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

Monday, November 7, 2016

All is NOT Lost




The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

He helps me…wow…our Father helps us!

The Hebrew word for help in this verse means to surround and protect. What better way to be surrounded than by the creator of the universe. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English puts it this way.

Lord Jehovah is my helper and my protector, for my heart is confident in him and my flesh flourishes, and with glory I shall praise him.

There have been so many temptations to rant and rave about this Presidential election, I wanted to tell you/sell you why each candidate is unworthy to hold an office, much less than the highest one in our country. I was going to complain about a nation asking for a king instead of bowing their hearts to the King of Kings. I was…but I can’t…I feel there is something far greater at stake than electing a President tomorrow.

Who will hold your heart after the election?

The answer depends on what or who we have transferred our hope to. I admit to losing hope because there was a dearth of leadership presented to us. Some have placed their hope in one of the candidates. We give our hearts so easily to other causes, to other leaders, to other hopes…and when we do…we come up empty.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

His sons and daughters have great reason to rejoice, for our hearts can be confident despite what is happening in our country, for our hope is found in Him. Hope grows in a grateful heart, hope thrives in a heart that worships the Father and hope abounds in the heart where He lives.

All is NOT loss, not on His watch.

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

Our hearts are far more important to God than the election tomorrow. If the heart of the Church is firmly in the hands of the Father, our hope will be as well. May I encourage to earnestly be praying for tomorrow? Whoever is elected, God is still sovereign, and He still holds the heart of the “king” in His hands.


And He still holds ours.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Make America Great Again




But maybe not the way you're thinking....

Lately I have avoided most political discussions like a man wearing a paper suit avoids people with matches; such interactions get heated quickly and tend to burn someone. The media, which is harder to avoid, feeds the American public with ridiculous amounts of un-journalistic garbage, calling it news. It is no wonder we suffer from the obesity of self-interest and pride when America gladly gorges on this political junk food. Then we have the social media world, filled with its own opinionated pyrotechnics, which has frustrated me with post after post of some of the meanest rants I have ever read online.

And those were from Christians… Have we lost our minds?

No man/woman can make America great again. No candidate/Democrat/
Republican/congress/judge/army/economic package/3rd party/grass roots movement or revolution can bring greatness back to the shores of the United States. Only God can make America great.

He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. Daniel 2:21

And, by the way…It’s His definition of great that counts.

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34

If His sons and daughters want America to be great again it requires righteousness…in the way we live and in the way we love. It needs repentance and the willingness to turn back from a life that is centered on me. It’s not who I choose as my candidate that guarantees my well-being but who chooses me.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

Let’s turn the ballot booths into the greatest collection of prayer closets the world has ever seen… praying that God make American His again.


That sounds great to me!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hard





Following the Messiah is anything but easy, it’s hard. It’s a walk that fills the longing in our hearts but leaves it gasping for air at other times. Following Jesus is hard because we’re human. We walk through a lost and hurting world and we can’t help but wade through the ripples/wake of their pain… their sin….and yes, our sin.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard (pressed like grapes) that leads (carry) to life (real, vibrant), and those who find (get it, understand) it are few. Matthew 7: 13-14 

The gate is narrow… the way is hard… how do we respond to that?

We could get hard-headed, hard-nosed, hard as nails, hard to the core, The battle for our heart is real, the enemy wants to defeat our heart…make it hard, unresponsive to the Father. We could shrink back… lose heart, choose a different way or we can choose have the Father’s heart pressed into ours.

"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

For whatever or whoever has your heart… has you.

What we believe about our hearts matters. If it’s valuable (and it is) we’ll protect it, fight for it and worship the God who created it! The enemy wants us to believe our heart doesn’t matter to the Father, that it’s unredeemable, corrupt and beyond hope. Thankfully, the truth is miraculously more powerful, Father God restores our hearts with His.

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. This is huge… in order to move through a hard life without growing hard and cold, we need His heart, His Spirit breathing new life into our hearts. We need to understand our hearts in a new way. If you’re still worried about your heart listen to this…

God is greater than our hearts

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (19) We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (21) Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then we have confidence toward God.” 1 John 3:18-21

If God doesn’t condemn us and our own heart doesn’t either then our faith should be off the charts! Not in us but in our heavenly Father. Our confidence is not in our own heart, but the heart of the Father in us. We can’t be passive in our repentance or in our responsibility when we sin and disobey. Will we love like Him, live like Him… no matter how difficult?

The choice is this…what heart will we accept?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Why I’m Not (Still) Who I Am




Sorry for the confusing title, hopefully I can explain why it fits. In 2013 I wrote a blog post intended to debunk the mythos of my reputation and to dispel the notion that I always have my act (what ever that is) together. It seemed that I was gaining pedestal status in some circles and I thought that was a dangerous place for a man to be.

Now six years later I wonder if I’m still sending mixed messages.

Don’t get me wrong, I work hard to maintain an honorable character and I believe I should as a follower of Christ. I appreciate the respect I’ve earned and the trust that follows a man of his word. The influence I have I do not take lightly, I pray that my actions follow the words I speak and that my life points (favorably) to the God I serve. I’m known as level headed, calm… a bit strange, but easygoing and likable.

Someone once said to me… “I can’t imagine someone ever getting mad at you”

I have people get mad at me all the time… some of those people live in my house.

I’ve been happily married for 34 years, a father for all but seven of those years, but sometimes struggle with loving my wife (as wonderful as she is) as she needs to be loved. I love being married to my bride and am devoted to loving her as Christ loved the church but sometimes I fall so short of that ideal. The selfishness of my own way gets in the way of caring for her soul and our marriage suffers from my callous heart.

My children think I’m a great Dad and generally, I agree with them. Yet, I don’t always lead them correctly or model what a man should be in a way that is inviting to them. My words appear as jabs instead of encouragement and I let distance fill the gaps where my love should be.

I’m (still) not who I am

My faith is strong and I love Jesus desperately, but I would guess that there people who think I’m a hypocrite because I don’t always back up my words with right action. One of my gifts is encouraging, I love finding ways to build people up and help them see what Father God sees in them. Then, there are times where my heart seems so distance and remote that it leaves me wondering do I really care at all?

I’m (still) not who I am

I have the honor to speak into men’s lives, many people see me as friend and confidant. They put their trust in me and that friendship; it’s a real humbling place to be. Unfortunately, there have been times I have stretched the limits of my friendships with selfish motives and lack of consideration. Sometimes my desires to be a “somebody” have muscled its way into my idea of who I am in Christ… interfering with the bonds of brotherhood.

Now I pastor a church (3 years) and every Sunday I have the opportunity to bless or disappoint and sometimes do both without even recognizing it. I love this group of hearts entrusted to my care and long for their lives to be full and free. Yet, there are seasons of ungraceful moments where I’m lost for the words they need to hear and I fill them with platitudes, hoping for a spiritual placebo instead.

Have I knocked myself off that pedestal yet?

My point is this… I’m not finish yet! I’m not (still) who I am (going to be) and Father God is not done with me yet. Can you see where my heart is? I’m asking for forgiveness if I have ever portrayed something unreal and false, something that may have put me on a pedestal.

I never want to show you all anything but Christ in me. Any success I have as a man, a husband, a father and a brother is all because of Him. The struggle to be real and transparent gets clouded when you begin to think you are “all that and a bag of chips”… that is not the way of the King. I don’t have wisdom, insight or compassion (not any more than you anyway) but I do have the King (rather, He has me) and He has all that in abundance. In my desire to be a hero to you, I may have misrepresented the King, please forgive me.

I’m (still) not who I am…but I’m getting there

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus return. Philippians 1:6

Why am I (still) not who I am (yet)? Because I need more of Him and He will complete the work!

In Him for Him always…Jay

PS. I’m not beating myself up here…this is just a heart check and I sincerely what to only represent Him in all I do.


“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Green Grass Ahead



“You're overwhelmed. Freeze was underwhelmed. Why isn't anyone just whelmed”? – Robin from the Young Justice TV show

If my ramble is confusing, I apologize, the whelming of my heart is in full effect and it is searching desperately for the Head Shepherd’s way.  

Life as pastor/shepherd/fellow follower of Christ is an emotional/relational mix of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15). It stretches the contents of your heart daily and often “whelms” you to the tired tears of weariness as you move in as much compassion as that frail heart can muster. In your heart and spirit you wonder…

Did I say the right thing? Did I give what was needed? Did I listen to their heart? Did they hear God in my words?

Many times there are no simple answers to those questions and my sleep suffers because of it. I am so mindful of my words, careful of the weight my position carries and the effect that beautiful mystery has on the folks I journey with. My position as under shepherd encourages this intense collision of hearts and urges a seal of unity in place of otherwise separate lives. To move in such unity requires a surrender unlike any other, one that consistently “whelms” me with its passion.

Thankfully, there is green grass ahead… 

He makes me lie down in green pastures…Psalm 23:2

Green pastures don't just happen—they're made by a heart of love, by a God who knows His sons and daughters. When our hearts are weary and whelmed out… ready to quit, bail, surrender and give in to something less… there is a green pasture ahead. The Good Shepherd is leading us to this place of nourishment and freedom. In this green, lush place, my whelmed self… my failing strength is replaced by His.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:26

So, when I pray with my brothers and sisters, when our stories overlap and blend together, and when the shared humanness of laughter and tears swallows us up as one, my understanding of community breathes with new life. Together we can cry out to the shepherd who knows where to lead us.

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:2

Is your heart “whelmed” today? How can I help you see the green grass just ahead…How can I pray for you?

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Prayer




My brothers and sisters, my heart is heavy with grief for yet another heartbreaking moment in our nation. I offer this simple prayer up as a cry from my own heart and urge you to offer up the same. We must cover this nation with prayer and offer up the only hope there is...  the name of Jesus. I also encourage you to read Psalm 130, a passage that I believe will move you and strengthen you. God bless you all, Jay


Our Father,

We are a hurting nation, a people who have lost their way and chosen another. Evil, violence, injustice and corruption fill the wells from which our nation drinks and it is sickeningly drunk from it's dregs.

Yet you are a God who loves redemption and have delivered it through your son Jesus Christ, help us today to surrender our hearts to His. Your sons and daughters cry out in repentance for this nation, and for the times we your children, have failed to follow your ways. We ask forgiveness for the sins we no longer want to ignore and for the ignorance we hide behind. We humble ourselves, we give ourselves over to your heart, please help us to act justly, and love mercy like you do. Fill our speech with your words, cast down the idols of our opinion, search our hearts and cleanse any wicked way hidden in us.

Give us bold hearts, sound minds... let your love rule over us and help us proclaim the great hope of redemption inside of us to our nation. Make us ministers of your grace and carry the truth of who you are to all we meet. Grant the Church wisdom, direction and the courage to lean into the darkness and bring the light of the Gospel.

I ask for peace and provision for the families struck by these tragedies. I pray that no root of bitterness take hold in their lives. Cover them with your grace and comfort them with your presence. Heal their wounds, heals their hearts and strengthen their spirits.

You are our only hope Father... we proclaim our trust in you!

In Jesus name...amen!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Drowning Man




No too long ago I read a blog post that compared sermon prep to drowning; suggesting that only the breath of God can bring life to lungs crushed by the weight of water (responsibility). When I read that post, I identified with the image of a frantic man longing for rescue from his own words, drowning in his own opinionated theology, desperate to breathe in the Father’s heart in order to speak life into others.

Now I realize that this sensation is consuming my journey with Christ and not just confined to the “safe” areas of sermon prep. I’m gasping for air, I feel raw, exposed, washed up on the shore of service… thankful for missing the rocks of doubt and envy that threaten every heart devoted to the Master.

This raw emotion is separated from uncertainty; I don’t fear the exposure and the peel back of my heart but I can’t say this is a pleasant way to inhale my next breath. There is great pain involved in holding one’s breath until you break the surface of liberty. The desire to live freely burns and consumes the oxygen of my soul, igniting the cleansing process that lifts me towards the surface.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

What I cough up on the shore of new life is the regrets and sorrows of an old life, anchors that weighed me down, holding my head under water and drowning me with shame. His life expands my lungs, filling them with the pure oxygen of His love and leaves me gasping for more.

In this way, being a drowning man is good. I will gladly go under His waves of mercy, His current of grace and swim with all my strength towards the shores of His heart. His breath… gives life.

“For as long as life is in me, And the breath of God is in my nostrils, My lips certainly will not speak unjustly, Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.” Job 27:3-4

Words, thoughts, opinions, theology…me... all covered by the crashing waves of who He is. 

What a way to go

Blessings,
Jay