They Didn’t Expect God

They were just going through life’s motions.

A couple thousand years ago a couple was traveling. They were traveling for Christmas break, they just didn’t know it. Well, actually, they were the only ones that did know it. Turns out that this family gathering that they were going to was about to really turn things upside down in the world as we know it. It was a family gathering really it was. web-mary-riding-donkey-travel-pdJoseph was returning to his home town because a law was passed that said everyone had to return to their home town with their families to be registered. To sign up and be counted. It was a census. I’m going to be honest with you, it would have been so much easier on Mary if they had telephones or door to door census takers. I remember when you could get a job as a census man. Anyway, because Joseph was returning to his home, we can understand that any other male members of his family were returning with him as well. Cousins, uncles, grandfathers, great grandfathers; it was a family gathering.

They were not expecting God or looking for God.

As this family gathered though, a couple of them probably knew it was time for the baby. Mary, the pregnant mama, and Joseph, her husband, were the ones that knew this was THE Child of God; the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one. Everyone else went into the first Christmas and no one was expecting God. Shepherds were out in the field at night doing shepherdy things. There was a convoy of strangers heading to Jerusalem following betshep.jpga star; they were anticipating a new King in a palace. The National government was busy collecting taxes and counting heads of families, trying to get a grasp on who this nation was. The local eateries and lodging establishments were just trying to keep up with demands. They were probably trying to maximize their living spaces, table spaces and menus, in order to take advantage of this opportunity. Demanding a census had the effects of a “Jobs Initiative.” Got all kinds of day laborers working. Most likely had people scrambling to even find good help. None of them were expecting God.

Mary and Joseph’s family – not expecting God

The Shepherds – not expecting God

Inn Keeper – not expecting God

Tax collectors – not expecting God

Travelers – not expecting God

Workers – not expecting God

Everyone – not expecting God

Today is like yesterday

IMG_2390Today I see Christmas trees going up, lawn ornaments going up, lights sparking on roofs and in the trees and bushes of my neighbors. There was Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Internet shopping, Amazon Dropping, UPS delivering, USPS arriving, and FEDEX bring in the haul. Churchy religious people and organizations are ramping up their services, setting out more chairs, printing tickets, Getting the flying angels flying, rounding up the camels and sheep for the Holy City drive through. All things considered, we are in the same place that the world was back then; not expecting God. And please, before you go and take offense and get your acid reflux refluxing, no one is expecting God to break in and take us all home, if they were, they’d be dumping bank accounts, selling off property, giving their things away. You would be out inviting your neighbors into your personal salvation story. Expressing to them the joy of following Jesus, the promise of his second coming, and what all it has mean for you to walk with him.

BEHOLD

But time and time again, the story of God and His desire to save His greatest creation, His best work, His children, is interrupted by the statement “Behold!” This word is usually followed by “and the angel said,” “the Lord said,” “the Angel of the Lord said,” “Do not be afraid.”

God wants your attention this time

BEHOLD. Our Christmas series this year is “BEHOLD.” The moments in history when God did something miraculous, amazing, supernatural; when He loved on his children and they didn’t even see it coming. BEHOLD means, “Look,” “Pay attention,” “Do you see this?” It is God asking for your attention to let you know he is doing something really big. Something in your life.

For Christmas this year, Ask Seek and Knock

This Christmas season I want to encourage you to ask God for a “Behold” moment in your life.

It could very well be that he says, “Behold, I want you to pay for that family’s lunch.” He may say “Behold, I am answering your prayer …” He may crash into your Christmas and let you know that he never left you, never forsook you, and he is still actually arranging things on your behalf. Whatever it is, it will be an opportunity, and it will be in conjunction with his expectation of your obedience, to follow Him; to let Him lead the dance that is your life. Behold moments don’t come while we are ignoring him, leaving him out, or living in sin. These moments come when we get to the end of ourselves and finally let go and give in to His love for us.

Look around and expect God. Seek Him during this season and ask for a “BEHOLD” experience this year.

 

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TWO THINGS: 2

“So how are things going for you?”

Some form of that question is asked on any given day as we pass people, come to work, show up at the coffee shop; it is a greeting that suggests familiarity, pretends some sort of compassion and empathy, but is lived out in apathy. What if you actually answered it for yourself today?
It the midst of life, Jeremiah, the prophet, TELLS us how things are going rather than asking us how they are going. (Well he does for Israel thousands of years ago any way.)

Jeremiah that prophet

Jeremiah is just not a happy guy. He is a downer. You just want to say, “Come on man, say something encouraging!” I’m reading Jeremiah right now and it has the same appeal as reading the actual contents on the side of a tube of Preparation H. Just a lot of scientific words I don’t know, and lacking in encouragement; right now at least. As I’m beginning this book I find myself with Facebook open in front of me and I’m reading Jeremiah 2 at the same time. There is a lot of looking from screen to page, from screen to page over and over. Not because I need to see what is happening in the digital social construct we call our world, but because there is so much correlation between what I am seeing and what Jeremiah is saying.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jolly Rancher

It is some pretty relevant scripture right there. Our souls would do well to take time to ponder this. Think of “pondering” like putting a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and just swirling it around and around. (it may be true that I have a raspberry Jolly Rancher in my mouth at this moment; don’t judge me) Explore the reality of your relationship to God in heaven for a while and your relationship to this passage. Fight against the human machine and the social extreme by grabbing the brake and giving it a YANK!! Slow down today for a moment. Let’s just be with God and hear this word from yesteryear.

TWO THINGS: #1

There are two things that God needed to tell Israel about. The first one is that they have forsaken God. There is a lot of this world that is attacking your heart and your desires as you go through life: things, attention, popularity, fame, love, sex, and a whole host of material possessions. God is calling us to not allow anything to take his place of priority in our lives. Clearly the Israelites had decided that the other “gods” (that are actually not gods at all); gods of various immoral worship practices; sexual as well as infanticide would be more fun. God is calling them out for walking away from him. He is GOD and he will not be ignored, cast aside or get off the throne. So, God allowed them to receive the consequences of not remaining under his protection. People talk about where is God when things go south, or go wrong, and the answer is always the same: You rejected God and pushed him away, now you are reaping the consequences of this choice.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you confessing being a theological Christian or Christ -follower, yet you are living like a practical Atheist? You read what Jesus said but you don’t do what Jesus said unless you like it. Don’t rise up in angst or feigned umbrage, (there’s a word for ya! It means, “offence or annoyance”) you know this happens all the time. For some reason we are “selling” Jesus like he is a club, or a group to join, when truly he is God to whom we surrender. God is not a Sunday morning checklist item. He is not a daily Bible reading chore to fulfill. He is not a good work that will earn you a right standing “in the end.” God is our father: he is a relationship to rejoice in above all others. He wants to walk with you. It does start in the Bible but it continues on as we learn to walk in the Spirit. But be honest, there are a lot of people that claim to follow Jesus, but they live in rejection of his teachings because the teachings don’t make personal sense to them. So they rationalize a whole new God that cannot be supported without serious hermeneutical calisthenics: TWISTING OF THE SCRIPTURES. Doing what Jesus said to do is costly and doesn’t always, or often, make sense; do it anyway. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Is 55:8.

TWO THINGS #2

The second thing is that Israel is digging it’s own cisterns. (a cistern is an underground tank or reservoir for storing rainwater) God contrasts cisterns with a spring of constant cisternconsistent fresh water. What God offers in our relationship to him is good, it is fresh and it is eternal. Cistern water is stored water. It can get algae in it. It can become stagnant and putrid. Spring water is always being refreshed, it is moving through. God wants what is best for us. God is good, God is love, God gives eternal life. But we are a people that want what we want for some of the dumbest reasons at times. Even Israel in her early days rejected God being their leader for a King so they could be like every other nation around them. We want to be like everyone else. We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want more than everyone else so we can be impressive and important. We want to be a people that can “do it ourselves.” We want to brag about what we have accomplished. We want to leave out God and his part in our lives; he won’t stand for that though. The world we live in says, “Look what I did,” and even when we become Christians, we tend to revert to “Ok I got this God thanks, leave me alone now, I’ll do it myself.” But we are dependent upon God even when we don’t know it. We don’t make the sun run its course. We don’t keep the world spinning on its precarious axis of 23 degrees. We do not determine how much rain will fall and where or when it will fall. We don’t create the droughts. As humans we cannot even tell people where existence came from. The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Back to the same question, “What about you?” Are you living your life on your terms, by your own created, rationalized, standards, or are you in a living relationship with God? In Matthew 7 Jesus said not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those people did good, religious, and spiritually powerful things, but apparently it wasn’t what God was telling them to do, it was what they wanted to do. They were digging their own cisterns and asking God to bless it.

We serve a God that still speaks today. Through the Bible, through circumstances, through other people, through music, through prayer and through community: God wants us to listen and obey.

God, What happened in Florida?

You might want to buckle up for this one. It’s worth the read, it’s a little longer than usual, but then ask yourself, “Where do I fit in?”

Go Social Media

I saw a meme on FB the other day that said,

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“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

Another one says,

“Share if you think we need to put prayer, or God, or the Bible, back in School.”

All of this implying that, God in School curriculum, or prayer in school, or Preachers preaching someone’s idea of “The right Christianity,” can solve this problem, as a Pastor for the last almost 25 years, nothing could be further from the truth. I haven’t seen this kind of really poor understanding of theology from people that claim to be Christians in quite a while. But hey, social media gives us this platform to screw up Jesus’ teachings and call it truth; and you wonder why things are the way they are.

Florida is evidence of a problem

What happened in Florida last week was a horrifically evil event that did not happen without forethought and some serious planning. It would “appear” that the government was in fact told of this individual, his words, and ideologies, his social media posts, and to some degree, his intent, and he slipped right through the cracks. This is not a gun problem. I’m not a big raging fan of guns and I’m not raging against people having guns. I finished 12 years of school in the public school system and then a couple in the college level; guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Should people have access to this kind of gun? I don’t care. I won’t own one myself. But that’s not the point of this post.

Oh the ignorance of people

I’m interested in the question, “How did our world, our country, our state, our community, come to this kind of place?”

I do not believe the awful things happening to our children or in our nation is because,

“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

This just strikes me as ignorant: just plain, straight up, hillbilly ignorant. Just because a person preaches that something is sin doesn’t stop the people that claim to follow God from doing it. If that were the case, divorce would simply stop, adult people (not even talking about high schoolers: ADULTS) would stop having sex before they are married, would actually tithe to their local church, would serve in the children’s area, would raise their children IN CHURCH instead of chasing every traveling league and teaching their children to skip church, but don’t skip the team. The church would be diversified instead of segregated: FROM BOTH SIDES not just one. People would realize that women should make as much as men if they do the same job with the same level of productivity. (This can go on and on and on.) Preachers preach that Porn is wrong but church folks like it. Preachers preach that “50 Shades of Grey,” “Game of Thrones” and such, isn’t healthy for Christian people and they get emails about not judging. Hahaha are you kidding me? “Preachers need to preach that Hell is real?” REALLY?

The people posting these memes cheat on their taxes, lie to their spouses, ignore their children, and look down their noses at people that are a different color than they are. People posting these memes don’t share their faith, or the love of God in Jesus with their neighbors, or their co-workers and you want me to believe that the preacher isn’t doing their “real” job?

What are you actually teaching your children?

People that teach their little children to hate people they are mad with post these memes; they have no sense of local church loyalty or accountability at all. Preachers say something they need to hear, they cut and run. Preachers won’t let them do what ever they want; they cut and run. Preachers say something they disagree with; they cut and run. Preachers hold them accountable for their sin, i.e. creating division, sowing discord, immorality, lack of compassion or not getting involved in ministry, they cut and run.

Tell me again the preacher isn’t preaching the right message and I will show you a NATION of people that barely know who lives next door. I will show you a nation of people that underpay teachers and EXPECT them to raise their little bundles of sunshine. I will show you a nation that will do more to protect the drug dealer than the police officer sent to arrest him. I will show you a nation of people joyfully led around by the nose by entertainers, and corrupt politicians, and media moguls instead of their supposed “Christian Values.”

What did Jesus do? Then what should you do?

We live in a world of sinners according to what the Bible says. And Like Paul, I have not lost sight of the fact that I am the worst. But these same people do not have to believe what I believe and I do not believe that shoving my belief system down their throats is what Jesus said to do. The Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ is and always will be, an invitation, not a HAMMER! People said “No” to Jesus all the time and he didn’t cuss them, meme them to death, slander them, or ignore them, he loved them, served them and then died for them while they were yet sinners. He wasn’t trying to create a “Christian Nation” at all. He didn’t get involved in the affairs of local politics. He even went so far as to say “Father, forgive these men that just did this to me because they don’t even know what they are doing.” Live your life like this and you will change the world.

The problem isn’t that Preachers aren’t preaching right, the problem from my perspective is that Christian people want to be in the “FUN Church Club” but don’t want to DO what Jesus said to DO. You solve that one problem, just that one problem, and you will turn this nation upside down for the good. You want God in charge? Then get off your own throne and put him in charge of you first. When was the last time you had some new people into your home for dinner? Just asking.

Finally, you want prayer back in school? You want reading the Bible back in school? I don’t. I don’t want a non-Christian, atheist, pagan, or apathetic humans or even nominal Christians, leading my grandchildren in prayer, and interpreting the Bible for them. That is the parent’s job. You want your children following the teachings of Jesus? Then teach them at home with some small modicum of integrity and example instead of twisting the scripture to fit your idolatry.

Well now, that’s pretty heavy stuff, but it is the stuff pastors and preachers put up with everyday of the week. The solutions to the horrors of our lives is never simple, never easy, and never cheap enough to simply put on a meme. LifeWay says in their poll, 250 pastors quit each month. I wonder why? I’m not writing this because I’m perfect or even sinless. I wish I could get through one day without having to go to Jesus and confess and ask forgiveness; I need my savior. But, I love that I get to lead a group of people that want to be like Jesus, want to love, and serve, and get involved on a personal, one-to-one level, I love that. They put their rocks down, we have no right to stone people, we have been called to love them and stick to the truth, and introduce them to Jesus of the Bible.

You want to solve this “Problem,” (pick one problem to focus on) then stop talking about who should do it and you be the one to go do it. Yeah, it’s like that.

BLESSED ARE YOU …

I’m reading through Matthew 5, 6, 7, as a discipline as I continue to preach through this teaching in anticipation of going deeper spiritually and taking people deeper spiritually. Jesus was with a great crowd of people and he and his disciples, (don’t think just 12), went over to a mountainside. (The hill region) The mountainside acts as a natural amphitheater. Jesus understood this and fully expected that he needed a place where he could speak to many, many people. So he sits down and begins to unfold the very core offeet of Jesus his teaching: this constitutes his “yoke.” From a teacher-student relationship a “yoke” is the burden of understanding or interpretation of, a given teacher in relationship to the subject at hand. So when Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he is speaking of people buying into his interpretation of something; in this case the Law of Moses.

Jesus begins with the word “Blessed.” Blessed is “Makarios” in the Greek and it is translated 44 times as blessed, 4 times as good, 1 time as fortunate and 1 time as happier. (in the NIV 1984) So as Jesus unfolds his interpretation of life and the Law at the beginning, he starts with the fact that your life is favored, good, and happier, when and if … these things apply to you. There seems to carry in this word the understanding that the face of God seems to be attuned to, or turned toward the person that is poor, that is mourning, that walks humbly, who longs to do right by others, that is merciful to those around them, that is focused upon one thing, who choose to make peace in peaceful ways and means, and even find themselves persecuted because of their desire to do what is right for everyone.

“Blessed are” does not seem to “inclinate” that these people go through life without any problems or getting everything they ask God for. It appears more right to understand this is a list of people that are giving their lives away; that live in contentment in their circumstances and focus a little more outward.

Jesus was teaching in the presence of a military state. The Roman army and culture that was trying to push into their existence occupied them. Everywhere they turned their lives and subsequently their religion was bumping into the laws and expectations of Rome.

In the midst of all of this Jesus begins what we call the “Beatitudes”, the list of blessings. This is in direct relationship to Isaiah 61, which Jesus reads in the synagogue (Luke 4) as he launches his ministry.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of God has broken through into a dark world. The focus of God is upon this world and specifically all the people of this world. All of this teaching has an eschatological focus: The Kingdom is here but the Kingdom is coming as well. As children of the Kingdom our transformation will be evident to all when we can find our peace and relationship to God the father in being content that God is with us in all of this. Whether in the “now or the not yet,” we WILL find relief and salvation from God.

Blessed are you today in your present circumstance, your desired circumstance and your eventual/ eternal circumstance, for the gaze of God is upon you. Find your contentment today in his shadow.

Peace

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:17-18 NIV

peace2Are you experiencing peace today? Peace in your soul, peace in your heart, peace in your health, maybe peace in your everyday life? Jesus came and preached peace. To us that were far from God, Jesus brought peace. Stewing in the fog of chaos and sin, Jesus offered peace. He offered me the peace that begins with being right with God. I don’t owe him.

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I have a motorcycle. I put down a significant amount of money but I still owe the bank. There is a very real bondage that comes with owing someone something. Knowing the consequences of a debt not paid off. I found the same thing when I owed someone personally. Afraid of what this person could do. Afraid of the feeling that I could never pay it off. Not only was I struggling to reduce the principal, I found myself actually compounding the principal, not just the interest, in my attempts to fight my way out.

You see I was born a sinner. I was not born innocent as some well meaning but totally misinformed and/or delusional people would tell you. No, I was born with the nature to sin in my heart already there. Much like an apple is formed with an apple seed alreadyApple seeds in it. GUILTY BY BIRTH! My capacity to sin only grew as I grew. The more I sinned the more I became aware of sin. The debt I owed God couldn’t be offset or paid for by my good works or acts of kindness. I could never be good enough, or nice enough, or even give enough, to make up for the attitudes of my heart, the filth I was immersed in, or the sins I acted upon. Like a man cast into a raging sea, overwhelmed by the waves, drowning, I needed a rescuer: a savior.
I owed God!
In the midst of the ocean, as death threatened to swallow me and drag me down to the depths of the sea, God sent his son to do the one thing nobody else could do; save me from myself; my humanity.
I don’t know the actual or intrinsic value of the blood and body of a man that did in fact live a perfect life. The price for my life, the salvation of my soul for eternity, the peace that I need was found in having my debt to God cancelled. This is the “person” I owed: I was in ever increasing debt to God almighty.
Somehow, for some reason, he chose to love me enough to send his son to earth to be bloodied, beaten and viciously crucified for my debt. As a result I owe God nothing. passion-of-the-christ-nailNothing except the ever increasing love that I have for my savior. Nothing except the desire for intimacy and presence of the king of the universe. Though I have not seen him he has been very obvious and present in my life. Though I have not touched him, I have very clearly heard his voice and obedience is my act of reciprocal love. How can I not love him that endured so much for me?
His one request of me? Love.
Love my creator.
Love my enemy.
Love my family.
Love my friends.
Love those in need.
Love.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fruitful, but it is always the call from my savior. I fail, but thankfully his invitation is to get back up and try again. “Press on,” he said, “your going forth is sure.”
Do you have peace in your life? I mean is there peace when you wake up?
“Sin” in your life robs you of peace.
“Unsettled relationships” rob you of peace.
“Debt” robs you of peace
“Not knowing” steals your peace
Having faith that life has purpose and meaning, knowing that you can trust your future to God who is infinitely bigger than you, brings peace.
That peace is waiting on you through the free gift of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. He who had no sin became sin for all of us. Repent (stop doing things with the worlds wisdom, stop living for your own pleasure) and give God your life. (Read the Bible and then do the Bible as literally as possible) then watch things change as your life takes a new shape, the shape of peace.

 

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Sooner or later you have to ask yourself what’s going on? Right?

I don’t want to be some doomsday prophet, or even come across all Chicken Little with the whole, “The sky is falling” routine, but come on! I look at this man’s picture and I realize that whether it is the polarization of the country, the hate of all the people pretending to be something that they aren’t: civil, and the escalation of violence, not to catastrophymention what greed and fame are doing to our nation, we must see that something is up. Doesn’t it make you a little introspective about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Doesn’t it begin to call you to ask if you really think that there is an intelligent designer or if we just came out of the mud? It begs that we find a nice quiet spot and just be quiet and listen to our own hearts. This happened FAST.

 

Is there anything we should know?

In Matthew I read,
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.             Matthew 24:3-8 (NIV)

Everyone has faith, but why do you have faith?

I mean help me here. I supposed to believe that two particles of dust that none can give an account for existed in space that no one can account for, and suddenly threw themselves at each other for no reason what so ever and with no help? Seriously? And in so doing got moving so fast that in colliding they created a reaction that became living matter? And as this matter progressed, I’m supposed to believe that some of it decided totwo specs become a tree, and some became mud, and some became animals? Really?

It makes a lot more sense and takes a lot less faith for me to believe in a God that intentionally created the world I know. I mean how backwards would I have to be, how much faith do I have to conjure up, to believe everything came from absolutely nothing? Nothing means “nothing.” Nothing can’t mean something. If it is something then it came from somewhere, or someone.

 

You ever watched a dog chase it’s tail? That’s what I see when I’m asked to believe that things like what are going on in the world and Jesus teachings don’t mean anything. ThisWhy-do-dogs-chase-their-tails is what I see when a scientist finds flesh in a supposedly millions of years old dinosaur bone.

I look at the picture at the top and I see things progressing like Jesus told us they would and the questions I personally have to turn to are, What does this mean, and who can I help?

 

Maybe all the political garbage going on, all the artificial protesting and posturing, the pretend offended-ness, all the violence, should make us stop and define (for ourselves) what it is that we really believe. Do you really believe that at the end of life, there is nothing beyond it? No, I believe Jesus said signs like these are signs of the beginning of the end, not the end itself. Things like this don’t scare me, don’t get me riled up or anxious, they make me aware that there are still people that need to know the God I know, the peace I know, the eternity I know and the hope I live in every day.

 

I’m not saying it’s the end of the world. I’m not saying this picture means anything. What I am saying is, it is worth stopping and searching out what I believe and why. Is my belief emotional drivel or is it founded on a foundation of some sort?

 

Listen …….. the sound of hoof beats, the blare of a trumpet? Maybe just noisy people.

 

 

Today is EIGHT

I woke up to a reminder from a friend today: today marks 8 years. Nine years ago I was struggling in a continuing conversation with God. Eight years ago today we launched the first Sunday morning service of the Vineyard Community Church Richmond.

I had moved to Kentucky from western Oklahoma and was here to help a friend and do a job. My calling is to be a light and to bring the light. My initial understanding was that we would spend 3 years bi-eight-isgreatvocationally building a church up; I was sent to assist and assist is what I did. I stayed on for six years and then began to understand that something had changed; I needed to get out of the way. The problem is I had fallen in love with central Kentucky, but I knew I was called to do more than be bi-vocational, but I didn’t know what God had in mind. I began to dream, think, and envision what a move out of state would look like. I questioned going back to Oklahoma, Ohio where I met Jesus, or some place new. God what do you want?

God said “COME FOLLOW ME”

What do you want Lord? I don’t hear too many Christians asking that question any more. “What do you want me to do Father?” “Where do you want me to live God?” “Whom do you want me to minister to Jesus?” I hear people dreaming about a call to ministry but itquestion dice usually begins with gathering together a financial guarantee, they aren’t willing to sell out, move out, and totally trust God because he said, “Go.” They want safety nets and promised salaries bigger than most staff members have in their present churches.

I began to pray. I was very aware that I had not heard from God at all, so I leaned into Elizabeth Elliot’s teaching, “when God isn’t telling you something new, then do whole heartedly that last thing he told you to do.” (something like that) Whole heartedly has always been the way I get involved, I don’t think God created me to watch life go by, I want to live it and I want to live it fully, whole heartedly, enthusiastically, and squeeze every drop of blessing and experience and relationship that I can out of it. I want to live it as more than a conqueror: hupernikeao, Roamns 8:28, I want to live life and live it to it’s fullest; a vehemently abundant life; perissos John 10:10

Art, falconry, Scuba diving, motorcycling, traveling, guitar, poetry, coffee, friends, preaching, leadership, loving, ministering, I find myself whole heartedly diving right in. The Vineyard Community Church of Richmond Kentucky has been no different. From the 20130806_113643.jpgmoment that the Pastor of the Lexington Vineyard contacted me we have been ALLIN. We knew that we were planting a church; it was exciting to meet with people willing to roll the dice and follow the vision.

With 16 years of ministry experience, 5 children, two sons in law, and one grand child, we leveraged everything we could: savings, 401k, what ever we had, to see this thing born.

With one vision

It was exciting, it was fresh, it was loud, it was in the community and God had given us a vision that we would not be deterred from. Admittedly I certainly did not do everything right, I’m just not that smart. It is also clear from conversations that there were a significant number of people that had a lot of differing ideas, or agenda as to what was going to happen; what they personally wanted to happen; I don’t think that is unusual.

Sometimes I haven’t done it right

There have been bumps, valleys, struggles and pain from the get go. There has been joy, salvations, baptisms, healings, and celebrations carrying us along in the Spirit. We have seen God move in wonderful ways and we have cried together because it’s not all Rose_Thorns_2759sunshine and roses. We have seen persons come and we have seen persons go, we pray God continue to be near to them.

I haven’t always done it right no doubt, I have had to ask forgiveness and apologize at times, but then, that’s why Jesus died, so I could get back up and press on. I will always strive to say what needs to be said, corporately or personally, because I’m not smart enough to be scared, nor am I savvy enough to be quiet. I will refuse to compromise anything that might harm these sheep. I will refuse to be a hired shepherd: I have been called as a brother and joint heir with the great shepherd. I will not be perfect but I know that I will be held accountable to caring for the sheep of this fold. It is a very serious matter in my soul. So I live ferocious to attacks.

Stick to the plan

As a church we will continue to press into the vision. When God calls me home or away, the vision can change, until then we stick to the plan:

Chase God with a reckless abandonment,
Love everyone that walks through the door
and try to stay out of God’s way.

DSC_0115Today we are eight years old. WE are eight years old. A lot of people have placed their signature and DNA into this ekklesia to make it what it is today. Whether it was my boss that gave me a job knowing that someone more focused could do it better, the pastor I left that blessed us, or the people that came and went, this church, this gathering of sheep, is marked forever by them all. We are who we are because people cared, loved, served, gave, believed, followed, sacrificed and grew in their own relationships to God. God bless you all.

All the faces, all the people, all the circumstances

So today I reminisce on all the faces, all the people, all the circumstances (good and bad) and thank God that all of these have brought us to where we are today. Still loving, still serving, still caring, still outreaching, stillPulse 2 reaching out, still growing, still chasing Jesus and still seeing lives changed as hurting people seek an audience and an opportunity with a living God.

Happy Birthday to you VCCR, you are growing up into such a beautiful mature Church, God bless and be with you. Until the trumpet sounds and we all are caught up together, or until we all meet together in Heaven to remember, I pray that we will always be found seeking the heart of God, loving this community and more besides, and that our impact will always be bigger than our number.