RSS

Category Archives: My Testimony

RT@God: I don’t tweet. #readthebook

Alright.  This one might get some people riled up a bit.  It hasn’t been my “blog style” to jump on a soapbox, but this time I need to.  A lot of this has been on my heart and mind for a long time.  It started in my “older brother days” (for an explanation of what I mean by that, check out my post, My Time Travel Testimony), but it has gotten stronger as I have grown as a Christian…even more now that I am in the process of reading the Bible all the way through.

How do I say this nicely?  I don’t know if there is a way to do that.  Before I just jump in, please know that I know I have three fingers pointing back at me when I point this out…but, to quote Derek Webb, I have already “turned over tables in my own living room.”  I am dealing with this with myself, and I want to get it out there for others to think about to.  With all of that now said, here we go.

As a Christian “culture” it is time to grow up.  We really need to mature.  We need to get past the “milk of God” and really start to “eat like a man.”  I mean, it is time to be done with watered down versions of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible.  I know that most people probably go to great churches where they are fed well in the truth and knowlege of God…but what are we all doing outside of that?

Of the four things I mentioned as watered down, I want to focus on the Bible.   The Bible is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  Through the Holy Spirit, it is the source of our knowledge of God.  It is one of the three pillars that the Spirit uses to grow and disciple us in our faith (the other two being the Spirit speaking to our hearts and speaking to us through other people–i.e. the Church).  Most of us have the chruch and even the personal side of the Spirit down, but are we truly seeking God through the Bible?

I am not talking about a devotional with scripture at the end.  I am not talking about memory verses (though I am not knocking those).  I am not even talking about Christian music that is scripturally-based.  I am talking about the pure, unadulterated Word of God.

God does not really come in Tweet-sized pieces.  I am not downgrading Twitter.  I am just saying that we treat God like he is using Twitter in our approach to the Bible oftentimes in our lives.  We want the little pieces.  Little shots.  But God works as a whole.  He is not Twitter, he is more like a thousand page novel (in comparison).

Through my life I have met a lot of people who are great at quoting verses.  I have heard great sermons based on small pieces of Scripture.  I have read awe-inspiring stories based on clips from the Bible.  But very rarely have I been challenged to read the Bible from cover to cover and learn who my God really is.

When I was in college the first time (long story), I was a Christian Studies major.  I was in mostly religious classes.  The whole time I was there (all four years), I was only pushed to read the Bible through by one person.  Was it my Bible professors?  No.  My fellow pre-seminary religion majors?  Nope.  My Christian friends or the Baptist Student Union?  No and no.  It was my professor from the English classes I took.  Dr. Sepko.  She put out the challenge to all of the Christian Studies majors in a class I took of hers to read the Bible all the way through.  No one in the class had.

Over the years I have tried from time to time to do this.  I have always fallen short.  My motivation was that I need to read it through to say that I have.  That did not help me get through Leviticus and the Kings.  I would always get bored there and eventually give up.  I tried One Year Bibles, and the same thing happened.  It wasn’t until I went through the transformation and awakening early this year (see My Time Travel Testimony) and after reading Radical that I really WANTED to read through the Bible because I wanted to be closer to God.  I wrote my about this in my post called “What’s in a Name? Jesus, Jesus, bo Bes…

My point is this, when we are just reading parts and pieces of the Bible, we are missing the fullness of who he is.  I have been completely amazed by how susinct the Bible actually is.  I will read something in the Old Testament that will tie directly into what I read next in the New Testament.  It is so cool.  There are themes that start coming out that make God’s character so apparent.  You even start to see, through the Old Testament, that Jesus was the plan since the beginning.  God is big.  God is huge.  And he does not fit into twitter-type sound bites.

Let me challenge you like Dr. Sepko challenged me (and later David Platt did through Radical).  Commit to reading the Bible through.  You don’t have to do it in a year.  Just commit to starting and finishing.  It will change you.  I mean really change your entire being and relationship to God.  Pray about doing this.

Let me give you a few pieces of advice that I learned the hard way.

  • Find a translation that is solid but very readable for you.  I am a big fan of the New Living Translation.  It gets high marks as a translation and is very, very easy to read.
  • Get a One Year Bible.  These Bibles break it down into an easy program to follow with tips on how you can read it or take longer than a year to read it.
  • Pray!  Pray through it as you read.  The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible, he WILL help you understand it.  I promise.  You just have to trust him.
  • Read the book, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.  This was a game changer for me in how to read the Bible for understanding.
  • When you have questions about something you read, ask somebody.  Also, the internet has been a great tool for me as I read.  There is a lot of information out there that will help things make more sense.
  • Last, if you are willing to put your money where your mouth is to take this sersiously, get an ereader.  Reading the Bible on the ereader has helped me so much.  Everything is in one column like a regular book.  The font is as big as you want it, and it is easy to read and get immersed in what you are reading.

Let me know if you want to take this challenge.  I would love to pray for you in this.

What do you think?  Is this a challenge you would like to take on?  Have you already done this?  How has it affected your life?

Please think about becoming an email subscriber so you can stay updated!  It is free and it is awesome.  🙂

Performancing Metrics

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

If you haven’t, please think about becoming an email subscriber.  It is free, and you will get instant updates sent to your inbox.

Performancing Metrics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Don’t forget to become an email subscriber.  Updates will be sent automatically to your inbox!

Performancing Metrics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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”?

Performancing Metrics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,