Wow, Are we serious?

January 13, 2009

This morning I was reading in the book of Isaiah. The first chapter is an introduction to the book, but really an introduction to the theme of an era in the history of the nation of Israel. Through the prophet, God is recounting the story of His people and explaining the why of what is coming. He talks about Israel as a child. He raised it with love as His own (vs. 2). He goes on to explain that those same children have chosen to rebel and live apart from Him as they pursue their own agendas. As a result, they have suffered greatly. (vs. 3-9) He explains that the big problem is that their heart is simply far from God. They keep being religious, but their sacrifices and offerings are simply rituals. They are no longer motivated by love and devotion (vs. 10-15). He beckons them to come to Him, to wash themselves. He says, “Let us reason together”, Let’s talk about this…”Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land. But if you resist and rebel (continue going your own way in self-worship), you will be devoured by the sword.” (vs. 18-20)

Wow, what a word for all times. I began to think of what Israel is facing, even today. I began to think, “wow, the prophecy still rings true.” I began to think about how bad Israel is doing and how as a nation, they are far from Him. I decided to go ahead and blog my thoughts this morning, so I opened my account. When the start page of my blog opened up, something caught my attention. I didn’t know that the Lord was about ready to change the direction of the whole blog. I saw the tag-line, clicked on the following link, and my heart sank. Here, check it out for yourself. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/01/07/porn-industry-seeks-federal-bailout/

We are Israel. Our founding Fathers founded the United States on a call from God for a different kind of nation. They did not intend an atheistic nation – a nation devoid of God. They intended quite the opposite. Religion and government had so sickly mixed in European nations, that dictators and rulers used the “authority” of the church and religion as a tool for manipulation and power. These people were not lovers of God, they were lovers of themselves first, then “friends” with the established religious organization of the day. Their “New Moon festivals” had become rituals that were not about God at all. Religion became anything but a pursuit of God. It became a weapon and a tool for selfish gain.

Our founding fathers did not want religion to be a sick and twisted form of power over the people or a means for individuals or government to get what they want. They wanted it to remain pure – absent of the trappings of political power, money and control. They wanted people to be able to freely worship God without being angry with God because “His leaders” were really evil dictators. This confused many about what God was really all about. But, many generations later, our “people” have managed to find a way to once again strip the intentions of a people to serve and honor God with the best of who we are. We are quickly becoming a nation in “resistance and rebellion” to the voice of God.

Pray for Israel today. Pray for America today. And if you have the time, pray for the future of this planet and the people God has put here with us these days. Pray for your family. Pray for your church. Pray for yourself. We cannot lose sight of what is important. We are here to worship God with our lives. Are you “celebrating the new moon festival” for a reason other than pure worship? Are you attending church or reading your Bible as a ritual or are you seeking an intimate encounter with your loving Father?

There is hope. God describes His vision in Isaiah 2:2-5. He is God. And this will happen. God is redeeming this broken world and there is hope and joy for those who love and seek Him. Where will you be when Heaven comes down?

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Go(o)d days

July 21, 2008

It seems so self-centered when people get all excited because things are going their way. But is it wrong? Well, allow me to rejoice a little – things are going the way I have been praying and expecting and hoping they would and I have to shout out a praise and some thanks to Jesus. Just in this last week:

  • I got to spend some much needed time with my family in Vicksburg. My brother and two sisters and their families hung out at my parent’s house for three days. My whole family is loving and living for Jesus. We are very, very blessed.
  • I’ve had three very exciting meetings with team leaders (Bob, Kim, Julia and Emily) who are catching the XLR8 vision and beginning to run with it. We are beginning to strategize and develop programs that will help us effectively and efficiently mobilize CCC Christ Followers reach teens and move students toward Christ.
  • I have had some great conversations with teens who have recently committed or re-committed their lives to Christ and are ready to follow Jesus with a whole new passion.
  • I got my garage cleaned out! Thanks Jake, Mike, Jeremy and Chris. You guys rock!
  • Yesterday I found two great potential locations for our Battle of the Bands event. I confirmed the availability of one at an extremely reasonable rate.
  • We had several potential new leader contacts at church this morning.
  • This week I have several more meetings planned with people who are ready to get things rolling for this fall.

There’s a bunch more, but just let me sum it all up by saying that it is extremely refreshing to see the vision God has given you take shape in and through the lives of people. Thank you Crossroads for giving me a shot. God is doing great things here. I don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it, but God is good and it feels great to bask in the glow of his glory.

Keep me and the whole XLR8 team in your prayers. We still have a lot of positions to fill and only about five weeks to fill them. Pray for wisdom, and direction so that we waste no time or energy and miss no opportunities. Pray for the students – that those who know Christ will embrace Him and join us in the battle for their generation, and that those who don’t will be prepared for an encounter with Him soon. Pray that we will faithfully and effectively advance the Kingdom of God as the Spirit leads and enables us.

It’s going to be a great ride. I’m a speed freak and it is time to XLR8!

Lemmings

June 28, 2008

This morning My dad and I went to Walmart (how many of my blogs are going to start this way?) and as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed huge lines at both Walmart and Meijer gas stations. It seemed a little odd, but I blew it off as some sort of coincidence. I did need to fill my gas can for the mower, so we got in line, pumped two gallons of gas and took off. The price – $3.93.

A few hours later, we went into town and noticed that all the gas stations were advertising gas at $4.14 or higher. I remembered back to earlier and wondered if the people in line before had heard some report on the news that the prices were going to spike or something. Well, my car was at a quarter tank. You know the feeling. You start freaking out thinking, “dangit (my expletive of choice), If I just would have known it was going to go up $.20 in four hours, I would have filled up before.” So I told my dad, “I think it’s a long shot, but let’s just go to Walmart and see what the price is.”

We headed over and to my dismay, every gas station we passed had the new jacked up prices. But, I was not to be beaten without a fight. I kept going. We came East on 223 and saw the Meijer station sign first. $4.25!!! “Grrrrrr” I kept going. To my surprise, when we got a little closer, I saw the Walmart price. $3.93. (Insert angel chorus music) No way. So, I pulled in, got in line and filled up. (Nice little story, huh?)

The lines for the pump reminded me of almost thirty years ago. I remember a day when we sat in a line at a gas station hoping there would be gas when we got there. I just started wondering, “What does God think when He sees this?” All of us humans, always trying to figure out what’s up, running, scurrying, looking around at what everyone else is doing, then jumping in line to get what we can before it’s all gone. When you look at life from 30,000 miles up, you wonder if we aren’t all running around in circles, freaking out about all kinds of stuff, and never really getting anywhere – except maybe closer to the bank of some river where we will all plunge together without ever seeing it coming.

Well, it’s weird for a Christ follower, because we know that we aren’t about to perish with the masses, yet in so many ways, we look around and find ourselves running with the world in the same way and the same speed and in the same direction – often not even wondering why. What will be our fate? Where are we headed? What are we running (living) for anyway? Do the people of this world look over and see another lemming with the same freaked out look, running with the crowd in the same direction with apparently no direction? Or do they see someone who knows who they are, where they are headed and with a composed and peaceful spirit – ready for the worst that life can throw at them? Do gas prices rock my world? Is my security based in my job, accomplishments or earthly relationships. Or is there a deeper anchor in my life. Is something greater than all this the real source of my strength?

So, how you doing with gas prices, uncertainty in your workplace, global warming, crazy natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars…?

Duped!

May 7, 2008

So, I’m in Walmart with Jen getting groceries yesterday. Yeah, I entertain the boys while she gets our stuff. Anyway, I’m walking back from the camping section and I walk past the CD’s that are parked in the aisle where they hope innocent passers by will be sucked in for a quick kill – I mean sale.

The title, “Hits of the 80’s” catches my eyes. Yes, you’re grinning right now because you know it too; all the greatest music was written in the eighties. So I pick it up and look at the back. “Yeah…yeah…yeah.” Yes, these are all hits. It’s a 4-CD collection! 50 songs! Great songs! How much? $8.82!?!? Sweet! In the cart.

A few minutes later I’m standing in the checkout lane with Jen. She sees it. “What’s this?” Fortunately she knows that all the best music came from the eighties too, so she picks it up and checks it out instead of sending me straight back to the media aisle. I ask, “What?” She looks over the songs and says, “Well, I just wanted to make sure they were really hit songs and not just a bunch of junk songs nobody’s ever heard.” I explained that I was using my birthday money, so we put it on the belt.

Next scene. We’re at home unpacking the groceries and I just can’t wait to check out my new find. I unwrap it; this hidden treasure from Wally-World. (I am ashamed to admit it but I do have a thing for Wal-Mart – because of deals like this.) So, I’m reading through the list of songs and I see one that I am not familiar with. I look after the song to see who performs it and…

It all happened so fast. I suddenly realized that the songs didn’t have the names of performers after them. I shout, “Oh no!”. Jen says, “What?”. I say, I think I know why this was such a great ‘deal'”.

Yup, we were duped. I look at the bottom of the box and it says, “Performed by Countdown”. Who the heck is that? The first CD is in my laptop being ripped to my I-Tunes, so I turn it up and to my horror, it’s worse than I thought. The skill level of “Countdown” is seriously questionable and the songs aren’t even the original arrangements. It was like the time I snuck into the cupboard when I was a little kid and took a big bite out of the bar of baker’s chocolate my mom had told me not to eat. Well, at least I have my shopping done for the next white elephant gift exchange.

What a let-down. I wanted to take it back, but it was already unwrapped. I wonder how many MIA new believers and seekers have had a similar experience when they heard and embraced the gospel, then decided it would be great to spend time hanging out with Christ-followers. Maybe after hanging with those who should be just like what they heard and fell in love with, they feel duped. It makes me think, “How’s my tune?” When others “listen” to my life, what do they hear? Do I sound like Countdown or do they hear the “original artist”? Hmmmmm. By the way, anyone want to buy some “Hits of the 80’s”?

Shining into the 10/20 Window

May 7, 2008

As long as groups of missionaries have had a passion to take the gospel of Christ to the World, there have been strategies to reach the most spiritually impoverished areas of the globe. The latest and most influential strategy now centers on the concept of the 10/40 window. If you do not know what the 10/40 window is, go to http://home.snu.edu/~HCULBERT/1040.htm or http://www.thinkwow.com/surgeup/10-40_window.htm for a brief look. Basically, the 10/40 window represents the most populated concentration of people and populations in the world who still have not heard or do not have easy access to the gospel. When one sees the massive need and hears the challenge of Christ in light of the staggering statistics and spiritual challenges of the 10/40 window, one cannot help but be moved to action.

My heart and my life passion is to focus on what I call the 10/20 window. This window represents young people from age ten to twenty who have not heard or do not have ready access to the gospel. It’s hard to believe that here in America, people do not have easy access to the gospel. We’re tempted to simplify the problem and smugly assume that they can just go to the nearest church and attend any time they want. “Hey, we’re right here, doing our Christian thing. The doors are open. All they have to do is come in.” But the real problem is that people right here in our midst are culturally distanced from the church and therefore from God. There is a chasm between us and them and they do not know how to cross it.

This is where we must take on the mindset of a missionary, heck, the mindset of Christ. We must go to them. Just as Christ humbled Himself and came to a broken world to show us the Father, we must go to these people here who do not know Christ – and introduce them to Him. The question we must ask ourselves, Will we do whatever it takes?

Over the next few weeks, I would like to introduce you to the 10/20 window and tell you about some of the unique challenges facing these young people and what we must do to reach them. Keep checking back and please comment. I am still learning about how to reach this group and I would really appreciate your insights. Jesus knew that the church must be united in our effort to reach a lost world. Let’s unite and together shine the light of truth and love into the 10/20 window.

We are bad, we are great, we are the class of ’88!

April 8, 2008

This summer will be my 20th high school reunion. I used to think those people were old. Now, spring chickens – still wet behind the ears – just a bunch of pups – but sore when we get up off the floor. Anyway, one of my classmates recently created a website where the members of my graduating class could post a short biography and picture so we can all get an idea of where everyone is at in life. You know, kind of catch up and pre-brag before we actually get a look at all the gray hair and enlarged waistlines when we see each other face to face this summer.

About 40 people have uploaded information about their life and where they are at. As I read through all of them the other day, I noticed multiple references to a lifestyle and life values that really haven’t changed much in 20 years. One girl (woman now) quipped, “Yes, I am still a heathen…” and another guy referred to himself as a professional beer taster for a specific beer company. The stories were riddled with the pains of divorces and other struggles of life. And then, of course, many who are still trying to impress all of their peers with listing degrees earned and business accomplishments made thus far…but no mention of God – anywhere.

Instead of judging this as bad, I just couldn’t help but be sad. Most of them just never knew there was really another way. See, I was a Christian in high school. I knew the truth and I knew Jesus. At that time, my goal was to keep my own nose clean. I didn’t look down on all of them or think they were bad. I just knew they were headed down a road to destruction and I didn’t want to be in the car with them. I basically buried my light and kept what I knew about Jesus to myself. I figured some one else would… I am ashamed.

These people are now parents, business owners, local civic leaders, some heading toward positions in the government. My peers have responsibility in the world. They have children to raise…hundreds of them. Some are teachers. Just as we so boastfully presumed at our graduation, we did go out and we are shaping the world around us. In 1988 that was a prideful statement about who we thought we were; going out to change the world and all. Now I look back and realize that this is just a part of our lot in life. Yes, we will change the world, because the world is made up of us. I’m not necessarily so proud of how the Vicksburg class of 1988 are doing at that.

I am praying for an opportunity now. Wow! It will be hard at this point not to come across as seeming pious or somehow appearing that I think I am “superior” to them. It really doesn’t get easier, does it? Just the mention of Jesus will send many into a judgmental fit where they judge me as being judgmental of them. But, it’s really not about how they view me, is it? Who is going to love them with the love of Christ? Who is going to hold out to them the word of truth? Who is going to show them who Jesus really is? I can’t assume that someone else will do it…again.

Well, Crossroads, this is what we are about. We all have our mission field(s). We can’t wait for someone else to do it. Jesus called us the light. Now is the time to shine.

Egg Hunt…or something like that.

March 25, 2008

So, what could be worse for an Easter Egg hunt than 6 inches of snow – during the event? Well, apparently lots of things. Normally, I would assume that a bunch of snow could put a damper on such an event. But this year I saw something quite different than what I expected. My guess is that a lot of people did and that made all the difference.

I saw the forecast earlier in the week. It was supposed to be the coldest day of the week with a chance of snow. By Thursday afternoon, they were calling for a possible 1 to 3 inches on Friday. Looks like were gonna get a little snow. By Friday noon, we’d gotten an inch or two and it looked like it was done. Yeah, uh-huh.

About an hour before I was supposed to be there, it picked up again. Not flurries, but real snow – in late March – on the night of “our” egg hunt. Something was different about this time though. I wasn’t real bummed out. I would like to think it’s not because it wasn’t “my” event.

When I got to the pavilion, I saw something I hadn’t expected. No one was complaining. At least not anyone I heard. It was almost funny like some bizarre irony. The God for whom we are doing this thing is sending this freak snow storm for an Easter egg hunt. It was great.

As I watched the whole thing unfold, the depth of the irony made me think. What is really going on here? No, I’m not talking about a snow storm or an egg hunt, I’m talking about what is really going on below the surface? As I retreated into my own mind beneath a hat and a hood and lots of layers, I saw some things I wasn’t expecting as the weather began to deteriorate…or improve?/.

I saw genuine joy. Joy can’t be bought, can’t be faked, can’t be contrived. Joy isn’t the smile on the face or the laughter in the conversation. Joy is the source of it. It wells up from the inside and it is contagious. Faith is the only possible source of true joy. There was a common understanding among the people who were there that there is a good God in control of this whole thing. If snow is what He wants, than snow is what we will be grateful for – and we will see and enjoy Him in the snow; a sort of “I would rather be with Jesus in a snowstorm than with a bunch of plastic eggs on a sunny day without Him”.

I didn’t see anyone wishing they were somewhere else or even that the conditions were different. I hope the people who came saw what I saw. I think they did.

I think joy is the most powerful message we may ever preach. Strangely, (or maybe not) most people are more interested in the hope of joy in this life than they are in an eternity in heaven. Maybe that’s because they have a hard time believing that heaven is going to be that great if it’s residents cannot experience joy here. I’m just glad the God who calls us His own promises abundant life here, and icing on that cake after the “here” is over. Wow, we do have a great message for the World don’t we.

One more thing. As the “youth guy”, I’m also glad we didn’t even think of canceling. Our young (and old) people saw a critical value at work that night; one that is hard to find today. When you are truly doing something for someone else, you don’t close up shop when the results you were hoping for seem lost. Life often doesn’t go the way we were hoping it would. But, if we truly believe we are living this life of ours for Him, then we don’t expect it to go our way. Those who get that will understand the joy that comes from living for something and someone far above ourselves. I’m still working on that one. Some may call it faithfulness. Some will call it stupid, and that’s o.k. What God thinks is all that really matters.

I want to thank my new Crossroads family. You inspired me last week. This feels more like home each day. I’m looking forward…

Hello world!

March 25, 2008

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