Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

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.

coffee & donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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Coffee & Donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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Spiritual or Spirit-Filled?

So I went to this new thing we are doing at h2o church called M.o.G. or Men of God. BTW, I made a Spaceballs joke about a mob, part man part dog and got absolutely nowhere with it. I was instantly disappointed at that. Whatever.

Anyway, at this M.o.G., I realized that I have been chasing after the wrong thing. I have bee trying to be a spiritual man. The kind of dude that reads the Bible alone and with his family and who prays alone and with his family because that’s what you are supposed to do as a Christ-follower and someone who works at a church. I wasn’t trying to do it and instill those habits in my boys because it is a part of who I am, but because it is the ‘right thing’ to do.

Who I want to be is a spirit-filled man, not a spiritual man. I want to be the kind of guy who is just like Jesus. I want to be the kind of guy that people look at and they can’t help but to see God overflowing from my life in the way I respond to my wife, kids and anyone else I encounter daily. I want to be the kind of guy that prays and reads the Bible alone and with his family because it is an integral part of who I am. It is a part of me as much as my heart or lungs are a part of me.

I want to be a Christ-follower first and everything else second.

Are you chasing after trying to be spiritual or spirit-filled?

Where am I Leading Us?

When as a church leadership you decide to take your church on a journey through confirming vision/mission/purpose and doctrine/theology; you have to confirm your own thought and positions. The leadership team (pastors and myself) has begun the journey of discussing where each of us stand on what we have determined to be the essentials.

This has been a tremendous experience because it has forced me to rethink and remember why it is that I hold the positions that I do. This has led to an intense time of study in which I have been reminded of where my positions have come from. Sounds simple enough, right?

This leads me to my next thought… how can you lead when you don’t know where you are going? Obvious answer, you can’t.

As a church leader I have enjoyed rekindling and remembering the why and how of where I stand.

Let me give an example –

Here are some ‘bottom line’ type stuff we are talking through:

  • We believe that humanity, both men and women, were created in the image of God and designed to be His image bearers on this earth.
  • We believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and by choice. Sin has totally affected all of creation including marring human image and likeness so that all of our being is stained by sin (e.g. reasoning, desires, and emotions), making us incapable of coming to Christ apart from His grace.
  • We believe that because all people have sinned and separated themselves from the Holy God that He is obligated to save no one from the just deserved punishments of hell. We also believe that God in His unparalleled love and mercy has chosen to elect some people for salvation.
  • We believe that the salvation of the elect was predestined by God in eternity past.

There are a few words in there that upon first reading scared me a little. Ok, scared me a lot.

So what did I do? I went back to the Scriptures, back to sources I trusted and find out why those words scared me and if they should even scare me at all. As it turns out, they shouldn’t scare me. The words that scared me are biblical words used in Scripture to speak of something specific and to describe the work that God is doing in my life and in the life of the rest of humanity.

Why was I scared? Because I had forgotten why I understood and believed what I do. I had forgotten the biblical nature of the words. I had forgotten where I came from.

This is dangerous. I had a bible college professor who used to say, “Don’t believe something because I tell you it is true, believe it because you study the bible and know it to be true.” Excellent advice. It is dangerous for us to take a stand that we don’t understand. It is dangerous for us to assume what we believe is true if we can’t back it up using Scripture. It is dangerous for us to get complacent in our theology/doctrine/beliefs that we forget the why. The book of Jude reminds us to earnestly contend for our faith, which is a call to know not just what we believe, but why.

I am glad that we have been chasing down the essentials. Now I remember why my essentials are essential to me.

How did I end up Right Here?

You would not believe where God has taken my family over the last couple of years!
It is my prayer this message finds you well today. I know it has been awhile since we last spoke, but you have been in my thoughts recently. Ronda, the boys (Noah, Hayden, & Jagger) and I have embarked on a new leg of this journey I call being a disciple of Christ. I am writing to you to share a little of that journey with you, as well share my passion for the calling God has given me that leads us to where we are now.

Let me take you back just a couple years… in 2008 my family began attending H2O Church in Orlando. We began attending at a time when we needed something different, something healing in our lives. (You may already know of the mental, emotional and financial struggles our family faced during this time… so I won’t go into the details) H2O was just what we needed. We were afforded acceptance, accountability, love and growth. God blessed us beyond measure through H2O.

After being a part of the church for about a year we felt God calling us to move to Gainesville as a continuing part of our restoration and healing. So we moved to Gainesville again. Going back to Gainesville wasn’t as much of a homecoming as we thought it would be. We lived in Gainesville for around 9 months while Ronda worked at a law firm as a family law attorney and I worked a few different jobs trying to find something I could really sink my teeth into. During this time we began to pray for God to open up a church for us to minister at. An opportunity opened for us in Jacksonville (this move to Jacksonville is why we didn’t stay in Gainesville long this time around).
Moving to Jacksonville didn’t quite turn out the way we had expected it to. What we understood to be long-term move, God only planned to be a short-term move. We moved to Jacksonville on April 1, 2010 and by the end of the year we were moving again. We had the opportunity to serve God at a church, doing some pretty amazing things. It is strange sometimes, how God uses us and prepares us for the future at times when we don’t see it.
While at this church I was called upon to redesign the children’s ministry and implement a new strategy that had never been used at this church before. We were able to restructure the mentality and philosophy of the church into that of a family ministry approach and re-trained and equipped current and new volunteers to the new philosophy of ministry.
As the year came to a close, it became obvious to us through some difficult situations that our time here was not intended to be long. As we prepared to move again, I was able to reconnect with the leadership at H2O Church Orlando and we began to discuss the possibility of me coming on staff with them. As we discussed what this might look like it became apparent that one of the greatest needs for H2O is someone who can restructure, re-organize and implement new strategies within the current children’s ministry. A task I was recently prepared for!
Which brings us essentially to the current moment. H2O is a missionary-style church in the sense that the staff is supported like missionaries by individuals like yourself. My family and I are currently in the initial phase of the work God has called us to at H2O and we are raising support in order to be have a salary to be released to do ministry on the ground here in Orlando. I am reaching out to you at this time to seek an audience with you to sit down in your home, over breakfast/lunch or at a coffee shop to share in person my passion and vision for the ministry God has called me to. I am seeking to build a team of individuals to partner with us in accomplishing ministry in Orlando.

Addicted

There seems to be lots of talk these days about people have addictive personalities. I don’t know if there is such a thing or not, but it seems to be aptly descriptive. I feel like I might be one of those with an addictive (or maybe just obsessive) personality.

Let’s talk about coffee for a minute. In a substance abuse counseling class I wrote a paper that compared my addiction to coffee to a meth-head. The prof didn’t see the comparison. But I found (now that I drink coffee again) there is almost no coffee I won’t drink and no time I won’t drink it. Take my in-laws well watered, uncleaned (granted the water is hard and has sulfur so is rough on a coffee pot) that I have fill with gluten-rich creamer to drink. It is literally killing me. Yet I drink it anyway.

Or what about 7-11 donuts. Also chock full of gluten and I eat them way too often (a problem I had overcome until we moved next to one again). BTW, 7-11 is the sbux of central Florida… They are everywhere.

Also, soft drinks or pop as we call it. Heartburn, here I come! Thanks again 7-11.

Anger, hatred, jealousy and resentment would also make the list of addictions. Fear, anxiety, distrust too. Strangely absent are things like unconditional love. Peace. Joy. Satisfaction no matter the circumstance. Those qualities are present in my life, not with the same regularity.

Why is it so easy to gravitate our addictions towards the things that literally kill us rather than the things which give life?

Who are we cheating with our addictions? Ourselves or our God?

Maybe some of both…

The Diary of God… Faith/Obedience

At h2o church Orlando today we began a new series of messages entitled Colossians: the subversion effect. One of the themes in today’s message was the danger of a syncretic faith. As you know, syncretism is the blending of two things that shouldn’t mesh together. Sometimes this works and produces a final product that is better than either of the two individual parts. However, one’s faith (particularly faith of the Christian persuasion) must be carefully guarded so it is not watered by syncretism.

It was noted today (by esteemed pastor Hever) there are some specific ideas about faith within our culture today:
1. Faith is merely an intellectual ascent of something.
2. Faith is devoid of passion & love.
3. Faith carries a notion of optional obedience or love (to that we place said faith in).

It was also noted this thinking is in direct contradiction to scripture which often uses the terms faith and obedience interchangeably.

Look at James 2. James states in verses 17-18: Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” He clearly shows that apart from action our faith means nothing. In other verses in this dialogue, James says he’s glad you believe in God even the demons do that!

Faith & obedience are inseparable. They are two-sides of the same coin.

We just moved back to Orlando. Lots of people have been asking me why? There is a long answer to that question, but the shirt of it is we are following God where he is taking us. We are putting our faith into action/obedience. God has something for me here and this is where he has called me to at this moment of my life.

Being in the Diary of God and allowing my life to intersect with his, means I follow where he leads. It means putting my faith into obedience.

Are faith & obedience interchangeable in your life or are you still holding back from God?