The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

The Path Ahead

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This morning as I am praying, meditating and listening to God verse 8 stands out in my mind as something I need to hear today: O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. The second half fees particularly relevant to me as I am searching the path God is laying before me. My family is embarking on a new chapter in our journey right now. It has become clear to me the pastors at h2o church and I are not on the same page when it comes to leadership and overseeing splash. Through this discussion it has become evident to me, God is asking me to step away from my responsibilities there. This is scary for me. I am not sure what is coming next. In June I began working with a nonprofit in Kissimmee in child welfare. I enjoy this, but I also feel a calling to serve God in a local church. I am not sure what that will look like as we move forward. God is making his path straight before.
This current season of my life feels very transient and changing. I can’t place my finger on what or why, but I feel like a significant change is about to occur in the life of our family. It could just be the shift which is inherent in me stepping away from h2o (because this in and of itself is a big transition). It could be the follow up plans I have to begin working as a registered intern in addition to my work with Grace Landing (that nonprofit) I mentioned. I don’t know for sure what the path ahead looks like, but I am confident that God is laying it straight. I am saddened by the impending departure from h2o, but I am also peaceful about it because I know the timing is right. I know this is the next steps God is leading me to take.
If I look back on my life, there have been other times I have made similar decisions which were also scary at  the time, and also didn’t seem like there was a definite plan forward. Each of those times, God has shown up and proved himself reliable. Each time he has demonstrated he has made his paths before me straight.
My prayer today, and moving forward is that I will seek the wisdom of God daily. I will be patient and wait on him. I am praying I will be his servant and move forward in the ways he is leading. I really believe God is doing something unheard of or unexpected in the life of my family in the coming season. Whatever it is, it feels like it is going to be epic and I want to be a part of whatever it is.

My Takeaways from #Catalyst14

catalystI enjoyed the catalyst experience very much overall. I feel like personally, it had much to say to me and where I am in my life currently. It was good to be able to sit in the worship and enjoy the music and to participate in worshipping our Savior. It was also very encouraging to hear all the great sermons we heard in a short time. My friend who picked me up from the airport asked me who my favorite speaker was… I wasn’t able to pick just one! I think they all had some fantastic things to say and were all very challenging of me. So, let me try to funnel that down into a few thoughts of what challenged me the most.

  1. Andy Stanley’s opening message which challenged us to answer the two questions – 1. Who are you? and What breaks your heart?; really stuck with me because I honestly had to really think through the answer to the second one. Not because I don’t know what excites or invigorates me (I hesitate the use the word ‘passion’ since it is so overplayed these days) or what really gets me fired up. I had a hard time with this I think thanks to where I am in my life. I would have answered the questions slightly differently along the way in my life, and as my brain and heart catches up to where I find God has led me in life I found my self searching for what the answer is in this season. Strangely enough, the answer in this season is not very different from the answer it has been in previous seasons of my life. Families. Families break my heart. Families who need help of any kind. I have seen so many families without the resources and tools to do better than what they are doing and this breaks my heart. I realized as I worked as a caseworker, the difference between the families I worked with and me was a very fine line. A fine line of tools that were in my toolbox, but not in theirs. This has been the driving motivator in me finding the path God has set before me for some time in my life. My heart breaks for families in need. This is perfect, considering where I find God has put me. Working with children and families in a local church setting. Working with children and families in the child welfare setting. I guess the first takeaway for me was more of a confirmation or reaffirmation of being in the place God wants me. This has been something I have spent time considering and thinking through recently… just trying to figure out my life.
  2. The second takeaway comes from Dr. Leaf and the small amount of the book we purchased that I have read. This ‘new’ information regarding habit and thought formation has truly revolutionized the way I think about behavioral change. When coupled with what I have been learning through TBRI, I have a new landscape moving forward in the brain and assisting others to make behavioral changes. Not only is it possible to change behavior, but it is possible to change the brain to adjust the thought patterns. This is a total game changer for the way we think about helping people effect change. I am excited to read more in this book and learn more about changing habits.
  3. Robert Madu had words which were very fitting for us at Grace Landing. Being a small organization, it is easy to play the comparison game and look at other agencies and wonder why we aren’t able to do things the ways they are. We aren’t those other agencies, so we can’t do things the way they are doing them. And we shouldn’t want to. God has blessed us in a unique ways to accomplish the ministry he set before us. When I look at the individual pieces of the puzzle we each bring to the table, I am encouraged to see the plan underneath it. We are approaching the issues of young men needing transitional assistance and foster parent training in a revolutionary way! We are coming at these problems in a way that is different than how anyone (in our area, and for the most part throughout the nation) else is addressing them. We are running the race God has set before us and no one else. I also took much comfort in Craig Groeschel’s thoughts on how to experience exponential innovation as they apply to us. The first thing needed to experience exponential change is limited resources. I heard that and thought, well that’s us! Think about how much God is doing through a small, meager organization. We are a part of totally redefining the way foster parent training and recruiting is being done in Florida! Foster care will never be the same thanks to the work we are doing. Are you serious? YES! We are game changers.
  4. The last major takeaway I have is this, we are precisely where God wants us to be. I think we heard that 100 times at catalyst. God has set this ministry before us and we are to run this race to the best that we can, trusting God will provide the resources necessary to finish the race. God is able to accomplish his purposes without or without us, but he has decided to use us to accomplish those purposes in the ministries he has called us to. God has put us here because he has gifted us with what we need to do this work. He hasn’t set before a ministry we aren’t able to accomplish, on the contrary – he has gifted us in a way to accomplish this ministry.
Catalyst was exactly what I needed in life right now. It renewed my mind and reignited my heart.

Help those who can't help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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Help those who can’t help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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the BEGINNING of it all

3630_3630_5Monday June 2nd, 2014 started out like any other Monday morning. As the day progressed there were a few differences that eventually bubbled to the surface.
Eli is now 37. He is closer to 40 than he ever has been. This is the first day of his life as  37 year old man. Old man.
That wasn’t the only beginning. It marked the beginning of a journey Eli has been preparing for over the last four or five years. Eli began a new job.
It was the first day of Eli being on staff with Grace Landing, a faith-based non-profit located in Kissimmee. Eli is coming on staff in a new position at Grace Landing which will be a part of the expected growth that will propel Grace Landing into the mainstream of the community based care and foster care licensing realm. Eli will be the first person at Grace Landing to recruit, train and support foster parents. Eli will be the first Foster Care Licensing Specialist in the history of Grace Landing.
This is a very exciting time not just for Eli, but for Grace Landing. This is a move they have been planning for the last several years and with Eli coming on staff the journey is just now beginning. Eli has much to bring to the table for an organization such as Grace Landing. But, Grace Landing has much to bring to the table as an organization for someone like Eli.
As the hiring process began in a very humble way and progressed and moved through to its final stages, it became clear to all those involved this indeed was the direction God had been leading them both.
Eli will be build on his experiences as a case worker for the state of Florida as well as his experience in ministry in the local church, but also his education and experience in mental health counseling. Eli has recently completed a master’s degree in mental health counseling and will be putting his hard-earned education to use in this position.
Eli will be able to further expound and clarify his love and passion for families as he identifies, trains and equips families to serve the foster children of central Florida. Eli has been searching for an outlet such as this to share his insights and passion for the family and this position at Grace Landing is precisely what he needs to be able to do that.
This isn’t really the beginning of it all… but it is certainly the beginning of a time tat will see incredible growth in the lives of both Eli and Grace Landing.
While 37 may be three years away from being over the hill… it is a lifetime away from being the end of the journey for Eli. This is just the beginning…

the Undiscovered Country

Star Trek 6 was in my mind, one of the best of them.

In an effort for the Klingons and the Federation to end their war, this term was used to describe the future. No one knows for sure what it is going to look like… except God.

***Vagueness Disclaimer*** I am about to be vague. You are warned.

God has a way of working his plans, despite our efforts sometimes.

Ronda and I have been praying through some things for many months now. And a couple of months of ago, we took the plunge and finally made decision to follow God in a particular way. This was a scary decision for us… but we finally did it.

And God has not stopped moving since we did this. We were subsequently enveloped in a whirlwind of movement of the Spirit. I have no explanation for it, except that God was calling and I listened.

I thought to myself, ‘this is incredible’. It felt like we were getting no response from God until we decided and stopped being ‘like a man tossed by the waves’. I am reminded of Revelation when Jesus speaks to the church in Laodicea, he says he hates their lukewarmness. Is being tossed byt he waves, unable to decide the same as lukewarmness? I don’t know, but I have to think that kind of disunity or inability to move forward isn’t what God is calling us to.

Where does the journey from here? I’m not entirely sure. But I know that I am done standing around and waiting, I am following God in this journey to see where it goes.

God is awesome, and great things are ahead. How do I know?

Because I’ve met this God I follow before and I know what he is like.

Personality Testes, Personality Testes, 1 – 2. Personality Testes, 1 – 2 – 3?

No, it was not a Freudian slip.

Several weeks ago, I made mention of meeting a dude who offered to complete some personality tests on me. I thought it apropos to begin this way since for us men, our man-ness is often directly related to size of our balls.

We have big balls when we:

– don’t let our wives boss us around.

– make crazy-radical, on the edge kinds of choices.

– we are the first to do that daredevil act like jumping from a moving train.

– we grab life by the horns wrestle that beast to the ground and stand up and yell f___ you at it.

Like the size of our balls makes us the men we are, our personalities make us the people that we are. According to the ‘never wrong’ Wikipedia – Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

It is who we are.

This was an eye-opening experience to sit down and speak with this dude, who doesn’t really know me, and have him be able to peg me spot for who I am and what I am like.

This was revolutionary. I learned a lot of things about who I am and why I tick the way I do.

I learned the mechanics behind things in my life that I would have called failures. I learned the why of some of the things I struggle with.

I learned what drives me, motivates me, makes me lie awake at night. I realized the behind the scenes to many of the choices/decisions I have made in my life.

One of the benefits of being in ministry is having the opportunity to further hone my skills by learning more about who I am and why I think/act/feel the way I do. This was a great experience.

I have to be honest, I was wary going in. What if I didn’t like who the tests said I was? What was I gonna do about that? I would be screwed.

Providentially, the tests revealed me to be who I thought I was and more importantly who God knows me to be.

I am wonderfully and fearfully made… God made me how he needed.

And most importantly he loves me unconditionally.

The Pitch

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I just had the opportunity to do something that is growing in its pleasure to me… Talk with someone about how they could support my family and the work we are accomplishing at H2O Church Orlando. The more times I do this, the more fun it becomes to me. I really enjoy sharing with people the work God has called me to. As I told my friend tonight, H2O is my favorite church I’ve ever been to or worked for so it is an easy sell to tell people about what we are doing.

I’ve been in ministry for years, about 16 to be exact, and this is the first time I feel like I’m really fitting in. It has been a lot of round peg, square hole kinda ministry. But not here. H2O is the kind of church I was made for. And to be honest, the support raising process is more akin to my passions than I would have originally thought. I get to build a team of Christ-followers so committed to his kingdom they are willing to sacrificially give to God through the work he has called me to. It doesn’t get any better than that!

God has called me to work at an awesome church, but more than that he has called me to work with awesome people… his people. I am building a ministry team from multiple states that literally spans the breadth of our country. People who have never been to H2O are believing in the work we are doing. Fantastic!

God is awesome. And it is awesome that he has allowed me to work for him in this way.

Stand in the Gap (Vintage Post)

I wrote this as a sermon when I was working as a campus minister at Christian Campus Fellowship at UGA just out of Bible college. Ezekiel is on of my favorite Biblical characters, so I thought you might enjoy this.

Israel was in turmoil.  Babylon has already taken many captives and Jerusalem is desolate.  The people are worshipping false gods and the numerous false prophets are prophesying that peace is coming soon.  The people are not looking to God.

You can see a connection to the USA today but also to the world.  The world is in turmoil, and the devil has already taken many captives.  The world is desolate.  People are worshipping false gods like self, drugs, sex and many others.  No one is worrying about the impending doom of the world.  The people have forgotten about God.

The situation is grim.  Things are definitely not looking good for Israel (or us for that matter).  Israel was a sinful nation and God was in the process of punishing them.  They had suffered greatly already, but guess what?  The suffering was not over.

Look closely with me at what was happening: God’s chosen ones the priests and the false prophets were leading the people astray.  They were making no distinction between holy and profane (Ez. 22:26).  Profane means ordinary or common, anything but holy, separate, different or special.  It is not as though they had no idea what they were doing, they did it on purpose.  They just didn’t care what they were doing.  The “spiritual leaders” were kind of like the psychics that we see today, they were telling the people exactly what they wanted to hear.

I want you to notice how offensive to God this is.  God says that the ‘leaders’ are like a roaring lion tearing its prey (Ez. 22:27).  I don’t know from first hand experience, but I’m guessing that a lion makes quite a mess when it tears its prey.  I’m sure it is fairly graphic and not very pretty.  This is what Israel’s leaders were doing to the people…they were tearing them, pulling them away from God and leading them astray.  If you may recall, in 1 Peter 5:8 refers to the devil as a roaring lion searching for someone to devour.

In all that is happening God is being profaned or disgraced.  It is kind of like when someone comes to your house and insults all of your prized possessions.  They have disrespected you.  God was being disrespected by His servants.  One Christmas we had a family friend came to our house and noticed our small Christmas tree.  It was artificial and it was not the nicest tree there is.  But she said it was a nice Christmas shrub.  That really made me mad.  She had disrespected my house and me.

God was calling out for someone to stand up among the people, who would intercede for them like when Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy Sodom.  You remember he pleaded if there was just 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, or even just 10 righteous people would God not destroy Sodom.  Or like when Moses pleaded for Israel at Mount Sinai.  We must not think that Ezekiel was the only righteous man in Israel.  He was among the precious few.  Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch were in Jerusalem at the time.  What God was saying was that, as a whole the nation was not listening to Him.

God was pleading because He knew He must punish Israel and about five years later in 586 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed.  Israel’s sin was idolatry and He allowed them to be taken prisoners by the Babylonians and Assyrians.  When Jerusalem was destroyed the Temple was also destroyed.  When Israek was taken captives in the exiles, this fixed their problem of idolatry.

The same thing is happening in America and the world today.  We have so called spiritual leaders that are guiding their followers down the wrong path.  I’m sure you can think of some of the televangelists that have have been caught in affairs or swindling money.

Not too much has changed in America and the world.  The world still worships idols.  No we don’t have many little statues in our homes here in America, but we still worship idols.  Things still get in the way of God, sports, friends, hobbies, work, and families.  And many other things.  What is the number one priority in your life?

God Has not changed much either.  He is still calling out for someone to atnd in the gap.  Matthew 28:18-20 is this call.  As you are going into all the world, make disciples teaching then to obey all I have commanded you and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  What does this mean for us?  It means that we need to embrace true spirituality and form a relationship with God so that we can stand in the gap.  As we do our everyday things, stand in the gap.  This world is full of lost sinners and the tool that God uses to save them is us.  Think about this, on any given day you could be the only God that they get to see.  Does Christ shine in your life?

Are we going to stand in the gap?

Are we going to save the lost?