"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Braveheart


 

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The bravest person I know entered my life Thirty-five years ago. March 16 started out as a snowy day, a winter mix that almost kept us from meeting, but the snow stopped and the sun melted what was left and I was on my way to Valhalla (New York that is, not the enormous hall of heroes located in Asgard). Although I am sharing a story about a hero, it is not the Norse kind.

When I first saw this person it was in the middle of a crowd, one that was there to meet an unassuming Christian rock band schedule to sing at their church that weekend. As I got off the bus the band traveled in, this person seemed to stand out from all the rest. Although surrounded by many people, it appeared she was singled out for me to notice her. This moment hung in the crisp air inviting me with a warmth and urgency I never felt before. Today two strangers would meet and only one was aware of the story playing out before his eyes. My Father chooses this moment to speak promise deep inside of me and give me a taste of what forever looks like.

I could not imagine the deep work that was unfolding before me, it seemed too neat, too orchestrated but I have long accepted the fact that God has a far larger imagination than mine. Still, this revelation unnerved me and took my breath away… it left me without words and I’m sure God was chuckling at that particular miracle. I was seeing past, present and future collide and all of the pieces falling unnoticed by the people around me. It was a private showing of a scene, a frame by frame exposure of rescue plan played out in my Heavenly Father’s heart. It was a love story that only He could have written.

He was asking this person of interest to embark on a crazy adventure. This journey would be life changing for them as well, for He was introducing them to the challenge of loving me, every part of me. There would be no off-limits place, no secrets, everything would be exposed and bared for their eyes only. They would see the man as he is and have the privilege, if they dared, to see him as the Father saw him. This wonderful brave heart not only agreed but embraced the challenge, giving all to the journey Father God had laid out for them. In a small church parking lot, in a little hamlet in New York, I met the braveheart that would become my wife.

Three decades and a half ago I would come face-to-face with the person God would use to rescue my heart. The intricate weave of a story that mended the torn and ragged fabric of my life. This beauty would rescue the prince and help vanquish the beast within forever. Dramatic? Yes of course, everything the Father does is full of the power of who He is. His storytelling is full of drama because He’s full of life and He lavished life on me when He introduced me to Christine.

The courtship was an acceptance of a story far greater than who we were and the acknowledgement that this path was good and perfect for us. Here we saw the sacred and were invited into the Holy place, where two became one, never to be separated.

I love this woman…I always will.

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Mark 10:6-9

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Review...I Believe

 

 

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Believe, NIV: Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus and it's companion book, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (both by Pastor and author Randy Frazee) are two new discipleship tools that some churches may want to use to help new followers of Jesus to deepen their walk.

Believe, NIV is divided into 30 chapter readings that address one of the following three questions: “What do I believe?”, “What should I do?” and “Who am I becoming?” and is read more like a story than a typical Bible. I would suggest using it along with a tradition translation so that context connections can be made. Still,this can help someone who has had no previous exposure to the Bible gain a solid understanding of what a walk with Jesus is all about. The book is divided into three ten-week sections that are divided as follows:

10 Key Beliefs of Christian Faith (What Do I Believe?)
10 Key Practices of a Follower of Jesus (What Should I Do?)
10 Key Virtues that Assist in Becoming More Like Jesus
(Who Am I Becoming?)

The Companion book, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus works hand-in-hand with the Believe, NIV . It includes the same key verse and key idea as Believe, NIV. But Think, Act, Be Like Jesus also includes a key question and key application for each subject.

For instance, the key question in the chapter “God” is “Who is God?”

The key application is “What difference does this make in the
way I live?”

I think using both of these resources together, reading one chapter in one and the corresponding chapter in the other, will effectively challenge and educate the reader. The goal is to engage the reader and encourage thought and prayer about these key elements...extremely important for all disciples of Christ, new or otherwise.

Good tools, good resource...you should check them out.

Jay Cookingham

I receive these book from Zondervan, a world-leading Bible publisher and provider of Christian communications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Leap of Faith


 

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For the past two Sunday’s at BBCC I've shared on “A Leap of Faith: Where Fear and Faith Collide”. The subject of faith is a lifelong study I believe…one that continues to become clearer as we walk closer to our Messiah.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • When we think of the word collide, words like….crash, violent, conflict, pain come to mind. A collision will shape you or misshape you…possibly both. No doubt, you will feel the impact and be changed. Our response to a collision between faith and fear can reveal our heart…our fault lines and our view of Father God. That revelation can free us or freeze us.
  • I believe this because faith and fear both require a choice, a buy in into the power of each. The question is what we will choose to believe? Faith helps us stick the landing…the other sticks it to us.
  • In the collision between faith and fear…faith steps out and lands on God. Faith is active…it pursues the Father’s heart and plan with fierce loyalty. It sees the path and it hears the Master’s voice saying this is the way and it leaps, confident it’s landing just where God wants it to.
  • Having faith does not mean you have no fear….It means you deal with fear with the truth of who God is. You surrender to God, not the fear.
  • God is faith, just like He is love…faithfulness that encourages us to be the same .
  • Faith is not based on what God might do... It based on who he is!

The two sermons include physics, Impalas, Jonathan and his armor bearer and much more! If you would like to hear more, listen here

God bless you all!

 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

A Man of Hope

 

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To understand hope is to capture a vision of how God sees life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

I do believe that hope is oxygen for our souls… it breathes life into the empty part of our souls. Hope makes you believe redemption is possible.

I recently taught on hope (you can here it here, just look on the episodes menu for HOPE), but I am so aware how much I need to learn about abounding in hope. Part of it is how I choose to remember, how I choose to worship and how I choose to trust. Hope grows in a grateful heart, hope thrives in a heart that worships the Father and hope abounds in the heart where He lives.

I want to be a man of hope

It is important to me to live like there is a God of hope inside of me. Does that mean that it always looks like I have my act together? That I never doubt, waver or melt under the weight of circumstances beyond my control? No…it means my life points to a God of hope in the middle of all life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Abounding with hope means there is heaps of hope to share, gallons of hope to ooze out of my life and saturate those around me. There is a generous God of hope living in us filling us with the life the world so desperately needs.

Let’s be people of hope.

Wet with Hope

I have touched life with handfuls of hope
Letting it run through my fingers
Soaking all I wear
Wetting my pathway

I take my still wet hands to my face
and wipe it clean
My eyes clear once more
I see the place where I’m standing
It’s wet with hope
Uplifting my position

Jay Cookingham © December 16, 2002

 

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home for Christmas


 

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She peered from her dingy apartment window, wiping the frost with the sleeve of her sweater so she could see more clearly. A light snow was falling making the city streets outside her old brownstone a clean carpet of white. Sally was eagerly awaiting a delivery from the local grocery store containing the simple items for her dinner tonight. It was Christmas Eve and Sally wanted to celebrate this special time, at least in a small way. Over 90 and in failing health, it was to be a bittersweet celebration for sure. A few years ago her husband Samuel became gravely ill. To her great sorrow, he faded quickly and went home to be with the Lord on the eve of his favorite day—Christmas.

Sally loved her “Sammy”, so it was hard imagining celebrating tonight alone. He was so alive around Christmas and always seemed his happiest around the holidays. Every Christmas Eve he would sing, laugh—sometimes scooping her up from her chair for a dance. He would put on a Santa hat and say, “Come on sweetie, I saved a dance for my best gal!” Afterwards they would cuddle-up on the couch, sip tea, and read the story of the Savior’s birth. When midnight came they would run to their small tree, and like giggling children, rip open all the gifts.

The crunch of snow and the sight of a tall figure coming down the sidewalk carrying bundles snapped her back to her vigil. Sally watched the trudging shape come up the stairs and ring the bell to her apartment. Drawing her sweater around her neck to guard against the cold, she opened the door and let the familiar face inside. It was Manny, a young man in his twenties or so, who had been delivering her groceries for a few months now.

“Mrs. Hamilton, how good to see you! Merry Christmas!” Manny said with a booming voice.

“Merry Christmas Manny, come in, come in.” Sally said excitedly.

“Shall I carry these to the kitchen?” Manny asked.

“Oh, please do, please do, I’m so wound up, I need to start cooking right away!” Sally replied.

Manny carried the bags into the narrow kitchen, where Sally began to unpack her goodies. She place the items, a small ham, some potatoes, a can of green beans and a box of Earl Grey tea, on her small kitchen table

With a hint of tears in her eyes, Sally mused, “My Sammy sure did love his spot of tea.”

Sorrow threatened to swallow the moment and her thoughts filled with emotion. How could she celebrate after all these years of placing Christmas in the shadows? She decided that she must, this Christmas seemed fresh and ready to embrace again. Besides, her heart sensed the Messiah's presence more than ever and she could always celebrate Him.

Dabbing at her eyes with her apron Sally soon looked up and hesitantly asked, “Manny, would you like to have dinner with me?”

“Why, I would love to Mrs. H,…absolutely love to!” Manny replied cheerfully.

The two of them set about fixing the meal, laughing, singing, and even enjoying a silly dance to Jingle Bell Rock playing on the radio. Soon the kitchen was warm, filled with a wonderful aroma and alive with memories. During dinner Sally told story after story of her husband Sammy and the love he had for Jesus.

Sally became quiet and Manny could see the pain of loneliness in her eyes. They were sipping their tea when Sally asked, “I’m so tired Manny, will you help me to the couch?” Manny helped the weary Mrs. Hamilton to the couch, laying her head gently on a quilted pillow. Covering Sally with a blanket, Manny then pulled a small box from his jacket and said, “It’s almost midnight Mrs. H, this is for you …Merry Christmas.”

The package wrapped with golden paper and with a bow of the purest white surprised Sally; she had never seen a more beautiful package. Taking the gift from Manny, Sally was momentary speechless. With childlike excitement, she started to open the present, pausing when she saw the prize within. Inside was a golden key with a small note that looked like an invitation. On the inside it read.

To: Sally Hamilton, a key to your new home.

“Manny…what does this mean?” Sally asked.

“Mrs. H.” Manny said. “You have been such a servant all your life, giving so unselfishly, that my employer wanted to give you something special this Christmas.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, your employer Mr.Reynolds is giving me a house? Sally asked.

Manny, smiling now said, “No Mrs. H, I work for someone a bit higher than Mr. Reynolds. Anyway, I’m just a messenger and I’ll be announcing your arrival there soon.”

“Manny, I still don’t see…” Sally wondered out loud.

“It’s simple, you have been faithful Mrs. H, and the Lord wants you home with Him.” Manny said.

Her eyes widening a bit, Sally whispered, “You mean…I’m really going… oh, I can hardly keep my eyes open, what is happening to me Manny?” Sally asked.

Manny replied softly, “It’s time for a homecoming Mrs. H…Sammy is saving a dance for you”

They were quiet for a few minutes when Sally spoke in a hushed voice and asked, “Am I going to see my Sammy when I open my eyes Manny?’

She was already home when he answered, “Yes Sally, and so much more.”

The End

Jay Cookingham © 2002

 

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Child is This?


 

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It was just another cry from a newborn, his cries already muted by the sounds of animals sharing his birth place. He was one of the many little Hebrew lives entering the world that night, just one of the ones born in the cold to poor, struggling parents, on a journey not of their choosing.

All across Israel, an ordered census drew people to distant towns and faraway villages. A census of numbers, not the value of lives, mirrored the soul journeys of thousands searching for more. The cruel political climate is as dark as the night and the spiritual landscape, darker still. There seems no journey away from this oppression, no passage of freedom that affords an opportunity to breathe unhindered. This night poses questions from hearts chained and bound by a force more domineering that the oppressors now ruling this land.

Why was this child born?

Why this couple?

Why this little backwards town?

Why now?

What child is this?

Into poisoned humanity a son is born, a baby wrapped in fragileness and vulnerability but with redemption blood flowing in his veins. He is a message of hope to a world looking for something or someone to put it out of its collective misery. This baby, needing the protection and nurturing of Mary and Joseph, is born for a world needing him. Needing light to dispel the darkness that seeks the souls of humanity, love to collect hearts back to the Father, peace for the minds overwhelmed by strife and forgiveness to free all corrupted by sin’s disease.

When Jesus came, redemption came and courageously reclaimed sons and daughters for the Kingdom. Messiah came, deliverance came, the Good News came, and life more abundantly came. Born of a virgin, God imparts Himself into humanity and births new life for world looking for a way to live again. Immanuel…God with us, always with us.

What child is this?

This, this is Christ the King…my King!

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Dream Coat


 

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It wasn’t technicolored or fancy looking by any means, it was a simple grey-black winter coat and it was just his size. He was the younger of two boys, maybe six to seven years old, with eyes as wide as saucers. Accompanied by an older woman of a different ethnicity, they all had come to a local coat drive hosted by the Hyde Park Methodist, a church that graciously allowed people from my church to help staff the event.

It was near the end of the day and most kid’s coats had been chosen by the early crowd. His other brother ( I assumed) had found one from the slim pickings and the woman was working on the gray coat, trying to get the zipper to work. All the while the little boy was looking on with those big saucer eyes.

It was the eyes that got me.

I went over and offered my help to fix the zipper (which seemed way beyond my skill-set as time past by) while she looked for a coat for herself. The minutes piled on themselves as not one, but two zippers evaded any attempt to follow the path of least resistance and behave like normal zippers do. I was sweating; the boys have been at the bin holding free stuffed animals and now were back, holding a monkey and a Winnie-the Pooh.

Now I had eight eyes watching me.

I wanted desperately for that little boy to have this coat and the underneath my breath prayers were as fervent as any I’ve prayed…I wanted God to heal this zipper…now!

The little boy never said a word…he just keep looking, waiting and silently hoping.

I started to choke back tears over a used, hand-me-down, grey winter coast…and those beautiful eyes.

In those eyes, I saw myself.

When I was around eight, I remember walking into a huge building, full of strangers and somebody handing me a coat and boots…just my size. I remember being somewhat stunned and confused…more than likely my eyes were as wide as saucers, trying to take in all the events happening around me. The eyes of that little boy took me back in time and helped me see this day in a whole new way.

The woman came back (good naturedly) laughing, seeing that I was still trying to compel this stubborn fastening device to submission and quite innocently said…”Maybe, there’s a third zipper?” I thought to myself, “What coat has three zippers?” This coat didn’t look like the kind of coat that would have three zippers if such coats existed! Hesitantly I started to look the coat over for the elusive third zipper option. To my surprise, near the top, hidden under the collar, was the treasure we hoped to find. I pulled the zipper into place, zipped up the coat perfectly, hive-fived the woman all with laugher erupting from both of us.

The young boy, handing his stuffed animal to his brother for temporary safe keeping, put on his coat and smiled. A huge smile now competing with his eyes for who would win for being the largest expression on his happy face. I was smiling too… my prayers were answered and today a coat became more than a dream. It was a promise from Father God and His provision.

As they left, the little boy turned to look at me with those same eyes…

I was fighting back tears and thanking God for an amazing grey colored dream coat, complete with a third zipper.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

God Bless you all and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!