Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning to Fly Like an Eagle

At church on Sunday the theme was based off of Isaiah 40:31;

But those who wait on the LORD
      Shall renew
their strength;
      They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
      They shall run and not be weary,
      They shall walk and not faint.

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the Bible, just because the visual of flying like an eagle was always appealing to me. The bald eagle is and always has been my favorite animal. It is majestic, strong, beautiful, and most of all, it soars above everything. I always thought it would be great to be able to soar like an eagle!

When I think of soaring, I think of peace, speed, and even the avoidance of problems, but Pastor handed out a story that made me think of a different aspect of soaring. The story follows the training of an eagle teaching a young one to fly. First the mother eagle pushes the little one out of the nest and removes the soft moss in the nest to bare thorns so that when the young one jumps back in the thorns poke it and it jumps back out. Then as it is falling, the father eagle swoops down and catches it on his back. This process repeats itself until the young eagle learns to spread it's wings and fly.

This story made me think, maybe flying like an eagle, at the beginning, isn't so peaceful. Sometimes we have to deal with thorns, and falling, until we learn to spread our wings and fly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

God: Our Last Resort?

"The wretched and miserable should turn to their Saviour first, yet they do not hope in Him until all other hope is exhausted." - Alexander Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo)
I just finished reading the book The Count of Monte Cristo and I recommend it to any readers out there. As always, it has so much more depth to the story than the movie, but this one is even more so than most. There are stories, within the main story, in which almost all characters were taken completely out of the movie. But one of the things I liked most about the book is Dumas' exploration of Edmund Dantes' relationship with God. This relationship is shown to us in such a way that, even though our experiences are dramatically different, we can relate to it in ourselves. The quote above is probably my favorite quote expressing this relationship.
Why is it that we wait until there is no hope, to turn to Christ? There is a saying that there is 'no atheist in a foxhole'. I've never personally been in a foxhole, but I have seen in my life how many people, who reject God when things are going good, cry out to Him when all goes bad. We seem to think that we don't need Him, when we have a good paying job, a happy family, and everyone we know is healthy. 
 Even when we initially lose our job, we search and search on our own. Maybe we go to the unemployment office, ask our friends and family for help, or go anywhere else we can think of for help. When we are sick we go to the doctor, then another doctor, then a specialist, etc. When we fight with our spouse, or our kids are rebellious, we find a book about it to read, go to a family counsellor, etc. Then finally, when none of that works, we turn to God. God is our last resort. Why is He not our first?
I do not have a problem with utilizing all of these resources. I think God has put doctors, and counselors, and the unemployment office, in place in order to help us. But we should be consulting God first. We should be asking Him for His plan. What job does He want you to have? How does He want to heal you? What steps does He want you to take to fix your family relationships?
Sometimes I wonder if God doesn't occasionally step back just so we can realize how much we need Him. We get to a point where our lives are going so well and we think it is our own doing. We think that we brought success to our lives, and we stop seeking God. All of a sudden our life falls apart and we blame God. Why did you allow this to happen to my hard fought success? Maybe God is just trying to remind us that none of it is ours. He's waiting for us to seek Him again. 
God is always merciful. He always gives another chance. But if you stop seeking Him, watch out, because you just took yourself out of His plan! Don't wait until your last resort. Seek Him now! Before you are wretched and miserable!

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love - A Reminder for Valentine's Day.

Today is Valentine's Day. Many people think of it as a day only for couples, but I think it is better as a day to celebrate and remember love. This can take form in celebrating your love for your spouse or significant other, but it doesn't have to. Why not make this valentine's Day a day in which you celebrate the very personification of love, God. The Bible says 'God is love', therefore without God love would be non-existent. So as we celebrate love on Valentine's day, let's celebrate the reason we have love at all. Let's celebrate true love, not just romanticism. True love is described here in 1 Corinthians 13:
 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long
and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether
there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these
is love.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who do you imitate?

These days it seems like everyone is trying to be like someone else. Everyone is looking for a role model, a leader. When I was a kid my oldest brother got me into 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air'. He had already watched it for a while before I first started watching it and I remember thinking, "Will Smith really reminds me of Chris." Of course it wasn't that Will Smith decided to model his character after my brother, but my brother, after watching the show a lot, started picking up some of the things that Will did and said in the show. We see this kind of thing often; people watch a show, listen to a singer, or hang around a particular person a lot and eventually they begin to act and talk similar to that person. In a previous post, Are You Afraid?, I discussed how some singers (Eminem specifically) have embraced this role of leader, and what our response, individually, needs to be.

As individuals it is a natural response to start acting and talking like the people we spend the most time with. This is why it is important for us to be careful who we are spending the most time with, or what music we are listening to. But this isn't the topic I want to address today. A lot of preachers talk about the problem with the church today, so let me take my turn at it. The problem with the church today is that rather than setting an example and allowing the world to model after us, the church is trying to model after the world. My cousin gives a nice discussion about this, directed towards artists, in her post Creative God = Creative People. But this is a truth for all Christians. All members of the church.

I was with a ministry team, traveling to different churches, when one couple invited us to lunch. This couple was attempting to start an inner city youth ministry and they asked our team for advice. To be honest, I was a bit shocked by the answers. Everything was based around; start with something attractive, a dance team, a place for games, etc. Then, after they start coming regularly, begin to ease in a little bit of the Bible. This idea is very popular amongst churches today. The thought behind it is that we need to be relevant, and to be relevant we need to offer what the world offers. In the end we find ourselves attempting to copy the world and most of the time we present a lower quality product, that appeals to only Christians, or we compromise our values and defeat ourselves.

Now I see nothing wrong with dance teams and games. I don't think it's wrong to do things in order to attract people. In fact we need to do those things. We need to be relevant. But we need to do it in such a way that we are modeling after Christ, not after the world. Paul said:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Jesus said:

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world. (John 15:19)

We are not of this world! But we often act as if we are. We act as if we are simply a 'cleaner' version of the world, but that is not what Jesus called us to be. He chose us out of the world so that we could imitate Him, and show the world who He is. If you have a desire to dance, draw, sing, write, etc. then I believe that God put that desire in you, and wants you to use it for His kingdom. But as the church we should be innovators and leaders, not followers or copiers. We should be stepping out, being led by the Spirit of God, to bring the best that anyone has to offer. And we need to do it with the uncompromised Truth of God's Word.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Light in the Darkness: A Personal Story

In my last post,, I shared about 'doors of happiness' and how often these doors will close, but there will always be another one that opens afterward. Following is a story from my own life:

When I was about 3 or 4 years old, my mom remarried to my stepfather, John. At first John was real nice to us. Of course, being so young, my memories of that time are limited, but I do remember going to the fair with John even before he married my mom. I remember that as a fun day. John was great!

But it was only a year or two after the marriage that I remember the feeling of fun beginning to fade and be replaced by fear. I do still have some memories of fun from my time with my stepfather; learning to play rummy, watching price is right, and even jokes and occasional laughing. But mostly I remember being afraid of him. At first he kept a wooden paddle on top of the cabinet for every time that we did something wrong, later it was a rubber mallet. Most of my memories with him consist of us being grounded, with padlocks on the doors, so we couldn't get out when he was away. Sometimes we were only fed a raw potato a day as food, then if we were lucky we would get a bowl of bean soup.

Obviously this was a time in which many doors of happiness were closed. At a time in which other kids were outside playing, having fun, care free, I was locked in my room with my brothers. At one point John caught my brothers sneaking out, so as a response he put black tarp over the windows and around the door to make sure it would be obvious if we left. He then took all lights out of the room. I remember sitting in the room, not able to see the hand in front of my face, not knowing whether it was night or day, and it was in this time that I experienced the other door beginning to open.

The thing that I remember most about that time is that, my brothers were quiet, I began to talk to God. I remember God being with me at that moment. Many people look at stories like mine and ask, "Why does God allow people like John to do these kind of things?" I could write you many things about what I think the answer is to that question, but I won't. What I will tell you is this; I know that God was with me through it all! And God Himself was the door that opened in response to the other doors closing. He was light in the midst of the greatest darkness I have experienced. It was through this time that I was able to recognize the importance of my relationship with God, and it was through that relationship that I learned to not be bitter at John. I was able to move on to the successes that I find in my life today.

John passed away when I was 9 and a year and a half later the worst day of my life came, when my brother and I found our mom had passed away in her sleep. But the relationship with God that was established in that dark room at such a young age continued to lead me to open doors, no matter how many had closed along the way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Has your door of happiness closed?

When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
--Helen Keller
Have you ever known this to be true? Have you ever seen an example of someone who immediately finds the open door vs. someone who never does? When a 'door of happiness' closes it is so easy to focus on the loss of happiness, but it is so true, that God will always open up something else. Sometimes He closes things simply in order to open up a door to greater happiness, other times it is closed through circumstances, or wrong choices, by either ourselves or others. In this case God is always able to bring the good out of the bad. This closure can be something big (a loved one's death or sickness, etc.) or small (the end of a youth camp, etc.), but the principle is always the same.There is always another door opened, available for us to walk through. 
When was the last time you had a 'door of happiness' closed in your life? What was your response? Did you ever find the one that opened? Maybe you've experienced death of a close family member, abuse from a parent or relative, divorce, moving away from family and friends to a strange place, etc. All of these things have taken place in my life, and each one of them was a 'door of happiness' closing on me. Now I don't believe that it was God who closed these doors, I believe they were just a result of a fallen world, but in looking back on my life I can clearly see the doors that God opened up for me. I can see how God not only brought me through these things, but brought me through a stronger man than I would have been. Through these events He taught me to not focus on the 'closed door', but to always look for the open door.
Now at age 26, I can say that, thus far, I am successful in following God's plan for my life. I am happily married, I'm a licensed minister and head of a newly developed youth ministry, and am a manager in a mental health group home. On top of that, I have had the opportunity to travel to 13 countries, on four continents. I have led teams on foreign outreaches and organized the outreaches themselves. This is not to brag, or to build myself up, on the contrary, it is to show you what God has done in my life! He has brought me to all the successes in my life. He has delivered me from fear, and strengthened me to take on new challenges, even when I did not necessarily feel I like I was up for the challenge. All I had to do was, keep my focus off the closed doors and  follow Him!