On The Same Page

15 08 2017

I’ve been thinking a lot about the title phrase…”On the same page.” We use it when we want to be sure someone understands what we are saying. We use it to verify the requirements for a project or task. “Are we all on the same page?” In other words, “Does everyone understand the expectations?” That’s a really good question to ask.

One place that we ask this question (and we should often) is in a marriage relationship. We’re all familiar with the verse in Genesis that refers to this. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Hmmmm,…one flesh. Normally we think about this in only one area of the relationship. But could there be more? I think there can. We should be on the same page in all parts of that relationship. We should agree on financial matters. We should agree on household matters. We should agree on how to raise the kids. The list could go on and on. Sure, we’ll disagree on somethings but we should be willing to get to the place where we have a mutual understanding and agreement on what affects life and the marriage. Whew…that gives us something to think about huh? But can this go even further? While we’re asking the question for our marriage why don’t we ask it for our other, most important relationship? The one we have with our Heavenly Father.

Many, if not most, of us rarely consider whether we’re on the same page with God. We live like He says we should. We do what He asks of us (most of the time). We go to church and even serve some weekends there. But is that really being on the same page with Him? What if there’s more to it than that? Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that doing all of these things is wrong. There are times, though, we get into a routine and slowly, methodically — without thinking about it — push God into the margins of our life…all while doing the very things He asks of us. Before we know it we feel a million miles away from God and we’re definitely not on the same page. So how do we fix this? How do we continually stay on the same page while doing life? Here are a few things that you can do (simple things really) that can help. While they may seem simple and basic; sometimes we need to get back to the basics.

1. Pray. Just like any good marriage doesn’t survive without communication…our relationship with God won’t survive without it either. Simply put…talk to God. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him your hurts and pains. Tell Him your frustrations. Ask for His help (it really is ok to ask). You might be thinking, “God already knows all this stuff.” You’re right…He does. But the conversation isn’t as much for God as it is for us. He already knows all of the things that are going on in life. It helps us to put words to them though.

2. Read the Bible. God already gave us a lot of good things to do in life. They are contained in His Word. He wouldn’t have given it to us if it wasn’t important. A lot of the basics (and some of the not-so-basics) are right in black and white (and red) letters for us to read. So go ahead and read them. Then apply them.

3. Go to church. There’s nothing like doing life with a group of people that love God and help and support each other. It helps us to have someone ‘with skin on’ in our corner; someone that will laugh with us and cry with us. Yes we receive the Word of God there but it’s more than that. Don’t underestimate the time spent with a church family. They help keep you and God on the same page too.

Life is hard enough without causing trouble for ourselves. We need to learn that we have a part in our relationship with God. Just a few little things done on a regular basis will keep us “On The Same Page” with God. When we’re there…life is good indeed.

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Broken Doesn’t Mean Useless

12 07 2016

We’ve all, at one time or another, had a favorite toy. The older we get…the more expensive those toys become. Inevitably, like anything else in this life, those toys break. And when it’s one of our favorites our heart sometimes breaks too. It’s just how we are. We can’t avoid becoming attached to this object that brought hours of entertainment into our life. It provided an avenue for our imagination to roam free and challenges the boundaries of reality.

brokenBut no more…it’s broken. Sometimes the breaking came from something we did. We made a choice that caused this beloved object to suffer its now inoperable fate. We broke it. There are other times, though, that someone else breaks our most favorite, beloved toy. They broke it. Regardless of where we can place the blame one thing remains fact…it’s broken. Nothing can change it. We can no longer derive joy from interacting with our precious ‘whatever it was’.

So what do we do with those broken things? If we act like most people we throw it away. It no longer serves the purpose it was made for. It no longer functions properly. It’s now useless…isn’t it? For the most part this is true. We may be able to superglue it back together or buy a part and repair it but it really isn’t the same. We shelf it to keep the memories (think Toy Story when Woody’s arm tears).

But wait… What do we do if we’re the one that’s broken? What if the thing that needs repair is something deep within us? Do we apply the same logic to life as we do to things? Now we all know the answer to that…it’s a resounding “NO!” But sometimes people act like the same rules apply. They treat us differently and make the broken thing inside us that much more noticeable. And that makes us feel more broken and more useless. It amplifies the problem rather than providing a solution.

Just like with our toys the brokenness comes sometimes from choices we make and sometimes from choices others make. In my opinion…it’s the choices that others make that cause the deeper wounds and make healing more difficult. Those choices also amplify our uselessness in the midst of the brokenness and make us feel like we should just be shelved to preserve the memories. It’s easy to ‘shelve’ our self. It lessens the pain and anguish of the brokenness. But God never intended that for us…did He? No He didn’t.

If anyone could shelve himself I believe it was David. He definitely contributed to some of the situations he found himself in. But there were others that were totally because of what Saul did. He never chose to live in a cave. He never chose to leave his family. He never chose to fight for his life. But yet…here he was doing just that…because of something someone else was doing. And yet he still wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me… (Psalm 23:4 NIV)” David knew something that we need to know…God is always there. I mean we need to KNOW it. Our head tells us that He’s there…but our heart doesn’t. It’s in the broken times that our head and heart need to synch up so that we can weather the raging storm.

glow stickI’ll leave you with one last thing. Sometimes the breaking brings about something greater in us. Think of it like this…in order for a glow stick to ‘glow’ the interior tube has to break so that the chemical reaction can take place. This produces something that can light your way on the darkest of nights. Maybe…just maybe…God is using the brokenness in us to bring about something that shines through the darkness of this world to light our (and some one else’s) way.

So remember…when something gets broken…it’s not always useless.





There Is No Skip Button

2 03 2016

skip buttonDVR (digital video recorder) is, in my opinion, one of the greatest inventions of all time. I know that it’s the successor to the VCR but there are so many things that make it better. One of the best things about it is the skip button. This one feature grants the ability to skip small or large portions of the programming without watching at all. Have you already watched the first part of the program? Skip. Don’t care for a particular scene? Skip. Do you hate to watch the commercials? Skip. Do you not care about the Super Bowl but just want to watch the commercials? Skip. It’s convenience at the ultimate level!

Webster’s dictionary defines life as, “the period from birth to death.” This definition implies time and space. Both of which are fixed things. They can’t be changed no matter how much we would like them to (unless, of course, you’re starring in the latest science fiction blockbuster). Because of this fact we have to endure things as they come. No amount of wishing will change the circumstances that have happened or will occur.

Sometimes in life we wish there was a skip button. It would make it so much more convenient. We wouldn’t have to deal with any of the things we don’t like. But, alas, there’s no skip button. We don’t have the convenience of skipping the heartache and pain and going right to the fun and bliss. We don’t have the ability to skip disappointment or hurt. Sometimes we have to dig in and weather the storm that blindsides us. Sometimes we have to deal with a difficult circumstance that we would rather avoid. And at other times we get to experience the joy and blessings that life can bring. It all progresses along as a normal cycle. It comes and goes as time and choices that we make dictate the course of our lives. Each moment is experienced. None of them can be skipped.

nopainNo one is immune from wanting to skip things. Who wouldn’t want a way out of painful situations? Even Jesus wanted out of a looming situation that was going to cause Him great pain. When praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He asked if He could get out of what was coming. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ (Matthew 26:39)” Basically Jesus said, “I really don’t want to do this. Is there any way we can skip this part?” The human part of Him didn’t want to suffer the pain, humiliation, and agony He was about to endure. The key in His response is the last part of the verse, “…not as I will, but as you will.” It was a statement of trust in the Father and His ultimate plan.

There is one other thing about the DVR that I like. It is the ability to slow things down and look at something frame by frame. We are able to look at miniscule movements of characters on the screen and see subtle movements that are sometimes missed in ‘real time’. We need to learn to forget the skip button and search for the ‘slow motion’ button in life. This is the button that lets us stop and see the hand of God in all things. It’s the one that lets us hear the whisper of God when the world is roaring around us. It is the discipline of seeking God no matter what may come. How would it change our outlook if, instead of wanting to skip things, we brought them to God and trusted that He would be faithful to His promises? I’m guessing that it would radically change how we live and view things. When everything is viewed as an opportunity we embrace trouble in our lives rather than wanting to skip it. Then those opportunities can be acted on to enhance and enrich our lives and the lives of others. What we thought was a bad thing can be used as a tool for God’s glory. And it makes the great times that much sweeter.

remote controlUnfortunately life doesn’t come with a remote control. There’s no way to skip the things that we think are useless, painful, depressing…the list can go on and on. Why would we want to remove those things though? They can be moments through which we learn the greatest lessons in life. They’re invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. The ‘skippable’ moments can give us insights that we never dreamed of. So stop looking for the remote because, alas, there is no skip button.





Show Me Your Glory

21 11 2014

surrenderAs I sit here in Friday morning prayer a favorite worship song of mine is playing. It simply says, “Show me Your glory.” That’s something we all love to say. We want to bask in the glory of the Lord. But have we really ever wondered what it takes? Do we understand the requirements for the glory of God to be revealed?

I’m reminded of when Moses was on the top of the mountain with God. He was there day and night for 40 days. The Bible doesn’t say all that went on but we know that part of it was receiving the 10 Commandments from God. Then there is a conversation that is one of my favorites. It is found in Exodus 33. The conversation starts out with God being fed up with His people. Basically He says to Moses, ” Forget the promise I made to Abraham, these people don’t deserve it. I will make you into that nation.” To which Moses replied, “No. These are your people. How will anyone know that unless You go with us?” Of course this is paraphrased but you get the point. Moses is the only person anywhere in the Bible that talked that way to God and survived. He told God, “No,” and God listened. Jonah did that and was swallowed by a big fish.

What does this have to do with God showing His glory? It has a lot to do with it. This one conversation has several keys to seeing the glory of God revealed to us. One of the first things that I see is in Exodus 33:11. “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend…” In order to have a friend you have to spend time with them. That’s the implication here. Moses didn’t go to God and give Him a punch list. He talked to God and listened to what He had to say back. He spent enough time with God that a deep relationship developed. Deep enough that Moses could tell God no and He would listen.

It's about relationship

Another thing that I see is that Moses heart was in the right place when he told God no. All too often we want to dictate to God when and where the glory should be according to our agenda. But this wasn’t how Moses did things. He understood the frustration God was feeling because they had talked. Moses reminded God about His promises and that others needed to see God when they saw His people. I wonder if our desire to see God’s glory is for the same reason. Are we chasing the warm fuzzies or are we hungry for a move of God that reveals to others who He is?

The final thing I see is that Moses always wanted deeper things of God. It wasn’t enough to sit in the Tent of Meeting and talk with God. It wasn’t enough that God listened to the things he said. Moses wanted more. He wanted to really see God. And God’s response to that can be found in Exodus 33:17, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’” What a statement! We know that God knows our name. He knows everything. But this is different. It’s a statement of intimacy of both ends of the relationship. Moses knows God almost as well as God knew him. That’s why Moses could ask to see God’s glory.

So back to the original question. Do we understand the requirements for the glory of God to be revealed? I believe that Exodus 33 details some of those requirements. If I want to see the glory of God then I have to be willing to put the work in to get to know God. It’s a tall order…but I’m willing to do it. What about you? Can you, like Moses, ask God to show His glory to you?





Getting Good at Being You

31 01 2014

This one came from my Grandpa. It’s definitely worth posting. Thanks, Papa.

Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you……. (Jeremiah 1:5 — NCV)
Beginnings are very important. In fact, the place of origin has much to do with the quality of the journey as well as the final destination. My journey – like yours – began in the heart and mind of God. Before I took even one breath, God wanted, loved and planned me. That same truth applies to you, my friend. You are no accident. You and I were created in response to the love of God and according to His plans. God did not “accidentally” create us and then step back in alarm and say, “Oops! I created her. Now what am I going to do with her?” The plan came first.

There have been many times in my life when I doubted my worth and value. I filled every waking moment with activity – good things – thinking that if I did enough good things, I would be good enough. It didn’t work. I can never be good enough to earn the love and favor of God. The good news is that I don’t have to be. My worth and value rest in the fact that I am chosen by God to be His very own child. I am loved, wanted and planned by God Himself. Wow! God Himself supervised our formation. We were created – not to be a puppet – but for an intimate relationship with God.

Psalm 139:14-16 (NCV) “I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.”

When our son, Jered, was four-years-old, we enrolled him in a daycare for two mornings each week. Jered loved to play with other children and always seemed to get along with everyone. I was surprised and upset when his teacher asked me to come in for a conference. My husband said, “Honey, how bad can it be? Jered is only four!” Jered’s teacher met us with a smile and a good report. “Jered is a wonderful little boy,” she began, “but there is one problem. How long has Jered known he was adopted?” I was still clueless about that being a problem, but answered, “Since he began talking. We have told him repeatedly how special he is and that he is a chosen baby.” She smiled and went on to explain that Jered told the other children how he was special because he was adopted. In fact, Jered informed each child that his mom and dad had chosen him – while their parents “got stuck” with them.

Listen, my friend, when you begin to understand and live out the eternal truth that you are loved, planned, wanted and chosen by God, His perfect plan and highest purpose will naturally unfold before you each day. Remember, in His eyes, you are special, and His plan for your life is simply for you to get good at being you.





Where I Belong

27 01 2014

music“Here in Your courts where I’m close to Your throne, I’ve found where I belong.” That’s one of the lines from Hillsong’s You Are Holy. As I thought about my previous post I began whispering a prayer to God. It went something like this, “God, please keep me where I belong. I don’t want to pray performance based prayers…simply asking You to bless things that are coming up. I want to live in Your presence and have ministry flow out of the abundance that brings. I belong in Your presence. Help me stay where I belong.”

In ministry it’s easy to lose sight of living in God’s presence. It’s easy to get caught up in the things we’re doing, because they’re good things that we’re doing. After all it’s ministry we’re involved in. We’re working to change people’s lives and introduce others to Christ. But if we’re not careful we can fall into the trap of basing our life on those things rather than pursuing the God that gave us those dreams in the first place.

Years ago I remember hearing someone in church say, “I want to live under the spout where the glory comes out.” I thought it was corny at the time. Now though, I see the truth in that statement. We can’t expect God to bless what we’re doing if we don’t maintain the relationship that brought us to the position we now occupy. Jesus put it this way, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1,4-5 — NIV)”

Wait a minute! We can’t do anything apart from God. What!?! Didn’t He create us with gifts and talents? Didn’t He give us abilities to accomplish things for Him? The answer to both of these is yes. The thing to remember, however, is that we were never created to exist apart from God. It’s a symbiotic relationship. While He did create us with certain talents, gifts, and abilities they are not as effective when used apart from Him. That’s the ‘much fruit’ part of this passage.

surrender

David gives a great example of this whole discussion. He was the greatest king that Israel had. His men were fiercely loyal to him and he was fiercely loyal to those he served. He delivered his country from oppression on multiple occasions…starting with Goliath. We can all agree that he knew how to be king. None of this was his first priority though. Through his writings in the Psalms we see his true heart. He longed for the presence of God.

  • One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:1 — NIV)
  • Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Psalm 84:10 — NIV)

I believe this is why he was so successful as king. He made living in God’s presence a priority.

I’ve heard it said that we can’t get anything done on any given day unless we start it with God. I wholeheartedly agree. David gives us the example and Jesus gave us the command. It’s right there for us to see. We belong in God’s presence. We were created to be in God’s presence. It’s where we belong.





Right Where I Should Be

13 01 2014

Wow…how this month has flown by. We always talk about time flying by. It has certainly been the truth this past week. In case you didn’t know I have the privilege of starting in a new ministry position. I get to serve as the Children’s Pastor at Cape First Church in Cape Girardeau, MO. It is the first time in 20 years of ministry that I have not had to work bi-vocationally (work a ‘secular’ job along with pastoring). It is an amazing opportunity to get up every day and do what I love to do…minister to God’s people.

I have always wanted to be able to do just what I’m doing right now. The thing that really amazes me about all of this is how God works all things out. Paul put it this way, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 — NIV)” I shouldn’t be surprised about it…but I usually am. God has a way of doing things in us, for, us, and through, us that totally amaze us. This time is no different.

I guess the thing that amazes me the most is that God did for me what He has done for so many people we read about. He put me right where He wanted me…even when I thought it wasn’t possible. We read about Moses and how God repositioned him to lead the Israelite slaves from Egypt after running away as a fugitive. We see that He put Esther in the right place to save her people from genocide as the queen to a foreign king. We read of Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel. All of these people were put right where God wanted them to be when He wanted them there.

Jesus was always at the right place at the right time. He had to go to Samaria one day to keep an unspoken appointment with a woman. That conversation changed not only her life but the lives of her entire village. He amazed a crowd when he called Lazarus out of his tomb…4 days after He was told Lazarus was sick. I heard someone say it like this, “He’s never early and He’s never late. He’s always right on time.”

Not only was Jesus on time then, He is on time in our lives. How many times has God given you just what you needed right when you needed it? Maybe it was some needed encouragement. Maybe it was an unexpected tax refund. Whatever it was God positioned you for the blessing to touch your life right when you would need it. That’s what He did for me. And that’s what He can do for you.

One of the songs the kids sing on Sunday has this line…”No matter what I’m staying right here!” Will you stay on the path God has you on in order for Him to place you where He wants you? Are you willing to walk through the fire and let Him refine you? Will you walk the path God lays out for you so He can place you? It may not be easy. It may involve some pain. But when you get to the place God wants you it will be nothing short of amazing.





First of Firsts

3 01 2014

Image Credit: forwallpapers.com

It’s the third day of the year…of a new year. Most people are looking at the new year and counting the firsts. News channels are detailing the stories of new year babies. Others are looking at goals for the year. As I thought about this year and all the ‘firsts’ that would be talked about my mind drifted to the past and future firsts that we have all experienced.

The first time our kids cried in the delivery room. The first time they walked. The first time they talked. We remember the first day of school and the pictures that we all took. We recall our first job (whether mowing lawns or babysitting…or whatever it was). We remember the first time we drove with our brand new driver’s license. Maybe we remember the first day of our new job after graduating college. The smell of that not-so-new first car (mine was a Ford Bronco II in case you’re wondering).

All of these things are great to remember. And I believe that it’s important to look at the year ahead of us and make goals. We can’t, however, forget the first of firsts while we do this. Just in case you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about let me share this verse. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 — NIV)” We can’t forget that the Creator of all of our firsts is still there, in the beginning of this new year. He was always there…when we took our first step or when we laughed for the first time. He was there during our first heartbreak. He was there on our first difficult school test. He was always there…because He created you.

He is there in the tragic firsts. Like April 10, 1997. That was the day my first daughter stepped into Jesus’ arms. He is there in the joyous firsts. Like January 6, 2014 (this coming Monday). I have the privilege of changing jobs. I get to start full-time ministry for the first time in 20 years (first time ever…really).

trophyAs we look at the past and future firsts we can’t forget their purpose (because they really have one). Paul wrote to the Romans that, “..in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 — NIV)” Some of our firsts are difficult and some of them are not. Whatever the circumstance we can rest assured that God is in the middle of them. He has a vested interest in all of them since He uses them to mold and shape us for His glory.

Some of the firsts I would rather avoid. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like pain. It hurts. But if I avoided the pain I wouldn’t have seen God in the same way that I do now. So if that means that I have to experience some firsts that I don’t like the so be it. I’m willing to if it means God gets the recognition.

As we stand on breaking of this new year I challenge you to look for the firsts. They will teach you something about yourself and God as you walk through them. Remember and cherish the past firsts and the lessons that they taught you. Finally…always remember the First of firsts, God Almighty, is walking through each one of these with you. How do I know that? Well, He promised He would. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8 — NIV)”





Amazing!

18 12 2013

I have been working on something since September. It’s a 40 day devotional taken from posts on this blog. It has been an interesting project. God has done some really cool things in the middle of this. I’m happy to say that it released today. It is available now at my e-store. It is available worldwide on Amazon in print as well for the Kindle. You can reach those listings here.

40 Days At The Well

As many of you know I am continuing to post here on a regular basis. I shoot for twice a week (although sometimes it is more often). I set up a news page for notices on things like this so stop by and take a look for any new things in the works.

Thank you to everyone that has read and shared posts on this blog. It is exciting and humbling that God is touching and changing lives through this ministry.

In His Service,

Jeff





Really…Don’t Quit

16 12 2013

keep going“Hang in there.” “Don’t give up.” “You’ll make it.” We’ve all heard or said all of these things at least once in our life. I have heard them many times and have said them even more. They’re the default statements to our friends and family when in the midst of difficult circumstances. I really don’t like these statements though. Don’t get me wrong…I always appreciate encouragement…but it just seems like they’re the default things people say.

Most of the time we feel defeated, alone, and abandoned when we’re told these things by the well-meaning. Life has beat us up and we’re on the ropes waiting for the final knock-out blow. The crowd seems to be cheering for ‘the other guy’ and when we look in our corner it’s empty. So what’s the use? Why not give up? We’re done for anyway…right?

Over the last few days I have been listening to Tony Evans’ messages on stewardship. Really they were messages on sowing and reaping (great messages by the way…you should really listen). As he taught, I could tell God was trying to place something in me. Something that I could draw on in the times I’m ready to give up. And then I heard the verse that God had been getting me ready for. Are you ready for it?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 — NIV)” That verse hit me really hard and it has been rolling around in my head ever since. As I thought about the implications God began to unfold something to me. It is this. Too many people have missed what God was trying to do because they gave up.

One of the things I had to do in Southern California was replant the lawn twice a year. We had to plant summer grass and winter grass. It had to be done every year and I hated doing it. It was a two-day ordeal and things looked horrible after I completed the task. Well…in the beginning it looked horrible. Part of the process was cutting the existing grass down to the dirt so that there was nothing left of the existing lawn. I then needed to plant grass that would survive in that particular season (summer or winter). If you asked me whether I liked how the lawn looked after I was finished with the process I would tell you that it was ugly. Why? Because nothing was there. It looked like a patch of dirt. But oh the joy when I came home from work and saw the first shoots of green grass growing!

Go back to Galatians 6. In today’s society we are accustomed to instant results. We have video on demand, fast food, microwave popcorn, and many other things at our fingertips. Some things though take time. It takes time to grow tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers in the back yard. It takes time for the seasons to change. It takes time for the California Redwoods to grow to their splendor. It’s not instant. There’s a proper time for it to come about. If the tomatoes were picked too soon they wouldn’t taste good.

It is no different in life. There is a proper season for EVERYTHING that comes about. God hasn’t forgotten about us and is carefully keeping an eye out for the proper time..HIS proper time. Sometimes though it depends on us. We have a say in whether that proper time comes about. As much as we don’t want to hear it…don’t quit. Really. Hang in there. Your proper time is coming! God made a promise and He intends to keep it. Just don’t quit.








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