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“If you were lost in the woods, what would you do to get out?” My “pre-internet-cell-phone” 4th grade colleagues conferred on the playground.

After lunch we were suppose to come back and give our answer. I had the best answer ever. Smugly listened while holding my precious answer close to my chest as they crafted their elaborate plans. Signal fire? Hah. Climb a tree? Haha. Timing for optimal impact, I blurted out my answer and waited for the applause: “Just keep walking!” Can I get an amen!

With one skillful stroke of a master marksman my teacher shot an arrow through my bubble of brilliance! “How will you know if you are walking straight!” Wait. What? My 4th grade mind was blown as I attempted to crawl into my desk as I pondered in shame…I could be walking in circles? 

I have known forests. Pathways that are faint, unmarked, and hazardous. There are times where it seems like I am in a forest wandering…circling…wondering if I am walking straight. At a young age I gave my life to Jesus…hoping that things would start going better. And it did. Sure I made some mistakes and circumstances blocked the path or at least made it less easy. But for the most part the path was good. Deeply desiring to obey God and do what is right…I make elaborate plans to make sure I am no the straight path. I put up railings, refer to the compass, follow other more mature travelers. But there are still times I am lost. People let me down, circumstances knock me down, and I blow it and fall down. There are even times I really do not want to get back up. 

This straight path business is frustrating…why can’t I just walk straight? Cause I keep trying…I keep straightening…I keep keeping “I” in the equation. Surrender is hard…yielding inconvenient…trusting leaves me vulnerable. Why is trust so hard? I known I my head that God is fully able and trustworthy. Straight path making is no problem for him. In fact that is the whole point of the Gospel of Jesus. Grace is not about me making my path straight but about yielding to the God who made the way straight. (Check out Proverbs 3 for wisdom on this.) 

My straight path is not the same as God’s. In fact being lost in the woods might even be a straight path. Hardship and turmoil I experience on my path…may seem impossible and incredible crooked yet for the God of the universe there is a divine straightness. The 4+ months I spent with my son in the hospital might seem so dark and disastrous but that was the very place His presence declared the straightness. The Apostle Paul sure did demonstrate this. Imprisoned, shipwrecked, shackled, beaten with rods, betrayed by friends, he still says, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” A straight path is not about my personal comfort or reward. It is not about straightening my way. It is not about my affirmation from others or that I should be fairly treated. No, my path is fully straight when I am dwelling in the very presence of God. It is about God working out his Gospel of grace in the hearts of his creation…opening the hearts of humanity to make paths that are straight. No more wandering aimlessly looking for the end of the forest…but with hope, faith, and peace of knowing that we are able to dwell fully in his presence. 

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” ~ Paul Phil 1:29-30

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Finishing Well

Late last night a tragedy struck. It won’t make headlines or be announced on the local news. The impact of this tragedy surprised and wounded those who knew him. A man named Don passed away. Quiet in stature, humble in heart, Don’s impact is unquestioned. His was quiet action…standing at the gate drawing attention to what God cares about. I think of Micah who spoke for God: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Don actively influenced us to consider how we as a church seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God as he directed us to partner with others that sought to care for the wounded, the pregnant, and those missing the things that glorified God. 

As a pastor I am thankful for Don. Thankful for what he did but all the more for who he was for our church family. He fixed a leaky sink, painted a wall, and replaced broken tile. He consistently helped us to connect to our missionaries…that we would gain understanding of their ministries and their hearts. He kept us informed of critical issues facing our community, our families and our schools. But more than all of that Don prayed. He loved God with all his heart, all is mind, all his soul and all his spirit. He desperately wanted others to know and experience this love of God. I had just started getting to know him. 

Now he stands in the presence of the One he sought. He is realizing the reality of the glory of God that which he longed for is his to posses not in part as here on earth but in full as it is in heaven. 

I am so thankful for Don finished well. 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”. Ps 139: 23-24

Mark 5:21-24 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea.  Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet  and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”  And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.

www.cedargrove.org

We are continuing on this year long journey through Mark’s Gospel…woke up this morning thinking…a million thoughts in my head…how desperate was this Father’s love for his daughter. God loved her even more.

Ben Crist and Glorious Unseen was an incredible source of encouragement during Jacob’s recovery. After his own journey, Ben is back and working on a new project. It is a blessing to be a part of it. Join me.

Join THE GLORIOUS UNSEEN in releasing “Lovesick”!! by Ben Crist — Kickstarter

Cold and wet, not drenched but soggy – we just walked along the cliffs of Mendocino, above the angry waves crashing, daring us to step a bit closer. Beauty is sobered in the midst of the danger. In moments like these I am reminded that positive thinking only gets us so far. Positive thinking really holds no comfort amidst the treacherous. While there is safety on the cliff above, there is the ever-present reminder that with just one false step – in one quick moment – life changes forever. One minute your resting at home…the next your rushing to ER. Tragedy strikes and hope is confronted…will it stand up to the testing?

I get to spend some time our High School students this Sunday who are studying what it means to be an authentic Christian. The lesson for this Sunday focuses on suffering, persecution, hardship and the like…what happens to our hope in the midst of trauma? As Christians far too often we feel the need to compare our faith as superior and more beneficial than others. We hold up a sports figure and think that his success will be a great victory for Christianity because he professes Christ. So when he wins a game or does well we strut with pride but when he crashes and burns because of addiction or failure we cower in shame and discard him until he gets straightened out.

God meets us in the midst of our weakness. He calls us, restores us and establishes the power of the Holy Spirit deep within. This is the power of the hope that is within us. Peter calls us a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God in the midst of darkness in the midst of our weakness and trials not in the midst of our strength and success. We so quickly forget that we are pleasing to God not based on our own merit but based on our surrender of self-engradure and acceptance of the death of Christ. (see 1Peter2)

The suffering that once took center stage is down below and I am on the cliff above remembering, regretting, hoping that suffering will not come again. And yet life changes in an instant…is my hope strong enough to withstand another attack? Hoping in myself…no. Hoping in He who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and fully in control…yes.

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” ~ 1Pet3:15

I am pretty sure Peter is not just talking about having a good verbal joust for those that disagree with us. Faith comes into attack when hope is confronted…hardship, persecution, fear grip us and rattle the hope that lies within and makes us wonder – is God true? is God enough? can I really trust him?

In the midst of our weakness…God is present. In the midst of our strength…God is still present. He is the hope that lies within us.

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.We can hear the sound of all creation sing – a song to heal the earth, a song to spark a dream.” ~ Col 1:27

A song from The Glorious Unseen: The Hope that Lies in You

We can hear the sound of all creation sing –
a song to heal the earth, a song to spark a dream.
Where are you optimists? We need your strength in this.
There’s a stirring in your soul that cannot be controlled.
This is the hope that lies in you.

We can hear the sound of all the earth rejoice,
with angels all around – lifting up their voice.
Where are you hopeful ones? Have we come undone?
There’s a stirring in your soul that cannot be controlled.
This is the hope that lies in you. This is the hope that lies in you.

And through all the questioning, You’ve been the hope in me.
Despite uncertainty, You’ve been the only constant thing.
And when I’m struggling, You keep on loving me the same.
This is the hope that lies in You.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
This is the hope that lies in You.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Come down – we need Your hope to come down.
We need Your grace to pour out. We need Your love to shine down.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Come down – we need Your hope to come down.
We need Your grace to pour out.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Come down – we need Your hope to come down.
We need Your grace to pour out. We need the face of God now. 
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

PS here is a link to Jake telling his story. Click here. 

Blogging again

I have not done this in a while. The first attempt at blogging found me with 3 followers – me, my son, and a guy who made a mistake. The second came out of an attempt to communicate with friends and family about our middle son Jacob and his “Journey Through Fire“. That blog grew to be a community that surrounded our family and carried us to the feet of Jesus. The blog was started by my oldest son who is an amazing writer and together we shared our hearts, our struggles and our victories.

Jacob’s “Journey Through Fire” came as the peak of a deep, dark desert time for me – a true “Dark Night of the Soul”. 5 years of wandering and trying to understand the direction that God was leading me.

Beginning January 1st I became the Lead Pastor at Cedar Grove Community Church. It is not what I was expecting…not what I was seeking. I thought that God had moved me out of being a pastor in fact I really did not want to be one. I was fed up and wounded. And yet God knew the plan that he had for me…

This blog is intended to focus on things to come as a pastor, leader, father, husband, friend and a broken yet restored child of God. While what I am is a result of what has been, so much more it is a result of who God has made me to be. So it seems right to go back to what I called the first blog as I seek to come to this journey with open hands, on bended knee. Hoping that both hardship and blessing will be open to the presence of Jesus on journey.

“For what great nation is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” Deut 4:7