11/18/14

A Good Question

“What does that teach you about God, Daddy?”

This is the question my son has been asking lately.  He likes to sing praise and worship songs.  He also likes to make up new songs about God. Invariably he will end the song and ask what that song has taught me about God. It is a good question and will often cause me to think, what IS the meaning of the song and what DOES it teach me about God?  It is a great exercise.

I also realized, it is something I never used to ask.  I love to sing and will belt out a song anywhere and at any time.  Yes, I am that guy walking down the street singing to himself.  I will sing at work, in the car and yes, in the shower.  Until my son started asking his question, I never put much thought into what the song was teaching me about God.  Now I can’t stop.

I have also begun applying the question to my reading as well.  When I dig into God’s Word, I have asked myself, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?”    According to God’s Word, the Scriptures are a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It is all that and so much more.  As I read the Old Testament, I see a God who is long-suffering and filled with patience and loving kindness.  Moving into the New Testament, we see a God who loved us enough to send His Son to earth, to die on a cross for you and me! 

God’s love, mercy and grace are all things that I have been taught through the reading of His Word. 
My son has challenged me to go deeper in worship and in reading the Bible.  Hopefully you will be asking yourself this same question he asked me.  “What does that teach you about God?”

11/15/14

Confessions of a Kid at Heart

I am a kid at heart.  Growing up I loved to read comic books, play with toys and collect baseball cards.  I have a confession to make.  I still collect baseball cards...and read comic books...but you won't catch me playing with toys...when anyone is around!

I look back on my childhood with fond memories.  Sure, like any family we had our problems, but I always had a warm meal, a loving family and plenty of friends and things to play with.  We were not rich by any means.  My dad lost his job when I was a teen and we went through some very hard times, eventually ending up homeless.

Having experienced life on both sides of the economic coin, my heart breaks for those caught in a life of poverty, hunger and need.

Which is why being a Compassion sponsor is so important to me.  My wife and I have sponsored children with compassion since  2001.  After our first child graduated the program and our second moved to a new region, we are now sponsoring our third child.  A little boy from  Brazil a little older than my son CJ, who is 4. 

We love getting the letters from our sponsored child and reading not only of his growing knowledge of the Lord but how much he loves the things a kid should love.  Through his letters we have found that he loves soccer and playing with cars. A typical child in an economically depressed area of Brazil.

I know that being a Compassion sponsor helps the child and his family.  However, I have also found it helps our family as well.  It reminds us that we are called to show Christ's love to the nations.  We can't all travel overseas but we can make a difference in our own communities and via organizations like Compassion, communities and families around the world.

I invite you to remember what it means to be a child at heart and to sponsor a child today: Compassion Sponsorship.

Feel free to share your own Confessions of a Kid at heart in the comment section.

11/7/14

A Near Death Experience

http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000698067/Killed-by-the-Church-Resurrected-by-Christ.aspx

I once had a near death experience.

After years of attending churches around the world, I struggled under a heavy burden.  I had lost the joy I once felt when gathering with the body of Christ. I know I am not the only one.  For years I have met people whom no longer want to actively participate in church.

Most of those who have abandoned the church share stories of hypocrisy and church abuse. Long-time believers are ready to walk away out of boredom and frustration. Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ seeks to equip people with the principles they need in order to fall in love with the church again in a much healthier way.

I once sucumbed to "death by church". Then I found my identity.  It wasn't in anything the world had to offer.  It was only found in Jesus Christ!

In this book, you will find stories from around the world and right next door. Stories of all the good the church has to offer and sadly, some of the worst as well. You will discover Biblical principles that relate not only to church, but to our relationship with the body of Christ at large. You will hopefully develop a deeper understanding of your identity in Christ.

I invite you to pick up a copy of my new book, Killed by the Church, Resurrected by Christ.  

You can order it through your local bookstore (ISBN 9781490853789) or by clicking the image above.  (It is also available for download as an e-book on Amazon.)

You can also stop by the book's Facebook Page: Killed By The Church

Or Find Me on Twitter:   Killed By The Church

11/1/14

Vanishing Grace

 
Philip Yancey has written another book on grace.  

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey is a sequel of sorts to his classic book What's So Amazing About Grace? 

In this newest book, Yancey asks why Christians continue to be ridiculed while losing respect and influence in our modern culture.  Vanishing Grace is actually four books in one. A World Athirst (1), Grace Dispensers (2), Is It Really Good News? (3), and Faith and Culture (4).

In part one Yancey shows the current view of Christians by society at large.  Insetead of judgement, Yancey calls believers to listen and love with grace and humility.  I enjoyed this chapter immensely. People are thirsty for more in life and we have the chance to show them the true Thirst Quencher. However, in order for people to truly listen, we need to judge less and love more.

Part two calls for believers to approach those we meet as pilgrims, activists and artists. I appreciate his call for believers to use the arts to call people to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Seeing ourselves as pilgrims, we can take the journey together in humility instead of placing ourselves in a position where we can often look down on others in self righteous indignation.

Part three looks at why faith matters. Why are we here? Is there anyone else? How should we live?  These are the burning questions of life that Yancey seeks to address in this section.

In the final section of the book, Yancey returns to the theme of artist, activists and pilgrims and shows how we can and should be involved in the culture around us today.  All of these sections call us to be active grace giviers to those around us, calling people to a filling and fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

I will admit, I am a fan of Philip Yancey's writings.  Even with that bias, I think this book is timely for the world we find ourselves in today.  Do yourself a favor and add this book to your shelf.

This book was provided for through the Book Look Bloggers program in exchange for writing a review on the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

10/20/14

Culture Shock

www.cultureshockthebook.com

Sexuality. Homosexuality. The Environment. Abortion. Politics.

These are the issues Chip Ingram tackles head on in his new book Culture Shock.  Seeking to bring the light of Jesus Christ to these issues as opposed to the heat of emotions, Ingram does not shy away from truth.

Absoulte Truth.

Every issue that Ingram tackles is looked at from both the pro and con viewpoint.  He then looks at what the Word of God has to say. When the absolute truth of God's Word is applied, what we see is a wonderful balance of truth and love.

This book may make some uncomfortable and I am sure not everyone will agree with his conclusions.  Sadly, we live in a day and age where reasonable, heartfelt and thoughtful conversations on these and other issues are not always done in a way that makes either side of the issue look good.

Ingram challenges the reader to stand for righteousness while still showing the love of Jesus Christ. In a day when words like intolerance, hate and compromise seem more the norm, it is refreshing to see a call to a proper Biblical response.

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

This book was provided for review by Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books. 

10/4/14

Coming to Life!

I bought a puppet last week.

Though I grew up loving the Muppet Show, I never thought about actually operating puppets myself.  Sure, there was that one time in Croatia where I did a puppet show at an orphanage with a friend but that was an isolated incident.

Until now.

After discussions on new ways to capture the little kids' attention at church, we decided to give a puppet a try.

I brought home the puppet (the one in the picture) and began looking for a voice. My four-year-old sat with me and kept weighing in on the various voices.  He made for a tough audience and shot down nearly every voice I came up with. I finally found one to his liking, and that's when "Hank" came to life.

As soon as Hank started talking, my son completely ignored me and began talking to the puppet.  He asked lots of questions, told him stories, and made it clear that Dad was just an appendage on the end of the puppet's body.  After a time of interaction and engagement I said that Hank needed to go to sleep, at which point my son began talking to me again!

This morning I began discussing how to use the puppet at church.  I wanted to talk about fear and mentioned how it would be good to have Hank learn a verse about fear.  Immediately, my four-year-old piped up and said, How about "Do not fear, for the Lord is with you?"

Recognizing the paraphrase of Joshua 1:9, I was excited that my son was able to recall a Bible verse applicable to fear and was able to use it appropriately. He will now teach Hank that verse in church this week.

Maybe this puppet thing won't be so bad after all!

10/1/14

Traveling Home


Occasionally I will hear snippets of words or phrases when my kids are playing or chatting and they just resonate with me.  This past summer, the words spoken by my children had me thinking about eternity!

Not too long ago, my son was learning time and measurement. Holding his hands wide, he asked his sister if that was how long forever was.  My daughter's response was, "You can't measure forever!" Truer words were never spoken. 

When you think about eternity, it is hard to measure with our finite minds. As a pastor, I speak of heaven and hell...but I do not know if I convey eternity in the way that my daughter did that day.  We live in a world of time and measure.  When we think of spending eternity with God in heaven, I do not think our minds can conceive the true reality of it all.  How do you measure the immeasurable?  How do you quantify the unquantifiable?  Eternity is a mystery we won't completely understand until we stand before the Father! 

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

In fact, the Lord has set eternity in our hearts!

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I think the joy is in the journey.  Which can be a problem for me!  I'm not a patient traveler.  I enjoy the destination but not the journey there.  I don't know why that is.  I get in the car and I want to get to my destination. As we traveled on vacation this summer, my son kept asking how long it was to various destinations. As we talked about how long it would take to our next stop, he said, "
No matter how long it takes, we will be there soon."

Life on this earth is fraught with problems.  Some days it seems like you take 1 step forward and 3 steps back before getting hit by a bus. Perseverance is not a sexy word.  It sounds hard and--well,--hard!  My son's words reminded me that life is short. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. My journey will be coming to an end.
I will be there sooner rather than later. I am traveling home! 

As I said, the joy is in the journey.  I have become more eternally focused.  Not in a maudlin, depressed sort of way but in an excited-to-sit-at-the-feet-of-Jesus kind of way.  I also want to see those around me take the same journey and travel home to the Father as well.

Traveling home...a road trip I can get excited about.