Wednesday, September 7, 2011

'The Quest for Christ Project'

Beginning on October 10th, 2011, I am starting a year long campaign I am calling 'The Quest for Christ Project' or Q4CP. I have already started blogging about what I am learning and the plans I have at the following link:
Most of my writing will be concentrated there for the next year, although I may still be inspired to write here once in a while. Please go check out the new blog and feel free to join the should be an amazing year!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'The Call of the Hour'

Daniel 10:4-21a (New International Version)

 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come." 15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless.16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, "I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe." 18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 "Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed," he said. "Peace! Be strong now; be strong." When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength." 20 So he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.
As many of you know, our little church in CoMo (Columbia, Missouri for non-locals) has seen some of our very own brothers and sisters and others very close to us, go through some challeges recently. There has been sadness, tears, and most definitely some heavy-heartedness. Yet, even with all of this, the unfortunate truth is a spiritual war continues, at a fevered pitch, and it still demands that the family of believers fight faithfully through it. And our battles must be waged with prayer. Not that we should not mourn, the Bible clearly states in Romans 12:15 to 'Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.' But, with our mourning, there must be much prayer.
Daniel, in the scripture above, met an angel of God, one who was bringing him the answer to his prayers. But the angel was detained, by Satan and his evil forces, until the archangel Michael, came to free him, no doubt fueled by other subsequent prayers.
So many of us get discouraged in these times of challenge, and we quit lifting up our prayers. We stop praying vigilantly, and get more sporadic or stop all together. Yet, in the heavenly realms, the angels are battling valiently, and they rely on our prayers to give them the cover fire to complete their missions. With all that is going on, with all the challenges around, with all the people needing the power, comfort, and mercy of our God, will you rejoin the fray? If you are continuing the battle faithfully, you are an inspiration to us all. But if you, like myself, are reeling from a seemingly steady stream of bad news, there is one thing we can do to turn the tide...let's hit our knees, provide fuel for the angels, and petition our God for the needs of those in distress and for own hearts to stay faithful in the face of trouble. "Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed," ..."Peace! Be strong now; be strong." When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength." And to God be the Glory!

'God Will Not Give Us More Than We Can Handle'

I have a theory. Recently, several of my friends, and I as well, have gone through some intense challenges. One saying I have heard more than once, from a variety of different folks, is the old stand-by, "God will not give us more than we can handle." I have heard saying often, but only recently have I really looked at the verse the saying is based on.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)

13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

What really stood out to me surrounding this saying and verse is that I have often felt like God has given me more than I can handle. Not that God was being mean or spiteful in any way (even though my feelings might have said otherwise), but that He was forcing me to give up control and rely on him. My sinful nature is to try and take control of my life and to try to just 'gut-out' challenges and get through them on my own. As I have chronicled in the past, last year was rough for me physically. The medical issues I had left me fatigued all the time, no matter how much I slept. There were many days where I felt completely overwhelmed and unable to face the day ahead. I had to rely on God just to make it through the day. Those 'dreadful days' brought the scripture below to mind.

2 Corinthians 1: 8-10 (New International Version)

 8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,

So, as my theory goes, I started to think about 'the saying' versus the scripture, because I know the scripture is the truth of the matter. The saying, as it is often quoted, is 'God won't give you more than you can bear'. The verse the saying is based on says, 'he will not TEMPT you beyond what you can bear.' A subtle wording difference, but a difference in the wording sometimes changes the meaning of what is being said. Most often when I hear the saying it is to comfort those who are under going a trial. I do understand that sometimes the trial IS the fact that we being tempted. In some way Satan is tempting us with something we are struggling with and it is difficult to persevere through and it tries our very spirit. But there are challenges that are not created as a consequence of our sinful nature. There are challenges, as referenced in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, that come from God in an effort to push us to let go and rely on Him. The saying can, in a sense, become unintentionally wrong. I don't believe the saying has ever been intended to harm anyone, in fact, almost every time I have heard someone say it, they were making effort to encourage me or someone else. Frequently though, the thought behind it wasn't necessarily biblically sound. To make a long story short, my theory is that God DOES sometimes give us more than we can bear. Sometimes challenges come up that overwhelm us to the point that the only way to get through it is to perform a virtual trust fall by giving up control and completely placing ourselves in the Lord's hands. Challenges that happen so that we 'might rely not ourselves but on God.' Challenges that are meant to shake us up, get us to quit being independent, and force us to give up control to God. There are also times that God allows Satan to tempt us, but those challenges are not beyond our ability to endure, but are, in fact, opportunities for us overcome. During those times of temptation, God says that, 'he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.'
This could all just very well be semantics, but it does bring something to mind that I have seen plague Christians for a long time. I believe that sometimes our faith is tested by our own misunderstanding. Sometimes we struggle with doubt that wouldn't be there if we understood more about God from a biblical perspective. If we took the time to really examine all the 'sayings' that we sometimes default to, and took the time to really understand what it is we believe, we might see ways that we can shore up our own convictions and maybe even help shore up the convictions of our brothers and sisters. We might just uncover areas we really don't understand and need to get some bibical teaching on.
In the end, the lesson here is that we need to rely on God no matter the situation. And we also need to encourage one another by accurately representing his word and his heart to each other and the world we live in. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

'Fiery Furnaces'

Daniel 3:19-28 

 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
They replied, "Certainly, O king."

 25 He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."
 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!"
      So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
There are fiery furnaces we face in life. Challenges that seem to be so middle of the summer, black top heated, barefoot scolding hot that you break out in a body soaking sweat just thinking about them. These furnaces always seem like they will most certainly end in our demise...or at the very least threaten to burn us out or burn us down. Sometimes they seem so hot, we wonder how we will ever survive. My health has been one such furnace for me. In the past two and half years, I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (causing significant weight gain) and sleep apnea. I have contracted mastoiditis that came from a severe ear infection and then evolved into a brief bout of facial paralysis, mononucleosis that was at its worst while my thyroid was malfunctioning and my sleep apnea was kicking in (resulting in fatigue that made me feel like I hadn't slept in days, even after a solid eight hours), and pluracy, which was an infection in the lining of my lungs that made me feel as if I was having a heart attack. Not to mention the persistent back pain, ingrown toe nails so bad I had to have them removed surgically, and all the other various sprains, strains, and autoimmune diseases. There have been many times that I wanted out of my furnace. There have also been many times that I wanted to just shrivel up and die in it. But the thing I have failed to realize until recently is that my furnace is making me, not roasting me. My faith of greater worth than gold is being refined by this fire. Knowing this spiritual truth doesn't always make it easier while I traverse through the proverbial hotbox of challenges, but it does comfort me, in a deep down in my soul sort of way. God cares enough to cook me thoroughly, he wants to say of me 'Well Done' not 'Rare'!

The key I suppose, as it was for our faithful brothers in the OT, is to trust in God no matter what we face. He leads me to green pastures, but he also leads me to the desert to be tempted. He takes me to the highest mountains of joy, and leads me through the valley of the shadow of death. He threw me into this furnace, so I might as well learn from it. And while I am getting crispy around the edges, I should worship him too, being grateful for the heat, that is refining my soul. Rather than serve the false gods of selfishness, or laziness, or worldly pleasures (often the things we retreat to in times of trouble) is our calling to serve and worship none other than the Lord our God, come fiery furnace or high water!!!! Trusting God, even when it's hotter than Hades, is what it is all about. Challenges are often the perfect way to help us grow, but because they are the perfect growth agent doesn't mean we approach them perfectly, after all who does? Did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego sweat? Did they fear the worst as the soldiers carrying them were burning up right in front of them? Surely they did. But still they went forward. They still held to their convictions, to their faith, and to their God. And who came to their rescue? Who walked with them even in the most hazardous of situations? Our rescuer, our protector, and our warrior, the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter the heat of our challenges or the bitter cold of our struggles, Jesus walks with the faithful and champions their cause!!!! Now enjoy the cooking of your soul and the baking of your faith, because, after all, nobody with a raw soul ever made it to pearly gates!

Friday, May 20, 2011

'From Shepherd to Hero to King (and all points in between): Lessons from the Life of David'

David drops Goliath like a bad habit
No bible study has changed my perspective on God (well, since my conversion studies anyway!) more than my recent readings concerning the life of David, son of Jesse. I have been continually amazed when I look at the events of his life, as chronicled in 1 and 2 Samuel, by the amazing ups and nearly crushing and oft-times gut wrenching downs that he experienced throughout his life. His rise from obscurity as a lowly shepherd boy who was barely even acknowledged by his own dad to his meteoric rise to hero/conqueror of the mighty Goliath, to his ascension to the throne where he became the greatest king in Israel's history; David's life was both triumphant and, somewhat shockingly, tragic. He was anointed, then disappointed. He was chosen, then chased. He was faithful, then fearful. He was righteous, then repugnant.  He was chosen by Samuel and then sent by his dad, who obviously was not impressed, to take cheeses to his brothers. He felled Goliath with a sling shot and some rocks, then was chased out of the palace by the man he was supposed to replace, the murderous king Saul. When Saul was killed, he ascended to the throne, then lusted, raped, murdered, and lied himself into a world of hurt. He repented after the rebuke of the prophet Nathan, but later died a broken and sad man, the victim of his own failed fatherhood. Reading through the account of David's life is a virtual roller coaster ride of emotions that is wrought with cautionary tales as well as stories of epic victory.
What became indelibly written on my heart through this study is how God incredibly loves his people. David was obviously God's chosen man to lead Israel, a man after his own heart. Yet he had some colossal failures. His lies caused the head prophet of Nob, Ahimelek, to compromise his convictions and ultimately the same deceit led to the entire city of Nob being ransacked and destroyed; men, women, and children alike. Years later, his lust, lies, and emotional decision making, reared their ugly head again as he committed adultery with Bethsheba and then had her husband killed. And to top it all off, when David was old and full of years, his lack of parenting came back to haunt him as his sons took his kingdom from him and left him with nothing. The failures David endured were all self-inflicted and some of them ended the lives of innocent people, BUT nevertheless, God held David in the highest esteem. Why? Why would he choose such a 'royal' screw-up to be his man? Why would choose an emotional, lustful, deceitful, arrogant, young, punk from the shepherd fields to be his man? This whole study on David brought me to one very encouraging and securing conclusion. Now hold on tight for this one...this could revolutionize your faith if you let it.
God is not as concerned with my ups and downs as much he is with the relationship I have with him. Did you catch that? Stop for a second and let that sink in. It's not so much the snap shot, but the motion picture. Look at how David always recovered. He always went back to his relationship with God even after he blew it big time. He went extended periods of time where he was 'in sin' and yet his repentance was honored by God, even when David was punished severely. He won many victories for the Lord but those didn't really shape God's opinion of him that much either. It was David's love for God, his persistence in going back to Him, that defined David's life and was the  preeminent reason why God held David in such high esteem.
I feel a cosmic connection with David. No, not because I was ever royalty, or because I ever felled the big bully, but because I feel like my life is a roller-coaster. Ups, downs, twists, turns, drops, slow crawls, and dramatic speeds seem to characterize my daily life. Like David, I have blown it big time in my life and I have also been blessed beyond reason. I have made some bad choices and broken faith with the Lord to follow my own feelings. I have stood firm in the face of some challenges and have wilted under others. I can totally relate to the highs and lows David experienced and how his story almost seems like the tale of 5 or 6 men's lives woven together, rather than one man's saga. What can be incredibly challenging for me in all of this is, is that I spend too much time trying to weigh my life on scales that are concerned with victories and defeats. I have this almost constant, sneaking feeling that the bad times far outweigh the good. I feel like those times where I wilted make my times where I stood strong worthless, or at the very least, not all that great. I get focused on seeing my life through the lens of victories and defeats, good times and bad times, and because I am an eternal pessimist, my life looks pretty bleak. I get depressed, hopeless, and suffer from a serious lack of joy in the Lord. My peace is in pieces and faith is smaller that a molecule, not even perceptible to the human eye. To my shame, I can get so caught up in all of that that I miss the overarching point. However, the back story that was the constant thread that runs through the story of David's life....none of that matters as much as my relationship with God. My wins and loses don't matter as much as my heart to get back in the game when I get spiritually concussed. It's not my performance, it's my perseverance that matters. I have to go back to Him when I stray. I have to go back to Him when I realize I have been pushing Him away. I have to embrace Him instead of embracing my fear, my embarrassment, or my pride. Too often I sin, get filled with guilt, then turn away from God in my disgrace. When I should be turning to Him in my hour of need, I am declaring in my heart like Peter in the boat during the biggest catch of his life, 'Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.'
Too many of us are paralyzed by perspective. We look at life as a series of tests that are graded by "pass" or "fail". Far too many of us measure our lives by the number of victories we have, thinking that somehow if we get a high enough victory to defeat ratio that God with let us in, because, after all, God only wants winners, right? Well guess what? God isn't that short-sighted. He wants us to have victories and he knows we will have defeats, but in the end, the number or even the breadth of those, won't matter a bit. All that will matter is did you give you heart to Him? Did you come back when you strayed? Did you repent, confess, and accept His discipline? Did you persevere, getting up when you got knocked down? Did you, despite your flaws, fight and claw for your relationship with God until your last breath? It's all about your relationship with the Almighty. As it was with David, so it is with you. To God we must go and to Him we must stay and in the end that's how it will be, for eternity. Amen!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'Passion for the Passion'

Isaiah 53: 1-5

 1 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.

Easter is over. We had an amazing service. We had a tremendous communion in which we wrote out our sins on pieces of paper that were nailed to a large wooden cross. We heard some great singing by our kids and our choir. And, of course, there was the traditional egg hunt in which my children acquired more candy than they (and I) needed. I was definitely impacted by the service and I was really moved by the reminder of how Jesus died on the cross for my sin. But, to tell the brutal truth, my heart forgot the impact, shortly after I left the building. It seems that, as of late, my heart has forgotten alot of things. I remember with my brain what is right, how I should live, what my motivation should be, but with my heart...well, it seems to be like a bicycle in pit full of mud, barely slogging (is that a word??) along, making minimal progress towards the edge. I don't know what it is. I know I did good for awhile, going after my renewed vows to God at the beginning of the year, but then my faith has kind of tanked. I didn't make a decision to give up entirely, but slowly let off the accelerator until I was almost at a dead stop. Some of my old self started creeping back in and before I knew it, it felt like late 2010 all over again. Theories abound (in my own brain anyway...I have been known to psycho-over-analyze myself once in awhile) as to why I got back to square 1, but once I let God show me my heart, it was really pretty easy to pinpoint the slide. To make a really long story short, I had a dream I thought God was fulfilling, only to find out that it was a mirage. I had a passion for a dream. The dream was not to be for now and hope deferred made my heart sick.

Here's some back story....I am one of those spoiled kids who is now an adult. I grew up pretty self-focused and self-centered. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. If I didn't get, I got pretty upset. Unfortunately today, it's much the same. It's fairly reminiscent of my 3 year old daughter when she is told 'No!' (I know...we are working on that with her...) When things don't go my way, I get depressed, upset, and I tend to pout. I'm not sure how I got that way, but it must have worked for me to pout as I kid, because I still do it. But now instead of trying to manipulate my mom with my pouting, I have God to contend with. The thing is, it doesn't work on God. Like a good parent, he sees right through it. It is a good thing he does because he really doesn't let me get away with it. As of late, as a matter of fact, he has be disciplining it out of me. It hurts like crazy, but I am glad he's doing it because I need a spiritual spanking once-in-a while. It's interesting how God goes about it though. He uses everything he can to get to my heart too...this time he used a motion picture.

It went down like this...the day after Easter, I decided to have an different sort of quiet time. When I realized my heart didn't connect with the cross as deeply as I wanted to, I felt like the spirit put it on my heart to take drastic action...I queued up the 'Passion of the Christ' movie. Yeah, THAT movie. Now look, I wasn't at all excited about watching it. That movie is a tough watch for all disciples. I saw it at the theater when it first came out and I haven't watched it since. It was so heartbreaking the first time, I couldn't imagine going there again. But God moved me to do so and who I am to argue with the Lord? I felt He wanted to go there, so I went with him...

You want to talk about the antidote to selfish/spoiled-ness. The cross is that and then some. It wasn't just the act of Jesus going to the cross but it was the selfless heart he demonstrated that blows me away. You can hear his selfless heart through his last few words. 'Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.' 'Son, here is mother. Mother, her is your son.' Today, you will be with me in paradise'...Even the words 'It is finished' shows his heart for doing for others not himself. He didn't call ten thousand angels to wipe out the Roman thugs. He didn't curse the religious leaders who heckled him as he bled. He didn't lay out a defense argument about why he shouldn't have been the one dying that day. He just let it happen and he did it with out any bitterness...and he did it for me and for you. Alot of hope was deferred when Jesus died. Hopes he had, hopes his disciples had. But in the end, on that resurrection Sunday, longings were fulfilled and a tree of life stood tall and strong! Jesus took a potentially devastating moment in the history of mankind and turn it into the seminal moment of history of the earth. He took a moment that looked to be the end of all things and made all things new. Isn't just like our Lord, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, turning devastation into glory!

The call for me (and all of us for that matter!) is to let the conviction and the hurt we feel through life's disappointments to spawn repentance where necessary and reliance on God in every aspect. I can't get too down, because the Lord didn't. He finished the race and I have to as well. Yeah, the pain is still there. But the lesson is worth the hurt. I can't let life's disappointments put me in tailspin. I have to continue to walk as Jesus did and continue to live a life worthy of the calling I have received. Jesus understands and sympathizes, but he isn't going to let me mope around too long. None have resisted sin to the point of shedding our blood as the writer of Hebrews so eloquently put it. And when I see his response to pain, it motivates me to get up off the canvas. He gives me the strength to recover. His examples strengthens my legs and helps me to stand tall. He is the reason I am alive and the reason I live. I need to always have a passion for the passion, to always let the most incredible act that has ever been done, drive me to get closer to my God and lay down my life for as many as possible...The passion for the passion is what drives men to leave themselves and to become who God has called them to be. Let's be counted amongst those who left it all for Him. Amen.

Back to Isaiah 6-12

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.
 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Revive Us Again'

Acts 2:42-47

 The Fellowship of the Believers

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. 

This scripture, describing the heart of the first century church, is always a high calling. Yet it should be the norm for all churches, everywhere. Sadly, few of our churches live up to this and far too many don't even care to try. It is a challenge, but I know God wants it this way, or else why would the scriptures be there that draw out this example?

For the beginning of this year, our church is undergoing a revival of sorts. We really want to get back to that first century church mentality and get ourselves back to being devoted to the right things. In order to do so, we had a solemn assembly, which is a time of group confession (if your church has never done, you should strongly suggest cleanses the collective heart like nothing else!), and we had a three day fast together. As a church we spent 2 hours in spiritual reading on one day of the fast, 2 hours of prayer the next, and added a fast from 'the world' (basically TV and entertainment sorts of things...internet surfing, radio, and the like) on the last day. Tonight, we are getting together to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Christ and to break our fast together. It has been a gut wrenching (in mores ways than one) and soul reviving few days to say the least!

What has become painfully obvious to me through this time, is that I have almost completely lost my focus on the important things. My relationship with God has been poor. I used to read my bible on a daily basis, but lost that consistency some time ago. I used to share my faith on a regular basis, but that has waned as surprise considering how poor my times with God have been! It's amazing how Satan gets us to focus on things that just aren't that important. How he makes things seem so pressing and so worthy of our attention and he gets us to take our eyes and our minds off of that which is of the utmost importance. How many times have I needed to pray and thoughts of all that I need to get done came streaming into my head? All of the sudden my 'To Do' List is attacking me!! How many times have I needed to share my faith, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I get flooded with thoughts of fear, or other things that I was supposed to buy that I forgot or calls I needed to make on the way home? How many times have I needed to read my bible, yet I get distracted with a chore needing to be done, or a errand that must be run? I get so focused on work, or my 'plans', or my kids, or my stomach, or my fitness, or my whatever...that I just don't get with God.

My focus is so easily lost on nonsense. I watch alot of TV, watching and listening to SportsCenter or the exploits of the 'Cape', yet I don't listen much to my God and read about his exploits in the Word. I surf the net alot, reading about the world around me, but not nearly enough do I connect with my God, to get the proper perspective about that same world. I like to listen to the radio and the playful banter of sportstalk radio, but yet I so often fail to listen to the Creator, as he tries to guide me in the way everlasting. I get into my video games, playing a warrior on a battlefield against the enemy, and I too often fail to realize I am God's warrior, on a field of battle for lost souls, against a real enemy, who is far more nastier than Darth Vader or the Nazi Regime of WWII. Sigh....It really is time to get back to what is get revived from my state of spiritual coma! I think you get my slightly belabored point....we need to get back to focusing on the Lord!

To this end, I decided, as a result of my time of fasting, to dedicate one hour a day, for the rest of this year, to my relationship with God. To take it up a notch and to quit allowing my schedule to run me. To really devote a significant portion of my day to the one who should be receiving the most of my attention. It's going to be challenging and a part of me wonders if I should even put this in writing, but I know it is something I must do, for my own good and the good of my household and my brothers and sisters in the Lord! So, here goes...and feel free to ask me how it is going...accountability is always good!

As we shared in the solemn assembly, it was truly saddening to see how this was happening to most of us. But, the great thing about this last few days, is that I know great change is coming!  What changes do you need to make? What do you need to repent of ? Many of us have made resolutions at the beginning of the year that we have deemed important. But how many of those resolutions revovled around your spirituality? Let's really challenge each other and decide to take it higher than we ever have before and to push ourselves to a deeper connection with our Holy Father. No resolution, dedication, or recommittment, will be better and more beneficial to you that this one!