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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I Cry at My Own Sermons

 

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Actually, I don't really know why...something strange is happening to me. It seems that I can't get through a sermon without choking back tears and fighting for composure. These deeply emotional moments come (seemly) randomly and when I least expect it...then I feel undone...almost unable to continue at times.

Here's another thing...it happens when I'm sermon prepping and not even at the same spot in my notes as when I'm speaking a few days layer. My family will tell you that I'm not a crier, that is takes a lot to make me cry...so why the sudden influx of tear-duct activity? I wonder...am I losing  it? Or maybe...just maybe, my heart is not yet "new" enough.

"I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart."Jeremiah 24:7

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26

The process of receiving a new heart is more than a transplant of values, it is a radical new way to live. It's a heart that beats with a rhythm of surrender, responding in the only way that brings life. I cry because the Holy Spirit is moving in such a way that it breaks up stony, hard places and brings life up to spill all over the people around me. I marvel at such love and I ask...I pray...I cry for more.

So...Why do I cry at my own sermons?

Because He makes all things new...even my heart.

 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unrecognizable?


Unrecognizable Soulfari has been quiet for awhile as travel to ISI conferences and sermon prep has taken the bulk of my writing time. Yet as I prepare my heart for Palm and Easter Sunday I find myself at a lost for words...but not for the depth of emotion I'm experiencing. They are recognizable, real and very raw...but not fully explainable. So, I will let this short story I wrote last year speak for me, I hope it speaks to you as well. – Jay

Unrecognizable?

My neighbors shouted for me to hurry, to drop what I was doing and follow them. They ran ahead, their excited voices forcibly joining the crowd we were running towards. The last thing I heard clearly was…

He was coming.

The air was filled with dust and anger, and in fear, I almost turned back. Instead, I jostled for position against the mob that lined the street. I flexed my broad shoulders and squeezed my way to the front, not caring about the bruises I gave or received by doing so. I wiped my eyes, trying to free them from the dust assaulting them. I wanted to hush the people around me, gather my bearings and find him in the crowd. I followed their pointed fingers and their jeers to the person walking down the street… he was coming.

My neighbors lied…this couldn’t be him…it was hardly a man. This was a walking, bloody mass of sorrow. Who could do that to such a man like him? It just couldn’t be him!

I followed, weaving through the families, the merchants and soldiers, struggling to keep pace with a man weighed down by a tree. The pointed fingers turned to clenched fists and the anger grew into hatred, cold and brutal, such like I’ve never witnessed before. The grotesqueness of the crowd mirrored this man’s wounds… raw and unforgiving. They eagerly spewed insults and spit with vicious accuracy. I wondered what hurt the man more, these vile words, or the punishment covering his body.

No way would they do this to…HIM! This can’t be him. Could it?

I lost count how many, but a number of times, he fell hard on the street of stones. The blood, the pain and the weight of his burden all conspiring to trip him. The forced march continued only after the soldiers made a man, randomly plucked from the crowd, carry the heavy load.

My Tears became a guttural sob, the tension ramming grief down my throat. I almost turned back, wanting to run away from the figure struggling to walk, even without the tree to carry. The mocking crowd shouted curses mixed with the name of Jesus…trying to blend them into one.

It just couldn’t be him…why would he let them do this to him?

On the mountain of skulls they nailed this battered pulp of a man to a cross. He looked un-human, torn, battered…and finished. He was unrecognizable…until I heard him speak.

“Father forgive them…they know not what they do!”

I was wrong all along…he was recognizable

HE was Jesus.

© Jay Cookingham

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It’s Not About You (Really)

 

 

IMG_0361 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? MICAH 6:8

See that picture…that is me, not looking happy. I had just finished my afternoon session at the ISI Conference in O’Fallon and walked outside to take this pitiful selfie. Of course, there is a lot of back story leading up to this moment.

 

The trip to Illinois started with 3 cancelled flights and over 8 hours of delays, I almost decided not to go (easy when no planes are landing at the airport you’re trying to leave from) and started to cancel hotel/car reservations. Before I could finish, two friends (who were with me for most of that time) told me (with brotherly love of course) to get my butt on the next plane that lands, that I needed to go and yes, God was STILL in it. Of course they did it from the safety of their car since they left me at the airport.

Thank God for brothers like that.

I got to my hotel late Friday night and got up early to get to the church where the event was (only seven minutes away) and promptly got lost for 35 minutes…yep, another traveling snafu. I was seriously wondering if I got on that plane by mistake and God was keeping me from this conference! Fortunately, I arrived at my destination just in time for a prayer meeting with all the other speakers.

When my session started I was fired up and ready to engage and equip. I knew my session wouldn’t draw a big crowd and I drew about 15 guys…that was OK by me. I have spoken in front of 200 and in front of 20, it never matters to me.

As men came in the room I asked a few questions, made a few funny remakes, typical warm up stuff, but I noticed the guys look sleepy, even tired (it was after the lunch break). Sure enough, when I started one guy was nodding off no more than 5 mins into the session…that doesn’t bother me either, because I just pretend people are agree with me (all the nodding up and down motion). Yet, I could sense that I was losing the group and a tried to shorten my teaching on the fly…although nothing seemed to be working… God was at work.

I shared part of my testimony about the abuse I suffered growing up and how the Father has restored my identity as His son. I talked about how forgiveness is a huge factor of acting like my Heavenly Father and was the key to my freedom. I finished up on time but felt awful about my session (thought I blew it big time).

After the session and the room was clearing, a young man walked up to me and shared how they were once abused and it was great to hear that God could and would restore a life in such a way…they were so grateful to hear that news…they felt hopeful.

That encounter was the reason I came.

The next morning I was still a bit troubled by my performance and God led me to read the book of Ruth… yes, Ruth. Through the story of Ruth, God taught me a lesson about birth and obedience. I was reminded that when you do the right thing, God will birth (bring life) through you. Boaz (whose named means an inward strength) did the right thing (rescuing Ruth) and David’s grandfather was born. Obedience is indeed better than sacrifice.

After reading Ruth, I said to the Father…

“But I failed!”

His response…

“But I didn’t”

WOW…talk about a response! My performance had no bearing on His message because it’s His message, His Word and it does not return void. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and get ready for the next opportunity. He wants me to be available and give my heart over to His purposes…not worry over performance.

I learned a lot about me this trip and I look forward to going to Springfield Illinois for the next ISI conference. I will be a much humbler son this time around.

The truth is that it’s never about me… it’s always about Him… really.

What about…ever feel like you failed God in a big moment?

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

What a Year Has Given Me


THE YEAR
January 2014 marks my first year as a pastor, a 12 month odyssey that gave me just a glimpse of how much my heart would have to grow. This growth has surprised me at times and frustrated me when I thought I was already “finished” in certain areas of my development as a leader.

Surprise, surprise.

The small band of believers that I follow Christ with, is a love God, love each other, love people,fantastic group of hearts… I am honored to be a part of their journey. Most I have known for many years, a few have entered my life just recently, all have challenged me to grow deeper in my relationship with the Father.

This is what happens when you conspire together.

The word "Conspire" has a bad rap and even a negative connotation. It comes from the Latin verb "conspirare" meaning "to breathe together." It’s a great word picture of closeness, and of a bond that only Christ can form between hearts. This is what the year has given me, a grand opportunity to share my breath with some of the greatest hearts on the planet.

For this I am grateful and honored to be joint followers with you all.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (10) In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (12) No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” - 1 John 4:9-12 ESV

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Monday, December 23, 2013

About Light

 

 

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The creator of the universe…is with us…every moment of every day. He fills our space time continuum, our history, our future with…Himself…ALL of Himself! Every part of His coming was to rip the veil between us…bringing us back into the light.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2

That’s the message of the incarnation, Christ being born into a dark world, into a violent time and bringing good news of great joy. The world Jesus entered was brutally dark and deadly. Humanity was under a death sentence of sin and it needed a Messiah…it needed the light. It still does.

So here's is a Christmas message from a unknown monk about that light...Merry Christmas everybody!

 

 

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exhale

 

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I see it almost everywhere I go, people holding their breath. They inhale the fumes of exhaustion, despair and pain… straining to hold it in, only to slowly choke the life from their lonely souls.

To them, joy is seems like unaffordable luxury, let alone experienced. They sing a carol or two, hang a stocking, and even toss a few dollars in a red kettle guarded by a poorly dressed Santa, and…nothing changes. This world is tired, its collective seams unraveling the edges of its soul. Its heart is vacant, lifeless and groaning with heavy branches bearing the fruit of sorrow.

All seems lost when you lose hope

Weariness is the wreath that the world tries to hang on me, bargaining with my reason and my faith. Its convincing tones seductive, compelling my spirit to give way… and give up my joy. Then I think…maybe I should.

G. K. Chesterton says this about joy.

“Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”

A definition seems elusive because Joy is untamed…it’s wild; free-range…it can’t be domesticated. It’s not containable…you can’t package or bottle it. This is a secret we must give up and give way to… the times are desperate for it and so are the hearts ready to be rescued by the source of that joy.

There is something in the word joy that excites me like I thought no other three letter word could…it is a powerful truth.

Jesus Owns You

I think Joy comes from knowing who you belong to. Jesus wants to impart joy, His joy into us… by living life through us and reminding us who we belong to. When joy moments come, inhale deeply yes, but then exhale and share the secret… share His love.

Then, a weary world can rejoice…

“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

 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monk Results

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Hey everybody, just wanted to thanks who voted on my unofficial survey that the Internet Monk so graciously (see here) presented. If you don't remember the choices were:

 

 

Number one: Sonship: The Power of God's Favor
Number two: Becoming a Dangerous Kingdom Man

Several of you wanted me to combine them and frankly, I didn't think that would work. However, after prayer and some deep consultation (Holy Spirit wise), I found a way to merge them....and here it is.

MANHUNTLOGO

 MANHUNT: God's Search for Sons

I believe the effectiveness of men is threatened by an orphan/slave mentality. This warped way of thinking affects our masculinity and the way we lead. It’s a distortion of Father God’s purpose for men. It’s time to fight back and reclaim the identity the enemy has stolen from us...the identity of sons.

So, there's my idea...would you join me in prayer as I work to finish the content, the hand out materials and whatever the Father wants to do with this? Thanks and God bless!