Abundant Life Monday

Sometimes Monday's can be a challenge. Am I rested and recharged for the coming week or am I down and dreading the week ahead?

I find there are people who speak "words of life," that bring a fresh enthusiasm to my spirit.

One of those is Tim Keller, who often shares life giving wisdom that I am both inspired and challenged by. The following quote particularly "resonated" with me.

@DailyKeller: “Religion says earn your life. Secular society says create your life. Jesus says, ‘My life for your life.’”

I've heard people derogatorily tell someone to "get a life." That is precisely when Jesus steps in and offers us just that, ..........a life, His life, and what a life it is!!!

That is a trade I will make every time.

Living large,

Joe

John 1:4
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


When it all falls apart...

As I was reading through my Twitter acount yesterday morning there seemed to be a common theme among alot of the leaders I respect:

@JohnCMaxwell: Success represents the 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called failure. -Soichiro Honda

@DailyKeller: "Jesus delivered his people not through great triumph, but through crushing defeat."

@DaveRamsey: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”― Winston Churchill

The question is not how will you respond if you fail, but rather, how will you respond when you fail?  Maybe you're there right now.  Maybe you're looking at your house, your family, your work situation, or your personal life and it falls dismally short of where you thought it would be or where you wanted it to be.  Maybe your efforts to hold it all together are no longer working and it's falling apart.  Maybe a dream you always held onto just died. 

How do you get up today?  How do you not lose enthusiasm?  How do you now throw in the towel and give up?  I love the words from Lamentations 3.  These words are all the more powerful when you realize their context.  They are written by Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem.  If there was ever a time to want to throw in the towel and give up hope, this was it for Jeremiah.  Yet, check out his words:

"17 I gave up on life altogether. I've forgotten what the good life is like. 18 I said to myself, "This is it. I'm finished. God is a lost cause." It's a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God 19 I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed. 20 I remember it all - oh, how well I remember - the feeling of hitting the bottom. 21 But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: 22 God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. 23 They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! 24 I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. 25 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. 26 It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God."

So when failure and brokenness come, let's not fear, but once again cling to the God who is bigger than our failures and difficulties we face.  Truly, His resources and power are inexhaustible and available to us today!

in Christ,

Brian 

Simplify, Share, Invite

I was watching a video about inviting people to church with you. I know, the initial thought is probably, “How do I even bring it up?” or “They’ll think I’m some Bible thumper and just reject it”. Well, this video showed a group of little boys walking around their neighborhood inviting the people in every house to church and tying a balloon to the mailbox if they said yes. Then the video shows one man outside who asks, in a skeptical tone, what they are doing. The boys explain as a narrator says, “In the eyes of a child it’s simple to invite someone to church. You’re just telling them about something you love” while footage of these boys talking about their church in large excited motions plays. You could see that they really were just telling someone about something they love.

When I eat somewhere delicious or go to a fun place I’m sure I tell plenty of people about it and invite them to experience it as well. But when it comes to church we tend to become more reserved.

As adults we tend to overcomplicate things. Maybe if we just simplify, we will see a change in ourselves. We could lose that anxiety and experience the joy of sharing something great with someone.

Simple,

Hailey

 

 

Public Worship or Private Worship

Which pleases God the most? I think we all know the answer. If I am kind and loving to my wife when I am in public, but at home I am preoccupied and disconnected, how strong is the relationship? Likewise, if we worship with great fervor on Sunday morning, but lack any private worship during the week, how authentic is our devotion?

So as we "love the Lord with all our heart, all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength," let's not skip Monday through Saturday.

-Joe

Matthew 6:5 - 6
The Message (MSG)

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

'The Life Together'

I love this picture of the beginning of the church in Acts 2:

'42 They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. 43 Everyone around was in awe - all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! 44 And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. 45 They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. 46 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, 47 as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. '

I had the privilege of visiting one of our StoneBridge Table Groups (Home Groups) on Sunday night.  It was beautiful to see this small microcosm of StoneBridge coming together in a home on a Sunday evening.  I got to sit back and watch them have a time of worship together, share with one another, express doubts and questions, dig into God's Word together and wrestle with it, and constantly encourage and listen to each other.   

I was talking to one of the members about what made this time so special and she replied that 'they were like family.'  Indeed, you don't really know the joy of Christianity until it goes from a religious activity to a family where you belong.  It reaffirmed for me the power of community.  It is in these little house gatherings where people really flesh out their Christianity, open up with others they trust, and begin to understand and experience the love of God.  So if you haven't taken a step to get connected with other Christians like this, then I encourage you to take that step.  Learn more about a Table Group at http://www.gostonebridge.com/tablegroups/

In Christ,

Brian

If You Have Been Redeemed, Say So

Our faith in Jesus is personal, but it's not private. As we care about people enough to show them Christ's love, we also need to care enough to tell them of God's love. As Pastor Steve says, "the gospel is not intuitive, the Story needs to be told."

If our goal is to make disciples of Jesus, following Christ' example, we need to speak into their lives. So ask the Lord to bring into your life those who might hear Gospel. To those who receive the Gospel, continue to teach them, so that they might mature in the faith.

So if you have been redeemed, say so.

I am redeemed,

Joe

Psalms 107:2a
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

Obedience Test

On Wednesday I had a situation happen where I was tested in my willingness to follow a Christ-like conviction.  I picked up my kids from a half-day of school in order to take them to lunch.  As they jumped in the car, I was met with two incredibly disappointed faces.  Apparently they had made their own lunch plans with their friends and I was royally messing that up.  So I called their friends' Mom and we arranged for our two families to have lunch together.  As I'm driving to Chik-Fil-A, I panic and realize that I'm on my way to a lunch where it's me, this mom and our kids.....Not good. 

One of the convictions that has been handed down to me by wise mentors is 'to never be alone with a person of the opposite sex.'  So as I'm driving I panic and frantically try to figure out how I can get out of this awkward situation.  I had no choice but to call this Mom and explain to her my conviction.  Thankfully, she understood.  I ended up dropping my kids off and then going over to Kroger across the street where I ate lunch by myself.  As awkward and lonely as my little lunch was, I was reminded of the daily cost of following Christ and avoiding the temptation to compromise.

John Bevere comments that 'in God’s eyes, partial or selective obedience is the same as rebellion to His authority. It is the evidence of a lack of the fear of God.'  There will be times in our life when we have to follow God and it's awkward, hard, lonely, and scary.  There will be many times when there is a tremendous cost to follow Jesus and the people all around us won't understand.  I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:29, "29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life."

So when our obedience is tested today, let's trust Jesus.  He is faithful.

in Christ,

Brian

 

 

Sanctuary

I’m writing this on a gloomy day. It is raining.

This week a friend of mine had the sad duty of saying goodbye to her father.  I affectionately refer to her as superwoman because of her strength and perseverance in all circumstances that come her way and her steadfast faith in God all the while.

Browsing through my itunes library I rediscovered this song Steve Dupree showed me a while ago by the trio Red Horse. It is a song perfect for anyone going through going through trials and sadness, battles and despair. A song that says despite all the things I go through, we have a safe place in the love of God.

It is called Sanctuary. Here are the lyrics.

 

Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow thou art with me
though my heart's been torn on fields of battle thou art with me
though my trust is gone and my faith not near
in love's sanctuary thou art with me

Through desolation's fire and fear's dark thunder thou art with me
through the sea of desires that drag me under thou art with me
though I've been traded in like a souvenir
on love's sanctuary thou art with me

Through the doubter's gloom and the cynic's sneer thou art with me
in the crowded rooms of a mind unclear thou art with me
though I'll walk for a while down a trail of tears
in love's sanctuary thou art with me

 

Hailey

Grace Greater Than

There are times when we get discouraged because we have not made more progress in our Christian walk. We seem to struggle with the same temptations. Once again our problem is that we have our eyes on our struggles and not on our Savior.

I am paraphrasing something I read recently; the basic thought was this:
“Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than sin's power to destroy you.”

Isn't it great to know that it is through the mercy of God that we will be changed?

Philippians 1:6 NIV
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We are His workmanship.

Joe (or should I say clay)

Self Control or Spirit Control

I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22. And while doing so, I stumbled upon a message by Bruce Miller. Bruce is the teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in McKinney Texas, where our son Andrew is the Worship Pastor.

He was teaching on self-control, the final fruit of the Spirit. And he asked a very interesting question. "Is it really self-control or is it Spirit controlled?"

If I'm totally fixated on the willpower that I can muster up against my sin nature, I'm already defeated. Because my focus is on my sin and my effort.

But if my focus is on Christ' finished work and allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the character of Christ in my life, then self control occurs supernaturally by God's grace in my life.

In the same way we plant a fruit tree, but God causes it to grow, so we also reveal the fruit of the Spirit that He alone can produce in our lives.

So lets stop trying to force out a fruit and let's submit to God's Spirit and worship Him with our bodies.

Joe

Roman 12:1
A Living Sacrifice

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.



Speak

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is 'a time to be silent and a time to speak,' 

I am an introvert by nature.  I know, it's kind of weird that I'm an introvert and a minister at a church around people all the time.  My natural inclination is to fade into the corner and blend in and be quiet. 

I have had to learn over the years that there are times when God wants me to overcome my fear and to speak.  If it's something that I feel God wants me to say, it normally comes as a strong, recurring thought and my heart begins to race.  There is a fear that wants to stop me from speaking up or sharing and it's only by faith and trust in God that I step out and obey. 

A famous quote that has often challenged me says, "The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing."  Indeed, the very first man, Adam, proved this quote true.  In case you've never realized it, Adam was physically present, beside Eve, on that fateful day when she was deceived and ate the fruit.  Adam was silent.  If there was ever a time to step up and speak, that was his moment.

So if you're an introvert like me or struggling with speaking up, I challenge you to take that step of faith.  We need Dads to open their mouths and speak truth into their children and wives.  We need Christian employees to speak up during planning times and times of determining the direction of businesses.  We need women to speak up and lovingly help steer conversations away from gossip and divisiveness.  We are all called to 'speak the truth in love' in the circles of influence God has placed us.

in Christ,

Brian

Bible Basics

Last week I attended a 3 day Bible Basics class taught by our very own Becky Canterbury and it was incredible. It was three intense days of nothing but the Old Testament. On Wednesday we spent so much time talking about Moses that I couldn’t get him off my mind, I also couldn’t get various songs from The Prince of Egypt out of my head. So naturally I was determined to watch the movie. But I don’t own the movie and had not yet discovered that it was available of Netflix. I admit I was a little sad until it dawned on me.

You could just read the book of Exodus. You know, where the movie is taken from.

Oh yeah. I guess I could.

I was somewhat disappointed in myself because my first inclination to receive the story of Moses was to watch a cartoon movie about it. The movie is good and gets a lot of things right but shouldn’t my first reaction be to go to the very book itself? 

Well, the Bible is full of incredible stories. I am renewed in my excitement to read them again and I can tell you exactly where I'll be going to get them. Not a movie.

 

Getting back to the Bible basics,

Hailey

Ten Big Daily Reminders from Matt Reagan

(I found this blog on desiringgod.org . Re posting while on vacation. Enjoy.

I wake up lost every morning. At least that’s what it feels like. Perhaps something similar is true of you.

Somehow during the night I’ve forgotten the big realities about God and the universe and myself and the gospel. I desperately need to steady myself with biblical truth rather than stumbling forward to live from unbelief.

I tend to forget the big realities during the day as well. I regularly catch myself living on the idiotic assumption that I will constantly remember the things that really matter — and that I will act in line with them. I assume that the realm of the seen and touched will not overwhelm the realm of the unseen and hoped for.

But in reality, whether it’s night or day, I don’t stay awake to what’s truly important for very long. I am like that college kid who sits in church on Sunday morning trying to keep his eyes open after an irresponsibly late Saturday night. My eyelids droop by default, and my mind wanders from the glories of the Bible to superfluous, naturalistic daydreams (that may or may not end with an embarrassing full-body twitch that snaps me awake again).

So I’ve learned over time to put structures in place that remind me of those unseen things, especially during my bleary-eyed, half-conscious mornings.

One effort is this list of ten truths. I hung it up next to our dining room rocking chair (my preferred spot for study and contemplation). It’s developed over the years as a list of the daily reminders I need most. Many of them overlap substantially, but a double reminder only reinforces the original purpose.

I’ve added a short commentary for each in hopes that something here might help you in your pursuit of remembering the biggest truths that we can be prone to assume and forget.

1) God exists. (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58)

It seems so simple, so basic, but I tend to wake up a naturalist, and a narcissistic one at that. I assume that all there is in the world is what is in front of my face. My bed, my wife, my kids, and most importantly myself. The simple yet ultimate existence of God immediately clears my lens, makes me small, and infuses meaning into every step. God exists — and that changes everything.

2) God loves you. (Romans 5:8; John 16:27; Jeremiah 32:40–41)

Another massive biblical reality, this immediately counters my hesitation to embrace God’s ultimate authority, reminding me that he has set his affections on this little speck of a person. He is far from indifferent toward me.

3) Jesus died for you, and the Father has now bound himself to give you only good things. (Romans 8:28; Romans 8:32)

This draws me quickly to the central reality of all history: the cross. It is an objective truth set in time and space, so it immediately draws my gaze away from my own capacity to garner acceptance from God through my efforts. Furthermore, the outworkings of the cross make clear that even the harshest trials will come to me as blessing, for my ultimate good, no matter how bad I feel at the time.

4) God sees you as perfect. (Hebrews 10:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

My self-absorption, anxiety, and self-pity know no bounds. They must be beaten into submission by the beauty of imputed righteousness. The question, “How am I doing?” is met head-on with the answer, “Perfect.” In that regard, every day is a good day.

5) That is because of Jesus’s perfection, not yours. You deserve hell. (Romans 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:15)

There are two main purposes here: first, to counterpunch when my flesh looks for a way to subtly claim credit for the perfection that is mine only in Jesus; second, to maintain a sense of trembling gratitude for my salvation. While I enjoy the glory of the gospel, there should always be an awestruck voice in the back of my mind that is whispering, “I shouldn’t be here.”

6) You will die. (James 4:14, Hebrews 9:27)

Nothing brings clarity to me like this simple and straightforward reminder. How quickly I assume my earthly immortality, and how often I need to think of myself as a terminal cancer patient.

7) You will live forever in the new heavens and new earth. (Romans 8:18, Hebrews 10:34)

I don’t want to be a clear-headed fearer of death, like some atheistic poet. I want to glory in the guarantee of indescribable bliss that is just around the corner. And I want to live like it’s real — because it is.

8) For now, you are an exile on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

This keeps me from feeling at home when I’m not at home (especially in my own home). It prepares me for not fitting in, for weird looks when I speak with conviction about Jesus, and for holding loosely to every bit of earthly life.

9) Nothing on earth is truly worth putting your hope in. (Jeremiah 2:13; Galatians 6:14)

This is a practical specification of #8. It is right for me to remember that I will inevitably be disappointed by every earthly pursuit or relationship or emotional experience. It runs me back to my true Home and the true Bridegroom.

10) You have no right to be unhappy. (Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:8–9)

This is a summarizing application of all the previous reminders, but it merits its own slot. How quick I am to become “blah” when there is a treasure trove of happy reality at my disposal! I must beat this into my discontent little brain. I can be plenty unhappy, but I have no right to be.

These reminders flee from my mind like stray socks in an armful of laundry. Every time I pick one up, another falls. By the time I read #10, #1 is beckoning again. What a grace that #4 is still true!

Matt Reagan is an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, and Campus Outreach director at the University of Minnesota.


More from Matt Reagan:

March Madness, Athletic Achievement, and Christians in Competitive Sports

Overcoming the Denial of Death

A Really Good Habit

According to a research poll done by LifeWay Christian Bookstores, the number one predictor of a person's spiritual health is whether or not they read the Bible on a daily basis.  The research also indicated that only 16% of church-goers read their Bible daily.

Reading my Bible daily was something I was taught to do when I first became a Christian at age 13 at Camp Kanakuk in Missouri.  They gave me a notebook called 'The Victor's Crown' where it had a Bible reading plan and a place to journal and write out prayer requests.  God used my camp counselor and that little tool to help develop the most important habit in my life, reading my Bible.

Are there days when I get too busy or forget to read?  You bet.  I'm human and mess up like everyone else.  But I will say that reading the Bible has become so important to me that I feel it when I miss it.  In fact my wife usually picks up on it pretty quickly and says something like, 'Did you have your quiet time today?'

One thing that has absolutely helped me is having a plan.  If I don't have a plan, then even those things that I 'say' are most important to me, like my relationship with God, get crowded out by the 'tyranny of the urgent.'  Here are some essentials to my plan: morning time, quiet place, outside, cup of coffee (very important), journal, and a Bible (sometimes my phone or my 'phible').  I have become a huge fan of the 'youversion' Bible app.  I use the 'One Year Bible' reading plan where I read a passage from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day.

So I challenge you to give daily Bible reading a try.  Try it for 30 days and see if it doesn't start to make a differerence in your life.  I think you'll come to find the words of 2 Timothy 3:16 to be true that say, '16 Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another - showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way.'

in Christ,

Brian

Are You Really Resting?

(I am on vacation with family so the following is a repost. Gonna take a nap)

I sometimes struggle with really resting. On a vacation I keep thinking, "did I get all my work done?" Hope everything runs smooth while I'm gone. Did I forget anything?

On my day off, I sometimes schedule a lot of "appointments," car, house, doctor, dentist, etc. Not exactly a day of rest.

But perhaps my greatest struggle with resting is an issue of my heart. Even though I know better, I often act as though it all depends on me. Every relationship, every task, every problem.

Now I believe work is a great thing.
But, "the best work is done out of rest." (Louie Giglio)
So if I want to do my work effectively, from a place of strength, then I must learn when and how to rest.

Here is what the psalmist says about rest.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. Psalms 62:1, 5-8

"To truly rest affirms to God our confidence in His purposes without our needing to figure anything out for Him." (Louie Giglio)

So as I fully trust God and His purposes, I will find rest.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want......

Joe

Drift-proofing your life

So I came upon this interesting tid bit from the animal world yesterday.  Check out this little fact about sea otters:

"Sea otters will often float in groups (called rafts) whilst they eat, rest and sleep. A raft of otters can be anything from two otters to hundreds! And, whilst they are rafting, it is well known that they will all hold hands to stay together in their group."

What an amazing picture of the Christian life!  How wise is our Creator God who built into the sea otter this behavior.  Can you imagine a sea otter nodding off to dream land all by himself just sleeping in the sea?  Eight hours later he wakes up to himself and the mighty ocean with nothing but water as far as the eye can see.  You better believe he is quickly going to become an appetizer for a great white shark.

I love the very simple and true declaration that God makes when he looks at man.  He declares in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  This obviously is a verse that relates to marriage but I believe goes beyond that relationship.  I think it is true in general that 'it is not good for man to be alone.'  A person alone, all by themself, never does well in the end. 

There is no doubt that we all need companions and helpers in life.  There are times we need help lifting a heavy box.  There are times we need help lifting a heavy burden.  There are times when we just lose motivation and we need someone encouraging us forward.  There are times when we don't know what decision to make and we need help and guidance. 

Just like a lone sea otter sleeping in the sea, if we do life alone, we will drift into waters that are not good for us.  It is so important that we find a group or a 'raft' to belong too.  We need those other people around us to lock arms with for our own health and spiritual protection.  So like it says in Hebrews 10:25, "25 ...let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.'

in Christ,

Brian

Roles vs. People

I went to a beautiful wedding this last Saturday. The bride looked gorgeous, the groom could dance and a great time was had by all. Perhaps the best part was knowing that these two, so devoted in their walk with Christ, were coming together to build their relationship on that firm foundation.

The pastor spoke in the ceremony about the well-known portion of Ephesians chapter 5

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

 

Instead of focusing on the roles specifically the pastor mentioned that sometimes we get too tied up in that thought process, thinking of our roles and how we perform them.  But we are not called to love a role, you love a person. So we are called to love that person despite how well they perform their role.

 

Are you so focused on the ability of someone to perform their role that you are distracted from loving the person?

 

Hailey

Old Man Strong

During my recent mission trip with 12 high school students who are all young, sharp, talented, skillful in ministry, and did I mention young. I would kid with them by flexing a bit and saying "watch out, I'm old man strong." They would laugh, and ooh and ahh, as they humored the "old man."
I used the phrase repeatedly throughout the trip. I sorta became attached to the sound of my little saying. Though I was just kidding at first, I began to think, what is old man strong?

Old man strong is knowing when to use muscle and when to use leverage. As a young man I used to try to impress my wife by opening the pickle jar as a feat of strength. Now, I run hot water over it and immediately grab the jar opener tool out of the drawer. Am I using my strength, yes but with much greater leverage. Old man strong.

A couple of weeks ago, I was struggling to find a place for our mission team to spend the night on the way home. Instead of cold calling church after church in a town where I knew very few people, I just put out a request for help on Facebook. In less than an hour I had three places to stay. Old man strong.

As a choral musician, I've had to help move many a piano. Mostly uprights and some grands. I used to get some guys and we would muscle those uprights around. Until a piano mover showed me a certain kind of piano dolley technique that he used to load and move heavy upright pianos, all by himself. It still takes some strength, but is really quite simple and a whole lot easier. Old man strong.

But the greatest old man strong, is understanding where real strength comes from.

Here is the psalm of "Old Man Strong."

Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance.

Psalms 71:5-8
For You are my hope;
O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You.
I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.

O God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.

Feeling strong,

Joe

Heart Connection

One of the things my daugher is really into right now is a game on the computer called 'Animal Jam'.  If you so much as reference the slightest hint of this game in her vicinity, she will talk your ear off (about 118 miles an hour).  In the past, I have kind of checked out when she starts playing 'Animal Jam' or talking about it.  But I decided to start taking an interest recently.  So on Sunday we were at the computer and she spent a good 15 minutes showing me each of her animals (the outfits they wore, the way they played, slept, danced and sat down).  I must admit it was a bit overwhelming, but I purposed to hang in there.

That same night as I was tucking her in bed, she started asking me about which animals were my favorite on 'Animal Jam.'  Then she had me create my own animal, and I had to pick out its outfit, color, special abilities, etc.  It was a wild conversation but one thing that started to hit me was that her heart was drawing closer to mine as we spent this time together.  I started to realize that if I wanted to have true influence on her heart and not just behavioral conformity, I needed to connect with her on a heart level. 

I was reminded about Paul's words about reaching people for Christ from 1 Corinthians 9, '19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 20 religious, nonreligious, 21 meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, 22 the defeated, the demoralized - whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ - but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.'

So, I am trying to learn to love people by entering into their world and actually listening to their stories, their experiences and their opinions.  Then, and only then, do I truly begin to have a platform of influence for the sake of the gospel in their life. 

in Christ,

Brian

 

"I Love to Laugh.......Long and Loud and Clear"

Part of friendship is sharing a good laugh. Tonight, "Evidence," our high school mission and music team, was telling stories from the week of ministry. Some of the stories were emotional and deeply touching. However, near the end, the team began to tell stories on each other. The story telling became quite animated, and soon there were peals of laughter that grew into hysteria. We laughed, and then laughed at the sound of our own laughter. You know the kind of laugh where you can't breathe. It was a full workout. If a good laugh extends your life, we all got an extra month tacked on tonight.

This group of individuals had bonded across the week as they served, ministered, sang, shared meals and slept on the floor. They had bonded as close friends, with much transparency and much trust. And so now they laughed, and laughed some more, because close friends don't have to hide, or wear masks. Close friends can let go and truly be themselves. How freeing and fun that is. A belly laugh is good for the body and the soul.
So after a full week of ministry with these amazing young men and women,
"I feel good......nana nana nana na"
(James Brown)

Joe

Eccl. 3:4b A Time to laugh