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Showing posts from 2012

Grandparents

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My family finds ourselves wrapping up Thanksgiving vacation by preparing to drive to Indianapolis for my Mammaw's funeral. This is my last grandparent to celebrate their "homecoming."

I am immeasurably thankful for the legacy of faith, hope, and love from all of my grandparents.  My prayer is that one day my own children and grandchildren will reflect on my life, and feel as blessed as I do tonight.  All four of my grandparents, Helen & August Nelson and Lucille & Jack Joiner, have passed on physically, yet remain with me completely.  As strange as it may seem, I don't fell empty at all.  My heart is abundantly full!

The last few lines of Mammaw's favorite Psalm (Psalm 91) say this:
The LORD says: "I will rescue this who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue them and honor them.
I will satisfy them with long life and give them my salvation."

Amen.

Her…

Real Hope (slightly political)

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Call me cynical. Which is an odd way to begin a blog entry from an eternal optimist. However, when it comes to politics, I admit that I have no faith nor hope in our two-party-sling-as-much-mud-as-you-can-and-make-promises-to-get-elected-then-don't-keep-them system. In this election year, I realize that I am not alone.  There is no danger in my publicly endorsing a particular candidate (which is frowned upon for pastors), because I honestly can't endorse either.  I will, however, cast my vote for who (in my opinion) is the "lesser of two evils."

I realize that this is discouraging for many.  What kind of world will our kids live in?  Where is the hope?

The opening line to an ancient hymn spells it out for me: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."  (The Solid Rock)

Our hope is not in this election, nor in any political party or candidate.  Our hope is Jesus.  Jesus said,"I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John:…

Anger Management

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On several unrelated occasions recently, I've been asked, "Is it wrong to stay mad at someone, and not let it go?"

The human emotion of anger is not wrong in itself.  Things happen to all of us that cause a passionate reaction - we all get mad.  In many cases, this is the correct and emotionally healthy response to have.  To use a little Christianese: getting angry is not a sin.

BUT...

Ephesians 4:21-31(NLT)
21 Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus,22 throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. 23 Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. 24 You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness -- righteous, holy, and true. 25 So put away all falsehood and "tell your neighbor the truth" because we belong to each other. 26 And "don't sin…

Doing It

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It's been a while, so here's a thlought to hold you over until I get back to regular blogging.

Live8 (Reflections on IYC2012, Denver)

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Last week I was blessed to represent Oaklawn Church of God, and join with about 5,000 from all over the country (and a few from other countries) for IYC2012 in Denver, CO.  Great trip with awesome friends, and inspiring worship music and speakers!  I would like to share just a few thoughts based on the theme.

Live8 is based on Romans 8.  The challenge was, and continues to be, to not just hear the words of this powerful chapter of the Bible, but to live these words out daily.  I've been thinking there are 66 "books" in the Bible, maybe a good theme for my life would be Live66.  Here are the 4 themes and my thoughts:

Live FREE.  I think most people want to really live free, but I'm not convinced we generally know what that means.  I have learned that to live free is not to do as you please, so long as no one gets hurt (and there are those who don't even consider that second part).  There is a grip that darkness can hold on us.  Be it something in the past, or some …

Coming Soon: "Week of Worship Witnessing"

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Psalm 9 begins this way: "I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done."  Then the writer spends the next few verses praising God and telling what He has done, after which the reader or hearer of the Psalm is compelled to join in: "Sing praises to the LORD who reigns in Zion.  Tell the world about his unforgettable deeds. (v.11)"

Sometimes I wonder, have we compartmentalized the Christian faith too much?  What I mean is, I've observed that most Christians have their "worship time," then "prayer time," then "good works time," then "entertainment time," then "family time," then "me time."  Isn't it all supposed to be connected?  Is it possible that the reason so many of us sometimes feel "out of balance" is that we're compartmentalizing what is meant to be a connected and cohesive way of life?

I happen to think the writer of Psalm 9,…

It's a Lonely Ol' Night

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Recently a friend of mine wrote on his blog about the factors that lead to lonely pastors, which has inspired me to write a few thoughts of my own on the subject. By the way, in my opinion, my friend Malcolm, is right on!  Check out what he has to say: 5 Factors That Lead to Lonely Pastors

I suppose I should warn you, I am about to be very transparent.


Being a pastor can be an extremely lonely occupation.  In 1998, I began working full-time as a pastor.  From '98-2004 as a Student Ministry Pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from 2004-2007 as an Associate Pastor in Coral Springs, FL, and for the past 4.5 years as the Lead Pastor with Oaklawn Church of God in Hot Springs, AR.  My family is in Louisiana and Indiana.  My wife's family is in Ohio.  Distance from close family is certainly a factor.  The obvious factors being holidays and special occasions which most folks get to celebrate with their extended families.  These can be enjoyed with "church family" but it's not the…

Remember or celebrate? Or both?

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Memorial Day is a day on the calendar set aside to honor and pay tribute to those soldiers who have given their lives serving the country and representing our freedom.  At least that's how it is supposed to be.  Just an observation: Memorial Day has been replaced by "Memorial Day Weekend." 

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for grilling, going to the beach (or lake), playing with the family and friends, and taking a break from the regular routine.  If I'm being honest, routine and I don't get along very well anyway.  These are all part of living life to the fullest... but so is remembering and paying tribute. 

Maybe I miss it, but I don't see a lot of people pausing to reflect and honor the fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.  This is why I make it a point to include some type of recognition, as well as  moment or silence, during the church worship gathering on the Sunday before Memorial Day (I also take time on Memorial Day itself for a personal moment of si…

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

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This week, the President of the United States came out in public support of gay marriage... to much controversy and support and disapproval. If you've been around a minute, you know that commentary on anything political is an extremely rare occurrence for me... it's time for an occurrence.

I have a number of thoughts on the subject, but before I do, let me answer the accusation, "You Christians make these judgements, and you don't even know any gay people." Seriously?  I do.  I know several, both men and women.  Not only do I know people who are, but some of them I call "friend" in the truest sense of the word... even to the closeness of feeling more like family.  So let me approach this not as a random, faceless subject, but with this scenario: what if one of my close friends, who happens to be gay, wanted to enter the covenant relationship of legal marriage, only to be told that what they desire is impossible and illegal?

#1 - my heart breaks for my …

If it's God's will, it will happen... or will it?

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The other day I was in a conversation with a group of young people, and one of them was wrestling with how to approach their college career.  It costs quite a bit to attend where they would like to.  And someone made this statement, "You know what, if it's God's will, it will happen."

I didn't say anything.  And honestly, I've been wrestling with that statement a bit ever since. What does that really mean: "If it's God's will, it will happen"?  And, well... is it necessarily true?

Perhaps the question behind the question is, "What is God's will?"  Like, what do the words "God's will" even mean?  Does God have a perfect will for my life that means I have to attend a specific institute of higher learning, and if I get my degree from someplace else, then... I'm totally outside of God's will?

Also, does God get what He wants?  I read that question somewhere, with the implication that, YES, God does get what He…

HE is... (a poem)

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HE is...

HE is Creator, Life-giver
Lord of earth, Lord of sky
Yahweh, Elohim,
Adonai, El-Shaddai
In the beginning was the Word
The Word was Light and Life and good
And the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood
His name is Yeshua Messiah
His name is Christ Jesus
He is Redemption, Restoration,
The only One who could free us
Burning bush, Holy ground,
I-AM-WHO-I-AM
Living Water, Mana from heaven
He is the spotless Passover Lamb
He is.

He is the God-of-angel-armies
He is the Name, HaShem
Father, Son, Spirit, God
Brother, Mother, Lover, Friend
He is provider; He is Healer,
Prince of Peace, Mighty God,
He is Wonderful Counselor
Worthy, Holy, the Narrow Road we trod.
He is the Only Begotten
Son of God, Son of Man
The Way, the Truth, the Life,
Chief Cornerstone and Master Plan.
He is.

He is the River of Life
He is the Holy Mountain
Lily of the Valley, Rose of Sharon,
The Ever-flowing Fountain
He is Love,
He is Peace,
Light of the world
Whose wonders never cease!
He is the Road an…

Apprentice

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A Reflection (a poem)

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A Reflection
Dear God, please tell me that who I see In this fun-house mirror isn't really me All mangled and warped out of proportion I want to sing again that "Jesus is my portion." But words have hurt Done something drastic I feel like dirt  And look like plastic God, please tell me this isn't real Please tell me again that who I am is not based on how I feel Strengthen me, rock me, Open my eyes and shock me      with the way that You see me 'Cuz it's a sure bet That I haven't really ever seen myself Your way yet Here I am in the mirror feeling weak and small And You say I'm bullet-proof and 10-feet tall You say I'm beautiful, smart, fantastic You say a real God don't make junk out of plastic God, show me the real me, as I appear to You And forgive me for looking at the person in the mirror...      instead of You

And I quote, "My parents are right."

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This week, our oldest, Christian, had his 15th birthday.  Yes... I have been known as "Daddy" for 15 years, and I love it!

At his birthday party, I overheard a conversation between C-man and one of his friends.  They were discussing video games, and the friend mentioned a particular game.  My teenager says, "Whoah... what are you doing playing that game?"  He then went on, "When I was younger, I told my parents that I was at a friend's house and he was playing that game, and they told me that they did not want me to play, or watch that game again... ever!"  As my son's friend looked at him with a dude-do-you-really-listen-to-your-parents? expession, my son answered the unspoken question, "You know what?  I agree with them 100%.  The themes in that game are destructive, and it really does cause you to think about things you shouldn't."

A part of me prays a prayer of thankfulness that my teenager is thinking so clearly about these thin…

There is HOPE!

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After a great morning of mutual encouragement, catching up, and training with my monthly Pastor's Group at my favorite coffee shop, I drove around the backside of the building to take a shortcut to some Chinese food.  There, spray-painted graffiti on the side of another building was this:

Immediately, I thought, "Wow! I wasn't expecting that.  Out of no where, I came face to face with the message, "There is HOPE!"  Hope is like that, isn't it?  Sometimes where and when you least expect it... but always right on time... there is Hope.

And to top it all off, this was in the fortune cookie that came at the end of the Chinese meal: "It is hope, not despair, which makes successful revolutions."

The P.E.A.C.E.F.U.L. rEVOLution continues.  There is Hope!  Indeed.

Sharing the Irony

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Up early this morning. Just me and our 22-month old (Jericho) & our 8-month old (Nile).  Playing in the floor of the nursery.  In the midst of much giggling and squealing and counting (Jericho LOVES counting!), I found myself directing my sons with this ironic phrase:

"You're the older brother; YOU have to share."

And the paybacks begin.

Train up a child. You can do it!

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One day this week, as I was heading out the door to the office, my 22-month old son asked me, "Bible book?" "Bible book" is what he calls our Bible Story Book that we read each night, as a family, before bedtime.  He has never asked to read "Bible book" any other time before this.  I think he asked because I had been out late at a meeting the night before, and missed the family devotions time.  Maybe he wanted to make sure I read the Bible, too.

We sat in my chair and went through what has become a nightly routine for our family.  He spells B-I-B-L-E, then says, "Bible!" We all sing the "B-I-B-L-E" song, you know... the one from Sunday School.  Then I point to the Man surrounded by children on the cover, and ask, "Who's this?"  He answers, "Jesus!" I then point to the children all around Him, asking, "And who are these?"  My son answers, "Children!"  We then sing, "Jesus loves the little…

God speaks. Listen.

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Recently, in the midst of a particularly tough week, I found myself in a season of fasting and prayer.  I spent days calling out to... at times crying out to... God; and I spent a lot of time listening to the Holy Spirit speak into my life through His Word, meditation, and the counsel of spiritual leaders.

I went to the fitness center where I work out regularly.  There was no one else there - no one.  So, I began my workout, talking to God at the same time (which I usually do, but especially during this particular difficult season).  On the floor of the weight room, by  my feet, I noticed a slip of paper.  I picked it up. 

God speaks in so many different ways, and what He says to you will always coincide with His Word.  You have access to the voice of God - the Holy Bible.  Listen.

What I would have tweeted (a recap of HGC)

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A few weeks ago, I attended the Network Gathering of Healthy Growing Churches (HGC).  Throughout the week, there were numerous times when I thought, "Oooh, I should tweet that!" only to remind myself that I am fasting social media during Lent.  I did take a lot of notes, though, so here are some things I would have shared in 140 characters or less, from the #HGCgathering:

* The 1st thing that needs to be done is figure out what needs to be done.
* Lead as Jesus would through tough circumstances.
* The responsibility for learning is the student's, not the teacher's (or coach).
* KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY!
* Trust God for the long-term; the things you may never see.
* We take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.
* Not all leaders in churches really want their church to grow.
* Hiring staff is hard because pastors believe God can change anybody.
* The best choices for staff hires come from within.
* And I quote: "God is good, people suck."
* You att…

You'll never believe what I just heard!

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For many months I've been methodically studying, and teaching through, the Sermon On the Mount of Jesus (Matthew 5-7).  Two over-arching take-aways for me have been this: God really cares about our relationships, and He really desires that we embrace His peace.

This is why He has so much to say about how we interact with others.  This week, I'm starting chapter 7, which begins with , "Do not judge others, or you will be judged.  You will be judged by the same measure that you use to judge someone else."  There are two reasons why we're prone to judge:
1) we attempt to feel better about ourselves, to lift ourselves up, by putting someone else down.  Deep down we feel disconnected from a holy God, and being "better than" someone else, anyone else, means I'm not "the worst."
2) we attempt to control others with criticism, condemnation, and sometimes even ignoring them.  The thought is, "They don't do what I think they should, so let …

Why I'm fasting social media

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Lent is the season of fasting and prayer which prepares the follower of Christ for the unique celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  As I mentioned in a previous blog article, what one fasts, or "gives up," for Lent, should be something of a sacrifice; something from which pleasure is taken on a regular basis.  For most folks, this is some food item or type of food.  For others, it is a specific "vice." Fasting doesn't take place on Sundays, as Sunday is the "Feast Day" or considered a "Mini-Easter."  Whatever one gives up for Lent, one is to redeem the time spent on that activity with renewed focus on Jesus and His Way.

This year, I prayerfully chose to fast social media.  Which led to a funny conversation in my Sunday morning discipleship group, and this very tweetable line: "So, what is 'social media' anyway?"  FYI, I am specifically fasting Twitter and Facebook... by process of elimination.

-Coffee. For thos…

Off to the Races

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A couple of weeks ago... it was a Monday, President's Day, to be exact... I took the "back route" from the office to the fitness center where I work-out.  This is the first time I have ever taken these side streets during what we know in Hot Springs as "Race Season" (aka The Onslaught of People Who Can't Drive).  In the four years I have lived here, this is the first time I really "saw" this race-track thing, because I have learned how to avoid the traffic.  Seeing what was going on down the side streets really opened my eyes.

So, here are a few reality checks that came to me:
* People will take off work on a Monday to attend the races.
* People will drive for hours to attend the races.
* People will park blocks and blocks away to attend the races.
* People will walk those blocks (in some pretty tall heels I might add) to attend the races.
* People know the track wants there money, and they're willing to let it loose when they attend the ra…

40 Days

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Some thoughts on the season of Lent, prayer, fasting, and Focus40.

Many apprentices of Jesus practice Lent every year, beginning on Ash Wednesday (this year, Feb. 22) and ending on Maundy Thursday (this year, April 5).  This is to spend 40 days in preparing one's self for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus (this year, Easter Sunday is April 8).  The Sundays in between aren't counted in the 40 days, as they are "Feast Days" or "mini-Easters," celebrating the victory of Jesus over sin and death.  There are sects and individuals who vary on the exact days and times of Lent, so it isn't so much about "doing it right" according to tradition, but "doing it right" according to your heart.  For instance, many observe Lent through Easter Sunday instead of Maundy Thursday.

Traditionally, Lent is a season of fasting certain foods or activities.  Each individual should seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in determining what they will…

Like father, like son

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Today, my wife Shelly found our 20-month old son, Jericho, getting into my things again. This time was different than the usual (daily), him making random calls with my cell phone, or hiding the TV remote.  Today, she found him sitting in my "study spot" at the dining room table, wearing my reading glasses and "reading" my Bible.  She snapped this candid pic.

It hit me all over again just how much my boys watch what I do.  Our kids watch and learn.  All the world is their classroom, especially the home.  What are we teaching them?

In light of my continuing study through Jesus' "Sermon On the Mount," I know this runs the risk of coming across self-serving and pretentious.  I almost feel like I need to add a disclaimer here: I'M NOT PERFECT!  While I am a very proud daddy at this very moment (he also said the blessing for dinner for the very first time tonight: "Thank You Jesus. Amen."), I am far from being a perfect daddy... or husband...…

Left Hand, Right Hand, Twitter & Facebook

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Recently, I took a break from posting "status updates" to Twitter, aka "tweeting."  As the vast majority of any posts I make to Facebook are through my linked Twitter account, this also meant I was taking a break from posting "status updates" there too.

This came about as a personal response to my studying/teaching/preaching through Jesus' Sermon On The Mount, specifically, Matthew 6:1-6.

Jesus says, "Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired..."  He doesn't say don't do public good deeds, and He doesn't say don't allow anyone to admire you.  It's a matter of the heart.  What do I truly value?  What are my true motives? 

Continuing, Jesus says, "don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing."  This is a reference to one's closest friends.  The "right hand" is your confidant, or closest friend.  The "left hand" is the one who covers your weak spot.  Today we would…

Are You Ready For Parenthood?

I promise more "real" blog entries are coming.  I just had to share this 100% right-on parenting funny from Mikey's Funnies:

ARE YOU READY FOR PARENTHOOD?

A brief battery of tests for prospective parents

MESS TEST: Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Now dig with your hands in the wet flower bed and rub on the walls. Cover the stains with crayons. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

TOY TEST: Obtain a 55-gallon box of Legos. (If Legos are not available, you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles.) Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream, as this could wake a child at night.

GROCERY STORE TEST: Borrow at least two small animals (goats are best). Take them with you as you shop at the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

DRESSING TEST: Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff it i…

P.E.A.C.E.F.U.L. Revolution

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I'm continuing to prepare my heart for jumping into Matthew 6, all-in, with Oaklawn Church of God tomorrow.  Over 6 months ago, I began to read, study, and process Jesus' Sermon On the Mount in preparation of teaching from His words.  Through this time, God has led me to 8 specific principles that I have personally been working on...

...and in all honesty, I realize how much work I have yet to do.  What I mean is, this weekend I'm preaching from Matthew 6:1-4, and my toes are a smashed/mangled mess.  The weird thing about this is - I am PUMPED about having my toes stepped on!  I sense the genesis of a new season of fresh awakening, and I am breathing the fresh air of renewal!  Have you had the sensation of the clouds being lifted, and you had never realized they were there?

Here are the 8 principles that I believe combine to create, sustain, and share the inner-peace that Jesus Messiah brings.  These are not "pick-and-choose."  One must discover & employ them…

15 Excercises We'd Be Better Off Without in 2012

Got this in my daily email from Mikey's Funnies and thought I would share it here:

15 EXERCISES WE'D BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT IN 2012...

~ Jumping on the bandwagon       

~ Wading through paperwork

~ Running around in circles       

~ Pushing your luck

~ Spinning your wheels           

~ Adding fuel to the fire

~ Beating your head against the wall   

~ Climbing the walls

~ Beating your own drum           

~ Dragging your heels

~ Jumping to conclusions           

~ Grasping at straws

~ Fishing for compliments           

~ Throwing your weight around

~ Passing the buck