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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!