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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Joy Ride



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. So I just wanted to share my last sermon on joy with you all. 
I think Joy is knowing who you belong to. I saw something in the word joy that excited me like I thought no other three letter word could…it was this.

Jesus Owns You

Please listen to the sermon....I pray that it helps define what joy is for you.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year I pray that the gift of joy through the life of Jesus will fill every nook and cranny of your life. 

I love you all....Jay

Monday, December 17, 2012

God’s Response

 

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Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15

I am, like many of you, daily preoccupied with the tragedy in Connecticut. I think about the above Scripture and wonder how I could somehow “look after” my fellow man from afar. I strain at the picture of evil presented to me, how dark everything looks when I dwell on it. How can I effectively respond to such darkness?

The Father’s response to dark, troubling times was to send Jesus. God 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

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.

How do I respond then?

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

I love like the Messiah…bringing light into a dark world.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Blessings, Jay

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Conspiracy of Love

 

 

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Seem like I have repost fever but I hope you won’t mind reading another blast from my past. A couple of years ago Christmas celebration was the last thing on my mind…perhaps you’re in the same place this year. I pray that maybe something in this simple cry of my heart will minister to you. Blessings, Jay

I was/am feeling like I been through a war. Christmas seemed like a distant echo of “good tidings of great joy”…although I desperately needed some.

Then, one morning I started singing…

A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.

A weary world rejoices…not an energized world, but a weary, tired, worn-out one. In my battle fatigued heart I could rejoice, I needed to rejoice! 2000 years ago the Father set up a beachhead in a lowly stable, invading the world with His conspiracy of love. He pushed back the veil of darkness with the light of His son Jesus, definitely a new and glorious morn.

The truth is (and always has been) that we are at war with the enemy of our souls, I feel it and so do you. It claws at us, attempting to drag us off into the darkness of despair, worry and fear. This enemy wants us to die. He wants us dead to possibilities, dead to promise and dead to relationship with God, it is a huge battle. The enemy fears people that are truly alive.

The glory of God is man fully alive – St. Ireneus

The glory of God is man fully alive, but to be fully alive is living a life that glorifies Father God. My victory is sure, the birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus has secured it forever. The thrill of hope is not always measured in feeling but in faith and that causes my heart to rejoice. Repeating these words (and their meaning) over and over in my heart embed me in the conspiracy of love.

For unto us…

For God so loved, He gave…

lo, I am with you always…

Christmas will be simpler in my home this year, with fewer gifts under the tree than seasons past. The pile of bills may just be higher than the pile of presents, still that will not quiet the truth in our hearts. Father God has given the greatest gift of all and it’s all ours. It’s all a matter of preparation and being ready.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Merry Christmas all!

Jay

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gifts in the Snow

 

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As I prepare for Christmas there are so many thoughts I want to share with you all. However my schedule has been fast and furious lately and the writing of new posts are a much lower priority as a result. So I’m reposting one from two years ago and I hope you won’t mind. It actually speaks to much of what is on my heart as “I wonder as I wander” through this Christmas season. Blessings, Jay

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis

There they were…packages of various sizes wrapped in Christmas paper scattered all along the snow drifts in my front yard. I looked out my window wondering how long they would last in the snow and when my father would let us retrieve them, I was only seven years old. In a fit of rage over something unknown to us, he had tossed them, along with the tree, out the door early that Christmas morning. It would be three days before he cooled down enough to let us bring them inside and several more before we could open them. I don’t even remember what I got that year, but I do remember the image of the gifts in the snow. For years that memory, along with other similar “holiday events”, shaped my (non) enjoyment of Christmas. That was until God gave me a Christmas experience that would change me forever.

In my early twenties I traveled with a Christian rock band and from time to time we would do other gigs besides concerts. On one of these occasions, two other band members and I went down to the Bowery in NY city to serve in one of the many soup kitchens, this particular one was run by the Salvation Army. We got there early in the morning but the line to get a hot meal was already long and many were anxious to get inside the shelter. We met with the leaders of the shelter who filled us in on how the day would go. The setup was simple, one group would first listen to a quick Christmas message in the small chapel and afterwards move to the cafeteria to eat, this process would repeat itself until people and or food ran out.

To my surprise, I was asked to give the first message and was quickly shown the way to the chapel. As the various groups of people shuffled in from the cold air, I saw through the open door that it had begun to snow. The collection of old and young, men and women slowly found seats, many were still drunk or coming down from a night of intoxicated waste. Against the white purity of the fresh snow their filthy clothes and smell stood out in stark contrast. What could I say to move the hearts of such people? As I waited for the chapel to fill, the Lord brought back the memory of the scattered presents in the snow bank outside my home. He quietly said to me…

“These are my gifts…they too have been scattered and thrown away, tell them I desire to bring them home.”

My heart and eyes were opened with those words; I began to feel the heart of the Father towards these “lost gifts”.

Reading from the scriptures I told them of poor shepherds, pretty much the outcast of their day, being the first ones to hear about the Messiah’s birth and by angels no less! I spoke of how this story was about God’s great love and how He wanted them underneath the blessing of another tree—the cross, which Jesus was born to bear for them. I finished my small sermon, prayed and release them to the hot meal waiting in the dinning area. All but one left the chapel, a young man my age waited and asked to speak with me. He shared his story, how his father had thrown him out on the streets just a few months before Christmas. The message of God’s love had deeply moved him, making him realize how much he wanted God in his life and how he needed to ask his father for forgiveness.

As we talked and prayed God was healing much inside of me as well—from now on—Christmas would be different for both of us. That’s the power of the Gospel; if we allow it to flow to every part of our being…we can’t stay the same.

In a small Jewish town, a message of hope spoke across time to a small chapel in New York City. There, on their knees, two young men saw that message in a whole new way.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” - Luke 1:68

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mary Sings

 

A repost of a poem I wrote a few years back. This simple verse is my attempt at capturing the power and the simplicity of the moment right after Mary’s hears the Good News. Blessings, Jay

mary Mary Sings

Angel words stir
a devoted heart

Accepting the revelation

Rejoicing with Heaven

A song magnifies
a kingdom’s glory

A young woman
becomes a young mother

The embodiment of
the Father’s intent

Born to her
Sent for us

Emmanuel has come

In her heart
Mary sings

Jay Cookingham 12/5/02 ©

 

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Following

 

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Being a visionary type is a real pain sometimes. You get a few peeks into the adventure ahead of you and you’re hooked…you took the bait and are running with it. The heart gets pumped (no pun intended), you feel energized, alive and ready to tackle anything.

That’s when IT happens…

You take the first step and reality (shortcomings, weaknesses, failures, etc.) takes a huge bite out of your zeal and spits in back in your face…laughing.

Major ouch…no what?

For me it requires some soul searching. I look closely at the calls on my life; husband, father, brother and son. All filled with passion, all richly rewarding and all consuming. My pondering has led me to an interesting thought.

I have a following that flows from my following.

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

As I follow after the Messiah my attractiveness increases and the pull of the Father’s love finds an outlet to touch others.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1

The draw of my story depends on being about my Father’s business and sharing the marvelous tale of my rescue. The telling of this epic is spoken through all the calls of my life, each one a chapter of how redemption shapes a man. The visionary saw a lot of my story unfolding, the practical man had to walk it out, sometimes kicking reality in the teeth along the way.

On January 6, 2013, I will be taking another one of those practical steps that the visionary guy saw many years ago. It is a leap of faith mixed with a heart’s desire that I once believe passed me by, a dream thought defeated by my “reality”.

Believe it or not, yours truly is becoming a pastor…

I will follow my King down another path and become an associate pastor at my church. The overlap of calling flows into another channel and the heart of the visionary awakens. The stirring of my soul hopefully impacting lives as I’m impacted by the character refinement of the Father’s hand. This quote echoes my heart.

“You are to follow no man further than he follows Christ.” John Collins

The story continues…watch out reality…I’m coming for you!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Arriving at Thanksgiving

 

 

Untitled-1It was a clear, crisp morning, just ripe for adventure and discovery. I sat sipping my coffee in the observation deck (more like a room than deck) while waiting for the Delta flight carrying my son Michael to take off. When others came to do the same, I left my seat and pressed my face against the glass, my coffee steaming the window in front of me. I longed for a look at my son’s plane but it was at a gate that this “deck” couldn’t observe. So I watched the landings and takeoffs of other planes, and thought…

Changes will mess with you.

A melancholy mood tried to fog my emotions; much like the haze my hot coffee made, temporary clouding the tarmac from my view. I thought of two of my sons, away from our family at Thanksgiving and how I will miss them. My thoughts are interrupted by a little boy of four or five, excitedly begging his mom to stand and watch the airplanes land.

“Mom…don’t you want to see?” He asks

Another large Jet lands and so does a new thought…I begin to see.

Life is full of transitions…arrivals and departures.

Family life is full of comings and goings and a father is much like air traffic controller. We see to the departures and we tend to the arrivals. We deal with hearts and dreams and the flights of both…we must be ready to let them soar. I could dwell on loss, on lack or what I simply don’t have…or I could choose something different.

I can arrive at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~ W.J. Cameron

Happy Thanksgiving everybody…praying you have a wonderful time and feel the overwhelming love of our Father during it all! - Jay

 

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Restore Me…a prayer

 

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Father,

I wake up this morning and feel you gently pull me to life. Last night...I felt broken, used up and brittle...unable to rise above myself. There is still weariness in my muscles, I can see it in my eyes, I know it seeks a home in my spirit.

I am reminded of your Word of truth.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

Can there be quiet in the storm I walk through? Can there be restoration in the midst of a ongoing battle, one...I'm afraid of losing? Can my heart beat with life again?

Again...your Word.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14

This prayer, I offer to you my Father. As an offering of praise, as an offering of surrender and trust. I am yours...you are mine...I am in good hands.

In Jesus name I pray...Amen

“Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.” - Vivian Greene

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting on my Knees

 

 

prayingposition copy "And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15 ESV

I admit to having a real difficult time this election. The candidates presented to us seem so far from the Father’s heart…I keep thinking…

Is this best we can do?

I was going to rant this morning, tell 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.

Father God asked me a question this morning…I think He’s asking all His sons and daughters this same one.

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

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 mine…what about yours?

 

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For Freedom's Sake

 

menstout My childhood of abuse is a well documented story (you can view a small video here) but today's thought is more of a proclamation than a post. I will be co-speaking October 27 with Tom Zahradnik, a close friend of mine (follow him here and here) at a men's event. Tom and I share a heart to see men set free to become all they are meant to be. We'll be sharing our testimony and challenging men to confront the issues in their live that are hindering following hard after the Father. Will you pray for us and the men that will be there that night? And if you are a man reading this and would like to talk further about being set free from the past, just drop me an email at: jcdude56@gmail.com. I would love the opportunity to help and encourage you in any way I can. Bless ya!

"Never regret anything you have been through, because only with those trials will you become a better person the next day." - Crystal Hunt

It takes a strong man to forgive the pain and abuse you walked through. This toughness involves a decision…a powerful, life changing decision. This choice concentrates on what we can give rather than what we can dish out (like judgment or punishment). When we forgive we go on a salvage operation...it is a rescue mission for our souls. It means we confront our past and let nothing dominate us except God’s will for our life. It means we make a stand and believe what Gods says is true.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Confronting our past is not an easy gig. It takes guts…it takes courage…it takes a man willing to make some hard choices. Maybe you don’t believe you have what it takes to make those choices. Maybe you have never heard those words…but I’m here to tell you that you DO have what it takes…you ARE the man. Father God is calling you to freedom, to a way of living that is so radically different from the one you merely exist in today. Yes this life involves surrender, it does require sacrifice but if you will be honest with yourself today you will see you have already surrendered to something. You have surrendered to something less than God’s best for your life. You have sacrificed dreams, plans and desires because you have refused to believe you could be free.

Let’s be brave men…let’s make tough choices…lets decide to be free. Past abuse does not have to define us. What our fathers failed to do or say doesn’t have to be the final word of our manhood. God is calling us to become sons…His sons. God’s words, His view of who we are defines us…this is the heart of God…to be our Father.

I refuse to describe myself as a victim of abuse…why? Because I am a set free son of God! My painful past does not or will not dominate who I am. Its way beyond “forgiving and forgetting”…way beyond “time heals all wounds”…its freedom! Because I forgave my father I can view my past without the pain or shame attached to those memories. I walked through a dark, horrible time; the enemy wanted it to be a killing field for my life. The enemy wanted me to give myself to this identity and for a while I did, I allowed to corrupt my view. When I forgave my dad, when I choose freedom, when I took a stand…I began to win back my identity. That was a hard choice but a necessary one for freedom to take root and grow.

I desperately needed (still do) a Savior, someone to rescue me…and my future. When I think of the near death experiences and the attempts to derail my life, I shudder inside. Forgiveness has enabled me to live the life God has intended for me, it’s so much more than being “saved” it’s a calling to become someone. I can become the husband, the father, the brother, the son and the man I was designed to be…because I’m forgiven.

The Father rescued me with the gift of forgiveness…He can rescue you too.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Honor Guards and Toothpicks

 

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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. - George Bernard Shaw

I smiled the moment I saw them. Scattered around the funeral home were little white ceramic containers filled with toothpicks…yes, toothpicks. Of all the funerals I’ve attended, I’ve never seen toothpicks in any of them and probably with good reason. Except this funeral called for them…almost begged for them.

tooth_picks When you met my father-in-law Jim, you were sure to meet him with a toothpick in his mouth, working on it like it was alive and he had to tame it. So it was fitting that my sister-in-law placed several of these little honor guards in key places, ready to offer a small tribute to Dad to whoever so chose.

My sons did, along with their cousins, who considered Jim a father figure having lost their own dad many years ago. (BTW Guess who was the first person on the scene the tragic night their dad died? Yep, you guessed it, Jim was.) So here was this group of young men, proudly marching around the funeral home with toothpicks securely in their mouths knowing Jim would laughingly approve of the salute. It was quite a sight…Yes…I had one wrestling in my mouth also.

Friday night at the wake, an honor guard of fireman (around 20) came to honor Jim, a fellow volunteer fireman who served as chief and even Chaplin for the Valhalla Fire Company #1. Their dress uniforms matched the one Dad wore in the coffin as did the honor they shared as public servants. Crisp salutes and a prayer by the current Chaplin would set the stage for the next day; this honor guard would give way to another.

folded_flag Jim’s final resting spot would be in the Orange County Veterans Cemetery in Goshen, NY, in an area called Hero’s Way. Dad served in the Navy during Korean Conflict on the USS Lake Champlain and this day the Navy would honor him. The Naval Honor Guard, 4 young sailors, would march, salute, play taps and fold an American flag in a simple moving ceremony which reduced most to tears. Another salute…more honors to share…the paying for respects now over.

Or is it?

I started to write this post not quite sure where I was heading with it. I was reading my father-in-law’s obituary today and had a thought. An obituary is a small post note of a larger story, memories contain the larger tale. I see the effect of Jim’s story on my children, each one taking a step of maturity during this season of sorrow. The memories of their grandfather will help shape many decisions going forward and guarding honor will be part of their journey.

After the funeral I went back to the funeral home with two of my sons to pick up the family belongings. In the middle of the large room was a chair with Dad’s Fire Chief Hat; in it was all the medals he was awarded during his time of service. (The funeral director removed them from Dad’s uniform prior to burial). Here were the remaining symbols of Jim’s honor I thought, gathered in a small velvet bag in his hat. It seemed trivial and small for it to be sitting on a fold up chair in an empty room, when it called out for a pedestal and spot lights. Then I remembered the man behind the honor…the man who didn’t like fanfare, who served because it was the right thing to do.

I picked up the hat, grabbed a toothpick and left…with a huge smile on my face.

 

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Graceland (No, it’s not in Memphis)

 

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“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

There is a place, a land of no shadows, where one sees every corner of redemption’s power. When you walk here, you walk in freedom. Every hindrance is removed, bondage wiped out and captivity destroyed. Like I said…freedom…unlike any felt before. Pain has no hold here, not just free of pain but no memory of pain, no remembrance of its grip. Unspeakable joy fills hearts; all surpassing peace swallows up grief, fear and doubt.

This is ultimate healing…this is Graceland.

This is where Jim Breden is walking tonight. As I’m writing he’s experiencing the greatest freedom he’s ever known. He is face-to-face with His Messiah and nose-to-nose with eternity’s promise. My father-in-law passed away October 1, 2012 around 11:30 pm, he was surrounded by family and he left this world peacefully.

A proud Navy veteran, volunteer fireman, Sunday school teacher, husband, father and grandfather…Jim filled his life with…life. He engaged in acts of service as if life depended on it and he was right. Everyday life is dependant on those individuals willing to give of themselves, my wife’s Dad was one of those people. He was also a character, in my mind he was a mixture of James Dean, John Wayne and Popeye…always pulling out a reserve of strength with style and swagger to get a job done. He was every bit of a one of a kind.

I’m so sad that my wife lost her father; I’m sad that he died from a horrible disease and couldn’t finish his race with his body strong and vibrant. Yet the person I saw lying in the Hospice ward of the VA hospital was not the man I will choose to remember. His legacy is much stronger than that.

I remember the night when I went to ask his blessing to marry his daughter Christine and how nervous I was. Every time I worked up the courage to ask, he seemed to know and would leave the room, making me sweat while waiting for him to return. Finally, with much laughter, he came back into the room and gave me his blessing.

Now, it’s his turn…

I’m the one laughing…with joy. For just a few hours ago…Pop walked into his Father’s presence and got His blessing for a job well done. That’s one of the perks of living in Graceland.

 

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Friday, September 28, 2012

ManUp Radio

 

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Since August 1st, on the Sound of Life radio network, a daily two minute spot, geared towards encouraging men, called ManUp Moment has aired. Yours truly is the host of that small program…God has blessed me with a huge opportunity and I am grateful. I realized that many of you will not be able to hear them (although you can listen on line) so I thought I shared a sample of what the program is like. I would appreciate your feedback so drop me a comment please!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

He was some Guy

 

Guy Milroy’s smile could light up a coal mine; it certainly would light up a room when he entered. Our friendship spanned a couple of decades, intertwined with all kinds of life events. A lover of accordions, stories and Starbuck’s Christmas blend, nothing about Guy seemed ordinary. The way he loved his family was real, powerful and inspirational. From his laugh to his heart, everything about Guy shouted Jesus.

This past weekend Guy went home to be with His Lord. There is life shrapnel when someone we love dies and leaves us behind. His passing leaves a void, an empty space that we need the Father to fill with memories and hope. I will miss hugging Guy’s neck on a Sunday morning and seeing his happy face beam across the fellowship hall. His animated “Hello Brother!” greeting will echo in my ears for a long time. Yes, the wonderful memory of a courageous and generous man will never leave me.

I know many of you who read my blog didn’t know Guy but I wish you did…

He was some Guy…

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
—Psalm 116:15

“Death in itself cannot be precious; it is terrible. It cannot be a precious thing to God to see the noblest works of his hand torn in pieces, his skillful embroidery in the human body rent, defiled, and given over to decay. Death in itself cannot be a theme for rejoicing with God. But death in the case of believers is another matter. To them, it is not death to die; it is a departure out of this world unto the Father, a being unclothed that we may be clothed upon, a falling asleep, an entrance into the Kingdom.” - C. H. SPURGEON

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marks

 

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“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

Today’s post may ramble a little so I hope you hang with me while I wander around my thoughts. I’m thinking about marks…you know…impressions, dents, brands…stuff like that. Life is full of marks, impressions that shape our experiences, the seasons and all the relationships involved.

Some marks are deeper than others…some even cause pain…some bring joy…some deliver both.

See that smiling couple above...that’s my son Matthew and Samantha, the young woman he is courting (yes I said courting). This is a mark of joy, seeing two young people who love God and their family enough to start this relationship off right. Their joy (they look happy don’t they? You should see both sets of parents!) runs right off both of them on to all of us…priceless.

Their shared joy is a welcomed mark right now.

Matt and his siblings brought their mark to the VA Hospital this past Sunday. My father-in-law Jim has been there for a few weeks now, fighting cancer and other ailments, many of his days are clouded with some drug induced fog. The sight of his grandchildren parted that fog and for a few hours he was alive again. Swallowed up in their stories, their energy and their love for him, he became the PopPop they remembered before this awful disease attacked him.

The joy mark will do that.

I encourage you…leave a mark…make a deep impression of joy in someone’s’ life today. You may just lift a fog of sorrow off them. I know Matt’s and Samantha’s joy mark has done that for me.

 

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Who I Am

 

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“You can not follow God in neutral.” Erwin McManus

See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are!” I JOHN 3:1 NLT

This is something I wrote back in my journal back in March of this year. I share it now as a follow post to my last one. (See Make it or Break it) The reason I share it because I would like you to place yourself in this proclamation. I’m a firm believer in making proclamations; they are reminders of who we really are in Christ. They also remind the enemy of our soul that we KNOW who we are and will act and believe the truth. I hope you’ll join me in this declaration, after all you belong to the King, - JC

I am a set free son of God. My power, strength, abilities, talents, endurance, faith, vision…everything I need is from the Father. No good thing do I lack, Wisdom is free, grace is free, and forgiveness is free. Insight, knowledge, instructions…all are free in His Kingdom. It requires my obedience, my surrender and trust. I will stand up to my fears and defeat them. I will dominate my circumstances and be victorious over them. With God I am unstoppable. With God I am more than a conqueror. When I fail, I will get up again. I may slip, stumble or fall but I will not quit. I am his son and I belong to Him. I do not have to prove anything to anyone. My identity is hidden in Christ and I will not surrender it to anyone else. I can make decisions that bless; I can chart a course that leads my family. I can and will do whatever is needed to point them to Christ. I will live a victorious life in and for Him.

So, what do you think? Are proclamations a good thing?

 

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Make it or Break it

 

crossroads

 

Make it or break it - Resulting in great success or utter failure

Crossroads are peculiar, mirage like in their appearance, a flicker on the road of life. It’s my experience that crossroads are never planned...at least by us. I find myself at one such crossroad, straining to peek down each path, hoping to catch a glimpse of the right direction to follow.

No such luck, the mirage of the road leave no marker visible, it seems I must choose without the protection of a net. Is it a make it or break it moment? Sure feels like one.

My journey this year has had many successful moments. Highlights, one would think, that are leading me one way on that journey. Recently there have been some exciting road signs like having a daily radio spot on a local Christian radio station (This one). A long thought dead dream of a ministry opportunity may be resurrected soon. There are similar markers popping up daring me to walk a certain path...testing to see if I have the guts to go for it.

Then there’s the other dare...turn back and quit it all.

The utter failure possibility seems like a vulture circling at the juncture of the crossroad, just waiting to pick my bones clean. It may seem like I’m afraid to go down the path, that I’m afraid that I’ll fail in the pursuit of my dreams and what I feel I’m called to. No, I actually desire the opportunity to fail at it if need be, “to make it or break it” while I give it all I got. Fear of failure is not my problem in this case…then what is it?

I already feel like a failure.

It is hard to go forward when backwards seems your only option. The ability and the freedom to choose have been snatched from my hand by a financial collapse of the Cookingham economy. Every thing I have tried to do to stimulate the growth of our economy has failed. What right do I have to pursue calling, to run after a dream, when something else in my life continues to stagger? I don’t think I do…I forfeited my right with my failure.

Have I?

I didn’t write this morning to have you read and feel sorry for me; I actually debated keeping the above paragraph in this post. I wrote about my struggle because I believe many of us face the same decision this morning. Do we quit…or go on?

There are moments in our lives when we find ourselves at a crossroads. The choices we make in those moments can define the rest of our days. And, of course when faced with the unknown, most of us prefer to turn around and go back. - Lucas Scot

This is what the LORD says: "Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, 'No, that's not the road we want!' Jeremiah 6:16 NLT

We must stop, for however long it takes, and look for the way…His way. Failure and success do not define us, they may mark us or even scar us but only the Father defines who we really are. Failures will try to rob us; success will try to blur our character, these are the unknowns that threaten us with deadly consequences.

We must go on…we must stay hungry

There are choices to make, dreams to pursue, plans to decide on…crossroads…always crossroads. The journey of choices is never alone, the Father calls to come follow the way He has for us.

“‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work’” John 4:34

Can you relate to being at crossroad…how can I pray for you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saying my Peace

 

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My heart is troubled today and needing some peace…some shalom. My “in basket” of prayer requests is full and overflowing, add that to my own and it seems that I may break under the weight. I was looking at my manuscript for RETOOLED and found some encouragement that I would like to share. I’m saying my “peace” out loud…proclaiming that our God is faithful in providing the shalom we need…bless you all! - Jay

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have shalom. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

I hate tribulations don’t you? There’s not much calm built into difficult circumstances, turmoil yes, calm, no. Thankfully, peace is powerful, an overcoming force. There is nothing passive about this “shalom that passes all understanding”. It changes me during trials and enables a sharper picture of my circumstance to form. Shalom helps me to walk through those trials with a sense of purpose; it makes the way a bit clearer to follow. In this sense, peace gives us the ability to walk boldly, confident in His care, even when we don’t understand. The key is what our minds are fixated on during those tough seasons.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

The Hebrew word for keep is nâtsar (naw-tsar') which means to guard or protect. When our thoughts are directed towards the Father, when we trust in Him, an awesome thing happens. God protects our shalom! And it’s perfect because it involves a closer relationship with Him! That’s why it’s more than just concentration and not ever changing our thoughts, it’s relating! This relationship recognizes the need of Father God being the center of every thought, and pursuit of life. At this center is peace, perfect peace.

“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His face upon you and give you SHALOM.
Numbers 6:24-26

Do you feel the reflection of Father God on you today? How can I pray for you and your Shalom?

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Son-Ship

 

joshmatt2 You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes. ~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

I’ve started this post over and over in my mind…but it’s difficult to write when you heart won’t stop and muse on just one emotion. So…I’m just going to write and see what comes out. It’s raw exposure time…I hope you’ll bear with me.

When I became a father 23 years ago I never imagined the range of changes my heart would go through, even so, you think I be used to the roller coaster effect by now. Yeah right…I’m still riding this thing but I’m not sure if my heart is going up, down or through some loop du jour…perhaps all three.

I’m not looking forward to this Saturday; my house will be missing two men for most of the year. I am happy for them…thrilled that they have two wonderful adventures unfolding before their young men eyes. That’s the up part, the “go get em” part of my father’s heart. The down part is wondering if I have done enough in getting them ready for their journey. There is part of me that worries about my mistakes and how that will hinder their growth…that’s the loop de jour part.

Josh, my oldest, has been on his journey for awhile now (2 years)…Matthew is set to leave on Friday. Then on Saturday my heart will stretch once again. Long distance fathering is hard and I’m not sure how good I really am at it…but they are worth the effort of improving that skill set. I have a saying that I use with my boys/men when we talk about challenges and this occasion fits.

This is the way of men…this is the way of sons.

Joshua and Matt…I am so proud of you. I am glad you are my sons, that you bear my name and the name of the Father. I will miss your presence on a daily basis but will rejoice that you are on the journey God has for you. I have no doubt that you will succeed and flourish according to your willingness to surrender all to Him. The example you set for your brothers and sisters is huge, the influence you live out in front of friends and others is beyond your understanding. I know you have what it takes…you have the heart, the passion and the God given ability to make a difference in this world.

I believe in you…so does the Father…go get em’!

Love, Dad

 

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Fear-Less

 

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I have been feeling a little run down and sick for about a week now but I wanted to post some notes from my last part of my sermon series. You can listen here if you like. The series was about freedom and freedom from fear being the last was a huge one for me. I wanted to expressed how deeply the Father wants us free…I’m hoping you see that in the words He gave me.Bless you! – JC

“A good society is able to face the schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.” -FDR

There is an enemy of our souls that wants to dominate the world we live in. And one of his main weapons is fear.

The dictionary describes fear this way…

An unpleasant (no kidding) emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

It seems to me…that it takes a certain amount of faith to accept fear…in order for fear to affect us…we need to believe in it. That’s not freedom!

Everybody, if they’re honest with themselves, feel afraid sometimes. Feeling afraid is not the issue…being controlled by that fear is.

In 2 Timothy verses 16-17 it reads…

“Therefore I remind you to inflame anew the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands. (17) For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Really…then why are we so afraid? Why do we give more strength to our fears than the truth?

We fear for our safety, our security, our position, our health, our family, our processions. Fear affects our choices and the decisions we make. We get afraid to stick our neck out…to take a risk…to believe God has our best interest in mind.

Yoda (from Starwars) was always saying “Anger leads to the darkside….yes” Sorry the little Jedi was wrong…anger doesn’t lead to the dark side…FEAR DOES! It leads us to the darkness of doubt…of unbelief. Fear seeks to keep us in the dark and not see God’s goodness.

Fear paralyzes…it keeps us from freedom, from the Father’s purpose for us. It lies through its teeth to us…it lies about God’s goodness.

I believe we’re afraid because there is a fundamental misunderstanding of His goodness… In Romans 8:28 we read this…

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

This verse bothers me sometimes… it’s saying that whatever comes into our life is a part of God’s purpose to bring about our good and His glory. Hardship, trials…pain…God’s uses all these things to work character into us and to free us. It may not seem that way…but it’s true…its part of our freedom path. God uses these “all things” moments…these challenges, to shape our character. He wants us to be free in this manner because freedom without faithfulness is a bad combination.

When we are set free from fear, we are finally free to lo live. Jesus didn’t raise us from the dead spiritually, to have us hang around the gravesite the rest of our lives. In the Gospel of John is the story of Lazarus, now this is a freedom story! Lazarus has died…Jesus tells people to roll away the stone, he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and he has people release him from his grave cloths saying…unbind him…let him go.

We get to do this…we get the privilege of speaking life into people because of the Gospel message. It takes a strong and courageous spirit…setting captives’ free angers the enemy. The Pharisees were ticked off when Jesus raised Lazarus, so much so they wanted to kill Jesus and Lazarus…he was alive…he was a testament of freedom. Jesus picked a fight….and so should we.

Free people do this…

 

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Psalm Prayer – Freedom

 

 

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Last night I attempted to fix a leaky faucet in our tub. This particular faucet has been a bane to my existence since we moved in 12 years ago. It has been “fixed” a few times by repair guys more gifted than I in the area of home repair…but here it was again…dripping with defiance.

I found out that the stem had been stripped, so no matter how hard you tighten the handle the drip continued. I was frustrated, because two trips to Home Depot were necessary to find the right part for this troublesome faucet. I felt inadequate…I felt stupid about a leaky faucet getting the best of me. I saw it as an example of my decision making…leaky, flawed and beyond my ability to repair.

Wow…all this drama over a spigot?

Yeah…I felt silly about that as well. In the middle of the repair I had a peculiar thought. Maybe you can relate.

It was leaking again because the stem had been stripped…apparently…
so was I.

It has been a long season of giving out…of pouring out. I have tried to stay connected to the Master…but somewhere, somehow…I was leaking…I was stripped…and I tried to tighten up (duty wise) instead of letting go (resting in Him).

So I offer up the prayer I wrote out this morning, as my way of letting go…and finding my freedom again. Maybe you have tightened up lately…maybe you’re leaking and you don’t even know. Prayer is the best freedom repair I can think of…I pray this for you as well.

Father, hear my prayer!

I’m lost without you. My heart wants to give up without you. Without you…My spirit longs to run away and hide  The strength I possess seems small without you. Without your presence, vision is dim and my way is too dark to see.

Where can a man like me go but to you, oh giver of life? With you my strength returns…with you my spirit finds the strength to go on. Vision returns when my eyes set on you alone. I can rejoice because I am exposed to the fullness of your love. I am set free in your presence… I am set free in your presence… I am set free in your presence!

No good thing will you keep from me…your Word is good, your heart is good, your way is good and they will not be kept from me.

My declaration is this…I am yours because you made sure I was yours. Thank you for your sacrifice, the price you paid…for me! In you alone will I trust! – Amen!

 

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Momentary Adversaries

 

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wpc-buttonIt's warrior poet time over at my friend Jason's blog Connecting to Impact. So head on over and read some awesome poems and you can even wear a beret and snap your fingers if you like!



Momentary Adversaries

The fight is fierce
Dangerous
Costly
The insults tear
and scar.
Yet, it is my arms
raised in victory
They are momentary
adversaries
I am eternal
They are temporary,
misfits of time
I am forever
the Father's

8-6-12 JC

 

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Psalm Prayer






I'm working on my sermon today and was going through my journal reading some old notes on freedom when I came upon this prayer I wrote down. It's a prayer based on Psalm 27...I hope you can join me in it. Have a blessed weekend! - JC

Father God,

It is your face we seek this morning. You are our stronghold, our hope against the enemy of our soul. We praise the Father of light that exposes and reveals the plans of wrongdoing. We worship our God who hides us within His great love. We sing to Him who has lifted our heads, who has lifted us to be in His presence. Teach us your way today; help us to walk in your way. Open our eyes to see your goodness in all we walk through. Father, we wait on you with the courage and the strength you give us.

In the name of Jesus we pray….Amen!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lost in Translation


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I don’t usually rant…at least online. Many of you know my beliefs, my passion for marriage and for family. If you have read my posts or listen to my talks, you know my heart is for us to be the people God has asked us to be.

I like Mike Huckabee and I like chicken sandwiches…OK? All disclaimers are in place…I hope.

So the Church’s response to the attack on God’s definition of marriage was…

…Appreciation Day?

Really…?

Sorry…I don’t want to stand in line for a chicken snack to prove anything, much less that I’m a Christian. I do want to stand for what is right by the way I live my life, not buying something from the value menu. It has to be more than that doesn’t it? Couldn’t we be mobilized to do something greater…to be someone greater?

I have no issue with Christian supporting Christian business, in fact I encourage it. But what message did we send?…what fruit did we produce?…what lives were changed? Did supporting a franchise prove the following Scripture?

“And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15

I wonder…but I don’t think that’s the “going into all the world” Jesus was talking about.

If the Church wants to be the light, it has to be more than gimmicks, more than flexing consumer muscle…it has to live out the Father’s truth.

I could be wrong…maybe it’s just lost in translation.

Rant over…more prayer coming…

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Freedom Prayer




This small snippet from my sermon on Sunday…I hope it blesses you. You can listen online below. Please pray as I continue my series on freedom for the next two weeks. Oh, does that picture of St. Ignatius look like someone you know? Hmmmm…bless you all!  - Jay



Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess You have given me.
I surrender it all to You to be disposed of
according to Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace;
with these I will be rich enough,
and will desire nothing more.
                    - St. Ignatius Loyola



That is my prayer, my desire for you and for me. The great adventure of serving God with all we have awaits us. It calls to the deepest part of who we are and whispers to every corner of our heart. Don’t you feel it tugging relentlessly at your sleeve? Does it wake you at night…disturbing you in a righteous way?

That’s freedom calling…that’s the desire of your heart waking up.





Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rock, Scissors...Hope


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I woke up early this morning to a quiet, sleepy house…every one still tired from yesterday’s full day of life. Quickly preparing for work, tasks like brewing coffee, making my lunch—just the routine of a daily journey—goes by silently and passionless. The morning air is filled with my heavy sighs.I stop by my desk knowing what I will see, my Kryptonite, the pile of bills that threaten my superpowers.

My power drains…and it’s time to go.

In that moment by my desk, I had loss hope. A rock and a hard place is not a good place to be…I hate it. I feel my power cut off, my faith breath fading…the Kryptonite scissors of doubt are working overtime on me.

Driving to work, I breathe a prayer…
Father, send me hope…please send me hope.

I start to worship and praise a God who is worthy…despite what I feel about the circumstantial evidence on my desk. The evidence contains facts for sure, but they are based on my circumstances not His truth. Like the mythos of Kryptonite, the only power they have over me is when I surrender to them. I praise a God of hope…the power returns.

Rock…Scissors…Hope covers them both…hope wins.

“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 am covered by hope…what about you? How can I pray for you today?

 

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Heartfelt


heart1-1 copy During my prayer time this morning I felt that God was warning about giving our hearts away. There are many, many things that will ask you for your heart today. Some will even demand it from you. Circumstances, trials, fears, are the biggest culprits. The temptation to settle for something less than God's best for you is a loud one. Can I encourage you with this? Our hearts belong to the Father, first and foremost...and forever. Don't let anything else try to steal your heart away from pursing Him with all you have...guard your heart. I'm praying for you.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

 

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Overcoming your stuff

 

This will be a crazy week, so much life going on, and so many battles to fight on so many levels. So Soulfari may be a little quiet this week as I continue to seek God for answers on how to lead my family through some tough stuff. As I seek Him to help me prepare and bring the next three weeks of sermons on freedom. As I continue to pray for you and others the Father brings to my mind and heart.

I woke up early this AM with this Scripture on my mind....

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

We're all going through stuff, some more difficult than others, and there are days when our stuff seems to be winning over us. Can I encourage you (us) that the Father knows, the Father cares and the Father loves us through all this stuff! His son has overcome the world...can He not help us overcome the world of stuff that we face?

Praying for you…Jay

BTW

4free copyIf you want to listen (and have about 30 mins) here is the first sermon from the series on freedom. It’s about finding your voice. Just use the sermon player on the right of my media page at strategicfathering.com

 

In this sermon I mention an answer to my hearts cry and how God is releasing my voice. Starting August 1st, on the Sound of Life radio network, a daily two minute spot, geared towards encouraging men, will be aired. Yours truly is the host of that small program…God has blessed me with a huge opportunity and I am grateful.

neweb banner If you need a small chuckle…here is the latest from Lambo and Chop…who are clearly having issues of their own.

 

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sermon Prepping My Heart

 

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This Sunday I begin a four part series called the Four Spiritual Freedoms, loosely based on FDR’s Four Freedom Speech. I’m always amazed my pastor gives me the freedom to speak at our church (Bridge Builders Community Church)…even when he’s out of town!

I knew my subject matter for months and have been slowly building my notes and references; believing in my heart this would be a special series. I knew the Father wanted to speak about freedom (I think He’s always talking about that) in a fresh way and disturb the waters of unbelief we sometimes wade in.

What I didn’t know (at first) just how much He would be messing
with my heart.

I thought I was a “free man”, one who understood what freedom was all about. It a lot of ways I am free…but not as free as the Father wants me. It’s more than just knowing about freedom, it’s more than studying about freedom and it’s even more than understanding freedom.

It’s walking in it…completely.

These are some of the questions we’ll be exploring…

If we’re free to use our voice…what would that sound like?

If we are free to desire (in a Godly way)…what would that feel like?

If we are free to worship…how does change us?

If we are free from fear…who will we become?

Will you pray for me as I journey with my church through this series? My desire is to convey the heart of the Father who wants us to be free. My prayer is that we open ourselves to the liberty that He has for us all.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Target Practice

 

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When you surrendered to Christ, did you realize the target you placed on yourself? Did you understand that you exposed yourself…that you came out of the darkness, the shadows…into the light…where you can be seen? Your message was clear…and the enemy knew WHO you stood with…the line was drawn. Now you have a fight on your hands.

If this was not so…why do we need armor?

In the movie Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers comes one of my favorite exchanges.

King Theoden: I will not risk open war!

Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you risk it or not.

This small exchange resonates with me because we are at war. The battle is real and all around us. Open war is upon us; we must engage and fight to win this battle. The real risk is not the battle itself but passive surrender without a fight. The battle may seem like a skirmish, too distant to be a threat but don’t be fooled by where your frontline might be.

I’m tired of the enemy, tired of his tactics, tired of the war he’s raging against people I love. It’s time to place the target where it belongs…on an already defeated enemy. For this is the truth…

“He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” Psalm 18:34

“For You have girded me with strength for the battle; You have humbled under me those who rose up against me.” Psalm 18:39

Sold out alliance to His will, guarantees our victory in this battle. When we surrender all to the Father’s way—like Jesus did—there is no surrender to any other force. Will you pray this with me?

Father God,

We trust in your strong hand, we trust in the training of our hands and our hearts. Strengthen our resolve, our faith and our vision. We rely on your full armor and every promise we have from you. We are men after your heart, we are men driven by your spirit and we are men that belong to you. We bow to no other King but you our God and our deliverer!

Amen!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Father Eyes

 

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He stopped; picked up the piece of paper I was drawing on and after a minute gruffly said.

“Keep drawing like that and you’ll make a lot of money some day.”

It was the only compliment (as cold as it was) that I ever received from my father. My story of living in a family of abuse is well documented in this blog (see here). The relationship with my father wasn’t a healthy one and we never reconciled our differences before he died. As a young man, I tried to run away from any connection that I had with him…I wanted nothing to do with him.

I wanted to be a baseball player; it didn’t pan out. I even tried to be a construction worker; I didn’t have those skills. I traveled in a Christian rock band; we disbanded after 3 years…the funny thing is that…

I became an artist.

Even thought he wasn’t a Christian, even though he was a cruel and harsh man…he did see something in me. Father God used my dad (as hard as it was for me to believe) to reach me with a message of purpose for my life. If Father God can speak such life through such difficult and cruel times…

How can I doubt His words now?

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11 NLT

How about you do you doubt the words the Father says about you? How can I pray for you?

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