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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Me and Steven Curtis Chapman

I hate driving.  Period.  I just don’t like doing it.  Those who know me well know this.  As a matter of fact, in college I had a friend (who became a roommate and is still a friend years later) who was almost like a chauffer to me.  It was the perfect driving relationship.  He loved driving and had a vehicle, and I hated driving and was carless.  Thanks, CW…I think I still owe you for gas.

I don’t know what it is about it.  A lot of the same reasons other people love driving have the opposite effect on me.  I don’t like sitting there.  I don’t like the process of acceleration or braking.  The passing lines on the road make me tired.  Driving in general just makes me stressed and tired.

At this point in life, I had come to grips with driving.  I have become comfortable with the amount of driving required in my life.  I am good.  As long as life does not ask me for more driving, I am okay.  I can do the driving I need to do in my daily life.  I don’t love it, but I can take.  At least I was able to.

The old feelings about driving have returned.  The old hatred is rising.  Life has asked me to do extra driving…EVERYDAY!

In January, LA developed some issues with vertigo.  Over the months it has gotten worse.  Towards the end of the last school year (within the last few weeks of it), it got to the point that the doctor heavily suggested that she not drive anymore until it settles down dramatically.  So….everything circles back to me and a steering wheel…NB hasn’t got his license yet (he is only two and a half…I think he has to wait a couple of years).

This summer wasn’t too bad.  NB and I worked the driving into our daily adventures (or man-ventures, if you will).  But now school is back in session, and I am back to work.  The extra 40-45 minutes per trip each day is starting to take a toll on me, especially in the afternoons.  After an exhausting day of teaching, the extra time in traffic is not the most awesome thing to look forward to.

So, once again, I hate driving.

However, a chance encounter with Steven Curtis Chapman might change my perspective and attitude.

I like to think myself as more of a rocker, musically speaking.  My reality is probably more folk-rocky then I would care to admit.  I am not that into adult contemporary, or so I like to claim.  Actually right now I am really getting into hymns.  But will this wide mix, Steven Curtis Chapman hasn’t really been on my radar since I wore out my “Live Adventure” tape in high school (okay, I did really dig the song Speechless, and Cinderella has made me cry once or twice).  Yesterday, I was not expecting him to rock me into a lesson from God.

As I was driving to pick up LA before going to get NB, I was stuck in traffic.  I just happened to be listening to one of our local Christian stations, and a song came on.  At first it was talking about the daily life of a stay-at-home mom, but then the chorus caught my attention.

 (prechorus)

And while I may not know you I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes does it matter at all
We’ll let me remind you it all matters just as long as you

(chorus)

Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

I have heard the “do everything to the glory of the Lord” thing all of my life.  I have read it in the Bible.  I have heard it from the pulpit.  I have read it in countless devotional type books.  But it never hit me like it did yesterday.  Oh, Mr. Chapman, sometimes you have a way with words that just hit me between the eyes.  This was another “smack to the back of the head” moment with God.

I felt like driving was a meaningless task.  A means to and end.  Just something to get out of the way.  It didn’t matter.  But it does.  It really matters.  We really are called to “do everything you do to the glory of the one who made you.”  It is our job.  I just didn’t know how to do it with the “small stuff” in life.

That is where the rest of the chorus got me.  The “every little think that you do” bringing a smile to his face part got me.  That is it.  Driving is a little thing, but I need to do it knowing that he put me there to drive.  To serve my family.  To know that it is for him.  To have the time to just enjoy my God and Father in heaven.  And the best part is that when we do this, then we really do “tell the story of grace with every move that you make and every little thing that you do.”

Isn’t that the goal?  Isn’t that what we should be doing?  We need to truly enjoy God in all the little moments and tedium of life, and when we do we show the story of grace to the world.  That is what most people in the world are looking for.  They want to have joy that is above the day to day ups and downs.  That only comes from a relationship with God through Jesus.

Today, life was different.  A smile came to my face in all of the “small stuff” today.  Driving was easier.  I don’t love it, but I can enjoy it as I enjoy God through driving…and every little thing that I do.

Thank you, Steven Curtis Chapman!  And thank you Jesus for making that moment happen yesterday!

Oh, and here is the video for the song.  It is a little cheesy (the video), but fun.  Do Everything–Steven Curtis Chapman.

——————————————UPDATE—————————————————

Going on a week later, and I have not heard this song on the radio again.  I have been listening more often to try to catch it, too.  God is awesome.  He arranged for me to hear it at just the right time.  Now that I have said this, I will probably hear it EVERYTIME I turn on the radio and I will get sick of it.

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The Teacher and the Trash Can

 

Life has been busy.  I have not been able to blog for a couple days.  Such is the life of a teacher.  The first couple of weeks (teacher days and then the students coming back) can be jam-packed and tiring.  I am exhausted today.  It was the first day back for the students.

I had the idea for this post a couple of weeks ago, and even set it up to start writing.  Something came up (one of the other posts I actually wrote), and I put this to the side.  On my way home from school, I realized it was a lesson that I need to revisit for myself…and it works out to be quite timely since it is a story about teaching, or at least my role as a teacher and a challenge God gave me.

Get ready, kids, today is going to be about humility.

Last week I talked a lot about my testimony and what God is doing in my life.  What I am about to tell you about happened during the time of God really moving in my life and causing all of the big changes in my heart (My Time Travel Testimony and What’s in a Name: Jesus, Jesus, Bo-Bes…).  I was in a real place of the Spirit speaking to me constantly and challenging me in my everyday life.  He is still moving in me, it just felt more present because it had been a while since I was this close in my relationship to him.

Well anyway, I was really trying to be genuine in my dealings with my students and others.  I was really trying to get to know my students so I can be a better teacher to them, and one of the best times to do this was at lunch.  I had a few guys that would sit with me, and we would talk and joke around most days.

One of the days, near the end of lunch as I was about to take my trash and throw it away, one of the guys (a real character) says, “Mr. B, take my tray.”

I laughed at him, as I usually did, because he tried this once a week or so.  But that day it was different.  I felt a nudge in my heart to go ahead and take his trash.  I looked at him, and then said, “Okay.”  I took his tray and dumped it.

Needless to say, he was a bit surprised.  After I came back from the trash can, the Spirit started working again.  By the time I was back to my seat, I had a challenge: dump more trays.  I almost ignored it.  I really wanted to sit down.  I just about did…but I knew what I had to do.  I knew that if I sat, the Spirit would do a work on my heart becuase of my selfish and proud attitude.  I swallowed that pride and took trays from the students at my table and dumped them.

It was quite humbling.  I do not know what was worse, the laughs and stange looks from the students or the wondering eyes from other teachers.  It was a difficult task, especially because I could only carry a couple of trays at a time.  It took quite a few trips, but I got through it.  I learned my lesson.  I will not be prideful.

The next day…challenged again.  Dump more trays.  I did for my table again.  Thanks, God.  I got it.  I am prideful.  I will work on it.  Please help me work on it.

Day three…the Spirit spoke to my heart again: more trays.  Once more, I dumped the trays at my table.  Lesson learned?  No.

The next week (day three was on a Friday)…Dump more trays…MORE trays.  I dumped the trays at my table.  MORE TRAYS.  I dumped trays for the surrounding tables.  Am I done yet, God?

Everyday the challenge was for more trays.  By the end of the week I was dumping the trays of most of the students that I taught.  In the coming weeks the challenge got to the point that I was dumping which ever trays I could get to.  I started to want to dump trays for more students.  The challenges continued for a month or two.

What I found that happened was I stopped wondering when I would learn my lesson.  I actually started to like the humbling effect.

It helped me truly care about my students.  It is hard not to care when you are throwing away their garbage.

It made me more patient with my students.  It is hard not to be more patient when you are literally serving them in a real way.

More than this, though, it showed me some major heart issues.  The biggest one came up when I had the thought, “Why am I doing this?  These kids don’t deserve this.”

This was another slap-in-the-back-of-the-head moment for me.  What immediately came to mine is, “Why did I die for you?  You did not deserve it.  I did it because I love you.  Now I need you to show the same love for others.”  That shut me up.  A smile went on my face, and it was back to business.  I think this was the turning point when I started to enjoy the “challenges”.

Humbling is hard.  The breaking down of pride is painful.  But it is good.  And this is what really starts the process of conforming us into the image of Christ.

If you want a challenging message, we recently had a sermon from Proverbs about humility at my church.  Check it out, but be ready for a challenge of your own!  Humility and How I Achieved It by Bill White at Grace Church in Greenville/Powdersville.

What do you think about this?  How has God taught you about your pride issues?  What challenges has he given you?  Please share with the group.  🙂

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What’s in a Name…Update.

This is just a quick post to show you how God deals with me and drives a point home.  If you haven’t read the original post, What’s in a Name? , go read that first.  This won’t make sense without having done so.

I wrote that post last Tuesday.  This Sunday (today) at church we did a song that we haven’t done in a very LONG time.  Wait for it…Yahweh.

The pre-chorus (I guess that is what you call it), says:

We look to Yahweh, Yahweh

Our hope is Yahweh, Yahweh

How cool is that.  I had forgotten completely about that song, I get this lesson from God, research it, share it with others, and talk about it all week…and BAM, God says, “Let me just make sure you get what I am saying.”

Pretty awesome moment at church.  LA and I talked about it afterwards, and we were in a state of wow.

I will close with the chorus:

And He shall reign forever

He shall reign forever

He shall reign forever and ever.

Amen.

 
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The Prodigal Toddler and the Sad Daddy

Usually on Friday, I like to share stories about lessons I learned from my son.  I did not get a good chance to do this yesterday, but I today I am going to share a story FROM yesterday.

In earlier posts I have talked about getting to spend the summer with my son, NB (see the post, The Monitor and the Incredible Yelling Boy for the daddy-son summer and NB initials explanation).  Over the last two weeks the dynamic has been different.  Last week my wife’s mom was here.  She left on Sunday morning, and that afternoon he was passed off to my parents.  He was with them in the lower part of the state until last night.  His attention for the last couple of days has come from sources outside of Mommy and Daddy.  Okay, there are two better words for it.  He has been SPOILED ROTTEN.

It is probably needless to say that when he is gone for a week, LA and I really start to miss him and can’t wait for him to come back.  I start looking forward to the reunion about halfway into the week.  A part of my longing for being reunited is how he acts.  He is always so happy to see us.  And, because of the daddy-son bonding time over the summer, he usually runs to me first and then wants to be by my side most of the evening.  I love this!  What father wouldn’t?  This is a special time for me, even more so after this summer because he and I had so much fun and our bond is much deeper now.

Last night, the plan was to meet at Texas Roadhouse.  My parents drove up here and went to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, and then we all met there to eat and celebrate LA’s birthday.  I could not wait to get there and get the running-and-jumping-into-my-arms son treatment.  I was excited.  I picked LA up from work and we headed over there.

We went in, with me full of expectations.  We find my family waiting for a table.  I look for NB.  My parents say, “Look who it is!” to him.  He was hanging out with my brother.  He looks at us, gets down from his lap, walks over, and says, “Hi.”  Then he started to walk away.

There went to the wind from my daddy sails!

We both called him back and he gave LA a hug.  I picked him up and held him.  After about a minute he says, “I get down please?”

“NB, we haven’t seen each other in a week!”

“I want Uncle Tommm (he really holds out that M).”

I let him down.  Completely deflated now.

After two weeks of more than adequate spoiling from grandparents, I guess Mommy and Daddy weren’t that big of deal anymore.

It did get better throughout dinner.  Towards the end, he wanted to come sit between LA and I.  Once he did he kept wanting to put his arm around me and then he wanted LA to hold him (which was difficult in a booth and her being pregnant).  His wanting to be a part of Mommy and Daddy’s life returned…though he did cry when we left when he figured out that Grandma and Grampa were not coming with us and he was not going with them.

Needless to say, I was let down by the situation in the beginning.  His love for me and wanting to be near me is awesome.  I look forward to that when he was away.  It wasn’t fun to see that I wasn’t his “all” anymore.  I know that will come and go.  My feelings weren’t hurt, I was just let down from my expectations.

This whole thing, as most things do, brings me back to my relationship with God and reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Sons.  Yes, I know I pluralized it.  I have a new understanding of the parable, thanks to my church and a sermon I was asked to listen to by Timothy (Tim) Keller.  It is called, you guessed it, The Prodigal Sons.  I am going to BRIEFLY summarize it, but I highly recommend listening to the sermon.  He also has a book on it, which I haven’t read but have heard awesome things about, call The Prodigal God.

I almost wrote out the whole set of verses for the parable in Luke, but then I looked down at the word count.  Here is a link if you want to read it for yourself (which I always advise doing): Luke 15:11-32.

Basically, the story goes that there are two sons.  One decides he doesn’t want to live with the family and work the land.  He cashes in his inheritance and goes off and lives “wildly”…basically parties and “hangs out” with prostitutes.  The other brother stays home and works the land which will all be his one day, since the other brother is “out”.  Eventually, the younger bro runs out of cash and options.  He decides that working at home is not so bad and that he would try to go back and enlist as a servant.  He does.  Before he can get there, Daddy sees him, runs to him, clothes him, and throws a party…remember, all of this is now at the expense of the older brother’s future inheritance–whatever Dad spends now are things that he won’t get later.  While the party is going on, the father then goes out to meet the older son (who, like the younger was not at home at the time, but it was because he was out working and being the “good son”.  Daddy asks him why he doesn’t want to come in and enjoy the feast for his brother’s return.  All that “good boy” can do is complain that it isn’t fair.  He is doing all the right things and he doesn’t get a feast.  And then comes my favorite part.  I am going to quote this part.

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

The older brother missed the point.  It was about enjoying the father’s company.  That is what was important.  A part of enjoying the father is celebrating and rejoicing in what makes him happy.  Both sons were lost.  The father sought them both out.  Only one came back to enjoy the father.

I lived the life of the older son.  It was to the point that I was not a Christian for most of my life, and I did not even know it.  God has done A LOT to cause many, many changes in my life and relationship to him, especially this year.  I am not going to get into my story now, but if you have not read My Time Travel Testimony, please do.  I love to share how Christ has changed my life.  In that post I tell my story about being the older brother and how God helped me learn how to “join the party” and to “enjoy the Father.”

Back to NB.  How beautiful it is for me when my son just wants to enjoy time with me.  I love it.  As a father, I need that.  Parenting is not easy.  “Raising up a child in the way he should go” drains all the life and energy you have.  But it is for a purpose.  I want NB to learn to enjoy his True Father one day.  I want him to go into the “party” and not let the world or his own goodness hold him back.

God has a secondary purpose for parenting, to point us to him.  To reveal his longing for us to enjoy him.  Everything here is a picture to point us to him.  Even if you are not a parent, think about your relationship to your parents.  What can that teach you about your relationship to God?

What do you think about this?  Are you a younger brother or an older brother?  What is holding you back from joining the party and enjoying the Father?  Can you relate to what this means?  Please leave comments.  If you have any questions about what I mean by enjoying God the Father or if that is a foreign idea to you, please comment with your email.  I won’t share the comment on here (I have to approve them all), but I will contact you.

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Uganda, the LRA, and Invisible Children

 

Two weekends ago, I started a segment called “Why Weekends” in which I want to look at problems in the world that we, as inhabitants of our planet, are all responsible to be a part of changing.  I do believe the Christians should be motivated by the love of God to make a difference in light of these issues, but I also think it is something for everyone to work on no matter what you believe.  The first one was about extreme poverty in the world and one way to be a part of the solution (give it a read if you haven’t Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision-Part 1).  I intended to get to Part 2 this week becauase I was sick over the weekend, but another solution to an extreme poverty related issue presented itself to me and I wanted to move on it.

“How You Can Be the Change” will be an occasional segment for opportunities that come up to offer you ways to “be the change” that the world needs with minimal effort on your part.  Part of this will be to include “experts” when I can to give you first hand information and experiences from other people.  Today I was able to do that.

I have asked my friend, Chris Rosenberry, to write and tell you about an organization called “Invisible Children.”  If that sounds familiar it might be because it is on your computer screen right now.  Look to the left of the page.  There is a widget called “Social Vibe”.  This is a way for you to raise money and support for charities by just watching ads online.  That is all you have to do.  You only have to sacrafice a couple of minutes.  So easy!  I have chosen Invisible Children for my charity because what they do is awesome and what they are fighting is awful.  Instead of me telling you about it, I will let Chris give tell you about his experiences with the organization and about why it is so important to him.

Chris went to North Greenville College with me for a little while (Go Mounties!).  He is now the Youth and Arts pastor at The Refuge in Hilton Head, SC.  He is the husband of but one wife and the father of three.  Chris has a passion for social justice, obscure music, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Okay, take over Chris.

Five years ago my eyes were opened to an unseen tragedy that would change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.  I had just begun working as a youth pastor in Hilton Head, SC and was looking for ways to get my students involved in missions projects which we could support without getting in a van or on a plane.  In my research, I found a video, backed by the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done” (an instant selling point), where high school and college aged students were giving up the comforts of their beds to sleep in fields and parking lots, writing letters, and trying to make people aware of one of the greatest disasters of their generation.

For well over 20 years a war has been waging in East Africa, in the nation of Uganda.  This war, a civil war, began as a well supported uprising within the Acholi people, the people of Northern Uganda, against the nation’s government.  But when its leader was exiled and a new leader, named Joseph Kony, attempted to take control of the rebellion by creating his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) support dwindled.  With little support from his own people, Kony and the LRA resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight as part of the LRA.

Since Kony took control of the rebellion, thousands of children have been abducted and thousands have lost their innocence and their lives.  It is estimated that currently 90% of the LRA is made up of children, and that over the years as many as 66,000 children have been abducted.  It is also estimated that over the course of the war, over 1.8 million Northern Ugandans have been forced into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps) as a way of minimizing the casualties of this war.  And though about 900,000 of these people have been allowed to return to their homes, there are still almost 1 million people living in IDP camps where approximately 1,000 people die every week.

The war in Northern Uganda, which has now also spread to Congo and other East African nations, has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.  What is worse, is that for many many years this crisis was completely invisible to the outside world.  That is, until 3 film students from San Diego got on a plane and discovered what was to become their life’s work.  They came home with footage of children walking for miles each night to find a safe place to sleep, footage of the Acholi people living in fear of the LRA, and footage of aid workers asking for help.  They also came home with a mission, and shortly thereafter released their footage as a documentary film entitled Invisible Children: Rough Cut.  This film was the genesis of an organization that would commit itself to ending the war in Uganda, restoring the Acholi people, and helping to make the universe of East Africa a safe and thriving place for children to grow up.  That organization is called Invisible Children.

Since that first film, which was released in 2003,  Invisible Children has seen much change in Northern Uganda.  Schools have been rebuilt, peace has been as close as a signature way, children feel safe to sleep in their own homes, laws have been passed in the United States to aid Uganda in the capture of Joseph Kony, and hope seems very much alive.  But the work is not complete.  Joseph Kony and the LRA are still at large.  They continue to terrorize the people of East Africa, with most of their focus on the nation of Congo, and they continue to abduct, abuse, and enslave children, but Invisible Children will not give up.

Since my first encounter with Invisible Children n 2006 my family and youth group have seen, and been a part of, some of the major changes in Uganda.  We have slept in fields for days, we have been to Washington to enlist the help of our government, we have told the story of these children whats seems to be a thousand times, and we have seen our own lives changed for the better.  It is truly amazing what happens when put others before ourselves, when we take care of our neighbor, even if our neighbor is halfway across the globe.  Our involvement has taught me the depths of what the Apostle James calls pure religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

There are times when we say to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of that problem” or “That is not my problem,” but what I have learned is that there are those who do not have voices of their own, who cannot speak up and ask for help, who do not have the power or influence to affect change, and therefore it is the job of those of us who have a voice to speak up, to act, to not rest until justice has been found..  The cause of Invisible Children has shown me my voice, my students’ voices, my wife’s voice, and even the voices of my small children.  We will not rest until there is peace and restoration in East Africa, and we pray that you will join us.

For more information, ways to get involved, media resources, or ways to donate to the cause please visit Invisible Children.

Back to Joe:

Don’t forget, you can EASILY help Invisible Children make a difference by just clicking on the widget to your left and watching some ads.  Come on.  It is simple.  Then go to the website and find out other ways to help, like Chris said.

Make a difference.  Be the change.

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What’s in a Name? Jesus, Jesus, bo Bes…

Okay, the name of this post was totally just to get your attention. I wasn’t really going to sing the “name game” song with Jesus. I do have boundaries, sometimes.

It does, however bring my straight to the point. There is power in a name. Most of you (and myself) would have been completely shocked and appalled if I finished out the phrase with “bo besus.” Admit it, you would have. That is utter disrespect of the name of the one who left heaven, lived on Earth in a human body, suffered on the cross, bore our sins (which he had lived formerly in eternity separated from and did not even take part in while he was here), died, was buried, and the raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit. In our spirit, we know we can’t treat his name that way. There is power in his name. There is holiness in his name. There is an unspoken need to give the name respect, honor, and glory. “Bo besus” would be a slap in the face to all that Jesus’ name calls for.

That said, now matter how much power and glory is called for in a name, over use and similar use can detract from the strength of a name.  This is what has led to a struggle I have been having and will explain how God, as usual for me, flipped everything around and brought glory back to himself in my life.

If you haven’t read My Time Travel Testimony, go read it first and then come back.  This all takes place in the time after my timeline-shifting life change.

After God showed my that my Christian faith was all in his hands and not the story I thought it was, his love for me drew me closer to him.  The same week as my perspective adjustment, I started reading a book by David Platt called Radical (if you haven’t read it, read it, but I warn you it will change your life and your relationship with God) and I started a study through Setting Captives Free called The Lord’s Table (fat or skinny, if you know your relationship with food is out of whack, you need to check this out…it slowly stopped being about me and food and more about me and God).  Doing both of these at the same time really did completely transform my mind and change my relationship to God.  Both were quite difficult to go through, especially at together, but good.  I have not been the same since.

The Lord’s Table was a daily look in the spiritual mirror.  It really helped me to view Jesus sacrafice and a relationship with him as vital to my every day life.  Radical made me question my motives in my daily lives and asked the question, “Am I seeking the American Dream or Jesus?”  It made me wonder what I was doing for the Kingdom of God.

I finished both of these at about the same time.  When it was over, I was, to use the them of the book, radically changed…but now there was a vaccuum.  What do I do now to keep this fire going?

There are a series of challenges at the end of Radical.  One of these is to read the Bible through in one year.  I figured that is a great place to start.  I had been reading the Bible every day…and after Romans I went to Genesis and started from the beginning.  I found a One Year Bible for my ereader and started where I was in Genesis.  I was behind in the pacing for the year, but that is not what was important.  I just needed to read God’s word, and I wanted to try to do it in a year.

I have struggled every other time I have tried this.  I get a month or two in, get bogged down in Leviticus, skip a day, then another, then another, until I am just not reading anymore.  But this time was different.  It is like I can not get enough of it somedays.  I will write about this another day.  God’s word truly is amazing.

I loved it through Deuturonomy, Leviticus, and even Numbers.  1st and 2nd Kings rocked my socks off.  God taught me so much.  This time, though, it was the the books of Chronicles and the second trip the Psalms that did me in.  It was really hard to get through all of the names for the third time in 1st and 2nd Chronicles, and it was basically a rehashing of the books of Kings, but in a less exciting way.  I made it through Psalms great the first time, but this second time it has been harder to keep my attention through it.  I think one of the major things that got to me was the repetition of “The LORD” over and over through both of them.  The Bible started to become impersonal again.  It felt like I was disconnected from the words.

God must have known this, because a peculiar set of events began just when I about had enough…I was starting to “accidently” skip a day here and there.  And it all started with someone making a statement about God on Facebook, but using the name Yahweh.

I don’t know why I have been bothered by this.  I guess I always felt like when people called God “Yahweh” or even “Daddy” it was more to impress other people than to show honor and depth of relationship with God.  I will probably talk about my “Daddy” issues later (calling God that, that is), but this one is about Yahweh.

It stuck with me, seeing that on FB.  I knew it was none of my business to worry about what other people called God, but I wanted it to be.  I know that I needed to deal with this, so I prayed and asked the Spirit to help me let it go.  He did not do that.  He had another idea.

The message to my heart was, “That is my name.”  Wait, I know that.  That is the name you told Moses to tell the Israelites when they ask who sent him.  “And there is a reason for that, because it is my name.”  I know.  That is why I need you to help me deal with it when people call you that.  “My name is Yahweh.”

I kind of ended with that.  That is until when I came back to reading the Bible that night or the next morning (I don’t remember which).  When I started to read and had glazed eyes with all of “the LORDs” I was reading, I felt the overwelming urge to change them all (in the Old Testament readings) to “Yahweh”.  I wasn’t sure why, outside of the Yahweh conversation he and I just had.  So I did.

I totally changed the direction of Bible reading for me.  Suddenly verses, especially the Psalms, burst to life.  It was personal again.  When people cried out to God, they used his real name.  He is, afterall, a very personal God.  It was (and still is) awesome.  Even the books of Chronicles became lively and interactive.  It became about a God who decided to lavish his love on a group of people in a personal way, how they kept turning away from him, how he left them to their own devices, how they came to a place where they needed him, they turned back, cried out, and trusted him again…and then the cycle would begin again.  It reminded me of my relationship with God.  Call me Israel…call me Judah…we have the same story!

I am know theologian or Bible scholar, so don’t quote me here. but I did a little research.  Apparently, whenever “the LORD” is said in the Old Testament, it is usually in place of Yahweh or Adonai (which I found out that some people think was a replacement for the word Yahweh).  The Spirit led me to do something that goes back to the Hebrew text.  “The LORD” is “Yaweh”!!  How cool!

Just because I have this new practice, does that mean the Bible was not personal before…of course not!  For me, though, over the years and the common use of the word in church and elsewhere, “the LORD” is a word the lost power to me.  I did not see “the LORD” as a personal and intimate reference to God, but a word that made him more distant from me and the world.  I needed “Yahweh” take back the power, glory, and majesty of his name back in my life!  And, boy, did he.

I have not come to the point to using the name Yahweh in prayers, but I think that transformation may be coming.  Think about it.  What other “god” has told us his name?

This is more than a story about a name.  It is about how God, or Yahweh, is a personal and loving God.  He gave us his name.  His name holds power, but more than that, it shows us that he truly cares about us.  He did not tell Moses to tell the Israelites to say “Mr. God” sent him.  No, he told him his name.  All power and glory and honor to the name of Yahweh!

What about you?  Has the name of God lost power for you?  Has God become impersonal?  How has Yahweh become more real and personal to you in your life?

I do challenge you to read something in the Old Testamen and change the “LORDs” to “Yahweh”.  The Psalms are a great place to try this.  Psalm 135.  I hope it is as life changing for you as it was for me.

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My Time Travel Testimony

No, this isn’t my latest theory on what the LOST island was.  No, not about my slight obsession with quantum physics ideas on time travel.  And no, not my fan-fiction screenplay for Back to the Future 4.  No, no.  This is the story about how this January God broke through the walls I had built between him and I over the last few years, and how he completely changed my view of my life.

To do this justice, let me tell you what I thought was my testimony…then I will tell you how God flipped that on its head in my own words from the morning that he did.

I was born in a Christian home.  I have two older brothers, a brother that is only 356 day younger, and a sister that is three years younger.  My parents were great at really trying to raise us the best they new how and really tried to seek God and his will for our family.  I like to quote a Rick Mullins song and say, “They worked to give faith hands and feet and somehow gave it wings.”

When I was six, I went to vacation Bible school at our church.  I remember two things from that week.  I remember earning enough “points” to get a stuffed animal camp, and I remember being scared about going to hell.  We were all in the sanctuary of the church.  They asked if we knew where we would go if we died tonight, and if not we needed to raise our hand.  I was real afraid that my destination would be hell, so my hand went up.  I was wisked away to the pastor’s study with several other kids, who I am guessing were hell-ophobic too.

Someone, the pastor I think, told us about Jesus dying for our sins.  He led us through a prayer.  He said we were going to heaven.  I got a Snickers bar…I remember that because I could not eat it.  I was allergic to chocolate when until second grade.  That’s okay.  It was the hell thing that I was worried about.  Whew!  I was glad that was taken care of.

The next thing I remember on this issue was a few weeks later.  I remember asking my mom why I did not feel different.  Why didn’t I feel nicer?  Peaceful?  Joyful?  She said that would come with time and not to worry about.  Okay.  I’ll wait.

I tried really hard to be good.  I tried really hard to do what I thought God wanted me to do…a theme that carried on for the rest of my life (even now).  I tried to be the best Joe for God that I could be.

When I was nine I decided the I needed to be baptized.  I felt a tug on my heart.  I walked forward at church.  Talked with the pastor, and since I prayed the prayer already I thought it was time for the next step of commitment.  My Uncle David is a pastor, we decided to do it at his church.  He walked me through it all again, and then I took the plunge (yes, pun intended).

From that point on, my life revolved around pleasing God.  Living for God.  I went through A LOT of struggles that I won’t get into right now, I “rededicated” my life a few times, but my focus was usually on trying to make God happy with my life.

That led to feeling a calling into ministry.  I went back and forth between missions and youth ministry.  When the time came, I wound up at a Southern Baptist college studing “Christian Studies”…or for those who don’t know what this means, it is like a Pre-Pastor degree before seminary (like pre-law or pre-med).  During college I worked my first two summers at a Christian Camp called Look-Up Lodge, the next summer I did missions in New Mexico, and then, through a long series of events, wound up back at Look-Up for my post-college summer.

That summer I really felt was a turning point in my relationship with God.  From that point on, my life was no longer about “making him happy” but about growing in relationship with him and serving him because of love for him and for others.  I still had many struggles, but there was a change.  I could talk to him.  I could vent to him.  And he would speak to me.  He would comfort me.

Now in the last few year, I grew a little lazy.  Paul was right in the Bible when he said that once you are married it is hard to devote yourself to God.  You are divided.  Once I got married, I started to have less and less of a reliance on God and our relationship cooled a bit.  Even more so once my son was born.  I think my relationship with him staled a good bit.

This January I was challenged by this.  I knew something had to give.  Something my community group leader from church said made me want to do something.  I don’t remember what it was, and I don’t know if he knows he spurred a change in me, but the next day I knew I needed to get up and read the Bible.  I did.  I started in Romans because I know God usually uses it to speak to me.  That was Monday.  Thursday of the same week was when God took a sledgehammer to my heart and started moving furniture.

These our my words from January 21, 2011:

“I was shown this morning that I did not really accept Christ until my summer after college working at Look-Up Lodge. I just did not really understand my need for Christ until then. I knew about Christ and lived my life trying to serve him, but I did not truly understand his sacrafice for my sins until that summer.

It has been hard for me to realize this because I have been a “Christian” since I was six.  I know now that I really did not understand enough for this to be true.  I lived most of my life trying to “please God” and earn his favor.  But that is not Christianity!  Reading through Romans 5-7 showed me that this morning.

That summer at camp, we were working through the holiness of God and learning about the impossibility of us living up to that holiness.  Our sinfulness can not even be in the presence of his holiness.  We need our sin to be covered.  Only Jesus’ sacrafice on the cross taking the wrath for our sins covers them.  That summer I really started to understand this and find much needed freedom in this.  I am free from having to earn my favor in God’s sight.  It was already won for me.

I even had a vision one night during worship where I was in the throneroom of God…and I felt the total weight of my sinfulness.  I really felt like I should be dead compared to his holiness.  I fell down in the vision.  Jesus picked me up and presented me to God.  The weight of my sin was lifted.

I always thought that was just God reminding me of my salvation.  This morning he showed me (after humbling me) that WAS my salvation experience.  Thank you, Jesus!

Such a weight has been lifted this morning, because I have really struggled with understanding my salvation.  I know I am saved by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but I just have been confused about the changes I have seen in my thought processes over the years and having security in my salvation.  God cleared that up for me, and freedom abounds in that.

Now I need to get baptized and symbolically die to sin.  This is something I know I have needed to do (I did not understand really what I was doing when baptized as a kid), but I just needed clarity on it all.  I have that.  I am going to get baptized the next time they do it at my church (not at the end of this month, I am too late to sign up).

It has taken a lot of my pride to be broken down to come to this. But it is awesome, because it shows that God worked through me even before I truly was a Christian! Anyway, I just had to share.”

God has done a ton in my life since then.  He has brought people, books, and lessons that I needed to grow.  I was baptized on Easter this year (AWESOME to indentify with Jesus’ death and resurrection on that day!).  It has been hard to review my life through this lens, but now so much makes sense.

I will probably write more on this another time (the stuff from my past that makes sense now), so I won’t get into it now.  This post is long enough!

I just listened to an awesome sermon by Timothy Keller called The Prodigal Sons, and this totally summed up my life before I became a Christian.  I was the elder brother.  Please check this sermon out.  It is so good.  So different than most teaching on this passage.  Jesus is the true elder brother!

What do you think?  What is your story?  Have you ever had the change over where it no longer is about “pleasing God” to being about “loving God”?

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