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Dec 1, 2012 - Other    No Comments

Slow Down!

Each morning I hop in my car and drive to work from Pennsylvania to New Jersey along the I-78 corridor. For those that travel this same route, you know that recently there has been a construction setup that knocks 3 lanes down to 2 lanes, causing traffic jams in the evening while they are working. During the morning commute several workers are present, but the great majority are gone with all 3 lanes open and clear for driving. At the beginning entrance to the construction area flashes a giant lit sign that reads, “55 MPH, Slow Down”, “57 MPH Slow Down”, “56 MPH Slow Down”. Its purpose is to alert drivers that they are exceeding the 45 MPH speed limit of the construction zone.

Each morning, along with 1,000′s of other motorists, I breeze by the sign at an easy 65+ MPH, blending in with traffic and breaking the law. Why do I not slow down?! The sign is giving me a heads up that dangerous road conditions are ahead, that people are working in the area, traffic patterns may be changing. I suppose I do not slow down because most mornings I’m blended in with the crowd of cars surrounding me. Some mornings, I’m running behind schedule and slowing down would be too inconvenient for me—I’ve got places to be. While other mornings, I think it might be dangerous for me to drive 45 mph, because everyone else is going 90! I risk getting hit myself or sticking out from the crowd, being “that guy”.

Friday morning during my commute, I got a little help in slowing down while proceeding through the road work area. Shortly after breezing by that sign, there he was. A state trooper with his lights on, nestled in between several of the road cones where there were workers on the side of the road jack hammering up part of the macadam. This is the exact thought that went through my head, and inspired this post. “Mannnnn, why you got to make it so difficult for us. We all knows it’s a construction zone, there’s a large flashing sign to tell us. You can’t expect me to actually go 55 MPH, right?“. Well luckily for me, even though I was doing 62 at the time, there were people on either side of me going much faster and the officer didn’t even budge. After I pumped my breaks and proceeded to slow down until the end of the construction zone, I took the next few minutes of my commute to think about this.

I wonder if sometimes we treat God like a State Trooper in a construction zone? The officer in that car is there for a purpose. He’s there to keep others safe and to make sure that the law is fulfilled. When becoming a state trooper, he is sworn under the creed to protect and to serve. Here I am, driving 65 mph, thinking he’s cramping my style. I think about the laws that God provides, and sometimes they aren’t easy to keep either.

If we keep God’s commandments, while others around us are breaking them, it’s human to be concerned that others will think you’re “that guy”. The Word says to not worry about the world’s opinion: “If you were of the world, the world would love ⌊you as⌋ its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. ” James 15:19.

It is also human to think that if you follow God’s laws that you’ll be missing out on something, but Jesus says otherwise, “15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle — is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” 1 John 2:15-17.

I consider the laws that God provides and his commandments to be just like that flashing construction sign. It is there to provide direction to safety for motorist and to keep the workers and other drivers in the area protected. God’s laws shouldn’t be viewed as limiting us from life, but instead providing us the true meaning of life. Just like that sign, God’s Word provides a specific look at who we are and what were doing in our life. It provides guidance to get us through life safe to our final destination. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105. Keeping His Word will not always be the popular thing to do. It will sometimes appear that you should go your own speed and ignore the flashing sign, but one day during your normal routine, you may see Him—Heaven’s State Trooper—He was there all along, trying to keep you safe, trying to protect you. You knew you should be keeping His laws, but you choose to go your own speed. Only this time He may not simply let you pass Him by, that day He may be handing out tickets. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” Matthew 12:36. I hope that I can keep this in mind the next time I pass that sign and the next time that I feel torn between what the world says, and what God says. That He’s not there to cramp my style; it’s out of love that he’s there to protect.

Oct 13, 2012 - Other    1 Comment

Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think?

If you grew up in the 1990′s the song Ironic is more than likely burned in your brain from the hours of airplay that it received. In 1996 when the song was released by Alanis Morissette it was an instant sensation and became her highest rated single on the Billboard top 100, reaching #4 on the charts. I believe its success was due in part to the easily identifiable lyrics with most people’s lives, where it points out the irony of life.

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic…don’t you think
A little too ironic…and, yeah, I really do think…

We have all experienced similar feelings or situations in our lives in which the irony can make you want to laugh out loud or pull your hair out. Irony can be defined as an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. As we cross the 23-month mark on the waiting list this week I discovered an irony in my faith that I had seldom thought about in the past, that revolves around the concept of patiently waiting on God’s timing—something that has taken a considerable amount of faith and self-reflection to develop and continue to maintain. I couldn’t count the times I’ve been frustrated, discouraged, or felt lost along our adoption journey, but have always been able to resolve that it is God’s will for us to be parents and he is working out our plan ahead of us. In my heart, I know the victory has already been won on our behalf, but we still have to fight the battles to win the war. As a Christian this makes going through difficult situations much easier to bear when you know that the Lord has already won your battle. Do not be fooled by those who may tell you that accepting Jesus secures you a one-way ticket to easyville. Real faith is built on the premise that you will go through difficult times, but God is with you through these times and is walking with you.

Here in comes my ironic revelation. I pray continuously for my family and that God will make our hearts desire to become parents come true soon. I wake up each weekday praying that my day would be interrupted by “the call” and that by days’ end I would see my children’s face. Ashamedly I often pray “Lord, I’m trying to be patient with you. I’m patiently waiting on your will”. I say this, as if God owes me something. Even worse, I am failing to recognize how patient he has been with me. Isn’t this ironic, don’t you think?

Over the past 23 months, I have looked many times at God’s Word to see what He has to tell us about waiting patiently. I found this verse from 1 Peter this week while reflecting on this topic.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. – 1 Peter 2:19–23

As I think about this verse, it makes me feel so human. How often do we stray from God’s moral standard that he has set for our lives? Most of us think that were good people. If cornered, we would tell you something like “I’m not a murderer, I pay my taxes, I’m a nice guy“, but these are in comparison to human standards. When’s the last time you took 30 seconds to compare yourself to God’s standards? If you were to confront me on the issue I would confess that I’m human. There are times I get angry, envious, I’m sure the list could expand…and yet God is patient with me. When asked, he completely forgives me, every time. We were born sinners, its engrained in our DNA to not be perfect, yet time and time again God patiently forgives us. This is the very definition of Grace.

At choir practice this past Thursday, our director asked for people to share their testimonies throughout the course of the evening. He spoke, at the conclusion, saying “sometimes we become so focused on going forward, that we forget to look backward. To reflect on the amazing miracles that God has worked in our lives”. Today I take pause to look back on the past 23 months to reflect on the amazing amount of patience that God has shown me on this journey, during the moments where I loose faith, I get frustrated, and abandon ship. He is always there. He always throws me a life-preserver, pulls me out of the water, and rescues me. I turn back to look forward at the mountain we still have to climb with a new definition of patience and trust in the One who will walk with me to victory and be with me during the battles. Amen.

 

Jun 16, 2012 - Other    1 Comment

Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Friday evening I attended a simulcast event at our church entitled, Men of Honor. It was sponsored by Lifeway, the team that produced the movie Courageous. It was attended by approximately 60 men in our fellowship, with over 100,000 viewing around the world who each took a step in faith to learn how God has instructed us to be better men. This includes better fathers, husbands, and leaders in a world today that is crumbling right before our eyes.

Today’s world is filled with free advice. Everyone has an opinion and is just waiting for an opportunity to share it. Our culture is looking for a fast fix, a quick tip, a 5-step plan, or a 30-minute meal. With an emphasis on level of ease and speed of delivery we don’t have time for a laborious process to accomplish our goals. It seems that the famous phrase, “slow and steady wins the race” is quickly becoming extinct in the minds of the masses. Naturally, I went into this simulcast hoping that there would be a formula for being a great man, some exciting new method that would be revealed, a checklist that would provide an outline for my family and my marriage. What was revealed in the two-hour event was something that is simple—yet difficult. Something that has been handed down for generations, but somewhere along the way has become lost in complacency of our world.

The men in the movie, Courageous, for those who have watched, offer a form of supernatural feeling that leaves you saying, “Wow, these are great men—but is it a movie or a documentary?“. Is it really possible to live your life in such a way that you could model after these men to instill such great values in your family as they did? What was interesting about the simulcast is that it involved these same men. The actors revealed their own special testimonies and life stories and their own current struggles and success at being “men of honor”. When listening to their message you quickly learn the method to their madness comes down to one simple thing—Jesus. They reveal that the two most important aspects of their success is daily prayer and daily time in God’s word. God has already revealed what it takes to be a great Father, he has given us a model through his son Jesus, and he has called each of us to model that relationship into our own.

Simple! Right? We’ll YES and NO. God has been sharing some pretty good advice with me lately, and the first is that Nobody Is Perfect. During the round-table discussion, the men revealed their life’s struggles. They worked to break down the exterior facade from the movie to reveal that they are just ordinary guys. God loves ordinary guys. You can look to Acts 4:13 NLT for an example:

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

It doesn’t take a perfect man to be a good father or husband, it takes a willing man to evaluate himself and see in what areas he could improve. This is being courageous. He has provided us the perfect example to strive for, knowing that we’ll never get there to a full 100%, but that we should live everyday to our fullest.

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity – Proverbs 24:16

God has also revealed to me that It’s Okay to Be Weird. For many of you that know me—you may be thinking, he must have revealed that to you a long time ago—well HaHa, seriously hear me out. As mentioned above, our culture and our world is shifting away from God on a daily basis. The days that inspired our forefathers to in part “In God We Trust” on our very currency is quickly drying up and being put in a box. God is being stripped from our culture piece by piece and soon there will come a day when being a Christian will become more and more frowned upon and seen as Weird. It is time to ask ourselves a question about today’s culture that my father used to ask me “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” Is today’s culture something to strive for? When 46% of Americas marriages end in divorce and 43% of children live without their father. Is striving everyday to be the best father and husband that you can be becoming weird? If that’s the case—don’t you want to be weird?

The other item that God has been pushing me on is Daily Prayer and Daily Word. Going through the adoption journey can be a long process that sometimes leaves you feeling tired and lonely. If you’re not careful it can drive you away from God at times leaving you wonder, is God not listening to me? Doesn’t he hear my cry? What daily prayer and daily scripture has revealed to me over the past 19 months is that God is listening, he’s not only listening—he’s acting. He has a very special plan for Heidi and me and wants to reveal it. Through prayer and scripture that puzzle is beginning to take shape, but it requires daily attention. This part is a little more difficult than just stirring our emotions to accept past failures and striving to be weird. It requires real work, real time, real dedication and more than emotion, its physical action.

You may say—I don’t have time for that? Quick question—how long did it take you to read this post up until this point? 2 minutes? 5 minutes? I don’t mean to call you out—and trust me—I’m not perfect! I’ll be the first to admit that praying daily and reading daily is laborious. I slip up, I skip days, but I challenge myself to come back. When I do, I find it so rewarding. To counteract myself, I put things in place to help me each day. I have signed up for a daily email blast of scripture, do I open it each day? No. But I do more days than not. I have a prayer App on my iPod that nudges me gently each day to bow my head? Do I sometimes ignore it? Sure. But it helps to remind me on most days. I changed the first preset on my radio dial to a Chistian station, do I sometimes tune out? Of course, but it’s on my dial and I find myself more often coming back and tuning in. Most importantly, I have Heidi. We lean on each other so heavily these days to keep from falling down. We were blessed to be provided a devotional a few months ago that we work each evening at getting through before we go to bed. Are there nights that we’re both tired from the day and barely make it through the prayer? You bet. However the nights that the devotional really speaks to us and we have an amazing prayer time with God are the absolute best and give us new spark to stay faithful, continue to believe, and to strive to renew our hearts the next day.

You might also say—Well that sounds great, but I’m no good at prayer. I don’t know what to say. God has already prepared for that as well. If you grew up in church, you have heard the Lord’s Prayer a thousands times. Whether it’s trespassers or debtors, the Lord gave his ordinary men a simple prayer to use as a basis for their own personal prayers. If you have heard it or not watch below this simple, yet awesome video.

It’s a great starting place. I was convicted in complacency after watching this, and hope that it moves me to really thinking about it as I say it this Sunday.

I hope that you have made it this far, and I apologize for such a long post. I hope that this Father’s Day you will challenge yourself to renew the relationship with your Father. It is only then, that you can begin to become a better father to your children, a better husband to your wife, and a better friend and co-worker to those in your life. There is no simple plan, no quick fix, no checklist. It will take work, it will take labor, it will take courage. Along the way you slip up, this is where you will need to remember that nobody is perfect. You will meet opposition, and will need to remember that it’s okay to be weird. Finally, you will need encouragement and instruction, and this is where the most important part of daily prayer and daily word will come in to provide you the courage to press on.

I will continue to pray steadfast that God will grant me the opportunity soon to be the best father I can be. In the meantime I will strive to be the best husband, the best friend, and the best co-worker and will work to strengthen my relationship in Christ each day.

Happy Father’s Day & God Bless!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. -Ephesians 6:4