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Call Me Israel…

Life has gotten busy.  My newborn and three year-old, time for my wife, and then work takes up most of my time.  It is hard to focus long enough on God everyday just in seeking him, let alone finding the time to put thoughts to virtual paper.

I have struggled to read the Bible every day as I had been for nearly a year.  When I do, I just don’t have the time to dig in and spend in it as I had been.  However, I am back on track, most days.

I am on my second time through the Bible.  I am not saying this to boast.  No, quite the opposite.  It is quite humbling.  I did not see the same things when I read before.  And what I am seeing is not good.

I am reading a chronological Bible this time through.  What this means is that this Bible puts everything in a time order of when they happened and/or were written.  Because of this, I am not getting the Old and New Testaments together each day (unless I do a seperate reading).  Spending this much time in the OT (Old Testament) has been eye-opening.

The first time through, I remember thinking, “Man, those Israelites just didn’t get it.  God was constantly taking care of them, providing for them, and protecting them, and all they do is run away from him.  How could they have done that?”

This time through, I am realizing that I am Israel.  Their lives as a nation mirror my life as a Christian.  I constantly run from God and what I know is right…all the while God keeps providing and protecting.  More than that, God gave the ultimate sacrafice of Jesus to pay for my sins (my turning from him) and to give me life with hm forever.  How could I keep turning away from him?

I am Israel.  I don’t trust God, even though he is trustworthy.

I am Israel.  I offer little as I ask for much.  God offers much and asks for little.

I am Israel.  I run away from God, and all he wants me to do is turn to him…even in my sin…so that his faithful love and mercy can change me and bring glory to his name.

Call me Israel.  That is my name.  We are one and the same.  The point is God’s mercy for the glory of his own name.  I just need to trust him, look to him, run to him, and know him as my source for everything.  This is when I will change.

Israel is the name God gave Jacob because of Jacob’s trust and faith in God.  Not the good that Jacob did, but because of faith and trust.  This is the other side of this coin.  The history of Israel is a mirror of my life…but the story of Israel (Jacob) should be the goal of my life.  To trust God and put my faith in him, even though I am clearly not deserving of it.

Call me Israel…I have nothing to trust or put my faith in but God.

Father, Jesus, and Spirit, please make this message clear to me today.  Please help me to trust you in every moment of the day.  Please help me to look to you.  Please help me to see everything as yours…even my time and energy.  Please use me to show your glory today.  Love, your son, joe.

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I know I have been on sabbatical from the blog lately. I will get back into it soon, but I want to re-blog an old one that has been on my mind. I need to be reminded that it is all finished and I am dead to sin and alive in Jesus. I need to remember the freedom that comes from Jesus “bringing down the house” and freeing me to love and serve him with forever in view. This picture of Jesus does this for me. I hope it reminds you of your freedom, too.

OneCupofJoe

This is how I see Jesus today.  This is the Jesus that I need.  I need my Action Hero Jesus.  I need a steel-faced Jesus walking away from an explosion without ever looking back.  This is the Jesus for me today.  This is who I need to be reminded of.

“Whoa, whoa.  Hold on there, OneCupOfJoe guy.  You can’t bring Jesus down to the level of a movie action hero.  That is so sacreligious.  What gives you the right?  Who do you think you are?”

Just follow me on this one.  It will make sense at the end.  Read on, my patient and forgiving readers!  This is a cool picture that God gave me about the gospel a while back, and it was brought back fresh to me this morning.

I have the privilege and undeserved honor to meet with some men much godiler than me every Thursday morning to…

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The Reality of the Moment

Well folks, obviously being a father of a three year-old (NB had a birthday) and infant has made blogging hard to come by for me.  God has taught me a lot…mostly about my own selfishness and pride…but I haven’t had time to complete thoughts and share them.  No, this isn’t my “Dear John” letter to the blogging world, just an explanation of my silence.

This morning, since blog time is at a premium, I have decided I am just going to pray “out loud.”  Maybe others are feeling the same things I am feeling, and possibly my prayer can be an echo of what you want to say to heaven but can’t find the words.  I don’t know.  I just know that sometimes praying honestly, but publicly, changes me.  It makes me honest and accountable to God and my brothers and sisters in faith.  So anyway, that is what this post is about.

Father, Jesus, and Spirit,  I cannot tell you how much I feel aware of my need for you today.  I know you know, but I need to acknowlege it to you.  I need to tell you.  I need to split myself open and be honest with you.  I need you to work in my heart, mind, and life today.  Forget yesterday.  Forget tomorrow.  I need you today, right now.  I need to know that you are the goal.  You are my means to reach the goal.  You are my inheritence.  What I have to do today doesn’t matter as much as my relationship with you.  I need you.  I don’t need to do my job perfectly.  I do not have to have everything work out as planned.  I just need to know my God’s presence and let that change me.  Please be near me today.  Please make me aware of your nearness.  Please make your presence all that matters today…and let that change me.  Let that light my interactions with others.  Let there be a “drop of grace” in every footstep that I leave today.  Let your glory shine on my face and make a difference to others.  Let my love be your pure love.  Spirit, produce your fruit in me.  Let your presence grow what I can not grow alone.  Jesus, let your love be my motivation for everything today.  Father, please just draw me close.  I need you.  Father, Jesus, Spirit, I need you.  I love you.  Please help me to try to love like you love me.  your son, joe

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Jesus Voted Democrat in 2008

I know I just offended a bunch of people by using that for a title.  Was that on purpose to get your attention?  A little.  However, it is also very much the point I want to make this morning.  Actually, this post has been brewing in my mind for quite a while.  I feel it is timely to pull the trigger on it because I live in South Carolina, and we are at the center of the Republican primary fight until Saturday.

Before you get out your pitch forks and torches and come hunting to string me up for making such a claim, please hear me out.  This comes from some of the stuff God has been teaching me over the last year, and he is still teaching me even now.  I feel like it is time to share some of these thoughts and maybe start a conversation about them.  Maybe God is teaching you some of the same things.  Maybe he needs you to start thinking about them.

Let me start with my credentials.  I am a recovering hardcore conservative.  I am still really conservative, but the edges are starting to soften.  As long as I can remember, I have been interested in politics and the way the world works.  I started watching the news at a very early age, I followed the events of the world, and I asked my dad questions all of the time about America’s leaders (he was a Marine, so I figured he should know).  The first time I saw the White House was like going to Disney World for me.  One of my prized possessions is the letter I got back from the first President Bush after I wrote to him during the Persian Gulf War.

As I grew up, I became more and more set in my political thoughts.  I was a proud Republican.  I thought the Religious Right was always right.  Conservative became a badge I loved to wear.  I was really into the primary politics during the year I was a senior in college.  I really felt like I was being a good Christian to be pulling for the “good guys.”  When I met Christians who labeled themselves “liberal,” I almost always doubted their faith.  I did not know how that could be possible.

That pretty much stayed somewhat the same until very recently, except for the doubting of people’s faith…I stopped doing that a long time ago.  God really did a work on the amount of trust and stock I put into politics and conservatism as a movement.  When God took a hold of me last year and shook me awake, he opened my eyes to who he is, what the world is for, and my place in it all.  A part of this was seeing that maybe there is more than labels like conservative and liberal and more than who might be in office at any given time.  Maybe I need to put less worry into it.  Maybe God is in control way more than I give him credit for.

As I wiped the sleep from my spiritual eyes, I started to realize a few things that I need to refocus on:

  • God is sovereign, and this includes our government.  No matter who is leading our country, the bills they are passing, or how much it seems they are ruining or helping the “American way,” God is not asleep at the wheel.  He knows what is going on.  He has been around a while.  He has seen countries come and go.  As a matter of fact, he was the one who caused the comings and the goings.  He knows what he is doing.  If a democrat or republican becomes president, it is not like this is a shock to him.  Like what this means or not, who ever sits in the Oval Office was put there by the Almighty himself.  Really.  Romans 13:1  says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”  All authority comes from God.  That means it truly comes from him and is intended by him.  Those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  Despite what you might think about it, God put both George W. Bush and Barack Obama in the role of President.  Really.  I know that may be hard for people on both sides of the matter to take, but it is true.  God is ultimately in control.  We kind of just need to deal with it, trust him, and get to the bigger job of loving him and loving others.
  • I need to trust and submit to what ever authority I am under, even if they are a different political party.  Not that there is anything wrong with supporting and being involved with a political party, I myself fully intend to vote in the republican primary on Saturday.  We live in a democratic republic (those of my readers who live in the US, at least), and we have the right to vote.  We need to take advantage of that.  However, there has to be more to life than that.  Be involved, but we can not make that our identity.  God has called us to so much more than politics.  We can write to Congress and try to get our voices heard, but there has to be more than that.  At some point we need to realize that God put these people where they are, and though we disagree we need to submit to their authority.  Do what you can to get things changed, but do not make this your whole life.  God has called us to two major jobs, and that is to love him and love others.  We can do that no matter who is in office and what they are doing.  We can do that even if we had a monarch or dictator (though it would be more difficult).  When we submit to our rulers, we are really submitting to God.  That is what we are supposed to do.  If you doubt, go read further in Romans 13.  Verses 2 through 5 are pretty clear on this point.
  • Agree or disagree with taxes and what they go to pay, we need to pay them.  I intended to just focus on trusting and submitting to authority, but I decided to end out Paul’s thoughts in Romans 13.  The final thoughts on government are in verses 6 and 7, “Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.  Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.”  I know I might be opening a can of worms on the taxes thing, but if we are to trust and submit to our government, we need to pay our taxes and move on.  Seriously.  It would be nice to have extra money, but we need to trust what God is doing.  Use your vote to try to change things.  Write a Congress person or two, but just move on.  Don’t spend your life worrying about the taxes.  God is in control and he will take care of you.

That brings us back to the title.  Jesus did vote democrat in 2008, and his vote was the only one that counted.  The hard part for us, especially as free-voting Americans, is to realize that no matter who “wins” office it is God-ordained and our job to realize God’s authority through it.  Politics can not run our lives.  Worry about who is in leadership has never been meant to be.  Yes, we do need to do our part, vote, and contact leaders when we disagree.  In the same note, we need to move past that and look for what God has for us to do day to day.  Even if our country fails and we are thrown into uncertainty, God is still God and he is still in control.

So go vote, but also love everyone around you and show them God’s love…no matter who they vote for.

Father, Jesus, and Spirit, please help me know your authority and submit to it.  Help me to see you no matter who is in office.  Thank you.  I love you.  Your son, Joe.

 

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Number Two…Part Two

Now that ID (my second child) has been with us for almost two weeks, I thought I would write a follow-up to my post Number Two.  I have had a lot of time to think and reflect on the experience of going from the father of one to the father of two, albeit the thoughts are from a slightly sleep deprived mind.  Even though I now am in the process of potty training a toddler along with changing a bazillion newborn diapers, this is still not about that number two.  🙂

Here are a few of the things that I am learning:

  • Patience is hard at three in the morning.  I am trying hard not to get fustrated with LA and/or the baby when the ID is fussy and can’t be consoled, but it is hard.  I am being reminded time and time again that I do not have heavenly patience on my own.  It only comes from the Spirit.  I wish I could say I am doing really good at seeking the Spirit early in the AM, but I am not.  I just know what I need to work on.
  • Love can be equal and different.  I love both of my sons so much.  I love hanging out and playing with NB.  I love holding and cuddling with ID.  They are in two different phases of life, and the fathering skills are different for both.  Patience can be harder with the preschooler, especially when he is having trouble adjusting to not being the only one, but that goes back to my first point.  I do love them equally, and I love them differently.  They are different.  I will just stay in prayer that as they grow I will remember that and not compare them to each other.  I just want to love them for who they are individually.
  • I am still a selfish sinner in need of a Savior.  With to kids needing my love and attention, it is becoming even more apparent how selfish I am.  I am so prideful.  I want my time notched out for me as well as them.  I know rest time is important, but I use it as an excuse.  Even now, NB is watching TV when I probably should be playing with him.  I will play with him as soon as I am done, but it is an example of the problem.  I want to use tiredness and the need for a mental break as an excuse to worship at the throne of me.  I need to trust God to give me the energy, strength, and mental ability to do all I need to do for my sons and wife.  I need to admit to God that I am a selfish, prideful man.  I need to preach the Gospel to myself and remind myself that I am nothing without Jesus, and I can’t be the father and husband I need to be without Jesus and the Spirit.  I need the Gospel to be ever present.
  • I need the Bible more than ever.  In the last week and a half, I have found excuse after excuse not to read the Bible.  A week and a half is a long time to go without reading the Bible for me now.  I felt it.  I knew I needed to get back into it.  I finally did yesterday, and it was so refreshing.  I need to recommit to reading it everyday, meditating, and spending quality time with God.
  • God will provide.  I won’t go into all of the details, but God has seen our needs before we have known them and has provided.  It has been amazing.  God does not always meet our needs in the way we think they need to be met, and sometimes he does.  The thing we need to learn is that we can trust him.

Okay, there are a lot more things that I am forgetting, but maybe I can get to those later.  I just knew I needed to write a little.  It is something that burns in my heart until I do.  I need to go play with my son.  Hopefully you can glean something from what God is teaching me.

Has God taught you anything really cool, life-changing, or obvious but needed lately?

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The Sweetness of My Son

I am in the hospital with my wife and our second son.  ID was born two days ago.  This morning I just could not get over how awesome it was to just hold him in my arms.  I imagine that is when God is the most pleased with us.  When we are nestled in close and completely relient on him.  Like newborns, he wants us to know we need him for everything.

So often I am more like my almost-three-year-old.  I think I can do everything.  Even the things that I know I should look to God for help, I want to do on my own.  I get anxious and stubborn,  “I do it by myself,” to quote NB.  Though he still needs me, the independent streak is very obvious.

i live my life between the two attitudes.  Completely relient or rebelliously independent.  As I spend time with ID, my new boy, and get fustrated by NB, my firstborn, I hope I continue to analyze myself and my relationship to God.

Right now, with the sleep deprivation, I think I am closer to the newborn.  I know I can’t do this alone.

Okay, I hope this one made sense.  Just some random thoughts from fatherhood as I sit here looking at my newborn son.

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Post-Christmas Protest and Boycott

Okay, I started writing this a few days ago.  I got sidetracked, but I wanted to get these thoughts out before I write anything else.  Hopefully I can remember all that I meant to say.  Happy New Year!!  In case I forget to say it at the end.  🙂

If you have been reading my blog this Christmas, you can see that it has been quite a reflective time for me.  I didn’t even share half of what God has been teaching me and showing me.  I wanted to blog it all, but I ran out of time.  I even started writing a few that never got finished.  Life does not always make room for writing.  As I lamented not sharing all I wanted to share this Christmas time, I got to thinking…why is the coming of December 26th the end of thinking about the incarnation (the coming of Jesus from heaven to Earth to live down here with us)?

Here we are on New Years Eve, and Christmas has already faded away.  For a lot of people, I know that Decemeber 26th has a Christmas magic all its own…poof, the tree is gone, the lights are gone, the radio stations are playing “regular music,” and all that is left is an empty spot the room where the tree once stood.  I remember in years past that the empty place left an empty place in my heart.  Is that all there was for Christmas?  How did that “Christmas feeling” fade so fast?

This year I do not want to end it that way.  I propose a boycott.  No, this is not an excuse for me not to take down the tree.  It is already down.  What I mean is that is that we don’t just turn our backs on the symbolism and kindness that Christmas brings.  I don’t want to wait to let God to use the meaning of Christmas in my heart until I have overeaten on turkey and mash potatoes (Thanksgiving reference, to my non-American readers).  I want it to be something that comes up in my life from time to time, and I want to let it linger a bit now.

God really has taught me so much about the symbolism of Christmas.  I am not going back on what I said before about Christmas needing to be more than a feeling and about baby Jesus.  I am talking about how it all points to Jesus’ sacrafice, my forgiveness, and my new life through Christ and the Spirit.  I want to be inspired to help people out because of how Jesus stooped down to help me.  I want to give of myself.  I want to be light in the dark winter.

For this reason, don’t be surprised if I write “Christmas themed” posts from time to time.  I want to share more about what God taught me.  I promise, it will not be all that I write and I will try not to be over-the-top with it.  I just need to contiue to share how awesome the picture of what Jesus did looks from the perspective of what Christmas represents…the coming of our Savior.

Join me in my protest.  Don’t give up on Christmas!

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