Life is a Journey

Thoughts on Life

Just How Important is Lifestyle?

In my reading today I came across,  “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.” 2 Corinthians 6:3. (NLT)   It seems to me that this passage is extremely important in my life.  One of the reasons people aren’t interested in our Christ is what they see in our lives.  We aren’t radically different because of this Jesus we proclaim.  We want to tell people our truth, but our truth hasn’t changed our lives.  What’s up with that?  Why should I want my neighbor to believe what I say about Jesus, if I’m not living out the teachings of Jesus in front of my neighbor.

I must come back later today to talk about this more.  This is huge and God is speaking.  Oh that I might hear and be changed!

Al

I Wonder…

I’m currently reading (thanks Summer!) Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  I’m convinced that this is the most important book I’ve read in quite some time.  While there are many things from the book I want to share, for today allow me to simply share the following section:

Brooke  Bronkowski was a beautiful fourteen-year-old girl who was in love with Jesus.  When she was in junior high, she started a Bible study on her campus.  She spent her babysitting money on Bibles so she could give them out to her unsaved friends.  Youth pastors who heard about this brought her boxes of Bibles to give away.

Brook wrote the following essay when she was about twelve; it will give you an idea of the kind of girl she was.

“Since I Have My Life Before Me”

By Brooke Bronkowski

I’ll live my life to the fullest.  I’ll be happy.  I’ll brighten up.  I will be more joyful than I have ever been.  I will be kind to others.  I will loosen up.  I will tell others about Christ.  I will go on adventures and change the world.  I will be bold and not change who I really am.  I will have no troubles but instead help others with their troubles.

You see, I’ll be one of those people who live to be history makers at a young age.  Oh, I’ll have moments, good and bad, but I’ll wipe away the bad and only remember the good.  In fact that’s all I remember, just good moments, nothing in between, just living my life to the fullest.  I’ll be one of those people who go somewhere with a mission, an awesome plan, a world-changing plan, and nothing will hold me back.  I’ll set an example for others, I will pray for direction.

I have my life before me.  I will give others the joy I have and God will give me more joy.  I will do everything God tells me to do.  I will follow the footsteps of God.  I will do my best!!!

During her freshman year in high school, Brooke was in a car accident while driving to the movies.  Her life on earth ended when she was just fourteen, but her impact didn’t.  Nearly fifteen hundred people attended Brooke’s memorial service.  People from her public high school read poems she had written about her love for God.  Everyone spoke of her example and joy.

I shared the gospel and invited those who wanted to know Jesus to come up and give their lives to Him.  There must have been at least two hundred students on their knees at the front of the church praying for salvation.  Ushers gave a Bible to each of them.  They were Bibles that Brooke kept in her garage, hoping to give out to all of her unsaved friends.  In one day, Brooke led more people to the Lord than most ever will.

In her brief fourteen years on earth, Brooke was faithful to Christ.  Her short life was not wasted.  The words from her essay seem prophetic:  “You see, I’ll be one of those people who live to be history makers at a young age.”

Francis’ book and Brooke’s story have challenged me in some important ways.  What might God do with my life, if I’m deeply in love with Jesus and seeking to live a truly surrendered life?  What might God do with your life?  I suppose I can’t think of a better thing to work through this Easter.  Because I truly want to live a resurrected life through the power of my risen Savior!  How about you?

Pastor Al

Lessons I’m learning…

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about what God is teaching me during this time.  I confess I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, since sometimes God has to tell me several times before I get it.  Today rather than tell you about specific events, books or people that God has been using during this time, I simply want to share a few things God has been teaching me.  I share these from my heart and pray that you receive them as such.  Don’t try to read anything into them, simply receive them at face value.

  • Getting my eyes off of Jesus and onto people and problems is a really bad idea.  It makes me forget how really awesome God is and when placed beside Him how really small this other stuff is.
  • Anger, fear and guilt will eat me up!  God wants us to bring those things to Him and not live with them.
  • There is an ugly side of me that wants to rear its head, but God has something else planned for me.
  • It’s not ok to build walls and want to withdraw when you feel hurt.
  • I really do love people!
  • We are all truly broken people in need of love, grace, redemption and a new beginning!
  • True life change can and does happen all the time – when we’re ready to trust God and move forward.
  • Nothing is more important than my relationship and walk with Jesus.  Nothing.
  • Jesus actually said that when we’re weary and burdened we can come to Him.  Because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Some of this other stuff that is heavy is not from Him.

You might have noticed that my list doesn’t include anything specifically about the church.  There is nothing specifically related to vision and direction for FBC.  The reason for that is the fact that God is first of all interested in molding me into the person He has in mind for me to become, and then guiding me as I shepherd @ FBC.  As I finish up this sabbatical time there will be things I share that relate to vision for FBC, but for now I simply want you to know that God is working on me.

To better prepare for my return I have committed to fasting each Tuesday.  I share that carefully, because we’re not to fast for men, but rather in secret for our Father.  However I want you to know my heart and I realize there is power in sharing a commitment with others.  I am also committing to a Daniel Fast for the three weeks leading up to Easter.  If you want to know more about a Daniel Fast please check out this website:  http://danielfast.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/daniel-fast-guidelines-2

I love you guys and pray for you.  I’m expecting God to do great things as we continue to seek Him with our whole heart!

Who Am I?

I have a simple journaling tool I use in conjunction with my daily reading of scripture.  Sometimes it doesn’t result in anything significant, but occasionally God works through this little habit to bring something really important into my life and heart.  Today was one of those times.  I find that I must share from my heart this morning, since I think this message God gave me this morning is for me first and then you.

Numbers 13:33 has a classic statement about a group of people that God made some incredible promises to.  Before I share the statement, let me tell you some details from their story.  God has been making some wonderful promises to Abraham’s family for generations.  One of these promises was a new home, a new land to call their own.  The time has finally arrived to experience, receive and move on into this promise from God.  So, with that promise from God in hand they went to explore this land God has given (see Numbers 13:1-2) them.  It was an amazing, rich, abundant land.  But, there would be some hurdles to cross before it was fully theirs.  There are enemies that don’t want them to experience God’s promise.  So in light of the enemies and hurdles between them and God’s promise, the majority of this family decided they were too small to go forward.  You find the heart of this decision in Numbers 13:33 (NLT) We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

“Next to them we felt like grasshoppers.”  The implication of that statement is huge.  After all, who are they to think they might actually deserve something like a new start?  Who are they to think they deserve to leave behind a slavery that has kept them bondage for their entire life and in fact for generations before they were born?  Who are they to think that today might be better, different from yesterday?

Ah, but the passage isn’t just about Abraham’s family.  It’s about me.  It’s about my family.  It’s about you.  Who am I to think that I might be free and able to receive good things from God?  Who am I to think I might be the one to break generations of brokenness?  Who am I to think that I might be free from a weakness or sin that has plagued me for years?  Who am I to think that this day will be new and different from so many days?

You see, the more I think about it the more I realize that ultimately this passage, this issue is about which voice I will listen to today.  Will I listen to the voice of the people around me that say I am small and insignificant?  Will I listen to the voice that I’ve heard for so long that it almost sounds like my own voice in my head and heart that says I’m not really going to experience God’s promise?  I don’t really deserve God’s good stuff for my life.  Or, will I listen to God?  Will I take His voice, His promise and believe?  Which voice?

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Check out this song on youtube.  It speaks to me in some powerful ways while I consider this choice I’m faced with this day and all the days that follow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU_rTX23V7Q

Who am I?  Not a grasshopper, thank you very much!

In 2 Corinthians 12 God’s Word says:

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (The Message)

Past the half way point…

I rode my Valkyrie to take my bride lunch today and it is gorgeous out there!  Can I just say that I am so ready for spring?  Ok, enough of that.

The last few days I’ve been reflecting on the first half of this sabbatical journey.  It’s interesting, but not surprising, how God has been at work.  Through conference speakers, new friends obviously sent from the Father, and reading from His word and Christian authors, God has been at work.

I’m surprised that we’re past the half way point already.  This segment of my sabbatical has been an intentional time for study, reading and reflection. A time to sit at Jesus feet and learn from Him.  It has been good to study without a sermon or bible study to prepare.  Just to read and study with a primary goal of personal growth.  My main focus has been to grow closer to our Lord and seek His heart.  I want to draw closer to the one that gave His life for me.  I want to know Him more intimately, that I might serve Him and bring Him glory.

My reading the last few days has included Christlike by Bill Hull, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, Clergy Renewal by A. Richard Bullock and The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson.  Two of these I’ve read before, but given that I’m far from mastering their message I needed a refresher.

Allow me to share a couple of thoughts from Bill Hull’s writing:

We are in constant negotiations with God about who is in charge.  But a holy and devout life calls for surrender, not negotiation. So we must go into training in order to gradually grow out of the grip of our own corrupted hearts and strengthen out spiritual hearts (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).”

Dallas Willard wrote, “Obedience is the only sound objective of a Christian spirituality.” Any Christian spirituality that does not lead to obedience is our enemy.  Bonhoeffer agreed, saying that such theories should have a stake driven through their heart; they should be killed before they kill the church.  Faith is real only in obedience.  If faith is only pondering doing what God said, it is not faith.

I will continue to pray for you.  I pray for God’s Spirit to be at work in your midst in unprecedented ways.  I pray for those that preach and teach and provide leadership.  I pray that they will walk closely with our Lord so that they speak and lead as men and women who have been with Jesus.  I pray for you as you walk with Jesus in your daily life, where you work, live and play.  I pray ultimately that God be glorified and His Kingdom be advanced in and through your lives!

I appreciate your continued prayers and support.  Your faithfulness in and through your church is a wonderful witness of our Lord’s presence and power.  Kim and I will be in Dallas this weekend for a conference as we continue to seek God’s heart.  Though we’ll be away, our heart will be with you.

Pastor Al

So far…

2/14/10

It’s Sunday morning and we’re six weeks into this sabbatical.  We’ve worshiped twice at Cross Point Fellowship in Republic, MO, once at Discovery in Dallas, once at FBC in Jacksonville, FL, and once at North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, GA.  I’ve been encouraged, found fresh hope, been reminded of some things I had lost sight of and witnessed God at work in many ways.  I’ve experienced multiple divine appointments at conferences and at other times.  I’ve met new Christian friends who have been instruments of our Lord in my life.  We’ve continued to be encouraged by cards, words and gifts of encouragement and love from some wonderful folks @ FBC, Pea Ridge.  I’ve read from God’s Word and Christian authors.  Both are being used by God to speak correction, direction, wisdom and encouragement into my life.

To say that this time thus far has been a Godsend would be an understatement.  I continue to pray for God’s guidance and hand during this time.  I pray this both for my immediate family and our church family @ FBC.  God is good and I look forward to all He is going to continue to do by His power and for His glory!

Al

Reading from Bill Hull’s book, Christlike – the Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience.

He makes this statement in the introduction: I believe that our consumerist, hyperactive, impatient church has hijacked the idea of spiritual formation.  When we walk into the door of a local church, it seems as though we are in a negotiation mode: “God, how much of my life can I still control and yet reap all the benefits of submission?”  Is there a way to address the inner life without being selfish?  Is there a way to move Christians from being consumers predominately focused on self to being committed followers predominately focused on serving others?  I think there is.

It is time to rethink what it means to be a Christian.  It is time to rethink how, if we did become mature spiritual beings, we could affect the world.

Wow!  He’s got my attention.  Then, reading from Acts 16 I find that verse 25 bothers me.   Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Could it be if I was less consumeristic in my Christianity I could be more like Paul and Silas?  Could it be if I walked in the fullness of His Spirit and lived more in light of His Kingdom agenda (and less concerned about my comfort and agenda) I might be more likely to have a witness like these men?  Why is it I’m less likely to have a heart full of songs of praise when life is hard?  Hmm, this needs additional attention in my life and walk…