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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Smoking Through Romans



For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s power and His standards lately.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading through Romans, and in chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that there is a standard we need to meet and without Christ’s power we fall way short.

As I was reading through Romans, I was reminded of one of my favorite illustrations of God’s power. You see if you’re like me you sometimes get caught with this idea that God can only work in people’s lives in certain ways, and under certain circumstances.

I sometimes have this mentality that because God worked like…this before, He must always work like…this in every situation. God however doesn’t play that way. He plays by His own rules, and His own standards.

He works in people’s lives however He pleases. This truth came to me in a crystal clear fashion, when several years ago I heard a prison chaplain share about how God had radically changed the life of one of the prisoners he ministered to each week.

He basically said that every week he would go into the prison to meet with prisoners and talk about faith, God’s Word, their lives and all kinds of things. Each week he would take in Bibles to give out to any inmate that didn’t have one. It struck the chaplain odd that one of the inmates took a Bible back to his cell every week.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Recently a tiny little phrase caught my attention, and helped me to realize all over again the simple truth that God is HUGE and I'm not even blip on the radar screen yet He desires a relationship with me.

Who am I that He would create me, save me, have a plan for me, bless me, not destroy me? I don't get it, I never have and I never will, that's what makes God and His plan so _______________...I can't think of a word to insert here, because "amazing", "awesome", "incredible", "super fantastic" and any other describing words just seem to fall way short, and I'm left with this shrinking question in my mind..."Who am I?"

The Psalmist actually added some depth to the question as well when He said "When I consider the works of your hands, the sun, the moon, the stars. What is man that you are mindful of him?"

Thursday, June 18, 2020

On track, off track or sidetracked?

Today 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.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Momentum

Lately it seems like I’ve been giving out a bunch of gifts. Every time I turn around I’m handing someone a souvenir from a trip, a present for their birthday, a momento for an anniversary or a thank you note for their thoughtfulness.

All this giving has caused me to spend some time contemplating the whole concept of gift giving and gift receiving, especially as it relates to our relationship with God and His purposes for our lives.

Every time I travel to another country I look around for something to bring back for my wife and kids, you know something that represents the country I visited and will also be something they will appreciate and enjoy.

For my wife I like to bring back a nice piece of clothing, a necklace and some chocolates (she always shares!). For my daughter I look for a doll or a bracelet, or something dainty and precious, and for my son a soccer jersey, a ball cap and more chocolates.
I always look for specific things for them based on what I know they like and based on what I know represents the country I’m visiting. This has been my mode of operation as it relates to gift giving for quite some time now.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

God's Timing

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.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

No more "if only"


Several years ago every week I would go to jail...for about 2 hours and at the end of my time there they would let me go...thankfully!

The Monroe County Jail is where I would go and while I was in the big house I would meet with a group of guys for a Bible study.

The guys I met with resided on what is called “Three Plaza North”, and had been placed in this particular facility, and on this particular floor for a reason…they were hardened criminals, who have done society wrong in some way shape or form. Drugs, murder, arson, robbery, you name it, some of them had done it!

When I initially spoke with the Chaplain, I was interested in going in each week to minister to the "juvies", you know the teens and young adults who have started down the path of making poor choices, but are still hopefully young enough to make some positive changes before they go from “Two Plaza North” up the elevator one floor to where the guys I worked with were housed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Stand out or Blend in?

Have you ever stood out? You know you were visiting a foreign place, whether it is a country, city, new school, new church, new job or whatever. What feelings did you have? What thoughts were going through your mind? Were you scared or excited?

I know when I was in Kenya, I was all of the above and more. That was new territory for me, and man did I stand out. I mean everywhere I went I felt the eyes of people who had just as many questions for me as I had for them. Eyes that were at times piercing, and at other times wondering…who is this guy, what’s he all about, where’s he from?

It’s interesting how we make observations and assumptions about people before we even know them, and many times our observations turn into judgment statements before those judgments have been tested.

I know I often find myself doing that with people from time to time, and that’s why on this particular trip to Kenya, I was so moved by the overwhelming welcome and encouragement from a group of people who knew nothing about me, except that I was a Giant Mazoongu (white dude in Swahili).

Monday, June 1, 2020

Nominal? I don't think so!

I remember having a conversation with a guy wearing Boston Red Sox hat, and immediately assuming that He was not only a fan but the same kind of Fan I know to be true about all the Red Sox fans that I know and love from my time living in RS Nation.

When I think of these people words like passionate, die hard, true blue and loyal come to mind, so as I walked up to greet him and engage in a little back and forth banter, to say the least I was a little surprised at what he said.

Those who know me well, know that among other things I am a passionate, die hard, true blue and loyal New York Yankee fan, and I was brought up in such a way that no matter what, you stayed true to your team. Believe me that was hard to do when it came to football (Bills fan) but I did my best.

The only time I wasn’t all “out there and mouthy” about my team was when I actually lived inside Red Sox nation for several years and kept my little secret to myself, but that's a whole other story in and of  itself.