Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Loyalty

Well, it's official, after almost thirteen years of good times and some pretty funny memories, my dad and I are going to go home and take our Golden Retriever to the vet for her "final visit".

When my mom told me it's time, I didnt really know how to react. Honestly, I still dont know what it will be like to say goodbye to a dog I have had since I was in 6th grade, but I do know that I am thinking about it a lot more than I thought I would. Why is that? Animals of all kinds, come and go all the time. More than likely, I will have another dog in a couple years and it too will die, but why is it that dogs are such a prized possession. Certaintly, we spent lots of time and money getting them trained and paying for all the things they destroyed one way or another, but somehow they feel like a important part of our family. Ask a young kid who is in his family, and most likely he will list his dog. Again, why?

If I had to sum up the character of Goldie in one phrase it would be, "anoyingly loyal". That dog ALWAYS had to be around us. Sorry, that was false statement. She always had to be BREATHING on us! Literally, the second you sat down on the couch, she was sitting ON your feet, leaning her full body weight against you, and tilting her panting face back just enough so you could smell the poop she ate just minutes before. I would get up from the couch to escape and go into the basement, and sure enough, seconds later I would hear something that sounded like a stampede coming down the stairs, followed by that sweet aroma once again.

She was definitely all Golden Retriever too. If she wasnt right next to you, her ball was. She loved to play! At the lake, she refused to come inside until the sun went down. She loved the water and most of all, her balls. Again I ask, why do they mean so much to us. I believe it is because they are SO LOYAL.

Goldie was the sweetest dog ever, but if you came in the door unexpectedly, she would bark at you like she was a 150 pound Rottweiler. She knew she was a part of our family and she was going to protect that with all she could muster.

Sometimes I wish I was as loyal as Goldie. I wish I would defend the Kingdom the way Goldie defended our house. To be so loyal that I never talk about my fellow believers behind their backs and always defend the dignity of those whom others are trying to hurt.

Dogs are magnificent because no matter how much you yell at them, they will always be loyal. I wish I was that loyal to Non-believers. What if when people "yelled" at me, I continued to pursue them relentlessly? What if when we sensed their hurt and pain, we just sat with them? Goldie never gave me advice, but she often just layed down at my feet and waited for me to move. It was all my timing, not hers. What an incredible way to love people.

One of my favorite characteristics about Goldie, that I pray I can train in my next dog is she NEVER left the yard. We would litterally open up our front door and let her out to enjoy the sunshine. What if we never "left the yard" of those who we want so desperately to give up on? My prayer is that I will be so loyal, that those I love would know without a shadow of a doubt, that I will never give up on them. I will never "leave the yard".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fascinated?

Writing about just how mind-boggleing grace is, has left me thinking about all the other things in my life that I have become too familiar with. This time it's Christ and the unfathomable impact He had on EVERYTHING. Think about history. Think about all the wars that were fought over whether or not He is who He said He is. Think about all the families who have split over His life. Then, think about all the believers who lost their life because they refused to deny Him. Whether a Christian or not, there was something about Him that grips us. Einstein once said this:

"I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene...No one can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

Why have I been thinking about the incredible magnitude of the impact Christ's life has had on us? I believe it's because, lately, I have seen Him at work in a big way. It's probably because He is still alive! I believe it's because Christ is changing our world through life on life ministry. There is an incredible impact that is being accomplished by Christians who are ministering with their hands and their feet a lot more than their mouth. It's not all about passing out a trac and walking away anymore. It's about listening to them, finding out their need, and walking through life with them. Amazingly it's about ministering the way Christ did! Finally! Finally, people who call themselves "Followers of Christ" (Christians), are FOLLOWING Christ!

So, when you think about all the wars that have been fought and families that have been split, don't forget to think about all the victims who have been helped, starving families that have been fed, and houses that have been rebuilt because Christ LIVES.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grace

I was talking to one of many counselor friends yesterday and he was telling me all about his walk recently. His main "struggle" was, in my words, the ability to forgive himself. He mentioned that he was learning a lot about not being so hard on himself for his "mistakes". While I never asked him to go into detail on what he meant by "mistakes", I found it interesting. I have now come to believe that the Grace of God is far more unfathomable than we realize.

It's crazy to me that the main focus of my vocation is to tell as many people that I can about this "amazing grace" and yet it's a grace that I am so reluctant to apply to myself. I can talk to countless men who feel like they have committed the most unforgiveable sins, and tell them, with complete faith in what I am talking about, that Christ is standing there, 100% ready to forgive them, and yet, I fall and suddenly God's grace isnt enough! What the heck?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Transitions

Transitions in life are always interesting times. Sometimes you feel uneasy, sometimes you are excited. There are even those times when you are flat-out scared. If I were to describe transitions in my own life, I would say that they are the times when I am least comfortable and God is most evidently working. I think His work is most evident because I am most uneasy and therefore constantly looking to Him for answers.

I am currently in the midst of a lot of transition. There are two contributing factors. The first of which is I just got engaged! Everyone who is married knows that the engagement is a crazy time. Not only are you discussing what you want your marriage to look like and how you will live together, but you are trying to figure all the legistics of where to live and where to work. As a man, there is that deep desire and even drive to provide for your family, so it can be scary knowing that your residency ends 3 months after your wedding and you dont yet know how God will provide.

The second transition is at work. We just finished our summer of camp and this week is our first back after a much needed vacation. Now is when we begin to prepare for preparing in a sense. We write reports, organize our desk and all the files from last year, and get ready to mentally rip apart the previous summer in order to dominate the next summer. During this time I am constantly thinking. I think a lot about God's call on my life. I believe we all have a call. I think God gave us all gifts and talents to use to bring glory to Him and His kingdom, and so now is a time when I think hard about what He has for me to do. I also think about last summer and what I did well and what I definitely did not do well. It's a time I both love and hate at the same time.

If you think about it, the Bible is full of men and women in the midst of transition. I think about Moses who went from "son of Pharoah" to running away into the wilderness, to being called to lead a nation out of captivity. I think of Job, who went from wealthy and comfortable to broken and confused. Then there is David who went from shepherd to mighty warrior and king. There are countless stories of God bringing men and women through transitions that cause them to cling to or sometimes even turn back to Him.

It's sad isn't it. We get comfortable and it's like we forget. We forget who got us this far. We forget that we will mess things up on our own, and we forget that He knows what is best for us. Then something happens. Whether a tragedy or a transition, we get shoved out of our comfort zone. Then we freak out, not knowing where to go until we finally remember that the king of the universe loves us and cares about us and has actually been waiting for us to come back the whole time. Why don't we just stay close the whole time, then when the scary times of transition come knocking on our door, we can let Him go first with us clinging to the hem of His robe.

In Him, for Him
Eric

Monday, March 23, 2009

Matt: 26:32

Early on this week, I was reading in the book of Mathew where Jesus and His disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. The context is they have just finished the “last supper” and when they first arrive, Jesus has the bulk of the disciples “sit”. Then He takes Peter, James and John and continues to walk. Now remember, the other time, that we know of, when Jesus took His three close friends away from the rest of the group? It was when He was TRANSFORMED right before their very eyes. So, they have to be getting excited with anticipation. They must be EXPECTING something! Right?
Next the Bible says, “…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” Now, the Bible doesn’t say, but my guess is Jesus didn’t get “sorrowful and troubled” very often, especially while walking with these three. I would hope that when I saw Jesus full of sorrow, my senses and my awareness of what was going on would be heightened. Wouldn’t it?
Now, listen to what Jesus says next, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Okay, if my blood is not pumping with anxiety before He said this, it is now! His soul is overwhelmed to the point of DEATH! Not, only that, but he has asked me to keep watch. That will be easy! Right?
Do you remember what happens next? They fall asleep THREE times! Your closest friend and GOD has asked you to KEEP WATCH and you fall asleep? No way I would do that! Actually, truth is, we all would do that. As sad as it is, we all DO that. How many GREAT things has God done in our lives, and yet we go on, expecting, but then “fall asleep” Or even worse, we don’t expect great things at all.
Even when Peter, James and John KNEW of His sorrow, they fell asleep. How often does our heart not break, when His heart is already broken?
As a team, let’s check our heart for two things: 1. Are we coming to God EXPECTING Him to do great things this summer? 2. Are there things that we know break His heart that we have fallen asleep to?
Think about it….

In Him, For Him
Eric

Monday, March 9, 2009

1Corinthians chapter 12: A Beautiful Display of Humility

2 Corinthians 12:1-10
I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

People always debate over what the "thorn" was in Paul's life, but I dont see that being a key to understanding this passage. This passage is a beautiful picture of a man who understood who it is that accomplishes great things in our lives.

If you look back, Paul begins "boasting" in chapter ten and yet throughout those few chapters you can tell it is a struggle for him to talk about what has been accomplished through his ministry. Then you get to chapeter 12 and Paul finally decides to tell us about a vision God gave him. It's not til after hearing about his revelation that we hear about this "thorn", but again, I dont think identifying the thorn is important. I think Paul's response to it is though.

Paul responds by "pleading" with God to take it. The dictionary defines "plead" as "to appeal ernastly or to beg". Paul BEGGED God three times to take it away from him. Yet God chose not to. Instead He tells Paul that His grace is sufficient for him and that HIS power is made perfect in weakness.

How many times have you ask God to either give you something or take something away and He didnt do it? How did you respond? Were you upset? Confused?

I noted three things about Paul's response:
1. He stopped asking once God gave Him a answer.
2. He NEVER complained about it. Only asked Him to take it away
3. He not only accepted it, but went to the other extreme and began to boast about, knowing God's power was perfected in his weakness.

Think about it...

In Him, for Him
Eric

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Aim to be GREAT (email to CORE)

In Mark 10 starting with verse 35, we read a interesting story about James and John. Honestly, one I never really enjoyed because they seem SO arrogant. It’s the story about James and John approaching Jesus and asking Him if they could sit at His right and His left when they all get to Heaven. Doesn’t that rub you guys the wrong way? However, in C.J. Mahaney’s book, “Humility: True Greatness” he points out something in Jesus’ response that I never noticed previous times I read it.

Christ’s Response:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Mark 10: 42-45

C.J.’s Response:

“ What I find especially fascinating and instructive in His next words is that Jesus does not categorically criticize or forbid the desire and ambition to be great. Instead, He clearly redirects that ambition, redefines it, and purifies it:” pg.43

In other words, the desire to be great is not wrong, it’s all about how we go about it. I believe God wants us to desire our team of CORE leaders to be great. He desires our counselors to be great, and He longs for our IMPACT to be great. We simply need to remember what true greatness looks like and why it is we aim to be great. We aim to be great because He was first GREAT for us. He gave His life for us when we least deserved it and BECAUSE of that love we seek to honor His name by being great. We do THAT by being SERVANTS. It completely goes against all the world teaches but that is simply because the world is wrong. Think about it.

In Him, For Him
Eric

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Rich Young Man (Matt. 19:16-30)

You have probably heard the story of the Rich Young Man. It has been told so many times, in so many different ways, but that's why I love the Bible. It is so alive and it seems to consistently surprise us by teaching us truth through a story we have heard multiple times.
This is what the Spirit brought to my attention this time:

We're entering the story just as the young man has asked Jesus which commandments he needs to keep for eternal life...

"Jesus replied, 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself'."

Now, check out the young man's response...

"All these I have kept, what do I still lack?"

Have you ever wondered why he asked that? After all, he answered "yes" to all of them. He was free to walk away with a clean conscience, knowing that he has kept the commandments Christ listed.

I think he asked that because he felt like he was still missing something. He boldy said he had kept all the commandments Jesus listed, but that did not satisfy him. He KNEW something was missing.

I would bet(purely speculation) if you knew this guy back then, you would think he was a really good guy. You may have even thought he was a step above the rest. However, this man knew, DEEP DEEP DOWN that something was off.

So I challenge you to search your heart. Look DEEP. Then when your done, ask God, "What do I still lack?" Ask Him what needs to be done, but PLEASE don't respond like this young man and "go away sad".

Think about how RADICALLY different his life would have been if he was willing to part with his wealth and follow Christ. Remember, only 12 others had received a personal invitation like this, that we know of...

Monday, February 23, 2009

2 Peter 1:3-11 (email to Core)

I recently was reading 2 Peter 1:3-11 and just had some questions/thoughts that arose from reading it. First of all, if you don’t meditate over it and study it, you may be quick to think it’s talking about a salvation that is worked out. However, as you look closer you realize that salvation is ALL about Him and not us.
Here is what John Piper had to say about verses 5-7:

“Probably the most important thing to notice here is that this command is based on verses 3 and 4 which are not a command but a description of what God has done for us. God's divine power has given us all things that lead to godliness (v. 3); "for this reason" make every effort yourself to be godly. Don't miss the connection (though the KJV misses it). Since God has given power for godliness, strive to become godly! This is the heart of New Testament ethics. We labor for virtue because God has already labored for us and is at work in us. Don't ever reverse the order, lest you believe another gospel (which is no gospel). Never say, "I will work out my salvation in order that God might work in me." But say with the apostle Paul, "I work out my salvation for it is God who works in me to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Never say, "I press on to make it my own in order that Christ might make me his own." But say with Paul, "I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12). There is a world of difference in a marriage where the husband doubts the love of his wife and labors to earn it, and a marriage where the husband rests in the certainty of his wife's love and takes pains joyfully not to live unworthily of it. Peter's point is: God is for us with divine power. Of that we may be sure. Now, in the confidence of that power, take pains not to live unworthily of his love.”

What a cool thought. We work to live a godly life, BECAUSE God has already done it all! It’s just another way to “give our life”. Now, tenaciously seek to live right, not because you want to make God happy, but because He has already done it all for you. Live knowing that He has already given you the power to CHOOSE right. Then, rest in it, because it is the most freeing truth you will ever experience. (John 8:32)

In Him, For Him
Eric

Humility (email to CORE)

I just read a book by C.j Mahaney entitled, "Humility: True Greatness". Yet another one that I truly recommend and will be talking to you guys about probably now until the end of summer. Early on in the book, Mahaney quotes a couple verses that speak about God's thoughts on pride. Here is just a couple:

1. "I hate pride and arrogance." Proverbs 6:16-17
2. "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord, be assured, he will not go unpunished." Proverbs 16:5

Then of course there is the passage in Isaiah 14 that talks about Satan and his motivation behind his rebellion. Mahaney's point in all the verses he listed was this: the scripture uses stronger language to talk about God's feelings on pride than any other sin. But why? Why does God hate pride and express it so strongly? Mahaney defines pride as, " when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon him." Wow, that's intense. It's as if we are contending for supremacy with God!

Now think about it like this. There is NOTHING in this world that you can hate more than God hates pride. So I ask you, What do YOU hate? I know some things I hate. I hate rainy day schedule. I hate mayonnaise. I hate shaving. I hate stupid drivers. I hate hypocrites. I HATE SEX TRAFFICKING. I HATE ALL FORMS OF CHILD ABUSE. Some of those things I hate pretty passionately and yet I CANT hate ANY of those more than God hates pride…

So what would it look like if we started to hate pride as much as God does? What would our school life look like? What would our family look like? What would CAMP look like? What if when we picked up trash on the track it was for His glory not ours? What if when we let the kids scratch the third layer of skin off our back in the pool, we did it in worship, and not for that girl counselor behind us? What if we wrestled with the kids when we had NOTHING left, simply because we understand who we are in Christ? I love you guys. Think about it.
In Him, for Him,
Eric

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What it Means to Lead

I have recently read a book by Henri Nouwen called, "In the Name of Jesus". If you are even slightly involved in ANY form of ministry, I highly recommend you read this book. It is very short, which is nice because, that means it's straight to the point. The book is really a speech given by Henri to a crowd of "future Christian leaders". That's Christian talk for those who felt some kind of call or tug to go into full time ministry. There is a section in this book that I want to briefly talk about.

In his book, there is a chapter entitled, "From Popularity to Ministry". There is a thought in itself. What a temptation! To do ministry to for the sake of getting the approval of everyone around us. Let's be honest, most of us who are Christians, would sadly say that the majority of the people we hang out with are Christians too. So, whenever we are involved in ministry, there is always this temptation to "perform" or "serve" in order to get our friends approval. We pick up trash, hoping that Jim, the elder, will see and think highly of us. As guys, we pick up the nearest child and swirl him around so that the beautiful, Christian woman, will see and hopefully take note. We build camps, youth groups and ministries for a pat on the shoulder instead of a smile from our Savior.

Well, I definitley dont want to be that person who is constantly pointing out problems without giving any ideas for solutions. So, let me present a couple ideas that I have either come up with or had presented to me, that I think can help us stay on the right track.

First of all, Henri Nouwen talks about ministering TOGETHER. When we minister together it is a whole lot easier for people to recognize the Body of Christ. WE come in HIS name. It's too easy for people to caught up in OUR name when we minister alone, but as a group we recognize HIM and HIM alone.

Another way to stray from a false mentality in ministry is to always remember WHO and WHOSE we are. This is helpful for two reasons. One is you will never underestimate what God can use you to do if you remember WHOSE you are, and two, you wont be as prone to ministering with the wrong motive if you remember WHO you are. You were once an ENEMY OF GOD, justified then adopted, by a HOLY, JUST, and LOVING God. If that does not remind us why we do what we do, I don't know what else to say. Henri Nouwen said it perfectly when he said, "We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for."

There are hundreds of other ways to keep a right mind set in ministry, but those are just a couple. The biggest antidote for seeking popularity in ministy is "humility". Let's save that topic for the next post...

In Him, for Him
Eric

Purpose?

The purpose of me starting this blog is three fold. First, my prayer is that it will provoke thought. Just thought. I hope people dont eventually reply to this in order to argue that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Secondly, I dont want to write anything on here that isnt from me. In other words, I dont want to write on this in order to earn the favor of others, but like everything else should be, I write on here as another opportunity to bring honor to my Heavenly Father. Therefore, if you are reading this, it is because I believe what you think of me and not dependent upon what I do or say.

The third and final reason I have already touched on a little bit. My prayer is that this blog will bring honor to God. To be honest, I dont know what that looks like. Does that mean that eventually this turns into something people use in their quiet times? Does that mean that God will somehow use this to speak truth to somebody that I would never expect to read this? I dont know. But, isnt that one of the amazing things about God? We dont always know how He is going to work... Enjoy.