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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

God Alone

These past several months in my new ministry have been simply amazing! In just a very short period of time I have seen God at work big time in the lives of people, and as I reflect on what He's been doing all I can say is that it's God and God alone who is capable of this kind of life change.

The more I get to know God in my relationship the more I'm realizing that He is just as much interested in the "little" things in my life as He is in the "big" things.

I was planning a Bible study devotional a few weeks ago and was ready to share it with the group when I learned that one of our cell groups was going to serve at the homeless shelter in our city the same night I was scheduled to bring the devotional.

I really love going to the shelter and showing God's love in a tangible way, so I arranged for another person to cover for me that night and I went to the shelter. So, the other night it was my turn to share the study in the place of the guy who switched with me and before leaving to go to the church my daughter came home from school and shared an answer to prayer with me.

You see, as she was heading to school on the bus she suddenly realized that she had an overdue book at the library and that it was going to cost her a quarter to pay the fine.

She didn't have a quarter on her so she did what she does best...she prayed.

One of the things I love about my daughter is her sensitive spirit towards God especially as it relates to praying. She prays for me all the time! When I was traveling and speaking all the time I could always count on her saying "I'm praying for you daddy", and even now that I'm speaking pretty much every week, I can always count on her praying.

So, when she recounted her answer to prayer story I was glued to what she was saying.

She said that when she realized she owed a quarter and she didn't have one she prayed something like… "God, I don't know how you're going to do it, but I really need you to answer my prayer request. You see, I have an overdue library fine and it's due today, and I don't have a quarter to pay it. I know you can do it, I don't know how but I trust you. Thank you for always taking care of me."

What happened next is such a testament to the faith of a child and the powerful response of her loving Savior.

She got off the bus and entered her school and as she was going in the boy in front of her stopped, bent down and picked up a quarter off the ground and proceeded to say "free quarter, free quarter anyone want a free quarter?"

I wish you could have seen the joy and excitement in her face and voice as she BRAGGED on how awesome God is!

I love the fact that God is interested in the "little" things as well as the "big" things in our lives, which by the way was the theme of the Bible study I was getting ready to head out the door and go deliver at the Church.

Yep, the same Bible study I was supposed to deliver a few weeks earlier, but got put on hold so I could go to the homeless shelter. God's timing is impeccable, and as I shared Serena's answer to prayer with the group it gave my Bible study a whole new level of personal application!

 God and God alone can do stuff like that!

I've also seen Him at work in the lives of people who have come face to face with real life, earth shattering decisions and after much prayer and counsel have decided to go God's way even though it's going to require much sacrifice. These people energize and inspire me, and I'm so thankful to have the privilege of serving in a Church where God's way is proclaimed!

Who are these people you ask?

Well, two of them are recent members of our baptism class that were faced with a difficult decision. Follow the Lord by being baptized publically proclaiming that they are followers of Jesus and set themselves up for future banishment, disowning and persecution when they return home, or not go through with it.

Where is home? China...Why the risk? They are members of the Chinese Communist party which enables them to be gainfully employed back home. If they go public with their new found faith in Christ, they will be in big trouble.

Guess what...they did it! They counted the cost, prayed about it, sought counsel, prayed some more and boldly in the name of Christ identified themselves with their Savior...talk about inspiring!

God and God alone can do stuff like that!

God has been working in our church and it's so awesome to see how He is creatively changing people's lives.

Then last week right before the service one of our Deacons pulled me aside and introduced me to a lady who recently came to know Jesus as her Savior.

He translated our conversation as she spoke Mandarin. She said that she started following Jesus in September and wants to give Him everything.

She owns a Sushi restaurant in our city and wanted me and the Deacon to come to her restaurant to remove all the IDOLS that were everywhere inside the place.

She said "I'm a follower of Jesus now, these Idols have got to go!"

I stood there in awe for minute, and said "let me get this straight, you want us to come and rip down and destroy idols in your restaurant because you want to put God first in every area of your life including your business?"

She said "that's right, I also want you to pray over the restaurant, pray over me and help me dedicate this place to God's glory!"

So that's what we did, and what an incredible experience it was to stand in the middle of a sushi place surrounded by two trash bags full of broken down idols, standing with a brand new Christ follower who realizes what it means to put Him first and pray for God to bless, I'm telling you it was awesome!

God and God alone can do stuff like that!

 So, as I reflect on the many ways that God is working, I'm continually amazed at His power, His creativity and His attention to the "big" things as well as the "little" things.

All I can say is to God alone be the Glory!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thoughts...11-18-10

Today as I'm continuing to prayerfully prepare for the new series I'm starting at church on Sunday called "Purposeful...What Jesus came to do." I was thinking about how many times in life our assumptions, traditions and even things we've grown up believing can sidetrack us from embracing the truths of why Jesus came to this earth. 

 I know for me there have been times in my life where I said the right things, did the right actions, prayed the right prayers and went to the right church service but my heart was far from what my actions were conveying. 

 One of the things that Jesus came to do was replace rules with relationship, and if I'm honest sometimes keeping the rules is much easier than being in relationship. 

 With rules it's straightforward and cut & dry. With relationship though, true sacrifice and devotion for my Savior who is my number one priority is what I want to bring because of what He did for me. Not in a robotic "must repay to earn Savior's love" kind of way but in a "He did that for me? No Way! Wow! You gotta be kidding me! How could I not worship Him and live my life for Him?" Kind of way. 

 So, as I'm thinking and praying about this series, and how many times our assumptions and beliefs shape and ultimately drive our actions, I was reminded of a time when I entered a 10 mile road race and then on race day didn’t show up. 

 Yep, you heard me right, it was 1989, and I was 21 years old, serving as a Youth Pastor intern in Flint, Michigan. 

 It had been a great summer of ministry and it was beginning to wind down. All summer long I had heard about how some people from the church were training to run in the 10 Mile Crim Road Race that was sponsored by Buick. 

 Apparently it was a big deal, and in my zeal to belong, be liked and be respected I foolishly shelled out the dough to purchase the number that registered me in the big race. 

 The only problem though is that I'm about as far from a runner as you can be. In fact, I hate running, I'm terrible at it and I get tired very easily! 

 When I was in junior high I tried out for the school soccer team and literally asked the coach "what position can I play where I don't have to run much?" He said..."goalie" Guess what position I played until I graduated? 

 So, the day came to run the race, I was registered but didn't show, I paid my money, got my number but didn't participate...so even though when I got back to college that following fall and told all my buddies about my great intern experience when it came time to show them my Crim road race number I could only tell the story from an observer's point of view, not a participant's point of view. 

 I think sometimes an assumption that causes us to miss what Jesus came to do is one that says; "as long as I go to church, pay my tithe, say the right things and be good" I'll be all set. 

 I've seen that mindset many times over the years, and as I look at this road race number that I paid my hard earned cash to get, it's about like that assumption for a person who thinks they can just obey the rules and God is good with that. 

 In order to be a runner in the Crim road race I needed to show up and run...in order to be a follower of Jesus I need to accept the free gift that Jesus gives (my analogy breaks down here for sure, because I had to purchase my road race number on a summer intern's salary at that...what was I thinking?) and start the race with my Savior leading the way. 

 This is going to be an interesting series, I'm looking forward to it, because I believe that Jesus was very purposeful in what He did on this earth, and I'm so glad that because of what He did I can finally be a runner (at least in the Christian life.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts...11-11-10

Spending some time reading, reflecting, contemplating and trying to process how faithful and true God has been in my life not just this past year but every single moment of my life...I came across this Psalm of Thanks and as I was reading it the song "Strong Tower" by Kutless kept coming into my thoughts as well.

I pray that the words of the Psalmist and the Words of the band Kutless will encourage you as they did me today!

David’s Psalm of Thanks
1 Chronicles 16:7-36

7 That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD :

8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
12 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
13 O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
14 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
15 He remembers [b] his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations,

16 the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”
19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it,

20 they [c] wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another.
21 He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings:
22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.

28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
29 ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his [d] holiness.

30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.

34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”

HE IS WORTHY OF OUR THANKS!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLYnN3rRC1Q

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mixed Emotions

Today I've got mixed emotions going on as the World Series gets underway tonight. The reason I have mixed emotions is because my team "the 27 time world champion New York Yankees" won't be on that grand stage this year, and I'm pretty bummed.

BUT, before I'm a baseball fan I'm a follower of Jesus, and a guy who loves to see and hear stories of life change that shine the spotlight on the real hero...Jesus!

So, the other reason for mixed emotions can be directly attributed to a player who is one of the major reasons that my team was eliminated...the center fielder for the Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton.

You see Josh Hamilton is not only an amazing baseball player he also has an amazing comeback story that is only because of his relationship with Jesus.

Back in 1999 I had the opportunity along with a friend of mine to lead Bible studies and Sunday home game chapel services with Baseball Chapel for the Hudson Valley Renegades, a single A farm team with the Tampa Bay Rays.

We were able to meet and minister to some up and coming baseball stars and it was an awesome thing to be a part of.

We heard all the buzz about the next big thing in baseball and his name was Josh Hamilton. I remember watching him hit the ball and being in awe along with everyone else...it was a sight to behold for sure!

Well, the combination of stardom, fame, freedom and especially millions of dollars to a young kid proved to be a devastating combination for Josh, and the next period of time proved to be brutal years both personally and professionally for him.

I came across an article today on MLB.com that made me stop and praise God for his redemptive work in our lives, and I would encourage others to go and check it out as well.

It's so cool to me how God can redeem and restore our poor choices and wasted lives into a testimony of His love and Grace!

The web site www.iamsecond.com has a bunch of these kind of stories. Check out Josh's story...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXOrKT7SUoY

So, as the team that beat my team sets out to try to win their first World Series Championship led by a guy who has allowed God to totally transform his life and is giving Him glory all the way...the more I think about it my emotions aren't that mixed after all, I hope the Rangers win and Josh Hamilton is the MVP, because I know that will proclaim the transforming power of Jesus Christ even more, and that's worth cheering about!

I am wondering how I would feel if Josh played for the Red Sox though...I'm just saying.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts...10-21-10

Studying, praying, thinking, reading and getting ready to share part 2 of the series we're doing called "Amazing!"

I was camped out in Romans 5 for a while trying to wrap my brain around verses 6-8 especially, and realized all over again how incredible the grace of Jesus really is!

The David Crowder Band captures where I'm at at this very moment...Blown away with the fact that He loves us!

Amazing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWgeUrD4MHI

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughts...10-14-10

I'm beginning a 2 week series at church called "Amazing!" where we're going to look at 2 different encounters that Jesus had that left the people speechless, awestruck, astounded and downright Amazed at what they saw with their own eyes.

The encounters are both pretty familiar stories and we're going to look at what He did but I want to bring out the fact that Jesus not only did amazing things while He was on earth, He does amazing things every day.

 Often times we're too busy or too distracted or pre-occupied or whatever to see it and make changes in our lives.

In the two encounters Jesus amazed the onlookers but He also gave the recipient of the miracle a mission to tell others of their direction altering encounter.

When I get to heaven I would love to meet these two guys (among many others in the Bible) and find out how their amazing encounter with the Savior changed them spiritually and what God did through their lives for the rest of their days on earth. That's amazing to me as well!

Jesus did amazing things, but did He heal everyone He came in contact with? NO

He didn't come to earth to just do some cool special effects, He came to seek and to save the lost! Why?

So we could be restored and reconciled to Him and live eternally but also experience life to the fullest here on earth!

I'm looking forward to Sunday for many reasons, but one of the reasons is because we're going to worship the Creator, the one who is "Mighty to Save."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-08YZF87OBQ

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thoughts...10-12-10

Well, today I have all kinds of thoughts going through my mind. This past weekend my family and I traveled back to my home town to take part in the funeral service for my Grandfather who passed away last week.

It was a weekend filled with mixed emotions for me. On the one hand it was good to be home and see my mom and my brother and his family, but on the other hand it was too bad that we couldn't have been together on better circumstances.

 On the one hand I was very sad to see my grandfather pass away but on the other hand it's so comforting to know that He is with the Lord.

 On the one hand it was good to see family members that I haven't seen in a long time but on the other hand it was saddening to see that some of them still carry grudges and bitter feelings towards each other that go back many years.

On the one hand it was such an honor for me to share some thoughts with the people at the funeral...thoughts about how even though my Grandfather was a man of very few words His life spoke volumes to me as a kid and now as an adult, but on the other hand it was difficult for me to see that His life didn't seem to carry the same effect on other members of my family.

I wondered why God can use the words and actions of a person to profoundly affect the life and lifestyle of one person one way and someone else in a different way.

To me, in the absence of a Father and Godly male role model growing up, my Grandfather served as a steady, stable, true to his word loving disciplinarian that God used to help keep me on the straight and narrow.

Although I never had any deep spiritual or theological discussions with him, I observed many qualities that God used to help shape my attitude and outlook on life.

 At the funeral I shared some lessons I learned from Pa...

 1. Whatever you do work hard at it, and give it everything you have

2. Even when things are tough, hang in there and persevere

 3. Don't judge a book by its cover

4. Stay Loyal

 And the last lesson I shared is probably the one that God used to shape my outlook, my ministry, my passion and pretty much everything I want my life to be about and my message to be about...YOU CAN BE RESTORED!

 You see, my grandfather was an avid tractor restorer. He could take an old, abandoned, broken, discarded hunk of junk and restore it to a thing of beauty that not only looked good on the outside, but actually ran as good as the day it rolled off the lot into the service of its new owner!

We never talked about or deeply discussed the spiritual nuances of it but somehow in the midst of my selfish and immature younger days God used the image of my grandpa investing hour after hour pouring into what others saw as a worthless piece of trash.

 It's amazing to me how God uses things to send a very profound message to a young boy who "should've been" just another statistic by the world's definition...but God helped me realize that just like those tractors I could be restored, and just like those tractors I could be a living breathing testimony to the restoration power of the restorer!

 It's also amazing to me as I reflect on the towns, cities, states, regions, and countries of the world that I've had the privilege of proclaiming Jesus, the theme of restoration through the power of Jesus has always been the central message.

 Hmmm, to me it's pretty cool that God used a wordless action to powerfully proclaim a life changing truth that has changed me forever and has compelled me to want to share that truth with the world.

Thanks Pa, even though I wasn't always there for you...you were always there for me, and my life is forever changed because God used you to speak volumes through your passion for restoration!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts...10-4-10

Just sitting at the desk in my office listening to the rain outside, and enjoying the peaceful sounds that it brings.

The kids are fast asleep, my wife just came in and said goodnight all is good in the Carl household.

As I'm sitting here, listening and reflecting I came across a song that God used to speak volumes into my life 10 years ago. It has always amazed me how God mixes things up when He tries to get my attention...many times over the years He has used the lyrics of a song to just nail me head on with a truth He has wanted to give me and tonight was one of those nights all over again.

Ten years ago was a huge milestone for me personally and in my ministry as well. I had just completed my 1st decade of full time ministry and that same year my first child was welcomed into this world.

I found myself in a very interesting time as on the one hand I was becoming very comfortable with my "craft" as a Youth Pastor but on the other hand I felt incredibly overwhelmed with the fact that I was now a father!

It was as if I found myself in a tornado of feelings and thoughts and fears...to say the least it was an awesome as well as very stressful time for me.

Well, as usual God in His 

infinitely impeccable timing sent the song  Watching over You by Phil Joel to speak directly to my soul. I encourage you to click on the link and listen to the song... it's my prayer that the truth that is proclaimed through the lyrics speaks volumes to you.

No matter where we are, God is watching over us!

If you're interested in some other examples of how God has gotten my attention over the years through His word and other various means, click on the links to read and listen for the first time or re-read and re-listen all over again.

"Do You Trust Me?" - Lord, I don't Know" by Newsboys

"No Regrets? - "Chevette" by Audio Adrenaline

The timeless truths of God's Word either read directly or sometimes captured in some other creative way have a powerful effect on me when I stop, focus, get rid of distractions and have an open heart to listen to the truth God has for me...how about you today?

Are you setting some time aside at night, in the morning, during your commute or whenever?

He's waiting for you, and no matter what, He's watching over you!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts...9-30-10

Lately I've been reading "Jesus the Pastor" by John W. Frye. The byline of the book says "Leading others in the power and character of Christ", and it's been such an encouraging and inspiring read to this point.

It's amazing to me to look at Jesus' ministry on the earth through the Pastoral lens, and it's caused me to think through who I am in Christ and why I do what I do, which are very pertinent concepts to ponder.

So here's where I'm at today regarding my thought process for ministry…

"I'm a believer in Jesus, so I'm a member of his family. Since I'm a member of His family I've been given gifts, abilities, a personality and unique experiences that have all worked together to shape me into the leader God wants me to be.

I've been called to full time ministry, I've been trained for Pastoral ministry, and have been given many opportunities over the years to serve Jesus in that role. As a follower of Jesus my guide book is not man made but God breathed and since God's plan (2 Cor. 5:11-21) is a plan of reconciling all men to Himself, and his plan includes me being reconciled to Him and then being used of Him to share that message with the world." The question then becomes "as a leader who has this message and mission how do I as a member of His family (individual) fulfill this mission?

Since I have a dual role as individual member of God's family and recipient of some specific spiritual gifts (Pastor, Teacher, Leader) how does God's guidebook instruct me to fulfill His mission individually and corporately through His body here on earth (The Church)?"

Fortunately, we have 2 clear passages of scripture that outline Jesus's purposeful plan. The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) and Great Commandment (Mt 22:37-40) spell out what I need to be abut individually and since the body of Christ is made up of individuals like me the given principles apply to the Church at large as well…Make Disciples who are devoted to becoming more and more like Jesus.

If I seek to be about evangelism, ministry, worship, discipleship, and fellowship in my own life and the rest of God's family does the same it stands to reason that the body of Christ will be made up of that unified lifestyle as well, and the mission of restored relationship with our Creator and a life lived to the full here on earth will be fulfilled.

That's the big picture of my thought process for who I am in Christ, Why I do what I do, and why I believe God has allowed me to experience the things I have and why He has led me to be a part of this ministry at this exact point in time.

I believe that once we know who we are in Christ and what our part in the body is all about we are then ready to be involved in fulfilling His mandates to us as believers and as a church.

I've always liked to think of the organizational fulfillment of the Great Commission and Great Commandment as a healthy balance of the Biblical purposes fleshed out through prayerfully planned and strategically implemented tools to reach an audience, fulfill a purpose and challenge people to either begin a relationship with Jesus or go deeper in their devotion with Him.

The passage that I shared last week with the students at SUNY Binghamton is still rattling around in my heart and mind especially as it relates to wanting to be part of something that amazes people with the power and love of Jesus.

Check out the encounter that Jesus had with the Pharisees and Religious leaders after Jesus forgave the paralyzed man of his sins and just before He healed him of his infirmity.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaQEJUN-GF0

My prayer today is that my life, my ministry, my role, everything about me would be so in line with what Jesus desires that the world would take notice...not of me but of the difference maker - Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts...9-29-10

It's late (after midnight so I guess it's actually 9-30-10, but I'm too tired to change the subject line)...I need to go to bed, but I'm reading, reflecting, reminding and after I was revisiting some content on my blog now I'm rejoicing because through it all He's "by my side".

Before I hit the sack though I'm praying that this video encourages you like it did me...No matter what you're going through, what you've been through, where you've messed up, where you've chose wrong, where you've doubted, where you've struggled...He is by your side, and His Grace is still AMAZING!

God bless, and good night!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHgNCj4DU_M

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thoughts...9-22-10

On friday night I'll be traveling up to Binghamton, NY to speak at the Inter-Varsity gathering that meets on the campus. One of our college students who is involved with the group has invited me to come and share, and I'm excited to be a part of what the Lord is doing at the SUNY School.

The theme that the group is running with this semester is "Super Heroes", and the aspect they want me to focus on is the fact that a true hero is driven by humility.

Of course that reminds me of the model we have in what Christ did for us so I'm going to open up the time by looking at the incredible selfless attitude that Jesus had in Philippians 2  and then ask the question "so what does this mean to us?"

The rest of the time we're going to look at one of my favorite stories in the Bible found  Luke 5. It's a great picture of what kinds of things we're capable when we have a selfless attitude.

The angle I'll go with in the text was the fact that the friends of the paralyzed guy were so moved by the love of their friend (I think humility and a selfless attitude can be interpreted here) that they did whatever it took to get him to Jesus (whose reputation of miracles, power, love, humility and selflessness had preceded him at this point)…so they were driven by the desire for physical healing of their friend but Jesus saw the deeper need first (He forgave his sins) then healed him physically.

Some of the things that I plan to bring out is that a hero…

  • Is moved to take action when he/she is selfless

  • Will do whatever it takes (go through any barrier) to meet others needs (physical and spiritual)

  • Will begin to develop a reputation of selflessness and those acts begin to spread, become contagious to others and warrant questions which give them the right to be heard

  • Has an incredible model to follow in Jesus Christ


So, I'd appreciate your prayers everyone, and would love to hear your thoughts about this topic...

How has Jesus shown Himself powerful in your life? How does the fact that Jesus showed incredible humility even though He had the ability to exercise extreme power over his  enemies apply to you?

I don't know about you but I'm so thankful for things like...Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness and the Everlasting nature of my Creator!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbGgA2lIDjc

Thoughts...9-17-10

The word “daily” in the context of our needs is a word I’ve been thinking a lot about these last few weeks. If you were at church on September 5th I talked about “Making Contact With God” through prayer and we looked at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. If you missed it, click on the text for the mp3 of "Make Contact with God" 

Anyway, in the message I referred to the word “daily” by its original Greek name “Epiousious”. I found it very interesting that the word “Epiousious” was found at the top of a grocery list for perishable items when the dead sea scrolls were discovered in 1945.

God is interested in the big things of our lives and the “Epousious” things of our lives.

So, what are you going through today, this week, this month, this year? God cares, and He is ready to intervene. I want to encourage you to make contact with him daily through prayer and Bible study. The Creator of all things, knows us and wants to have a relationship with us…to me that’s pretty AMAZING!

Thoughts...9-10-10

I’m thinking alot about the events of 9/11 nine years ago. I’ve written about my thoughts and feelings on that tragic day, and today I’m reminded all over again that what the enemy means for evil in our lives, God can redeem for good.

The two articles…”Anything Broken?” and “Amplify” remind me of where I personally was when the 9/11 took place and what God did in people’s lives. I would love to have you read, re-read and contemplate on the greatness of our God today as we remember 9/11.

Anything Broken?

Amplify

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Chapter...Same Book

Hello Everyone,

On behalf of my family I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued love and prayerful support for us. You have all been such a huge blessing to us time and time again!

As you know it's been a very interesting journey that we have been on the last few years, and even though I haven't always understood what God was doing and how He was leading I have constantly been assured that my friends and family have been there backing us up in prayer every step of the way!

I know you have been in prayer with us for God's clear leading regarding our future ministry involvement, so I wanted to let you know that on 6/27 The Mid-Hudson Chinese Christian Church in Wappingers Falls, NY voted to call me as their Pastor of English Ministries. We prayed some more about it and we believe that this is what God would have me do, so we accepted the call to begin serving as The Pastor of English Ministries.

 We're excited to be back in the Hudson Valley, and want to thank each of you for your involvement in our lives over the years.

 I’m really looking at this new ministry as a new chapter in the same book that God has been writing in my life over these many years of ministry. It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be a learning experience and above all it’s going to be amazing to watch what God does as He uses us in alignment with His will.

 I'll be writing more about everything that God did in bringing this transition about but for now I just wanted to make sure I let everyone know what we're doing, and how God has been at work in answering our prayers.

Thanks again, you are all such a blessing!

God bless,

Brent

Friday, June 11, 2010

What's Your Story?

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class at my church that focuses on our journey with God and realizing how He has put us together, worked in our lives and uniquely designed us to serve Him.

In the class I asked the attendees to reflect on an aspect of God’s character that really resonates with them, and then share why that aspect means so much to them.

Each member of the class went around and shared and it was so cool to hear How God is so multi-dimensional in His approach to each of us.

Then one of the ladies shared that the aspect of God’s grace and forgiveness is what she will never get over. She began to get emotional as she recounted her salvation experience and shared with us how her life was so far from God when He found her.

She was openly crying as she shared about the time when she dropped to her knees and cried out to God to save her! It was so awesome to see her passionate recollection of God’s life changing grace and free gift in her life, we were all moved and encouraged to not forget and not take our stories for granted.

So, I thought I would post my salvation story for those of you who have never heard it, and I encourage you to reflect and be blown away again with what God has done in your life.

Here it is…My Story…

My name is Brent Carl, and I have been a believer in Jesus for 29 years. I attended a Christian school, and was always in church from as far back as I can remember. My mother and my grandmother made many sacrifices to see that my brother and I were surrounded with positive, Godly input and mentors.

At the age of 5 I’ve been told that I accepted Jesus as my savior, and became a Christian. That is when some would say I began my journey with Christ; the only problem is that I don’t remember that at all. So for years I would tell people that I became a Christian at age 5, but deep down inside I wasn’t really sure if it was true, because I couldn’t remember it.

The school I attended was a Christian school whose focus was on building up and training Christian kids in the faith. I guess I must have signed something or verbalized that I was a Christian in Kindergarten but again, I don’t remember.

So, with that backdrop in mind, the day I became a true believer is even more of a miraculous event. You see, every week our school brought in various speakers to share the Word at an all school chapel service.

They brought in Pastors, Missionaries, Teachers and anyone who had a passion for God and a heart to challenge young people with God’s word.

I remember the chapel services always being informative and challenging, but usually coming from the assumption that the entire audience was already saved, and needed training and building up in their faith. I don’t recall ever hearing a salvation message in chapel during my younger days in school.

All of that changed one day when I was in 7th grade. I filed into the chapel like I had done every week and took my seat, took out my Bible, notebook and pen and prepared myself to listen and take notes on the sermon, because we always got graded and quizzed later in Bible class.

The speaker was introduced and he stepped up to the podium and started out like all the others had done before him…”Good morning students, I would like you take out your Bible, Notebooks and pens, and prepare to listen to what the Lord has given me to share this morning.”

He said, “first of all I’d like you to draw a dot on the left hand side of your paper, then another dot on the right hand side of your paper.” He went on to say “the left hand dot represents the day you were born, and the right hand dot represents the day you will die, or Christ comes back, whichever comes first.”

Now I would like you to connect the dots with a line, which represents the days you have on this earth. The two dots represent things that we have no control over. The line represents something you can choose to live for yourself or live for God…it’s up to you.

Now I want you to close your notebooks because that is all the note taking you will have to do today, for the next few minutes I want you to know that I know that you always get challenged to grow in your faith in chapels because the assumption is that you are all believers in Jesus. Well, today I’m not going to operate from that assumption because only God knows the heart.”

At this point, I was riveted on what he was saying, I couldn’t recall a speaker in chapel coming at a message with this approach, and for the next 40 minutes or so he clearly explained the gospel, why it was needed, and why I needed to make a personal decision to follow Christ, and not rely on what others have said or think or whatever.

It was amazing, and as he spoke the Spirit really challenged my heart to make a personal decision to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, to become Lord of my life, and save me from the direction that my life was heading without him. I asked Jesus to be my Savior that day in the middle of a Christian school at the age of 13.

At the end of the message he gave an invitation to come forward and pray to anyone who had received Christ as their Savior. I thought about it, I looked around, and thought about it some more, then decided to step out and proclaim that this day, I choose to follow God for myself, in essence I was saying, “I now own my belief in Jesus.”

I thought I would be the only one, but as it turned out many others joined me as well…God was working in our lives, and in our school, it was an incredible day!

That decision began my journey with Jesus, that has included many ups and downs over the years, but I can honestly say with full assurance that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, not because of anything I have done, but because of His amazing sacrifice and totally FREE gift of salvation. Praise Jesus!

What’s your story? How has He been alive and active in your life? Do you own your belief in Jesus?
His Grace is Amazing and His gift is Free!

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God my Savior ransomed me and like a flood His mercy rains unending love Amazing Grace.”

That’s my story…and I’m sticking to it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Unique

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous ... You were there while I was being formed ... You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.” Psalm 139:14-16 (LB)

Ah yes, Psalm 139. I’ve often said “if I had a dollar for every time I “prescribed” that passage to a teenager in my ministry over the years, I’d be a very rich Youth Pastor.”

This passage has been very influential in my life because it conveys the truth that each of us is unique according to God’s plan and purpose. He doesn’t make junk, and He has a customized plan for all of us.

In this day and age of comparison to others and a skewed view of what success really is, I love this passage even more.

I wrote an article a couple of years back that deals with the importance of discerning right and wrong in the midst of the confusing messages we get hit with every day, it’s called Discernment and as I was thinking on Psalm 139 this morning driving to the office I heard a song that brought this whole concept of uniqueness to mind in a very vivid way.

The song is called “More Beautiful You” by Johnny Diaz, and as it was playing the combination of this passage, many conversations from the past and my own personal struggles over the years were just bombarding my mind as I drove.

I kept thinking of students who “got it” and made Biblically based decisions to discern God’s voice over the world’s, and others who chose to go their own way and are having a rough time in life because of it.

Then, all of a sudden I thought of my daughter, and I wondered if I’m doing all I can do to show her that she is God’s special masterpiece, created uniquely in His image, and what about my son? Am I doing all I can do to model what a Godly man of character is all about, because his “heroes” in life don’t even begin to do that Justice.

The more I thought and contemplated the more I realized how vital my role as a Father really is.

I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I need to have all the answers, but in this world that is really good at making lies look like truth and packaging temptations in a way that are so inviting, I was challenged even more to make sure I’m leading in a way that is constantly communicating that God has uniquely designed my kids for a purpose!

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many “success” as well as “horror” stories over the years, or maybe it’s just that my kids are growing up right before my eyes. Whatever it is, I’m just really getting blasted these days with the desire to lead my family in the way God would have me to lead them.

I’m sick of the world’s lies and I’m sick of the enemy’s schemes! The truth is you and I are made in God’s image, and we’ve been designed uniquely as His original masterpiece. The question I’m processing is “How do I continually express, convey, emphasize and get it across to my family?”

How are you doing with this today? Have you bought the lie of the enemy? You know what I’m talking about, right?

“You’re not good enough, you’re too old, you’re too young, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny, you don’t have any skills, what you’ve done in your past has disqualified you from God’s love and forgiveness”…and on and on it goes.

Well, I want to encourage you to read Psalm 139, and then listen to this song, and especially focus on the part that hammers home the truth that no matter what you’ve done or where you are you can change your path and be restored in Christ. I don’t know about you, but I love that!!

Whether you’re young or old, male or female it doesn’t matter, you are uniquely designed by the Creator Himself. Designed for a Purpose!

My prayer is that we believe that, begin to live that way and model that kind of mindset and lifestyle for our kids and whomever else we have the opportunity to influence.

Psalm 139…I’m Unique as God’s original masterpiece and so are You…SO, there could never be a more beautiful you!

Lesson Learned
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8NvU9Ah-uY

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lead Me

With all the craziness that is going on in our world these days, it's easy for us to get overwhelmed isn't it?

I don't know about you, but as I weigh the responsibility of leading my family, and leading in my ministry I'm always feeling the tug to "be all things to all people." In reality though, I can't do any of it alone!

Over the last 20 years of full time ministry that I've been blessed to be a part of I haven't always kept the balance like I should, and many times when my life has been out of balance it has tipped toward ministry and my family gets shorted.

As I'm processing, evaluating and reflecting on who I am, and what God wants me to become, I'm realizing even more how important it is for me to be led so that I can lead!

My wife shared this song with me recently, and it stopped me dead in my tracks, as I listened to the words. The band Sanctus Real nailed it. In a less than four minute song they captured the essence of what I've been feeling for years, especially as I'm always seeking to lead in a balanced way.

My prayer today is that the words of this song will speak to you like they did to me, and more than ever you'll realize along with me how important it is for us to be led so we can lead.

I can't do this alone, and neither can you!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGE6Davndh0

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Legendary

This past week I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador on an Operation Christmas Child distribution trip. To say the least it was amazing!

In just a few short days my team and I had the opportunity to take part in six different distributions in the Manta and Puerta Viejo region of Western Ecuador. We visited churches, a Samaritan's Purse Hospital, a woman's Prison and a school, and in every location we gave out gifts that were used like a boombox proclaiming to the children that JESUS LOVES YOU!

I wish you could have seen the faces of the children and experienced the joy of the leaders who love these children. The use of a simple gift was just astounding to me, as I saw the power that it packs when given in the name of Jesus!

The whole time I was in Ecuador I kept thinking about how amazing it was that in this very country some 50 years ago one of the single most tragic missionary killings took place not far from where we were.

It's a story I grew up hearing about, and actually is one of the main events that God used in my friend and ministry partner's life that caused him to dedicate his life to God's service. To say the least it was a powerful time for me this past week.

Every distribution we went on I kept thinking about the word legendary, because that is exactly what happens when we step out and serve Him...God becomes more and more legendary in the lives of people, and His fame spreads!

Check out the excitement and joy that took place at one of the distributions...

Pretty cool huh? Well, that's what it was like at every single one, and at every single stop along the way I met some people who were becoming Legendary among their friends and family because of their love for Jesus and their love for His children.

Then during one of the evening sessions we heard from some missionaries who are sharing the love of Jesus with the Waodani Indians in the jungle and as I listened to them share about what God is doing in that tribe and that whole region the concept of legendary became more and more vivid to me. The picture below is of a group of Waodoni who are not only believers but are being used of God to share His love up and down the river and all throughout the jungle.

This got my attention for sure, and then when the missionary said that the very spot they were standing for the picture is the exact spot where the five missionaries were speared to death in 1956, I lost it.

She went on to say that the ground that the enemy used to claim their lives, God has reclaimed for His glory so that His fame would spread (He has become Legendary).





The week was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had as every where I went I saw God's hand at work in the lives of ordinary people who are being used of God to become legendary spreaders of His fame!

Then the last night in Quito we had an incredible time of praise and worship as well as debriefing all that we saw God do. It was so cool to hear how God had impacted each of us in different ways. Then just when I thought the evening was over and we were wrapping up in walked a person that I had been thinking about the whole time, but never in a million years did I expect to see in this setting.

It was none other than Mincaye, one of the Waodani Indians that speared the missionaries to death in 1956! I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Right in front of me was one of the killers that wiped out five men's lives and made their wives into widows and left their children fatherless.

I must admit I was speechless, as I sat there taking it all in. This guy was as far from God as you can get, and was used to murder God's messengers in cold blood, but as only God can do He redeemed the situation, the place, the time and the people including Mincaye, and is now using Him to spread the good news of Jesus to His people.

I found two great clips on the internet that help tell the story, and put in perspective how incredible our God is. They are both about 10 minutes long, but I encourage you to take the time to watch part 1 and part 2 and join me in praise for our God's redemptive Grace!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Duqi9T6JOh0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD8LZFht9i4

So, as I was sitting there listening to Mincaye talk about how important it is for us to continue to share God's Carvings (His Word) with the world I wondered if the early church felt the same way I felt when they met Paul and listened to this former persecutor of God's people share with them how He was changed. It was truly an inspiring moment for me.

Then as our time was ending we were told that one of the reasons that Mincaye had traveled many hours from the jungle up to Quito was to get about 400 shoebox gifts to take back to the camp that his grandson (who is now a missionary in the jungle) is doing this next week, the place erupted!

As I continue to process all that God did this past week, I'm so thankful that He is in control and is the one that we serve. He uses us in various ways to accomplish His will, and it inspired me even more to proclaim His name because He is not only Legendary, He's Living and Active TODAY!

Thursday, January 28, 2010