How I see it

When I look at people, life, the Church,

Through the eyes of how I know & understand Christ, God, the Holy Spirit

Then I see beauty & life

I see things differently

I ‘spose because I’ve seen a lot of terrible things

Many of these things I would rather never see again

In fact I contend with God to only see these things because of Him

Because of these things people are different to me

People, all people, even you, and even the guy trashed from the party

And even, the guy who reeks of alcohol and body odor in the “free rail zone”

They all have a warm spot in my heart, even the people who have caused the deepest hurt

This is all true, not because it’s some warm fuzzy ideal

But because it’s exactly what my God has given me, time and time again

This grace, so amazing, so unchanging, so undeserved, this is what floods my soul

When my soul is flooded, and my heart is filled, I can only be drawn to the souls of all.

He is my king.

A world without God.

A world without God is a world that I fear to imagine.  Yet many people live in a world without God, they go about day to day, without any more than a fleeting idea of God.  So why am I so fearful to imagine a world without God?  Because I know God, I live with God around me, in me, and through me.  Because even though I fail to obey, and I do things which are contrary to God’s word, I find that the God’s grace is more than just a simple “I forgive you”, it’s a reality in which I know that no matter how I live, my God will be there for me to turn to.  Humans can turn God into so much, from a letter of the law judge, to a magic fairy who grants you everything you ever wanted.  In my experience God is neither, God is mysterious, yet personal, God is loving, yet just.

If I were to imagine a world without my God, I would see a world full of hurt, evil, injustice, greed, abuse, hunger, confusion, and chaos with no way out.  As I make the choice to draw closer to God, I see that the love, justice, freedom, life, authority are not just benefits, but are the way God shows his intense affection for me, for us.  Take away those things and it’s one big world, and a huge void.  I was in that void once before, I never want to go back.  Yet everyday I make choices which are either of the world, or of God.  When I follow God’s ways, I am fulfilled, when I choose my own, worldly way, I am sick, troubled, and empty – not because I feel some “religious guilt” but because I know what the feelings of true satisfaction in God are – they are not easily explained in words, and that satisfaction is what I live for.  If had to choose one word to try and describe it – it would be peace.

Reaching this peace requires a lot of flesh burning, a lot of humility, and in the end a lot of forgiveness.  It’s well worth it, trust me.

Giving a little

I’m being reminded throughout my days that even the small acts of giving are huge for many people.  Giving a smile, or holding the door just a moment longer, sticking your hand in a closing (old) elevator door for someone far down the hall, can speak volumes to people.  For some reason though my “default” mode of “thinking ahead” often times hinders me from catching these moments to serve and give a piece of who my God.  When I am in the right mode though, and I am thinking beyond what I need to do next, it is an amazing thing to watch how listening to God on these things opens doors into the soul of another person.  My soul thrives when I give up myself, when I choose to burn a bit of my needs for those of another, my soul thrives to water others.

Life is about God and people, and His love in ourselves and in others is what I want to focus on.  Most days though I am simply “in default mode” – my prayer is for “default” (read as doing what I’ve always done and don’t really like to do, but do it anyway) to redefined to reflect a life of giving in the little areas.

What I’m thinking…

One of the many reasons I don’t write on here anymore is that, as self-focused as it sounds, I think far to hard about what people may think about what I’m writing.  So, I end up canceling out any thoughts with silly weird arguments about why not to post something.  The whole idea behind this blog in the first place was simply to write about what I was thinking, about life, about God, about people, etc… But with more and more of what I (we) are doing in the future, I feel I need to filter things far more than I would like.

I suppose the challenge is that I should write in a way that I still express myself honestly, and at the same time in a way that honors the God that I so claim to follow and love.  Yet, many times the things I’m thinking about are about the disappointments of life, which are all quite real, and need to be discussed.  I know there are plenty of people who appreciate the reality, but I also know (all to well) there are people who want to “make sure God is involved” – and then there’s the “You’re going to be a missionary, right?, YES!  So, don’t you think you should be positive and focused on God… well yes… but…”  I understand these comments, I really do, and at the same time I strive to not be religious and not be giving pat, common, text-book, Christian answers.  God is far bigger than that.

So here I start on a very long, overdue, rant and soap box… however I will start with the core of my God-given heart’s desire in life….  I wrote the following and realized it was a bit convoluted, but maybe it will start some conversation, and then I can clarify with posts to address the questions and/or discussion that comes – or maybe it will just sit here and I’ll create conversation in my head and post my thoughts as I go…

The strongest passion I have for others is that they be encouraged in their walk with God, and not just in the private aspect of a relationship with God but in the ministry piece.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if our walk with God is truly full unless we are actively ministering to those around us.  I often find myself frustrated, disappointed, and concerned for the “Church” do to the apparent lack of concern for caring (ministry) to others.  Then again, I find myself equally frustrated by myself because I myself do not step up when I know that God has given me many opportunities.

So, as a person who is fully aware of what God is calling me, and my family to do, I am constantly looking for ways to encourage others to trust God, and take risks.  Many times throughout biblical stories we see the characters faced with life-changing risks.  The blessings that come from following through, and having the discipline to honor God with our decisions, are more than I could ever explain in a short posting here.

The challenge every person faces come not in the big decisions, but in the everyday decisions, the choices that are presented to us when we first greet our co-workers in the morning, or how we engage in conversation with our peers.  Yet there are so many forces which drive our interactions with those around us, everything from how our parents treated us, how “popular” we were in school, to poor choices and uncontrollable life circumstances that eat at our soul and take us off track.

Most of what I write is simply me processing the events that I witness, in the Church and outside the Church, as I see people of all statuses and of all walks I am humbled to know God as I do.  I am challenged each day with the ideas of why has God given us, my family,  the joy of having such amazing family and friends…. while others are seemingly aloof, floating around in this world without any connection points.   Then I am reminded that it was because someone, at some point, obeyed God, and reached out, took a while to minister to someone, who did the same, who eventually ministered to me, and the same to Alexis.

I thank God for those that have this discipline, this passion, for I am eternally grateful.  I wish to not be like these people because of these great things, I wish to do these things because our God has an amazing and wonderful life to give us, when we surrender to him.  This is the heart of everything I am, want to be, and will be.  I have nothing to be discouraged by, as long as I am choosing to obey and discipline myself… even then God’s grace is sufficient if I fail to meet “the mark”.

Let those that have ears hear.  May those in the Church be encouraged to take the risks, the “lost” have the choice, only if they experience it though, we also have a choice – but I’m not so sure we can easily forget (that voice is pretty consistent) when we choose to ignore it.

Voices of the past

I have been reading Don Miller’s “Blue like Jazz” for a week or so now, on my daily 1 hour commute each way.  The MAX can be quite the cultural experience, and for the most part I like it.  But combine a challenging book such as “Blue like jazz” and you might just end up frustrated.  You see, this book gets to the core of what Christianity really is, really “should” be, the spiritual piece, not the standard life-behavior rhetoric we usually hear.

But this triggers voices inside that are at odds with my origins.  First of all I’m suddenly convicted of not caring for people when I thought I did – my head does, I know what is right but if I don’t actually do it – then do I really believe it?  For example, there was a guy who got on the train at the same place as I, he was quite confused, a little slow, and kept bothering people on how to get to some place he had written on a piece of paper.  The whole time I heard God telling me to help him, possibly go with him the whole way to his destination… but the voice of fear said otherwise, and I kept reading the book – which threw me into a tornado of thoughts, and made me realize how much I fear rejection – even though I don’t let it emotionally bother me – but that’s probably because I don’t let it happen anymore.

None the less I am sure God put another person on the train – because moments later another guy got on and sat next to the confused dude, and within minutes he was describing to him in details how the Portland Transit system works, and where to get off to get to his destination (which apparently didn’t make sense, something like take the Yamhill bus to 10, and 10 to Yamhill… ummm).  Anyway – this is just a very small example of the thoughts going on from about 6am to 7am and 3:30 to 4:30 these days.

God has spoken!

I know this is long, but it’s a huge revelation for me, if you want to know where I am, to know more than just a tweet or facebook status update, take the time to read this.  Shall we know each other for the love we show to each other?  Are we known for the love we have for each other?  Let’s start, one person at a time.

Last night as I was laying in bed, attempting to fall asleep, I could not stop thinking about our upcoming trip to Poland.  Then I felt the Lord telling me, stop, be at peace, do not fear, everything will be okay.  Then I thought to myself, that’s just the pat Christian response, thinking I’m not trusting or having enough faith in God… 

And then I “really” heard him say “go throughout your day tomorrow and do not talk about, nor dwell on this coming trip” and so I tried my best, I had a few wondering thoughts, and did my best to think of other things (such as driving, doing my job, etc).  It has been really hard, very hard.

The other thing I heard God say was “I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow” (that being today) and that answer I believe came in my morning devotion, but in a way, could still be coming.

In my devotional I read Jeremiah 51:20-23:

20 “You are my battle-ax and sword,”
      says the Lord.
   “With you I will shatter nations
      and destroy many kingdoms.
 21 With you I will shatter armies-
      destroying the horse and rider,
      the chariot and charioteer.
 22 With you I will shatter men and women,
      old people and children,
      young men and maidens.
 23 With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks,
      farmers and oxen,
      captains and officers.

I felt God say to me – that is you, you are my battle-ax, you and your wife, your family, I will use to battle the enemy’s schemes, lies, and strongholds in Poland.  Wow, thanks God!  This is just what I needed, exactly the motivation.

But wait!  There’s more!

The next passage to read in my devotion was 3rd John, and verses 5-11 answered exactly the question I’ve had about fund raising (what’s right, what’s wrong, how do we fund raise?  Is it right to ask so much? etc, etc, etc).  You see, verses such as Acts 20:33-35, and 2 Corinthians 11:9, have plagued my thoughts, and made me doubt the whole fund raising process.  Then I think “we’re not asking from those we’re serving, from those we’ll be ministering to” (Paul made it clear not to ask or be a burden to those whom he was ministering to, for some reason people miss this distinction, and see that seeking support from your own church is in the same vain as what Paul says in those scriptures).  Still the enemy attacks, and brings doubts to my mind…

Then in 3rd John: 5-11 I read the following:

5 Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. 7 For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. 8 So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.

 9 I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. 10 When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

 11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

HOW FREEING!  I can be free from the shame, guilt, whatever it is/has been that has been discouraging me from seeking people’s partnership in our ministry.

God has spoken!  And I know he speaks into your life as well!

The power of family

The Church can be a very powerful thing, when in balance with God’s heart, word, and spirit amazing things happen; things that can bring the hardest person to a place of falling in love with Christ.  This past week I have seen the power of God’s family coming to life, in spite of what could be explosive, hurtful, and misunderstood.  Although there are some very hard realities to deal with, God is showing each of us that His good will is here to bring us a full life.

When we take steps to be Disciples of Christ first, in all ways, even when dealing with hardships in the Church, we begin to see the big picture, the miracles, and truly experience the Church for what Christ intended – A healing family, a loving family, and a living family.

The sex fight

For a lot of Christian men there is a struggle to keep sexually pure. Now I realize that there are a lot of definitions of “purity” out there, it seem that some think masterbation is okay, and others think dressing in a sexually attractive way is okay, while some believe that not talking about any of these things is okay as well. Yes, we’ve heard this over and over, and I am still not convinced that the Church at large (the full body of Christ) has really taken this on. As I speak to more and more men I realize the need for a new Church culture that speaks Truth and Grace into the suxual purity issue.

I guess I take a hybrid, or middle of the ground, approach to these things. I believe that most of the time people don’t take a deep look into the reasons behind these struggles. We, in the Church, have taken the appraoch of “think no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. When, from what I observe this has lead us to isolation, shame, doubt, and in many cases deep wounds that fester anger and fear, Jesus instructed us to not have even a hint of lust. Yet he forgives.

You see, I know that the enemy plays with this part of our lives because it is so destructive towards our ability to relate to God, and to others. We can easily become isolated and cut off and then allowing people to Love us, and for us to Love others becomes increasingly hard due to the shame that surrounds our heart. So I ask, what is the root of these “problems”, how do we replace these desires with healthy ones? What is a healthy desire?

I am far from the answer, only recently have I began to fully grasp the freedom of exercising true freedom in this area. My past makes it difficult, but I know that He who is in me, is stronger than he who is in the world.

Lack of funds can feel like lack of call…

Alexis and I have been on a fundraising break for a bit, it can be exhausting to always be in fundraising mode. Starting this summer I plan on putting away a bit each month into our missions funds from our own income, but so far we have simply been unable to do that and have depended on donations for 100% of our fundraising.

Then there are times where I feel we need to have faith that God will provide, because he always has. Many times the opposite is also true, Where I think the lack of donations means we’re just not suppose to go. But that does not sit well in our hearts at all. So, I contend as James instructs us to have faith in God without wavering.

Currently, for our October trip, we have $640 of the $4550 (includes language school) that Alexis and I need. Our teammates need $1500 each. If we received just $40 from 100 people, Alexis and I would be done!

Hearing God

In the past few weeks I’ve had a number of people ask me about hearing from God. Or, more specifically, hearing God’s voice.

Since it is nearly 1am, I’m not going to elborate to much on this, but I do have a few thoughts.

First I think many of us try far to hard. I actually think a lot of us have probably heard His voice clear and strong, but we either thought it was our own, or too afraid to obey it in faith.

For me, his voice is always the gut feeling, not the fleshly desire, but the inner thoughts that guide me in decisions, letting me know if something is right or wrong. I’ve learned to tune into this voice more and more over the years, and without doubt, I know it is His voice.

It has taken nearly a decade to come to this point, and I still fail miserably in actully giving time to listen to His voice. But growing up I always had an inner sense of right and wrong, and I believe it was the Holy Spirit, but since I didn’t have the relationship with Jesus as I do now I simply thought it was my “conscience”.