"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 22, 2014

A Man of Hope

 

hope copy

To understand hope is to capture a vision of how God sees life.

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 do believe that hope is oxygen for our souls… it breathes life into the empty part of our souls. Hope makes you believe redemption is possible.

I recently taught on hope (you can here it here, just look on the episodes menu for HOPE), but I am so aware how much I need to learn about abounding in hope. Part of it is how I choose to remember, how I choose to worship and how I choose to trust. Hope grows in a grateful heart, hope thrives in a heart that worships the Father and hope abounds in the heart where He lives.

I want to be a man of hope

It is important to me to live like there is a God of hope inside of me. Does that mean that it always looks like I have my act together? That I never doubt, waver or melt under the weight of circumstances beyond my control? No…it means my life points to a God of hope in the middle of all life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Abounding with hope means there is heaps of hope to share, gallons of hope to ooze out of my life and saturate those around me. There is a generous God of hope living in us filling us with the life the world so desperately needs.

Let’s be people of hope.

Wet with Hope

I have touched life with handfuls of hope
Letting it run through my fingers
Soaking all I wear
Wetting my pathway

I take my still wet hands to my face
and wipe it clean
My eyes clear once more
I see the place where I’m standing
It’s wet with hope
Uplifting my position

Jay Cookingham © December 16, 2002

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home for Christmas


 

homeforxmas copy

She peered from her dingy apartment window, wiping the frost with the sleeve of her sweater so she could see more clearly. A light snow was falling making the city streets outside her old brownstone a clean carpet of white. Sally was eagerly awaiting a delivery from the local grocery store containing the simple items for her dinner tonight. It was Christmas Eve and Sally wanted to celebrate this special time, at least in a small way. Over 90 and in failing health, it was to be a bittersweet celebration for sure. A few years ago her husband Samuel became gravely ill. To her great sorrow, he faded quickly and went home to be with the Lord on the eve of his favorite day—Christmas.

Sally loved her “Sammy”, so it was hard imagining celebrating tonight alone. He was so alive around Christmas and always seemed his happiest around the holidays. Every Christmas Eve he would sing, laugh—sometimes scooping her up from her chair for a dance. He would put on a Santa hat and say, “Come on sweetie, I saved a dance for my best gal!” Afterwards they would cuddle-up on the couch, sip tea, and read the story of the Savior’s birth. When midnight came they would run to their small tree, and like giggling children, rip open all the gifts.

The crunch of snow and the sight of a tall figure coming down the sidewalk carrying bundles snapped her back to her vigil. Sally watched the trudging shape come up the stairs and ring the bell to her apartment. Drawing her sweater around her neck to guard against the cold, she opened the door and let the familiar face inside. It was Manny, a young man in his twenties or so, who had been delivering her groceries for a few months now.

“Mrs. Hamilton, how good to see you! Merry Christmas!” Manny said with a booming voice.

“Merry Christmas Manny, come in, come in.” Sally said excitedly.

“Shall I carry these to the kitchen?” Manny asked.

“Oh, please do, please do, I’m so wound up, I need to start cooking right away!” Sally replied.

Manny carried the bags into the narrow kitchen, where Sally began to unpack her goodies. She place the items, a small ham, some potatoes, a can of green beans and a box of Earl Grey tea, on her small kitchen table

With a hint of tears in her eyes, Sally mused, “My Sammy sure did love his spot of tea.”

Sorrow threatened to swallow the moment and her thoughts filled with emotion. How could she celebrate after all these years of placing Christmas in the shadows? She decided that she must, this Christmas seemed fresh and ready to embrace again. Besides, her heart sensed the Messiah's presence more than ever and she could always celebrate Him.

Dabbing at her eyes with her apron Sally soon looked up and hesitantly asked, “Manny, would you like to have dinner with me?”

“Why, I would love to Mrs. H,…absolutely love to!” Manny replied cheerfully.

The two of them set about fixing the meal, laughing, singing, and even enjoying a silly dance to Jingle Bell Rock playing on the radio. Soon the kitchen was warm, filled with a wonderful aroma and alive with memories. During dinner Sally told story after story of her husband Sammy and the love he had for Jesus.

Sally became quiet and Manny could see the pain of loneliness in her eyes. They were sipping their tea when Sally asked, “I’m so tired Manny, will you help me to the couch?” Manny helped the weary Mrs. Hamilton to the couch, laying her head gently on a quilted pillow. Covering Sally with a blanket, Manny then pulled a small box from his jacket and said, “It’s almost midnight Mrs. H, this is for you …Merry Christmas.”

The package wrapped with golden paper and with a bow of the purest white surprised Sally; she had never seen a more beautiful package. Taking the gift from Manny, Sally was momentary speechless. With childlike excitement, she started to open the present, pausing when she saw the prize within. Inside was a golden key with a small note that looked like an invitation. On the inside it read.

To: Sally Hamilton, a key to your new home.

“Manny…what does this mean?” Sally asked.

“Mrs. H.” Manny said. “You have been such a servant all your life, giving so unselfishly, that my employer wanted to give you something special this Christmas.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, your employer Mr.Reynolds is giving me a house? Sally asked.

Manny, smiling now said, “No Mrs. H, I work for someone a bit higher than Mr. Reynolds. Anyway, I’m just a messenger and I’ll be announcing your arrival there soon.”

“Manny, I still don’t see…” Sally wondered out loud.

“It’s simple, you have been faithful Mrs. H, and the Lord wants you home with Him.” Manny said.

Her eyes widening a bit, Sally whispered, “You mean…I’m really going… oh, I can hardly keep my eyes open, what is happening to me Manny?” Sally asked.

Manny replied softly, “It’s time for a homecoming Mrs. H…Sammy is saving a dance for you”

They were quiet for a few minutes when Sally spoke in a hushed voice and asked, “Am I going to see my Sammy when I open my eyes Manny?’

She was already home when he answered, “Yes Sally, and so much more.”

The End

Jay Cookingham © 2002

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Child is This?


 

what child copy
It was just another cry from a newborn, his cries already muted by the sounds of animals sharing his birth place. He was one of the many little Hebrew lives entering the world that night, just one of the ones born in the cold to poor, struggling parents, on a journey not of their choosing.

All across Israel, an ordered census drew people to distant towns and faraway villages. A census of numbers, not the value of lives, mirrored the soul journeys of thousands searching for more. The cruel political climate is as dark as the night and the spiritual landscape, darker still. There seems no journey away from this oppression, no passage of freedom that affords an opportunity to breathe unhindered. This night poses questions from hearts chained and bound by a force more domineering that the oppressors now ruling this land.

Why was this child born?

Why this couple?

Why this little backwards town?

Why now?

What child is this?

Into poisoned humanity a son is born, a baby wrapped in fragileness and vulnerability but with redemption blood flowing in his veins. He is a message of hope to a world looking for something or someone to put it out of its collective misery. This baby, needing the protection and nurturing of Mary and Joseph, is born for a world needing him. Needing light to dispel the darkness that seeks the souls of humanity, love to collect hearts back to the Father, peace for the minds overwhelmed by strife and forgiveness to free all corrupted by sin’s disease.

When Jesus came, redemption came and courageously reclaimed sons and daughters for the Kingdom. Messiah came, deliverance came, the Good News came, and life more abundantly came. Born of a virgin, God imparts Himself into humanity and births new life for world looking for a way to live again. Immanuel…God with us, always with us.

What child is this?

This, this is Christ the King…my King!

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dream Coat


 

dreameys copy

It wasn’t technicolored or fancy looking by any means, it was a simple grey-black winter coat and it was just his size. He was the younger of two boys, maybe six to seven years old, with eyes as wide as saucers. Accompanied by an older woman of a different ethnicity, they all had come to a local coat drive hosted by the Hyde Park Methodist, a church that graciously allowed people from my church to help staff the event.

It was near the end of the day and most kid’s coats had been chosen by the early crowd. His other brother ( I assumed) had found one from the slim pickings and the woman was working on the gray coat, trying to get the zipper to work. All the while the little boy was looking on with those big saucer eyes.

It was the eyes that got me.

I went over and offered my help to fix the zipper (which seemed way beyond my skill-set as time past by) while she looked for a coat for herself. The minutes piled on themselves as not one, but two zippers evaded any attempt to follow the path of least resistance and behave like normal zippers do. I was sweating; the boys have been at the bin holding free stuffed animals and now were back, holding a monkey and a Winnie-the Pooh.

Now I had eight eyes watching me.

I wanted desperately for that little boy to have this coat and the underneath my breath prayers were as fervent as any I’ve prayed…I wanted God to heal this zipper…now!

The little boy never said a word…he just keep looking, waiting and silently hoping.

I started to choke back tears over a used, hand-me-down, grey winter coast…and those beautiful eyes.

In those eyes, I saw myself.

When I was around eight, I remember walking into a huge building, full of strangers and somebody handing me a coat and boots…just my size. I remember being somewhat stunned and confused…more than likely my eyes were as wide as saucers, trying to take in all the events happening around me. The eyes of that little boy took me back in time and helped me see this day in a whole new way.

The woman came back (good naturedly) laughing, seeing that I was still trying to compel this stubborn fastening device to submission and quite innocently said…”Maybe, there’s a third zipper?” I thought to myself, “What coat has three zippers?” This coat didn’t look like the kind of coat that would have three zippers if such coats existed! Hesitantly I started to look the coat over for the elusive third zipper option. To my surprise, near the top, hidden under the collar, was the treasure we hoped to find. I pulled the zipper into place, zipped up the coat perfectly, hive-fived the woman all with laugher erupting from both of us.

The young boy, handing his stuffed animal to his brother for temporary safe keeping, put on his coat and smiled. A huge smile now competing with his eyes for who would win for being the largest expression on his happy face. I was smiling too… my prayers were answered and today a coat became more than a dream. It was a promise from Father God and His provision.

As they left, the little boy turned to look at me with those same eyes…

I was fighting back tears and thanking God for an amazing grey colored dream coat, complete with a third zipper.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

God Bless you all and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Did You Expect?


 

drowning copy

You find yourself, at age 58, pretty comfortable in your own skin. You’re taking some risks, stretching in areas unfamiliar to you. “Not bad for an old guy” you think and that brief thought puts some swagger in your steps.

Yet swagger, like comfort… is very temporary… I believe a better word would be fleeting.

I read this quote yesterday and it disturbed me, souring the milk of swagger in me.

“He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that.” - Robert Jordan, New Spring

Any husband, any father, any man following Christ, who is committed to those callings will feel the weight of other people’s expectations. It’s in our job description, to evaluate and examine expectations, and then pray to determine how to deal with them. All of this challenging the man you are and the one you want to be. Yet, I find grace to stay afloat and the ability to surf above the waves of what is expected of me by others.

So where’s the sinking feeling from? What caused my swagger to float away like “Wilson” in the movie Cast Away? Like a lifeguard blowing their whistle, the answer is a powerful warning to keep from drifting into danger. It’s not other people’s expectations threatening to drown me.

It’s my own.

My own interpretation of “how things should be”, these imaginary water wings that I rely on to keep my swagger afloat. I find myself struggling against the riptide, clinging to the raft of how I should act, (as a husband, father, brother, pastor) and where I should be in my walk, in my relationships, in my career and so on. The truth is…these weights dunk my head under the water more than anything else. I often fail in living up to my own expectations and the gurgling sound you hear is my pride.

I think (selfish) expectations are assumptions gone wild. They move you from reality to likelihood, a place full of suspense and potential but sometimes built like a shady real estate deal. Promising one thing but delivering an uninhabitable piece of property you never wanted (or expected).

You think you know…then He shows you. As always… it comes down to my heart.

“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

My heart needs something beyond expectations… even great expectations… it needs hope in Father God and Him alone. When I live in the reality of who He says I am, my expectations drift away from my spirit and I find myself filled with assurance of becoming all He wants me to be.

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” Philippians 1:20

All my expectations are in Him!

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Killing Lions – A Review

 

 

_200_360_Book.1331.cover Many of us are hunting mice - while lions devour the land. - Leonard Ravenhill

In the book Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face, John Eldredge (Wild at Heart) is joined by his son, Sam, for a conversational journey of what it takes to become a man. II bought this book for my sons (I have five) but found it revealing my heart as I read it through several times (I’m a fast reader). I grew up without a strong father influence in my life and many of the questions Sam poses resonated with my heart.

Dealing (father and son together) with subjects such as relationships, money, getting married and life calling…each chapter was a picture of how to coach your son’s heart through each stage of life. A beautiful example of how simple conversations can create opportunities to impart and impact as fathers.

I appreciated the honesty and openness of John and Sam as they challenge each other’s view and the way they loved each other through these times. The powerful moments are when they acknowledge their absolute need of God to teach, guide and rescue their hearts…wonderful moments indeed.

Disclosure: While I received an advance copy of this product free, I have purchased a few copies to give to other fathers and my own sons.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

This is Love

 

 

thislove copy

Hang with me…this will be tough at the beginning…

This was going to be easy, the knife was sharp and I was all alone deep in the woods, no one would find me for days. I had run out of oxygen, I was drowning in despair and looking up from below the surface. My time had run out and I couldn’t fight back anymore. The years of abuse had piled on me, pinning me behind the line of scrimmage of hope… far from finishing the game on a good note.

I was tired, so tired of being without… without having the right clothes, the right looks, the right friends, the right family and the right to be happy. So I filled my emptiness with the self-medicating drugs of the day, each drink, each toke a reminder of what a loser I was. I was looking for numbness and all I got was a double shot of awareness.

I was a deadman walking

My commitment to Christ at age seven seemed so distant to the heart that sat on rock waiting to for a blade to bleed out its life. The wondering of “where were you God” had long past me by, like a far-off dream tugging on my sleeve but easily ignored.

I drew the knife from its sheath, the chill of the blade giving me Goosebumps, and went to make the first cut…before I could; I heard a voice… it said…

NO

It was as if the whole universe shook; my universe anyway, with the power that only a Messiah can speak with. I stood, my head spinning around like a crazy man, looking for someone…anyone…because I thought no one was watching.

He was…Messiah was

That seventeen-year-old started a new journey that day, it wasn’t easy but he faced the abuse, the mistakes, the false identity and the true enemy with renewed faith. For years after my suicide attempt, I thought “Wow, I should be dead”…how wrong I was. The truth was that I should be alive… for that is what Messiah wanted for me… life.

After all…This is love!

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tugged

 

tugged1

I seriously doubt my leadership ability at times and wonder about how uninspiring my message can seem. Strange… isn’t that a pastor’s job? To be inspiring and lead a great charge across the landscape of the enemy, winning the battle and the day?

Perhaps not…

I fret, pray, dream, sweat and lay awake at nights just pondering the effectiveness of my life and the impact it has on others. I dive into Scripture, talk to men far wiser than I and wrestle with questions like a cage fighter on steroids.

My heart seems in a perpetual state of being tugged.

That’s the haunting reality of being a visionary…pulled in one direction…tugged in another. Trying your best to submit to Father God’s leading at one moment…possibly running away in the next. We visionaries can be a chore to understand and deal with, we often see things that are…well, not there…yet. Which means we may get annoyed that others aren’t as excited about something that seems so real to us but may be as faint as a mirage to them.

This is where faith needs to step in…and helps me understand the tug.

“To the best of my understanding, faith is trusting God enough to obey what He has said, and hope is having the confidence that God will do everything He has promised. One pushes you; the other pulls you.” Erwin McManus

This push me, pull me, tugging sensation is the tension of following Christ, abandoning my selfish desires and pursuing His and His alone. It’s the leading of the Holy Spirit, placing us, positing us and aligning our will with the Father’s. What we see…or don’t see is not as important as what we know.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

That’s the substance that a visionary like me needs…how’ll about you? Where has faith tugged you lately?

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Go to the Water


I go to the water 
Waves lapping 
Shore defining 
The water comes to me 
(c) 2014 Jay Cookingham 


When I need a Sabbath, I try to go to the water and today I am down by the Hudson River.

I need rest for a weary soul.

So I steal a few hours from a schedule thick of life, responsibilities and things to do. I drink in the power of the river and I ponder the Psalms...
He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. Psalm 105:41
Restless like the river, I move to a few secluded spots I know, hoping to find the one that fits. I do and silence fills the gaps with peace. Then I notice my thirst.

You can can get a little dry when you pour out so much but the truth is that often it is our choices that make ourselves arid and parched.

So I pray...

Father...open the rock that is my heart and flood the desert with your life giving water. Drench me, saturate me and leave me wet with your presence. This and this alone bring me back to life... and I thank you for your current of love that flows through my heart.
Amen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Current of Change


 

ocean-current-1 copy

Changes are one of those constants in life, like seasons they carry promises and challenges but with deadlines not of our choosing. Oh, we have choices to make for sure. We could turn and catch the wave of change and ride it for all its worth, attempting to tame the roar with our courage.

Or, we could plant our feet, letting the full force hit us and go spinning in the torrent, possibly drowning in our own failed expectations and imagined strength.

Changes are powerful waves…so are our choices

It seems every powerful wave of change begs a soul shaking question. How
much of my life is centered on living for me (and only me) then asking God to bless the mess I created…instead of laying my life down and passionately following after Him?

His Word supplies the answer(s)

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." Hebrews 11:8

Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” Ezra 10:4

Listen, walk by faith and do the thing that God asks of you…

Changes are surfing opportunities, they are meant, (designed, purposed) to take us somewhere. The current of change relocates us to the place God wants us to be…where we need to be. The ride may seem rough at times but if we ride it out, the shore ( our next place of our journey) is closer than we think.

I have caught a new wave, the current of change is moving fast and picking up speed… taking me to a new place…I’m going out, not knowing where I’m going.

Starting in September I will become the Lead Pastor of Bridge Builders Community Church (I have been serving as Associate Pastor for over a year now). Pastor Tim, who is the founding Pastor, will be taking a 6 month sabbatical (his own wave riding experience) to see what God has for him next. We had trusted leaders overseeing this transition process and guiding us to this decision...we all feel like this is the Father's plan.

I have been asked..."so, do you feel called to this position?" My answer is this...(and I am being sincere). I am called to be a son of the most High, I serve at the pleasure of the King...what my Father asks me to do...I will do. I don't feel called to a position but to deeper relationship with my Father, who asks me to serve in a different role that I ever dreamed for.

My wife Christine, our kids, all see (in different ways) God's hand in this...we know we are in this together, that is a blessing to me.

So, I ask you to pray for me, for us...I am overwhelmed with the responsibility and humbled by the fact that I have been asked to step into this role. It is WAY bigger than me and I know I will be hanging onto Christ in ways I never imagined before...that is a good thing.

Thank you and God Bless you all!

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,

Monday, June 23, 2014

Silencer

 

 

Silencer copy

I had coffee with Sam (not his real name) recently; Sam and I were trying to catch up after a few years of minimum contact with each other. As it often goes with life, our circles cease to cross or even touch. He went to his church and I went to mine, and there were no social events that overlapped both of our very separate lives.

I can’t say that we were deep friends when we attended the same church together but Sam was a very likeable guy, he invited friendship. We had coffee many times, talked in depth about marriage, family and work, the usual subjects of men drinking multiple cups of Java converse about. We connected and I liked getting to know him, even when he exposed a secret that he thought would scare me off. Sam wanted to talk about his addiction, one that didn’t go over well in the church men’s groups he tried to connect with.

Sam was addicted to porn.

He was brutally honest about this addiction, desiring help to beat this demon down and be free of it. Instead of scaring me off, it broke my heart that he seemed alone in his battle. Over the course of a few months we met over coffee, we talked, prayed and addressed issues connected to his addiction. We set up accountability checkpoints and attempted to enlist other men to draw along side him…but nothing seemed to click with other men and it frustrated me.

Where were the other brothers?

My family eventually left that church and settled in the church where I now pastor. As I said earlier, Sam and I drifted and lost contact. Eight years later and once again Sam is sitting across the table from me and his words hurt my heart. Sam tells me…

“Jay…I don’t have any friends”

Sam is in his early 50’s and he feels friendless…alone in his battle. This is the great tragedy of many men; their hearts are vacant and isolated. If nature abhors a vacuum, more so a man’s heart…it will try to fill it somehow. Sam fills his with porn.

He knows its sin, he knows it’s an addiction, he knows he needs help and he knows he can’t do it alone. He loves God, loves his family and feels absolutely horrible about his actions and yet 8 years later…he still can’t connect with men from his church. When he brings up his issue with them, the group grows quiet and unresponsive…no insight, no acknowledgement of similar struggles...nothing.

It is the great silencer… isolated even when in a group…and he retreats deeper in the sinkhole of addiction.

Sam and I have entered the fight together once again but my point is this. Look around your church, there is a “Sam” in your midst and he needs you to drop your guard and fight alongside him. Silence is a killer and destroys the brotherhood of our hearts. Your “Sam” needs a place where his voice doesn’t invoke shame but invites standing with him in his battle. Yeah, it just might expose your own wounds, your own issues… that my brother is a good thing. Men like Sam, when freedom comes, they will fight the gates of hell for yours. We all need a brother like that.

Back to back, shoulder to shoulder…no man gets left behind. Let’s do this.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Warriors


 

fathersday 2014 smaller-1

This past Sunday on Father's Day, our church decided to switch things up a bit. We decided to have a council of dads (3 to be exact) answer a few questions about fatherhood and being men in general. As I interviewed this men, in between the laughter and light heartedness, I discovered the richness of their stories and their grip on Father God's heart.

Their story is all our story, ordinary guys serving an God who wants to be Father God to us all. I hope you'll listen and ponder the questions for yourself...and leave an answer here if you would. It would be awesome to hear more of your story as well...God bless!

Listen Here: http://bbcchurch.sermon.net/main/main/20108033

Also...here is my Father's Day reflection, just a few quick thoughts!

 

 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Desperate for God


 

desperate1

For days I have been wrestling with this thought…

When desperate for God isn't desperate enough

Desperateness is a sense of urgency that lives on the edge of hope. It’s chock-full of risk, jammed tight with do-or-die thinking and flirts heavily with a sense of last-ditchness. Desperatus (Latin for deprived of hope), wrecks havoc on a human heart, exerting its influence and putting extreme stress on our ability to trust.

I wonder…is this a good way to approach a God of Hope…with a sense of desperatus?

“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

The truth is (at least for me) that I am more desperate than I realize. My heart has areas of numbness because I grew tired of caring and waiting for an answer…my heart of trust was compromised.

I grew less desperate…

And I gave way to self-sufficiency, which didn’t bring hope and just buried my heart deeper into the muck of settling for something far-less than God’s best. This, my friends, is no way for a human heart to live.

When desperate for God isn't desperate enough

My dependence, my desperate need of Father God is what causes me to run (not merely approach) to a God of hope who desires me to thrive/live/move/breathe in hope. Desperatus exposes my heart and reveals that deep desire for more of my Father.

That is the way for the human heart to live…it’s the only way it can

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” Psalm 73:26-26

What about you…are you desperate to live free?

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Obedience Part 1

Obedience is not a four letter word that makes us cringe (in fact, its nine!) but its related to another four letter word...that word is love...yep, love! Here is part 1 one my sermon on Obedience: Holding on to Love...the beautiful part of this is when the congregation gets involved...just beautiful!



http://strategicfathering.sermoncampus.info/main/main/20089937

Monday, May 12, 2014

Trust

 

 

momsday smaller-1

My wonderful bride is not a limelight seeker (or any other flavor), she prefers the background and the "behind the scenes" ministry. Unlike her husband, she's uncomfortable standing in front of a crowd and would rather share her heart over a cup of tea with someone. When I asked her if she would speak on Mother's Day she readily agreed and despite her unease, proceeded to expose part of the Father's heart yet seen to many of us. I can almost guarantee you will be blessed if you take the time to listen to this reflection on trust...I know I was.

http://bbcchurch.sermon.net/main/main/20076334

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,

Monday, May 5, 2014

What Church Is


 

church banner-1

My church meets in a building… yep; a beautiful chapel built in 1856, but still a ChapelInterior building with walls and everything. I know that may not be cutting edge thinking (meeting inside a structure and calling it church) but it seems to me that a lot of life (at least here in America) happens inside buildings. Oh, I do realize that just because we are meeting inside a historically old chapel (however beautiful) doesn’t define us as a church. Also, does 158 years of people gathering together, in a building, guarantee our present day “churchness? Many of you are shaking your head no… and I would agree… it’s not about the building or the history.

It’s about Jesus

I serve (happily) as one of the under shepherds (under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus), with the title of pastor, which doesn’t define me completely either. In reality, I am a joint follower of Jesus Christ with about 60 other totally needy (and beautiful) folks. We’re a mixture of introverts and extraverts, creative and linear thinkers, men, women, children, all shapes and sizes…all extremely needy individuals.

We all need Jesus

To me that’s church, not the place, not the format, not how we do church…just people, needing Jesus together. This modern day ekklesia (assembly) is an organic expression of life with Jesus. Trying to express what He is doing in our lives and expressing our gratefulness (corporately and individually) for that work.

We need Jesus for that

We have some in our group needing the simplicity of sitting (even in a pew) and listening, quietly taking in truth and just as quietly, expressing what it means to them. There are others craving the dynamic give and take of interactive dialogue, with questions and thoughts expressing how His truth challenges them. Navigating these needs (and others in between) and allowing room for growth can be only accomplish by pursuing Him together…that’s where I see church happen.

We still need Jesus for that

My hand is really comfortable holding a pen but my foot (although capable) is not. And walking on my hands is extremely more difficult than the normal way of walking using foot power. Yet, when a hand uses things like a foot uses and a foot uses a thing like a hand uses, things can (besides sounding like a Dr. Seuss book) get interesting. We have tried new ways to make community and church more inviting and life changing…sometimes it’s a beautiful expression and sometimes not so much. But it’s not about trying to reinvent church…the Church doesn’t need reinventing…just our view of it sometimes.

Man, do we ever need Jesus for that!

A family, an army, a bride…just a few ways Christ describes His Church, each a powerful reminder of how diverse His expressions through a body of believers can be. How do we then teach and reach each other through that diversity? Can we “conspire” (breathe together) with one another and be the Church?

Yes, we need Jesus for that!

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:18

How do you see the Church and the body were you may gather with?

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I Cry at My Own Sermons

 

cry copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unrecognizable?


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

Unrecognizable?

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

He was coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong all along…he was recognizable

HE was Jesus.

© Jay Cookingham

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It’s Not About You (Really)

 

 

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

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

 

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

Thank God for brothers like that.

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

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

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

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

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

That encounter was the reason I came.

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

After reading Ruth, I said to the Father…

“But I failed!”

His response…

“But I didn’t”

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

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

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

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

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

What a Year Has Given Me


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

Surprise, surprise.

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

This is what happens when you conspire together.

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

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

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,,