Encountering God on the Kentucky Flyer

I do not like roller coasters. I do not find them enjoyable and I usually feel like I am going to pass out. So, I avoid them unless compelled. That being said recently at Kentucky Kingdom for my daughter’s birthday I felt compelled. It was not my daughter because she does not like them either and it was not my wife. It was a feeling inside saying do it. I shook the feeling a few times because I felt it was a ridiculous thought. As we were getting ready to leave, I told my wife I wanted to ride the Kentucky Flyer. There are no upside downs so I figured maybe I could handle it. The line moved quickly which was nice and the next thing I knew we were seated and chugging to the top. We dropped down and the first half of the ride was everything I hate. My eyes were closed, my heart was racing, and my hands were clenched so tight to the seat I was afraid I might rip something. Then I heard my Father.

I had been praying 1 Peter 5:6 for about a week because life is a little chaotic right now. It is all good but chaotic. We had been in Kentucky for missions training for 2 weeks at that point. We don’t have normal jobs anymore and we are trusting God for our daily bread in new and exciting ways. Halfway through the ride, I felt God say trust. So, I quickly said, “I humble myself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt me in due time.” With that, I let go opened my eyes and threw my hands in the air. The ride changed or rather I changed.

What started as something I hate turned into an encounter with the living God and I was crying on the roller coaster. Not because I was scared but because God was showing me how much He loves and protects me. I was in His hand more than I was in a seat whipping around corners. God was holding me and revealing something about Himself to me.

I could tell you that life is like a roller coaster or that life is an adventure but instead, I want to say life is life. What yours will look like or feel like is up to you and God. Yes, you both have a part to play. Life will never feel like a roller coaster or an adventure if you don’t step out and trust Him. That is unless He decides to push you but that’s a different message. Life can be freighting and uncertain but only if you are stepping out into the unknown and trusting God to lead you. It has to be that way because we have to learn to trust, obey and humble ourselves under His mighty hand. God wants you to lean into Him so we can truly know Him. This means He doesn’t give us the whole picture and make everything OK from the word GO. It has to be a process and that is OK because if we embrace the process and press into the Father, we encounter Him in ways we never can outside of trusting in the storms and chaos. It is so worth it to take the ride because in the end, we have something that is beyond anything the world can offer. We encounter the living God and have intimacy with the one who sustains the universe. That is just awesome in the truest sense of the word.

Just a thought,

Mike

Search Me

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24.

What a prayer! Praying that God would search and test your heart is a dangerous prayer. It is not only a dangerous prayer, but I think it is an incredibly faith-filled prayer because in order to pray this mighty prayer of faith you need to trust God. I don’t see any way you can pray for God to test you unless you trust Him to be gentle with you. If you are scared of God, you can’t ask Him to search and test you. Not because of what He might find but how He might react. If you are scared of God, then you are afraid of how He will respond. However, when you love and trust Him, you know even if He finds junk, He is going to be gentle with you because He loves you.

When my daughter asks me if her room is clean, she is saying “Daddy I trust you to be honest with me and not freak out because I missed something.” If (and when) I find something I am more than likely going to pick it up and take care of it for her. How much more does God help us? We must come to the same place with God. We must come to the place where we love and trust Him enough to ask for testing. The testing is for our own good. James says that the testing produces perseverance and we need perseverance to move forward in this life. The testing then becomes a time of growth and communion between us and God. Oh, how good it is to be tested by the Lord.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

 

Failure is not the end

As time limited creatures we often see failure as the end. If we fail, then we assume that is it and it is time to move on to something new and forget the past. The problem is that we are time-limited creatures. We lack the broad perspective God has to see that a failure now is not a permeant end to that dream, plan, or task. Sometimes failure is just a postponing. To be sure if we fail at something, we have two choices. We can either wallow in that failure or we can move forward. There is nothing wrong in grieving a failure. Some are rather big and hurt for a while. But at some point, we have to move forward. We have to dust ourselves off, dry our tears and say now what. Again, it might take a little while to get there but we must get there. I want to look at two people in the Bible that failed.

First is Jonah. We all know Jonah’s story. God told Jonah to go Nineveh and Jonah said no. Then because that was not enough for good ole Jonah, he boarded a ship for the opposite direction. The storm came, he was thrown overboard, got swallowed by a whale or great fish, repented, eventually got to Nineveh, preached the message that was given to him, the people repented, and Jonah sulked some more because he knew God would relent. Jonah failed in the beginning though. His failure was a deliberate rejection of the call of God on his life. He willfully and intentionally rejected the task placed before him and failed. But God being rich in kindness and mercy heard Jonah when he repented and allowed him to continue on and accomplish the task set before him. Make no mistake about it though, Jonah failed. But failure was not the end, it was only a delay.

The second story and granted there are a lot we could look at, is Paul. We don’t think of Paul as failing. Sure, Saul failed greatly. He wanted to wipe out the Way (Christians) and he condoned the stoning of Stephen. Saul failed big time, but Paul the great Apostle he did not fail. I think before I continue, we should clarify the word fail.

When I talk about failing, I am not talking about being a failure. I am not saying that if a person fails, they are a failure. For example, when I started a construction/handyman company it was a failure. If someone runs for president and they do not succeed, then their candidacy was a failure. Things can be failures, but I don’t think we should so quickly associate people with the word failure. It should take a lot and a lack a moral character for us to label a person a failure. People can fail in things all the time that does not make them a failure. It also does not make failing such a bad thing. Back to Paul.

In Romans 1:13 Paul says that he has often desired to come to Rome but was prevented. This means that his attempts to come to Rome have failed up to the point of him writing the letter. He wanted to and tried to but was prevented for some unknown reason. He failed to accomplish his desire to visit Rome. When we read about Jonah, we might want to label him a failure (which we should not) because he failed but with Paul, we quickly understand that it was not his fault. The thing is that they both failed. Yes, one was their own fault and the other likely was not but failure to accomplish the task was still the end result. Well, not the end…

See what looked like failure was in fact just a delay. Jonah ended up in Nineveh. He preached and the entire city repented. Because of his bad attitude, we get Jonah 4:11 which is a verse that shows us just how great God’s heart is. Jonah failed but it was not the end. Yes, his attitude never changed (at least that is recorded) but he still eventually accomplished the goal.

For Paul, he eventually ended up in Rome. From Rome, we get the Pastoral Epistles (1&2 Timothy and Titus) as well as the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Without the initial failing, we would not have 7 of the books of the Bible. We would not have the Scriptures about the amour of God, the supremacy of Christ, our place with Christ and so on. We would be missing so much if Paul had succeeded at first. Not only that but when he finally got to Rome, he was able to speak to the most powerful men in the empire. What looked like failing in the begging was really delay.

We fail. It is just that simple. We cannot possibly succeed at everything every time. Sometimes it is because we mess up. That happens. We make mistakes, we are weak, we miss our shot, we get big headed, we sin, whatever. Sometimes the failing is clearly on us. When that happens. Do what you need to do to correct it. Learn, study, repent, whatever it is, do the work you need to do. Sometimes, however, we fail for reasons that are beyond us or our understanding. God stops our plans, the devil interferes, people get in the way, people don’t help, whatever. If you have prayed and you know without a doubt that you did not cause the failing then dust yourself off, dry your tears and move forward.

Failure is not the end. Yes, some doors get closed permanently when we fail to accomplish the task but that does not mean it is the end. It just means there is something else to do. Sometimes this failing is simply a delay.

Just a thought,

Mike

A Base of Love

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Working from a base of love is a funny thing. Sometimes life is stressful and confusing. Sometimes life is great and easy. Regardless of what life is like at any given moment, we are called to operate from a base of love. This means that when life is stressful and confusing we are to look past our circumstances and move from a position of being loved and loving others. This can be hard because our stress and confusion attempt to demand our attention. They should be given attention but they cannot have it all.
When life is great and easy it can be hard because we don’t have something pressing us towards the Father in prayer, there is nothing requiring us to look past our own situation. We should enjoy the many blessings we have but we should not forget to love others. Operating from a base of love means embracing the love of God and intentionally looking past our situation to see the image of God in others. It is not always easy but it is best.
Today I challenge you to work from a base of love. First, embrace the love of the Father. Bath in that love. Let it roll over you like waves. Let it drown you like the sun. Soak it up. Then go out and find ways to express that love to others. Find someone, find a few people that need that love and drown them in it. Give them the water of life that flows from within you like a mighty river.
It’s going to be awesome!
Just a thought,
Mike

Going the Distance

I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?

Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.

I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.

When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.

So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”

Just a thought,

Mike.

Expert Status…

I have heard that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert. That is a lot of hours. To put it into perspective if you wanted to become an expert at guitar or piano and played for 4 hours every day it would take 2,500 days to be an expert. That is almost 7 years to reach expert status. That is no breaks, no sick days, and no vacations. 4 hours every day for almost 7 years. That also does not take into account everything you need to learn to practice the new stuff. Things like reading up on new chords, scales, or whatever. Obviously, I am not an expert (I cannot even play). But I think we get the picture. Expert status takes a drive, dedication, determination, and time. It does not happen overnight. But why am I talking about becoming an expert at playing an instrument? I am not, I just wanted to put the idea in perspective.

I do want to talk about becoming expert Christians. More specifically what it means for you to be an expert in your walk with Christ. I say your walk because each one of us should be striving for expert status in our walk with Christ. We should be the foremost leading expert (besides God Himself) on all things pertaining to our walk with Christ. If we use the 10,000-hour rule as a guide we can add in the things we are actually doing to practice our walk and see when we can expect to reach expert status.

My initial thought was “I always have the Holy Spirit in me so subtract sleep and divide.” WOW, that was simple – 588 days or 1.6 years. But then I found a problem. I don’t remember being an expert in my walk with Christ all those years ago. In fact, I am still learning things.

The Bible is not silent on this 2 Corinthians 8:7, for example, says that we should “excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge.” So it seems clear that we cannot become an expert just by existing as Christians. That would be nice but it does not seem to actually work. Well, maybe it makes a good hypocrite but that’s another story…

Instead, I want to offer three categories that I think we need to practice to help reach expert status. Also, I am going to keep the bad/good news for the end.

First up is obedience because I think a lot of the things we are supposed to practice fall into the obedience category. Giving, for example, is about obedience. Serving is another item that deals with obedience. Come to think of it the Bible is so insistent on obedience that it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. It also Jesus was obedient to the point of death. Obedience is like John says “walking as He (Jesus) walked.” That means obedience is pretty high up on the list of things to practice. So how much obedience do we need to do to reach our 10,000 hours? My guess is roughly 10,000 hours. Yeah, I don’t think we can split this one up. Sorry, it is a one for one ratio on obedience. So let’s make the math simple and say that overall each obedient act counts as one hour because some are longer and some much shorter. We only need 10,000 acts of obedience. That’s really not too bad. If we do one obedient act a day we can become experts in 27 years. But there is a problem.

The problem is it is not just about obedience. There are two other major categories and the next one is discipleship. I thought about maybe putting this one with obedience but Jesus was pretty insistent on this one thing before He ascended back to heaven so I think it should get its own practice hours. Mind you this is not evangelism. You cannot just say well I told 10,000 people so I met my hours. Sorry, wrong answer. Discipleship is taking time to invest in the spiritual formation and maturity of other believers. Discipleship is about being involved in other peoples lives and allowing them to be involved in yours. It is a process and as such, it takes time to complete these hours. So the question – what’s the ratio. Come on Mike how many hours of discipleship do I need to complete to reach expert status? Well, let’s keep this train rolling and say it’s one-to-one. So 10,000 hours or one hour a day or 27 years of discipling others and you have your hours. Again that is no breaks, vacations, or time off. But still, it’s a number.

Lastly, we come to prayer. Prayer is time between you and God. Paul says we should be praying always so there is a good reason to pray. The Bible is full of commands to pray, examples about prayer, stories of God hearing prayers. Jesus even taught the 12 to pray. I would suggest that not only is prayer a big deal it is a progressive act. The more we pray the more we need to pray. The more focused and disciplined our prayers become the more focus and discipline they need to be for us. One of my favorite passages on prayer is when Jesus says that we should keep asking, keep knocking, and keep seeking. I find that very confusing and very exciting. We have to continue to pray. In the beginning, only praying I want prayers is OK. Nothing wrong with that. It is like learning to walk and holding onto the couch or learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It is perfectly OK. But at some point, our prayers need to shift into something deeper. Something more intimate. Our prayer life reflects our spiritual maturity. So can you guess what the ratio is? Go ahead guess… That’s right it’s one-to-one. You might be thinking that this is an easy one right but the problem is the more you pray the more God delights in you and the more He refines you. The more you pray and grow in prayer the deeper your intimacy with Him becomes. The number might as well be 6 billon because the more you pray the more you become dependent on God. Besides, do you feel you have given 10,000 hours of prayer?

In the end, at best we can become experts at what it means for us to be a Christian in 27 years if we practice every single day. No breaks, no vacations, no sick days. This is nearly impossible. Nearly. The joyful thing is that the journey is part of the process. Learning what it means to be obedient, helping others in their walk with Christ, praying and leaning into the Father is the Christian life. That is what it is about. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that was written towards the end of his life that he had not reached the goal of being fully mature or an expert but that he is pushing forward towards the goal. We keep moving forward and driving towards the end goal of maturity in Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

I have heard so much about you

I have this habit of talking about my wife a lot. I don’t really mean to do it, but it just happens. More than just talking about my wife I talk about my wife like people know who she is because I think they should. Sometimes I have said multiple things about her and then realize I have to clarify that Julie is my wife. It is usually just little things like Julie and I like to do ______, my wife was telling me about ______, or Julie is doing ______. I find that if I spend enough time talking to someone that by the time they meet my darling bride they say something along the lines of “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” My goal is for people to love my wife as much as I do. I want people to know what an amazing woman she is. I love when people met her and see what I see. It gives me such joy to see people see the wonder of my wife.

I want to do the same thing with Jesus. I want to talk about Jesus in such a way that people feel they just have to meet Him. That after spending time with me they think “wow this Jesus guy sounds amazing” because honestly, He is. I love Him so much and I want other people to love Him so much. The problem is that all too often I get in the way. I start to talk too much about the things of Jesus and not Him.

I can tell you all sorts of things about my wife. Fun facts and figures that would make you think me a crazy stalker. I know every mannerism about my wife. Usually, I know something about my wife before she does because I study her so much. If I told you these things you would know about her too, but it would not drive you to want to meet her. You would know a good deal about her, but they would not be things that make you meet her and say “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.” Instead, you met her and say, “wow your husband knows you a lot.” By me telling you all the facts and stats about my wife you would learn a lot about me. You might even think I am awesome for knowing my wife so well. But that is not my goal. My goal is for you to meet her and thinks wow she is awesome.

The same goes for Jesus. I love to study the things about God (what we call theology). For me, it is so much fun. I enjoy talking about it and learning about it. I also think it is ridiculously important and the more I tell you about these things the more you will know things about Him too, but they will not drive you to want to know Him. The more I tell you about theology the more you might start to think “wow this guy really knows His Jesus.” But I don’t want you to know I know Jesus. I want you to know Him.

I want to talk about Him in such a way that you can’t wait to meet Him. That the more I talk about Him the more you think “I have to meet this Jesus.” That is all I want in life. I want others to know this same God who loves me and saved me from myself. I want people to know that Jesus loves them and wants to be part of their life. That Jesus looked down from heaven and said, “I want you.” That’s it, that is the good news right there. God sent His Son to come and be with you. That He says you are pretty messed up, but I want you and I am going to do something so big and so amazingly crazy to make this relationship work.

That is all I want right there. I just want to be so in love with Jesus that I talk about Him in such a way that people say to Him “it’s so nice to meet you. I have heard so much about you.”

Just a thought,

Mike