Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

HE pursues me

I was saved the same way a lot of kids were saved. When I was six years old I walked up to the front of the church, knelt down at the altar and asked Jesus to come into my heart. 

And He did. 

And it was great. 

I felt new and clean and ready to live a different life.

Unfortunately, while meeting Jesus came easily and quickly, knowing Him is taking a lot longer. A lot longer!

It’s been 30 years since I first met Jesus and I am learning new things about Him every day. 

My life has been filled with seasons of furiously seeking Jesus and seasons of tossing Him aside ... 

seasons of daily sacrificing my life to Him and seasons of selfishness ... 

seasons of grace and seasons of guilt ... 

seasons of pursuing His purpose for me and seasons of pursuing what my flesh desires.

Each season of my life has included Jesus, even when I tried to walk away from Him, to ignore Him. No matter how hard I tried to live for me, Jesus was still there calling me to live for Him. Even at my lowest points, caught in addiction, pride, jealousy, worry, anger or materialism, Jesus was right there with me.

When I offered myself as a slave to all kinds of sin, Jesus did not walk away from me. 

He wouldn’t even look the other way so I could do my dark deeds in privacy.

So my story is one of being constantly pursued by Jesus. I wish I could say it was the other way around, that I have always sought more and more of Him. 

But the way it really happened is the more beautiful story.

Jesus, the one who created me and the one who died on a cross for my sins, wants to be with me.

Let me say that again: 
Jesus, the one who created me and the one who died on a cross for my sins, wants to be with me.

He longs for a relationship with me. He has watched me do terrible things and still loves me. 

He still holds me in His arms when I come running back to Him.

It overwhelms me to think about the grace Jesus has given me. It confuses me because I don’t give grace like that. I run out of grace to give to others, but He never runs out of grace for us.

The grace of Jesus, the love of Jesus and the life of Jesus have become my passions:

I want to walk in the freedom His grace gives. 

I want to love others the way He has loved me. 

And I want to live the way He lived - constantly sacrificing Himself for those who need Him the most.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Unexpected, Unexplainable Common Thread

Every now and then I see several unrelated things and I sense a common thread but can't quite figure out what it is. That happened for me this morning as I was looking through some blogs I read regularly. I'll share them with you below and maybe you can find the common thread!

1. Amazing Days on

2. What Skateboarding Taught Me About Missions on

3. Satisfied in You on Justin Taylor's blog, which included the video below.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Leader

"A leader is someone who has the courage to say publicly what everybody else is whispering privately. It is not his insight that sets the leader apart from the crowd. It is his courage to act on what he sees, to speak up when everyone else is silent. Next generation leaders are those who would rather challenge what needs to change and pay the price than remain silent and die on the inside."

Friday, March 1, 2013

What can Protestants learn from Catholics?

Growing up in a Protestant church, I never had - and still don't have - a real clear understanding of the Catholic faith. I never considered Catholics to be of the same faith as me, but at least now I understand that they believe in the same God and the same Messiah.

As time goes by I find myself having more and more encounters with Catholic people. I've taken two trips to the Dominican Republic, which is considered a Catholic country. I even have family members who are Catholic, and yet I still don't have a good picture of their religion.

A book I'm currently reading has opened my eyes to the beauty of some of the Catholic traditions. Growing up I thought Catholics just did a bunch of rituals and then lived however they wanted to live. Now I know that is a stereotype that isn't true of all Catholics. In fact, I now believe there are just as many Protestants who go through the motions of religion without a real life change as there are Catholics.

The use of Liturgy, what I'll define as a prescribed set of practices, to enhance a person's relationship with their Savior is not specific to the Catholic Church. In the Protestant Church we don't call our practices Liturgy, but we do prescribe disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, communion, etc. We believe those disciplines, when practiced faithfully, will draw us closer to Jesus.

Any action can become an empty ritual if our hearts aren't in the right place when we do them. If we read the Bible just so we can tell other people we've read the Bible, then what good is it doing? It only serves to puff us up with pride and we are deceiving ourselves.

Let’s look at some disciplines from the Catholic Church we can tweak and use to add to our own repertoire of Time Alone With God (TAWG) activities. In their book Red Letter Revolution, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo share several examples of ancient Catholic practices which have proven effective for all believers to fellowship with Jesus.

The Jesus Prayer
This is a short, memorized prayer that can be helpful throughout your day.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

It’s only 12 words long, but they can be powerful if memorized and recited in the midst of daily ups and downs. Just think about a typical day, with all its stresses, joys and disappointments. That simple prayer means something different in each context, yet it always brings us back to the core of our relationship with Jesus.

The Rosary
The Rosary is a string of beads with a cross at one end and a loop that can be placed in the shape of a heart at the other end. Each bead on the string represents a different type of prayer, or a different subject of prayer.

We can use something similar to give our own prayer lives a boost. Claiborne offers some insight into his own use of beads to remind himself of important prayer points.

Creating a chain of beads can help you have a physical tool as you pray throughout the day. Prayer beads aren’t magic, but they can cure some minor cases of ADD. For instance, I have a chain of some different-sized beads (or different colored or textured beads) for various prayers. You might have a large bead for the Lord’s Prayer. You might have seven rough beads for praying against the seven deadly sins - pride, envy, lust, anger, gluttony, greed and sloth - and you might have nine little ones for the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, so that you can rest on each one and pray that it would take root and grow like a seed inside of you - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

One of the most popular Vacation Bible School crafts is the salvation bracelet - a cord with multiple colors of beads, each representing a different part of God’s story of salvation. The beads serve as a reminder of an important part of our relationship with Jesus. A string of prayer beads can do the same as they remind us of important things we should regularly pray for.

Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading” and it is a way of prayerfully reading Scripture. This practice can happen with a group or alone.

First, pick a passage of scripture - it doesn’t have to be very long - and read it once slowly, listening with your Spirit for the voice of God. Read it a second time and share with others, or write down, a word or phrase that jumps out at you. On the third reading each person shares why that word or phrase struck them. If you’re by yourself, take time to journal about why the word of phrase stood out for you. Finally, read the passage one last time, slowly and meditatively.

We can all benefit from slowing down, focusing and soaking in the Scripture we read. So often we try to digest whole books or chapters at once and miss the beauty and power one verse or small passage can contain.

The Prayer of Examen
This ancient practice is something we can do daily. The end of the day may be the best time for the Prayer of Examen. The first part of this prayer experience involves quieting yourself and recounting all the good things you did that day (ways you blessed others, ways you served, times you resisted temptation, etc.). The second part of the prayer is a time of confession and repentance for the sins you’ve committed that day. Name each of them one by one and ask God to forgive you and cleanse you from them.

Source: Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo, Red Letter Revolution (Thomas Nelson, 2012), 36-40.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Not Who I Used To Be

The older I get, the more I realize everyone changes. We can't stay who we were as kids, teenagers or even young adults. If we don't change, we never mature. This morning it hit me how different I am now than I was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

When I was a kid:
I thought tomatoes were disgusting.
Now I think they are fantastic.

I thought girls were gross.
Now I know they are different, but amazing.

I thought the Bible was just a bunch of crazy stories.
Now I know it is one big story about God's crazy love for His children.

I thought riding a bike was the greatest adventure of my life.
Now I know living life is the great adventure.

I thought asking Jesus into my heart meant going to heaven.
Now I know asking Jesus into my heart was just the first step to bringing heaven to earth.

I thought my parents' coffee breath was disgusting.
Now my kids think mine is.

I thought my baseball cards would be worth a fortune someday.
Now I know I was wrong.

When I was a teenager:
I thought a date was dinner and a movie.
Now a date involves babysitters, clearing the schedule and finding a place to get away and just be with my best friend.

I thought if I worked really hard I could be a great basketball player.
Now I wish I would have worked harder to be the best I could be and a great teammate.

I thought picking on kids was funny.
Now I get angry when kids get picked on.

I thought driving a car meant freedom.
Now I often feel trapped when I'm in my car.

I wanted to be a youth pastor.
Now I see what a difficult calling that would be.

I thought missionaries were spiritually elite.
Now I know all who follow Jesus are called to be missionaries.

I thought looking and acting like a Christian was important.
Now I don't care how I look as long as I am actually following Jesus.

I thought loving my neighbor referred to the people I normally spend time with.
Now I know my neighbors include people I've never met and people I don't enjoy being with.

When I was in college:
I thought the internet was the most amazing thing in the world.
Now I think the internet is a tool to be used with great caution and moderation.

I thought war was an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary, part of our world.
Now I still think it's unfortunate and am not convinced it's ever necessary.

I thought finding a wife would be difficult.
Now I'm glad I found a best friend who became my wife.

I thought making money was important.
Now I know no amount of money can make you happy.

I thought having kids was a burden.
Now I know having kids is a burden - one that brings great joy and fun!

I thought feeding the hungry meant giving money to a charity organization.
Now I know feeding the hungry means actually feeding the hungry, by whatever means necessary.

I thought the words of Jesus were a good picture of how we should live.
Now I know the words and life of Jesus are exactly how we should live.

I thought living a comfortable life and doing some good things was enough.
Now I know living an uncomfortably weird life and loving others as I love myself is what is expected of me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Christian or Disciple?

Sources: Christian, parts 1-8, by Andy Stanley, North Point Community Church;; Weird: Because Normal isn't Working by Craig Groeschel;;

I am a Christian.

Ever since I went to the front of the church and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life at the age of 6, I have been a Christian.

Until recently, I thought Christian was what I was supposed to be after that life-changing walk to the altar.

The last couple months have been filled with books, videos, conversations, classes and meditations that have made me rethink who/what I am supposed to be.

I believe in Jesus and I am confident His Spirit lives in me. So, what else would you call that besides Christian?

The problem, for me, is that Jesus never asked anyone to become a Christian. He asked people to follow Him, to become His disciples.

According to Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, in his sermon series Christian, the word DISCIPLE is terrifying because it calls us to actually DO something. A disciple is someone who actively follows, listens to, learns from, obeys and emulates another person.

Most people, including me, use the word Christian to describe someone's beliefs. As long as you believe in Jesus, you can call yourself a Christian. You don't actually have to DO anything, other than believe. In fact, you can do the opposite of what Jesus asked you to do and still call yourself a Christian because, after all, you believe in Him.

I'm tired of being a Christian. In fact, I don't want to do it anymore. I want out. I'm done!

I want to be a DISCIPLE. I want my actions to show who/what I am. And Andy Stanley is right, it's terrifying. It's terrifying because I know my actions don't always qualify me as a disciple. One of the worst things about being a disciple, and the thing that keeps many people from even considering becoming one, is hypocrisy. If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, then go out and behave differently, we are hypocrites. If we ask someone else to become a disciple and do what a disciple does, but don't live it out ourselves, we are hypocrites. So, yeah, it's scary.

But, again, Jesus never sought Christians. He wanted disciples. Even the original disciples - the 12 who left their normal lives to follow Jesus while He was on earth - weren't perfect. They made mistakes. They were hypocritical. They disappointed Jesus.

Before he left the earth, Jesus gave his disciples what we know as the Great Commission. Do you know what He commissioned them to do?

There's nothing in there about Christians. Jesus told them to make DISCIPLES!

The first step to becoming a disciple is allowing Jesus to have your whole life, but it doesn't end there. I don't know how people can think belief is enough. It's a step, but it's not the end. Being a disciple requires more.

Love is the way people will know we are disciples. If we love each other the way Jesus loved those He spent time with, we won't have to tell people we are disciples, they will either know it or will ask us why we do the things we do.

So, how did Jesus love? That's a complicated answer, but the phrase "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14) seems to sum it up pretty well. Jesus served, healed, demanded obedience, called out sin, forgave, protected, listened, fed and taught.

Jesus put loving others right up there with loving God:

This is where it gets terrifying all over again because how can you possibly love someone else like you love yourself? Especially someone who isn't easy to love at all?

The only way to love like Jesus loved is to do what Jesus did. The only way to do what Jesus did is to read His story and try to emulate Him ... After all, that's what a DISCIPLE does!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crawling Before Walking

I've been thinking for a while now about getting back into blogging. It's been nearly eight months since my last post and I miss it.

I've been trying to decipher my reasons and develop a strategy for my re-entry in the the world of writing. I don't want to do it as a discipline. I don't want to do it to get attention. I don't want to use it as a platform to spread my opinions. And I really don't want it to become an outlet for my passive aggressive side!

I want to use this blog as an outlet for my own need to put thoughts in writing. I've long felt I'm much better at expressing my thoughts through writing than speaking. I haven't spent much time writing - other than briefly in a journal from time to time - in the last eight months. So, hopefully, the blog will get me back into the rhythm of writing!

Since I'm not in the rhythm of writing yet, I'm going to start slow and easy. The easiest thing I can think of is to share some of what is inspiring me, interesting me and challenging me right now.

I'm almost done with Craig Groeschel's book WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working. I've often found myself wanting to rebel against what most people think is normal or trendy. In this book, Groeschel gives a strong case for why, as followers of Jesus, we should strive to go against the flow in many areas of our lives.

A few books I'm planning to read in the near future are Jon Acuff's Quitter, Multiply by Francis Chan & David Platt and a re-read of Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark.

While online I've been regularly reading articles at Relevant and ChurchMag.

Ever since this past summer, Josh Garrels has been my go-to musician. This guy has a lot of music available and he's so unique. His voice is like none I've heard before and he blends folk with rock and roll and even a little hip hop and soul. His songwriting is fantastic. I've been listening to him pretty exclusively for about 5 months and I still love it!

I don't watch TV unless it's sports, and even then I pretty much only watch football. Football season is almost over so pretty soon my television consumption will be no more than the occasional college basketball game and the NCAA Tournament in March.

I don't see a lot of movies either, but I have recently seen The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit - two fantasy-type movies that were entertaining. Nothing about either really inspired me a great deal, but they were definitely enjoyable.

I recently watched a DVD series from Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church. The series is called Christian and it has made me re-think how I use that word. I am a Christian but would rather be identified as a disciple of Jesus - a true follower who seeks to be more like Jesus every day of my life.