Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 66 - favorite pictures

Here are a few of my favorite pics from the past few years...enjoy!

Chrysalis boys at Jose's

Petra...I can hear the Indiana Jones music now...

Corrie Ten Boom's tree in the Garden of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Dog-pile the Director at summer camp!!!

Wesley Chapel UMC

Serving at Operation Christmas Child.

Lord, I thank you for this day and for the glory of your presence in it! Keep me near the cross! AMEN!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 67 - FUNNIES

Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon and evening crying as I packed up 6 years of memories in my Arcadia Park house! So this morning, I thought I would share some happy favorite books, movies, and songs. This is like my top ten! The reason I thought to do this is because I was packing up all of these things yesterday.

1. Braveheart
2. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
3. The Young Victoria
4. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
5. Mission Impossible
6. Phantom of the Opera
7. The Queeen
8. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
9. The Nativity Story
10. Facing the Giants

1. The Bible
2. The Hiding Place
3. Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed
4. Angels and Demons
5. Same Kind of Different As Me
6. Murder on the Orient Express
7. The Purpose Driven Life
8. The Celtic Way of Evangelism
9. Foxes' Book of Martyrs
10. An American in Paris

1. You Raise Me up by Josh Groban
2. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
3. Christmas Medley by The Boston Pops
4. How Beautiful by Twila Paris
5. On My Own...Les Miserables
6. You'll Never Walk Alone...Carousel
7. Trumpet Voluntary in D
8. Light Your World by Newsong
9. Paparazzi by Lady Gaga
10. Twist and Shout by the Beatles (OR CHANCE!!!)

Lord, I give you this day...with all its busy-ness and stress and joy and excitement! Grabt me your peace...AMEN!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 68 - My testimony

In Psalm 139, we see the efforts one might make to avoid or escape God. Yet, there is no way to accomplish this as God is everywhere. In Matthew 6:25 through 34, Jesus gives what I consider one of the hardest commands…”do not worry!” You might be asking yourself how these two passages fit together. Well, they accurately depict the way in which God has drawn me closer to Himself. You see, I am a worrier and have, at times in my life, run from God. But God has gently pursued me. I can relate to the people in these scriptures worrying about the minutia of life and running from God. Yet God has used these instances in my life to teach me of His great love for me. My journey has been filled with many of these lessons as God call and my life have begun to intertwine.

My journey began in a small little farming community in Indiana. From the time I was born, I have been in church. This church was more like an outgrowth of my family. Yet, I did not realize this until much later in my life. It was in this church family that I learned of God’s amazing love for me; I knew it in my head, but I did not know it in my heart!

When I turned 19, the flood gates of Heaven opened up, and God began an amazing work in me. My heart was torn to bits and then put tenderly back together. It was the beginning of my sophomore year in college, and something was not right. I have lived with a visual disability my entire life. It was during this year that my vision got worse. Doctors could not figure it out, and I was extremely worried because I could no longer see at night. Finally, doctors were able to determine the problem and ease the painful headaches. In all this, I had to learn exactly what it means to fully trust God. It was then that Jesus’ words of “do not worry” became a comfort and not a struggle. This situation was out of my hands and fully in His. Why worry!

During this same school year, I reached a new low in my life. I found out that my biological father resented my existence. He resented me because I was not, how do you say, “normal” in his eyes. Now, you have to know that my parents were divorced, and I really never had a relationship with my father. When I received this news, I felt like a lost sheep without a shepherd to come looking for me. It seemed as if everyone else had supportive fathers showing them love, but I did not! Members of my family and my peers told me I should love him and respect him even though he did neither for me. They based this on the fifth commandment …”honor your father and mother.” I sunk into a dark place of depression because of this. I felt miles away from God having forgotten that he promised to be with us always as illustrated in Psalm 139. How could I love and honor someone who could not muster the same feelings for me: his son? Then, my best friend took me to see a pastoral counselor. After a few visits with him, he helped me to discover that God is my Father! Though I did not have a father on this earth who loved me, I had a Father in Heaven who has loved me from before the foundations of the earth! How amazing is that? God loved me and is my Heavenly Father!

During the summer before my senior year, I got involved with a summer camp for children and adults with disabilities. God used this camp to teach me about serving. I had to humble myself to serve another by doing some of the simplest things of life such as tie a shoe or squeeze toothpaste. It was during this time that I adopted my life verse. It is Matthew 25:40 and says, “The King will reply, I tell you the truth. Whatever you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you have done to me.” My service took on a new scope. It went from being a tick mark on a checklist to being focused on Christ. The manner in which I served these campers is the same manner I was serving Christ. He also taught me about faith, but I will tell you more about that later. I am still involved with this camp and am a co-director. I have many friends who are more like family, and God still teaches me each and every time I go to camp.

Well, time passed, and I graduated. I found a job and moved into the basement apartment of my aunt and uncle’s home in Lexington. During this time, I joined a new church: St. Luke. It was here that I began to sing in the choir and become connected into ministry opportunities. One Wednesday night in late November 2003, my dear friends Marty and Judy Seitz were taking me home after choir practice. They had made mention of the Emmaus walk, and I said that I might be interested. Judy’s immediate response was that she would get me an application and I would be off and running. She told me to give her a list of people that I would like to have praying for me. I did so and left it at that.

Well, the weekend ends with something called Agape letters. I got many letters of love and support. Again, God was pouring His love out on me and showing me what a wonderful family I have. God was also preparing me for what was to come during the next phase of my journey. He did this through the act of not wearing my watch. I am a slave to time…even today, but God was preparing me for something to come; something that would require me to be on His time.

In the summer of 2004, I went to Special Skills Camp ready to serve even more than in previous years. During our second week of camp, a man came by the name of Gary. Now Gary was the epitome of a Vietnam vet. He was in a wheelchair and had his dew rag tied around his head. He was rough around the edges and remained distant for most of his time with us. Due to the nature of Gary’s disability, we had to send him home. As he waited for his ride in the lobby of his cabin, he seemed puzzled. As his counselor went past, Gary grabbed him and physically sat him down in the chair next to him. Looking him in the eye, Gary asked his counselor to tell him who this Jesus is. Now the counselor had many tasks to do and felt the time crunch, but God held the counselor there and whispered to the counselor’s heart…”not your time, but mine!” Well, the counselor spent time sharing about Jesus. He then prayed with Gary, and Gary asked Jesus into his heart! Three days later, Gary was dead. His counselor was beside himself for about four weeks and became angry at God for taking Gary after such a life-changing moment. God spoke once more to the counselor’s spirit saying…”remember, everything is on my time!” I was Gary’s counselor, and I can honestly tell you that had it not been for learning to be on God’s time, I would not have made it. God worked in my life to show me that not only does He love me, but He also has everything under control.

Well, time passed, and I continued to learn to be on God’s time. Yet while I was learning to be on God’s time, I refused to be in His will. Two years ago this month, I began to fill my life with activity hoping to clutter my life with noise which would drown out God’s voice. I wanted to be far from God, as the psalmist depicted, because I was scared of what He was asking of me. I became involved in many ministries and committees at St. Luke. I did this to avoid what God was calling me to do. You see, God was calling me into the ministry as a pastor, but that was not what I wanted. So, I figured if I did other ministry, that would be good enough. Not so! God will do whatever is necessary to get our attention! He came in a burning bush to Moses, and He came in an audible voice to me. On January 4th 2006, I was visiting the UM Home for Children with my friend Charlie. We were touring the chapel when God grabbed me! I could see Charlie talking to the tour guide but could not hear him. Then, God said, “Feed My Sheep!” Through the stirrings of my spirit and discernment by myself and others, I knew God wanted me to be in pastoral ministry. Now, I am attending seminary and learning to follow God’s will and not my own!

God has shown me His love as a Father through the love of friends and family. He has taught me to live on His time, and He has taught me to surrender to His will. However, God has taught me one other lesson in my journey. God has taught me that He cares about my smallest needs. You see, because I can not see, I can not drive. Yet God has given me wonderful friends to get me where I need to go. These people know who they are, and I can only thank them for being the hands and feet of Christ for me! He even, the day after I said yes to seminary, provided me with the funds and transportation in order to even be able to attend seminary! Our God is so good! He cares enough for the grass of the field to clothe it, and He cares about me enough to provide from even my smallest needs. I know I do not deserve the many blessings I have been given, but because God so loved me before the foundation of time, He sent His Son to die for my sins. Praise God!

Let me leave you with this thought, how are you, in your life, allowing God to teach you? Are you allowing Him to show you His love as your Heavenly Father and then turning around and sharing it with others, or are you still baring a pain from the past? Are you living on His time or on your own? Are you seeking His will and surrendering yourself to Him daily or is it all about you? Are you giving the small stuff to God or are you spending time worrying about every little thing? When I saw that pastoral counselor, I gave the pain of my father to God and have not looked back! I am still learning to live on His time and in His will by drawing close to Him and allowing Him to “search my heart.” And, I have learned that God cares even about the birds of the field, so He is also watching out for my needs as well! I am a work in progress, but each and every one of my days is filled with a new lesson from God. I hope that I continue to learn from Him, and I hope that you do to!

God, I thank you for the care which you show for us all! Strip away, from us all, the selfishness which we exercise and which hurts others! Be our Guide and Stay! AMEN!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 69 - The Days of Selah!

Over the weekend, I experienced the joy and sorrow of graduation for seminary. It is hard to believe the culmination of four years has come and gone, and now I begin the task of preparing to move to Prague! It was good to see friends and family on Saturday as I reflected on my seminary career and to reflect on memories of the past years.

On Saturday, President Teennett said that we were living a day of Selah. No one really knows what Selah means, though it appears in the Psalms many times. Some believe that it is pause for reflection and deep thought on what had been said prior. This seems to be true. These days are the days of Selah for me. There are so many memories to recount...I do not know where to begin. Throughout the next days, I will be packing up my house...I can not think that this will be easy!

As I think of the past, I also have developed a list of things I want to do before I leave for Prague...though there are many things I want to do...these are just a few...
1. Eat at Dairy Yum Yum with Charlie
2. Have mom's homemade lasagna and lemon pie
3. Eat at Tumbleweed with Marty
4. Play paintball with the Chrysalis Boys
5. Watch the Matrix with Chance
6. Coffeemate with the Chrysalis Boys
7. Hang with all my Lexington friends
8. Say "I Love You" more
9. Spend time with the Heislers eating fish
10. Make every moment with every person I love matter!

Lord, thank you for the gracious blessing of Selah moments! Help me to live, laugh, and love as I reflect on one chapter closing and another opening. AMEEN!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 72 - The Rains come down

It is storming outside as I sit and run around like a chicken with my head cut off inside. As I have sat here listening to the low rumbling thunder, I have thought about how we view rain.,,and boy am I experiencing everyone of these now!

First, we often see rain as an opportunity for nurishment and growth. Rain provides the much needed nutirents for plants to grow. I have begun to more deeply and intently study the Bible...the rain for my soul. I have found that it is providing the much needed nutrients (knowledge and wisdom) for my spiritual growth!

Secondly, we sometimes see rain as in the storms which often accompany it. I am in the midst of a storm of stress even as I type this sentence! Tomorrow I graduate from seminary! It is hard to believe yet another chapter in my life is closing and another is opening. The tumult of all that is happening in this time of transition is beginning to take its toll. I have to cling to God more and more as the chaotic rains come crashing down around me.

Third, rain can be seen as a means of cleansing. It is, some say, the most pure water one can find. It washes away impurities and can wash away stains of any sort. It reminds me of the cleansing God did in the wateers of my baptism. I have been thinking about that beginning point of this amazing journey. It is hard to believe where God has led me...I AM TRULY HUMBLED!

Finally, rain can be seen as the precurser to something new and fresh and good. "At the end of the storm is a golden sky." This is one of my favorite lines from the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carosel. It reminds me that there is something good coming. I am experiencing a lesser degree. I know that God has something good on the other side of this transition...I know that I will still have connections and deep friendships here, but there is a golden sky waiting for me in Prague!

How do you see the rain...the storms of life?

LORD, thank you for the rain...and for the spiritual rain I feel even now! Grant me your peace and strength to walk through the storms of life...with you by my side! AMEN!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 73

Today, the stress of everything seemed to overwhelm me as I laid in bed at 5:14am thinking about all I have to get done before June 9th and then again August 2nd. Then I resolved not to worry...I have wonderful friends who will help me get these things accomplished in due time.

I have also decided to make my own version of the "Bucket List" only mine will be called the Prague will be a list of things I want to do, people I want to see, and places I want to go to before leaving in August for Prague. I hope to publish this list tomorrow...and hope that all my friends and family will help me to acomplish these things.

This is the task for today...well that and relax on my seudo-vacation!

LORD, grant me your strength to make it day-by-day. Help me to see your glory today!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 74 - Hangin in Houstonville

Since Saturday evening, I have been in Houstonville, KY house-sitting for my buddy Ken! It has been a blast...visiting with friends, eating some yummy food (THANKS Tracy!!!), and relaxing on these last days before graduation. i HAVEN'T SLEPT IN PAST 9AM IN i DO NOT KNOW HOW is nice!

Recently, I have been reading through the book of of my favorite Old Testament books. I have been pondering what it means to live a life of integrity in the present-day Babylon in which we all live. It seems to me that the world tries to entise us with beauty, name-brand stuff, and easy words. Sometimes it is hard to hear the truth, so we ignore it because we are comfortable where we are. I woke up this morning very uncomfortable...uncomfortable with where I am. I want to grow deeper...I want even more of God and will stop at nothing to get more of Him. Daniel has gotten me fired up...I am daring to be a man of integrity in this present-day Babylon.

I also had a great phone conversation with my friend Ginny this morning. We were preping thngs for camp this summer. For some reason, I just began weeping (Yes...I lose man points Robert and Chance!). I just felp my heart aching. You see, I have begun to prepare myself mentally and emotionally to leave for Prague, but as much as you prepare, things just happen! I know I have said this time and again, but I will miss all of you so desperately and deeply. Each one of you has had a profound impact on my life. Ginny reminded me of the people who God has prepared in Prague for me...and that is good to know that God has a plan. When one person leaves, another comes along. Yet, my heart aches. I am excited, nervous, sad, and humbled all at the same time, and I think that this is the mix of emotions which accompanies doing the will of God.

As day 74 matches on, I am going to cling to the hope that I will never be alone! And I know that, in some form or fashion, I will see, or speak to, all of you from Prague!

God, I thank you for your presence in my life...that presence which will never leave nor foresake me! Keep me ever growing deeper with you! Bless all my loved ones...they are so precious to me! AMEN!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Days 77 and 76

Yesterday, I began a week hanging out with friends in houstonville. I'm blogging from my iPhone because it seems as though I'm at the end of the wireless world! At any rate, it is going to be a great week!

Last night, I did something I have not done since college...pull an all-nighter. I was up late writing a paper...I can only hope that it makes sense!! I have also begun to read the book of Daniel for the fourth time. It never ceases to amaze me..learning more about integrity and character in our present-day Babylon! I look forward to what God opens up as I read.

Not much today...hope to write more tomorrow!

Lord, I pray for your steength as I finish the race set out before me. Help me live a life of the presence of all humanity! AMEN!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 78 - Only in Nicholasville

These were the words of my pal Nicholas as we watched in awe the cops administer a field sobriaty test to someone in the parking lot of the Amstar last night. I had never seen this done in real life...and while this saddens me to think someone was in such a condition as to warrant this test, it scares me to think that individuals so young are doing such things without any concern for the ramifications.

Nontheless, Chance, Nicholas, Robert and I had a great time seeing Robin Hood last night. I was jumpy throughout because of some of the action scenes which were intense! The movie is a must see...this is not your Disney Robin Hood!

Today is also one week until I graduate from ATS...YAY! I am so excited for this because God has placed a passion on my heart and I can not wait to begin the next phase of my life with God...though I am sad to leave...I am going to miss so many people, but God has people waiting for me! So today, I am trusting in the Lord for the ability to stay connected with all my loved ones!

Father, I thank you for all the fun you are allowing me to have and for the ability to share my life with all these special people here and with those to come in Prague! Guide us all this day! AMEN!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 79 - Wesley Chapel

Last night, I had the opportunity to see some dear friends and former parishoners from Wesley Chapel! We went out to the OUTBACK for supper and had the privilege of sharing memories and catching up with one another. I was overcome with a flood of memories and thought I would share some with you today.

1. Anna Gayle (our pianist) killed a snake! YES A SNAKE!!! there was a snake behind a piece of duct tape which held the mic cord down. She crushed it quite literally with her heel!

2. The EATING - boy did we love to eat! Whether it was at Bill's Diner or around the tables at the church, we always had a good meal and warm fellowship. The first Wesley Chapel cooking I tasted was Dorothy Teater's creamed lima beans...YUM!

3. The Chickens! Roy, Junior, and I went visiting once and found ourselves at the home of a man who raises "fighting roosters" as a hobby. I do not like chickens...unless it is cooked and on my plate! Now you have to understand that Junior is considerably shorter than me, however, I used him as a shield to protect me from these chickens and almost knocked him down running to the car when two of the chickens jumped into the air and began clawing at each other. Iknow...I am a wimp!

4. The frosty sunrise service - April 2009 prooved to be a cold April for KY. This is not the best for pastors who plan outdoor sunrise services, with metal chairs, at 7am! Needless to say, it was the shortest sunrise service I have ever been to and there were blankets galore!

5. ALL THE LESSONS - yes, I learned so much from the wonderful people at Wesley Chapel. I learned Scriptures, life lessons, and yes love for all! I can not thank God enough for these memories! I charish them deeply!

LORD, thank you for yet another day to remember...remember Wesley Chapel! Bless your Church this day and always! AMEEN!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 80 - Unexpected Joy

A lot of unexpected things are happening these days. Yesterday, I received unexpected joy from the Holy Spirit...

Last night, I saw 6 young men do some amazing ministry...Chance, Kyle, David, Nicholas, Daniel, and Alex...The Holy Spirit worked through them to minister to a family we all love! I was so proud of each one of them for their willingness to serve and thank God for the way the Holy Spirit worked through them.

Of course, we also had some fun...because I believe that it is virtually impossible to gather in Christian fellowship and not have fun. We ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant...Le Casa de Jose! We had a large time (as my friend Carrie would say).

All I have to say is...I HAVE A SPIDER IN MY HAIR!!!!

Lord, I praise you for your unexpected blessings and gifts! I thank you for using these fine young men to be your hands and feet! May they always hold fast to you! AMEN!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 81 - An Unexpected Gift

Yesterday was my last official day of class at the seminary, and it is hard to believe that 4 years and 85 credit hours have come and gone! This is not the only reason that yesterday was so amazing...yesterday, I received and unexpected gift!

As I sat in my final class of my seminary career, I was speaking with a friend about raising support for mission work in Prague. As I did, a lady put a bit of paper in my hand and say...put this in your pocket! So, I put it in my pocket and finished my class. As I walked to the library after class to tutor a student, I remembered the bit of paper and wondered what it was. I reached in my pocket and opened it. As I didd, I realized that it was a check for a significant amount of money for support! I was so overwhelmed by this that I had to sit down and collect myself. I cried and praised God all at once. You see...less than two weeks ago, God had given me the promise of Philippians 4:19...And my God will supply all YOUR needs through HIS riches in Christ! God had just bestowed a magnanimous gift on me from His rich storehouse...He used this blessed lady to bless people many thousands of miles away! How great is our God!

I cannot thank all my supporters enough...every gift is a true blessing! I praise God for them all and write about this one to show the extent to which God provides.

Jehovah Jirah, I thank you for all of the people you have used to bless me and ultimately bless the people of CISP and Prague! Heelp me to show that gratitude and share the blessing of your provision with all I meet today and always! AMEN!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 82 - The Hills of life

So today, I had breakfast with Fred and Patricia Walsh...a good time was had by all. After breakfast, I went to their house to see pictures of their time in is a beautiful city! I noticed some different elevations and asked, "Is the city hilly?' To which they both said an emphatic yes!This got me thinking about all the hills in my life...hills which I have climbed with the help of God. Some of these are literal and some are figurative...but they all represent what God has done and where He has brought me. I will name a couple here...

First, and most obvious, is the hill created by my disability. This has been one big hill with many small lifts and dips along the way. It has been a struggle to live life at times. I have never been able to do certain things and have experienced the pain of exclusion repeatedly. There were days when I could do nothing but cry because of the hurt and struggle I was facing on a daily basis! However, God held me and carried me through these was by His strength that I was able, and am able, to overcome! Knowing this, there is no hill I have to fear...all I have to do is trust the Lord!

Second, I have literally faced the hills which make up the Holy Land. I climbed and fact, I renamed Jerusalem...A CITY OF UP! This was quite an accomplishment for me...seeing as I am blind. There is nothing in this world I cannot overcome with God's strength and help! (well...let's just say that I won't be climbing Mt. Everest anytime soon!)

Now I have yet another hill to climb...the hill which leads me closer to the heart of God and into His will. This the others...will not be easy to climb, but I do not have to climb it alone! God is with me! And as I sit here and think, it is nothing like the hill which Christ climbed on my behalf...Mt. Calvary! It is because of this hill that I can face all the others without fear and trepidation!

So as I live in DAY 82, I am mindfulof the hills God has helped me climb and I give thanks for the hill which He climbed for my sake!

LORD, help me to grow in your grace as I climb the hills of life! I thank you for your strength which has undergirded me in this journey! I praise your name!!! AMEN!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 83 - A great cloud of witnesses

It is hard to believe that it is day 83...or for Kathy and some it is day 813!

On friday, I experienced what Hebrews 12:1-3 describes as the "great cloud of witnesses!" I had the opportunity to share with the Lexington Emmaus Community about my call into missions and my coming service in Prague! It was an emotional evening...for me and for them. This may sound strange, but in my sharing, I could feel the comfort of my mom, grandparents who were in Indiana, and my great grandparents who are in Glory! I was experiencing the witnesses who were literally before me, and those who had gone before me. It was an awesome expeerience!

Thoiugh I am going to be so very far away, I am going to be amidst this cloud of witnesses because, as believers, we are all part of the Body of Christ. This is the comfort to which I cling in the moments of sadness...and I prray that it comforts you too! I sang a song that night (which I was told I am not allowed to sing again because it is sad), but I want to share it with you here. As you here it, think about the great cloud of witnesses which have born witness to the marvelous love of God in your life! May it be a blessing to think on such things!

LORD, I thank you for the great cloud of witnesses with which you have blessed me! I pray that others may see and come to know that there is a cloud hanging around them also! May I be a Kingdom witness today! AMEN!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 85 and 84 - A tribute to my mother

So...I did not post this yesteerday because I had the opportunity to go home anjd surprise my mom for Mother's Day! (And there are times when I just need mom to make things as they should be!)

God has blessed each of us with the gift of a mother...and we all think of our mother as best and such...and it is VERY TRUE! My mom has always been there to support me and love on me in good and bad times! She has kissed hurts and dried tears! She is so special to me! It is a shame we do not honor our mothers more often! Though she has her faults, as we all do, she is mom and I love her dearly! It was so good to see her this weekend!

In honjor of her, I am posting one of her favorite songs I havee sung...though it is not me singing. (I will return to tell what happened friday in tomorrow's blong.)


Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 86 - Change the World

Here are some thoughts on Changing Our World. One of my boys and I were discussing this last night and I thought I would post a sermon I wrote about how we can be change agents in this world. Hopefully this will encourage you and cause you to think...How Can You Change Your World!

It was strange sitting there. A “veteran looking” gentleman rolled up in his wheelchair. He gruffly said, “they made me come, and my name is Gary.” As he registered, it was noticeable that he had endured a lot of emotional and physical pain in his life. Nevertheless, he was at camp to be ministered to. He got settled in and was distant for most of his stay with us. He was exposed to Christ through song, lesson, activity, and person-to-person interactions, but his emptiness remained. As he prepared to leave camp, he was sitting in his cabin waiting for his ride. As he waited, his counselor passed by and heard a “come here you.” So the counselor went. As he sat there, Gary started to open up and eventually asked who this Jesus is. At the close of this important and life-changing conversation, the counselor prayed with Gary, and he accepted Christ. When the counselor returned home, he received a message that Gary had died suddenly. It was surreal; during the next weeks, he went through a lot of emotional hurt and second guessing. But in the end, all that mattered was that Gary was with God and had no more pain (PAUSE) It took me 4 weeks to emotionally recover, but I did. Gary is in heaven, not because of me but because I was obedient to the Holy Spirit in letting my light shine,

Today, we are going to be looking at how we can change our world…how we can let our lights shine in the darkness. Before we can change something, we must understand what change is. Change is a noticed difference or deviation from the norm caused by some force; change has to begin somewhere and with someone. There are also 4 characteristics one must possess to be a world changer. Changing YOUR world begins with your Yielding – being available to God in both time and lifestyle, your Obedience to the Holy Spirit – getting tuned into God, your Understanding of the needs and situations around you – knowing your surroundings, and your Response – becoming the voice for the mute and the arm for the weak. Some of you might be frightened by the thought of being a WORLD changer. I will admit that it is a daunting task; some of you might even be thinking, “Where do we begin?” Planning out a strategy for changing our world is where we MUST start. Elie Wiesel told a story along these lines. There was a certain Jewish man who set out to change the world so that man might repent and Christ world return. He was convinced that he would be successful, but where would he start? He said, “the world is so vast , I shall start with my country, but it is so large that perhaps I should start with my own town. But my town is so large that perhaps I should start with my own street, no my house, NO my family, Never mind, I shall start with MYSELF.”

Our ministry to those around us can’t and won’t be successful if we are not obedient to God’s command in Micah 6:8 which says, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”

Changing your world begins with YOU! Before you can minister to those around you, you need to be “walking humbly with your God”; you Must be in God’s will or you WILL fail. This was never more real for me than my sophomore year of college. This was the year my world came crashing down; it was the year that I found out that my father resented me because of my disability. Because of this realization, my world fell apart. My relationships were strained, I drew into a deep depression, and God took a backseat (for a while). Then one day, a dear friend took me to meet with a minister. After several meetings, my life began to turn around. My relationships began to be less strained, and the depression soon subsided because God was back as head of my life and as my Father. Before I could be effective, I needed to clean up my light so that I could shine for the Lord. As we start to examine our own life in respect to our walk with Christ and how we can change our world, let us not fall into some familiar traps laid in the path. The first is “the Pharisee.” This trap is the one most perfectionists fall into. I was one of these but soon learned not to anticipate but participate in God’s will. Like the Pharisee who passed the beaten stranger, these people can’t get passed their legalistic background to see the need in front of them. The “Do-gooder” is the next trap. This is the trap that causes us to be motivated by our own recognition. My grandma often told me that the best deeds go unnoticed. Remember, it is NOT about you! If that isn’t enough, “Savior Complex” is right around the corner. Feeling the burden of the entire world drives these persons into service. They feel that they need to be the personal handyman of the world. But we must remember that only one person can hold the world in His hand. Finally, we could succumb to the “Burned-Out” trap in which we are simply not plugged into God. Many people have high ideas about changing the world but do not have a realistic plan.

However, we can avoid these traps by following the example of Christ. Changing our world starts with us, and we can sustain this ministry through a life of piety and setting realistic priorities.

Now that we are walking with God and have our light burning brightly, we can begin to light the darkness around us. We begin to “love mercy,” that is, we can understand the needs of others and have a desire to help or show mercy. We can show mercy to others through our actions/attitudes, prayers, and friendships. Let me explain.

I was told a story once about a woman who had just finished her last exam of her college career and could not wait to do anything but party. As her afternoon unfolded, she had some minor set backs but nothing to discourage a good time. As she was headed for the party, she was stopped at a light; it was rainy and she couldn’t clearly see the cause of the stand-still. Then she saw a young man from her college; his wheelchair was stuck in the intersection. She thought that someone else would stop but soon found herself parking her can and pushing him uphill to his apartment. He invited her in to meet his mother. As she talked to his mom, she saw tears in his mom’s eyes. She said, “in 4 years, no one has offered. It isn’t that he needs it, but it is a nice gesture.” This truly became better than any party could have been.

See, that’s just it. Our actions and attitudes can and do make a difference, just like the young lady brought light to a life in need. Our actions and attitudes can either build up or tare down the happiest and brightest attitude can effect the hardest heart. Even as Corrie ten Boome left the Nazi concentration camp, she asked God to bless her captors and rejoiced before the guards. Her Christian action brought some of these men and women to God, not because of her but because of the Holy Spirit working through her.

Our prayers, though they often go unnoticed, can bring change to the live of those we faithfully lift before God. My grandma is the prayer warrior of my family. One day my mom came home shortly after leaving for school because she has forgotten something. As she approached her room, she looked down the hall into my grandparents’ bedroom. There she saw her mom on the ground by her bed. Later my mom asked grandma if something was wrong to cause her to be on the ground. Grandma explained to her that she was praying for the family and those she didn’t know because she knew God would take care of all their needs for the day. Grandma changes her world on her knees.

Our friendships can lead people to Christ. By being an ear, a shoulder, or by having opened arms and a caring spirit, people can see our faith by how we live and can see that we are a true Christian friend. A friend of mine accompanied me to camp this year. He had not been active in a church family and had a hard heart toward God. Throughout the week, I noticed some marked differences in him and had opportunities to speak with him about God. He had seen the care and compassion of those around him and wanted to understand where it came from. Talking with him about my past and life experiences, he began to see the light. On Saturday night, he accepted Christ for the first time. He had seen what true friendship was and wanted to be a true friend to those around him. He felt the same feeling that you feel when there is Agape left for you. He has experienced a great change in his life.

When we begin to see these changes, we must remember to nurture these new relationships through study and prayer. How you live tells people who you are and can make a world of difference. Will you light the world around you or will there still be darkness?

The last step to changing our would is to do justice. We are called to help society and represent the greater good. Showing the world what we believe by our priorities and actions can lead to change, but shirking from this responsibility leads to chaos and despair. Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul has a story that depicts this well. An elderly woman was contemplating suicide. She called the suicide hotline to taunt them with this fact. Instead of her intended reaction, she got a new lease on life. The young man who answered happened to have gone through this same situation with his grandma. Yet the greater point of the story is NOT that he wanted to prevent the suicide but that he wanted to know what would drive this woman to such means. By choosing to approach the situation this way, the young man helped the woman to see that she had a reason to live and that people cared about who she was.

This is how we are called to minister to and change society. It is different that loving mercy and reaching out to help our neighbor. Loving mercy is a turkey served at a shelter on Thanksgiving. Doing justice is trying to solve the problem that would put someone in that situation. In society, we are called to exemplify Christ. How will you be Christ to those in society this week and from here on out? Will you actively represent Christ to the world? Where will you let your light shine?

Do you remember the old VBS song “This Little Light of Mine?” Perhaps you even held your finger in the air as you sang. The message of that song, whether we realized it when we sang it, is that we are to carry God’s light to those in the world who need it the most. We are called to never let it burn out. Has your light burned out? Do you need to rekindle the fire within? Now is the perfect time because we should leave here equipped to face a hurting world with a clear plan and purpose for changing our world.

Before I close, I would like for you to hear this song by Chris Rice. It is entitled “Go Light Your World.” As the music plays, you will ignite your candle from your neighbor’s candle. At the end of the song, leave you candles lit and remain standing. Please stand and meditate on the words of this song.

Matthew 25:40 tells us that whatever you have done for the least of these brothers of mine, you have done unto me. This has become my credo and life-verse. When I wipe a nose, change a diaper, clean a pair of glasses, or tie a shoe, I do it because the one whom I serve is a precious child of God and deserves the same attention I would give Christ. Changing our world starts right here and RIGHT NOW! You MUST commit yourself 100% to Christ’s call on your life. Remember to pace yourself and have a clear plan of attack (Rome wasn’t built in a day.). Take root in God and let Him branch out to others through you. Change isn’t easy, but it only takes one person (one voice) to bring a new beginning to one who is in need. Just think, had Gary been ignored or pushed aside, would Christ’s light have entered his life? How will you take Christ’s light to others? How will your approach to those around you be different come Monday morning? Will your light shine brightly or will it be dim? (PAUSE) How will you Change Your World?

LORD of ALL, help us all to find a way to bring Your Light into this world! May our lives blaze with your glory!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 87 - Do You Love Me?

Love is so very important to me! I want to share the love of God with all the people I meet. However, some guys shy away from using the L word! Love is something I do not shy from in the least! In these days, I find myself saying it more and more because I want my true feelings to show! So let me say...I LOVE YOU! More importantly, God Loves You.

Jesus did not shy away from telling His disciples He loved them, and He lived out those words in His actions. What gets in our way of loving God and loving others? You see, God has already extended the love relationship to us, All we have to do is reach back and accept it!

We all live hectic lives and often get caught up in our schedules and priorities. But when we miss opportunities to love, we are off the mark. Yesterday, I preached a sermon about Jesus asking Peter if he loved Jesus. I want to post it here...this is just food for thought not Ben sounding preachy. May this be an encouragement to us all to restore that love relationship...and to love one another!

Many times we look at different theologies and belief systems and try and define them based on what they do or how they see certain aspects of faith. It is interesting to note that in 1742, John Wesley was confronted with the same issue…he was asked to define what a Methodist was. In his response, Wesley defined a Methodist as, “one who has ‘the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;’ one who ‘loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind and with all his strength.” For Mr. Wesley, it was not a matter of theology or practice; it was a matter of love. This worries me, not because I think we shouldn’t love God, but because I think that we have lost our love for God. During the months leading up to the 2008 General Conference, I found myself in earnest prayer with several of my pastor friends. It was then that God really spoke to me and said that what we were praying for was good, but He laid the nagging question on my heart…do you love me? Of course we love you Lord, why wouldn’t we love you! Then feed my sheep, He said. It was at that moment that I realized what God was saying. You see, John Wesley defined us as people who loved God, and out of that love sprang our service. However, we have become people of action…of hectic schedules…of doing, so much so that we have forgotten our primary characteristic…a love for God!

This love relationship was evident to many of the early Methodists, including Charles Wesley. Many of us have sung the words that he penned regarding the amazing love of God. He said, in the hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, “Jesus thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art.” John Wesley also says that, “If anybody preaches …about anything more than love, he is aside from the mark, because the thing which you need is to be perfected in love and filled with all the fullness of divine love; and, if that is so, that will be fulfilling of all the law of God.” The love of God was something that was greatly understood to be the key component to a relationship with God. John Wesley knew it; Charles Wesley knew it; many generations of Christians have known it, and Jesus made sure that Peter knew it.
In John 21:15-17, we see an interesting conversation develop between Peter and Jesus. This conversation comes on the heels of Peter denying Christ three times before the crucifixion. And here we see Jesus using the triplet form of conversation to convey a message to Peter. It is my contention that Jesus wanted to let Peter know that he was still going to play a vital role in the shepherding process of the Kingdom. Peter was still going to be a shepherd to a great flock even though he had made a mistake. But what I want you to notice with me this morning is that with the command to be a shepherd (Feed My Sheep), there is always a question. Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?

Do you love me? It always interests me to sit down with different pastors or missionaries both here in the U.S. and abroad. I love to converse with them about their work and their journey. But doing this intrigues me because so often I hear about the “feeding the sheep” that is happening and not at all about the love for God or their love relationship with God. However, these are not the only folks who have this issue. I had a professor at the seminary point out that far too often, seminary students come to seminary out of their love relationship with God, but somehow along the way, it gets put on the back-burner because of papers, tests, and preparation to be church leaders. He then challenged the class to not let this happen. He reminded us that after seminary, life is not going to get any easier. Yet this epidemic of forgetting our love relationship doesn’t end there. Every Christian struggles with this. Our lives become so busy, we become consumed by our careers, we struggle with family issues, or money issues, or health issues, so much so that we completely neglect our love relationship with God. We mustn’t think that we can get a grip on it when things calm down, because things NEVER calm down. We need to learn to have the love relationship now!

Do you love me? I heard a story once about Dr. Paul Rader’s father. Paul was the president of Asbury College and his family has been in the leadership of the Salvation Army for many generations now. His father met Samuel Logan Brengle, who was one of the men responsible for bringing great growth to the Salvation Army in America. Early in his career, Rader’s father asked Brengle what his greatest temptation in ministry was. What is it that tempts you every day in your ministry? Brengle replied, “There is one thing that has tempted me, and when I give in, my life is miserable and like a living hell. However, when I resist this temptation, life seems to go on smoothly and everything falls into place. The temptation that has nipped at my heels my entire ministry has been to want to DO something FOR God each day before I’ve spent time WITH Him.” Oswald Chambers reiterates this idea in his book My Utmost for His Highest when He says, “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain, and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.” He is saying that there is a primacy on the relationship with God that a relationship is the main order of business and the ministry will flow from that relationship. Do not let the temptation of feeding the sheep get in the way of loving God!

Do you love me? So many times, people let their egos get the best of them. People think that the knowledge they have or the zeal they have or the compassion they have will be enough to do the work of God. And while that approach might work for a while, they will soon come crashing down because their efforts are their efforts and not God working through their love relationship to reach others. P.T. Forsyth, a WWI era theologian said when speaking about having a love relationship with Christ that, “It is possible to be so active in the service of Christ as to forget to love him. Many pastors preach Christ, but get in front of him by the multiplicity of their own works. It will ruin you if you do.” Pastors are not the only ones who have to be cautious not to let this happen. J. Sidlow Baxter writes, “The first thing which makes a true Christian minister or missionary or evangelist or preacher or Sunday School teacher, or leader or Christian worker of any kind, is not learning, not eloquence, not wisdom, not organizing ability, not pleasing personality, not even a ‘passion for souls’, but a love-passion for Jesus Himself. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING, can take the place of that. All else without that is like withered flowers.” It may not be our egos which get in the way, it may simply be a works equals love attitude. We may have a twisted sense of how our love relationship with God works. It does not stem from us doing things…from us feeding the sheep. It begins with us humbling ourselves and allowing God to love us and in return we love Him by worshiping Him, praying to Him, studying His Word. As our relationship grows, our actions will begin to reflect our relationship with God. So, do not think that feeding the sheep equals loving God…without a love relationship, the sheep will starve.

I want to close with this thought. In this scripture, we heard Christ first calling Peter into a love relationship with Himself and then giving the command to feed His sheep. It also interests me that the Great Commandment (love the Lord you God with all your heart…) precedes the Great Commission (go and make disciples…). A love relationship with God is the first step in becoming a worker in the Kingdom. Jesus wants you to know that you will play a vital role in the work of the Kingdom! Do you love Christ, or do you put Him on the back-burner because you are too busy? Do you love Christ or do you get tripped up by the temptation to do for rather than be with Christ? Do you love Christ or do you feed the sheep thinking that that will earn God’s love? Jesus loves you and desires a love relationship with you, but a relationship takes more than one person. We, as Christians, need to once more be defined by our relationship with God and not our work for God. We need to be living in a love relationship with Christ. So, let me ask…DO YOU LOVE HIM? That is the first step in restoring the love relationship…we must love Christ before we can serve Christ. Do you want to restore the love relationship? Now is the time to begin the process. Jesus stands ready to help and is asking…DO YOU LOVE ME?...

Let us allmake every effort to love! Tell someone that you love them and that they are special to you! Love can go a long way!

LORD, may my love for you increase and may it spill over into the lives of all I meet! Help me bring a loving witness to this day! As I am stressed from the changes happening all around me, keep me grounded in love...Your love and the love of others! AMEN!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 88 - Help me get it done Lord!

Yeesterday, I was reminded that it is about a month until I move out of my house and become, as Charlie has said, "wandering homeless!" (If anyone has a spare room, I will be in the Lexington area the 26 of June - July 4th and July 16-23 on top of a handful of other dates!)

Anyhow, I was thinking about all the memories I have had in my house.

Roommates - Ryan, Charlie, Jonathan

Ice Storm Shelter - This is when I learned about pizza cutters being conducive to melting.

The death of Ronald Reagan - this happened the day I moved in!

THE KING - those who know are laughing!

My Fall - this happened in March 2007 and is what caused the doctor I saw to question if I was born with albinism or whether it was a result of the fall I had!

All the students I have tutored here! All the fellowship I have had here!

This has been a good neighborhood to live in, and I will miss it dearly! I have been blessed with amazing landlords...and will miss them too! But God is preparing me a place in Prague where more memories will be made and fun will be had. I look forward to this new home and the adventure I will have with Godd!

FATHER, thank you for this day! Thank you for all the memories and for the blessing of a home! I pray that You will always be part of wherever I live...because it is only with you that it will be a HOME! Guide me this day! AMEN!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 89 - Encouraged

Last night, I had feelings of discouragement...but not for long! After speaking with Marty, Chance, and Jillian (all about different things), I felt encouraged! I was blessed by they words they spoke and am so excited to see what God has in store for me today! THANK YOU!

This morning, I have a song on my heart, so that is what I am going to share. As I think about my role, my part, in the Kingdom, I am reminded of the price paid for me. I hope in hearing this song, you are reminded of how much you are worth and how much God loves you! ENJOY!

Father, I thank you for your unending love...the love which I see in the sacrifice of Christ! I PRAISE YOUR NAME! I thank you for wonderful friends who come along and speak wise and holy words of encouragement! Bless us this day as we consider how much you love us! AMEN!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shine on Us!

Day 90 - Listening to God

The rain has finally stopped, and Noah is unloading his ark! It is a beautiful 90th day here in Kentucky! I have spent the morning in reflective listening. My mentor and pastor, Chris Howlett, reminded me in his sermon yesterday that I must listen as part of communicating with God!

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) It is hard to listen with my mouth open. Yes, Jesus want to hear from us, but he also wants us to hear from him. Therefore, we must listen...we must be still. I confess that I have not always done this. But as I prepare to take this step of faith in moving to Prague, I find myself listening more and more. Trust is built when two people speak to AND listen to one another. Will you listen to Jesus today?

It is hard to believe that I am at the 3 month mark! It seems like yesterday when God began this grand adventure into missionary service! So many memories have come flooding over me; I will definitely share them in the days and weeks ahead. But today, I thought it might be fun to ask you to share a memory or two of me and you? Share all you would like. It can be funny, serious, a quote, or anything!

Lord, as day 90 begins, help me to listen to You! Give me gracious words tempered with your truth...and help me represent the Word made flesh! AMEN!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 91 - Meaningful Scriptures

This morning, I woke up feeling kinda low. So, I went to the Bible and read some of my favorite scriptures. I want to share them with you this morning.

1. I Samuel 1:27-28 - I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD." And he worshiped the LORD there.

2. Isaiah 43:1b - You are mine!

3. Psalm 139: 13-16 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

4. Matthew 25:34-40 - Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

5. I John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

6. I Thessalonians 4:1-8 - Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

7. Hebrews 12:1-3 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

These are just a handful of the Scriptures I look to for encouragement. I am pressing on, though there are things I just do not understand. I trust you Lord!

Father, forgive me for any harsh way that may be about me. Help me to show love! AMEN!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 92 - Up Late and Loving It

Last night, I had small group at my house (my boys)! It was a fun time and a high holy time all at once. We expeerienced the holy moment of foot wahsing...this was a sacred time for me as I washed each boy's feet and prayed for them as I did.

After the serious and holy time, I decided to pass along some of my wisdom gained in college. Yes, we burned coffee mate. This may not be considered wise by some, but we did make some fun memories, and safety was always considered.

As I begin day 92, I feel a sense of deep love and care for my boys, and for God's provision, I am thankful!

LORD, open my eyes to your love this day! Heelp these boys, my boys, to know this same love, and help us all to be ambassadors of your love in this world. AMEN!