Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wal-Mart Wins

Over Christmas there was an unusual snowfall in Georgia (where I live).  It was the first White Christmas since 1882. I won't get started on a "global warming" rant here....The snow fell on Saturday, and by Sunday morning many churches in our town had put out notices that they were cancelling service.  My own church was open, but we had only about 30% of our normal attendance.  I know it's the South and schools get closed for flurries (not kidding!), but the roads were clear and not dangerous, even on the side-streets.

As we were sitting in church my wife leaned over to me and said "I'll bet Wal-Mart's parking lot isn't empty."  And you know, she was right.  We did go to Wal-Mart that afternoon and there didn't seem to be any lack of people there.

What does it say when people think it's too icy to attend church but not too bad to go to Wal-Mart?  When did it start being okay to risk bad weather for after-Christmas sales but not for worshiping God?  Our priorities are pretty messed up when Wal-Mart wins out over Christ.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Inspiration from Tron

I have gotten to know Christian novelist and blogger M.B. Weston through Dragon*Con and my involvement with Fans For Christ.  She recently posted some ideas of spiritual truths from the new movie, Tron: Legacy.

I love the concept Kevin Flynn taught to his apprentice, Quorra. He taught that as a means of preventing yourself from being selfish, take yourself out of the equation. Instead of worrying how the outcome of a certain choice might effect you, think instead of how it will effect others. Only then can you make an objective choice.

We all have a choice:
  • We can choose to wake up, get our coffee, go to work, come home, and sleep--taking no interest in the world around us. Quite mundane, and very safe, but wouldn't you like to be part of something bigger?
  • We can choose to participate in the adventure, to take ourselves out of the equation and actively seek to play a role in God's story. (Note: This looks different for everyone, as we all have different talents and life circumstances. No judging allowed here!)
I encourage everyone to go to her blog and read more of the details.  It's a great concept and I love getting inspiration from geek-related pop culture.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanks #5: The Bible

In case you haven't noticed, my thanks aren't in any particular order.

Yes, I'm thankful for God and Christ for some obvious reasons.  But I'm very thankful that God gave us the Bible.  This collection of writings has been with us for thousands of years and is available for anyone to read.  We can talk to God but we don't always quickly and easily hear an answer.  With the Bible we can go to God's words any time and anywhere.  We have advice, stories, comforting words, and anything we need.  It's also not just for us, but for pretty much anyone.  It's been translated into most languages and has been spread around the world.  Though Jesus is our intercessor, the Bible is the real way to getting to know God properly.  And despite many attempts over the centuries to suppress or discredit it, God has made sure that it's always around.  I give thanks that God gives us this book to understand Him better, and therefore ourselves better.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanks #4: My Kids

Like any children, my kids can sometimes get on my nerves.  My wife and I have also pondered what our lives would be like without the kids....more money, more freedom, less stress...  But both our son and daughter were wanted, and they still are.  Despite any hardships, I really do love them.

My son is a very sweet child, always asking for and giving hugs. For the most part he's kind, considerate, and helpful.  There's nothing quite like him coming up simply to give a big hug.  Plus, he has as many geeky interests as I do, and he's someone I can share movies with.

My daughter is such a study in contradictions.  She's all about girly clothes and anything pink, yet she likes lizards and bugs, is rarely scared, and doesn't get grossed out.  Her food tastes are almost identical to mine, which is nice since my wife doesn't have to fix certain foods for just me. She has a special interest in her Swedish heritage (though my father), which is nice to share.

God has given me great kids that are healthy and well-behaved (most of the time).  I'm truly blessed and thankful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanks #3: My Wife

This may be a pretty obvious thanks, but it's very much worth mentioning.  I am so incredibly thankful for my wife.  And we met under uncommon circumstances, so I know God had a hand.  We were both living in Nashville and were single but searching.  As part of that search, we found a singles line on a local secular pop music station.  This was the kind of program where you could leave messages and browse profiles for free, but you had to pay a 1-900 number to retrieve messages left for you.  I had just started looking, and she had been doing it for a while but was about to give up.  She was a Christian all of her life and I had found faith in Christ for only a month.  We were from very different backgrounds and interests, yet over the last 12 years we have merged and blended until we are each others' perfect match. Only God could bring together people of such dissimilar origins in such a unique way.

My wife is my best friend and biggest supporter who I rely on heavily.  I am so thankful to God that He brought her into my life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanks #2: Job

Continuing my theme of thanking God all week, let's talk about my job.  Anyone who knows me well would be surprised for me to be thankful for my job.  It's a source of stress and not something I enjoy many days.  If I went back in time I'd choose another career.  So it's not exactly a happy thing for me to think about.

However, my job is flexible enough that I can have time off when I need it.  I make a good salary that allows me to completely provide for my family. I have the respect of people I work with and a good client base. And most importantly, I have a steady job with great job security.  In today's international economy that's a very important thing for me to be able to say.  As much as I don't like my job, I would hate being unemployed even more.

So thanks to God for my job!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week Of Thanks

Last week was Thanksgiving here in the US.  This is a time when we're supposed to get together with family, eat lots of food, and be thankful for what we have.  But why do we have to wait until the third Thursday in November to give thanks?  God does so much for us that we should be thanking him all of the time.  As my wife has said many times recently, we should be coming to church and to God with our hands up, not hands out.

So for this entire week I'm going to blog about my personal thanks to God. I did that with family last week, but I wanted to wait until after the "official" Thanksgiving holiday to do this publicly.  Maybe this will inspire more people to thank God for all He does.

Today's thanks?  The same thing that I said before the family last Thursday.  I'm thankful for forgiveness.  I'm not a hardened criminal or mass murderer, but I've done some bad things in my life.  Things that have been against God and against other people.  I'm so thankful that no matter what I have done, God forgives.  If it wasn't for His forgiveness, I wouldn't be able to have a place with Him in Heaven, and I wouldn't be who I am today.  Thank you, Lord.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

God's French Fries

We all know the following scenario, whether we've been in it or simply seen it.

A father is with his son/daughter at McDonald's or another fast food restaurant.  He orders a Happy Meal for his child and they sit there eating. The father reaches over to take a french fry from the kid's meal, and the child slaps the father's hand.  Wait, a minute!  Didn't the dad just buy that meal?  Sure, it's in front of the child, and the dad gave it to the child to eat, but where did that meal come from and who does it really belong to? 

How often do we do this to God?

God gives us things.  He provides for us by allowing us to have a job (or unemployment), food, places to live, friends to rely on, and so on.  Then He wants to get a little back, say, oh, tithe maybe?  He's given us all of this and asks for only a little back.  Then we slap his hand and say "no, that's mine!"  Is it really ours?  Where did that come from in the first place?

The next time you hear about giving of your time, heart, or paycheck, remember the story of the father and the child's happy meal.  When we have a full meal in front of us, let's not get selfish when the one who bought it wants a french fry.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Important Or Essential?

My pastor sends out devotional emails, and I thought this one was certainly worth sharing. Just how important is God to us? Is He important in our lives, or is He essential? A car is important, but air and food are essential. Which is Christ?  Here's Pastor Bill Crank's words...

It is 4 AM and I have been awake for over an hour. Amazing that if I needed to get up at this time, I might have struggled to wake up but not needing to, I find myself awake and unable to sleep. I have been praying during this time. That is a good use of my time. Talking to the Father is never a waste of time. After all, God hears and answers prayer.

For over a week now, I have been mulling over a question in my mind. It was posed by a writer for some internet publication. The question is this, is prayer important or is it essential? There is a difference.

To be important, something must be a high priority. It is also something that can be a daily choice. To be essential, there is less of a choice by our choice and more of a must do. To be essential, it is like the air we breathe. To be essential, it is like needing to have water to survive. To be essential is to believe that there are things in our lives that cannot happen apart from prayer.

I have taken this a step further. Is God important in my life or is He essential. We have often sang the praise chorus stating that God is the very air we breathe, that He is our daily bread. Every notice how we can sing words without stopping to think about what we are singing? For a lot of folks both prayer and a relationship with God are important but by the lives they live, He is not essential.

When He is essential, everyone knows about it. Our schedule and calendar are planned around Him. Our daily lives are His. We wake up with Him and carry Him all day long. We go to bed at night with Him on our mind.

Colossians 2: 2 I want You to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want You to have complete confidence that You understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In chapter 3 verse 11, Paul tells us that Christ is our everything.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


When we think of "revival" in a church setting we normally think of a special event where a preacher spends time trying to get people fired up for God.  In very traditional settings this may involved services by a traveling minister in a large tent, or a visiting preacher spending several days in a church.  In any case the event is normally outside of the typical church time and services.


Revival can certainly be defined as this kind of religious service.  However, the definition is also as follows:
1. the act or an instance of reviving or the state of being revived
2. an instance of returning to life or consciousness; restoration of vigour or vitality
Which set of definitions more closely approaches what the Bible says?  Let's look at some verses. 
For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
       the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
       revive us, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God Almighty;
       make your face shine upon us,
       that we may be saved.

(Psalm 80:17-19)

Will you not revive us again,
       that your people may rejoice in you?  

(Psalm 85:6)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4:16)

It seems to me that God is talking about renewing and refreshing someone when He talks about reviving people. The implication isn't that we should have a special religious ceremony, but that God himself can revive our faltering spirit whenever we ask for it.  So why don't we ask for it?  Why do we have to have special times of bringing God to the forefront?

Are you wasted and drawn out?  Are you burned out and tired?  God can revive you from this state.  All you have to do is ask and then let Him.

Friday, October 8, 2010

God's Disney World

Last week my wife and I took our children to Disney World for the first time.  We have been talking about doing this for several years, and the kids have been really looking forward to it.  However, it took a long time for us to save up enough money to do it, so they thought it wasn't really going to happen.  We actually surprised them with the trip, not telling them where we were going and arriving late at night when they had fallen asleep in the van.  The next morning we woke them up and told them where we were.

The joy and excitement on their faces was incredible.  Finally their dreams were coming true and they were getting to experience the magic of Disney.  As we walked up to the Magic Kingdom my daughter made a comment that epitomized their anticipation.
Elena:   Come on, come ON!
Stacey (my wife):  We're coming!
Elena:  Can you come a little faster?!

Are we ever like that with God? How many times do we hurry up to spend time with God?  I know that God wants us to run to him like children.  Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14)  He wants us to have the glee and excitement of a child.  Have you ever seen a kid get excited about getting to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse?  That's how we should feel about God. 

And what about Heaven? Disney World is one of the best places I've ever visited, and I'm excited to go back some day.  But Heaven will be even better!  As great as Disney's Imagineers are, God is better at designing amazing and wonderful things.  He has made a place for each of us that will be more wonderful than anything we can experience here on Earth.  So why don't we get excited about it?

Remember that this week.  Let's treat coming to God like going to Disney!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Blood Donor

Sorry for a lack of activity on this blog lately, but I haven't abandoned it.  Now it's time to get back to talking about God.

This weekend I did something that I've always wanted to do, but have been to scared of.  I donated blood.  Believe it or not, I have a bit of a problem with needles when I'm on the receiving end.  Even though I do surgery almost every day and handle needles throughout a work day, it bothers me to be poked or have blood collected.  In fact, I've passed out when having blood taken.  So it was a big step for me to do it.

So why now?  Well, I was at Dragon*Con and every year they have been asking for blood donations.  This year it really struck me how important blood donation is, and how we need regular blood supplies.  But it also came to my mind how Jesus donated his blood for us.  Any pain or discomfort I might endure is nothing compared to what He went through for me.  I was only giving a pint, while Jesus gave all of His blood.  And like a donation of blood being able to save lives, Jesus' "donation" has allowed anyone to have their eternal lives saved.  He was the ultimate blood donor.

With Christ's example, I was able to work up the courage to face my fears and donate blood.  Though my donation was nothing compared to His, I am glad to have been able to help out.  And I plan to do so again next year.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Expelled For Being A Christian

This week I read a story about a woman who was expelled from a graduate program in counseling because of her Christian beliefs.  Sound unlikely?  Read that article at this link, because not only is it true, but a federal judge upheld the expulsion after a lawsuit was filed.  To summarize the situation, the student had previously stated that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice, and not something innate.  She also stated that she felt that according to her Christian beliefs that homosexuality was immoral.  According to the university officials and the judge, the expulsion was a rational decision.

“Furthermore, the university had a rational basis for requiring students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values,” he wrote in a portion of his ruling posted by The Detroit News. “In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs – including homosexual relationships.”

Apparently her opposition to homosexuals violated the American Counseling Association's code of ethics, even though there is never any mention that she specifically acted against homosexuals or condemned them.  Merely that her beliefs found this lifestyle objectionable.  Then, she was apparently told that she could stay in the program if she changed her beliefs.

Ward’s attorneys claim the university told her she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system about homosexuality.

I find this whole story very disturbing. Here we have a woman who is trying to pursue a career that will let her help people in difficult situations.  Because she happened to have a belief system that was opposed to a particular behavior, officials and a judge have acted against her.  All of this merely because she held to her Christian beliefs.  And unfortunately, this sort of thing is becoming more common.  It seems that we in modern society are expected to accept all ways of life except Christianity.  Muslim sharia law is being adopted in many non-Muslim countries because we're supposed to accept Islamic beliefs; some Muslims are trying to do this in the US.  Homosexuality is now merely another lifestyle, and one as acceptable as heterosexuality.  Promiscuity and premarital sex are a routine and accepted part of daily life.  Adultery is used as a common device in many TV shows and few consequences come of it.  All of these activities and beliefs are "normal" for society.  Criticizing these sorts of things is becoming less and less acceptable.  In fact, if you talk against homosexuality, Islam, or other things, you are labeled as insensitive and a bigot.

Yet Christianity is fair game for criticism.  If we are supposed to accept "alternate" beliefs and lifestyles, why can't they accept ours?  If everyone's beliefs are supposed to be treated equally and respectfully, why can't anyone respect Biblical beliefs?  Supposedly "open minded" and liberal people are only accepting of teachings and beliefs that agree with theirs.  Start paying attention to when they talk.  They speak a lot of "acceptance", "equality", and "tolerance".  Yet the minute you disagree with them their tolerance suddenly goes away.

If we're not careful, Christian beliefs will continue to erode.  We have to make a stand and not back down from our beliefs.  Yet we also have to understand that what is happening was already spoken of in the Bible.  Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted like He was.  But if we are firm in our beliefs and don't compromise, we can delay the complete degradation of our society.

Ms. Julea Ward, my prayers are with you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Being Effective And Productive

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
2 Peter 1:5-8

As I was reading my Bible today this passage stuck out to me.  I've been reading Peter's epistles because I really relate to him and find him my favorite Biblical figure.  I've been seeking ways to become closer to God and to handle certain disappointments in my life.  I've been wanting stronger faith in trusting what God wants of me.  Then I read this passage.  So let's break it down.

"Make every effort."  God knows that we're not perfect and we will fail at times.  However, He also expects us to strive to do our best.  We're not supposed to give a half-hearted try, but are expected to make EVERY effort.  Every single way we can think of to accomplish what He wants.

"Add to your faith goodness..."  We start with faith.  That is the basis for everything else.  Faith in God and what He can do.  Faith in Christ and what He did.  Once we have that faith we should add "goodness".  The exact definition of this can be open to interpretation, but I take it to mean being good.  Doing good deeds, treating people nice, and so on.  No, we're not saved by our works.  But our faith is shown by our works, and God calls us to treat others with love.

"And to goodness, knowledge..."  We need to know God and know the Bible.  We need to study His Word and understand it.  By having knowledge of God, we increase our ability to know Him and defend ourselves against Satan.

"And to knowledge, self-control..."  Now I find this an interesting addition.  Self-control against what? Anger.  Lust.  Envy.  Hatred.  Just pick your sin.  Whenever we find ourselves in situations that go against God's wishes, we need to control our own urges.  Following sinful impulses can lead us into big trouble, and that's not what God wants.

"And to self-control, perseverance..." Tough times are going to happen, and we're going to have struggles.  We need to keep trudging on and persevere in these times.  When hardships hit them the Apostles didn't give up.  We shouldn't either, no matter how difficult things may get.

"And to perseverance, godliness..."  Godliness.  Acting like God.  We're imperfect and unholy and we can't be God.  We're only human, and can't reach the perfection of the human Christ.  However, that doesn't mean that we can't strive for these characteristics, practicing love, patience, forgiveness, understanding, and so on.  Jesus was on this Earth to be an example for us, and we should follow that example.

"And to godliness, brotherly kindness..."  We are to love and be kind to other people.  We are expected to treat them like brothers.  Even when people aren't being kind to us (or maybe especially when this happens) we are to treat them like beloved family members.  When we see someone in need, we are to reach out to them and give them kindness.

"And to brotherly kindness, love."  I don't think it's insignificant that this is the final thing in the list.  God calls us to love each other and all that implies.  The other characteristics in this list all boil down to love...loving God and loving others.

So if we have all of these qualities (faith, goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) we can be productive and effective.  By knowing more about Christ we can emulate Him better.  When we're more like Christ, we can do amazing things in our own lives and the lives of others.  Let's all strive to have these characteristics and be more effective for Christ.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Strength And Joy

One of the songs we sing in church is Chris Tomlin's "Holy Is The Lord God Almighty."  I love Chris Tomlin's songs, and think that he really is blessed by God for the kinds of lyrics he sings.  There is one part of this song that stood out to us this morning.

We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship Him now
How great, how awesome is He

One of the principles behind this song comes from chapter 8 of the book of Nehemiah.

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

One of our congregation pointed out that we are weak, and we have nothing by ourselves.  We feel downtrodden and discouraged, often unable to make it through our days.  I know that I feel like that many days.  My work and the trials of life wear me down and I feel like just laying down and pulling a blanket over my head.  What can help me overcome that?

The joy of the Lord.  THAT is MY strength!

So what is the "joy of the Lord?"  If you read this passage of Nehemiah in context, you'll see that the Israelites are told to be joyful after they have heard God's word and had the meaning explained to them.  In other words, they read their equivalent of the Bible, understood it, and took all of those things into their hearts.  When they were sad and weak, those words would come back to them and give them strength.  The stories and laws of God helped them when they felt they had nothing else.

Look at Jesus' words...

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:11-13)

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (John 17:13)

Jesus' words are the source of Joy.  And since the Bible calls Jesus "the Word" (John 1:1), we can say that Jesus himself is the source of Joy.  Jesus and the Bible are the "joy of the Lord".   When we need strength, where do we go?  To these sources.

Know the Bible.  Know Jesus.  Then you will have Strength.

Friday, July 16, 2010

God LOVES Nerds!

Today I came across this little doozy.  Apparently a church is protesting the San Diego ComiCon by having signs that read "God Hates Nerds". This is the same group that has their home page address as "".  They have become infamous in the media for protesting funerals, celebrating dead soldiers, and other hateful things.  I've been fuming for most of the day because of their latest actions.

My participation in the ministry of Fans For Christ has shown me that there are some good, born-again, Christian people that like sci-fi, anime, comic books, and attend cons.  Heck, I'm one of them.  Interest in these things doesn't exclude you from being a Christian.  A main focus of FFC is to show non-Christian fans that Christianity is inclusive, not exclusive, and that not all Christians are spiteful and hateful.

I went to the church's site and read more about their beliefs.  The more I read the more upset that I became.  Yes, they bring up scriptures to support their viewpoints.  And yes, God does abhor sinful behaviors.  But the message of the New Testament is that God loves everybody and wants everybody to come to Him.  No matter what the sinful behavior, it can be forgiven and you can have a relationship with God.  Yes, sometimes Jesus was blunt and even harsh, but he was also loving, patient, and forgiving.  This group seems to be concentrating on the former and forgetting the latter.

I also have to wonder just how many people will seek Jesus because of signs like "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates Nerds".  As a Christian that turns me off.  If God is really that hateful, I don't want to have anything to do with him.  Now I know that God isn't really like this, so I can see their error.  But what about people whose only exposure to Christianity is groups like this?  What does this group project that people would actually want.  They don't even believe in praying for the salvation of sinners!!!  Yes, that's right...says it right there in their FAQ.

I really wish I could be there when God sits down to have a few words about love and forgiveness with these people.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are You Listening?

God speaks to us.  Yes, we probably realize that but do we really understand it?  Personally, I'm often waiting for Hm to write in flaming letters on the wall or move the clouds around into a picture of what He has in mind.  When that happens we have the tendency to wonder if God is really speaking to us.

I think the real question isn't whether or not God speaks, it's whether or not we're listening.  And I think that listening can be the hardest part.  How many times during our day do we not really hear what someone has to say.  We think we heard one thing when the person said another.  Or maybe we didn't quite catch what the person said and ask them to repeat it.  We're distracted by things around us such as noises, other events, our own thoughts, and so on.  If it's hard to hear someone that's physically close to us, how hard can it be to hear the quiet voice of God?

I'm a veterinarian by profession. When I'm listening to a pet's heart, there are a number of things that can prevent me from hearing clearly.  If the pet is panting or purring, those sounds can overwhelm the heart.  If there are a lot of background noises they can drown out what I'm trying to hear.  And there are some heart murmurs that are very subtle and take very careful listening.  In cases like that we may have to try to get the pet to breathe more slowly or go into a quiet room.  We are trained to try and eliminate outside distractions so that we can focus just on the sound of the heart.  When a murmur is soft, those distractions can affect whether or not we catch a problem.

Listening to God is similar.  Many times those outside distractions overwhelm His voice, preventing us from hearing what He wants to say. And to our detriment, we allow ourselves to be distracted.  We concentrate so much on things around us and even our own thoughts that we fail to hear God.

So what do we do?  The same things I do when I'm trying to hear a dog's heart.  Make ourselves slow down and relax.  Mentally eliminate all other "noises" of the world.  And physically move to a quieter location where there is less to distract us.  Once we've done all of that, we need to actually listen.  So much of our prayer time is us talking to God.  He loves that, but sometimes we need to stop talking and just listen with all of our heart and mind.

Then we will hear God.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Less Of Me

Something hit me today (no not literally).  My quest to do The Love Dare with God has been all about focusing on Him.  Each of the task has had me think of God and how I relate to him.  The idea behind it is that God becomes the most important thing in my life and not myself.

John the Baptist thought similarly.  As recorded in John 3, when he was recognized as coming before the Messiah he downplayed his own importance.  He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)  John recognized that emphasizing himself was the wrong thing to do.  God is infinitely greater than we are, and we are nothing compared to Him.  When we want to see Him working, often we get in the way.  We spend so much time trying to do things ourselves and forget that God is the one who really gets things done.  Whether it's in our lives or in a ministry, in prayer or in a specific need, we work hard to reach a goal or accomplish a task.  The less that happens, the more we put effort into it.  Then we get frustrated when it doesn't happen.

Too many times I concentrate on me and my needs.  Me, me, me.  My, my, my.  I, I, I.  What I really need to do is focus on God.  As hard as it is, I need to let go of my problems and turn them over to Him.  I need to keep Christ the primary focus of my life.  My thoughts and prayers need to be more about Him than about myself.  It needs to be less about me and more about Him.

If we change our focus, we can see God at work.  It's like emptying a vessel.  When we pour ourselves out, God can pour Himself in.  And when we let God be the main thing in our lives we will see things happen that are impossible through ourselves.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Good Read

Something interesting has happened in the last few days.  I've started really wanting to read my Bible.  Yes, this may seem like a no-brainer for a Christian, but I'll admit that reading it has often been something I know I should do and not something I want to do.  But a few days ago when I did my Love Dare about putting other distractions aside, I started reading the Bible before getting on the computer.  Since then I find myself looking forward to reading scripture, and spending more time really paying attention to what I'm reading. 

This is a good thing!

As I near the end of the 40-day Love Dare (yes, for those keeping track I missed a few days so I'm a little behind) I feel like I might just be succeeding in being closer to God.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting Rid Of Distractions

Lately my Love Dare challenges have had to do with eliminating distractions in my life, especially sin.  Sometimes that's not as easy as you would imagine.  There are so many things in life that can distract us from God:  work, family, bills, TV, computers, books, and so on.  We spend so much time on these other things and comparatively little time reading the Bible and praying.  Our true priorities are reflected in how we arrange our time.

So today before getting on the computer I read my Bible and prayed.  I read my next challenge in the Love Dare and spent some time with God.  This was backward from my normal routine but felt really nice.  It was more relaxing to spend those moments in the Word than on my laptop.

So as I go into my last week or so of the challenge, pray that I continue to put Him first.

Friday, June 25, 2010

God Loves The Freaks

Okay, a brief break from my own tale to share someone else's.  For full disclosure, Steve Weese is a good friend of mine that I met through the ministry of Fans For Christ (which he founded).  He has also written a great book, God Loves The Freaks, which I highly recommend to Christians and non-Christians alike.  To go along with it he recently made a video that I think is important for everyone to watch.  And for more information, check out the website that accompanies the book.

Watch God Loves the Freaks in Faith & Lifestyle  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remembering God....Or Not

So my journey through The Love Dare with God continues, despite less frequent blog entries.  I have been following the book every day, and as before am finding some challenges easier than others.  Giving up one of my own interests to spend time with God?  Easy...I spend a little less time on the computer and trade that time for prayer and reading the Bible.  Trusting Christ for my salvation (the latest Dare)?  Well, it's easy but I did that twelve years ago. Showing honor and respect above the normal routine?  A little harder.

But my real challenge has been remembering God throughout the day.  When I did the Dares with my wife I would see her physically for hours each day and talk to her throughout the day.  That physical and audible presence was hard to ignore.  Though God should be even more prominent, His presence is more spiritual and less obvious, making it easier to forget.

Wow. Forgetting God.  That sounds pretty harsh.  I mean, I pray and talk to Him throughout the day, but it's in shorter periods of time.  As much as I hate to admit it, I can get caught up in my own daily chores and routines and put God aside.  That's the worst thing we can do and the wrong way to order our lives.  But it's apparently easy.

But that's the reason for my 40 day journey.  I'm becoming more aware of my relationship with Him and how I fail in that.  Hopefully that will lead to better changes and a stronger bond.  We have to recognize our shortcomings before we can overcome them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Loving God

Though I haven't posted on this blog for a while, I have continued to work on my Love Dare with God.  Family vacation and business travels have prevented me from blogging, but I have been trying to follow God and become closer to him.  Here's a summary of the last week or so of challenges.

One of the tasks was to come up with the good things about God.  That was easy, and I quickly listed loving, patient, powerful, Grace, caring always there, and forgiving.  The next task was to write down the negative things about God.  How do you do that if he's perfect and good?  So I thought of the things related to God that bother me.  He is too mysterious, he doesn't tell me His plans, and He sometimes doesn't seem to communicate clearly.  Really, though, these are all problems with my understanding of God and my own patience, not characteristics of God Himself.  The second list was thrown away as a representation of letting go of the things I don't like.

The next several days involved me doing something for God with enthusiasm, doing something out of the ordinary that proves my love for Him, meet His need, giving in on an area of disagreement with Him, and coming up with rules for when we fight.  As with many parts of this self-induced challenge, these have been difficult to do.  It is hard to find things to do for God, or at least I've not been very successful in discovering them.  I also do believe that any time I argue with God, I'm the one who loses.  After all, how can I be right and God be wrong?  I have ended up trying to pray more, talk to Him more, and thank Him more.  I think it's also been difficult since I've traveled a lot over the last two weeks and haven't been in areas that I know and can find things to do.  Maybe that's just an excuse, but I know God knows my heart and knows that I'm sincerely trying.

It's now been 13 days.  Do I feel closer to God?  Yes.  But I'm not even half-way through this journey.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Facing Our Failures

Today's Love Dare challenge required me to ask God to show me three problems or failings I have and then listen to Him without judgment.  It didn't take long for Him to point out to me my temper, depressive tendencies, and really more than three things.  We are supposed to confess our sins to God, but as Christians we should also know that He can tell what they are before we do them.  Expressing this to Him is more about recognizing it in ourselves.  It's also different when we ask God to specifically make a list of our problems and listen to what comes into our hearts.

I am very, very grateful that announcing my sins isn't the end of the story.  Though God is holy and righteous, He is also forgiving and has designed a way to have those sins removed.  Christ's sacrifice means that even if we are aware of our sins, we don't have to live with them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Offering Some Help

It's been an interesting couple of days for the Love Dare.  Yesterday I was supposed to buy something special and unexpected.  How do you buy something for God? So I thought that I would give money to a cause or somehow help out someone in need as God led me.  However, I was at the zoo with my family all day and then at my father's in the evening, so I never saw an opportunity present itself.  I'm not giving up on that one yet, and will continue to look for some way to fulfill this challenge.

Today's task was to call up God at some point during the day and ask Him if I could do anything to help him.  For spouses the intent is to give of ourselves and not expect the spouse to always be the one to do something.  In this case I "called" God (prayed) a few times today to let Him know that I was thinking about Him, and then asked if there was anything He needed me to do for Him.

Me do something for God?  Well, He's God, so if he can't do it what chance to I have?  But the point isn't for me to do something that He's incapable of doing, it's to offer to do something in the first place.  It's putting His needs before my own.  It's looking to make sure His goals are reached before my own personal ones.  And it really is the thought that counts.  I can't say that God directed me to do anything in particular, which is okay since the challenge was to offer help as needed.

So where am I now that I've been at this for four days?  Well, I'm finding that taking this particular challenge is tricky when directed at an incorporeal being.  But it's making me more aware of Him than I have been in a long time, and that's not a bad thing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How Do I Act Kind To God?

Day 2 of the Love Dare challenge....

Today in addition to not saying anything negative I was supposed to do at least one kind act.  How do we do that towards God?  It was especially hard for me since my family spent most of the day driving across several states to visit my father for a vacation.  I tried to think of ways that I could be kind to God or His someone who seemed to need help, give a kind word to someone in need of support, help an injured wild animal, etc.  Nothing seemed to present itself.  Now the day's not completely over as I write this, but I think that I'm nearing the end of my opportunities as the rest of the evening is going to spent with my wife, children, and father.  How can I do an act of kindness to Him in that setting?

Maybe I can respect my wife more since He gave her to me.  Similarly with my children, since they are gifts from God, I can be a little more lenient towards their typical rowdiness.  Since God instructs us to honor and respect our parents, I can give my father a little more leeway.  In each of these instances I am following God's commands and wishes.  Since I can't interact with Him in person, I have to do so through intermediaries, such as His creation.

I know that God forgives any of my failings in this endeavor and knows the intent of my heart.  I pray that He will help me in this journey.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Something Negative About God?

It's Day 1 on my quest to do The Love Dare with God.  Today's challenge was a little strange.  I was supposed to spend the day not saying anything negative about my "spouse".  Well, what could I say negative about God? 

Plenty, actually, if I really wanted to.  Money is tight, I'm not exactly in the job I want, my car is a few bolts away from falling apart, I have staff stresses at work, and so on.  God put me here at this moment and in this location for a reason.  So if everything isn't exactly perfect, then it's His fault, right?  Many people would think so, cursing God for all of the trials and tribulations of life.  That's what Job was tempted with.  And though he didn't curse God, he certainly questioned why those things were happening to him.  Many of us could fall into the same situation and feel the same way.

When you love someone you shouldn't criticize them out of spite.  Yes, constructive criticism is okay, but it's easy to go from helpful to hurtful.  And when it comes to Jesus and God they are perfect so any criticism is completely unfounded. 

So how do you spend a day avoiding saying anything negative about God?  Well, first you do just that.  You don't complain about your circumstances since God put you in them.  You don't get mad at His creation, and you wait patiently through it.  Above all, you seek to find the beautiful and positive things in the world around you.  God loves us and only wants the best for us.  He truly wants us to be happy.  How can we be negative about that?

One day down, 39 to go.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Love Dare With God

Most of you reading this have likely heard about or seen the movie Fireproof and the book The Love Dare.  For those who don't know much about these things, here's a quick synopsis or summary.  The premise of the movie is that a man has become selfish and his marriage is suffering because he isn't giving enough to his wife.  His father gives him a journal with a "love dare".  He has to do each step in order and do one step every day for 40 days, regardless of how he feels about it or how his wife responds.  He also can't tell her exactly what he's doing.  By the end of the movie this man has found a renewed selflessness and love for his wife. The book is based on this premise, and is an actual workbook for doing these 40 steps and renewing your marriage.

When the movie came out my wife and I bought it as a way to strengthen our marriage.  Not to sound perfect or cocky, but we quickly discovered that we already do most of the things in the book, so it wasn't as much use as we had hoped.  We don't have a flawless marriage, but we have a very strong and loving one.  So The Love Dare ended up in a pile of books to trade in at a used book store.

Until God inspired me today and laid a challenge on my heart.

If you read my last entry, you know that I'm looking at my walk with God and relationship with Him like I would a marriage.  Well, if the Love Dare helps to strengthen a marriage and bring two people together, why can't it help strengthen a relationship with God?

Sound crazy?

 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
 "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 
(Matthew 25:1-6)

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"
 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
(Mark 2:18-20)

The Bible compares Jesus to a groom and the church (i.e. the people who are believers) as His bride.  So it's actually Biblical to look at our relationship with God as a marriage.  And that's what I'm going to do. 

Beginning tomorrow I am going to start a love dare in regards to my relationship with God.  Every day for 40 days I am going to follow the steps in The Love Dare and direct them towards God.  Each day I will chronicle my journey here, and we'll see where this takes us.  Honestly, I have no idea what's going to happen, especially in some of the steps that are expressly directed towards a flesh-and-blood relationship.  But I'm excited to see what may happen.

Anyone want to take this journey with me?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Commiting To A Relationship

I have been married to my wonderful wife for over 11 years, and our marriage has gotten stronger over the years.  We have our ups and downs and our arguments and tough times, but our relationship is definitely stronger and I am more in love with her than when we met 12 years ago.  I believe that there are several keys to our success.

1.  We make time to be together.
2.  We talk to each other throughout the day, even calling during lunch breaks at work.
3.  We tell each other "I love you" numerous times each day.
4.  We continually strive to understand each other better, learning what it takes to make the other person happy and learning each other's moods and preferences.
5.  We seek out ways to be together without other people or distractions around us so we can focus on each other completely.
6.  We seek to do things that the other person enjoys, as well as things we enjoy together.
7.  As much as we can, each of us puts the other's needs ahead of our own.
8. We apologize and ask forgiveness when we have done something wrong.
9.  We remember the vows we made when we were married and actively seek to honor them (I made the "mistake" of vowing to spoil far I think I've done pretty good).
10.  We enjoy each other's presence, even if we're not actively talking.

Doing these things has helped us weather the problems and have helped us have a successful marriage.  Notice that most of these things are active tasks.  They happen because we make them happen and not by themselves or without effort.  We actively work at our relationship in numerous ways every day.

Did you know that being a Christian is not a religion, but a relationship?  Sure, you've probably heard that before, but have you really thought about the implications of this idea?  If being with God is like being in any relationship, why not treat it like one?  Let's re-visit the above list, but think of it in terms of God.

1.  Make time to be with God.
2.  Talk to God throughout the day, at lunch and other times.
3.  Tell God "I love you" numerous times during your day.
4.  Strive to understand God better, learning what He wants and likes.
5.  Seek out ways to be with God without other distractions around you.
6.  Seek out things that God enjoys and find ways to do that with Him.
7.  Whenever you're given a choice, put God's needs above your own.
8. Apologize and ask forgiveness when you have done something wrong.
9.  Remember the promises you made to God when you first became a Christian and actively seek to honor them.
10.  Enjoy God's presence, even when you're not talking.

I've been feeling very convicted about all of this, and realizing that I don't put enough effort into my relationship with God.  My relationship with Him should be the most important thing in my life, but I spend far more time on Facebook and the internet than I do praying and reading my Bible. How can I expect to know God's will and hear His voice when I spend my time in other ways?

Okay, let's everyone be very self-critical for a moment.  Be very honest about how much time and effort you put into your relationship with God. Let's be serious for a moment, and brutally truthful. Got that in mind?  Now take that time and effort and imagine that you put that amount towards your spouse, significant other, or best friend.  How many of us would loose friends or end up single if we treated our human relationships like we do God?  What would happen if we spent 10-15 minutes per day with our spouse and the rest of the day ignoring them for other pursuits? 

Why do we expect our relationship with God to be any different?

As I said, I'm feeling very convicted about my own failings in this area. So I'm putting this out there in the public realm to be held accountable.  First, I will ask His forgiveness for my failure.  I will actively work at my relationship with God and Christ as much as I do with any mortal relationships.  I will read my Bible every day.  I will pray and otherwise be with God throughout the day. I will seek to learn about Him and find things that He enjoys.  I will put His needs above my own.  I will tell Him that I love Him.  And I will ask any of my Christian friends to lovingly keep me accountable.

I hope that any of you will do the same.  Let's see how it transforms us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Too Busy For God

I've been more aware of a problem in my home church, and I'm sure this is true of many churches.  We have a significant number of people who seem to attend only when the don't have something better to do.  There are often excuses like "oh, we have some friends from out of town," or "I was tired from working all night," or "we're going out of town for the weekend."  It seems like something always comes up that takes precedence over attending church.

Now I know that church isn't a requirement for Salvation or a relationship with God.  But the Bible is also very clear in its examples of believers meeting together for worship, fellowship, and group study.  Just about everyone of importance in both the Old and New Testaments can be found in regular temple or other worship activities.  There is nowhere in the Bible that gives us an example of anyone who survives without regular contact with other believers.

Where is our love of God?  Where is our desire for that relationship?  What other business or personal relationship would survive sporadic contact and insincere communication?  How many of our spouses or significant others would we be close with if we gave them a mere fraction of our time and were always pushing them off for other activities? 

Why would we expect a relationship with God to be any different?

God is very patient and forgiving to my eternal thanks.  But I have to wonder what role He plays in some people's lives when they put other things ahead of Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Unity In Christ

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer here in the US, and I attended my first-ever meeting at one of these celebrations.  It happened at our local courthouse, and around 1200 people showed up.  That was really great considering that our town's population is around 17,000 and about 500 showed up last year.  One of the best parts was when everyone started saying the Lord's Prayer at the same time.  Over a thousand people of different backgrounds and denominations, all joining together in a well-known prayer.  Regardless of our histories or churches, we were united in praying together for the betterment of our community and country.

The next morning I attended a meeting of local pastors for a time of prayer.  There was little socializing and no preaching.  For about an hour we prayed together, each in our own ways, for each other, the community, and whatever struck us. This was the first time I have attended something like this, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  Again, like the day before, I was struck by the fact that we were from very different places and even theological beliefs, yet we were coming together in a common purpose and faith.

I can't stand how much arguing is done over small differences in doctrine or Biblical interpretation.  Yes, those points may be important to the person holding those beliefs, but are they really so important in the grand scheme of things?  And are they really that important if they keep Christians from coming together as one under Christ?

Seeing these gatherings in my own city gives me hope.  If we as Christians could unite in one single faith, we could change the world in ways never before seen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

10 Steps

This was posted on the Fans For Christ forum, and I thought it was worth sharing....

1)If God is against it so am I.

2)Every sin we commit starts as a thought in our heart.

3)It is easier to keep the heart clean than it is to clean it after it
has been defiled.

4)It is not possible to fight a fleshly temptation by indulging in it.

5)Small compromises in our walk with God lead to great disasters in our
personal life.

6)Those who do not love the Lord will not help us serve the Lord.

7)Our actions affect not only ourselves but those around us.

8)You cannot fight a fleshly temptation with fleshly weapons.

9)We lose our freedom to choose after we have made a wrong choice our
consequences are inevitable, incalculable, and up to God.

10)God balances guilt with blame as we accept the blame from our wrong
actions God removes the feelings of guilt.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selling Your Soul?

Did you hear about an online retailer in the United Kingdom that had a clause in its online agreement that the customers agreed to effectively sell their soul to the company? it here.  Now apparently it was an April Fool's joke, and they're not actually planning on collecting.  And it does prove a good point that most people don't read the disclaimers and agreements on web sites and software.  I'll admit that I don't!  However, it also brings up an interesting discussion.

First, many people may not believe that we have souls at all, so there is nothing to be sold or traded.  As a Christian, I certainly believe in a soul that existed before my mortal form and will exist long after it.  Can I sell my soul?  No, I don't think so.  But I can decide where it will end up.  In 1998 I made a choice that I would follow Christ and give my heart to Him.  At that point my soul became linked with Jesus.  Truthfully, our souls belong only to God, no matter what we do with Him or ourselves.  He created us, and so we belong to him.  But He doesn't force us to be with Him if that's not what we want.  And that's how people can end up in Hell.

A company or individual can't have our souls.  It's simply impossible.  Even Satan can only harbor our souls when we reject Christ.  Whether that soul ends up in Heaven or Hell is entirely up to our choice and what we decide to do about Jesus.  I know what I've done with my soul.  What about you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Facing Death

This weekend a friend of mine lost his mother to a long-term battle with renal failure.  I know it's hard for him, but it was also an emotional roller-coaster for him to see her like this and mentally draining to help her out when she was so sick.  He did all of it gladly because of his love for her, but I also know that it wore him down.  Her death was still hard on him, though he knows that she is no longer hurting and has gone to be with his father and with Christ.

Death is an interesting thing for us to face.  As a Christian I know that my Christian friends and family will be in a much better place when they die, a place I should be jealous of.  Yet I still have some anxiety about dying, though I know where I will go.  I think that's a natural human fear of the unknown and of things we've never experienced.  Yet for Christians we should almost be eager for death!  Yes, I know that sounds very strange.  But all of the stresses, hardship, pain, and suffering we face on this world will be gone and forgotten once we're in Heaven.  We'll be with God, and will have nothing but joy. Why wouldn't we want that?  Yet we still put off death as long as possible.

Besides our natural worry of such things, God made us to be on this Earth.  We all have a purpose here, and we shouldn't try to cheat His will. Yes, I'm eager to not have to worry about my job, bills, pain, sickness, and heartache.  But I also have a mission here, and gifts that God has given me.  I don't pretend to be able to fully understand what He wants of me or what He has planned.  But I know that I have a purpose here, and in honor to God I will do my best to fulfill that duty.

When a loved one dies, it tears us up. We miss him or her, and cry because of our own loss.  But we should be happy for that person (if they're Christian....non-Christians are another story), and even throw celebrations like some cultures do. They have gone to a better place and are waiting for us to join them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spontaneous Joy

Anyone who has been in church for very long knows what it's like to have an altar call or blessing service.  People are broken and hurting and they turn their hearts to God.  As they pour out their emotions, there is often crying and weeping as feelings overwhelm them.  We had one of those services today and as usual there was a lot of people crying.

But then one person started laughing.  It was as spontaneous and heartfelt as any of the weeping.  Then she asked in amazement "Why are we all crying?"  You know, she has a point.

The word "joy" appears in the NIV Bible 242 times.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.
1 Samuel 18:6

Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Nehemiah 8:12

The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 19:8

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:52

Everything about God should fill us with happiness.  When we were lost, He found us.  When we are hurting, He heals us.  When we deserved Hell, He saved us.  When Jesus died, He gave us His greatest gift.  Christianity should be about laughter and joy, not weeping and sadness.  We should feel elated, not burdened.  Our hearts should burst with glad feelings, not sad ones.

So I sincerely hope that at some point in your day and your week, you can erupt with spontaneous laughter.  And when you're praying in church next time, surprise people with giggles and glee.  Then remind them of Nehemiah 8:10....Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Angels Among Us

The Bible is full of stories of angels acting as messengers of God as well as helping people here on Earth.  The idea of guardian angels is popular throughout modern culture, and many people believe in them.  There is indeed Biblical basis for this belief (see a brief discussion of Matthew 18:10 here).  And we're seeing personal proof of this in our own church.

My church is in a small city in northwestern Georgia.  Last Fall we built a new building and ever since then we have felt that we are in a spiritual battle. Things have not gone smoothly and people within our congregation have come under one challenge after another.  We haven't grown as quickly as we had expected and hoped, despite filling a niche not really seen in our community.  It has really seemed like Satan has been having an active hand against us, trying to prevent us from reaching more people.

But in the last few weeks we have been getting encouragement and truly believe that God is letting us see into the spiritual world a bit.  There have been some strange occurences in our church....stereos will come on and off.  People will see things out of the corner of their eyes.  And more than one person has heard the sounds of wings flapping even when they are alone in the building.  These things have been noticed by children and adults, and only recently have people been sharing stories with each other.  At first it was rather spooky, but the more that happens the more we are really convinced that angels are around us and God is protecting us for something great.

If you're discouraged or feel like everything's going against you, stop for a minute. Look and listen for subtle signs.  God loves us all so much that he has angels out there to fight the battles we aren't even aware of.  One is out there to protect you.  Pray, and your sight may be opened.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

They Don't Get It

Working for God can be hard sometimes, especially when your ministry is not exactly "traditional".    My wife and I are heavily involved in "geek" ministry through Fans For Christ.  We go to sci-fi/fantasy cons, speak to people who come up to our fan table, and when possible have panels involving Christianity and hold church services.  Because we enjoy the settings and the people, it is a lot of fun for us.  Frankly, we feel blessed that God can use us in this manner.  And we really feel that this is a needed ministry, as most Christians stay away from these events.  Where will the con goers find followers of Christ who actually understand them and won't condemn their hobbies?

However, we've run into problems with more traditional people in our church.  Thankfully we have a pretty open church that is modern and accepting.  But we've discovered that it seems like people accept our ministry but don't really embrace it.  We've had comments made that if we weren't so involved in all of the other things in our life we might have more time for our home church.  It also seems that some may believe that we go to cons more for the entertainment than to be a light for Christ.  Frankly, they don't really get it.  They don't understand why we do what we do.

I guess that I shouldn't be really surprised.  The people in Jesus' time, especially the religious leaders, didn't understand Him either.  Jesus spent time with beggars, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and other dregs of society.  He was actually condemned for His interest in them and His caring.  The Messiah actually wanted to be around these people!  But people in the church told Him that He shouldn't be doing that.  But Jesus persisted because He saw where the need really was.  He was willing to be quite strange and even rejected by religious leaders in His pursuit of sharing God's message.

When I go to cons I often bring up the "where would Jesus be?" situation.  If Jesus was back on Earth today, would He be more likely to be preaching every Sunday in a church, or would He be more likely to be going to these cons?  I think the latter would be pretty obvious to most honest people.  So that's where I will be.  No, I'm not giving up my "normal" church on Sundays, but I'm also not going to limit myself to it.

So people in my church don't completely understand.  I guess I'm okay with that, because Jesus understands and God wants my family to spread the Gospel at cons.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

God's Mysterious Blessings

It's been a year since I started this blog, right after ConNooga 2009.  We just got back from this year's ConNooga, and it was incredible! 

My wife won the title of Ms. ConNooga and now is the spokesperson for the con for the next year.  This is something she has been wanting since last year, and wants to use it to spread the message of the fan group we belong to, Fans For Christ.

I made contacts with a Christian sci-fi/fantasy author and a Christian role-playing game designer.  I've been toying around with making a fantasy RPG setting, and the editor/designer actually encouraged me to become an official licensee with their company.

We had a great church service, met many new people, and strengthened existing friendships.  And through it all, God was glorified!

My wife and I truly felt like we were God's favored children this weekend! We both had amazing experiences, and moved closer to our dreams.  And it was all because we were there with God as our focus. 

That's a great lesson for us all to keep in mind.  God wants us to be happy!  He wants our dreams fulfilled.  Now, he's not going to do that if we're out there trying to make it on our own or defying Him.  But when we work for Him...when we do His will...when we put Christ first in our lives and in what we do...then the blessings of God start to wash over us, and amazing things happen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trials Of All Kinds

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Trials are very hard to deal with as we go through them.  Unexpected things happen and delay an expected blessing.  Everything seems to fall apart at once.  And through it all we wonder where God is...wonder if He has forgotten us. Trials really test our patience!  

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  James 1:2-3

So isn't it a bit strange that the Bible tells us that we should be thankful for trials? That we should be joyful? Does that even make sense?

Actually, it does.  When things are going right and everything falls into place perfectly, where is there room for God to perform miracles? Trials and troubles teach us to rely on God, not on ourselves.  Trials teach us to trust in our faith.   Trials put us through fire to burn away the things within us that give us the most problems.  Sure, it's not easy. But through all of life's trials, we need to remember that this is what God wants...not to harm us, but to put us in a place where He can really and truly work wonders in us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beyond Our Expectations

Faith is a funny thing.  When things are going well, it's easy to say "Sure, I trust God.  After all, look how great things are."  When we have a downturn, the most strong Christians will say "Yes, things are bad, but I'm putting my faith in God to make it all better."  When the bad times go on for a long time, it's harder to have that faith.  Bills pile up, health continues to worsen, a job just can't be know the situations.  The longer we go without a sign from God, the shakier our faith becomes.  We start to wonder if He is even listening and if He even cares.

My wife has recently been there (yes, honey, I'm picking on you a little bit).  We have had some financial issues, and have gotten behind on some bills.  Some promotions and other things in my job that we were really counting on have been delayed by many months.  Even with some bonuses, we needed around $1500 to get caught back up.  And that's not easy to simply come by.  With each month of falling further behind, she struggled more and more with God and her faith.  She cried and worried, wondering where the blessings were.  We have been faithful in our tithes and giving, despite our own troubles, so where were God's blessings?  Why was He being so quiet?  I managed to hold onto my faith, but as I told her last week, it was because I didn't have anything else.

Sometimes we find ourselves at the end of that rope.  We've slipped down and are dangling by the final knot over a chasm whose depth we can't see.  And at that moment God says "let go of the rope."  What?  You're kidding, right God?  Just let go?  "Yes," He says.  Now, coming from God, we should be listening to that.  And when we can see the ground a few feet below us or we have hundreds of feet of rope it's not hard to do.  But at that moment even God's words and His promises are hard to believe. But as hard as it may be, who really knows best right then?

So I started doing our taxes today.  When we were getting our W2s we noticed that federal taxes weren't taken out of my wife's paycheck.  It wasn't much, but it worried us.  She just wanted us to break even and not have to pay any taxes.  As I started doing them, I noticed a trend upwards.  Since I knew that she had been praying for a $1500 blessing, I predicted that our refund would be somewhere between $1500-1600, and was pretty happy with that thought.  But God knows better, and showed me a lesson.

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
      "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
      "In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 

(Malachi 3:8-11)

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
(Luke 6:38)

There are numerous scriptures on giving and blessings.  We humans are very impatient, and have a hard time waiting for these blessings.  Yet when has God ever failed us?  It may take a long time by our standards, but He always comes through.

So back to our situation.  Our final refund was $2800 from Federal and $600 from State...a total of $3400, when we would have been overjoyed with $1500!  Praise to God!!!!  We can meet our obligations and actually put some into savings.  Our faithfulness has been rewarded, so far beyond our expectations.  God lived up to His end of the deal....but doesn't He always? 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let It Fade

I'm a big Jeremy Camp fan and have all of his albums.  Recently we sang one of his songs during our church service..."Let It Fade".  The words really spoke to me, and I wanted to share them here.

Have you been walking on a surface that's uncertain?
Have you helped yourself to everything that's empty?
You can't live this way too long.
There's more than this, more than this.
Have you been standing on your own feet too long?
Have you been looking for a place where you belong?
You can rest, you will find rest.
You can rest, you will find rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
We spend so much of our lives running around doing hard work or tons of errands (my "to do" list today is typically long).  We complain about how tired we are and how little we rest and relax.  Researchers spend money to study how we spend our free time and how much we work.  But all of us know that sometimes we're simply tired.  And more importantly, we get tired spiritually.  Our very souls seem burdened and heavy, drawing us into depression. 

But God has told us that we can find rest with Him.  When we are tired and run-down, when the weight of the world is too much for us, we can go to Him.  Christ will take our burdens and allow us to relax and rest in His presence.  Unfortunately, we are often reluctant to give up these loads.  But if we do, we can find the peace we are seeking.  As Jeremy Camp recognized, we can let all of the troubles of the world fade.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.

Let it fade.

Are you carrying the weight too much?, are you running from the call?
Let it fade, Oh yeah.

You can rest, you will find rest.
You can rest you will find rest.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Have you been standing on your own feet too long?
Have you been looking for a place where you belong?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Little Blessings

A week ago during the recent cold weather a pipe burst in our garage, flooding it and part of our downstairs.

My car is old and run-down, and is slowly falling apart.  Most recently, the turn signals simply stopped working.

I wasn't going to be able to make a Bible study tonight because I had agreed to work an extra day on my day off.

Do you ever feel that things aren't going your way?  That things keep breaking or going wrong?  It happens to all of us at some time or another.  And it's frequent during these times that we wonder where God is.  After all, if He really cares about us, why do bad things keep happening?  When our bills are already behind, why does He allow the car to break down?  We pray and pray and things keep going against us.  It's enough to make us doubt whether or not God is listening or even cares.

But are we really overlooking that small, quiet voice of God?  Sometimes He speaks to us softly, and if we're not really listening we might miss it.

When the pipe broke we were home and awake.  I had just been downstairs 20-30 minutes prior to it happening, so the flooding was minimal.  The pipe was easy to get to, and the next day it took me about $30 worth of parts and about 10 minutes time to fix it.  What if we hadn't been home?  What if we had been asleep?  What if it was something that we needed to call a plumber to fix?  God's little blessings kept it from being worse.

Earlier this week the turn signals suddenly started working again.  Sure, the car is still in relatively bad condition, but it's not unsafe to drive.  We can't afford a new one yet, and God helped with a small thing to keep it driveable.

Work was slow today, and I was working with another vet who said that I could go home early.  I ended up getting off work two hours early and was able to attend the Bible study.

God does care, so very, very much.  Listen for that little voice, and look for the small blessings.  They're there, just waiting for us to notice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Cursed By God????

Yesterday there was an incredible tragedy in Haiti as the island nation was rocked by a severe earthquake.  Loss of life may top 500,000, and this already poverty-stricken nation will be dealing with the consequences of this act for many years to come.  As a Christian I pray for God to bless these people and show His hand to them, guiding them through the horror and loss.  God loves them as much as he does anyone, and I know that He wants us to care for them.

Which makes Pat Robertson's comments very upsetting to me (see the link).  He stated that the reason Haiti is currently in a state of poverty is because of a pact made with Satan to free them from French rule in the 18th century.  What???  I'm sorry, but as a conservative, evangelical Christian I find Robertson's words offensive.  They are also misinformed, as explained by a Haitian minister.  But even if there was some truth to this Satanic pact, what part of "God's grace" and "God's love" would cause Him to ruin the country and kill a half-million people over 200 years later?

Yes, I know that many people in Haiti practice voodoo and other non-Christian practices that are influenced by Satan, and even officially recognize it as a valid religion.  But there are also numerous Christian ministries and missionaries making inroads with the people of the country, and a growing Christian presence.  In the Old Testament Lot is told by God that He will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there are even 10 righteous people.  Do you think God is more strict nowadays, after the sacrifice of Christ?

I do believe that people who curse God and turn from Him will find punishment, but that may not be until after death.  I also know that many Christians died in this earthquake, as they did during Hurricane Katrian and 9/11 (both of which were also God's punishment for sinful behavior according to Robertson).  Sometimes a natural disaster is simply that...natural.  God allows it, but doesn't cause it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

God's Imensity

Do you know just how big the universe is?  God created all of it, and He's pretty big, so His creation must be big also.  Check out this video.  Seriously!  Take the six minutes and watch it all of the way through.  It's worth it, trust me (and click on the bottom right corner to make it full-screen).

Are you back?  Did you catch all of that?  The universe is pretty stinkin' huge!  And we're pretty stinkin' small.  Compared to the immensity of all of creation, we are less than a tiny blip.  God created this universe, so He is even larger than it is.  Kind of gives you a bit of perspective, doesn't it?  Centuries ago religious leaders and scientists believed that everything revolved around the Earth and that our planet was the center of the universe.  They had no idea of the truth, of how insignificant we really are.

Or are we?  God knows us.  He knows YOU.  He can count every hair on your body and has known you since before you were born.  He knows every little thing about you and your life.  This being who created the whole, huge universe knows you personally and intimately.  He cares about what goes on in your life and he loves you so much.

Many people think that God is too big for them.  That He has too much to worry about to help with their little problems.  That He is too busy doing other things to look down at them.  Nothing could be farther than the truth.  We should be amazed that someone as big as Him actually does care.  Never forget that.  As big as He is, nothing about us is too small to love and care.