Monday, July 05, 2010

Father to a Prodigal World

I know it has been over a year since I’ve updated my blog. I’m really sorry for that. I promise I’m still alive and doing well. A year ago I moved from the beautiful state of North Carolina back to Oklahoma City to be closer to my family. The church in NC is wonderful. I think about them often and miss them greatly. A lot has happened over the last year and I will give a full update on that later. For now...I’d just like to share some thoughts and talk about what I am currently doing.

I just finished the book “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri J. M. Nouwen and I highly recommend it. While reading this book, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. As I’ve joined Nouwen in his journey through this story, I’ve been deeply challenged and even brought to tears by the power of God’s love displayed in this book. Often, when reading this story, we ask ourselves, “Which son am I? The older or younger?” With Nouwen I’ve come to realize that I am both, and I desperately need to feel the firm embrace of the Father. The person I never have realized I need to be in this story is the father.

The father is the one who runs out to the son and embraces him, puts a robe and ring on him, feeds him, and makes him feel like royalty. His compassionate love, displayed in the full embrace, is where I have focused my contemplation. God has called us to be the father in this story, to the world around us. We are called to be the loving embrace to the world around us that desperately needs it.

I am currently in Guyana, South America (not Africa) on a medical mission trip. I am not a medical person, as many of you know, so what is my purpose down here? I will be sharing the Gospel with 20+ people individually each day before they come into the clinic. I will have the opportunity to be God’s voice and loving embrace to Muslims and Hindus. I often overlook opportunities to share God’s loving embrace with people. I go on about my day to day life, looking past so many people who need God. I’m excited, and a little nervous, about this week. I pray, and ask you to pray with me, that I, and the rest of our team, will go back to our daily lives with a new found conviction of being the father to this prodigal world and running out to embrace it. Let us draw close to our Father so that our hearts beat with His for the people that He loves.

I will continue to update as the week progresses. Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Turn the Page

A page is turning. A chapter is closing. A new chapter is about to begin. I’ve always liked William Shakespeare’s quote: All the world’s a stage, and all men and women are merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” I like this quote because it really captures the Story that God is writing. We are merely players. Sometimes we like to think we are the Author of this Story but we’re merely players… and the reality is… we aren’t even the main characters. When the credits begin to roll we’ll fall somewhere between stunt double and boom operator.

When I moved out here, I had my whole story written out. My story was to be here a long while and them to move on to Scotland to do a church plant. I had the next 30 years of life written. Why are we so arrogant to think that we are the author of our own story? God has a way of reminding us that He is the Author of the Story and He will write our story within it...we just have to hand over our story board (Jim can hand over his flannel board).

I thank God that He has written the Family at Northview Church in Statesville, NC into my story as He writes my story into The Story. This major chapter in my life, though merely a sentence in The Story, has been a powerful chapter for me. I am thankful for each of them for the ways that you have helped me see God’s handwriting all around me. I look forward to see how God writes out the rest of the stories with The Story. Let Him be the Author of your life and follow Him wherever He takes you even when it isn’t where you thought you would ever go.

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make his face shine up you and be gracious to you;

The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stop Reading Your Bible

I’ve studied a few textbooks in my day. I have dug deep into their information to understand what I need to know for tests. I have forgotten much of that information that I learned in Grade School. I remember that there are different layers of rocks but I honestly couldn’t tell you what they are even though I do find it fascinating.

I’ve soaked up a number of books by different authors. I could probably write out most of the thoughts of Mere Christianity or give you a detailed explanation of what N.T. Wright says about the world in his book, Evil and the Justice of God. I like to read these books so the information sticks with me as I pour over their pages.

While in school I was forced to read a lot of books that I remember a small bit about. I always enjoy a good “Big Brother” joke from George Orwell’s 1984, or a quote from Of Mice and Men. I hated having to read these books at the time but I am glad I did. I used to read a small section during commercials on T.V. or I would cram it all in right before the test and just skim over it and try to pick up the story line.

How do you read your Bible? Is it a textbook? A good book someone recommended and you like the thoughts in it? A novel that makes you feel good? Or a book you know you’re supposed to read so you do so out of obligation? Should the Bible be read in any of these ways? Take a look at the first Psalm:


Psalm 1

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked 

or stand in the way of sinners 

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
which yields its fruit in season 
and whose leaf does not wither. 
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! 
They are like chaff 
that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, 
but the way of the wicked will perish.

There are a number of different approaches that one can take to reading the Bible that help you come into a deeper relationship with God. If you want to know some different ways please let me know and I’ll talk to you about them. I used to try and read God’s Word because I felt obligated. I never got much out of it. We were always told to read our Bibles growing up with the reason that when we need to know answers we would find them in the Scriptures. I think starting with obligation is an ok place to start but we need to get past that.

We’ve been called to a life transforming relationship with our Father. When we meditate on His Words we allow them to transform our lives. We have to listen to what He is saying to us each day through His Scripture. I’ve stopped reading my Bible for the big test at the end. I want to be transformed daily by the Words that God writes on my heart through His Holy Scripture. I want to be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit each season, never withering. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Shield of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Missed My Cue

It was Wednesday night, March 8, 1994. Heavily distracted by the orange cushioned hard wood pew I was sitting on and the South African accent coming from the Youth Minister who was preaching I tried to focus on my cue, “Come now as we stand and sing.” This was the cue that scripturally comes at the end of every sermon. I am sure the sermon was good but somehow he failed to stick the dismount. He didn’t give me my cue very clearly. Mom looked at me and asked if I had changed my mind. To which I replied, “Did I miss it?” My Dad baptized me after services were over with the group surrounding me who didn’t rush off after the “amen” was said.

I had decided that evening that I didn’t want to go to Hell. I knew that I was a sinner. I wanted Jesus to keep me from eternal damnation…maybe that isn’t how I would have put it at the age of ten because I probably thought I would have gotten in trouble for using the word that came before “ation”. Nonetheless, I was a sinner needing saving. I came to Jesus for salvation and over the past 15 years He’s shown me so much more.

Many people have played major roles in my life as a Christian. My parents dedication to raising us in a Christian home and showing me what a Godly marriage looks like has and will always play one of the biggest roles in my life. Alvin Willson teaching me in Sunday School is when it clicked for me. Steve and Amy Martin, my Youth Minister and his wife were pillars in my early years as a Christian. Many different professors in college showed me what life is really about. And in the more recent chapter in my life, Jim Smith, Gerald Boan, Dan Waller, and many many more people at Northview have been used by God to continue to help me grow and be transformed as a Child.

As I learned to crawl I followed the rules as best as I could, for fear that I wouldn’t be good enough to get out of Hell. I began to make baby-steps as I got into Jr High and High School as my Youth Minister challenged me to lead. In college I began to shed the chains of legalism and began to walk with Christ as many mentors introduced me to what a Relationship with Him is all about. I still followed the rules but no longer to keep me out of Hell but to draw me deeper into a relationship with my Father.

What I have realized is, when I came to Jesus for salvation He embraced me and then called me to transformation. After reflecting on the past 15 years of my Life I am now looking to how God is transforming me into the Creation that He created me to be. I know perfection hasn’t come yet but we have been called to be transformed daily. As we walk with Jesus our feet harden, our muscles strengthen, and we start to be transformed into what God has called us to be. In what ways are you being transformed? What needs to be transformed in your? Where are you still crawling when you’ve been called to walk? You came to Jesus for Salvation…now He calls you to Transformation.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Love Coffee!!

I love coffee! I know that comes as a shock to many of you who know me…but I must confess it. I love coffee! I love the aroma, the way it is made, the work that goes into it. To me…coffee is a form of art. I might even be called a bit of a coffee snob. I love to find local coffee shops that serve locally roasted coffee so that I can partake in the art of the area. A favorite memory of mine is sitting in a little coffee shop with a little old lady on the side of a mountain in Costa Rica. Her coffee shop overlooked the communities coffee fields that all took part in harvesting. The cup I was drinking was the product and pride of the village of Monteverde, Costa Rica.

If you asked me, “Do you love coffee more than God?” the answer would be simple. There isn’t a chance that I love coffee more than God. A few weeks ago I was talking to my teens about making a sacrifice for a time and one of them asked if I could go without coffee. I felt challenged. I would never say that I love coffee more than God but could I give coffee up as a testimony for how much I love God? 

I'm not say that you have to give up something as if it were required to prove to God how much you love Him but it can be healthy in a relationship from time to time to say, “I love you this much.” We do so many things in our lives that are not inherently bad but sometimes we put them above God without realizing it. What could you give up for a time? What is something that consumes you more than God? What is something that you could remove from your life that’ll bring you closer to the God who created you?

I am proud of my teens. This past weekend at Winterfest they were challenge with living “Elemental Lives.” Everything that happens in life comes down to two elements – L-1 and L-2…Love God and Love Others. When these elements come together powerful things happen. Many of the teens are taking this challenge of Loving God and making a sacrifice for a time to work on that major element in their lives. During this time they are also going through daily devotionals to help them focus on L-1 and L-2 and apply them to their lives. I look forward to seeing what kind of growth happens in their relationships with God and with others.

Friday, February 20, 2009


“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is ONE. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and will all your strength.”
– Deut 6:4-5

From the 613 total commandments that complex the lives of the Jews, an expert in the law asked Jesus which one is the greatest commandment. I think Jesus answered the question like any good Jew would. The Jews have a practice that captures me. The Shema is recited every morning, during morning blessings, throughout prayer services, when the Torah is brought out, at holidays, as a bedtime prayer, as part of the deathbed confessional, and various other times. The first part of the Shema is the answer that Jesus gave as the greatest command, Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

To love God is not just to have good feelings about Him or to keep a list of prescribed rules. I’ve known many people who have lived out this view of love toward God. We discussed this in class this past Wednesday night and I really like how Dustin Deal put it. “When you love God with all that you are it simply pours out of you.” To love God is to give Him your all…everything you’ve got – your mind, spirit, body, time, service, allegiance, dedication, passion, stuff, money, time, and on and on and on.

The Jews repeat this passage over and over throughout the day and throughout their lives as a reminder of the very basis of their beliefs: “That the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The theme of Winterfest this weekend is “Love God – Love Others” based on this passage. Our teens will be challenged to live out this command in their lives. I want to leave us with the question…and challenge…if we focused throughout the day on Deuteronomy 6:4-5, how would our lives change?