answering this question because I really did not know what it means. Sure, I knew what it means theoretically, but I did not know what is means in reality. How am I to be on mission with God?

I have felt for a long time that I have been wandering around with God. The relationship has been great, but I was not going anywhere. This can be okay for a time. Sometime we need to just be patient and wait on God’s timing, but I have also felt like my waiting was more about my listening to God then God’s timing.

I finally have my answer and I am so thankful for it. Not long after I became a Christ-follower in April of 1996, I have wanted to work for an organization called Teen Challenge. However, no one just works for Teen Challenge. It is a mission, a calling, a passion. Teen Challenge must be an important part of your life because it cannot just be a job.

I have also had another dream God gave me. It is a dream to start a church that will truly reach out to people and express God’s love to them in a real way. It would be a church that accepts people the way they are and gives them the room and the space to work with the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is transformation and this take time, love and grace.

God have just given me the opportunity to do both dreams at one and I am amazed, overwhelmed and truly grateful. I just over six weeks, my family and I will be moving to Kansas City, Missouri to start a brand new Teen Challenge center. We have the opportunity to acquire a building that is perfect for the ministry and it also has an on campus church building. About a year or so after the Teen Challenge is started, I will be able to start the process of launching a real and relevant church.

Truthfully, I am scared and exhilarated. This is going to be an expensive endeavor. Over $1 million dollars needs to be raised. All my years of working in nonprofits has made me ready for this, but in the end, I know it will have to be God if this is to succeed.

I have been re-reading the book, The Cross and the Switchblade. It is the story of the founding of the first Teen Challenge center in New York City by Rev. David Wilkerson. Just like Rev. Wilkerson, I am going to have to have faith that the money will be provided. The beautiful part is that I truly do. I know this is God because I have a perfect peace about the whole thing.

It is 2:36 in the morning and I cannot sleep. It might be because I drank too much coffee when I have barely had any caffeine for the past three months. It might be because I have some stressful weeks coming up very quickly. However, I think there is a very different reason. The truth is something has been bugging me lately. That something(one) is God…

I have been letting things get in the way of God. I have been letting human reason stop me from following God’s direction for my life. I have made excuses of why I can do what God wants me to do. Well, that time is over. I am going to move forward with God regardless of the human obstacles I might face.

Church planting has been my heart and passion for some time now. It actually goes back a number of years. I can still remember when I told God that I would go to seminary if he wanted me to go, but I had no intention of working in church ministry. I want nothing more now. But, the truth is, I don’t want to work for any church. I want to let God create a church that will truly reach out to “the least of these.” I want people to truly experience what it means to follow hard after God. I want people to know that God loves them where they are at. He does not ask us to be perfect. He only asks us to give him the opportunity to make us something special and new.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to happen. The one church planting opportunity I thought was going to happen is not. However, it is not happening because it would not be the proper opportunity for God to use me. I thank God for giving me the wisdom to close this door. I also thank him for having me close it instead of him closing it for me. I needed to opportunity to know I can still hear his voice.

I can tell you I am back. I have been away spiritually for a number of months, even though I have only stopped blogging for a few weeks. God and I are talking again and more importantly, I am listening again. I am simply overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace.

Tonight he spoke to me through that pages of a book by Donald Miller, To Own A Dragon. His words to me were very simple – Follow the passion I have given you…and let me lead the way.

Thank you Lord.

26:13 Then David crossed to the other side and stood on the top of the hill some distance away; there was a considerable distance between them. 26:14 David called to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Won’t you answer, Abner?” Abner replied, “Who are you, that you have called to the king?” 26:15 David said to Abner, “Aren’t you a man? After all, who is like you in Israel? Why then haven’t you protected your lord the king? One of the soldiers came to kill your lord the king. 26:16 This failure on your part isn’t good! As surely as the Lord lives, you people who have not protected your lord, the Lord’s chosen one, are as good as dead! Now look where the king’s spear and the jug of water that was by his head are!”

26:17 When Saul recognized David’s voice, he said, “Is that your voice, my son David?” David replied, “Yes, it’s my voice, my lord the king.” 26:18 He went on to say, “Why is my lord chasing his servant? What have I done? What wrong have I done? 26:19 So let my lord the king now listen to the words of his servant. If the Lord has incited you against me, may he take delight in an offering. But if men have instigated this, may they be cursed before the Lord! For they have driven me away this day from being united with the Lord’s inheritance, saying, ‘Go on, serve other gods!’ 26:20 Now don’t let my blood fall to the ground away from the Lord’s presence, for the king of Israel has gone out to look for a flea the way one looks for a partridge in the hill country.”

26:21 Saul replied, “I have sinned. Come back, my son David. I won’t harm you, for you treated my life with value this day. I have behaved foolishly and have made a very terrible mistake!” 26:22 David replied, “Here is the king’s spear! Let one of your servants cross over and get it. 26:23 The Lord rewards each man for his integrity and loyalty. Even though today the Lord delivered you into my hand, I was not willing to extend my hand against the Lord’s chosen one. 26:24 In the same way that I valued your life this day, may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all danger.” 26:25 Saul replied to David, “May you be rewarded, my son David! You will without question be successful!” So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place. – 1 Samuel 26:13-24

I have been thinking a lot lately about doctrine and how we tend to get so strongly entrenched in our own doctrinal presuppositions that we think anyone who disagrees with us is some how out of step with God. We look at these people and see them as immature believers or even heretics. Yet, they are often fellow Christ-followers doing their best to understand a God who is so far above our understanding. We either refuse to look at ourselves and our beliefs as flawed at some level or we are simply are unable to see it could be us. Don’t get me wrong; some doctrine is worth fighting for. There are essentials to the faith, but often what we find essential is just not as important as we would like to think. I could go into a list of my personal essentials/non-essentials, but that would only start arguments and take away from the point I am trying to make.

I think David understood something we need to understand. God had chosen Saul just like God has chosen us to be his followers. This did not make Saul right or just. In fact, we know that God was rejecting Saul. However, David knew that it was not his job to reject Saul – it was God’s. David could have killed Saul twice, but he did not. Instead, David waited on God’s timing for Saul to be brought low. Maybe we need to look at David’s example of humility as the way we should treat those we disagree with on not-so-important theological points. Maybe we should rely on God to bring them down if God chooses to do so. Maybe we should do what God has called us to do in spreading the Kingdom and not worry about fighting with our fellow Christ-followers. I know this. My focus will not be on trying to argue my theological points with other believers. Instead, it will be on building real relationships with those God has placed in my path as they are on their own spiritual journey toward God.

Heavenly Father,

I guess my real prayer is to keep first things first. Help me to put you in the first priority position and then those people who are far from you. Help me to not focus on the areas I disagree with other believers, but instead focus on expanding your kingdom. I truly love you Lord and seek to do your will. Amen.

15:22 Then Moses led Israel to journey away from the Red Sea. They went out to the Desert of Shur, walked for three days into the desert, and found no water. 15:23 Then they came to Marah, but they were not able to drink the waters of Marah, because they were bitter. (That is why its name was Marah.)

15:24 So the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What can we drink?” 15:25 He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When Moses0 threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord made for them a binding ordinance, and there he tested them. 15:26 He said, “If you will diligently obey the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the Lord, am your healer.”

15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water.

Exodus 15 begins with a song of victory that the Israelites sing to God because of what he did at the Red Sea to the Egyptians. It is a glorious song of praise. Yet, throughout the pages of Exodus 15-17 that follow this song, we see the people of Israel grumbling against God because they think they will starve or die of thirst. God has proven himself faithful and has literally provided for their every need, yet they continue to grumble. I find myself in a similar place.

This weekend, I was offered a ministry position. It is my dream ministry job. I would need to use my skills in ministry development, business management and relationship building to there maximum. It is literally a position that seems tailor made for my skills and abilities. Yet, there is one problem – Money. I am not a money driven person. I don’t really care how much I make as long as it is enough. However, in this case, it just does not seem like it is enough. My reaction has ranged from being angry with myself because the financial situation I find myself in is not where I want/need to be. I have also grumbled against God because I keep thinking that he knows what I need, so why is he not providing it. I have no right to grumble against God for any number of Biblical and personal reasons. No one has a right to grumble against God. I find myself waiting for God to cause water to come out of a rock or cause manna to appear on the ground. I guess the hardest part is not waiting for the miracle, but realizing God’s answer may be – wait.

Dear Heavenly Father,

In times like these I need to know even more that your truly care about every detail of my life. I need to know that you are working out everything in your time and in your way. Patience is not one of my strengths, but I want to wait on you. I pray for your help to wait and faith to believe that you will work it out. Help me to focus on your will for me each day and have a simple faith that you will take care of the future. I love you Lord. Amen.

13:11 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 13:12 then you must give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. Every firstling of a beast that you have – the males will be the Lord’s. 13:13 Every firstling of a donkey you must redeem with a lamb, and if you do not redeem it, then you must break its neck. Every firstborn of your sons you must redeem.

13:14 In the future, when your son asks you ‘What is this?’ you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery. 13:15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to release us, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of people to the firstborn of animals. That is why I am sacrificing to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb, but all my firstborn sons I redeem.’ 13:16 It will be for a sign on your hand and for frontlets on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” – Exodus 13:11-16

The Lord gave his people a permanent sign that he was watching over them.  He gave them an undeniable sign.  He actually took the life of every first born animal and human who did not place the blood on their doorframe.  What I find most amazing about this occurrence is what happens soon after.  The Israelites finally leave Egypt with the permission, even the urging of Pharaoh.  Not long after Pharaoh once again becomes stubborn (even dense) and decides he wants them back as slaves.  When the Israelites see Pharaoh following them they immediately begin to complain against Moses because they believe he has brought them out of Egypt only to die.  Now, I know sometimes it takes a lot to have faith, but how much more proof did the Israelites need.  They had just experienced one of the greatest miracles in all of scripture.  Their families and possessions remained intact while the Egyptian had experienced the destruction of their crops, land, livestock and even death in their own families.  I swear that God could have actually appeared before them and they still would not have had faith.  Wait a minute, he actually did appear before them as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day.  It makes me wonder if the people of Israel were even more dense than Pharoah.

Then I have to think back over ten years ago.  God gave me a prophecy on my life that he intended to use me greatly for his kingdom.  At the time, I was not even a Christ-follower.  I did not want to hear this prophecy, yet I knew in the very core of my being that it was true.  God gave me a clear sign that I did not want.  Just one month later, I committed my life to Christ and within a short time I knew God was calling me to vocational ministry.  I still said no.  I still knew I had a undeniable sign.  God told me to go to seminary and I said no.  I went, but told God I had no interest in church ministry.  But, I still had the undeniable sign.  I pursued the formal education and more informal education with a passion and soon my desires changed.  I wanted to be in full-time ministry.  Then years passed and I was rejected for what I thought was "perfect opportunities."  I questioned if the sign was real, but I knew it was.  I continued to do what I needed to do to pay the bills and take care of my family, but I was more and more discontented as time went on.  I doubted the sign even more, yet I knew it was real.  It is almost exactly ten years ago that I was given the prophecy.  In just over a month it will be ten years since I became a Christ-follower.  On April 11, 2006 it will be ten years since God called me into vocational ministry.  I will never forget this day, because it was the day before Megan and I became husband and wife.  Finally, after almost ten years it seems like my dream, God’s dream for me is coming true (more on this later.)  God gave me a sign that took ten years to come to reality.  I struggled against the sign, gave in to the sign, and have yearned for the sign.  We have had a love-hate relationship over these ten years.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving the Israelites a sign.  Thank you for taking care of them, protecting them and even fighting battles for them.  Thank you for the call on my life.  I have not always appreciated this call, nor have I appreciated the time it has taken for it to become a reality.  Yet, I know your timing is perfect, mine is not.  Help me to serve you all the days of my life regardless of what that service may look like.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

All too often lately, I feel like the writer of this Psalm. The second line says, “When can I go and meet with God?” My intellect tells me that I can meet with God at any time, but my heart tells me that it will not happen. I feel like I am living in former days when my relationship with God was strong and clear. Now I feel like it is foggy and shrouded. I have lived my life always moving toward a goal I believed God set for me. Now I am not actually sure where I am going. It is as if everything I knew to be true has been proven false and everything I thought I was leaving behind is following me. For the first time in a long time I don’t have a sense of direction. I am calling out to God and I fear he may not be listening, even though I know with everything I am that he hears me. I wonder if I am not listening to him. If that is true, then I need a lesson in listening because I just don’t know how. I know my soul literally pants for God. I am just not hearing an answer.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I don’t even know the words to pray. I only know I need you today, tomorrow and forever. Forgive me if I have failed to listen to you. Open my ears and let me hear. Calm my spirit so I man rest in you. Right now I am only holding onto your love. Amen.