Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jared and Whitney

So much has been happening, I find my head spinning. Lauren got engaged, other family have experienced brokenness in their relationship, and things at the office have been upside down.

Through it all, the Lord remains incredibly faithful! I am so thankful for this. He just never changes, even though I do. He is constant and consistent, though I am not. He loves no matter what. He encourages us to love each other similarly.

We don't always do so well at that. Sometimes, I am too quick to judge.

He has shown me favor and direction when it looked like nothing loomed but disappointment (in certain arenas). I am just so incredibly blessed to be in relationship with one so Mighty! I love the intangible ways He speaks.

I do not know how others survive, who deny His existence.

Recently, He answered prayer in such unique ways that I am so blessed! I may share it at some point, but I just continue to marvel at His ways!

I pray He is working similarly, in your life!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lauren and Weston

I cut my finger on God this morning.

I know that doesn't make sense to you, but it's true.

I was walking around the corner and down the hall, at the office this morning, when it happened. Sometimes my hands/arms are moving to the music in my head. You can't hear it, but I can.

As I was "feeling it," I banged my hand with a glancing blow into a large black, framed poster that says, "God."

I don't think I hurt God.

My finger, on the other hand (no pun intended), now has an owwy. Somebody probably needs to kiss it. I won't show it to you though or you'd think I was being vulgar.

I know two people who point with this finger. I don't get it. The pointer finger is in a different position on the hand. Those I know, who point with the incorrect finger, have nothing wrong with their pointer. They, for some reason, like to deploy the wrong finger. Unemployment should not happen in the life of this finger. It creates issues.

Sometimes it's embarrassing.

I remember when my kids were young and one of these people was showing us something on a map or a picture or something. Honestly, I don't remember the something. I just remember that afterward, my kids were like... "why was he pointing with that finger?"

I don't know how to answer that question.

I am equally unlikely to answer this question well. "Why do people hurt God?"

I know the reasons. Selfishness, pride, ego, arrogance, etc. But why do we make conscious decisions we know are going to hurt our Father in Heaven?

Most don't consider the impact of their decision on a Holy God. Most of us can't see past that moment, if we're honest.

What our society has taught us well, is how to answer the question, "what makes me feel good?"

Many of us spend our lives pursuing the answer, regardless of the temporary nature of the gratification. If we can get our needs met immediately, we are unlikely to defer pleasure.

When you are looking at the equation of life, and see that Jesus is the prize, it creates a desire to run the race well.

That scenario however, seems to imply that we need to 'earn' the prize. We don't.

The "prize" is ours for the asking.

We are better at understanding 'earning.'

We live in a world that is not based on grace. 'Grace' is getting what you don't deserve. If we got what we deserved, that would be just. Sometimes in life, justice happens when we fail. That reinforces the need to do well, or work hard.

Getting the prize because you asked for it, seems cheap and easy. We believe we need to work to get good things.

What we don't think about, is the cost of the prize... or in this case, the cost to the prize.

We hurt God when we rejected Him, had His Son whipped, made Him drag heavy timber, and drove spikes into His body to pin Him in place. We saw that He bled unto death.

We'd like to believe that if it happened today, we'd stand firm for Him... the outcome would be different. Yet, most of us cannot stand for Him in our offices or among our groups of friends. I'm afraid we'd enable the soldier to thrust the spear into His side, all over again.

So, we get the prize and we don't deserve Him. He bled so we could walk. We might as well make Him famous (for the right reasons) while we walk.

Next time there's a song in your heart, if your hands happen to flail and you bleed because you hit God and got cut; just remember, He bled first... and He spilled it all.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Whitney and Sig. She is about to graduate Univ of Texas, Arlington, in Nursing!!! She's already passed her boards!

What a week I've had! The Lord blessed the time I was privileged to share with the folks in Lindsay, Oklahoma! These are precious people from small town America.

I made new friends, met many who love the Lord, and celebrated His call on our lives, with them.

One experience stands alone.

I am blessed to be able to sell a few of our books on such occasions as this. On one particular evening, I was out of books, when a young 9 year old girl walked up with her mother.

She approached timidly with a fist full of rolled up bills. My immediate thought was about how I was going to have to apologize for being out of books. Her mother broke my train of thought. She introduced her daughter, "Mallory."

Initially, she struggled to make eye contact, seeming very shy. She handed me her Bible and asked me if I'd sign it.

Honestly, I felt a bit foolish... after all, this was God's Word!

The evening before, I had brought a message on "discerning God's voice beneath the noise of life." I don't think she needed to hear it. I believe this young warrior already knew His voice.

Others would later tell me about this Mallory. Here are some of their comments.

"She tells everybody she meets about Jesus."

"She has an unusually deep relationship with the Lord."

"The Lord speaks to her... and she hears from angels."

Without a doubt, the anointing of the Lord rests on her! I felt blessed to share a few moments of her life.

The Lord had spoken to her before the service this evening. He had told her to bring her money with her.

She did.

She extended her hand toward me. That her money was all rolled and crinkled seemed childlike. Her words, spiritually mature, offered stark contrast.

"I need to give my money to you to help send someone to the mission field."

I fought for composure and managed a wide smile.

Her mother added, "This is all of her money!"

I was reminded of the widow's mite. I was overwhelmed that one this young would be moved to bless in such huge fashion.

She reminded me of one who is no longer at my side.

I stuffed the bills into my pocket and thanked her. I told her I would see that her money went to someone who really needed her help!

She seemed poised to tell me a lifetime of information. This moment would be stolen, it could not last long enough to hear the fullness of her heart.

I am so thankful that the Lord moves in the lives of children. I sometimes wonder what our world would look like if we allowed Him to work similarly in our lives. He even tells us, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mk 10:15)

Last night, she returned to me... the shyness shed. "I found more money, and I needed to give it to you," she offered.

I took her five dollars and added it to the thirty eight she had already given.

"She did what she could... wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told." Mk 14:8-9

"They all gave out of their wealth; but she gave out of her poverty, put in everything - gave all she had to live on." Mk 12:44

Would that we were all obedient to the words the Lord speaks into our lives. Do we hear Him?

Mallory is one of my heroes of the faith!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jared, Whitney, Lauren and Weston

Beginning Sunday, I will be preaching a revival at Calvary Baptist, in Lindsay, Oklahoma. This will run from Sunday through Wednesday. Please pray for those the Lord seeks to draw to Himself, to respond to His voice. Please pray for Deanna while I am away. Please pray for safe travel for me.

Weariness, struggle, lack of focus, financial difficulty and/or physical ailment are all things that plague the body of Christ.

These are real. They can be incapacitating.

We don't want them to be. We fight diligently to keep them from overwhelming us. Sometimes the fight is hard.

Did you watch the Winter Olympics? I am a fan of Curling. There is so much skill and strategy that goes into this competition. I identify with the call of the shooter when they haven't slid the "rock" fast enough. They scream "HARD" to the scrubbers with the brooms.

If you didn't watch, this makes no sense. If you did, perhaps you can relate.

There are those times in our lives when it would be comforting just to have someone with us, recognizing our struggle. When our heart cries out "hard, hard, hard," they jump into the trenches beside you to battle for and with you.

Too many of us feel we are battling alone. There is no visible presence of those who seem to care. Often, if someone is nearby, they don't really understand what we are going through or we cannot put into words what our needs are.

We feel alone.

That is a daunting, desperate, and an overwhelming sensation.

What do we do? Where do we turn? Who really cares?

We are not alone!

We have access to the Comforter!

Jesus tells us (in John 16:7) very plainly that it is beneficial for us that He leave. We want Him right here with us in physical form, but He says that when he does leave, the Comforter - Counselor - Helper will come!

He comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. He comes to convict the world of sin! He comes to allow the spotless Lamb to go to be with the Father! He comes that the enemy might stand in judgment! (John 16:8-11)

His presence brings us peace. We have trial but are taught to suffer well. We have difficulty, but have one to lean on. We have brokenness, but have a Savior to press into!

Often, in our struggle, we become so inwardly focused that the obvious is not apparent to us. In this case, the promised Comforter is present! Not only is He present, but He is speaking to the heart of the Father on our behalf! His word teaches us that He lives ever to intercede for us (Rom.6:26, 27, 34 and Heb 7:25)!!! He is before the Father, pleading on our behalf.

He is in affect, in the trenches crying "Hard, Hard, Hard" when our own utterances cannot be spoken in cohesive words.

Our God is HARD at work, on our behalf! Take courage! Be of good cheer! Our hearts are His, and He is ours! He has made a way, and we cannot escape His hand!

His blood covers sin. His heart of compassion holds us in our weakness. He is speaking to the Father on your behalf, even now!

You may not see Him... yet... but that day is coming! Until then, He is guarding, guiding all the way! Press into Him! He can handle your load and mine. Amen!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

leaving for the jungle

What is it about believers that draws those the Lord is trying to reach, to them?

I would answer that question that it is Christ in them. I think most of us would.

How do unbelievers respond when they see us demonstrating a prideful attitude in our Christianity?


Is it okay to be confident in one's relationship with Christ? Absolutely.

What is the price if that confidence is manifested in inappropriate public circumstances?

Last night, Deanna and I sat waiting our turn at our tax man's office (I would rather have been at the dentist... do you remember that I hate the dentist?). He was behind schedule. I was annoyed.

While we sat waiting, a man walked in talking on his blue tooth (wireless, hands free, phone device). He was talking, way too loud. He commanded the attention of all in the waiting areas (it's a large office situation).

I confess I have been "that guy."

No, not the guy talking loudly on a blue tooth. His victim. The guy who was in a bathroom stall and heard someone adjacent talk. As I prepared to answer... albeit awkwardly... he spoke again, revealing that he was on his phone.

On more than one occasion, I have nearly responded to one who wasn't talking to me, but were speaking at an unacceptable volume for the setting. I haven't sought to respond to be rude, but because I thought they were talking to me... only to have them turn their head and reveal the little device in their ear.

Inwardly embarrassed, I grabbed a hold of the words that began to part my lips.

This was not one of those situations.

This was bawdy rudeness. The problem was, the gentleman in this case seemed to thrive on the fact that he was having a highly personal and controversial discussion with another, in a way that drew the attention and ire of most. He actually seemed energized by the glares.

It was evident he was a believer. It was equally evident he seemed to be embracing the Scripture "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" and forcing it to apply where it wasn't appropriate.

He carried on while he bashed fallen pastors, demonized denominations, and espoused what he perceived to be this individuals problem, for all to hear.

I was already dealing with my flesh in the annoyance over it being an hour past our appointment time, and still we sat. My insides were gnawing over my fear of having to pay out what we did not have. I knew if I rose to request he remove himself or talk more softly, that I would have been... less than grace.

In my frustration, I did nothing.

The level of disgust of those around me, compels me even now, that I should have approached the brother and tried to intervene.

I didn't.

Many frustrated lost people probably walked away from that situation with further evidence of why they did not want what they saw he apparently had.

This was not church. He was not behind a pulpit. Had he been, part of what he said would still have been inappropriate.

For those who fear sharing Christ in the first place, because of possible rejection, this would have sounded the trumpet for further retreat within their hearts.

As believers, we must be sensitive to our audience and to the topics at hand. We must read body language and discern reactions and be sensitive to the Lord's moving. This was a conversation that would only have been appropriate behind closed doors... in seclusion.

What unbelievers are drawn to, is Christ in us.

When we allow who we are to overpower Him within us, we trample on our witness, and do damage to our ability to speak into the lives of others.

Who would be willing to share with someone who seems to bark out the inner struggles they have just shared, to all who would listen?

As I pondered a possible move, the secretary, allowed a self proclaimed, "walk-in" (no appointment scheduled) to go in before us. We had been there an hour and twenty minutes. He was elderly, walked with difficulty, and had been a customer for twenty-five years.

I tried to let it go.

I was receiving a lesson in grace when I felt the least of it (I am probably supposed to learn it better that way, but I don't seem to like it much).

Ultimately, we got out of there with promised refunds.

The reprieve seemed unimportant against a backdrop of the hideous display we had experienced.

One cannot do retroactive damage control in a roomful of people you don't know and may never see again.

I have to be better prepared to speak out in love, should it happen again.

I need to be more grace... like my Savior!


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Making lunch with my friend Steve in the Kuna village, Icandi in Panama

I had the privilege of interacting with three different youth pastors in three separate conversations, today. None of them were expected. None of them did I initiate.

Two of the three centered, directly or indirectly, around the impact pornography is having in the lives of believers.

One of them was telling me how anointed a meeting he had with the young men in his youth group. They were getting real with each other over the issue of pornography. The trickle-down affect was huge. As one shared, others felt free to follow.

I can remember a very popular television show back in the 80's and 90's (before most of these young men were born) helping turn our culture into a porn friendly nation. It was one of the first that frequently talked of regular viewing of the same.

Of course, it began long before then, but I have watched our culture surrender to the bondage of this intoxicating addiction. It has destroyed minister after minister and unglued many marriages. It has destroyed many families both inside the church and outside of it.

When I was young, I remember a classmate coming to school frequently, with picture pages from 'men's magazines' that he would sell to other classmates.

I remember before that, seeing it for the very first time, down the street in a friends garage, as we played 'hide and seek.' I was too young to understand why such pictures would even exist, or that men and women even had different bodies. However, I will never forget viewing it. I remember how filthy I felt, even as an innocent child.

Today, the enemy is destroying lives as men and women succumb to the allure of making a couple of keystrokes and finding themselves in a world, they never thought they would visit... let alone become addicted to.

The result?

"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie... [and] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts." Romans 1:25-26

Over time, men and women accept as "normal" that which is vile in the presence of our Holy God.

Desensitization brings about false expectation. When these are not met, shredded lives result.

Many divorces have resulted from one partner (or both) secretly falling into this lair.

There is healing. There is a Healer.

We cannot afford to be judgmental over our fallen brothers and sisters. What we need to do is offer them an arm of support.

I have seen this issue become an epidemic among the young men and women of our "Christian youth culture."

They need a safe place to unload their burden, but they also need wise counsel. Too many of our youth workers are also struggling.

The sooner we extend them Grace and Truth, and help them find restoration, the better our hopes of families finding peace.

Some would say it is too late for this generation of married couples who have children, where the adults and children alike are suffering from the ill affects of pornography addiction.

We have to begin somewhere.

First steps are beginning in many youth groups. We must help assure that they do not adopt a 'sub-culture mentality of justification.'

Too many times, believers find others who fail as they do, and then use it as license to continue to sin.

That is not the desired impact from these youth ministers. That is not the heart of the Father.

It will only change as we help it to become a reality.

Surrender. One heartbeat at a time of surrender, is how we begin.

Creating a safe place for unloading, where wise counsel is available, is the launching point. More steps are needed after this. Follow up and accountability are necessary. One does not concur an addiction by will power.

True revival is needed.

Revival won't happen unless we allow it to happen by His Spirit, and with His guidance, in each of our lives.

We must pray!


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It starts today...

Memories built with family are seldom forgotten.

I have many incredible memories that were built with my son. Over the past four and a half years, I have shared many of them.

Some of them stand out as funny... as was the time BJ wanted to cut down a tree on the Christian camp I managed. His stamina was not equal to his desire. As he got tired, he'd bounce to another tree that looked less intimidating. Still, it would be too much for him, and he'd move on to a tree of lesser girth. Ultimately, he left his mark on many trees in one area. If he'd used all of his energy on the first one, he would have been successful. Instead, he spread the scarring around... much like many of us do, when our eyes are on the world instead of Him.

A month before I took that same job, we camped together in the early spring. We hiked the 400 plus acres and saw much wildlife. He chose the steepest wooded banks to try to descend. He'd let go in a full out sprint down a steep decline, just to see if he could stay upright. Cuts and bruises were bonus. He laughed hysterically as he tore down the Terra firma.

During that trip, we captured baby fox kits in our binoculars, and then snuck up on them, until we were just a few yards away. They were as playful as kittens, and hilarious to watch. We took many pictures... none turned out. The photo stream in my head is sufficient.

I hear others talk about the things they do with their sons. Things I always thought I would have time to do... later. Things I really wanted to do, but just didn't think them urgent.

I see parents lose patience with their children and am reminded of how much time and energy I wasted on things that were unimportant. Times I got bent out of shape over issues that didn't matter. Times I took my frustrations out on him for things that were not his fault.

I suppose there will always be regrets. There are always ways to improve, personally. I have many.

Still, taking time as a parent to instill in my children, the love my parents poured into me, has been blessed of the Lord. What is done for Christ, is never in vain... even when the results are not identifiable.

So many times I look for the tangible, when the blessing is found in the obedience.

If my children saw a congruency in what I said I believed, what I taught them, and the way I lived, then they were willing to forgive an abundance of my shortcomings.

I am thankful for that!

Today, turkey season opens. One of my friends back in Indiana was telling me how he is taking both his wife and youngest daughter turkey hunting soon. I love the sound of that!

So much of the experience is not about what you do or don't shoot, but about the fellowship you have while out. I would love to be along to watch them interact.

I have had a couple of young men promise to take me duck hunting later this year. I never thought I'd want to do that. Now I can't wait. I enjoy developing those relationships.

I had the amazing deer hunting experience with my friend Steve. I shared it, previously. We returned to his property recently to do some work. I loved that day! I hope to be able to help him again. There is something about working the land, that calms a mans heart.

I am hoping to find someone to turkey hunt with. Being out in His creation is something that moves me in a way few things do. I feel like I learn so much about who He is and how vast His provision, when I see the impact of His hands.

I have great memories from when Deanna's Grandaddy took me hunting. Someone who takes the time to do that, impacts your life. I hope one day, to give back in a similar way.

These are things I wish I had done with my son. I took him antler shed hunting once. He got bored pretty quickly. Who knows, if I took him hunting, I may not be reflecting on positive memories.

I am thankful for the ones I did have with him. They are many. At times, I do wish they were many more.

If you are a parent, cherish the time you have with your children. Build memories. You won't forget them and neither will they.

I look forward to the fellowship gained with new friends as new opportunities arise. Building new memories, and giving thanks for all He has provided is becoming more of a way of life, for me.

I'm thankful for Whitney's husband Jared, who taught me to shoot a bow. I am thankful for the joy expressed by Lauren's man, Weston, who is anxious to shoot my bow, with me. These are blessings. These are relationships. This is fellowship.

Thank you Jesus.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

is he really worth it???
is He really worth it???

What does a believer look like to the world? What impact do our lives have on those who don't believe? Do we care?

I received a message today from an old friend. An old friend who is not a believer. We will call her Donna. We have always had very open discussions about Jesus. I have written of encounters and conversations with her in the past.

Years ago, she said to me, "Brent, what do I need God for? I have a great life, a beautiful home, a loving husband, plenty of money and great family. What hole is there for Him to fill?"

Through the years, we have discussed answers to that question, but it has not been "her time" yet (However, God is at work).

Today, Donna contacted me because of some friends of hers who are believers. She is concerned about them.

When she was little, she was in church and learned things about Jesus. Her problem growing up was that she saw no difference between those who called themselves "Christians," and those who were not believers. Because she didn't see the congruency between what they preached and how they lived, she wanted nothing of it.

This decision has lasted her lifetime.

Donna has a friend who was happily married, but recently "went off the deep end." She left her husband and children, got a divorce and started living in a way that is not good.

Donna was close with her but has ended the friendship because of her many bad decisions. The two of them have two other mutual friends. Both are believers. Both invite Donna to church on a fairly regular basis. She never goes.

Since this lady's divorce and failed friendships, Donna's two christian friends have taken to talking poorly about her each time the three of them are together.

Donna is very frustrated. She is not a believer, but knows this is wrong. On multiple occasions, she has asked her two believing friends to stop talking about this woman. They usually oblige, but soon descend back into familiar trashing.

Donna has been deeply affected by this inconsistency. She has wanted to lash out at them, but has held her tongue.

As she pondered this issue, she felt compelled to do two things. One was to pick up the book she had been slowly reading/digesting. The other was to contact me for further discussion.

She opened her book to where she had previously stopped. With troubled heart, she commenced reading...

"I went to after school guys' Bible study, which definitely put me in a hopeless, lonely, cynical mood, because of the guys' hypocrisy; they put on these masks in church/Bible study and act like they're all good and straight, etc., then leave and cuss people out, caring less about God. Certainly I am not perfect and I am also hypocritical at times, [but] at least I try to obey God and my heart is one for desiring Him. Anyway, it makes me feel like I am alone in my generation at my school in truly loving and striving to obey God; I feel like I am the only one with a true passion for the ultimate, my God." (BJ Higgins, I Would Die for You)

She dropped the book in disbelief. How could one so young get what she was struggling with, even if he was on the other side of belief? How was it that she would pick this up at such a time as this? Her journey had led her to the point of realizing that there is clearly right and wrong, good and evil. If she recognized it, why didn't her 'professed believing' friends? Why wasn't the God they served, and sought to share with her, making a difference in this area of their lives?

Her next step was to contact me.

We talked the issue over. I told her what we've all heard many times: "if it weren't for Christians, Christ would have many followers."

I did not make excuses for my sisters. I told Donna that we do not start living perfect lives after we give our hearts to the Lord, and that it is always easier to return to our old nature than to continue on the road that brings God glory.

I suggested she confront her friends. Not in a hateful, angry way, but in a friendly, conversational manner. I suggested she remind them that they routinely asked her to go to church and encourage her to give her heart to Jesus. Using her words, I gave her permission to tell her friends that she was troubled by knowing that these repetitive conversations were not right, and she could not understand why they continued to choose to revisit this poor friends failures in light of whose life they sought to represent.

Her fear was that this would be the wrong approach. She needs to do this.

I wonder how many people are going to approach me in the near future with similarly troubled hearts over my failures as a believer. I want to portray Jesus as glorious! We are about to celebrate His death for our sin and resurrection.

Is He worth living a changed life for? Do we really care about Him? Do we point others to His glory by how we choose to live? Is He worth it? Are the lost worth our denial of self and all that comes naturally, to live for Him? What if we are the only Christ they ever see? Are we enough different from the world for Him to cause them to hunger for what we have?

If their salvation depends on the depths of our relationship with Him and how we live, then the answer to these questions is... probably not.

It shouldn't be, but the way these women live is more representative of how most of us are than what the Word teaches.

The amazing thing is, Donna sees that God is drawing her to Him and that He is revealing part of His heart to her.

She wants to talk later about why it isn't enough for her to live a good life and be a good person. I am praying for her. I invite you to, as well.

I praise God for the broken vessels that we as believers are, and that He uses circumstances in our lives to bring conviction. Even when it comes from unlikely sources.

Happy Easter!!!