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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crunch Time


My daughter's birthday is exactly 1 month away which means..."Crunch Time" has begun!

What’s “Crunch Time” you ask? Well, it’s only the 4 most important series of days in my whole calendar year. Days that come back to back to back each and every year for me. Days that are so important that if I miss them, I’m doomed for the next 12 months for sure.

Days that should be easy for me to face with expressions of love and joy, but I must admit every year I struggle with meeting these days with the right motive. A motive of thought filled unconditional love for the 3 most important women in my life.

Here are the days…April 21st, April 23rd, Mother's Day, and May 21st.

What is so important about these days, and probably an equally important question “who are these three women in my life?” Well, they are my wife’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday and the Grandmother of them all – MOTHER’S DAY.

Now you’re probably thinking “come on man you’re just exaggerating, what’s the big deal?” Well, for you it may be no big deal, because you probably just ooze with ideas, creativity, romanticism and spontaneity…Good for you!


Me on the other hand, I’m telling you its hard work! I’m the guy who waits until the last minute, goes to Wal-Mart cruises into the greeting card section, looks for the appropriate crunch time occasion and grabs the first card he sees. Then darts over to the flower section, candy section and or pink aisle in the toy department, depending on which important woman I’m shopping for that day, not to mention depending on how creative I feel that day, and heads for the 2 items or less sign and checks out. In and out in less than 5 minutes that’s my goal.

Every year I go through the same things and every year I feel terrible because in essence what I’m doing is just throwing together something that may have cost me very little in terms of thought, planning, creativity and especially money.

Now I’ve never been to therapy or anything, so I wonder if the reason I struggle is because of the way that the four “girlfriends” I’ve had in my lifetime all ended it with me…Yeah you heard me right, I had four girlfriends (before I met the love of my life) and all four of them dumped me., and for different reasons to…Check this out.

#1 – Dumped me because I was too young (she was 17  I was 16 – come on!)
#2 – Dumped me because I was too tall (she was 4 foot 11 I was 6 foot 4)
#3 – Dumped me because I was too nice – What???
#4 – Dumped me because I wasn’t cool enough – I’m sorry but me and my penny loafers, parachute pants and Flock of Seagulls haircut begged to differ.

Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time getting ready for crunch time because I’ve faced rejection in my life…or maybe it’s just because I’m cheap!

Whatever the reason is, I wish it came easy for me to express my love and genuine affection, appreciation, thankfulness and utter joy for the 3 most important women in my life, but again…it’s hard.

The one time I almost got it right with my wife (before we were married) was on our 1 year anniversary of dating. I couldn’t believe it, God had sent the perfect girl my way, and she was every thing I had been praying for. She was a solid believer, she put God first in every area of her life, she was sweet, funny, smart (in fact I actually prayed that God would send me a library girl…and once I actually found the library and went in…boom there she was!) and to top it all off she was Beautiful!

So, we started dating and sure enough the big one rolled around. The 1 Year Anniversary, the one where you need to step your game up big time. For this one only one kind of flower and only one kind of amount will do. You know what I’m saying, its a dozen red roses with baby’s breath, vase & heart felt card or it’s over!

Here’s how it went down. I got in my ’86 Charger and drove down  into the village to visit the florist. I explained my situation, and how it was crunch time and all, and asked for a dozen roses, a vase, baby’s breath & the best card they had. Did I mention I was a junior in college at this point?

Anyway the florist said to come back in about an hour and he’d have it all together for me to pick up. I had some time to kill so, of course I went the arcade and played some Space Invaders and came back an hour later.

When I walked in and saw what the florist had put together, I was amazed! It was the most beautifully arranged dozen of roses I had ever seen. I mean the vase was sparkling, the roses were gleaming, the baby’s breath was…breathing…get the picture?

Every thing was looking great until I said “so what are the damages?”

He gave me the price and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have enough money. I was short, I mean I emptied my wallet, my pockets, my secret stash in my Charger, even the quarters in my penny loafers, still not enough.

So now all kinds of thoughts are running through my mind, I won’t go into all of them, but suffice it to say I finally asked the question that seemed the most obvious to me at the time. I asked “how many roses can I get for the amount of money I have?” I assumed that in order to be a 1 year anniversary worthy ensemble you had to have babies breath, a vase & a card those were non negotiable. The number of roses however, may give me the wiggle room I need, I mean after all 10 or 11 roses mixed in with all the other goodies looks an awful lot like 12…She won’t actually count them any way…will she?

The florist said you have enough to buy 11 roses and all the other trimmings…I thought for a second and said, Deal wrap them up!

Now I must be honest, I had every intention of passing that “dozen” off as the real deal until I got about a half mile from the school, and realized…what if she actually counts them, what if she asks me if I knew there were only 11…what will I say? Then it hit me, I pulled my charger into a church parking lot down the road from my college and grabbed the card that was buried in the “dozen” and wrote these words…

“Bonnie, these last 12 months with you have been amazing! I am so thankful to God for sending you my way. This bunch of roses is just a small symbol of my love for you. Each one represents 1 month that we’ve been together. You’ll notice though (if you happen to count) that there are only 11…that’s because YOU ARE THE 12th!

Bingo! Call me a genius, this was even before Jerry McGuire and the whole “You complete me” rabble. She loved it, and after 21 years of marriage I still feel that way about my wife.

The only problem is, my motives were terrible in that whole thing. I’m just fortunate to have a wife who loves me unconditionally…hmmm, kind of like how God loves us huh?

I learned a lot about myself and my motives that day, so much that when March-May rolls around each year, I start obsessing about Crunch Time, so I’ll look good in the eyes of my ladies. Truth be told though, they’ll love me either way because it’s not about what I bring; it’s about how I bring it.

God is that way as well, He wants us to bring Him our heart felt devotion, worship, praise and commitment because we want to, not because we have to…The difference between religion and relationship by the way.

So as I face Crunch Time this year I’m going to try to put more thought into WHY than WHAT…We’ll see what happens.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Message

1 Corinthians 15:1-28 (MSG)

1-2 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time— this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved. (I’m assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you’re in this for good and holding fast.)

3-9 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence.


10-11 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven’t I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn’t amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it. So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it’s all the same: We spoke God’s truth and you entrusted your lives.

12-15 Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.

16-20 If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves.


If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.

21-28 There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!



Monday, March 4, 2013

Center Stage and Behind the Scenes

I ran out of time on Sunday but I was going to share the following story of redemption to conclude the sermon on dealing with disaster from the life of Joseph.

We looked at some principles to apply when we face disastrous events in our lives, and find ourselves in the pit of despair just like Joseph found himself at the hands of his brothers.

I love the truths found in this illustration as no matter what happens to us in our lives, whether we're in the pit or the palace God is faithful and continues to have a plan and work it out in our lives. 

He's always at work on center-stage as well as behind the scenes...



“August 22, 1741, was a sweltering day in the city of London. An elderly stooped-shouldered man wandered through the streets. His nightly aimless wandering through the streets of the city had become a familiar ritual. 

His angry mind raced back to the memories of great adulation and then looked at a future of seemingly hopeless despair. For forty years the bachelor had written operatic music which was the rave of royalty in both England and the entire continent. Honors had fallen at his feet. 

He was in demand everywhere. Then things changed quickly and drastically. Fellow musicians became jealous and bitter. Members of the royal court reacted strongly to his abrasive manner. A rival gained great success, and envy began to grow. 

As though that were not enough, a cerebral hemorrhage paralyzed his right side. He could no longer write. Doctors gave little hope for recovery. 

The old composer traveled to France and began to soak in baths rumored to have miraculous powers. Doctors warned him about staying in the scalding water for such long periods of time but he ignored their advice. At one point, he stayed in for nine hours at a time. 

Gradually his weakened muscles began to receive new life. As his health improved, he once again began to write. Soon, to his amazement, his works were being received with rapturous applause. 

Honors again began to flow. Life seemed to be heading for the stars. But then he found himself in the pits once more. 

Queen Caroline, who had been his staunch supporter, died. England found itself on hard economic times. Wasting heat to warm a theater was viewed as ridiculous. His shows were canceled. And now he found himself wandering aimlessly through the streets once again.

Having wondered where in the world God was, he wandered back home. Opening his door, he found a wealthy gentleman waiting in his living room. The man was Charles Gibbon, who had startled England by rewriting Shakespeare. 


Gibbon explained that he had just finished writing a text for a musical that covered the entire Old and New Testament. He believed that the gifted musician was the man to set it to music.


He gave the manuscript to the composer and challenged him to write. As he walked out the door, Gibbon turned long enough to say, ‘The Lord gave me those words.’ 

The great maestro scoffed at the audacity of the young man. No one had ever challenged George Frederick Handel to write something he had not thought of first. Handel’s temper was violent and he was a dominating presence among his enemies. 


Why had Gibbon not brought an opera that was more the composer’s cup of tea?

Indifferently he began to read. Suddenly portions of the passage leaped from the page. His eyes fell on such words as ‘He was despised, rejected of men…he looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no man; neither found he any to comfort him.’ 


His eyes raced ahead to ‘He trusted in God…God did not leave his soul in hell…He will give you rest.’ And finally the words stopped at ‘O know that my redeemer liveth…rejoice…hallelujah.’ 

He picked up his pen and began to write. Music seemed to flow through his mind as though it had been penned up for years. Putting music to the script, he finished the first part in seven days. The second section was completed in six days and two days were given to fine-tuning the instrumentation. 


Thus, at the age of fifty seven, Handel completed the Messiah in a mere twenty-four days. 

When the classical work was first performed in London, and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ was reached, King George II stood because he was so moved. To this day people still rise to their feet as a sign of worship of God and admiration of this great work of art.


Handel, like Joseph, had to deal with the pits of life. But the strength to do so came from knowing the One who can overcome all of the pits. 

How about you? Do you know the God who is able to rescue you from the cisterns of life?

Do you see His hand even in the pit in which you may find yourself? Perhaps the pit is merely a brief stopping place on the road to greatness.

Just like Isaiah 43 reminds us, no matter what we go through God is faithful...Center-Stage and Behind the Scenes.


Monday, February 25, 2013

It's our time

This past sunday at my church we began a new series on the life of Joseph. We're going to try to catch a glimpse of how he dealt with the difficulties that life sent his way.

One of the ways that people often deal with difficulties is to get angry, another way is to make excuses.

During the sermon I read the following story from Jim Cymbala that really puts things in perspective, and I pray will help us all that God has us where we are for a reason, so let's trust Him...

It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people. 


As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?” We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. 

So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.” 

 He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. 

I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” 

 “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” 

 “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” 

He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed. 

 “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.”

 I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. 

David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.” 

 I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. 

I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels. But oh, did that change! 

David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”

Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. 

He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. 

The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. 

This is what you are about. You are about this smell. 

 Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. 

He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days. He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. 

When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford. 

 A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” 

This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey. 

And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.” We can get so full of ourselves.

At the end of the service we watched the following video...It's our time church, let's stop making excuses and show the love of Jesus to a world that is watching and waiting. It's our time!

 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goal focus

Philippians 3 (The Message) I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Numbers, Hope and Football


John 3:13-18 (The Message)

13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. 

In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.

He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16...the numbers of hope. God LOVED, God GAVE, We BELIEVE, We LIVE - WOW!

This commercial ran during the Broncos and Patriots NFL playoff game last year. I'm not so sure that God cares about football but I'm very sure He cares about letting people know that He loves them!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Allocation


I wrote this post several years ago and the concept of using my time wisely is still one of the main themes I wrestle with every day...how about you?

Tonight I'm sitting in a Motel 6 in Philadelphia, PA (they left the light on for me), looking over some of my notes and various teaching materials as I get ready to engage in the Missions Forum at Eastern University.

I'm a long way from the Masai Mara and the peaceful Acacia Trees that I saw on my safari in Kenya last year, but as I sit here and work through all the things I have to do, my mind is transported back to the slow pace, and tranquil setting I experienced on the Mara, and I'm reminded of how important focused quiet time is.


As I was thinking about this truth I came across a video clip that puts our time on this earth in perspective.

We've got a certain amount that has been allocated to us, and our Maker alone knows the details. The whole idea of investing our time wisely for God's purposes has always been a driving force in my life, and as I watched this video that I've used tons of times over the years, I was reminded again at how I so frequently put other things at the top of my priority list.

Our time is short, we know that yet so many times the things that seem important to us at the time, take precedent in our lives and crowd out what we should be doing in it's place.

Our quiet times need to be at the top of our lists, that's where we power up, get renewed and encouraged and begin to realize things from God's perspective.

I love this video clip, because even though it's funny, and very true, it's also a stark reminder that without a meaningful relationship with my Savior, that involves daily periods of quiet reflection and insights from His word, I'm on the fast track to nothingness in terms of the things that really matter...Lives Changed because of Jesus.

What's #1 in your life? You've only got 40 million minutes on average...How are you using them?


Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Friday...

It’s Friday...but Sunday’s coming...

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.



It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking because now it’s Sunday. And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb.

Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it’s Sunday, and the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

It’s Friiidaaaay!

But Sunday’s Coming! ~ S.M. Lockridge





Thursday, January 24, 2013

Just the right time


Recently I was reflecting on how God uses each of us in unique ways, and how He is not bound by any of our "constraints" that often hinder our service. My mind immediately went to a conversation I had five years ago...

One of the encounters I had this week, that I will not soon forget was a face to face sit down conversation with one of the most amazing guys I've ever met!

This guy has had such an incredible ministry of encouragement over the years that every time I'm with him I leave a richer, deeper, better person in the Lord because of our time together.

His name is Brian and besides being one of the most spiritually in tune people that I know, a regular prayer warrior, and an unbelievable truth giver, He also has Autism, Tourette Syndrome and OCD.



He can't communicate through spoken word, but when He sits down at his Dynavox machine, and his mother holds his wrist to calm his movements, and he begins to peck with his pointer letter after letter to form the sentences He needs to deliver...I stop and listen, and listen good!

When I started as Student Ministries Pastor at my former church, Brian asked if he could sit down with me and talk about getting involved in the youth ministry in some way. So he and his mom and I got together and with her help he communicated to me that he had a passion for young people and wanted to serve in some way but with his issues wasn't sure how he could be used.

Well, it didn't take long and we realized that not only could this self taught genius, type...he would type deep, lyrically challenging and soul stirring prayers to God in the form of poems. They were absolutely stunning masterpieces that God used to challenge, inspire, convict and basically pierce the hearts of those who heard them.

So I asked Brian if His ministry would be to write a prayer that we would open up our weekly student worship service with, and get us in the right frame of mind and spirit to enter into the time with God each week. He agreed and we embarked on an incredible run of prayers, and poems that God used to touch the hearts of many students and adults through the years.

I quickly learned that when Brian had a word, it had depth and meaning and usually was the exact thing I needed to hear. Being around Brian reminded me of the slogan from the old EF Hutton commercials that said "When EF Hutton Speaks People listen", that was so true of him then and is still so true of Him today.

God used him to speak truth, encouragement and discerning words into the lives of many people then and now...not bad for a guy that many had written off when he was younger.

So when I got a message from Brian's mom that He wanted to sit down and talk through his machine, I said "absolutely", and we set the time and day.

You see it's interesting as I reflect on my many talks with Brian over the years, it seems like at almost every major junction of my ministry life over the past 10 years since I met him, Brian has delivered a message of some sort that was dead on with what I was dealing with and what I had been praying about. Looking back on it God used his words in my life at the exact moment I needed them time and time again.

In 2004 when my world was spinning around and around, and all kinds of questions and doubts were going on, I sat down with Brian, and he encouraged me so much.

Right before I left to go to Ukraine for the first time we sat together and he basically said to me that this trip was going to stretch me like I have never been stretched before and was going to change everything in ministry for me...As usual he was right on!

I've written alot about that period in my life and behind the scenes in many of the situations I had Brian seeking God on my behalf and then at just the right time interjecting truth and encouragement through a machine that delivered the thoughts from the depths of his soul.

So as I sat with Brian, wondering what He had to deliver this time, I was again absolutely stunned at what he typed. In a few short sentences that took over an hour of painstaking, keystrokes accompanied with loud outbursts from the Tourette Syndrome, he gave me exactly what I needed to hear and once again at a major juncture in my ministry life.

God used him to speak direction and encouragement to my often wondering and wandering heart...here was our conversation, printed from his dynavox by his mom.

A message of Hope and Power from a servant of God at the perfect time...

My Conversation with Brian...

Friday October 10, 2008 Brent, Bob, and Brian Young (Mom facilitator)
(Comments in parentheses are Mom's notations)

"I just want to thank you both for praying for me. I have been in the desert again. I don't always like it there. But I know God is with me. I do not like going through these tumultuous times. God says I have to keep on "trucking".

You guys are so good for me. I miss our times at church. I miss my dad,too. I know he is doing fine, though. I got to tell him how much God is going to do for me when I get there. I told him I would be able to speak and sing, and walk and run without pain.

I am only being what God wants me to be when I type. The autism is getting the better of me when I don't type. I am sorry I am being so noisy. It is the Tourette's (Syndrome) that rears its ugly head. I am thinking one thing and the noises and words just pop out.

(We talked about an autistic young man from Rochester, who made all the news when he was allowed to play basketball for the 1st time in his Senior year for the last 2 minutes in the final game of the year; and he scored 20 points in that time!)

Yes, I heard about him. There are many like him. (With those kind of gifts) But I am called to write. I am just so glad to be here. Only I miss being here in the daytime.

I am just tired now......I want to deliver a message. (Meaning he has a word from God to tell someone)

I need to let Brent know God has His hand upon his heart. I know of your feelings of inadequacies. I know of your feelings of leaving your family alone. I am with you and your family in every single step you take. I have a great many things planned for you. People are in desperate need of me and you are chosen by me to touch them. I am your author and your finisher AND you
know this! I am using you to make this confusing world a better place.

The Lord is your heart, soul and mind. I am the Balm for your concerns. I am the Grace that seals your family. I am the Mercy that comforts you. I am your God. I am your Salvation. I am Jehovah Jireh. It is My will that you follow. I am so very pleased with your walk. I AM YOUR GOD."


As I met with Brian that day, one of the things I had been seeking God about was if I should continue on the missionary journey I was on and continue to trust Him that the funds would come in, or look at other alternatives. So, when Brian mentioned that God is my "Jehovah Jireh" I almost fell out of my chair. Jehovah Jireh is a name for God that highlights the fact that He is my Provider!

I am so blessed to have Brian praying for me, and using his gifts for God like he does. My prayer is that each of us would listen to the words that Brian typed because they sure do apply to us all, especially the closing declaration "I AM YOUR GOD!"

Thank you God, for having a plan and choosing to use us to implement that plan. Help us all to realize that in the midst of our confusing times, you are always dead on with your message of truth! Thank you for using your servant Brian to hammer it home in my life, as usual at JUST THE RIGHT TIME!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Standing Strong with Newtown

Ten thousand people packed a Bridgeport arena Tuesday night for an evening of hope and healing.

At least 1.3 million others watched online from as far away as Thailand. People in 100 countries, on six continents were represented.

Generous donors underwrote the event. Production, stage, and sound crew volunteered their time and donated their services. 

Artists and speakers interrupted busy schedules, covered their own expenses and prayerfully prepared songs and messages. Local volunteers took time away from work and school to drive shuttles and serve guests. Nearby Christian Heritage School brought a bus of fourth and fifth graders to sing.
No one sold product. No one pushed an agenda. No politics. No finger pointing. Just prayers, worship, and hope. Four hours of it. On a weekday. A school night. (Though, I just learned, a snowstorm closed local schools Wednesday. Smile.) Four hours! No intermission. No complaints. No mass exit. 

Many of the attendees stood the entire time. Of course, we are not surprised. These hearty folks of Connecticut are famous for standing strong. They will do so again. They are resolved to overcome evil with good.

Let’s not forget them. Offer prayers, give support. What happened in Newtown last month is atrocious. Yet, what happened on January 15 is astounding. These people are looking to God for strength. And they are finding it.

Max Lucado
© 2013 Max Lucado

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hope and Healing

Last night my family and I had the privilege of attending a night of healing and hope for the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. To say the least, it was an incredibly moving and extremely powerful night!

Each of the speakers and singers were so respectful and humble and in many cases "terrified" to even be there for fear they would not do justice to the immensity of the purpose of the evening.

Many somber and reflective moments took place during the evening, and I was so moved to be there with my family and I admit there were many times when I wasn't even watching the stage but was fixed on the faces of my kids and wife. At one point I recall thinking, "how fortunate I am to be sitting here with my loved ones when in front of me a few rows were families that were one less tonight."


Max Lucado shared about how God is our shepherd, Louie Giglio said that the scars on Jesus's hands and feet are there to remind us for eternity that He gets it! Toby Mac gave a great show but I could tell he was alot less "Toby Mac" on this particular night, and Chris Tomlin did an amazing job of leading us in worship of the God of angel armies who is always by my side.

It was truly a night of hope and healing, and then Steven Curtis Chapman and his band which is comprised of he and his two sons (one on guitar and one on drums) came to the stage and sang and shared of how God has brought them through the broken times of losing his little girl to a tragic accident. 

His son didn't see her and accidentally ran over her with the car and in that one split second everything changed for one of Christian music's most beloved artists.
His wife shared how God has been continuing to walk side by side with them through this tragedy and from such an incredibly powerful place of empathy with the families who have just lost loved ones she encouraged them that God knows what they're feeling and instead of running to other things that won't fill the void she encouraged them to run to the arms of Jesus.

I think that moment and the moment when she turned to her son, who was on the drums and said "Will Franklin I love you!" were the two highlights of the evening for me as I kept thinking and praying that the families who were in the audience would catch a glimpse of how to "make sense" of something that absolutely makes no sense!

Then, Steven Curtis Chapman did a song that for me captured what I was thinking and feeling the whole night. He sang "Yours" which is a great song with amazing truths that we can all walk away with when things don't make sense. Everything and everyone belongs to God, we're all His and He knows what He's doing.

I pray that you'll take a moment and read the lyrics and listen to the song and realize along with me today that even though I don't understand why tragic things come into our lives, God knows what He's doing and at the end of the day it's all His.

"Yours" by Steven Curtis Chapman

I walk the streets of London And notice in the faces passing by
Something that makes me stop and listen My heart grows heavy with the cry

Where is the hope for London? You whisper and my heart begins to soar
As I'm reminded That every street in London in Yours Oh, yes it is

I walk the dirt roads of Uganda I see the scars that war has left behind
Hope like the sun is fading They're waiting for a cure no one can find

And I hear children's voices singing Of a God who heals and rescues and restores
And I'm reminded That every child in Africa is Yours

And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours
From the stars in the sky To the depths of the ocean floor
And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours
You're the Maker and Keeper, Father and Ruler of everything
It's all Yours

And I walk the sidewalks of Nashville Like Singapore, Manila and Shanghai
I rush by the beggar's hand and the wealthy man And everywhere I look I realize

That just like the streets of London For every man and woman, boy and girl
All of creation This is our Father's world

And its all Yours, God, Yours, God

Everything is Yours From the stars in the sky
To the depths of the ocean floor And its all Yours, God, Yours, God
Everything is Yours You're the Maker and Keeper, Father and Ruler of everything

It's all Yours, God It's all Yours, God It's all Yours, God It's all Yours, God

The glory is Yours, God All the honor is Yours, God
The power is Yours, God The glory is Yours, God

You're the King of Kings And Lord of Lords

And its all Yours, God, Yours, God Everything is Yours From the stars in the sky
To the depths of the ocean floor And its all Yours, God, Yours, God
Everything is Yours All the greatness and power, the glory and splendor and majesty
Everything is Yours Yeah, it's all Yours We are Yours
The glory and honor is Yours, everything is Yours

It's all Yours, God My life is Yours, my heart is Yours
My hands and my feet are Yours Every song that I sing It's all Yours, all is Yours
All belongs to You Our gifts are Yours, God
All our dreams are Yours, God All our plans are Yours, God
The whole earth is Yours, God Everything is Yours.



Friday, January 11, 2013

Craftsmanship on display

Psalm 19
For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.

2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
giving insight for living.

9 Reverence for the Lord is pure,
lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.
11 They are a warning to your servant,
a great reward for those who obey them.

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.

14 May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worth the trip


A friend of mine is following the Lord's lead and currently serving Him on a mission trip in Chile. This week as I've been praying for him God has been bringing different things to my mind that have jogged my memory to stop and keep my brother in prayer.

When I was traveling internationally I always knew he was praying for me, and now it's been cool to stop what I'm doing and come to the Lord on his behalf as well.

Here's a few reflections from my journal when I was in Kenya that God brought back to my mind today as I was remembering my friend in Chile...it's cool how God connects dots isn't it?




  • One of my friends wrote me an e-mail prayer that really struck a chord…he prayed that God would really allow me to feel the pain of the people and “taste the salt in their tears”…that’s a pretty tough thing to pray for but is really at the heart of what I would like God to do...on the way to Nairobi today and around Ruiru He did just that…Here’s a few things that moved me today…
  • Kids everywhere just wandering around aimlessly (like sheep without a shepherd)
  • Old woman carrying huge piles of hay, wood, fruit etc. with children on their backs on the way to a market where they sit and hope that someone will stop by and buy something…with what? 
  • I thought to myself, these people have nothing. I kept thinking of the words to a song called “Boulevard of broken dreams” all day I couldn’t get it out of my mind (actually the same friend who wrote me the e-mail and I used to think about that song when we walked the streets of Pittsburgh from our cushy hotel room about 6 or 7 blocks to a Youth Conference as we passed broken person after broken person on the way…interesting).
  • A huge Hindu temple… very fancy, very ornate Mahogany I suppose…I’m sure it cost millions to make and right in front of it along the road is shanty after shanty filled with people just trying to survive…I can’t judge people’s hearts but the gap between very wealthy and very poor seems to be extremely wide here…
  • I remember thinking the same kinds of things the first time I was in Kiev and saw the huge ornate cathedrals with their solid gold domes surrounded by people begging for food…I was just struck with the importance of God’s church reaching out to the less fortunate and making it a priority to not be all about building kingdoms on Earth, but rather be about building God’s kingdom in the lives of His people.
Well, those are a few reflections that came to mind today from serving in Kenya...I wonder what things God is going to teach my friend in Chile. He did say something about wanting to get some people fired up about doing some good...Uh-oh watch out, I think he's going to come back to NY ready to change the world. 

Now that will be worth the trip!

Ignited


Last year around this time I did a series at my church called “IGNITED…Going from ordinary to Extraordinary”

This Definition…Ignite (Verb from Latin ignÄ«re to set alight) - to catch fire or set fire to; burn or cause to burn – Webster’s Dictionary

This Equation…Truth + Biblical Example + Life Application = Ignition in our lives

This haunting quote from Brennan Manning – “The greatest single cause of Atheism in the world today is Christians, who proclaim Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.”

These verses…1 Timothy 6:11 - But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Malachi 3:2-3 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.



And this Truth – God wants to be #1 in your life, He’s got an incredible plan that you won’t always understand.  He will do whatever it takes to REFINE you to the point where you step out in faith and live a life of IGNITION for Him!

were all percolating and mixing and brewing in my heart and soul during that time as I didn’t want to fall into the TEPID Mediocrity of this world…I wanted my life to be IGNITED for the Cause of Christ.

I asked it then and I'm asking it again Who’s with me?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Immovable


One of the things I've had the privilege of doing in ministry is traveling and meeting like minded youth leaders around the world.

I loved learning and growing with them as we interacted around the truths of scripture and the principles of youth ministry.

On a trip to Malaysia, I learned so much in such a short period of time it was mind boggling.

You see when I taught in the modular program at one of the partner schools, I always had to add the dimension of "well, this is how we in the US have discovered ways to do youth ministry, so lets discuss how these tools will work or won't work in your culture."

I loved the dialogue that ensued, as it was rich, real and full of passion.

In every country I visited I witnessed a similar theme among the youth leaders...they love their young people and are tired of the world, culture, and traditions trapping and enslaving them into missing the truths of Jesus.


On that trip to Malaysia I also heard a reverberating theme of the need for Freedom resounding time and time again. Those leaders were praying about the lack of freedom that existed in their settings.

Countries like Myanmar, Brunai, Sri Lanka, China, India and Nepal were represented in the class, and the cultures and traditions that those youth leaders had to learn to navigate through in order to reach the young people of their culture was just astounding.

Every day I spent with those leaders my heart broke more and more with the lack of freedom they have, but at the same time I was equally fired up and encouraged with the faith and hope they have that Jesus can and will shine through...I'm telling you it was contagious!

The whole time I was there I kept thinking about how fortunate we are in the US with the freedoms we have, and how incredibly privileged we are to be able to stand, sit and kneel whenever we want to in worship of our God.


I did alot of exploring and asking questions, not just about the different religions that are represented in their culture, but actually standing in the very symbols that the people worship in their culture.

One type of temple in particular really nailed me with the fact that everything that it was about, was based on man's belief.

It was the Buddhist temple, and the pictures you see in this post are actually taken from three different temples in a very close proximity to each other. The Chinese Buddhist Temple, The Burmese Buddhist Temple and the Thai Buddhist Temple.

As I was walking and talking with the students I couldn't help but think of a passage in Jeremiah, where the prophet warns the children of Israel against following idols, and the following passage sums up what everything within me wanted to shout to the scores of people who were wandering and worshiping and paying homage to idols and all that those idols stand for.


Jeremiah 10:4-7
4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." 6 No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

With everything inside of me, I wanted to proclaim that truth. There is none like the Lord, He is the one worthy of praise and worship and honor and sacrifice and lifelong dedication, not a created thing that has no power.

As I looked around and watched my students, I could tell they were feeling it as well, and I could tell that they had faces and names of individual young people and family members on their minds as we interacted with what we were experiencing together.

Then when we were on top of the mountain at the Chinese Buddhist temple known as Ke Lok Si, I learned an important piece of information that helped solidify in my mind and heart what my faith in God is all about.

I asked why there was half a statue on top of a pagoda and another very tall statue surrounded by supports going up off in the distance.

I was told that the goddess of mercy had been swept away by a mudslide and all they could recover from her demise was the top part which was on the building.

The new one surrounded by supports was being built in a more secure fashion.

That was it for me, my mind and heart praised God right then and there as I realized that He is my strong tower, my rock, my immovable force that is as alive and well today as He was thousands of years ago.

He doesn't take a nap or a trip or succumb to mudslides and earth quakes and forces of nature.

He is the force of Nature!

My prayer that day, as well as right now is that we would realize that our God is alive, and well and doing His work in the hearts of His people!

He cannot be moved, and is always ready to be our shelter in time of need.

I'm so thankful that we serve a Risen Savior who is IMMOVABLE!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Big Picture


The more I read my Bible and follow the steps of Jesus, the more I realize that His ministry was all about restoration and expansion.

Everywhere He went He preached a similar message, a message of hope and repentance to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

I also see that He didn’t settle down in one spot. He moved around and left instructions for His followers to spread the message as well.

He was about building His Kingdom, but the only difference was that His Kingdom was meant to be in the hearts of His people, and His people are all around the world.

He truly had a Kingdom mentality that was meant to be expanded, not focused on one people group, in one city, one country or even one continent. I also notice that Jesus used various means, and methods in His delivery, yet His message remained the same.


Have you ever wondered why He went with Jairus to heal His daughter when he could have just thought it and accomplished the same outcome? Or how about when He healed the dangling paralyzed guy in the middle of a newly roofless house. Why did he forgive his sins first, and then heal His infirmity? And I’ll tell you what, one of the first things I want to know when I get to Heaven is “why mud in the eye for the blind guy?”

Jesus has a repertoire, and a very creative one at that, He is open to new methods to deliver His message. He modeled it for us in the very way He lived His life on this earth, and He is definitely all about expansion of His Kingdom. So why does it seem that we His children get so caught up with our little “kingdoms” and lose sight of the big picture?

The more I’m around Pastors and missionaries and just about anyone in ministry, the more I see that many times our focus is on buildings and numbers and bank accounts instead of life change that comes through Jesus, whether it be in Rochester, NY or Kathmandu Nepal, life change is life change and that needs to be what our ministries are all about.

The whole method vs. message debate basically is a belief that is lived out when we consciously or subconsciously say something like this…”well, we never did it that way before”, and many times is at the heart of why churches and Christians stagnate and in the process bring the Kingdom expansion progress that Jesus wants, to a stand still.

I’ve seen this lived out, I’ve heard those words directly spoken, and if I’m honest with myself, I’ve often thought them as well.

Why is it that our assumption is that “if it worked a certain way in the past, it will deliver the same results now and in the future?

God is creative; He has a repertoire that is always adapting based on the audience.

His message never changes, but His methods and His messengers do. We need a Kingdom mentality that is not halted by “we’ve never done it that way before!”

Let's always remember that the big picture of Jesus's ministry needs to be the big picture our ministry...Life Change is what it's all about!

Things change


Since our kids were very young, my wife and I have regularly taken both of them out for a special treat with some one on one time with mommy or daddy.

I remember a special "daddy date" a few years ago that I had with my little girl.

I've had many "daddy dates" with her over the years, and I was reminiscing about how they've gotten progressively more about what she wants and less about what I want, which is pretty cool.

I mean early on when she was a baby, and even a toddler our daddy dates would consist of a stop at Dunkin Donuts, or Starbucks for some much needed caffination for me. As my daughter kept growing it would include a walk through the mall, a trip to Toys R Us and of course a swing through DQ on the way home.



That night was different though, it was pretty amazing when Serena said what she wanted to do for our daddy date. I'll admit I was hoping for something like Outback Steakhouse or Bugaboo Creek, but not this time.

Even though her tastes have evolved over the years, she didn't come back with any of my hopefuls for our date...nope, when asked what she wanted to do for her daddy date she said "I'd like to go to the library!"

It was one of the statements that just spoke volumes about my girl and the kind of character she has, and it really is an attribute that she gets from her mommy that's for sure. She is so sweet, and kind and deeply spiritual. She is just like my wife, and I am so blessed!

In fact in so many ways my daughter is like Bonnie and my son is just like me...it's funny how it works like that some times.

Serena seems very concerned about the future, and Ethan is just the opposite, he lives in the now, and definitely grabs all he can out of every moment.

As I sat there in the library and just watched my daughter read, and thought about how far she has come, and what an amazing future she has before her, I just thanked God for His blessings, and asked Him to continue to lead and guide and protect her.

Now those that know me well, know that probably the last place I'd want to be is in the library. In fact I rarely darkened the doors of those hallowed halls in high school and in college, except for when I was trusting God for a deeper kind of relationship with a girl and I literally prayed that He would lead me to a library girl. Once I actually found the library and went in, boom there she was, and the rest is history!

That was then and this is now, and I'm telling you I had a blast sitting and watching my little girl engrossed in a book. Funny how things change.

It still amazes me how God puts us together. He knows our likes and dislikes, our personality and spiritual gifts. He knows the whole package, in fact he designed us, for His purposes.

We're all different, and that's the way it's supposed to be. God is the Master Designer, for that I am truly thankful.

My prayer is that my kids would continue to learn and grow and see God at work in and through them as they progress through life, and that each of us would do the same.

God isn't into cookie cutters, He's into variety, and what He's making is top notch!