Friday, November 19, 2010

Stepping Out

I remember back at Forest Park Public School in St. Thomas, I was late getting to class one morning (I blame my parents, even though I cannot remember why I was late) and on the second floor out in the hallway was a female student who standing all alone.  I was mesmerized by this because she was purposefully standing outside Mr McTaggert's (I never had him and it was a good thing as he scared me) classroom during the Lord's Prayer.  I was so intrigued that I remember asking why she was standing out in the hall and she said, that "her family didn't believe in the Lord's Prayer".  I was shocked and for the first time in my life, my belief system was being challenged.

I have been evaluating myself lately and the things that I do.  I have also been evaluating the programs that I oversee at our church and the way that we do things.  It is not the first time that I have wondered it, but I am questioning is what I really am being what a Christian is supposed to be about?  Are the programs that we facilitate really what the church is supposed to be doing?  Is who I am and what I do, who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing?  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"(2 Cor 13:5, NIV)  I think we need to constantly be evaluating where are and what we are doing.

When I look back over my life, I wonder how many times I stood out in the hall for my faith?  How often was I secluded for what I believed?  My fear is that the church of today has become so preoccupied with doing church that we have failed to BE the church that Christ has commissioned us to be.  Are we making a difference in our communities?  Are we following the urging of Jesus to "go" and "make disciples" or are we just happy to have our social committee meetings every Sunday morning?  Do we just come together, sing some nice songs, drop some penitence in an offering plate, listen to some inspiring words and go home after saying our adieus to one another?  It sounds a little harsh, but my fear is that there is so much truth in it.  Are we just a program or are we the reflection of Hope for a world that is lost in darkness?  Are we standing out amongst the crowds or do we blend in so much that our existence and impact is minimal?

I'll never forget walking away from that girl that morning and wondering why she didn't just jump in to class and be like everyone.  But as I reflect, I hope that I am provoked by that girl to step out and be different for what my "family" believes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The 'In Love' Experience

Do you remember what it is like to fall in love?  Do you remember that first encounter where you saw them ... across the room ... and you were instantly drawn to them.  Something inside of you said ... WOW!  But was that true love?  At some point in our lives we have had those moments of when we thought we were in 'love' with someone.  We thought to ourselves that this is going to be the person ... this is it ... and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life living with sweaty palms, an accelerated heart rate and the dream of living happily ever after.  Then for the next little while, we did nothing but dream of spending every waking moment with that person and in some cases some of us were somewhat successful of doing so.  We try to live the dream.

However, after a period of time, the honeymoon comes to an end and we find ourselves looking at the other person that we are in this relationship with and we are wondering what happened to the person that I "fell in love" with oh so many moons ago.  The sweaty palms are gone.  The accelerated heartbeat has calmed down to a normal pace and the dream seems like something that you will only find when you are asleep.  That's when "true love" has to kick in.  That's when the rubber really hits the road and you see what your relationship is made of.

So what is 'true love' then?  The bible gives us a great definition of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
I want this type of love in my life.  I want a love that says it isn't all about me.  I want a love that knows no idea of giving up or giving in.  I want a love that stands the test of time.  Although, when I look back at my relationship with God and I can't help but feel disappointed with myself.  You see, I have often treated God like I was in the 'in love' experience.  In the beginning, there were all these hopes and dreams.  There was the aspirations of doing great things with God and watching my life completely change because I was 'in love' with God.  Together, we were going to change this world and live happily ever after.  But then the honeymoon stage was over and I was left wondering if anything had really had changed at all.  That's when the enemy would come in and try to convince me that I was never any different and I would go through the next phase of the journey with less of a passion and vigor for Christ.  I was limited in my passion.

For the people that know me, they know a phrase that has followed me around for quite a while now is "Never Lose the Passion".  It finds its roots in Luke 10:27 which states, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  I have been challenged over and over again by this phrase which reminds me daily that I need to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength and with all my mind and I do that by loving my neighbour the way that I would want to be loved.  And to me, there is the key to any successful love relationship.

We need to love others the way that we need to be loved.  We need to love them unconditionally through their faults and failures and of course the good times too.  We need to give what we would like to receive.  We need to give our best effort, and in doing so, we need to keep God as the central focus of it all.  We don't do it to get back for ourselves, but we do it because we want to do it as if we were physically doing it for God Himself. 

So no matter what stage of a relationship you are in today, remember to share love for what it truly is and not for what you thought it was going to be.  There is nothing wrong with the honeymoon, but just remember that the rest of the journey is going to be far more rewarding when you love someone the way God wants you to love.  That way is when God is placed first in your life and when you love the way you want to be loved.

Never Lose the Passion: ... for God ... for one another!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As Is The Case Today

There have been many times in my life where I haven't completed understood why the things that happened, happened.  When someone makes a statement like that, you usually think of all the negative things that have happened in your life.  For example, Job went through so many hardships and trials with the loss of fortune and family that I'm sure he didn't completely understand what was going on.

However, there are times when there are good things in our lives that happen and we ask ourselves, what is going on?  Why do I deserve this?  Why am I so blessed?  It doesn't always have to be so negative.  Sometimes the positive situations of our lives confuse us and we come back with, "why?"

My life has had some pretty positive moments as of late.  Both professionally and personally there have been things happening in my life that have left me feeling so blessed.  In all of that, I caught myself recently asking myself, "why me"?  Who am I that I am so blessed?

Tonight during a celebration service at London Gospel Temple, David Wells (the General Superintendent for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada)  was speaking and he asked the question, "What is the case today?"  based on Deut. 6:1-9, 20-24.
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.


20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.
As I reflected on his message tonight, it suddenly struck me that God; the Creator of the Universe; the All-Sufficient; the All-Powerful; the All-Present cares about me and my needs.  God cares for me.  God cares!  God cared for the Israelites as they came out of Egypt and wanted them to possess the promised land.  God cared for Job and restored to him all that he lost plus some.  God cared for my parents in times of need when money was tight and sales were slow.  And God cares now for me in this stage of my life and he wants me to "prosper and be kept alive" (Deut 6:24, NIV).  I like how the New Living Translation puts it that God "can continue to bless us and preserve our lives".  But the key to that comes in the first part of that verse.  "And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him".  Now, I don't do everything right.  Honestly, I get it wrong more than I get it right, but because of God's grace (which means that because I could never do enough right to deserve what God gives) that God pours out His good gifts on me as I strive to obey Him and follow his decrees.

So the question is, what is His decrees?  One of the greatest commandments which comes partially in verse five (underlined above) was given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Do we really love God with all that we are and love the people around us the way that they are?  Are we obeying God to see His hand at work in our lives?  With the help of the Holy Spirit, and through the miracle of grace, we see obedience taking place as we daily take up our cross and follow Christ.

So as I ask myself "WHY?" the next time I start thinking about the way that God has blessed me, I simply turn it back around and say, "as is the case today" so that when my kids (Lord willing) look to what their mom & dad went through and how their God got them through it, they will know that God cares for them too.  I am so thankful for the example of God's hand at work in my parent's lives!  May that be the case today!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mary or Martha

I have recently just started recovering from a pretty nasty viral infection that shut me down for a solid week.  All together, I was sick for about 3 full weeks and I still am suffering from a slight cough which is slowly subsiding.  I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it usually is pretty substantial and this last bout was no different.

I will be the first to admit that I am pretty stubborn and I come by it pretty honestly.  My dad, whom I deeply love and respect, has always been a man of strong work ethic and many times not knowing when to relax.  He has gotten much better in his retirement (as currently he is in Florida getting ready for a cruise) but there were times growing up when he got pretty sick and finally shut down.  We knew that if our dad wasn't going to work ... he was TRULY sick. 

I am much like my dad.  I try to push and push myself to keep going and to keep doing.  However, I am starting to understand that we are not created to be constantly doing.  Even God rested after creation.  He knew that He needed to set the example as our Heavenly Father and take a break and enjoy the glory that was His creation.  It is good! 

I often am drawn back to the story of Mary and Martha.  It is a very short portion of scripture, but the truth never ceases to amaze me.  There are times as a pastor that you get so busy "doing" things for God and run around preparing for the Master that we forget to sit at the Master's feet and just soak in His presence.  When asked by Martha about the lack of Mary's help and investment into serving Jesus, He simply responds with:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Has our society forgotten what it is to sit at the Master's feet?  I remember when I was growing up that Sundays were a day of rest.  We never did much of anything on Sunday but go to church and relax.  We celebrated the Sabbath and it was good.  Then the stores open their doors and offices remained open and Sundays quickly became like every other day of the week. 

I come back to the last few weeks of bed rest and recovering from the sickness.  I truly believe that there comes times when God uses our bodies to slow us down.  Sometimes it is a rude awakening when sick to realize that we have got so busy that we forget to rest.  Other times, it can be a welcomed reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey of life.  Every time, it is a reminder that we need to slow down and take time and rest our bodies so that we can recover and be ready to go when it is time to work.  We need to create that balance of work and rest.  If we work too much then our bodies shut down.  If we don't work enough than nothing gets accomplished.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to find time this week to slow down and spend a day ... a Sabbath day ... a day of rest and just enjoy God's presence.  May we sit at the Master's feet and choose what is better, and it will not be taken away from [us].”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Sea of Life

Things seem to be changing all around me these days.  We have a new administrator in the office (which I am thankful for), we have a Lead Pastor who is moving on to a new church as of tomorrow, the ministries I work with are all morphing into new layouts, there will be an interim pastor coming, eventually there will be a new lead pastor and then add an the changes of my personal life, it all makes for some interesting moments.

Sometimes each moment by itself can be extremely exciting and other times it can seem very stressful or overwhelming.  Place them all together (as usually circumstances never happen independently of one another) and it can be either a euphoric dream or an intimidating death sentence.  We are never quite sure what we are going to get from moment to moment.  We can be living in the excitement of life and within minutes watch as the world begins to crash around us and attempts to swallow us up. 

I sometimes wonder how Moses felt standing at the Red Sea with the freshly released people of Israel.  Here he is with Pharaoh's army in hot pursuit behind them and a bunch of squabbling babies crying about how they would rather be slaves in Egypt then die out in the dessert.  And what does God say to him?
"Why do you cry to Me?  Tell the children of Israel to go forward." (Exodus 14:15)
I think sometimes I spend more time crying to God about the seemingly impassable situations of life then I do in trusting Him that He is leading me and encouraging me to move forward.  I look at the big sea of life in front of me and the hurts of the past behind me and I think that it would have been better to be a slave to my past then to think that I have a future ahead of me that is full of promise and hope.  I forget that God is in control.

I don't know what everyone else is facing.  I just know that the same God that told Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9), is the same God that is with you today.

As I face the adversities of this life, I choose to be strong; full of courage; without fear; possessing a quiet confidence, that will carry me through the changes into the promise that God has given me.  I don't know what my future holds, but I know Who holds the future.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Colourful Blessings

As we head through the fall season it is really beautiful to see the changes happening to nature.  All the colourful trees are glowing red, orange and yellow.  The leaves are blanketing the ground like a handmade quilt from your grandmother.  And yet our busy lives continue to press on all around us.

How many times do we slow down to enjoy the changes of the seasons?  Do we really stop to take a look at the beauty of what is happening or do we just press on and miss the colourful display of life that is bursting all around us?

On my own personal journey, it has been really interesting to see through the changes how God has been grabbing my attention to the little things happening around me.  He has been blessing me with his goodness and I am truly thankful for what He is doing.  However, I have to wonder how many more blessings that have passed unappreciated because I have been so goal oriented on this adventure.

It pays to slow down and appreciate the things that you have because tomorrow you may need that reminder to help you make it through a difficult day.  We use to sing a song back when I was growing up, "Count Your Blessings", where we were reminded to "name them one by one".  Today, if you're going through a difficult time, take a minute to stop and count your blessings because you just might be surprised how good your life really is.

So as I get ready to head home, I am going to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons and remember that as things in life transform, God is in control and He is blessing me every day with another colourful blessing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Big and Good Expectations

Have you ever been waiting for something, whether in the mail or from someone, and when it finally arrived it wasn't what you thought it was going to be?  Did you feel like your expectations had been let down?  The other side of that, have you ever received something and it was better than what you had thought?  How did you feel about that?

I recently received (at a nominal charge) the new BlackBerry Torch from my wireless provider.  I remember when I first saw an advertisement for this cell phone how I thought to myself, nice ... but is it as really as good as these people were claiming?  So I read the reviews and did some homework on this little device and they all seemed pretty positive.  I decided to upgrade my phone (thanks to the unmentioned wireless provider) and the wait began.  I have to admit, I felt a bit like a kid at Christmas (by the way, there are only 70 days until that wonderful day arrives in case you're wondering) and the anticipation of something new was quite exhilarating. I even made the mistake of ordering the phone on the Thursday of a long weekend so it didn't wind up arriving until Tuesday.  Hey ... I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

So I have my new phone.  I have to say (shameless plug for the BlackBerry Torch) that I am extremely impressed with this new phone.  It has met and exceeded my expectations however, it is just a phone.

I've been personally challenged lately in my personal walk with God about my expectations.  There have been a couple of things on my heart when it comes to this:
1. That there would be a sense of excitement when I think about what God desires to offer me and
2. That there would be a great expectancy of what God is going to do.

I want to go back to my Christmas analogy from earlier.  How many times do we lose the excitement of serving God?  How many times do we find ourselves in dry spells of life where we are left wondering what happened to the excitement of a loving God?  In the book of Lamentations, we are reminded in verses 3:22-24 that "God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up.  They're created new every morning.  How great your faithfulness!  I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left."(The Message).  Our relationship with Christ should not be stale.  We should have a daily refreshing of God's mercy EVERY DAY!  That is like getting a Christmas present every morning!  How can that be boring?  How can that be stale?  There is excitement in our relationship with God!  If we are not excited in our Christian walk, are we really walking like a Christian?

I believe the other part of our excitement is directly related to our expectancy.  Think of it this way, at Christmas we have this expectancy of receiving good gifts.  When Christmas comes and we open the gifts, we either have great joy or the opportunity to re-gift.  But with God, there is never a bad gift that comes from God.  James says, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."(James 1:16-17).  We need to expect good gifts from our Heavenly Father who loves us.

But we also need to get a grasp on increasing our expectancy for God's moving in our lives.  In Ephesians, Paul states "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."  Think about that for a second ... "who is able" ... Do you know that God is able?  Do you know that God has the ability to meet your need?  But it is not just partly meeting, it is "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine".

But are we only believing/asking for a partly or are we believing/asking for a complete request?  What are you believing God for today?  Are you believing for a healing in your body?  Are you believing for a loved one who is not following Christ to find relationship with God?  Are you believing for debt to be cancelled?  Are you believing for a job or promotion?  Are you believing for a restored relationship?  In any or all of those questions, are you believing for God "who is able to do immeasurably more than all [you] ask or imagine' to fully meet those requests?

So as I enjoy my phone as cool as it is, the novelty will soon wear off.  However, God blows my mind away every day with His goodness and mercy!  That is exciting and I wait with the biggest bucket that I can find for all that my God is going to do!  That's the best gift ever!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thanks ...

Have you ever had one of those weeks where every day you are somehow reminded of a common theme?  This week has been one of those weeks for me.  It seems that every day there has been a simple message getting bounced back at me.

This week started off with a blog where I was having a "bad" day which turned out to be a good day.  However, part way through that day, I was reminded of all the things that I could (and should) be thankful for in my life.  It was one of those humbling moments where I was reminded that life really isn't that "bad".

All throughout this week, I have been getting gentle reminders to be thankful for the life that I live and the things that I have.  This morning, I was gently reminded with not one, but two devotionals on thanks.  To top it off, staff meeting this morning had a thanksgiving tone too it as well.  I even had someone cut me off where I had to say, "Thanks buddy!"  (Okay ... that last one might not have been the right example.)  As I began to write this little blog, I all of a sudden remembered that this weekend was Thanksgiving weekend (in Canada) and that is just one more reminder to be thankful for the things that I have.  Everywhere that I turn, there is a message to be thankful.

I am truly grateful for the way that God has been blessing my life.  I don't need to list them all on here, but for those that know me, they know that my life has done a complete 180 degree turn around and that God has been blessing me abundantly.  It hasn't always been an easy road, but things are looking up.

Today, I choose to be thankful but I also want to encourage others to be thankful as well.  No matter what you are going through, remember to give thanks for things that you have and the life that you live.  The bible says, "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I'm not sure if there will be more reminders this week, but I think I have got enough of them that I get the point.  So for everyone that makes my life better and to a God that continually blows me away ...


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Starbucks Kind of Day

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to crawl in a hole and hide?  Do you know, the kind of day where it seems like everything that you thought was going to be awesome, just kind of falls apart and leaves you with the feeling of disappointment or failure?

Today has been one of those days where it just hasn't gone as planned.  Things that I had planned have fallen apart and as I look back over the events of the day, I sit and ask myself, "what went wrong"?  What could have I done differently today to make this day better?

The truth is, there was really nothing that could have been done to make this day work the way that I wanted it to, but yet I have the choice to have this day finish on a positive or a negative.  I have the choice to either have a positive outlook on how this day has been or a negative outlook on how this day has been.  Reflecting on the day, it really hasn't been as bad as I had originally thought.  Let me explain.

Today, I wasn't sick.  Today, I wasn't hungry.  Today, I wasn't in desperate need.  So given just those three things alone, today was a good day.  So I have lots to be thankful for today.  The fact that I have family and friends that love me is enough to make today a good day.  The fact that I am able to witness a beautiful sunset makes today a good day.  The fact that I am able to share my thoughts freely makes today a good day.

So today I choose to have a positive attitude about the the way my life is and I sit back and enjoy.  Attached is a song that a friend shared with me that just reminds me that each day is an ordinary miracle. 

Sarah McLachlan - Ordinary Miracle

*grabs his Starbucks and relishes the day*

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keep Believing

Have you ever had someone promise you something and then you had to wait for it to happen?  There were many times in my childhood that my parents had promised me something and thankfully (because I have great parents ... and no I am not saying that just because Christmas is coming) they always came through on their promises.  There were times that I had to wait a bit to get what I want, but even if they missed the deadline (which never happened often), they still fulfilled their promises to me.

With each promise comes a sense of anticipation; There comes the excitement of what is going to be.  Sometimes, there is also a time of waiting.  Think about the joy that comes at Christmas (and I realize this is starting to sound like a shameless plug but honestly it isn't).  Kids know (honestly it isn't) that Christmas is right around the corner and they are doing everything they can to get off the 'naughty' list and unto the 'nice' list.  However, there is the wait for all those weeks and days (87 days in case you are wondering) before the day finally arrives.  But then it happens, the days of waiting are over and we celebrate Christmas.  Children when they wake up Christmas morning (sometimes too early for some parents) and make a mad dash for the Christmas tree to see what Santa (if you so believe ... and I still do) brought them this year for being so good.  There is excitement!  There is joy!

There have been times in my life where God has made promises to me.  With each promise there has been an immediate sense of joy and excitement!  Sometimes however, there has been a waiting process that happens.  The cool thing is that it isn't about trying to get off the 'naughty' list and trying to get on the 'nice' list, it is about having faith that God is going to do what He said He will do because we are His children. (1 John 3:1)  He wants to pour out His good gifts on us.  He wants to bless us!

But we have to believe that He will do what He said He will do.  I believed my parents were going to come through on their promises and because I loved them, I would respond out of obedience.  Because we believe that God is, we respond in obedience.  If we truly love God, then we will obey His commands, not to get on the 'nice' list, but simply because we love Him.  2 John 1:6 says it this way,
"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."
Out of love for God we respond.  Out of love for us, God responds.

If you're waiting on a promise from God this morning, don't worry about whether or not God is still working in your situation.  Maybe you're struggling through a sickness and God has promised that He is going to heal you.  Maybe you're waiting on that relationship and God has promised that He is going to bring that someone special in your life.  Maybe you're waiting on a job or promotion and God has promised that it is coming.  Whatever you're waiting on, keep believing that God is going to provide in His timing and don't be discouraged.  God always comes through on His promises.  Just continue to love God in faithful obedience and believe that He will do what He said He will do.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On The Road Again

The last few months have been a learning experience for me.  I have had to learn to 'relax' and 'be' which isn't always easy for someone who is a "get to the goal" type of person.

About four years ago, I applied for a job as a youth pastor and the senior pastor started using this terminology of "let's journey together".  It was the first time I had really heard something like that and it kind of caught me off guard.  I had always pictured Christianity and life as a goal driven endeavour and not really as a journey to experience.  Over the few years, this man drove home the idea of life as a journey and not a destination.

A few months back, I had the privilege of driving up to and back from Bon Echo Provincial Park.  As I was driving, I started to realize that I had started going for the goal again and not enjoying the journey.  In a traffic jam, I was following a car with a young couple in it and the driver was swinging around every once in a while and checking out the back seat and the passenger, she had her feet firmly planted out the window.  What I didn't notice at first was a tiny pair of hands that kept popping up.  The young man in the driver's seat was a dad and his attention was being distracted by him playing with his son in the back seat.  I was mesmerized by this young family and how they really weren't caught up in the traffic jam, but rather caught up in enjoying each other.  They were enjoying the journey without a care in the world.

I have since then caught myself, even today, getting caught up in the destination of things.  I just want to get here.  I just want to accomplish this.  I just want my life to look like this.  However, I need to 'relax' and 'be' who God has created me to be and enjoy the journey.  I need to enjoy the process of getting from point 'A' to point 'B'.  I need to relish the moments of my life and not miss the view as I travel through traffic jams and roadblocks. 

So, today I remind myself that as I journey, to look around, relax and just be.  I'm sure I'll have to do this again sometime soon, but until then life is good.  The road that I am on is a good road.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Still Pressing

Have you ever have one of those moments when you have thought to yourself, "I wish I could stay in this moment forever"?  Maybe it was a moment shared with a loved one or maybe it was just a high moment in your life that you never want to forget.  On the flip side of that, have you ever had a moment that you wish you could just forget ever happened, one of those moments which hurt so bad that it took a while to get over?

One of my favourite moments as a teenager was youth group.  I use to look forward to every Friday night of hanging out with my friends and catching up about the events of the week.  Sure there was the spiritual aspect of youth group, but the real moments were the connections that we made.  They were amazing!  On a number of occasions, I have caught myself saying, "If I could only go back to that moment" or "Those were the days"!  I know just saying that proves that I am getting older, but that is not really the point.

I've also had moments in my life that I wish that never existed.  One of those moments was my divorce.  I don't think anyone goes into a marriage hoping to be divorced, but the truth is, it happens.  But the hurts and pains after the marriage can leave a lasting mark if we choose to hold on to the hurts and pains.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul appeals to them by saying,
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
 In my understanding of this scripture, Paul is asking two things.  First, don't hold on to the past.  Have you ever tried to hold on to something with one hand and grab something just out of reach with the other?  It can cause for some humour in the best of situations.  You have to let go of the things that are behind you to reach what is in front of you.  That means that we have to let go of the hurts and pains of the past (which many of us already know) but sometimes we also have to let go of the great moments that we hang on to.  We cannot live in the past to get to our future.

The second part of Paul's encouragement is that we strive for the goal.  What is the goal?  Our goal is an eternity with Christ Jesus with a life that pleases Him.  We daily strive to be more like Christ through faith and obedience.

What are you striving for today?  Are you seeing the goal in front of you but holding on to the past or are you pressing forward releasing the good and the bad of what is behind you and pressing for God's best?  I choose today to let go.  I choose to walk in freedom and receive all of what God has for me.  Not that I am perfect (far from it) but that I strive to be more like Christ. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

W.I.P. Bins

Have you ever asked yourself, "God, why am I going through this in my life right now"?  Do you ever wonder why we struggle with problems?  Do you wonder why God allows certain things to happen?  Why do bad things happen to good people?

When I worked in an automotive plant, I worked for the Materials Department.  Part of my job was to order enough W.I.P. bins to meet the needs of production in the plant.  What's a W.I.P. bin you ask?  It stands for Work In Progress.  Raw material would come into the plant and get processed.  Sometimes, when that part still required processing, it was put into these W.I.P. bins until it reached the final process of manufacturing.  

I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am not perfect.  This might come to a surprise to some of you, but sarcasm aside, I am a work in progress.  I am being processed from what I once was to what God wants me to become.  But what does God want me to become?

In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul says to the church, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  He goes on to say later in the letter, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light" (Ephesians 5:9).  See, we all start in this raw form which is our sinful nature.  There is no one that is different in this world. (Romans 3:23)  We all start off in the darkness of this world.  Paul says to Titus, "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another." (Titus 3:3)

However, when we accept Jesus Christ into our life, we enter into the W.I.P. bin of life.  We become a work in progress. 
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24)
 We constantly have to remember that the old life is dead and the new life is alive in us.  We are going from our raw state of sin and being transformed by the Holy Spirit into a person of light, not by our own doing, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us.  We don't deserve to be light bearers, but God grants it to us despite what we have done or what we could do through grace.

The beauty of this W.I.P. bin of life is that we have a hope despite what happens in our life.  Paul puts it to Titus like this:
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
What a joy of being a work in progress. We have an eternal hope.  So why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do we struggle?  I believe that it is all a part of the process to become more like Christ.  Good things happened to Jesus.  He was worshipped as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem.  Bad things happened to Jesus.  He was beaten and bruised. But He still kept going because He saw the Father's purpose in it all ... and it was for us.

I don't know what you are struggling through today.  However, realize that you're a work in progress when you have Christ in your life.  That means that no matter what you are struggling with, keep going because there is hope.  We get to spend an eternity with the Eternal God who loves us so much that He sent His only son to die for us. 

So ... in my imperfection, I climb willfully into this W.I.P. bin called life and strive to be more like Christ despite the good, the bad and the ugly.  I have hope!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Driving the Journey

I have been challenged lately by the Holy Spirit to slow down in my driving.  I have had a tendency to have a heavy foot while driving.  I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I will admit that I do have a need for speed but I don't like the cost of speed when you get caught.  I like the rush but driving a Buick Century definitely helps curb that enthusiasm a bit.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely appreciative of my car, but there are times that I wish that the car I owned was a little sportier.

How many times have you been stuck in traffic getting frustrated because you were in a hurry to get somewhere but it was obvious that you weren't going to get there anytime soon?  I use to commute from Barrie to Milton and back every day (I know ... crazy) but in that commute there was always a rush to either get to work or get home.  One of the costly shortcuts was taking the 407 ETR (electronic toll road) which was roughly $15 one way.  However, there were many times that it saved me time and got me to my destination quicker. 

In life, we are on a similar journey.  I can remember when I was younger thinking that, "I can't wait to be 16 so I can drive" or I can't wait to be 21".  There were all these times when I was in such a hurry to get to my destination that I may have missed enjoying part of the journey.  I was so intent on finding the shortcut that the experience of the moment went by unnoticed.  Much like the 407 ETR, shortcuts can cost you.  They might not cost you money, but they can cost you the experience and/or thrill of something.

When we are followers of Christ, God wants us to enjoy the journey that we are on.  The road isn't always clear and the journey isn't always easy but the experience is irreplaceable.  There may be times when you feel like you're in a traffic jam but know that God is with you even in the jams of life.  There may be something that you are missing by trying to take the shortcut.  We need to relax and just be.  Those are two words that God has really impressed in my heart as of late.  He wants me to just 'relax' and 'be'. 

Psalm 46:10 says, "be still and know that I am God".  When we rush on the journey we miss what God is saying or showing us.  So the next time you seem to be caught up in a traffic jam, relax.  Take a breath.  Know that there is a reason why God is slowing you down.  Easily said, but as I have found out from personal experience, not so easy to do.  However, when we do it the results are well worth the effort.

So for me, I am making a conscious choice to slow down in my driving and enjoy the scenery.  I am also choosing to slow down in this journey of life and enjoy the ride that God is taking me on. 

Rock Solid

While I was helping out at youth camp this past summer, one of the other leaders, Shanna, gave me some playdough from a lesson they were doing and said, "Here, now you will always remember me!"  So I rolled the playdough into a ball and threw it in my car.  That week spent at camp, I developed a lot of new friendships.

Yesterday, Shanna had commented on my Facebook wall and asked me, "How's the playdough?  ahahahah did you throw it out as yet?"  The truth was I didn't have a clue where the ball had ended up.  However, later that afternoon to my surprise, the ball of playdough was located on the floor under my desk.  It must have rolled off the back.  It was hard as a rock!

God has been really working with me lately to change me and mould me into who He wants me to be.  I have been going through a lot of things that have been shaping me for His purposes.  It has been a process that hasn't always been enjoyable, but it is necessary for God to use me the way that He sees fit. 

In life, we come across situations where new experiences come along.  Maybe a new friendship as with Shanna and I; Maybe a new job; Maybe a new opportunity enters into your life.  Whatever it is, they are soft and pliable when they are new.  They all help shape who you are.  They are like the playdough when you first open up the package.

As time goes on and you continue to work through your new experiences and as they get exposed to the air, time passes, and like the ball of playdough, they become rock solid.  You get comfortable in your new friendship.  You get comfortable in your new job.  You get comfortable in your new opportunity.  Things begin to solidify and the fear factor of the unknown wears off.

God does the same in our lives.  He takes us to a place of the unknown.  He takes us to a place where we don't know which way to turn but He doesn't leave us alone there.  He walks with us on our journey of life.  The cool thing is that as we spend time with Him; as we expose ourselves to His presence, the fear of situations gradually dissipates and we become rock solid in our faith and trusting Him.

So the playdough sits on my desk in a place where I will remember that I have new friends whose relationship with is solidifying.  But it also serves as a reminder that as I place my faith in Christ, He will solidify my relationship with Him ... ROCK SOLID!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just Ducky

Have you ever been facing something new in your life or an obstacle that you don't think you can get over?  How about you've been asked to do something and you don't think you're qualified?

On Sunday, I went to the park for the day with a blanket, a good book, a submarine sandwich, a bottle of water and a package of Jube Jubes.  As I was laying on the blanket reading, I could hear some splashing in the river beside me.  I looked over and there was some ducks there which were stuck behind a log which opened up into a wider river.  They were trying to figure out how to get over the log and keep going.  As I watched, I was amazed to see the ducks behind the lead duck flipping the tails of the ducks in front with the bills.  It was both cute, but inspiring at the same time.

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites were also facing a huge obstacle ... Jericho.  The walls were huge, the people there were huge and the obstacle of taking the land was huge.  But God had given them the land.  God had prepared for them an inheritance that He may be glorified in His people.  He was nudging them forward to take the city; the large obstacle; to overcome.  All they had to do was be obedient to what He was asking the Israelites to do.  God had already won the battle for them ... WITHOUT A FIGHT!

There have been times in my life where I have felt that maybe I had made a mistake by going into ministry.  There were even times when I didn't feel that I belonged; that I didn't fit the mould of a pastor.  However, God was there reminding me that He had placed me in this job.  He was behind me gently nudging me to keep going and to not get caught up by the size of the obstacle in front of me.  Like a couple of the ducks who moved out of the way, there have been times when I have wanted to swim away.  However, God continues to push me forward and show me that I need to be obedient to His call.  He has already gone before me and won my battles for me.

Maybe you are going through a time in your life where you feel that you don't measure up.  Maybe you are struggling in areas of your life where you just feel like you cannot go on.  Maybe you've come up against a road block and you're not sure that there is any way around.  However, God is there with you.  He is nudging you on.  The only thing that He is asking is that you be obedient to His gentle nudges.  Don't swim away from the obstacle, but allow God to make you an overcomer!  He has already fought your battles for you.

The ducks ... all of them made it over by jumping up on the log.  My afternoon ... was encouraged that no matter what was coming my way, whether in ministry or just in everyday life that God was with me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It Is All About Me

We live in a society that has become more and more about self-promotion.  Last night, I became even more aware of that in something as simple as my Facebook status.  Lately, my statuses have been, "Dean Peckham is (blank).", where the blank has been everything from happy, humbled, learning, pausing, content, trusting determined and even challenged (which some people had a heyday with) but they were always somehow about me.

Over the past six months, God has been challenging me in a way that I never thought I would ever be challenged.  It started out back in the Fall of last year that I was driving to work one day (at my fairly new job at the church as the Associate Pastor) that I heard God say to me, "Dean, you are arrogant!"  I was aghast!  I thought to myself, "Am I really arrogant?  Have I thought of myself as something greater than I really am?"   I had no idea that God was going to take me on a journey to show me exactly how arrogant I had become and how I need to change.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but I am not fond of being corrected.  Maybe that alone shows my arrogance but the last few months have been brutal for me.  Every time I turn around I seem to be going through some sort of experience where God or someone that God chooses to use (and there have been many) brings me down one more notch off of my high horse.  I can honestly say that this has been one of the most trying times in my life.  I do not like being wrong but that again is my problem.  Pride has crept in.

Hebrews 12:5-11 says:
5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
   “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and don’t give up when he corrects you.
 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (NLT)

In this journey, although somewhat unenjoyable, I still want to be obedient to the place where God wants to take me.  If that means that I still have farther to go before I am humbled to where God wants me, then I pray that God gives me the endurance to go the distance.  I want God's best for my life and that means that in the words of John, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (John 3:30, NLT)

My Facebook status today is simply, "Dean Peckham is nothing."  It is not that I don't have value, but rather, that I remove more of me and die to myself, that Christ may be alive in me.  My hope and pray is that when people look at me, that they see the character and nature of Jesus Christ in me.  I believe Paul sums up my feelings best with, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Still Small Voice

The other day I was feeling the urge to write again so I did.  I had written out what I thought might have been one of my best blogs to date.  As I went to post it, there were errors in the posting and I was feeling like this was not made for public viewing, but I fixed the errors and posted it.

... then came the still small voice ... "Dean ... take it down."

Now ... if you have read any of my other posts, you will know by now that I don't really have a great track record of listening.  However, after a series of recent events, I am learning to listen and I quickly removed the post from the blog site.  I had a peace about it.  I did, however, save the blog into a Word document and thought maybe this one is for another time.

Later on that day, I was talking to a friend of mine who was going through some life choices.  He was wrestling with God about some decisions that were coming up in his life.

... then came the still small voice ... "Dean ... send him the blog."

Again ... I thought I was starting to lose it, but I thought that if I didn't maybe I would miss out on something that God was doing.  So I sent him the blog and after he had read it he told me that it confirmed for him everything that God was telling him.  Even some of the wording matched perfectly what God had told him.

To say the least, I was humbled.  I am only starting to understand the still small voice, but I am glad that God found it in His infinite wisdom to use me in that manner and that I was obedient.  In the past ... I have done my own thing, but I am learning that it is not all about me.  Sometimes swallowing our pride is the biggest lesson that we can learn.

So ... I keep on with my journey in becoming more like Christ and look to Him for direction.  The more I think I have it figured out, the more I realize that I don't have a clue what is going on ... but I am glad that He does!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Difficult to Trust

Life doesn't always go as you want it to go.  Sometimes, you try to control things and try to force things a certain way.  But you cannot always control what happens in your life because you are not in this world all by yourself.  You share it with the people around you and they influence you and if you let them in, they can change the course of your life whether you like it or not.

I didn't always want to be a pastor.  Actually, for the longest time, I wanted to be an airline pilot.  "This is your captain speaking ... " but because at the time my eyesight wasn't good enough (.4 of to be exact) of what was the allowable limit at that time in aviation transportation, I didn't get to follow my dream.  I was disappointed for years.  I was even lost about what to do.  There were a couple of times when I heard God calling me into ministry, but I wanted to be a pilot ... not a pastor.

The thing is, I chose to submit my will to God's will when I became a Christ-follower.  That meant that I had to let Christ in.  That meant that I was giving up my will for His will for my life.  He wanted me to be a pastor ... and after some stubborn arguing with God, I wound up eventually going to Bible School and now find myself enjoy ministry in a church as an Associate Pastor.

I also let someone else into my life who I eventually married.  That didn't go as I had planned either.  I had expected it to be a husband and a father but because of situations beyond my control all that came to an abrupt end and finalized with divorce.  Those are the moments that are hardest to accept.  Those are the moments when you are challenged the most.  I would love to say that I came out of it with flying colours, but it took a while for me to bounce back from that situation.

The truth in all of that was that God never left me.  He never abandoned me in my struggle.  He allowed me to go down the road that I went, and even though I didn't know it, He was still with me!  That's because God loves me just like he loves you!

After my separation I had resigned from the church where I was a Youth Pastor.  That was just one more thing that I never expected that I would have to do in my life.  However, in doing so, I had the distinct privilege of speaking one more time to an amazing youth group.  The words that I left with them which still stick with me today are from Proverbs 3.  Verses five through seven say,
 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
      do not depend on your own understanding.
 6 Seek his will in all you do,
      and he will show you which path to take.
 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
      Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Little did I know that God was going to use those words which I was leaving for the youth to bring me back to a place where He could once again impart into my life and lead me.  I learned what God's Grace is really all about and I was humbled.

If you are going through a struggle, a situation that is impossible, or a low spot in the journey of your life, please realize that you do not walk alone.  God is with you!  He is standing right beside you and He is there whether you are aware of His presence or not.  Don't give up!  Keep trusting God to lead you and look to Him because He will direct your path!  Press on!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Fishy Truth

It has been a while since I have posted anything on here, but that doesn't mean that God hasn't been working in my life.  Over the past couple of weeks, God has been showing me that sometimes I just need to do what I am told, not what I want to do because His ways are much better than mine.  Let me explain:

A couple of weeks ago, a situation had presented itself where I was invited to do something and I just felt this uneasy sense "Don't do it!"  It was that quiet whisper that just sits in the depths of your gut.  It wasn't a screaming 'NO!', but it was enough that I recognized that I shouldn't do it.  Long story short, I didn't listen.  In fact, I disobeyed, not once, not twice, but three times. 

At our youth group (IGNITE Student Life) we have been going through the book of Jonah for the summer.  It has been an awesome experience where the kids get to hear this fishy story from a different perspective.  The leadership have been asking them to put themselves in Jonah's shoes.  What was it like for him?  What was he going through?  Little did I know that I was about to put myself in his shoes.

You see, as I disobeyed, I felt a lot like Jonah as was sinking to the bottom of the ocean.  The seaweed was wrapping around him and sucking him to the bottom never to be heard of again.  I was in my own ocean where I was wondering where the exit was.  I was wondering if I was going to be saved by the big fish or was I just going to come to my demise at the bottom.  My disobedience (sin) had left me in a state of confusion.  But last Saturday night, God woke me up from a nightmare that caused me to repent of my sin.  I knew I was wrong and I knew I had to make things right.  God used the dream to be like Jonah's fish.

How many times do we go the wrong way?  The beauty of the story is that God is with us all the way through.  Even in my disobedience, God was still with me and still reaching out to me.  He was still making a way out.  God is with you no matter what you are going through.  No matter how much you have messed up.  No matter how wrong things are going for you!  Know that God is with you and He will never leave you or forsake you!  He loves you!  Just call out to Him and repent of the sin in your life!

The confusion is gone and the road is a lot clearer.  I just pray that the next time that the small voice comes and says, "No Dean" that I will respond, "Okay Lord!  I trust you!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Humble Search

Yesterday was a very interesting day for me.  For one, I won a game of Settlers of Catan against my sister-in-law, nephew and niece but that's not really why I am writing today.  I had one of those moments when God humbles you and reminds you that it really isn't about you, but about Him.

On the fourth Sunday of every month at The LIFE Centre ( we have what is called Super Sunday.  It is kind of like a huge kids church where all the kids stay in with me and we sing songs, play games and do a life lesson.  One of the things that I did yesterday was I put all the kids into four colour groups (blue, green, yellow and orange) and took them outside.  What they didn't know was that hidden outside (thanks Emily S.) was the memory verse ... one word on a single piece of paper for their colour group.  So each child was let loose to find 13 pieces of paper in their respective colour groups.

That's when it happened ...

As I stood there and watched the kids run around looking for the pieces of paper I realized that this is why I do what I do.  The kids were running and laughing and playing and searching and having fun.  I was releasing kids to love Jesus ...

but then the humbling part ...

God showed me, however, that I needed to be more like the kids.  They were striving so hard to find all 13 pieces of paper to discover the memory verse.  It was that quiet voice ... that gentle reminder ... that I need to search for God the way the kids were searching for the memory verse.  I need to be like those kids in my search of Christ ... running and laughing and playing and searching ...

So from now on when people ask me if I am ever going to grow up my response will be ... NEVER!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Planned Distractions

This has been a crazy busy week.  There has been some self-sustained delays, but there has been a lot more delays that were either unforeseen or unavoidable.  Either way, it has been a very unproductive week and that's why I am sitting at the office on a Saturday morning trying to pull things together for Sunday.  So far ... well ... I'm on here so that should say it all.

It is funny how things don't always go exactly how we want them to go.  I had this week all planned out and things kept coming up and just delaying the things that I needed to get done back just a little bit further.  Despite the fact that all these 'delays' have come into play, it has been an exciting week.  There have been lots of challenges, but that just means that there have been lots of opportunities to grow.  God has really shown me a lot about who I am through this week and shown me that not everything is about me!  WHO KNEW!!??

I thought I had it all figured out!  I thought I knew exactly what God was telling me, how it was going to go and roughly when it was going to happen.  I guess telling God might be different than hearing from God.  Sometimes I think we want to show God how it should go (and to the point where we believe that "God told me that it was going to happen this way") instead of just resting in His Presence and allowing His Spirit to lead us and guide us.  I find myself playing God as opposed to loving God.

So back to my busy week ... I really should finish off what I NEED to get done but I'm left with this humbling thought:  No matter how things really turn out, no matter if things go the way that I think they should or if they just happen, God is in control and He IS directing my steps.  (Proverbs 20:24, Jeremiah 10:23)  That means that I just keep looking to him and I know that all these 'distractions' happen for a reason.  None of these 'surprises' are a surprise to God.  That's comforting because I know that God is for me, not against me!

All that said, I get back to what I NEED to get done and thank God for all the things that I didn't need to do!  God is truly amazing!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Avoiding the Chair

Yesterday was an interesting day for me.  Thursdays are my day off at the church so I try to get caught up on my 'MUST DO' list.  This Thursday was much like every other Thursday in that there was laundry to clean, fold and put away (my momma brought me up right), there was grass to cut (which was only half done because the backyard is like Lake Ontario currently) and a room that needed to be tidied (okay ... so I don't always listen to EVERYTHING that momma told me).

The difference between this Thursday and other Thursdays, is that I had a dentist appointment to attend.  Now I am not a huge fan of the dentist.  However, I was talking to my friend and she said to me, "You don't like going?  Just think of how clean your teeth will feel after!"  My response was very quick but the impact was huge.  I said, "Its the process that I don't enjoy.  The end result is always good but the process sucks."

How many times do we find our Christian walk like that.  We want to experience the "end result", but we don't really want to go through the process.  In Hebrews 12:3-11, the author gives us a powerful imagery of God as our Spiritual Father.  Check this out:

3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
   “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.

6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?

8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.

9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.

11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

How many times have we tried to take the short cut and avoid the discipline?  How many times have we tried to avoid the dentist chair only to realize that it is going to cost us (both figuratively and literally) more in the long run?

The next time you're going through something where you're feeling the loving discipline of God, remember that it might be difficult in the moment, but in the long run, it will cause you to grow and mature and have lasting benefits.

The pain is over, my pocket book is emptied and my teeth are clean!  Keep smiling!  It makes those dentist's bills worth it!

Never Lose the Passion

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweating for Jesus

Today I sit in the office at work and as I wipe the sweat from my brow, I am thankful for all that God has done for me.  I'd probably be more thankful if the air-conditioning was working properly, but regardless, I am still thankful.

I am in a place that I never again imagined that I would be; doing something that I love; working in an area that I find gives me greater purpose.  But God has reminded me today that the purpose of what I do is not as important as the importance of what I was created to do.

Tonight, the youth are heading to one of the local high schools in town for a worship service.  This service was put together by students, for students to worship God.  It is a joined effort of the major high schools in the city and they have culminated their efforts to bring their praise to the One.  What a cool example of what the church is supposed to be today.  We were created to worship our God!  We were created to bring glory unto Him.  These kids are attempting to do that tonight as one body; the church!  That is exciting!

So as I sit in my non-functioning air conditioned office, I will remember that I am created to worship him and that even though I never thought I would be in this place, may I never forget that He is the reason why I am.  It was because of HIS grace that I can sweat for Him and testify to His goodness!

No matter what you're going through today, remember the words of Psalm 100:

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.   
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.

 3 Know that the LORD is God.
       It is he who made us, and we are his;
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.

 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
       his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Dog's Life

Have you ever felt like nothing is going your way and that life just seems to be throwing you every possible curve that it can?  Have you ever felt like you're just not going to make it?  Have you ever felt like just giving up?

I was reminded tonight by a mangy little cur that life might be difficult, but sometimes when it seems like the end of the line, you still have another life.  My brother's dog is named Murphy.  He is really cute and I've really grown to like him over the past little while.  I live with my brother and the puppy dog has spent many nights sleeping on the corner of my bed with me.

This dog has seen death a number of times.  He ate some grass soaked in pesticide.  He has eaten enough Easter chocolate to kill most humans, let alone a dog, but a few weeks back, Murphy had one of his closest encounters yet.  He was struck by a car which ran over his rear quarters.  My brother had messaged me and told me that it would probably be the fun loving furball's last ride to the vet.  I have to admit, I was emotionally moved and maybe even shed a tear.

The truth is, in the bible, there is a guy named Job.  The guy had everything going for him.  He was wealthy, had a healthy family and a great life.  God allowed Satan to attack Job, but he never allowed Satan to kill him.  At first, it was his wealth and his family.  Within minutes, Job had lost all his farm animals and his children.  Imagine ... losing everything in a matter of minutes.  Would you still believe that God existed?  That he loved you?

Job's response was a little odd to say the least, but if you just lost everything, I am sure that your response would be a little odd too.  The bible says that Job tore off his clothes (awkward), shaved his head (Britney Spears much?) and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart."  Okay ... I am with him up to this point.  HOWEVER ... Job's next statement baffles me: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; ... (still with him) ...  may the name of the Lord be praised."  *THUD*  Seriously ... praise God for taking away everything?  I want some of that wine he is drinking.

A little while later, Satan decides that it isn't enough that he has killed off his family and stolen his wealth, he decides to strike him down with some lovely boils from head to toe.  Again, just when he thought it couldn't get worse ... it does.  Have you been there?  Even Job's wife says, "Are you still holding on to your intergrity?  Curse God and die!" ... to which Job replies, "You are you talking like a foolish woman. ... (which in itself could get me in trouble if I went deeper with it so we will just leave that alone) ... Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?"

See ... the truth of Job's story is not what He got from God (although God did give him a new family and wealth) but what it really comes down to is that God believed in God despite how grueling the situation got.  It didn't matter if times were good or if times were bad, he was going to acknowledge God as God.

So Murphy ... hit by a car ... but yet he lives another day to bark about it.  Life doesn't always go the way we expect.  I am sure that this puppy dog didn't want to get hit by a car, but despite it, he still keeps fighting to live for another day.  Despite all he has been through, he still comes to us for food, water and of course some attention.

Psalm 62:8 reminds us, "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."  So when you're going through those difficult times, have faith in God.  When you're going through some good times, have faith in God.  No matter what you're experiencing, have faith in God.  He will carry you through!

Never Lose the Passion,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Waiting for Isaac

Has God ever promised you something and you feel like He isn't coming through on His end of the deal?  Maybe you're believing for your debt to be cleared.  Maybe you're waiting for a relationship to be created or restored.  Maybe you're waiting for a prodigal child to return to their relationship with God.

In Genesis, God promises Abram that he will be the father of many nations.  At the time of the promise, Abram was in his 80's.  Naturally, Abram and Sarai both had a strong reason to believe that this was impossible, but in Genesis 15:6, the Bible says that: "And [Abram] believed in the LORD, and [God] counted it to him for righteousness."  Abram believed.

There are times in our lives that "we believe".  I am believing in God for many things in my life.  I am looking to God and trusting that HE IS and that HE WILL.  However, that doesn't mean that I always do what I am supposed to do.

In Genesis 16, Sarai brings her maidservant to Abram and says, "Have your way with Hagar so that God will give me the promise of children through her" (The Dean Paraphrase).  So ... Abram being the man of faith that he is conveniently agrees.  But God's promise wasn't in Hagar's being, it was through Sarai.  God wanted to show His Glory in His time!  Hagar gets pregnant and gives birth to Ishmael, but Ishmael wasn't the promise.

So we have a promise, and we in turn try to force God's hand to receive it in our time, not His.  I've been there so many times and you would think that I would figure that out by now, but I guess I am just stubborn.  I know what the promise is, but I still look for the Ishmael instead of waiting on God.  I'm still humbled by the whole process.

BUT ...

Just because we go to the Ishmael doesn't mean that the promise is null and void.  God is true to His promises and He will come through, but we have to have faith in Him, and not the promise.  We have to have faith that He will respond in His sovereign time.  If we look back to the story, Ishmael was born when Abram was 86 years old.  However, Isaac was born when Abraham was 101 years old.  Abraham had to wait 15 years after for the promise to be fulfilled.  THE PROMISE WAS FULFILLED!

All that said, remember your promises from the start of this blurb?  Remember the things that God has promised you and that you haven't seen?  Have you tried to make the promises come to fruition by creating Ishmael or are you waiting for God to provide the Isaac?  I would love to say that I have figured out this waiting thing but that would just make me a liar.  However, I am believing God for the promise!  I am believing God that HE IS and that HE WILL.  He is real!  He is alive!  He is at work!  Keep waiting on God and He will come through!

Waiting for Isaac,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Faith In God

I recently preached a sermon at our church where as I was preaching, I realized that this message (even though some received something from it) wasn`t for the congregation as much as it was for me.

A lot of the times in my past, I have been overwhelmed by my personal circumstances.  I have seen financial, relational and emotional low times in my life where I wondered why do I bother believing that God is going to help me out of my situation.  It wasn`t so much that I was depressed, but more of the fact that I was let down that God "failed" me again.  I started to believe that because God didn't answer my prayers the way that I thought He should or in the time frame when I thought I needed Him to answer, that maybe, just maybe, God didn't really exist.  Maybe He was just a wild figment of my imagination.

But that brings me back to my sermon.  As I was preparing, I was reminded that God is not a God of situations, but rather that God just is.  In Exodus 3:14, God was speaking to Moses through a burning bush and he said to him, "Moses!  Tell them that I AM sent you."  God never said, "I'm that God that did this" or "I'm that God that did that", but he said, "I AM WHO I AM".

God doesn't need circumstances to be God.  The truth is ... He is God, and it is up to us to have faith that He is who He says He is and that He will respond to us. (Heb 11:6)  God's existence does not depend on our circumstances.  God's existence doesn't depend on what happens to us.  God exists because He says He exists and it is up to us to have faith in that.

So when you're struggling to understand why God allows things to happen, trust Him, because HE IS GOD!  HE IS REAL!  He knows what is best for your situation and because He is sovereign, let Him figure it out and just believe that HE IS and HE WILL RESPOND!

Never Lose the Passion,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More To This Life

It is early in the morning on a Saturday morning and I am here just thinking to myself about the message that I just spoke to the youth last night.  Retrospective is always a dangerous thing!

My life hasn't exactly gone the way that I thought it would have turned out.  I imagined when I was younger that I would have been married, in a good job with kids with a nice house, a couple of cars and maybe a toy vehicle of some sort in the driveway.  But life doesn't do that.  It doesn't always go the way we think it should.  Quite often, it does just the opposite.

I have a friend from high school whose husband committed suicide this week.  I'm sure she must be thinking right now as she is trying to explain to their two children, this is not the way that I planned my life.  However, this is something that she will have to deal with and unfortunately, there is really nothing she can do about it except make the best out of a really horrific situation.  My heart breaks for her, but I know that she'll be okay.  She has a great support group and people that will surround her in this time of difficulty.

When I look back at the situations that I went through, I was surrounded by people that helped me through.  There were people praying for me.  There were people checking in on me.  There were people just genuinely caring for me and the needs that I had.  Even now, there are people that are caring for me and looking out for my best interest.  I am very blessed.

I guess the grander thought though is as we have come through this Easter season and remembering what Christ did for us on the cross, we have to consider that God was looking out for us with the sacrifice of His Son on that day.  It wasn't a temporary fix, but a permanent fix.  He paid the price once and for all for a debt that we could not pay.

So looking back on tonight, I remember that even though we don't get things right; even though we don't always see the big picture; even though we don't know what curve balls life is going to throw at us, we have a God in heaven that is with us each step of the way and guiding us through and taking care of us.  All we have to do is let Him love us.  There really is more to this life.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Humbly Yours

I have been feeling really challenged as of late to really understand more about myself. I guess I really never thought much about "Who am I?" or anything like that because I just had a sense of "I already know", but truth be told, I've had my eyes opened quite a bit.
The other day, I was driving to work and I had one of the moments where God just LOUDLY whispered into my ear, "Dean ... you have too much pride!" I was appalled! I was shocked! I was in denial because how could I possibly have too much pride? Really! Me? But my very response confirmed exactly what God was saying to me. I knew immediately that there was a sense of pride there. I had allowed myself to become my own worst enemy.
In Numbers 12:3, the bible states, "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth."(NIV). Normally, I wouldn't take up any grievances with the bible, but in this case you have to realize that Moses WROTE this statement. He was claiming that he himself was the humblest guy on the face of the earth. Not bad. I wish I could say the same, but obviously by the Spirit's conviction in my life I cannot.
So what's the deal with humility then? Is it really anything important?
Well, I'm learning that humility is what really moves God into action. I like how Andrew Murray puts it in his book entitled "Humility":
What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility, His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility; His taking the form of a servant? And what is His atonement but humility? "He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death." And what is His ascension and His glory, but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory? "He humbled Himself, therefore God highly exalted Him." In heaven, where He was with the Father, in His birth, in His life, in His death, in His sitting on the throne, it is all, it is nothing but humility. Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us. As the love and condescension of God makes Him the benefactor and helper and servant of all, so Jesus of necessity was the Incarnate Humility. And so He is still in the midst of the throne, the meek and lowly Lamb of God.

I think I have a lot to learn on the subject and how to live it out, but as I try to work through it, I pray that eventually I can get to the point where I can paraphrase the words of Moses and say that "Now Dean was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth".

Humbly Yours,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grooving To A Different Beat

I'm working from home today as I was only able to get two hours sleep last night. My parents were down visiting my brother (who was just sent home from the hospital yesterday) and that meant I had the privilege of sharing a room with my nephew. Who knew that a 14 year old boy could snore like a freight train? The kid is gifted to say the least. In all fairness, I think he was just extra tired!

I'm preparing a message for youth entitled, "Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear". Do you remember the song from (realizing that I am dating myself here) Sunday school?

Oh be careful little ears what you hear.
Oh be careful little ears what you hear.
For the Father up above is looking down with love,
So be careful little ears what you hear.

Since I have been living with my niece and nephew I have gathered quite an interest in what they are listening to and pouring into those melons that we call brains. It is interesting to see how music affects their emotions and changes the environment of those surrounding them based on what they are absorbing. Youth in general are absorbing so much more music than 20 years ago (assuming that was my teenage years ... and it is) as it has become much more accessible with little cost. With the likes of Napster, Bearshare, Limewire & Frostwire a plethora of songs are only a click away. I can remember having to pay for the stuff that I wanted to listen to ... and hence my limited collection at their age equivalent.

Back to my message: My heart's desire for students is that they learn to discern between what is permissible and what is beneficial for their lives. When it comes to music choices, a lot of times it is garbage in, garbage out. I'm not concerned about the style as much as I am about the content. The lyrics possess the power to either glorify God or distract their attention from their creator. I'm not going to "preach" at them this week as much as I am going to get them in a round table discussion about what they listen to and why they listen to it. I'm not here to judge them, but to love, direct and help them define their own moral compass as they develop into adulthood. These are the generation of leaders who have the ability to do great things for God RIGHT NOW! Let's hope that they hear what I have to say and make the necessary changes to their iPod/MP3 Players libraries. I think I need a nap! Good thing my nephew is gone to school.

Let the beat go on!