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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Light Response




49 dead, over 50 seriously wounded… the lives of friends and family permanently altered forever.

I believe we (the Christian community) needs a pause, a moment to reflect before we post (or repost), rant or rave, change a profile picture or otherwise comment in the Wild West of social media.  Words escape our lips, our pens; our keyboards with such force that we must remember that those words can bring life or add to the pain people are already suffering from.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

Can we quiet our opinions for a season and pray before acting, speaking, posting, and commenting? Let’s dare to ask God to check our heart and see if it lines up with His.
The hardship and suffering of others should move us to a gentle response, one that beats in rhythm with the Father’s heart.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

The tragedy in Orlando is a brutal reminder of how easy it is for evil to inflict devastation and suffering. Day after day, in one part of the world or another, it violently takes a defiant pose, shakes its fist at us and dares us to counter its cruelty.

Although I’m not connected by family or friends to this awful heartbreak, I am connected because God cares for the people involved. My connection to His heart compels me to act like Him. So, how do I, (a devoted Christ follower) effectively respond to such dark, hate filled and evil times?

God’s response to darkness is to send light, a response so radically different than the world’s response. He didn’t send a political solution, new policy or legislation to dispel the darkness.

He sent His son…the light of the world.

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

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.

I believe light brings hope, because it exposes life; it brings life into clarity and focus.

We could use some hope.

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

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” - Martin Luther King JR

My response to tragedy must contain hope. My comments, my speech, my actions, my opinion must be saturated with the hope that sheds light on truth. Hope consumes the intent of evil and in its place brings peace and the courage to fight on. Solidifying my hold on my rights will not stop the flow of violence nor will the desire for my voice to be heard above the voice of others. My vote will not change this evil, nor will ranting and raving across party lines. Only His light, only His love and forgiveness can work that miracle.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

If I lose hope, if I refuse to shine the light of the Gospel, if I lack the will to do good… then I give away my heart to lesser things. I must find a way to do good in this world, the idol of my own opinion must be brought down from the high places of ego and I must surrender it to my King.

How do I respond then?

I love like the Messiah…bringing His light into a dark world. I do the good the Master sends me to do. I love with such a ferocious passion the evil of this world gives way to its light. I live the Good News and overcome the evil with the goodness of God.

“Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21

Be angry yes, but don’t let anger distort your vision and your heart. Get angry at evil, at injustice and the cruelty of sin. Speak up but cover every word with the love of Christ. This is the way to counter evil, bringing hope and love into the fight. His love doesn’t overlook or excuse behavior, it works to change hearts… starting with ours first.

Dear Children, let us not love with word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fear of Falling



I’m restless today…

I tend to feel that way, the sensation of someone relentlessly tugging at my sleeve, trying to get my attention, attempting to pull me in different direction. Sometimes it wearies me with its persistent cry for my focus, for my deep introspection to discover the cause behind such unrest in my spirit. When I commit to explore the crevices of my fidgety spirit, I’m often surprised by the mystery revealed.

I’m restless because I’m not satisfied.

I want more from life and from my relationship with God. I want a stronger marriage and a greater connection with my children. The desire to make a meaningful impact on this world drives me daily and to settle for anything less seems pointless. This tug on my sleeve is a welcomed one… but there is one that is not.

I’m restless because I’m afraid.

Afraid of loss,
Afraid of failure,
Afraid of rejection,
Afraid of the unknown.

The fear of falling (Basiphobia) is a strong phobia and can cripple, immobilize and rob freedom from the strongest person. For our heart, in a spiritual sense, it’s just as dangerous. Loss, failure, rejection, the unknown threaten our spirit daily, trying to get us to believe a lie.

These restless tugs are connected; they meet at the crossroad of faith and fear. Just when I’m disturbed enough to move out/step out in faith, the fear of falling raises its ugly head and lying tongue.

The lie of falling

The fear of falling lies to me, tugs on my sleeve, fabricates a story of doubt and guilt. A story meant to immobilize my heart and stop me in my tracks… afraid to move out in faith. This enemy wants my heart to believe that I’m doomed to fall and that my falls are always fatal and final.

The truth of falling

“Though he fall, he shall not be cast down; for Jehovah upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:24

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. Jude 1:24

So, I’m checking out that tug I feel on the sleeve of my heart. I don’t want to settle for less than all that God has for me, nor do I want the fear of falling compromise my faithfulness to the call on my life. For that I need more of Him.

“All our falls are useful if they strip us of a disastrous confidence in ourselves, while they do not take away a humble and saving trust in God.” - Francois Fenelon


How about you… are you afraid of “falling” in something Father God has asked you to do? How can I pray for you?