"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 23, 2013

About Light

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exhale

 

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

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

All seems lost when you lose hope

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

G. K. Chesterton says this about joy.

“Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”

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

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

Jesus Owns You

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

Then, a weary world can rejoice…

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

 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monk Results

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

 

 

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

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

MANHUNTLOGO

 MANHUNT: God's Search for Sons

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

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

 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Monk Request

 

Hey everybody, I need your help. I am speaking at 3 (yes I'm crazy) men's events come 2014. All of them are in Illinois (Feb. March and April) but I have to decide what I'm speaking about by December 13 and I'm caught between two topics.

 

 

Number one is called...Sonship: The Power of God's Favor
and number two is called...Becoming a Dangerous Kingdom Man

So...vote by leaving a comment below and help out a struggling monk will ya!

 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Internet Monkness

 

 

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Well folks if I haven't proven my "giftedness" to yet, this video may just push you over the edge. I started doing these little videos as an introduction to my sermons and then playing them on Facebook for my fellow church goers. Of course I felt the great need to share the lunacy with the rest of you...so here is the latest message from the Internet Monk. God bless ya!

 

 

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." Psalm 126:2

By the way...the order of the Internet Monk is always open to join! Just send me a pic of you in a hoodie or on my Facebook wall and we're good to go!

 

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Friday, November 15, 2013

On The Way

 

 

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It seems to me that Jesus wasn’t much of a “hang around” type of guy. His call to “follow me” is not meant for the hesitate individual or the “let me sleep on it” crowd. Jesus is going somewhere and He beckons us to go with Him…now. The beauty of this is that His pace is kind, always allowing us to catch up and fall into a rhythm of following.

Come…follow me.

There was urgency in the steps of Jesus, a purpose, a passionate intent to fulfill Father God’s mission for Him. It is the same call for His followers and there needs to be life in our steps, and passion in accepting the path He leads us on.

Come…follow me.

This is a missional call to move beyond ourselves and reach a desperate world with a message of hope. This is not just an inside call, this is an “out there” call, an “on the way” call. For on the way with Him transforms our harden hearts, changes the cold, dark spirit that spits out our joy and brings life to soul ravaged by sin. For the follower, and this is truth, the message of hope we carry is for us as well.

Come…follow me…find life with me.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Why I’m Not Who I Am

 

 

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Sorry for the confusing title, maybe I can explain.

I have a great marriage, but sometimes struggle with loving my wife (as wonderful as she is) as she needs to be loved. 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.

I’m 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 action. One of my gifts is encouraging and I love to find 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 not who I am

My point is this… I’m not finish yet. I’ve been happily married for 31 years, a father for all but seven of those years. I have opportunities to speak into men’s lives and now I pastor a church… 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.

I’m not who I am and Father God is not done with me yet.

Can you see where my heart is yet? I’m asking for forgiveness if I have ever portrayed something unreal and false. I am not perfect as a man; I have failed my wife and my kids at 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.

For that I ask forgiveness, 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, I may have misrepresented the King, please forgive me.

Why am I not who I am (yet)? Because I need more of Him.

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 ESV

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stopping Shutdown


 

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A sudden, strong breeze caused a cascade of falling colors, the leaves dancing a quick minuet with a young girl’s heart and my youngest twirled with delight in the middle of beauty’s downpour.

No shutdown there.

Joy overtook her small frame and she chose to participate with zest, she was rewarded with a leaf shower from her heavenly Father. Becky didn’t miss the moment; she seized it with both hands, hanging on with all her might, snuggling into the experience as brief as it was.

She owned it… and taught her dad a lesson in simplicity as he watched
her dance.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

Can I encourage you today with the truth that Jesus, wants to impart joy, His joy into us. Watch for those moments, you know the ones, the ones that wake you up and surprise you… and remind you who you belong to. When it comes, drink it in, swallow each mouthful, swim in the moment that the Father showers you with.

Nobody can shutdown those wonderful God filled moments.

“True joy comes only from God and He shares this joy with those who walk in fellowship with Him.” - Jerry Bridges

 

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad…is Good

 

 

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No, not the highly acclaimed TV show, I haven’t seen an episode or even a trailer/spot for it. I won’t fault you for being a Walter fan or for watching a show based on a character that is so “dark and morally questionable” (Vince Gilligan words, not mine) that even the creator of the series will be glad to get the character out of his head.

I may ask you why you watch it and if you tell me because of its “excellent storytelling with some Christian themes”…I may laugh, but I’m not judging you…unless you think laughing is being judgmental… then, I may be in trouble. Maybe I’m too old or not hipster enough to enjoy shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad but when I hear comments like: “Oh, the nudity is NOT that bad” I cringe and think…

Really? Ask King David how that worked out for him.

When did good storytelling become the criteria for discerning questionable material/media/publications? When did we lose sight of this?

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT

I often think that the enemy of our soul doesn’t even have to get us to sin… all he has to do is distract us by entertaining us. If I add up the time I spend entertaining myself (and not all of it is bad, BTW) and compared it to the time I spend on Kingdom things… well, I’m one distracted fella.

We need to be Breaking Bad…and that’s good

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

The real storytelling is going on around us everyday, but who is listening? People are hurting, lonely, depressed, sick, injured, jailed, desperate and afraid… affected by the same evil we face daily… except, they don’t have Jesus.

I know I may be sounding critical but my point is this…why are we choosing a fake world of storytelling (OK it’s entertaining, I get it) over a real one that exist right outside our front door? Believe me, I love a good story and it doesn’t always have to be “squeaky clean”. The Gospel story is the most alive story that was, is or will be… it is a life changer. Let’s break bad with that story, engaging people with its beautiful message of redemption.

So…do you want to break bad…with good?

 

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Reluctant Missionary

 

 

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If you knew the place where I work...well, let's just say you may start to believe all those "crazy" references I make about myself (if you don't already). It's been a hard 20 plus years, it's been a place that I have tried leaving many times (was successful once, came back after a year...another long story). There have many paychecks not cashable, cancelled insurance and other "benefits" too numerous to list.

A lot of those years were spent yearning for "full-time" ministry opportunities outside of where I worked, not seeing clearly that it was staring me in the face all the time. Sure there were times of connecting with fellow co-workers, sharing their struggles and even praying with them...but, was that ministry? The truth is, my workplace has been my mission field and I have been a reluctant missionary for most of my tenure there.

This past Sunday, at our church's 5 year anniversary celebration, a friend and former co-worker said one of the nicest and empowering things to me (and to my wife earlier). She related how I have always been a pastor to her, even to the department I supervised when we worked together. To the way I handled my position, to the way I touched people…it reflected Jesus and influence her life significantly. I was blessed and (very) humbled at the same time...because we worked together over 20 years ago.

It’s hard to imagine that kind of influence…only God can do that through a reluctant missionary.

I repeat this praise only to encourage you that your ministry is where you happen to be, don't be waiting for it, live like the Messiah every place you go. You don't need a title... you already have one...you're a son or daughter of the God who so loved the world He sent His son to redeem and set people free. That my friend... is full-time ministry.

Look around, you never know who you will touched with His story living through you. Your mission field is ready for you!

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Parking Lot Dance

 

 

PARK-dance Life is a series of dances… or at least great opportunities to poke fun at your coolness factor. This past Labor Day my daughter Becky and I went to fetch the health food known as Dunkin Donuts. Notice I didn’t say “healthy food” just health food… it may be bad health but it’s still a certain kind of “health” food… but I digress. Becky is my youngest (11) and although we share many wonderful qualities, acting crazy in public places is not one of them.

I woke up that morning full of restlessness and somewhat agitated. When I get this way I either need to take a walk (stomp with Jesus) or act crazy.

I chose… crazy.

As we entered the store we saw my pastor and his wife, so I did the “Glad to see you” dance, which was just the beginning of my mad boogie mojo. After visiting for awhile we moved on to the “Standing in line” dance (BTW… all the dance moves… look the same) which quickly turned into “Yeaaaa, it’s our turn to order” dance. Oh, my daughter was not joining me in these dance moves; she was giggling and pleading with me to stop.

I was just getting started.

As we walked to the van to return home it was time for… you guessed it! The “Parking Lot” dance! My sweet daughter who didn’t want to call attention to us was now blowing the horn as her crazy dad was dancing around the van, both of us in somewhat complete ignorance to the attention gathered by the music of the horn and my questionable dance moves. Much laughing, snorting and giggling filled the ride home… that was much healthier than the donuts we would consume later on.

That was a joy moment… that was a God moment.

Joy erupts in the strangest moments, the times when you least expect it to. Yet, there are times you can orchestrate it by being available for the flare-up. Embracing the silly helps, it releases the constraints of properness and gives joy an avenue to express itself. The real key in my mind is the ability to be thankful to the God who came to give us life… abundant, full life.

Parking lot dances help… believe me… even the Bible agrees!

“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.” Psalm 30:11

What about you… bust any moves lately?

 

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shore Leave

 

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That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them... - Matthew 13:1-2

Sometime (O-dark thirty) on Monday morning my family will be leaving for a one-week sojourn to Cape Hatteras, NC. As we settle in the beach house after a twelve-hour drive, we will be at our favorite place on the planet. It will be a bittersweet adventure, as it is the first time we will be there since my father-in-law passed away last October.

Still, the unwinding will begin and the ocean breeze will start to slough off the remains of the day. The smell of salt in the air, the warmth on our skin and the seafood…all contribute to the beach bum mentality that we love. I can wait to savor hushpuppies and my first Apple Ugly (Think Apple Fritter on steroids) in over two years. Yet, I yearn for something much deeper than those Hatteras treats.

And He spoke many things to them...

The Father uses the ocean to speak to me and that is what I’m really going for. I enjoy all that other stuff but I long for a special connection to God that happens when I am by the sea.

The ocean waves have this effect on me and I feel cleansed and renewed. The wind is strong at Hatteras and some days it whips the sand up furiously, sandblasting you in the process. Even then, there is something spiritual happening and the metaphor of gunk stripping away becomes all too real.

I’m not sure of how much attention my blog will get during these next week but my heart will be getting plenty.

In and for Him,
Jay

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Crazy Man

 

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I’m a young pastor… at age 57.

Young, only because I just became a pastor for the first time in January of 2013, a mere 6 months ago.

Oh… did I mention that it’s a church plant?

Crazy isn’t it? Well, I think so… I don’t fit the norm; this is supposed to be a younger man’s gig. Church plants eat pastors alive I’ve read, so they should be young, excited, and multi-by-talented to get the job done… and avoid being eaten.

Did I mention that the church plant was started by a man older than me? Why, he must be crazier than me!

We live in college town, with 5 colleges in close proximity and we get quite a few students coming to a small church plant pastored by two guys who shouldn’t be pastoring a young church plant.

That’s crazy…

Or, just maybe, these two guys along with their wives and a few key leaders have chosen to believe God instead of what others say that they could/should be doing.

“But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.”
- Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

One of these students came to me after the service last week, to talk about the sermon and to rave how she felt at home here, how her parents felt that way when they visited. Her words is something we hear repeated a lot at Bridge Builders… people come and they feel at home… loved.

If that’s crazy…call me certifiable.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

So…I’m wondering… are you a crazy for God type of person?

 

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

7 Things I Won’t Apologize For

 

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Perry Nobel, founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church, wrote this interesting post over at Church leaders (read it here). While I read it I couldn't help but squirm a bit, and felt uneasy afterwards. Not exactly sure why, but as I pondered that thought, I made up my own list.

7 things I wont apologize for (probably, almost never, really going to try)

1. Loving God with everything I am

2. Putting my family before ministry (They are my greatest ministry)

3. Not knowing everything

4. Trying my best but failing short (a lot)

5. Not being everything for everybody

6. Loving people as they are

7. Wanting people to grow in God

Maybe I'm just tired of justifying my role as leader... or my vision... or agendas...my mind doesn't disagree with Perry's list but my heart does. When I'm less concerned about proving I'm right, I find that I'm more concern about people's hearts... that has impacted my role as husband, as a father and now as a pastor.

"Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." 1 Peter 5:2

So, I admit I might be a tad sensitive about brother Perry's list but I wonder did you read Perry's? How do you think it compares to mine? Would love you feedback!

 

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Betrayed


 

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I love the Communion sacrament, I love the fact that we share in something that connects us with the early church followers… something ancient and yet fresh and alive. My wife and I led Communion yesterday and I was just going to read from 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and serve the bread and wine. Until I started to read a line I have read countless times before and my heart exploded with passion of a simple truth revealed. The line was found in verse 23…

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed.

This night, one that Jesus earnestly desired to be with his band of brothers; would become one of deep betrayal. Jesus knew of his suffering to come, he knew the beatings and the cross were close, but the first blow, the first insult was not by a Roman guard or a Jewish religious leader… it was one of his twelve.

Yet on the night he was betrayed…he chose them, he chose love.

Jesus sat down and ate with betrayers and deserters… with men who fell asleep when he needed them to pray. Knowing all this, Jesus still wanted to be with them, such was his love for them. The courage of the twelve would leave them, their concern for their own safety outweighing their love for the Master, demonstrating how fragile the human heart is. Their actions reveal my own heart as well...how many times in my life have I deserted my Lord in the name of connivance and comfort? The short answer is…too many.

On the night he was betrayed…the Master would not leave them… or us.

Betrayals, beatings, insults, the bruising of fists or words, none of it deterred Jesus from loving humanity. Everyday the Messiah chooses us… He earnestly desires to be with us, sharing communion, the rich relationship that restores weak, sinful, human hearts… making us His own.

This is the Lord, my Messiah, my King, I proclaim!

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Theme Music

 

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I love it when God moves in the routine moments of our lives. What seems spontaneous and unplanned to us is neither, but rather a staged event to express His love and focus. In my case, these moments are usually filled with humor. At a recent eye doctor appointment I really had my eyes opened... and it had nothing to do with the actual exam. Eye doctors seem to have a room for every test/procedure they run you through. You sit in one room, get tested and then they move to another. Charts, lens flipping, pictures, drops, and each one done in another room... you do a lot of traveling at an eye doctor's office. All this traveling, opened the door for God to reveal something musical to my heart.

It happened this way...

Eye doctor tech lady (as she was leading me from exam room to exam room): You sure do hum a lot.

Me: I have theme music

Eye doctor tech lady: (Laughing) Why do you need theme music?

Me: Doesn't everybody?

As we leave yet another room...we're both humming!
(Theme music is catchy!)

I wonder...isn't that how the Gospel, sung through my heart,
is supposed to be?

Isn’t the reverb of the Gospel message from my heart meant to be an unrehearsed, but purposeful, audible cue that something wonderful is happening inside of me?

Jesus downloads the theme music of heaven into human hearts, the vessels designed to carry the song of Salvation. The tone, the tune, and the tempo of the music, all dialed into the frequency of His love. God chooses our voice, the sound our life makes, to play His theme music through… that, amazes me.

I want my theme music, the song of the Gospel to be a catchy, can't get it out of your head tune that draws others to the Messiah.

What about you? Do you hear the theme music?

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:3

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Street Justice

 

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My heart is torn and perplexed with difficult thoughts today. I wonder what would happen if George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin's family decided to pay my small town church this coming Sunday. How could I minister to their hurts, fears and sorrow... to their sense of loss? Then a harder question comes to mind...

What if they both showed up?

God's view of justice (I believe) is connected to reconciliation and forgiveness. This is what He offers us... if we have accepted that offer, then we must have the same viewpoint of the Father.

We can’t fix injustice with a Twitter barrage, a Facebook/blog/column post or even a sermon. All the Protests, demonstrations, and public rants combined may focus attention or even help force political/governmental change… but it can’t reconstruct injustice. Social outrage can point out causes out and name culprits, but it’s powerless to evoke legitimate change.

Only a heart change can do that.

Many in this country today are looking for street justice… I say, lets give it to them. Let’s take the Gospel message to the street, to our neighborhoods schools and workplaces. Let’s bring the heart of the Messiah Jesus into our communities and all the places our life touches. Through Christ change is possible, powerful transformation is His Good News that brings justice into reality.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.

Until our hearts are totally consumed with love for God, we remain ineffective in producing what He has told us is good. To do, love and walk according to His heart depends on Him filling me with Himself… that takes my daily surrender. My goal is not fixing anything or anyone… it’s to please Him

So what do I, a 57 year-old, white dude, take to the street?

Not an agenda, not a political stance, not a sermon… only a heart that follows Him.

 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cowboy Up

 

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At 10lbs, 13ozs he came into this world like a broncin' buck and he’s been living large ever since.

For most of his growing up life, he was the strong, silent type… more comfortable with the shadows than the spotlight. When he did speak, one of his favorite phrases was; “Go away, shut-up!” When he was asked for his opinion he would reply; “I don’t have to say anything.” Yep, there’s a bunch of cowboy swagger in my son Michael, and that’s a good thing. Although that swagger sometimes means that he’s stubborn like his dad, his heart is also big and teachable.

Now days, this young man is often in front, leading in his own way. No noise (well, not about himself, but I can assure you, he makes noise) no fanfare, just trying doing the right thing. This quality often shows itself where Michael works. My son works as a lifeguard at two different pools, one at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and the other is our local town recreation center.

A few weeks ago at the rec center, a cowboy up moment took place. Michael was watching a group of little kids jumping in the deep end of the pool to the waiting arms of their moms, all except one that is. She was more than a little scared and although encourage by friends and moms alike… she was having none of it. Michael’s shift in the lifeguard chair was over and he made one of those silent decisions. He dove in the pool and swam up to the group of kids; he held his arms up and told the little girl to jump in, saying…

“Don’t worry, I’ll catch you.”

I’m not sure why, maybe it was the image of a strong older brother type, but after a small hesitation… she jumped in!

Michael caught her and returned her to the side of the pool… now she was hooked. From that point on, she needed no further coaxing… she was free to join her friends in the simple pleasure of jumping into water. One less fear for that little girl to confront, and a lesson for the cowboy (lifeguard) as well.

For God didn’t give us the spirit of a sissy, but a spirit of strength, of love, and of self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

(From the Simplified Cowboy Version-Paul's Letter to the Romans (Volume 2) The SCV is NOT a bible. It is a Bible paraphrase. Think of it as The Message (for cowboy and cowgirls).

This past Sunday, Michael jumped into the deep end of our church service and helped lead worship. This was a huge leap for him and it took the same amount of faith and spirit that little girl displayed at the edge of the pool. Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end.

You gotta cowboy up, dust yourself off
Get back in the saddle give it one more try
Sweat and blood it takes all you got
Cause the road to heaven is a hell of a ride
The tough get goin when the goin gets rough
Cause they know they gotta cowboy up
                             
Chris Ledoux - Cowboy Up

He takes another step down the trail this fall when he begins his college adventure. There is excitement and the usual uncertainty that comes with a new trail to discover. I believe Michael will succeed because his trail boss is going with him on this ride.

To all who have chosen to saddle up with him, to those who believed in who they ride for, he gave ‘em the right to become cowboys of God. John 1:12

Love you Michael, so very proud of you. Remember, when you’re leading a herd, take a look behind you to make sure they’re still there!
- Dad

 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Joy is a Journey

 

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Often in life, we face opportunities with dread and we worry about our performance and the way we will be judged on that performance. We danced around our abilities, make excuses for talents we don’t process and generally try to set the bar low so we can succeed. We are so afraid to look bad, and so fearful that others may think we have no business trying to stretch, that we miss out on the joy of trying.

That is not the way we were created

“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5 NLT

God’s adoption of us is a rescue of every creative part of our soul. It liberates the stagnant, lifeless core of our heart and frees it to not only experience life, but to express it as well. It’s not about the gifts or talents (or the lack of), it’s about love… we share life because we love Him.

That’s the journey of joy

This past Sunday, the youth ran our church service, from worship to closing, and it was beautiful. Although many that served yesterday are actively involved normally, this was an opportunity for them to listen to God in a whole new way. For my daughter Sarah, this was a step of faith, the Father gave her a word to share and she had to trust that she wasn’t going to “ruin church” by being obedient. Here is the recording of that word, I hope you’ll listen (it’s only about 5 mins.) and be blessed. I know it blessed my heart to see her step up and be used by Father God in such a new and powerfully encouraging way.






We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, "What amazing things the LORD has done for them." Psalm 126:2

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Epic Fail

 

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I am a failure… but, before you rush to my defense, hear me out.

There were times I choked under pressure and bailed big time when situations were tough. There were too many days when my heart vacated when it was needed most and just because my mind was filled with selfish thoughts, I chickened out.

I covered my eyes, closed my ears and pretended not to notice suffering. I hid; I ran and preferred the shadows instead of the light.

And those were my good days.

I sought success over significance, hungered ravenously for comfort over compassion and pleasure over purity. I frustrated my own dreams by fearing the outcome and dreading the journey. Escape was the path I desired, portrayals and roles were my game pieces, but I feared the hand I was dealt. I rolled the dice, taking a chance of discovery, but quickly folded under the pressure… so afraid of being found out, revealed and exposed.

The Apostle Paul once commented, “I am the chief of all sinners”.

I think… He’s never met me.

Here’s my heart in this. Although I really don’t think that I’m a “dirty rotten sinner” anymore, I do realize how much of a failure I am without Christ. It is this realization that fuels my hope. The design of my heart was designed to be filled with Jesus. My heart was meant to have significant compassion for others and to enjoy pleasure that was pure and vital for my soul’s health. The dream and journey are one in the same because I travel with Christ.

“I am not concerned that you have fallen… I am concerned that you arise.”  - Abraham Lincoln

Abe’s quote here mirrors the Father’s heart, in Psalm 37:23

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

All my failures… all covered

 

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Turns

 

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"And when your children ask you, what does this ceremony mean to you?" Exodus 12:26

He has endured the competition and comparison of 4 older brothers… not an easy task when you’re an introvert. Of all my sons, Isaac is the most laid back, I call him my shadow warrior. He has a laser focus and a huge heart… when he feels… he feels deeply. I know what it is like to be the youngest of brothers and although Isaac’s brothers are wonderful; his road to this day has been a stretch.

Tonight is his turn

Tonight my shadow warrior steps into the front of the crowd to receive his sword. His manhood ceremony will be a collection of men of my choosing and his. Words, prayers and exhortations will fill his ears and his spirit… this impartation will change him forever.

What does this ceremony mean to me?

Ceremonies are like stepping-stones, not only setting a direction in which to go but leaving a path to follow as well. When God is in the ceremony, it creates a stream of change that carries beyond the event itself. It places within us a marker of remembrance, one that pulsates with memory waves. These waves ripple through our lives and lap at the shore of discouragement and remind us that the Father will always encourage and affirm us.

Isaac is my last son to receive his sword, in so many ways; this is a rite of passage for both of us. At the end of the ceremony my five sons will raise their swords together and say these words I wrote many years ago…it is our pledge.

Honor, Respect, Courage
In Christ
For Christ
For Family
For Brotherhood
Forever

It is a pledge that continues to unite us and turn our hearts towards the one who made all this possible…our heavenly Father.

How about you…do you have a special ceremony that connects you with the Father?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Game of Thrones

 

throne copy I have to admit to not seeing one episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones and I plead ignorant to the value of its viewing gratification. Although I have no desire to watch it, I find the title intriguing.

Except…it’s no game.

The human heart will enthrone a king… through the lines of succession or otherwise… it will be ruled, our choices will always crown a sovereign over our heart. Not only that, there is the battle to keep that monarch in power and the internal struggles of a despot ruled kingdom.

At best, we fool ourselves that when we rule the heart, our benevolence outweighs the indulgences of our decisions. After all, we’re a good king, not one to take advantage of our position. However, the truth of our reign is this; that the real threat to our throne is not dragons, armies, or unscrupulous heirs… it is ourselves.

Thankfully, I am not bound to play by the rules… in fact;
I’m not bound at all.

Redemption has overthrown the dictator, replaced the tyrant and installed a righteous King as lord over my heart. Here freedom has replaced the overbearing subjection to self and the seemly unwavering alliance with “my way or the highway” system of ruling. My King, Jesus, has healed the kingdom that I nearly destroyed and transformed how I fit in the new Kingdom. Under His rule, I am free, more than I ever could be under mine.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness. Psalm 45:6

My game of thrones is over… I forever belong to the King of Kings!

How about you… who has your heart?

 

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

31 Years


For 31 years she has said yes to an adventure that sometimes seems purposed to drive joy from her heart. She has followed the most unlikely hero on the face of the planet with undeterred faith in his heart and purpose.  This woman, with such a depth of character and beauty, has turned his heart into a beating frenzy of compassion. Warming the coldness that once resided there with absolute acceptance and belief he could be the hero she saw in him.

I do not call myself a hero… my wife does.

31 years of marriage has repaired the cape, negated the effects of my own personal kryptonite (self-worth), and torn down the fortress of solitude hidden deep within my spirit. I have become more powerful because I am married to one of the strongest hearts on earth.

Make no mistake, Christine is no side-kick, she is my hero.

The intensity and intentionality of our covenant together is a superpower of focused love and commitment.  Our marriage carries the power of redemption because it is supercharged by the promise of the Heavenly Father to make two hearts, two lives, into one. This combination, this one-two punch, is a life changer that goes beyond the border of our married life and sends this message.

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

The message my bride sends me convinces me of His great love for me. The total faithfulness she demonstrates in our marriage has made 31 years more than an adventure.


It has been a joy ride…thank you “Love of my Life”, you have not only captured my heart… you have rescued it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Speaking Blessing

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In my last post (Full Circle, you can read it here) I told you I was invited to give the Invocation at my home town Chamber of Commerce. The opportunity to speak a blessing over my home town was more exciting than I first realized and I enjoyed it immensely. Everybody was warm and sincere in thanking me afterwards, even mentioning to my wife how beautiful the prayer was. So, I thought I share the prayer with you all…and ask an question along with it. First the prayer.

The Old Testament contains a Scripture I’ve adopted for my home town of Hyde Park. Jeremiah 29, verse 7 says this:

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

With that thought in mind, would you please join me in prayer?

Dear Heavenly Father,

We seek Your Blessing on our gathering tonight, on the food and the fellowship we share together.

We are thankful for neighbors, friends and family here with us tonight, enjoying laughter and conversation, that Father, is a huge blessing.

I ask that you would bless all the businesses of Hyde Park; along with the wide variety of political, community and religious leaders also. I pray that every facet of their lives will prosper; their finances, their health and their relationships. Empower these leaders with all that they need to make wise decisions in all those areas, so that the blessings flow into the lives of others as well.

Father God, help us all work together to provide economic opportunities, places to learn, grow and develop. Enable us by your wisdom, to live and serve together as part of a healthy community, continuing to make Hyde Park a place we’re all proud to call home.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus,

Amen

So, how important do you think it is to bless and pray for your hometown?
Does the verse in Jeremiah speak to you?

 

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Full Circle

 

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Nestled in the Hudson Valley, approximately 90 miles north of New York City, is my home town of Hyde Park. Except for a year of early marriage adventure (when my bride and I lived in Florida) I have lived here my entire life (to date anyway!).

I’m a free range, organic type of person. I usually don’t fit well into a box or a formulaic pattern of doing things… it just doesn’t work for me.

For years this town didn’t work for me.

I was an outcast to most… the poverty I grew up in kept me from social success (whatever that is). The abuse I suffered at home stunted my personality and kept me in the shadows. I existed on the edges, roaming the outer rims of life, hoping for a chance to be accepted. The dream of leaving this place of curses was always present but always teasing me with false expectations. I knew I wasn’t going… anywhere.

Then Messiah came.

If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Living on the edge took on a whole new meaning, it wasn’t meaningless exile… it was the adventure of discovering who I really was. The desperate years of wanting escape has been replaced by a love for the town that seemed bent on my ruin.

Here I am… full circle.

Tonight I give the invocation at the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce meeting. I get the honor of praying a blessing over the town that once held nothing but curses for me. Over influential movers and shakers of my small community, I get to impart words of life… the Messiah’s words.

Would you join me in that prayer?

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Showtime

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There's no business like show business. - Irving Berlin

I recently made a remarkable discovery about myself. It seems that (and you may find this hard to believe) for 50 years now I’ve been in show business…yep…show business. April 23 marked my 57th year on this planet and 50 years of following the Messiah.

My wife and kids would tell you that I have a flair for the dramatic, that I do, and say things that border on the dramatic side. Maybe it’s my artistic side or just that I’m a crazy man…I’m not sure. I like to think it’s because I’m like the Father. I think God has flair for the dramatic and for the spectacular.

I like to connect with God by water…primarily by the ocean. However, the Hudson River is a great substitute, especially since we are far from the ocean here in Hyde Park. Over the years I have found a few isolated areas by the river that I love to go to and be alone at. As I was trying to do some sermon prep time this past Friday, I found myself getting frustrated because every access to these spots were closed off because of construction or unknown reasons. I had to settle for a backup… a pond in the middle of a meadow…I was not happy. As I pulled into the parking lot to this little park and stepped out of my car, I was met with an explosion of beauty. It seemed like every song bird in the world had gathered there to greet me. I paused, sitting on the hood of my car, listening to the concert prepared for me.

All this time I didn’t realize the playfulness of God in “thwarting” my plans for the day or how I would orchestrate our time together. He wasn’t blocking access to himself…he was wooing me with beauty to connect with Him in a new place. God can really put on a show! I think it’s out of this heart we need to operate. In others words…

A disciple needs to invest in show business.

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,(8) and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Lately, I have been challenged about being a follower of the Messiah more than any time in my life. I’m wondering what 50 years of me following Christ looks like to other people?

When Jesus gives the call to come follow Him, it’s an invitation to Show Time, it’s a casting call to fulfill the role we were designed to play. That role is to go into all the world and make disciples. Our lives are designed to change the lives of people, to make an impact of eternal worth.

Powerful stuff…show business… showing people the way to the Father.

During His days of ministry on the earth, Jesus preached the gospel to multitudes of people, however He spend the bulk of His ministry time with just twelve men. The funny thing is that Jesus didn’t concentrate on improving the skill sets of the disciples. He concentrated on changing their hearts. When He did that…gifting and talents were released. They were being prepared for ShowTime…showing how their lives were different because they were with the Master.

By the pond He spoke these words….

“Prepare to have your heart enlarged.”

There is a season of heart enlargement coming for me and for the Church; I believe it’s a good thing. I shared this prophetic word in my church this past Sunday and I believe it challenged us all. The power, grace and love He wants to show through His sons and daughters will show the world His true heart. I wonder…

What do you think about being in “Show Business”?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My First Post

Jay has asked me many times to submit a guest post, and although I've been tempted to express my opinion  on a variety of issues, some significant, others trivial, today I finally have something to say.
My dearest friend, my big brother in the Lord, my love for life, my prince and hero- I am so grateful that you were born! Your very life testifies to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Born in poverty{not quite a stable},during fearful and violent times, born to a carpenter, yourself possessing the initials JC- how often have we commented on the similarities in your life to your Savior Jesus? Over the thirty three years that I have known you , I see each year you've become more and more like your precious Savior and Heavenly Father.From the beginning a visionary with the purpose and focus of love. Setting our marriage and my life on the secure rock of "Nothing is more important than loving each other".Unshakable on that issue, so faithful, so like the Father. An artist- seeing wonder and beauty everywhere. A master storyteller- don't get me started on that one. A writer, a dreamer, a coach, an encourager,a  funny punmaster,delightful friend.You look more and more like Jesus and I fall deeper and deeper in love with you each day. Truly, you are the kindest man I have ever met on earth and you help me to know the goodness of God more deeply. I am so glad you were born, and so thankful you chose me to be your bride and go on this adventure called life.Happy Birthday Beloved!
Love always,
Christine

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Patchwork Hero

 

 

patchwork copy Back in my Jesus freak days (my early 20’s) I was a sight to behold, particularly my wardrobe. I had a pair of jeans that were mostly a network of patches, imagine Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat, but in pant form. I worn them with a bandana tied (don’t ask why, I just did) just below my right knee, perhaps a symbol of my own particular outlook on life.

I loved those pants…I still missed them

In many ways, those pants defined me and not just because they were skin tight. My life was (and still is) a patchwork of life experiences. I remember wearing them to church one Sunday and being chastised by an Elder for disgracing God’s presence by not wearing a suit and tie. When I reminded him that Jesus worn neither, he got angry and called me a clown.

And so I am

For years I danced around who I was, afraid to just be Jay, thankfully I left that dance floor years ago. I am a patchwork, a collection, an anthology of the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Who the Father is making me into is stands in complete opposition to what the world would like me to be. I refuse to be domesticated, tamed by a world system that devalues and destroys life. God is using my life collage to send a message counter to that system. That message pulls on my heart, urging me on, making me accept a truth about my life.

I am a patchwork hero

My hero persona is more akin to a rodeo clown, standing in the way of the bull threatening to trample a fallen cowboy. My pants may be funny looking, not up to standards, but they get the job done. My patchwork story tells a remarkable and powerful tale. It chronicles God’s redemptive work in my life, a life redeemed to make a difference, even when it looks foolish to do so.

“Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools…” says the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:10.

You know…I’m OK with that. How about you?

 

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Before and After

 

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My early morning was spent in Isaiah 53, reflecting on the Messiah’s sacrifice for me. A shower of emotions swirled around my spirit, drenching me in their meaning. These were hard words.

Crushed, wounded, pierced, despised, chastisement, oppressed, afflicted, sorrow, grief, cut off, judgment… slaughter.

These are also precious words… these are the words of redemption.

“…because he poured out his soul to death…”

Before Christ my heart was under judgment and faced a death sentence. I was condemned and my soul despised by an enemy opposed to my salvation. My life bore the oppression of chastisement and judgment. My sorrow, my grief, cut me off from hope. I was continually pierced by the reminders of my failures and my sin. Everything in me was slaughtered by it.

“…and was numbered with t he transgressors; yet he bore
the sins of many…”

After Christ, those words change. Condemnation has no hold on me and judgment fails in its attempt to convict. Hope has been handed back to me as a precious balm to heal the wounds of regret. The killing fields of sin have been plowed under by the redemptive force of love. Everything Jesus carried on that day of sorrow, he carried not only for me, but also away from me.

And He did the same for you…

Blessings, Jay

Monday, March 25, 2013

Unrecognizable

 

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

He was coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong all along…he was recognizable

HE was Jesus.

“My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. (3) He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. (4) Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! (5) But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”
Isaiah 53:2-5 NLT

 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Heart2Heart

 

sol front banner I was recently interviewed by my close friend Tom Zahradnik for the Sound of Life radio network. We sat down to talk about my past, forgiving my father and serving together on the board of directors for the Sound of Life.You can listen today to more of my story on the Heart2Heart Podcast... HERE.

H2H_logoHeart 2 Heart is hosted by Tom Michaels Zahradnik, CEO of the Sound of Life. The purpose of this podcast is to share stories of real people dealing with Real Life and Real Change. If you're looking for some great Christian music to listen to, you can listen online or download a free app to listen on the go.

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Tom and his wife Cathleen are founders of Rubicon Ministries, their passion is "Helping People Build God-centered Lives Founded on Biblical Truth." And they're really great people, so go check out their site!

 

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Showoffs

 

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Scars are strange.

A scar is a new patch of skin that grows over a wound. It forms when your body heals after a cut, scrape, sore or burn.

I still brag about one received from trying a jump, on my bike, off a Jerry-rigged ramp in my friend’s backyard when I was 13. I wear it like a badge of honor, a tribute to youth’s, (somewhat stupid), adventurous spirit.

Scars are showoffs.

I have others, those for years I tried to cover up and keep from being seen. I didn’t boast about them or exposed them to anybody. Yet, they revealed themselves, through attitudes, in conversations and the way I saw myself. Scar tissue of the soul is not easy on the eyes.

The scar treatment I needed was forgiveness. Redemption had a curious affect on the history of abuse I suffered at my father’s hand. It covered the wound and healed it beautifully… but it left a scar… a beautiful scar.

The new patch of “skin” that grew, reveals His heart and shows off His great restorative power. I am a new creation, one that knows the wound but not the pain it once caused.

That’s a scar I’m proud to show the world.

“Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” (27) Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” John 20:26-27 TM

Jesus had no issue with His scars…he invited touch, examination and opportunity to believe. I want that same heart…I want my scars to point to Jesus.

How about you? Are there wounds you need healing from?
How can I pray for you?

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My pastor and I are doing a sermon series on Total Forgiveness. We’ll soon have a link on our website to listen to all of them. In the meanwhile, If you want to listen to my latest sermon on Forgiveness, just click on the picture.

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