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Posts Tagged ‘Transformation’

I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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Getting ready for Home Group I noticed the kitchen window needed cleaning.  It was the last task I got to, but I still had plenty of time.  It was probably good that I didn’t rush through it or I may have missed the simple message I share today.

I began by cleaning the inside.  As I cleaned I easily saw the dirt specs on the outside.  I almost convinced myself to stop working on the inside because it seemed like all the specs were on the outside.  I didn’t stop, although I was probably not as meticulous in “finishing” the inside before moving to the outside.  Oddly, my rag was pretty dirty from cleaning the inside even though I perceived all the dirt to be outside.

So I attacked the cleaning outside.  Once I was outside though, the dirt specs were suddenly not so obvious.  Oh, there was still grime to remove which I did.  Interestingly the more I cleaned the outside, the more obvious the remaining specs on the inside became.  After one final cleaning on the inside I was satisfied the windows were clean enough.  As I looked through I was surprised at how much clearer the view was.  While I was focused upon removing individual little specs, I had not realized how much cleaner the whole window had become.

That I could always see the dirt and grime on the opposite side of the glass better than what was on my side struck me as important.  Life is like that.  It is so easy to see someone else’s faults, but often we are blind to our own warped motivations and short-comings.  Jesus spoke on this in Matthew 7:1-5.  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

When I cleaned the inside of the window, I didn’t realize how dirty it was.  However, after the first cleaning I was in a much better position to see and clean the outside.  And carrying the metaphor a little farther, when I put myself on the outside, akin to putting myself in another person’s shoes, I could see that there was still more cleaning necessary on the inside.

Jesus begins with an admonition about judging others.  Yet He ends by describing how we position ourselves to help others remove the stuff that hinders their vision.  These things that hinder are what the bible calls sin – ways we fall short of God’s plan for His children.  So there is a progression here.  We have sin in our lives.  We must deal with our sin first.  Then we are in a position to help our brother’s (that would mean other believers) deal with sin in their life.  And we are to do this without judgement.

Jesus specifically used the word brother meaning a person who shared the faith.  I believe this was intentional.  With the unbeliever, our focus should be upon introducing them to Jesus.  It is not to be about cleaning them up, getting sin out of their life.  It is pure and simple, to arrange for them to meet the One Who loves them more than us and Who can do exactly what they need.  With the believer though, we have a responsibility to encourage and strengthen one another in love.  Jesus helps in this, but He does so from within the believer.  We are simply to cooperate with Him in the work.  And it follows the progression mentioned above.

I hope this lesson I gleaned while I cleaned has given you a clearer view of God’s grace.

Lord, thank You for the work of Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for salvation through Your Son – Jesus.  Thank You for the transformation that You are bringing about in us as we trust in You, as we read Your Word, as we obey Your commands, as we seek to know You better.  And thank You that we are joined together with other believers as Your Body, growing evermore into the people of God, fashioned for the good works You have prepared for us to walk in.  We love You Lord.  We pray in Jesus’ Name.

Be blessed and be a blessing today!

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The sign on the window made me sad.  Not because of what it said, but that it had to be said at all.  And additionally because our federal government felt the need to create a law about it.  Oh, they got the sentiment right, but it is a sad commentary if, as a society, we are so broken about doing the right thing that the minutest details of our life have to be codified by the government.

CS Lewis was one of the most brilliant authors of the 20th century.  While raised in the church early in his life, he threw off the restraints of “religion” at a fairly young age.  His path led to an atheistic worldview for a while and then moderated to more of an agnostic perspective over time.  In his classic book, Mere Christianity, he identifies the existence of a moral code within every society as the reality that caused him to rethink his worldview.  The moral code – that framework of right and wrong, was intrinsic to every society.  Yes there were differences from place to place, but virtues such as loyalty, courage, and honesty within the tribe were consistent across every group.  Likewise the vices – betrayal, cowardice, lying within the tribe, were common threads across people groups.  The only logical explanation was that a universal law existed.  And if such a law existed, that demanded a Creator of that Law.  Hence Lewis followed the logic and expanded his godless worldview to include the reality that God existed.

Being the brilliant mind that he was, Lewis’ curiosity could not long rest with a riddle partially solved.  But neither was he going to be taken in by mere sentimentality or man-made religious dogma.  He was convinced that God existed, and therefore, the potential existed that He could be found.  His position on the staff at Oxford University gave him unfettered access to vast amounts of information collected from around the world and from history’s earliest recorded times.  Lewis was uniquely prepared and uniquely positioned to ferret out the truth.  I find it fascinating that JRR Tolkien was a fellow professor and confidant of Lewis.  In my mind’s eye I picture these two literary giants cloistered in the hallowed confines of Oxford, sharing a drink at their favorite pub, pondering the meaning of life, the potential existence of God, and how their latest book was shaping up.

His search led him back to Jesus.  Which brings me back to the writing on the window.  Right and wrong do exist.  And while I agree with Lewis that God is the authority of what is right and wrong, many people today resist or outright reject the reality of a Supreme Authority.  That vacuum is untenable.  Chaos, anarchy, and strife fill the void.  Society was not meant to exist without the structure that a framework of right and wrong provides.  So into that void government – whether it be a dictatorship in a third world country, elected leadership in a democracy, or simply the village chieftain, rises to define and enforce the law.

The problem with laws is the tendency latent in every person to break laws we don’t like or aren’t convenient for us.  In many cases we actually like the laws… so long as they apply to everyone else and I can be the exception when necessary.   The apostle Paul talks about this a lot.  The Law, in his writings meaning the Law given by God to the nation of Israel through Moses, served God’s ultimate purpose of pointing to our need of a savior and redeemer.  Jesus, was the only person who has ever lived who perfectly fulfilled the Law.  He was without sin.  And as such by His sacrificial death on the cross He was able to pay the price for every lawbreaker who has ever lived.  Those who accept His death on their behalf can receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

But it is the next step in the process that causes the sign on the bus window to stir me so.  When we submit to Jesus as Lord, we surrender our will to His.  He in turn puts His Holy Spirit within us.  The Holy Spirit will lead us step by step into closer intimacy with Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will gently transform our self-centeredness into other-centeredness.  It will become an internal desire of our heart to please God, to do what is right.  Read what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40.  Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In place of obeying the writing upon the window out of duty, we will look for someone needy of our seat and we will leap at the chance to provide it.  For the widow and orphan, we will reach out in love to provide for them.  For the sad and discouraged, we will speak words of life and hope.  We will act with compassion and kindness.  We follow the Law, not because of some external pressure, but rather from a living, vibrant center within us where the Spirit of the Living Lord is working to transform us into the real us we were ultimately created to be.

God reached out and saves us because He loves us.  As His children He desires that we join Him in His work.  Letting our light shine by following the leading of His Holy Spirit is one of the ways God is proclaimed to a hurting, dying world.  The world doesn’t need more laws.  It simply needs more of Jesus.  Join me today in seeking to let Him live larger, more completely through us today.

I love you friend.  Be blessed today and be that blessing God intends in someone’s life today.

 

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It struck me as I chatted with the young man that he was in a good place to hear the Lord’s voice.  He had just finished the quarterly pest control treatment around the house and I simply asked his name.  A biblical name – Noah, and before I knew it we were talking about Jesus and His passion for people.  My new friend mentioned that he hadn’t been attending church, but that he was feeling like he should especially since he now had custody of his 10-yr old son… Responsibility, that can often make or break a person.  From our brief conversation I can tell my friend is embracing the responsibility and I am praying for him to grow as a Dad.

As I have prayed for him the Lord has impressed upon me that He loves him.  A vision of the Lord speaking to his heart like He has spoken to me through the years has been a consistent component of that prayer.  There is just one difference.  He speaks to Him in perfect Spanish.

There are times when the Lord’s love for someone overwhelms me.  That has happened with this young man.  Is this for the purpose of a blog post, is it for a season, is it for a unique purpose – I do not know?  But I am aware that I have a responsibility now to pray, and if the opportunity presents itself, to engage my friend again in conversation about the Lord and whatever He might bring up.

My Spanish is pretty lame.  Two years in high school and a few brief attempts since to gain some basic conversational skills has left me with a few phrases and a dozen or so words.  But I have a heart to tell people about the Lord’s love whoever and wherever they may be.  I think that matters.  Jesus died for ALL mankind.  Not just our family, our friends, those who look like us, think like us, vote like us.  He died for ALL.  Although it is hard to grasp, Jesus’ sacrifice was also for those we despise like ISIS and those who seek to deceive and manipulate us.

That is sometimes hard for me to swallow.  But as I quiet my soul and I consider where I was, what I have done, how I seek my own way at times, I recognize the Father’s voice calling to me.  At first it is a gentle whisper.  A whisper so quiet I could easily ignore or dismiss it.  But when I turn my ear to hear and my heart is open to receive, it becomes clear and distinct.  He loves me.  He cherishes me.  And He calls me to higher living.  He meets me where I am and He calls me to live a life with Him that manifests itself in a transformed mind and faith-filled life.

In this holy quiet I hear Him strike up another conversation.  He is reaching out to another one far from Christ.  He is telling him that He loves him, that He cherishes him, that He desires to live in him… only I can’t fully understand the words because I don’t speak the language.  But I do recognize the voice.

Lord, please take my life and the words I speak and write and use them for our good and for Your Glory.  Be present in a tangible way for my new friend and draw him to Yourself.  And help those who read this post to be encouraged to listen and respond to Your voice.  We love you.  Help us to grow evermore in Your love and grace.  In Jesus’ Name we pray.

Be blessed and be a blessing today my friend.

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Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  What a succinct capture of the Gospel and a rich promise for God’s children.

In my work, I consult with plants and help them improve their performance.  The formula is really very simple.  When you do the right things in the right way you will get excellent performance.  I have seen this truth play out dozens and dozens of times in my career.

When I look at this verse I see the spiritual corollary.  When God becomes our focus and we immerse ourselves in knowing Him we will experience a greater and greater intimacy in our relationship with Him.

The picture that comes to mind is that of the young child running and leaping into His Daddy’s arms.  He is delighted to see His Daddy and to be held by him.  The child that delights in his Daddy will watch him closely.  They take note of what Daddy does, how he interacts with other people, the things he says, how he lives.  To a young child their parents are the focus of their life.  Oh – what a wonderful thrill and an awesome responsibility!

The Lord is our Heavenly Father.  Jesus came to earth and demonstrated the perfect Child to Father relationship.  He didn’t mince words, but faithfully demonstrated that God is the Perfect Father Who truly knows what is best.  As the climactic moment of Jesus’ life (and truly the climax of all history) approached, Jesus focused His whole being upon being faithful to the Father and loving those the Father had brought to Him.  That path lead to Calvary and a gruesome death on the cross.  How was Jesus able to do this?  And how does that relate to delighting in the Lord?

It was because of His complete and total faith in God the Father and His Father’s plan that enabled Him to do this.  And because His heart’s desire was to be obedient to the Father and please Him, He was able to experience His Peace even in the midst of the severest of trials.  He suffered grievous pain – yes, but He could take comfort knowing He was squarely in the middle of the Father’s will.

Jesus died and was buried, but in three days, the miracle around which all of history pivots occurred.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  And Jesus reigns at the right hand of the Father  God.  The desire of His heart – the redemption of God’s children, has been accomplished – halleluiah!!!

For us, it is stated simply, delight yourself… immerse yourself… focus your whole being upon the Lord and He will move on your behalf to enable the desires of your heart.

Now it is important to understand that in the immersion process we will take on more and more of the desires of the Father and less and less of the carnal, low desires of the flesh.  In fact as we live in the Spirit the dichotomy between desires of the flesh and desires of the Spirit become more pronounced.  God’s heart will fill us and we will truly desire things eternal.  Reconciliation, peace, comfort for the hurting, salvation for the lost, clarity for the confused, hope for the hopeless – these things will trump big bank accounts, accumulation of things, and recognition.  And God will move on our behalf to give us these good things.

I walk this path of seeking to delight myself in the Lord with you.  I’d like to say I am well along the path and I have succeeded in putting all fleshly desires aside, but I am a sojourner just like you.  I have experienced times of breakthrough and been blessed mightily.  But I have also had times of slipping back and turning my eyes and heart to lower things.  The gap between the “fun” of the lower things and the ecstatic joy of being in the Father’s presence grows ever greater.  Those times that I slide back become ever more distasteful.  They leave me with a hunger for God’s greater things.

Join me today in seeking to delight in the Lord.  Let us together experience the Joy of the Lord.  May His Holy Spirit fill us to overflowing and transform our heart’s desires to truly be His desire.

Father, we love you and we want to delight ourselves in you.  Too often we are distracted and enticed by lower things… desires less than what you have for us.  Help us to turn our eyes, our heart, our hope to you.  Put the delight of you as our first desire.  Make your home in us.  Pour your Holy Spirit into us and help us to be a people who are truly transformed and transformative in this world.  God be revealed in and through us.  We love you!  We give you all the glory this day. In the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus!

Peace to you today.  May you know the all fulfilling Joy of the Lord as you delight yourself in Him.

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As I have shared before, I am an engineer.  So much so that my wife struggles not to roll her eyes as she says it.  My natural inclination is to observe, analyze, and critique.  This mindset helps me solve problems and improve processes.  However by themselves they are not conducive to building strong, vibrant, loving relationships.  Through the years though I have changed.  I still have these attributes, but they have been tempered.  And I am a better person for it.

I am very thankful for my parents.  They strove to raise my siblings and I right.  They taught us manners, respect for all people, putting other’s needs ahead of my own, and the importance of family.  They took us to church and established a pattern of faithful attendance.  They disciplined me when I strayed, but at the end of the discipline was always a hug and words of affirmation.  My parents established an excellent foundation for the transformation.

As I have recounted in an earlier post, I strayed significantly through my college years, trying new and formerly forbidden things.  I was a person swimming further and further from shore.  But God did an amazing thing.  He brought me to a place where I could clearly see the two choices I had.  I could continue my life of swimming in deep water and being my own master or I could chose to follow Him completely.  It’s funny because He did not threaten me with bad stuff if I chose not to follow Him.  He just indicated that life “All In” with Him would mean He would never leave me or forsake me.

I accepted His offer and a change took place immediately.  God put His Spirit within me and I knew it.  I look at that weekend and that afternoon visit to the chapel at Camp Hartner in Louisiana as my second birthday.  I mention all of this as background though.  While God entered my life in a real and tangible way at that time, a lot of my ingrained habits and thought patterns were still influenced by the worldly patterns I had become comfortable with.  The Holy Spirit had been active in wooing and encouraging me to take the step of faith before my conversion.  When I accepted Jesus as my Lord, the Holy Spirit began the work in me that has led to much positive change such as the transformation of a fairly rigid engineer into a relatively relational person who happens to have some engineering skills.

The Holy Spirit will guide you as you seek to know and follow the Father better.  Here are some of the practical steps that I was led to which have proved crucial to my transformation.  In fact they fit under the admonition Paul gives in Romans 12:1-2.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.  Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Read the Word and Seek the Lord Early Every Day.  Start the day in prayer and quiet reflection on Who God is.  Talk to Him and let Him speak to you through the bible.  Select a good, short devotional to supplement your prayer time.  My wife and I have been blessed time and again with the short devotionals found in the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I have experimented with doing this at other times of the day, but I have found that dedicating my first hour or so to the Lord has the greatest impact and seems to flavor the rest of the day with a sweet sense of His nearness.

Develop Close Faith Friendships and Encourage One Another.  While this needs to be within your family too, it actually must include a few close friends.  I’ve dived into this topic at length in a previous post, but it is vital that we have people we trust who can be Christ’s hands, feet, and heart to us in times of need.  And we in turn will have times when the Lord uses us for others.  God did not intend for us to do life alone.  When He looked at Adam in the garden He said it was not good for him to be alone.  That is true of believers.  God knows we need faithful fellowship.  Ask Him and He will lead you to those people who will become your faith friends.

Join the Church and Plug In.  Jesus died for the Church, so the Church is very important to Him.  Find a Church that is vibrant.  One that consistently points to Jesus and what He is doing.  Look for signs of Jesus actively working within the Church.  Signs such as growth in numbers, bondages broken, lives being transformed, consistently maturing fellowship, regular outreach beyond the walls of the Church, and joy in following Jesus.  Once you find this Church then get involved.  Consider your gifts, talents, and passion and see where you can put them to work in the Church.

Bloom Where You Are Planted.  God has put you in a place to be His ambassador.  The life you live is a reflection of where you are in your walk.  Jesus desires to use each one of us in the redemption of this world.  If you are in a hard place, a difficult place, the light and love of Jesus will stand-out more than ever.  Every believer is called to minister in Jesus’ Name.  Some of that ministry may be within the Church, but my experience indicates that the greatest need and most frequent opportunities are outside the walls of the Church.  Make this a topic in your quiet time with the Lord, asking Him to guide you to the person(s) you are to speak to that day.

Remember, it’s All About the Relationships.  Jesus left His place in heaven and entered mortal life so He could relate to us, so He could establish a relationship with us.  He loves us so much that He took our place when sin, our sin, was judged and executed on the cross.  And because of that we can live in intimate relationship with Him.  And He wants us to value the relationships that we have with others.  Because they matter to Him, they should matter to us as well.  As we grow closer to Jesus, we will begin to see others as Jesus sees them.  And we will love more and more like Jesus loves.

Have a blessed day today as you grow in your life with Jesus.

 

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As I finished my run this evening, I was struck by the thought of how good God is to us.  “He showers me with too much love,” I thought.

I don’t deserve the goodness that He pours out upon me, upon my family.

I don’t deserve the kindnesses I have experienced from total strangers in Jesus name.  They were moved to bless and it overwhelms me.

Too many times I have not done what I know He wants me to do and yet His Grace is still upon me and evident in my life.

I have had times when I was happy with my “successes” and pride was a very real issue.  I am still a man who thinks of himself way too much and others way too little.  But day-by-day He leads me to understand that it’s not about me in the end.  It is about Him.  It is about loving others with His love.

Even when I am moody and controlling, His love reaches out to me, to correct me, to lead me, to show me the way of peace and joy… which does not consist of getting my way.

Like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.  But God called and sent out Isaiah and He calls and sends me out.

Like Paul at times I can only cry out, “what a wretched man I am!”

But Paul was right – “thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

He died so that I might live and know Him in spirit and in truth.  It is too much love for this man.

And that is exactly the right amount.

 

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