Faith & Family

September 4, 2013

To learn more about Orange read Think Orange by Reggie Joiner.

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Faith & Family Handout

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Hezekiah had just been spared his life. The Lord had added 15 years of grace to his life after telling him he was going to die. Then Hezekiah shows a group of delegates from Babylon around the palace and shows them all of the riches he had amassed. Upon hearing about this from the Lord Isaiah confronts him about the situation and the following exchange occurs.

 

Isaiah 39:5-8 (NIV)
5Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: 6The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 7And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8“The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

 

What? “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Really! The treasures of the Kingdom will be stripped away and even the people of the Kingdom, some your own kin, will be bond servants of another kingdom. Why is this good Hezekiah? The text says it is because “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” Wow! The reason for not getting upset is that he won’t be around to see it.

 

How does that sound to you? Of course it sounds self centered, conceited, not very impressive for a leader of God’s kingdom. How could that be?

 

Wait a second. Doesn’t this sound a bit familiar? Taxes are going to be astronomical in 50 years but I don’t have to worry about it. There will be enough social security for me. The Church may not be here in thirty years but I won’t have to worry about it. Let the young people worry about it. Really! Hezekiah? Is that how the generation before you prepared for your future?

 

What are you passing on? Are you passing down trouble for the future because of your unwillingness to address issues? Well you say, I never got in the way of change. Ok but what did you do to promote the change that was needed for this and future generations? Well, my generation made it fine. Really, what has your generation done to help the next generation connect with Jesus? What have you done to prepare the way of the Lord in the coming generation? Will some of your own kin be subjects of the alternate kingdom? It’s something to think about.

Reckless

July 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

The story is told in Luke 7:36-50:

Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We often focus on the parables Jesus teaches removed from the context they are told in. The context of this parable is particularly significant in helping me to apply it to my walk with the Lord.

The story follows on the heels of a dialog about John the Baptist wherein we are told that the Pharisees had rejected John’s baptism of repentance and had therefore rejected Gods will for themselves. After this a Pharisee had invited Jesus to dinner. Sounds nice of him right? Well, not so much, you see when Jesus arrives at the dinner he is denied even the most basic consideration by the host (see the comments of Jesus’ later in the story). This leads me to wonder if it was one of those dinners. You know the one where you are not necessarily there for the roast but to be roasted.

As you recall while they are at dinner a woman enters, weeping at the feet of Jesus, wipes his feet with the wetness of her tears then breaks an alabaster jar of perfume and anoints his feet with it, the very things that the host had neglected to give Jesus she pours out recklessly.

There are a few things to point out about the woman. First of all she is reckless in getting to Jesus; she pursues him in spite of the inappropriateness of her presence at the meal. Second, she obviously had very little concern about what anyone else thought about her other than Jesus. Third, she gave all she had. The alabaster Jar that was broken, if it compares to the cost of the perfume poured on Him by Mary in Mark 14, was worth a year’s wages. Many believe this may have been given as a dowry for a young girls wedding so it would have great sentimental value as well.

When the host is critical of Jesus and the woman, Jesus tells a story about forgiveness and gratitude, indicating that those who are forgiven a great debt are most grateful.

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said:

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

The question I then ask myself in relation to this story is:

Am I reckless in my love for Jesus in response to His grace and mercy or am I complacent about my relationship with Him?

Am I reckless:

  • In my worship of Him?
  • In my giving for Him?
  • In my serving for Him?
  • In my living for Him?
  • In loving God and others for Him?

Jesus has loved me recklessly, he has poured out his love on me beyond measure, how can I respond with a mechanical, metered, passionless love? May it never be!

Romans 6:1-4 (NIV)
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

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I love shopping at thrift stores.  In High School my friends and I would buy outlandish, odd, and unique t-shirts.  We would purchase shirts from: family reunions, all-girl private schools, the girl scouts, and anything else that would look odd on a teenage guy.  To this day, I have a favorite t-shirt (which still fits) that has a little rabbit on it and says, “I’m the baby brother.”  The irony, that is lost on many, is I am the eldest child in my family (It’s ok if you don’t get it).

My favorite thrift store though is the Goodwill Outlet.  A Goodwill outlet is different than a normal Goodwill.  The Outlet is where all the leftovers or overstock from normal Goodwills is sent to be sold before being recycled.  What makes this my favorite thrift shop is everything is dumped in large containers you must sort through.  It is common to walk in and see clothing flying above people’s heads as they dig to find a single item of value in all the trash.

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Another reason I like it is you also never know what might happen.  On several occasions I have seen verbal shouting matches over items.  Employees have also shared stories with me of customers getting into physical altercations.  In these passionate searches for items of value I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ analogy for the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13.

Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV)

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Inside this parable I often overlook that someone is actively searching.  I forget sometimes that at one point I searched for it as well, and there were times I didn’t find it.  It can take a lot out you to search for something and come up empty handed.  Maybe you’re someone who has been searching for the kingdom of God and haven’t found it yet.  Don’t give up the search.  My urge to you who may not have found it yet, keep looking.  It may take some time and effort, but when you find it you will be thrilled you continued your search.  If I can help, in anyway, point you in the right direction please let me know.  There is nothing like the expression of the person who finds something of great value in the midst of trash.

Question: What is the best item you have ever found at a yard sale or second-hand store?  How did you find the “kingdom of heaven”?  How do you help others find it?

Additional Materials

Hello, My Name Is Mommy Handout

Hello, My Name Is Mommy Small Group Lesson

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Go for the Goal

May 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

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You hear a lot about goals these days especially when it comes to business and leadership.  I never really gave much thought to having goals.  I heard talk about how important it was to have goals and the best practices for achieving your goals, but I thought it was all rubbish.  I assumed it was some scheme or snake oil trick to prey on unskilled individuals looking to reach their dreams.

 

Here is what I know about goals (which you have probably, like me, heard before):

1. Be Specific

Trying to achieve everything will end with you achieving nothing.

2. Make Action Steps

So you have the end in mind, now how to you get there?  Spell it out.  What are the steps you need to take.

3. Make a Deadline

A deadline isn’t a death date, it’s a catalyst agent.

4. Write It Down

It makes it real and puts it in front of you as a reminder and motivator, like a carrot on a stick in front of a donkey (No, I’m not calling you a donkey…or that).

5. Repeat

You have to constantly evaluate your goals and set new ones to replace the ones you achieve.

 

I really should have paid more attention to what people were saying about goals while I was growing up.  As a student I didn’t realize I had goals.  I didn’t take myself through a goal setting process.  My goals were unknowingly thrust upon me.  School is a factory for goals.  You want to do your best in each class, to have a good GPA, to take better classes, to learn more, to do better on the SATs/ACTs, to get into a good college.  Then once you’re in college you want to do well, to keep your GPA up, to keep your scholarship(s), to get a good job.

These goals were automatic and endless, creating a student that didn’t truly understand personal goal setting, initated and defined by me alone.  Once I was out in the “real world” and I had no outside force determining my path and I got stuck and didn’t move.  Until I put the time and effort into practicing and relearning all those things people had tried to teach me before.  Only then did I start to get traction in my life and begin to see progress.

So here are my warnings to you:  Goals are important.  Start early.  Keep vigilant.

 

Question: What are some of your goals?

Anger

Anger. It’s such a passionate and volatile emotion. I remember as a child, being a small kid, I was known to get picked on a time or two. Like many kids that deal with this I often contained my anger assuming, if I asserted myself in the moment, it would only make things worse for me. Later, removed from the situation, in my dreams I would have the best one liners and the courage to combat anyone no matter their size. Much like the movies portray, though every so often I would be pushed to the brink and just SNAP. At these moments I would react so suddenly like dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. I would just vomit all my aggression and frustration with my situation on the instigator and bystanders. It never failed that after the fizzy fun foam had settled I was left covered in a messy, sticky situation.

This same problem has occurred to me in my spiritual walk as well. I continually struggle getting frustrated with people around me living in contradiction to the truths and teachings of Jesus. I become upset and angry at how they can miss what is right before their eyes. Most of the time my reaction is to stew and let this disgust fester. But like getting picked on, I will occasionally unleash my fury by gossipy conversations or flat out berating them for their actions.

In both situations I have discovered the truth is my anger is really coming from within. I am angry with God or myself. Angry at the situations I have been dealt and had to deal with. I am also angry with my own struggles, shortcomings and sin. I find it easier to use my neighbors as my scapegoats. Jesus knew this would be the case.

Luke 6:41
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

So how do I get rid of it? This anger that plagues me.

The answer. Get active. It’s that simple. Anger is such a passive and wimpy emotion. It is a lazy way to deal with feelings and situations. By active I don’t mean go get a slushy and throw it into the face of the last person who said an unkind word to you. I mean you should fill your life with such good things that you don’t have time to worry or be angry. As a kid I became so angry about situations when I had time to dwell on things that weren’t worth it. If you find yourself preoccupied with the actions of other Christians, that probably means you aren’t being active enough with your faith. Setting an example will make it easier for them to notice their speck than you beating them with your plank. So pull the plank out of your eye and get moving!!!

Question: How can you make your faith more active?

Notes of Thanks

May 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I have been a fan of Jimmy Fallon since his days on Saturday Night Live.  I loved that Jimmy had difficulty making it through sketches without cracking up.  It was like watching a fan of the show get the opportunity to be a part of the cast.  So naturally I became a fan of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  One bit I look forward to every week is Jimmy’s thank you notes.  He writes witty thank you notes to literally anyone and anything.  Here is a clip so you get the feel:

Recently, as I was watching I thought, “That isn’t a half bad idea; sending thank you notes out to people each week.”  I have always been a thankful person, but I have always had difficulty expressing my thanks to others.  I was the child who would get a gift for my birthday or Christmas and you might get a thank you note a month later.  (This was through no fault of my mother, by the way.)  I was instructed to do it, but I just didn’t have a great system to follow through.  So I decided to give this a try.

So Fridays at the end of the day, I now sit at my desk play the same music (because I can and it makes me laugh) from Jimmy Fallon’s show I found on YouTube and write my weekly thank you notes.  I am hoping this helps convey my thankfulness to the individuals around me, but I believe this action will also make me a more thankful person.

 

Question: Who do you need to send a thank you note to this week?  Why?

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For a long time, I have considered myself a realist. Growing up in school I was taught to think logically and critically. So I did. I did it to the point where I set limitations on myself and others. I began to see the world through lenses I had created which I thought gave me 20/20 vision. Since I could see crystal clear through the glasses I created, I began evaluating events around me. I felt I could decipher the success or failure of individual’s choices and actions. The worst part for me was I discovered I was right, often.

Having the ability to see things as they truly were and the capability to foresee the future led me to become a reality cop. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Right? Now, I never went and squashed someone’s dreams but I didn’t help many people achieve their dreams either. More often, I would watch waiting for failure.

I concluded I was living in the real world and those dreamers conjuring up possibilities were living a fantasy. They were wasting time on their “dreams” and needed a “reality check.” Society seemed to encourage this as well. I mean the words fantasy and dream have a stigma to them. They are seen as something a child does and is suppose to grow out of. Which is how I saw anyone who dabbled in these behaviors. I felt these individuals were fooling themselves and I was NOT going to be a fool. I didn’t want to end up like one of those contestants on American Idol seeking my dream only to realize I have no talent.

I held on to this mindset for a long time till I discovered these 3 problems with being a realist:

1. You’re a fun sucker

No matter what, a realist sucks the fun and joy from others and themselves. Even if you don’t vocalize your opinion it makes it’s way out through other avenues.

2. You’re limiting yourself

Submitting to a realism mindset means you are drawing limits. One would think we would learn this is incredibility stupid as many times as we hear phrases like, “there is no explanation” and “no one saw this coming.”

3. You’re actually a pessimist

A realist is just a pessimist that rationalizes well. They say the same things a pessimists says, they just use “facts” and their understanding of the world to justify their negative outlook.

Upon recognizing these problems, I realized I was just scared of not reaching my dreams. Before, I didn’t realize I was missing out on the journey. Being a realist I thought it was all about the destination. I was missing out on the the adventure in seeking my goals.

Instead of living, I was existing. I thought I was living in the “real world.” The paradox was, I was a Christian.

Mark 10:27

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

I would acknowledge all things were possible. I would point to the ultimate example of salvation as proof. I would even marvel at the miracles and possibilities of others, but I didn’t believe all things were possible for me.

So now I’m in recovery. I have given up my view of the world. I’ve decided God has a lot better vision than I do. And when He is in control, who knows what He can accomplish through me. The limits are up to God, which means there are NONE.

Question: Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist? Why?

First Sonogram cropped

Wow!!! It is hard to describe how I feel right now. I am so excited. I have known I wanted to be a father my entire life. At the same time, I am SCARED to death. The thought of being responsible for someone’s physical well being is enough cause for concern. Combine that with the idea of being responsible for someone’s spiritual well being and that’s enough to petrify you. The idea that I am responsible for someone’s soul is a big weight. One I don’t take lightly. I understand spiritual matters are an individual decision, but if I am not responsible for the spiritual upbringing of my child, who is? Despite my reservations, it is something I am really looking forward to. To know I will be the one to teach my child about God is something that is blowing my mind.

I have had the great opportunity to teach many people about God as a Youth Minister, Youth Intern, and as a student leader in high school. Some of my favorite teaching moments have been teaching people with no knowledge of God, Christianity, or the Bible (Yes, those people exist in America). Those opportunities are amazing, to see someone’s eyes light up when they get it. It is unbelievable to see them meet Jesus and to see their life change. However, none of that can compare to the opportunity to introduce my child to the Creator of the universe.

 

To show him/her:

God was there from the beginning, how He wants a relationship with him/her, a relationship more intimate than the one I have with him/her.

God provided for His people over and over again. That no matter what people did, God’s grace was always there for them.

Examples of people that stood up for God no matter what, like the prophets who even when their own people turned against God, they still stood for God and spoke the truth.

Jesus and the sacrifice he made for his/her sins and the salvation he/she can have in him.

The Church where he/she can find true community.

 

I can’t wait to experience these coming opportunities to watch my child grow spiritually and see him/her discover God!

Question: What has been your favorite spiritual moment with your child?