Saturday, July 21, 2012

God's Sword (2009)

Lately, I've been reflecting on this devotional / blog post I wrote back in 2009.  It's buried deep in my blog somewhere, but I thought I'd dust it off, and post it again.  It's worth sharing.

When we step aside and allow God to use our lives for His purpose, putting our entire life in His hands and giving ourselves completely to Him, it is much like becoming His sword for His battle. We don't always understand the battle, what He will ask us to do, where He will take us, or even His purpose, His plan. 

We simply know that it won't be easy and that at the end of each battle, we may feel as though all we've gained is a chink in our blade... 

Yet, we are to trust our Master, we are to fully die to self. 

Does a sword ever question its Master? Does a sword ever hesitate in its Master's hands? When is a sword not brave, not willing, even knowing that its Master will not set it down until the battle is finished and won?

Can you relate to this?  Would you share some of your recent "God's Sword" experiences?
Monday, July 16, 2012

I Am Second: Book Review

I Am Second.

Often surrounded by a worldly obsession for first place, the book title stood out like a breath of fresh air.  I knew that inside the covers of this book, I'd find people I could relate to.

Then, I read the description:

"Countless stories. One incredible ending.
A major league baseball player. a Tennessee pastor. A reality TV star. a single mom. A multi-platinum rocker. What do these people have in common? They''ve all hit bottom. And none of them stayed there.
Famous or unfamiliar, these are the stories of real people who reached the end of their strength, the end of their control, and found the most surprising truths. It taught them not to rely on self or substance but to lean on the only completely reliable source of love, hope, and freedom: the God who created them. Shocking in their honesty, inspiring in their courage, these testimonies are critical reminders that no one is too far from God to find him."

I know a thing of two about being at rock bottom.  I've ricocheted off the rock bottom several times in my life.  I have intimately known desperate times and hardships, horrific life circumstances, and been saved out of impossible situations.  I have already learned that I, too, am second, but given that I'm going through yet another rock bottom situation, I was interested in reading this book to learn from and be encouraged by the experiences of others.

The sentence that got to me?  "They've all hit rock bottom, and none of them stayed there."

I didn't want to stay here either, and thought the book was worth reading if only to reinforce what I already knew -- God won't let me stay here.

I really liked the book format, which shared story after story of successful people who had made it in life after facing what seems on the surface as insurmountable and impossible.  Some of the names in this book might surprise you... Michael W. Smith?  I had no idea.  It's a reminder that there is always more underneath the surface, that we are all broken and in need of a Savior, not just in hard times, but for a lifetime.  

These aren't "feel good stories", they're hard life lessons, hard truth, each with a common thread -- Jesus was their only way out, and Jesus was the difference in changing their situation around completely.  There is no other way to explain the power He had in their lives.  In those desperately dark places, they each reached the end of themselves, and accepted that they were second and as such, they had to rely strictly on God to get them out of the pit.

Each story finished with QR Codes for more similar stories.  I thought this was a brilliant and interactive way to include more material, which eventually led to searches, videos, etc of other I Am Second stories, blog posts, articles.

All in all, this was like hardcore Chicken Soup For The Soul, except better -- the chicken soup was the appetizer, it came second...  Jesus Himself is the main course that sustains.

Two thumbs up.  (I only have two thumbs...  otherwise I'd give it five.)

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".  

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Religion Vs. Relationship -- Teenage Perspective

At the end of June, our church welcomed 350 K-5 kids for our annual VBS program.  As you can imagine, with that many children pouring into the church every evening for several hours, many hands were needed on deck to lead small groups, host games, and help serve.

The Children’s Pastor has asked if any of my three kids could come and lend a hand alongside of me, and on one Tuesday night, my youngest and oldest were available to help.  It was great to have my oldest alongside of me that night, as it is rare for him to join me at church.  Having been raised in a spiritually divided home, he is still working out his own path, his own decisions.  I lead and let go, lead and let go, lead and let go...  and pray endlessly.

He was assigned to help with a group of Kindergarten aged boys, who were delighted to see this tall, cool teenage boy sit with them to play and hang out.  In no time, he had boys crawling all over him and chatting up a storm with him.

The entire evening, the church was alive with the Holy Spirit, there was such a beautiful energy all around.  The band played for the kids, the kids danced and worshiped, the lessons were powerful and thought provoking.  My son quietly took it all in, watching, observing, processing what he was experiencing.

On our way home, my son reflected out loud on what he had seen. 

“If I went to church, I think that’s the kind of church I’d want to go to.”

Me – “I understand... I love our church family.  It’s a great church.  Thank you for coming tonight, it meant a lot to me.  We really appreciated your help.”

Son – “No problem.  Hey mom...?  How does the church afford all the expenses, the building, the people, the programs, the music?”

Me – “It does take a lot of funds to run a church like this.  It runs on donations from the people who attend – we’ve talked about it before, it’s called tithing.  Tithe comes from the word tenth, and it’s believed that ten percent of all that we have – money, time, resources, everything, should be given back to God.  That’s just a number, though, some give less, some give more.”

Son – “I can’t imagine ever being religious enough to give money to a church.  That just blows my mind.  When I get my pay, I want it all to myself.”

Me – “The word religious, keeps coming up in our conversations.  I know that this is how you see it, but can I share with you another perspective?  To me, it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.  To me, religion is rules to conform to because we have to, because it’s expected of us.  To me, it’s about relationship.  I don’t love you because I have to love you, son, I love you because I want to, I can’t help but love you, it pours out of me.  I don’t take care of you because I have to, it’s because I love you and want to take care of you.  It’s a matter of relationship.  Yes, motherhood is such that it’s expected of me to provide for you, love you, guide you, teach you...  but if I did that only because I had to, it wouldn’t be the same ,would it?”

Son – “I suppose... but that’s still a lot of money.”

Me – “How much do you love the young woman you’re courting?”

Son – “Oh my, it’s impossible to put that into words, mom.  I love her... beyond measure, like you’d say.  I can’t live without her.”

Me – “When you get paid next week, say you earn $110 on that pay, and she asked you to give her some of your pay. How much of your pay would you be willing to part with in order to give to her?  How much does she mean to you?”

Son – without hesitation “All of it!!  I’d give her everything I have, you know I would!”

Me – “Yes, love, I know you would, I know she means that much to you...  and that’s relationship.  It’s not because you have to, it’s because your heart desires to.  Imagine for a second how much you love her... close your eyes and imagine this...  then hear me when I tell you that as much as you love her, I love Jesus and God immeasurably more.  So now, tell me, how much would I give to God if He asked me for something?”

Son – “Hmm....”

Me – “I believe that all I have has been given to me by God.  He provided my job to me, my funds, my time, my resources, everything that I have was His first and He blessed me with it – who am I to hold back from sharing it with those He loves?  That is not religion, love, that is relationship.  All the rules of the church, the rules in the Bible, I do my best to follow them not because I have to, but because I truly want to, I desire to please God this way, and I see the wisdom in it.  I don’t do it perfectly, but I do it passionately – it’s the least that I can do for God, you know?”

Son – “I think I’m starting to understand.”

Me – “I think so too, bud.  I think so.”