Monday, December 08, 2008

Reading the Bible with Jesus of Nazareth

I wanted to share this article written by my mentor from ACU, Mark Hamilton. It is well worth the read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here is the link: http://www.wineskins.org/filter.asp?SID=2&fi_key=192&co_key=1614.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Asking for Help

I am excited when I see people asking for help. It tells me a ton!

It shows strength. It shows weakness.
It shows maturity. It shows a lack of maturity.
It shows contentment. It shows discontentment.

Asking for help brings us closer to God, but only if we find him in those from whom we ask help.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Package

Imagine that you hear the doorbell and run to the door. When you open the door you don't see anyone and are frustrated because you got up from the couch wondering who in the world could be ringing the doorbell at such a time. We've all been there. Then, you look down and notice a box wrapped in duct tape. This little "present" makes your heart skip a beat. The edges are frayed; the duct tape is starting to fall off; and you hear a faint ticking noise coming from this mystery package. "Bomb!" is on the forefront of your mind.

That is until you notice a name on the top of the package betraying from whom this little package came. Written on the top is the name of your best friend. It is obviously this person's handwriting. You are put at ease. You know who sent the gift. You are amazed that you had such a crazy thought as you smile. What is your good friend up to now?

Well, what if we began to view our spouses as this little box? A little frayed, unimpressive, duct tape package. When we look at it inappropriately we might run and hide, thinking the worst. But, realizing that your spouse is a gift not from your best friend, but from God changes things. The focus is no longer on the gift itself; the focus is on the sender. There is no one else that God sent this gift to. My spouse is mine and no one else's. This person has been tailored to fit only me...both with my strengths and my weaknesses.

God has given me Tanya. When I truly see her as God's gift, my attitude changes. I trust the sender rather than the gift itself. Also, if I refuse to accept this gift, I refuse to accept my relationship with the sender. My problem is really with the sender then! Tanya can be like frayed, falling off duct tape, but my heart is put at ease because God is the one who sent this really cool package my way.

Who do you need to view as a true gift from God?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiness Again

While we recognize that our holiness came about as a result of what God accomplished in Christ (see yesterday's post), Paul also wants us to live up to what we've been given.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, "to the church of God of God in Corinth, who have been made holy in Christ Jesus and who are called to be holy together with all those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place..."

While we have been given holiness, we must also live holy lives. It is not enough to just sit back and let God do all the work. We must live and practice the holiness that we have received. Indeed, that is what Paul calls the Corinthians back to constantly throughout this letter. We must live as Jesus lived.

This is the challenge that faces Christians today. Those who don't understand our received holiness, don't understand what it means to live holy lives. That is why we Christians get criticized so harshly at times: "They don't practice what they preach." In reality, they are telling us something we know, but don't communicate enough.

We need to tell everyone readily that we are not holy by our actions; we are made holy. But we strive to live this holiness now because we want to reflect the holy God who made us. I hope I am making sense here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chris' Sermons

This post is the place to come if you want to hear some of my sermons and classes. I will refer people to this page in the future if they would like to listen to my classes or sermons.

Sermons

Classes 
  • Coming Soon


Holiness

Last week someone asked me if she was holy. I told her that in Christ she was, but on her own...anything but!

I think this idea of holiness is confusing for many Christians. It is as if somehow, over time, we get this idea that we are actually holy people by our own merit. We understand (maybe) that Jesus died for our sins to make us holy (Colossians 1:22). We understand that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). These are things that we understand toward the beginning of our relationship with God.

Then, time fades our memory in terms of what God has actually done, and we forget that we were sinners. We forget that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We can't have any claim on holiness whatsoever. That is all God's doing. As a result of God's action in Christ, we receive a state of being called holiness.

Let me explain by using one verse: 1 Corinthians 1:2. Paul writes, "to the church of God in Corinth, who have been made holy in Christ Jesus..."

The tense of this one Greek word explains the idea I'm trying to explain. This word is in the perfect tense. In Greek, the perfect tense describes an event that, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time. The emphasis here is on the current state of being that came about as a result of some past action. To explain this word in 1 Corinthians 1:2, as a result of the actions accomplished in Christ Jesus, we are now in a state of holiness.

So, we have been made holy. Paul, later in the same letter, makes this point again. After discussing who will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul says, "And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were made holy, and you were made right in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the spirit of our God."

In this text however, he draws out the past action by using a different tense. The point, though, is still the same: someone else beyond us is the actor; we are the recipients. In Jesus, we are made holy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back and Forward

I got an email from a former student about celebrating the 45th year of Kats for Christ next summer. I never knew that we celebrated the 40th year, but I thought it would be a good thing. The initial thought process has started; we need to do this. I would love to bring together previous Kats for Christ students ... or Church of Christ Student Center students ... or Bible Chair students, whatever this place has been called.

There is something about looking back and looking forward that always gets me excited. Our church is kindof experiencing this right now. As Bob, our preacher, makes plans to move on, we find ourselves looking back into our history. Where have we been? Who are we? What has God been doing? We also find ourselves looking into the future. Where are we going? Who do we want to be? What is God doing? Exciting times!

Lord, guide us through this process. Help us discern your will. Teach us patience. Teach us humility. Let us walk and not run. Let us listen and not talk. May we be your servants, ready to do your will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Imitate Me

We had a great discussion last night in our Wednesday night Bible class. I love the amount of discussion that seems to happen week in and week out this semester as we wade through the pages of Philippians.

Last night I asked the question (in light of Philippians 3:17), "Is it prideful of me, as a minister of the gospel, to tell all of you to imitate me?" Wow! Some were pretty adamant that I shouldn't say this. Some said that I shouldn't say it (that would be proud), but that I should think of myself as an example. Several mentioned that being a minister automatically puts you in a position where people see you as an example. Still others held that they wouldn't want a minister if he couldn't say "imitate me."

After a while, the discussion went toward how everyone (not just ministers) should be able to say, "imitate me." They should be able to reflect the name they wear: Christian. It is as if we are living out our real citizenship on earth (see Phil 3:20 and 1:27).

The challenge is to be the Jesus examples for everyone. I wonder what would happen if all Christians lived the name that they profess. This world would truly be a radically different place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Counting Movement

I saw God moving last weekend during our retreat. While I worked really hard to create a great environment for God to work, I knew I couldn't make God move. You can do all the right things, but that doesn't guarantee that lives will be impacted.

During the weekend we dove into an obscure book of the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes. The Message translates the much repeated Hebrew word, hebel, as 'smoke'. I like how this word captures the temporary nature of our lives as well as the obscure nature of God's working.

It was really refreshing for me to dive into this book, especially since I sometimes feel pressure to produce good numbers of students in our ministry. It reminded me of something I already knew: counting numbers is smoke, a spitting into the wind. Sometimes the numbers indicate God's movement, most of the time the numbers don't.

For us right now, numbers are not the indicator of God's movement. Lives changing is the indicator of God's movement. At the retreat, I saw several students being moved closer to God's heart; it was great to witness as somewhat of an outsider. I witnessed students confessing sins, offering prayers for each other, sharing struggles, wrestling with God, listening to God, moving with God's vigor, laughing in the Spirit, and experiencing the joy of God's community!

Wow, God! Thank you for such a great weekend! Your name was praised! Please give all of us strength to continue in your movements.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Painful Endurance

I looked back through my blog entries searching for "kidney stones" and found that my last onset of a kidney stone attack was December 2006...before that it was March 2006. Well...last Monday is the new last onset of kidney stone movement in my body.

Not fun! The intense pain cannot be described adequately. Moving around not being able to escape it or get relief is a helpless feeling. The not being able to keep anything in your stomach is not desirable either. The crying out to God for relief seems fruitless or impossible in the moment. But...

As I was laying on the ground in the bathroom I had a brief moment of clarity. (Maybe that is what it was...I'm still not sure.) I began repeating over and over one of the following phrases: "Lord have mercy." "Help me Lord." "Relieve the pain." "Have mercy on me." "Please Lord" "Take the pain away." I would go on and on saying one of those until I felt like saying another one. Eventually, the one I settled on more than the rest was "Help me Lord."

My moment of clarity happened when I said a few times, "Take the pain away." I thought to myself for a brief second,
"Would God really want to take my pain away miraculously right now? This seems like a cop out prayer. When would you learn endurance. This isn't going to last all day long. I need God to help me through the pain. Don't ask to take it away. This is drawing on God's strength, not yours."
While I guess I really did want God to take the pain away (I do not wish that pain on my worst enemy!!), I thought it better to ask for help. This would bring God into my pain...the one who knows endurance through pain. Even though I used other phrases from that point on, I avoided asking for the pain to go away and settle on asking for help. I think this has helped me a little bit with endurance through suffering.

The saga continues as I recover from Monday afternoon. I have developed a little kidney infection, but antibiotics from the doctor should help. Praise the Lord! I am curious to see how this little endurance exercise helps me with other situations requiring gut-wrenching endurance. Feel free to share your own.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Running Again

I began running again this morning. A friend is encouraging me to try to get in shape for a half-marathon in the DFW area on Nov 16th! It is possible for me to get in shape, but I am not sure if I will end up doing it. I'm still thinking about it.

In my considering this, I have now shared the story twice about my running 9 miles on Veteran's Memorial. It is incredibly hilly 5 mile one-way trek. About halfway through I told myself that I would never make the decision to quit on the way up any hill but would make it on the other side on the way down. It is amazing what that little commitment meant.

In my mind then, I was convinced about six times (fully convinced) that I would quit at the bottom of this "treacherous" hill I was running up. Because of my commitment, I got up the hill and began going down knowing that I would quit. By the time I was at the bottom though, I figured I could go up just one more. Then about halfway up that hill I knew (no question in my mind) that I would stop at the bottom of the next. Oddly enough, the same thing happened again. I decided that I could do just one more hill (no more though). This continued to happen until I found myself running 9 miles! Pretty cool, huh?

I do plan on going further than this personal best distance pretty soon, but I will certainly work up toward it. You can't just jump back in a expect to continue where you were. We will see how it goes. I'll share the journey lessons I learn.

About lessons...think about this...make a commitment to never "quit" when things are rough. Of course it would be easier to quit when life is terrible. But, wait to make that decision when things are going better and you can think more clearly. Life has hills to tackle, but that is exactly the point...they will be tackled!

It is normal. We need both the ascending and the descending to progress in the faith. One without the other is not really living the faith. The challenge is to be fit enough to get up the hill. How are you training for your next hill?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jesus Examples

Tonight in our class we are discussing Jesus examples in our lives. Who are those people who really solidify Jesus for you? You might say, "This person gave me a glimpse into the life of Jesus more than anyone else I know." It might be one aspect of a person too! "She has taught me the patience that Jesus must have had while on his earth."

It is good to meditate on the lives of these people, even if you might not know them well, even if they were alive hundreds of years ago. They point us to Jesus. They put flesh on Jesus for us. Jesus becomes real because of them. We see him through them.

Caution: remember that these people are not Jesus. There is only one Jesus. All others will eventually disappoint you, but not Jesus.

Who shows Jesus to you? What do you need to imitate today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Greek Pride

I keep wondering if it is a prideful thing to let people know that I am pretty good at translating NT Greek, that I am working (albeit slowly) on translating the whole New Testament. The reason I ask is that two students "caught" me today and I felt bad about it. But they were intrigued! One student and I got into a discussion about how we can trust the text we have now. I never thought I would have someone interesting in those kinds of things. I guess they never knew someone that could read Greek or understand a bit of textual criticism.

For me, it seems to come down to the heart! If I continue to point people to my ability to work with the Greek text out of a sense of accomplishment or pride...that is not good. However, if I just speak of it as something God has given me the ability to do and love...my heart turns to God.

I'm interested to see what you think about it. Feel free to comment.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bringing About Salvation

Immediately after the amazing Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul says an interesting thing about salvation. As Jesus gave ear to (obeyed) death in 2:8, so Paul tells the Philippians to give ear to (obey) his admonition about salvation. He asks them to bring about their own salvation. Some translate the word as work out, produce, or maybe even create their own salvation.

It is an interesting concept because we normally think of salvation as something that has already been completed. It happened as I became part of "The Way." At some point in the past I was saved. While this is certainly true, Paul forces us to reconsider the nature of salvation in his comment. Salvation, for Paul, seems to be a commitment that must receive constant attention. You can certainly grow up in your salvation (cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

The context confirms this idea as we learn how to bring about salvation among us more often. Other people are definitely involved in bringing about salvation. We must think about them as Jesus did. Do everything without grumbling and complaining, Paul admonishes. This negative attitude, unlike the Christ-attitude we see in the previous hymn, does not promote salvation among the group of which you are a part.

Bringing about salvation also holds onto (or holds up) Christ's living message among the group (2:16). Living is all about considering others better than yourselves (2:3-4). Living is actually what Paul talks about in only one other location in Philippians. He says, "For me, this business of living is Christ and this business of dying is gain" (1:21). Living is all about Jesus; dying is all about advancement.

If there was a group that took these words seriously, they would certainly be compelled toward the others people, just like Jesus. This group would be totally transformed into the realm of salvation. They would be delivered from the horrible negative attitudes that do not advance the gospel, a key idea for Paul in Philippians (see 1:6, 12, 25; 2:13).

In the end, I have a couple of questions for myself (and you). Do you take instruction well and give ear to (obey) others, even those "below" you? How are you bringing about salvation among the group? Are you holding out the message about living in how you think about others?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Humility of Christ

Yesterday ... how can I say this ... I was reminded of my pride! I haven't been able to get past it all day long. I long for the humility of Christ expressed in Philippians 2:6-11. I'm not going to speak to the particular situation, but I will tell of the comment I needed to hear.

I was talking to Doug about wanting to be a co-leader with him of a particular group of people. I told him that if I were part of this group I would constantly fight dominating the conversation, the thought processes, and other stuff. Doug quickly affirmed my assessment and said, "Yes. You don't need to be in charge because you would dominate. And I tell you that as a friend." I told him that is why I would need him in the group to curb my prideful tendencies.

Sometimes I joke about someone affirming one of your "bad" qualities. (see a previous post of mine.) Rarely, if ever, do we hear someone affirm us when we say something like, "Man, I am a moron!" If someone immediately said, "Well, yeah you are a moron!" we would tend to take offense. The far better thing to do is to say only things that we believe to be true about ourselves. It wasn't an easy thing to hear from someone else, but I needed it! True friends can say difficult things in order to point us back to Christ.

A humble, honest opinion of our weaknesses displays Christ powerfully in our body, something that Paul also affirms in Philippians 1:20. May His humility overwhelm my attitude.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How I wish to write poetry
The more I read, the more intrigued
I get for me to see
But upon this height, I must not kite--
Humility is the key

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Than One

Yesterday I was once again surprised by God.

A guy came up to the prayer sign (he'd been there before) and asked to sit down with me and pray with people too. I gladly invited him to come on. [In our previous conversation last week he asked me to do this later on. I had told him that I think people tend to not come up when there are two people there, but he would still be welcome to come up. I didn't know what would come of this.]

So, as I looked up to see him yesterday morning, I figured that this day would not be a very "busy" day as far as people coming around. As the morning progressed I began to see how unfounded my supposed observation was about having two people there. Several students stopped by. In fact, I think eight students stopped by yesterday, the most ever since I've begun! So much for my supposed observations.

One girl knew the guy sitting with me from a class they had together. It was only as she left to go to Spanish class that she took notice of the sign. This began a conversation that would take all of the next hour and a half! We talked about sin, church, relationships, sex, lyrics to songs, Jesus, the Bible, denominations, and more. God began to reveal himself through the two guys sitting next to this prayer sign to this girl. Also, God once again showed me how silly my presumptions are. 

I look forward to more people coming around this "God space" on campus. I think it would be great to have a huge group of people coming around just to enjoy God's presence for the morning! How good is God? Can this group make a significant impact on campus for God's kingdom?

Will you surprise me, Lord?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gathering for Others

This coming Thursday we are doing something BIBLICAL! We are gathering together in order to edify the others who come. Its not like we weren't doing that before, but it will look a little different. It might even turn into total chaos, which might be the reason for Paul's addressing the situation in Corinth.

Left unchecked, indeed it may. But Paul says to them and maybe us, "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." It seems like these Christians understood that they were to "bring" something to their gatherings. They didn't just come together so one or two people could perform all the duties. The focus of the text makes sure to mention that everyone brings something. Interesting indeed! Especially in light of our I-didn't-get-anything-out-of-that mentality so prevalent in our churches these days.

Well...this Thursday I am giving all of our students an opportunity to bring something. Has God been working in your life? Tell us about it. Have you been struggling? Confess your struggle. Do you need to pray for someone? Pray it. Do you have a song to sing? Sing it. Is a Bible passage really impacting you? Share it.

I just have to remember: let it be done for the strengthening of the body. I am curious to see how God works this Thursday! I won't be the leader...just the fellow participant.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

LST First Look

Well, we had our First Look event for LST on Thursday. I think it went really well. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of discussion I heard afterward about where people wanted to go and with whom!

I really like the changes this year. Students get to pick their location AND their team BEFORE they apply! This whole semester is going to be spent trying to figure out where in the whole world we want to go and which friends we are going to go with. I love it!

Doing this event during Thursday devo was also a good move. There were probably people there who wouldn't have come had we had a separate event for LST. Since I can only go two weeks this year, I am thinking about going to Asia, probably not Japan. Scooter and Emily are interested in going and I am still talking with Tanya about things. We might have three teams go this year, maybe four. We will see.

May God continue to encourage students to take a step of faith to make a serious difference in people's lives around the world. It truly shaped the course of my life... obviously for the better.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pregnancy Care Center

Tuesday night I went to a fundraising dinner for the Pregnancy Care Center here in Huntsville. I had heard about it before but honestly didn't know anything about it. It was a very good thing. During the banquet they mentioned that they were looking for more guy volunteers to join the ranks to help with the guys that were sometimes involved in the process. This piqued my interest, and I knew I would probably go by their offices sometime this week.

Well, the following day (yesterday) I was on sitting on campus with God's sign, and a girl enthusiastically sat down next to me. She told me she just found out that she was pregnant on Monday. This means that she got pregnant by her still boyfriend about a month ago. The turn was when she announced with a huge smile that she became a Christian two weeks ago!

She told me her story and how she turned to God from a life of rebellion! God, she said, is doing something with this baby even though I don't know what. Abortion is not an option, though it was discussed with her still supportive boyfriend. In all, we had a long, nice God conversation!

With my very recently acquired familiarity with the Pregnancy Care Center, I inquired whether she knew of it. She said that is where she received the free pregnancy test. Our conversation went to her boyfriend and how I might be able to help him. Because he works full-time and lives in Houston, there doesn't seem to be much I could do except pray for him.

This little event, however, confirmed for me that I needed to go to the Pregnancy Care Center and inquire about volunteering. That I did immediately after retiring God's sign back to its abode in the KFC Student Center. Chris, the director, was excited about my coming and the story about this girl she knew from two days earlier. I filled out most of the application yesterday, finished it this morning, and turned it in a few moments ago. I will go in a couple of weeks for volunteer training, and then wait to see how God uses the time I offer Him through that ministry.

God amazes me at small opportunities to advance his kingdom! O that we could see how God slowly moves us closer to his heart!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Jesus on my Mind

I want to share I have had in my mind lately. This is a song that Tanya (for some odd reason) doesn't like me to sing around the house or in her presence, but it gets sung in my heart nonetheless! Enjoy it written, but you really need to hear it.

Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
Well hmm, yeah hmm
I got Jesus on my mind
I got Jesus on my mind.

If you're interested in getting hooked on the song, don't laugh but find me singing it here (http://www.katsforchrist.com/media/Singing/JesusonmyMind.mp3) as long as it is an active link. Seriously...don't laugh!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Flower, My Prayer

Praying tonight I find encouragement through flowers I bought for Tanya.

I was looking for a way to express my desire for God's presence to open up into students' lives and spread through campus. I was reflecting on the campus revivals in the 1960s and 1970s where huge gatherings of college students met. They began a normal service that soon turned into the bustling business of God moving through hearts and lives. The common factor in these stirrings of the Spirit was public confession of sin, repentance, and encouragement in the Spirit.

While these clouds thoughts float around in my head I look to these flowers and see this opened flower. I immediately know that this flower is my prayer. There is no other way to express it. I feebly say something like, "May students' lives powerfully open up to display your glory in them like this flower."

These words, however, hardly express the complexity of my desire. Time is involved. Just yesterday this blossoming flower was like its companion you see just behind it ... closed, shielded, and not too impressive. Through time God's glory opens up and students look different.

Students ask me to pray for their unimpressive, bad choices and temptations. They don't see the beauty God has waiting to burst out! If only they would see it, Lord, and wait like this flower responding to the divine will so perfectly! Get through this testing and you will see what God has in store.

They desire to fulfill your purposes for them not knowing that their situation is being redeemed through God's own presence in their life. It will come in the season it comes.

My prayer is this flower, spreading its arms toward its creator, screaming of its maker with every breath, responding to His gentle unseen promptings, and giving off the fragrance of Christ. Interesting prayer indeed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Growth

Have you grown since yesterday?

This is an interesting question. Like a blade of grass turning to its lawn buddy blade and asking, "Do I look taller or more lush to you today?" Or the time I overheard the little oak tree ask the sparrow how mighty it had become since their last encounter one day earlier. It is an interesting and maybe irrelevant question.

There are times that we need to stop and gaze down from the heights of our forrest and remember our mighty smallness. It is good to remember the simpleness of what once was, how far one has come.

But, to merely think back will get us nowhere if we do not continue attending to the cultivation that made this growth possible. We will soon die if we lose ourselves in the bliss of recollection. In fact, I suggest that remembering should compel us toward action. It should goad us into the possibility of the future. It should catapult our hands over the walls that lead to inaction and passivity.

How great a task it is to remember! Growth happens. Where has it happened in your life? Be careful as you remember.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Traveling to Dallas

Normally a three-hour trip to north Dallas took four hours last night. Honestly, I thought it would have taken longer especially when it took almost an hour to get to the next city north of Huntsville, Madisonville! I just rolled the windows down and let the wind blow through my long, flowing hair (I wish). In spite of the traffic, I was amazingly peaceful. Mainly because my expectations were so low!

What is funny is how we developed a little community for most of my trip home. People stayed in the same lanes. There was no weaving in and out of traffic to get ahead. I stayed behind one car most of the trip. The person behind was there too. Those in the right lane would go ahead for a while, then we would return the favor. On and on it went. I grew to appreciate the consideration for all of us fleeing from a natural disaster. It helped me think about the "community" more. Peace.

Then I saw two ambulances in my rear-view mirror making their way through traffic. I was in the left lane. People were just pulling over to the left so it could get through; I followed suit. The people on the right pulled to the right so the ambulance was basically given one big lane in the middle of the highway. No big deal, right?

Well, I saw the pride before the ambulances passed. There were two cars riding the tail of the second ambulance just cruising along as if the highway was their's to own. The first car was a huge Hummer (a nice sign of pride). The second was a sedan of some kind. There was no room for anyone to cut these cars off they were so close. Someone would have if they could've!

That is just wrong! To think that the highway is yours for the taking betrays an intense pride that God surely opposes. Just looking out for yourself and how to promote your own well-being betrays any sense of community. And we were a community out there! It hurt to see them doing it. It bothered me. It took a while for me to get over it.

But it confirms for me how destructive pride is to any community! We might not understand the full effects of pride because we have not completely experienced a fully selfless community. However, we do recognize the breakdown of community when intense pride enters the picture. Because of this, I am encouraged to seek humility. God's grace will soon follow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Whatever Happens

Here is a little quote from Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ (1.20.6):

"In silence and stillness the devout soul advances and learns the hidden truths of Scripture. There it finds the salutary tears that wash away the guilt of sin, so that it grows more intimate with God as it severs itself from the clamor of the world."

It has been good to begin going back through this wonderful book again. (We are taking various passages from the Imitation as discussion points for Thursday night devos this semester.) I find that every time I open its pages I meet challenge. Though there are certainly weaknesses to the book, I find the ever-present charge to be attentive to my soul. He also reminds me of humility, something any minister needs.

As the hurricane gets even closer and evacuations already beginning, silence and stillness is a good reminder. It is important to remember the one in whom we trust. "Whatever happens," Paul writes, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." The hidden truth of scripture lets us make preparations for the hurricane, but also lets our hearts remain unmoved and still.

My heart continues to go toward those having to vacate their homes. May your peace surround them as the fog surrounded my car this morning. Let your presence be close, Lord. Keep us safe in your hands.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Conversation with God

"I miss your coming to me. You like to fill your time with anything but me. When left alone at home you'd rather see what you might be missing on TV than do the things I've been whispering in your heart. I love your enthusiasm. I gave it to you. What is taking you so long? Take comfort in me. Take my strength. Take my diligence. Take my endurance. I need you to start. Let's do this together."

-----

Today I pray for those who will be impacted by hurricane Ike. It could still run right through us. My prayer is also that the hurricane doesn't strengthen like they anticipate. The damage will be less for sure.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hand Washing

Don't tell anyone, but when I normally wash my hands I don't spend a ton of time making sure every part of my hand is absolutely clean. I don't wash each finger individually or wash the top of my hand thoroughly (its not like I'm going to use the top of my hand the rest of the day).

Yesterday afternoon I just decided that I wanted to be thorough in washing my hands. [That is definitely the dork coming out. Sometimes I do totally random things. I'm glad no one sees these things most of the time, but now my cover is blown...oh well] Even as I was doing it I felt silly. Even so, I made sure to spend sufficient time on each finger. I even moved my ring around to get under it. Yeah...I know...silly.

Then...all of a sudden...I found a spot of something at the bottom of my palm. What!? I didn't know that was there. If you would have asked me before I washed my hands, I would have told you it was not there; I would have told you my hands were clean. I even debated at first whether I should wash my hands at all! "They are already clean!" I would have said. So...now I'm glad I decided to be thorough in washing my hands! Who knows what kind of embarrassed I escaped from my thorough hand washing! This little spot was now gone. Relief. I rinsed off my clean hands and went on my business.

What are you talking about Chris? I'm glad you asked. Think about this: How often are we thoroughly attentive to the little spots of "dirt" in our lives? Many times, we don't spend time even considering what is dirty. We might even say, "little white lies never hurt anyone." What about that little bad attitude that is only seen by God? I bet you didn't see that little speck of jealousy.

Today I will be attentive to the sins that hurt my relationship with God. I call out for God's cleansing hands to be thorough in washing me. The imagery of Psalm 51 is fitting. Hear our prayer:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love ... Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge .... Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice."

Monday, September 08, 2008

God is Active

Last night I preached at New Waverly. Since I only preach there two times a month, I decided to slowly go through Philippians. So I get up there, begin my lesson, and notice that not a few people are laughing. Almost everyone has a big smile on their face. I knew they weren't laughing at me but at something that I didn't know; it didn't bother me.

So I finish my sermon (which I thought went pretty well), and we sing the invitation song. After this song, the song leader stops and informs me as to why people were laughing: I had just preached a sermon using the exact same text as the preacher in the morning.

They knew I didn't have a clue what was going to be preached on Sunday morning, so God must have been at work! I couldn't believe it! They assured me that the sermons were amazingly pretty different. God's hand is very interesting. I still can't get over something like that happening without any communication ahead of time.

Here is the kicker: there was someone who listened to both sermons that needed those messages. Struggling through many things, this person heard loud and clear that something needed to happen; no longer is sitting idly an option.

I praise God that stuff like this continues to happen! He is active. He does prompt us to do things of which we don't know the implications. As faithful servants we respond to these promptings and get to watch God work.

What are you going to do today, God? May we have the courage to lose ourselves in your movements.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Silence

Silence is difficult! I learned that silence is different than being quiet and different than not speaking. I can not speak all day long without ever being silent.

Silence involves not filling my time with so many different voices, with noise. Silence means being alone with God. Silence doesn't exist in a computer or in TV or in the radio. I recognized this about noon yesterday when I realized that I hadn't really been silent all morning; I had merely spent the morning on the computer without speaking, something I do fairly regularly.

Lunch is where I began to sit in silence, a hard task when I am accustomed to at least some TV speaking to me as I eat. After lunch Chica and I went outside to enjoy the afternoon. This was good silent time, but it ended after about an hour and a half. Coming back in I felt compelled to watch TV just for a little bit. Famous last words, right? I wrongly reasoned, "Well, I guess I am not speaking during this time, so I'm still being silent." I saw right through my hypocrisy, and I just gave in. It was too much of a weight to bear for such a long time.

I am dissappointed in myself, but I will try again. May God give me the strength to persevere.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Silence

Can I go a whole day not saying an audible word all day long? I am going to try tomorrow. Looking at my schedule, I think it will be possible especially since Tanya and the kids are in Dallas right now. Well, I guess I will speak when Tanya calls me tomorrow. That will be my only exception.

Well, let's say that I will speak only when necessity requires it tomorrow. Sometimes hard, fast rules don't accomplish what they intend. If, for example, as I was sitting outside my house tomorrow two cars crashed head-on, then breaking the rule to call 9-1-1 would be the wise and appropriate thing to do. So, a set rule to not talk tomorrow isn't appropriate upon further reflection. I'm curious to see what this exercise will produce.

May your Spirit, God, speak powerfully as I silence my own tongue. Let my ears be attentive. Father, if you desire, send someone who needs a listening ear tomorrow. I will not speak unless necessity requires it. Teach me your ways, Lord.

Addiction

Having quit coffee, I am now thinking about at least limiting my intake of cokes, usually of the Dr. Pepper variety. Yesterday kindof confirmed that for me. In the late afternoon, I began to have a little bit of a headache. I realized that I had only had water all day. It made matters a little worse when I couldn't find any Advil or something for my headache. I went to sleep with my head pounding.

Here are my thoughts. Anything that produces in me some sort of reliance on that thing surely detracts me from totally relying on God. It makes me dependent on that thing rather than on God. Some of the obvious addiction tendencies are things like alcohol, drugs, sex, smoking, and caffeine. Some of the less obvious addiction tendencies are things like ways of doing things, cleaning up, making a mess, talking down to others, hatred, slander, food, and laughter. There are so many kinds of addictions, but anything becomes an addiction when it takes away from completely relying on God.

We all have addictions that control us, but I wonder if God calls us to begin laying these down at the cross one by one until we've learned to be completely reliant on Him. What addictions does God want out of your life?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

God's Sign

Yesterday, I saw God use the prayer sign in a new light. A middle-aged woman came to me and, before I even looked up at her, she said, "Thank you!" When I looked up, it was obvious that she was broken up about something; she looked like Niagra falls was about to gush out on campus!

She said it again, "Thank you." I said hey and asked what is going on. She said she is having an absolutely horrible day. She was walking on campus, thinking about her day, and asking God if she could just have a small hug from Him. "At that moment," she said, "I look up and see that sign!"

Standing up, I told her that it looks like I need to give her a much-needed hug. She didn't stay much longer, but I asked God to let his presence continue to surround her. I pray that she had a good rest of the day.

This gets me to thinking...had that sign not been there, how would have this lady's day been? We may never know, but I put this sign out so people will come closer to God. So many are looking to reach out to Him; they just don't know how to do it. I saw God use this sign powerfully today.

Now I ask this: what sign are you putting out that God can use to bring people closer to him? The small encounters with others are God's opportunity to speak. How is God speaking through you?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pray with Expectation

My day is filled with expectation. I can't wait to see how you show up today, God. Surprise me with a whisper. Overwhelm me with your presence. When temptation comes give me your strength to patiently wait until it passes. As people come and go, today, let me be an extension of your presence in their lives. Some need a smile; some need a touch; some need forgiveness; some need an ear; all need you. My day is filled with expectation.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Singing Praises

Yesterday I found myself singing praises to God in my house. It started out kindof soft, but gradually grew to be pretty loud. The thought occurred to me that my neighbors might be able to hear me, especially since we have tile flooring. This curbed my enthusiasm for a bit, but I soon returned to my previous vigor unable to control myself. I was lost in the moment of praise.

Consider one verse (Psalm 147:1): "Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!"

It is good. Let me encourage you to sing praises to God today. It might be one song; it might be twenty. Whatever it is, I pray that you experience the good and pleasant feeling of singing praises to our God.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Heart of God

Welcome week is over! It was a good welcome week from what I can tell. I have seen returning students reaching out to new students. I have seen new students making new friends. I am going to enjoy having the day off tomorrow...a much-needed break.

As we look to help all our students experience Jesus this semester, I pray that their decisions bring glory to God. This is the time when many students begin making small decisions that lead in directions away from the heart of God. To expect this of our students, I must be ready to lead the way.

Lord, may I continually seek your heart in every decision, in every action, in every conversation. Give me your patience. Show me your heart. May your Spirit guide me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wrestle God

I am excited about the semester! Who knows what plans the Lord is about to unfold? My prayer is that I have the courage to empower students to experience God in powerful ways. I pray that God move in such a way that when looking back one cannot help but say, "That was God!"

Tomorrow we begin our semi-leadership retreat. I say "semi-" because I haven't advertised it as a leadership retreat at all. This retreat is a small step toward one of my major goals this year: to develop a team of students committed to lead other students closer to God's heart! This will take a major investment of my time and energy.

I have even considered not doing the discipleship group for this year in an effort to streamline some of my time and energy. This is the time that I wrestle with God in what to choose. Where do I spend my time? What good, wholesome things do I choose not to do? What will have God's blessing? What should I avoid? What do I teach? Dare I say, like Jacob, "I will not let you go unless you bless me?" We will see.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The One Shot

The SHSU football players came to church this morning. It was good to see them there. I'm grateful that their coach makes them experience church at some level. I pray they see God.

I do always wonder what is going on as they sit in the couple of services they are required to attend each year. Are they freaked out with the non-instrumental singing? Do they understand the things we do? Are they hyper-critical of, disinterested in, or excited about things? How religiously inclined are they? Does the sermon connect to them? Are they encouraged? Are they engaged? Will they seriously come back? Did they see Jesus? Are we pushing too much or too focused on them? All these types of questions have circled my mind in the last week, especially this morning.

Here is what I conclude: I can't worry about it.

Sometimes we can get all worked up over what we believe to be the one shot, the one opportunity, the only chance. I hear some saying nervously, "They may never step foot in this building again!!" meaning that we must do everything we can right now.

My approach is somewhat different. I take what opportunities the Lord provides and do what I can. I am in the planting seeds business. The Lord is working the ground of people's heart before they ever come my way sometimes. So, I'm not too interested sometimes in how "perfect" everything went.

I do pray that the Lord brings to himself those he needs right now. I pray that hearts were pricked. If they don't come to our building again, may the Lord draw them to himself in a later conversation or in a powerfully deep experience. There are many ways that the Lord draws us to himself.

I pray that we look for more ways to put ourselves out there in opportunity-ridden situations. May we scatter the seeds, water when necessary, and patiently wait for God's fruit to appear in time. Where does the Lord need you to be?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Right Do I Have?

“What right do I have, a person called by God, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and spurred on by divine love…what right do I have to expect something out of any of you in regards to living God’s way of life?

My answer is threefold:

One…I have NO RIGHT.

I have no right to expect something out of you. I have no meaningful relationship with you. I don’t really know you. I might know of you, but I don’t know you. I don’t go with you to work or to have fun. I haven’t been in your home. I see you here in the building occasionally. But, I don’t have your trust. I am not an influential person in your life. So, I have no right to speak any expectations into your life.

Two…I have SOME RIGHT.

I have some right to expect something out of you. As a fellow human being I understand the struggles you have, the temptations to turn away from God. I do know you more than you think. I also know what God intended for his creation. I know it is good and beautiful and full. I know God’s love for us. I know how God desires to mend the broken relationship. So, I have some right to speak some expectations into your life.

Three…I have EVERY RIGHT.

I have every right to expect something out of you. I am your example. I am your minister. I am your servant. I am your leader. I am your pastor. I am your shepherd. When you listen to my words it is as if God is speaking. His spirit directs my spirit. His movements are my movements; there is no difference between us. Everything that has been created, has been created through me. So, I have every right to speak expectations into your life.

I expect you to give up your rights and follow me. Or do you not understand when I said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ Yes, I am Jesus…the one who died…for you.”

I, Chris, ask this: are you spending time with our Lord and letting him speak expectations into your life?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God's Process

Yesterday I reconnected with two of my High School friends through facebook. Thinking back to those days draws me into reflection on how God has moved me in this journey toward full life with him. From golf to accounting to marriage to graduate school to ministry God has moved me closer to his heart slowly over these last 12 years. It is a process that takes time...a lifetime. God's patience truly does mean salvation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Organization, Part 2

So I received a call this morning from a random person. She introduced herself as my mind thought...telemarketer. She said she was a professional organizer. I thought that this was strange, but interesting. Some anonymous person from my church called her to come help me with my office. I started laughing out loud at the thought!! She asked what my thoughts were and I couldn't stop laughing. It was hard for me to admit to a stranger. She wanted to find a time when we could meet. After deciding on a time later this week, we discussed my office situation in a little more detail. This lady is now going to help me develop a plan for organizing my office. Is that cool or what?

My initial thoughts turn toward my relentless and sometimes unhealthy self-reliance. To hear myself say I need to get organized sounds completely different when someone else says the same thing! I briefly felt embarrassed to admit that I needed someone else to come help me get organized. But, I came to my senses understanding this is exactly what I need...a plan.

What do you need to admit that you need help with? What's stopping you from asking for it?

Kats for Christ Name Change

We are Kats for Christ.

In years past we have been called "The Bible Chair" (some still call us that) or "The Church of Christ Bible Chair" or "The Church of Christ Student Center."

Beginning this fall semester we are intentionally starting to make a move from "Church of Christ Student Center" to "Kats for Christ." While we have been using both interchangeably since the early 90s, the Lord has led me to help us make this much-needed transition official. There are several reasons this transition needs to happen.

First Reason


We need to point others to Jesus rather than to a particular denomination. This is shaped mostly by my meditation on the stories of Jesus. I hear Jesus' words burning in my heart. "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." "...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

The more I look at our students the more I see people who want to follow Jesus more than any particular denomination. Without rejecting their denomination, they do experience tension in contending that their denomination is the only one students should choose. They recognize that Jesus calls us to loosen the dividing lines of religiosity, to love our "Samaritan" neighbors with God's love, and to invite "the sick" in to be healed by our heavenly doctor. All of these help us fulfill Jesus' charge to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Our students understand that Jesus transcends and permeates our dividing walls. That is why they feel this tension.

Second Reason


The students on campus are starving for the heavenly feast of Jesus. They need a safe place to come where they can encounter our Lord without any strings attached. And unfortunately (right now anyway) our church buildings are unsafe. Innocently, as students come to our church buildings we exalt the church building or being a part of our denomination rather than Jesus. We invite them to potlucks, to worship services, to whatever other events we can create. These are good! Hear me! At the same time, we force them to fill out this card so we can contact them later, we lock them in to hear our little spiel, or we stigmatize them as outsiders in the way that we talk about belonging to our group.

It seems like Jesus allowed people to belong to him publicly without forcing himself into their "space." He fed thousands and seemed to be okay with this. Even those who come looking for him afterwards in John 6:25ff. (presumably at their own initiative) are met with more admonitions to work for eternal life kind of food. In Luke 7:1-10 Jesus could have easily forced himself into the centurion's house; he was even on the way. Yet, when he hears this, he stops and reveals the surprising example of faith (rampant in Luke) to the crowds following him!

Jesus never told the centurion to fill out a card if he wants to really belong to the faithful. Jesus never admonished the centurion that he needs to have more faith. He simply and safely meets people where they are and allows them to belong without any pharisaical strings.

Interestingly enough, simply changing the name on our building from "Church of Christ Student Center" to "Kats for Christ" will tremendously help us create a safe place for those looking simply to belong to Jesus.

Third Reason


We have to change our initial conversations to focus more on Jesus! We must spread the fragrance of Christ wherever we go! We must stop creating a hurdle for students in their search for Jesus! Our name has been creating that hurdle!

Consider the hypothetical (yet incredibly normal) conversation below. Notice the trajectory of the conversation, even if we say the exact same thing after their first question.

NEW STUDENT: "What group are you with?"
KFC REP: "I'm with the Church of Christ Student Center."
NEW STUDENT: "Oh...okay. Well what do you do?"
KFC REP: "Well, we do everything we can to follow Jesus."
NEW STUDENT: "Do I have to be a member of the Church of Christ to come?" ....

Notice the subtle tendency in the conversation toward Church of Christ rather than Jesus. I see the new students thoughts in their question. They think (always to themselves), "I smell the fragrance of a denomination here! I better explore this!"

In today's campus environment all kinds of red flags go up for students when they sense exclusiveness from anyone...even if they are part of a particular denomination. It makes them incredibly uncomfortable to know that someone would reject another believer's beliefs based solely on their denomination. And they will avoid any Christian group that even "seems" to give that impression with their name.

Change the name, change the conversation! Change the name, change the fragrance!

Consider these new conversations that I anticipate becoming normal:

NEW STUDENT: "What group are you with?"
KFC REP: "I'm with the Kats for Christ?"
NEW STUDENT: "Oh...okay. Well what do you do?"
KFC REP: "Well, we do everything we can to follow Jesus."
NEW STUDENT: "Like what?" ....

This conversation explores the ways that we seek to follow Jesus in our service, our Bible studies, our conversations, our activities, our friendships, our mission trips, and in our relationships with everyone. The denomination conversation takes a back seat.

Sure, if someone wanted to know, they will eventually ask. We have no reason to hide that we are supported by Huntsville Church of Christ and carry many of its traditions. What is important in today's campus culture is the center of the conversation: Jesus! The fragrance of Christ is spread more readily with something as simple as a new name.

Name Change


Our name is an expression of our character, our values, and our focus. We seek to train and mature disciples of Jesus.

We are Kats for Christ.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Organization

I don't know whether this is an excuse for not being polished or organized in ministry like I should, but my organization skills are lacking. Don't get me wrong, I can organize things, but compared to others (specifically my wife...I love you sweetie) my organization looks...well...like unorganized.

Then in my spiritual reflection on this issue I hear a small voice. I'm not sure if it is something inside me or if it is God, but a voice nonetheless. The voice tells me that if I manage to get my office organized, the grace of God might overtake me in regards to my organization skills. I don't know how to take this, but I do know that I would like my office consistently cleaned and organized. It makes me feel good about myself among other things.

A lot must happen before the semester begins...I pray that God's grace comes when and where He needs it. Maybe organization will come as part of that grace. We will see.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beauty in Sacrifice

Here is Frank Laubach's journal entry on December 6, 1930:

"Sometimes one feels that there is a discord between the cross and beauty. But there really cannot be, for God is found best through those two doorways. This grey-blue rolling water tinged with whitecaps, hemmed with distant green hills and crowned with colored clouds and baby-blue sky reveals God's love of beauty--and God is so lavish with his paintbrush in the tropics. He is lavish everywhere if one only has eyes to see Him at work.

But when one comes to personality, one demands more than a pretty face or even a soul that sings for joy. There is in the universe a higher kind of beauty. It is the beauty of sacrifice, of giving up for others, of suffering for others. A woman has not reached her highest beauty until she lays down her ease and chooses pain for bearing and nursing her child. A man has not found his highest beauty until his brow is tinged with care for some cause he loves more than himself.
The beauty of sacrifice is the final word in beauty."

I am amazed at how transformed his eyes are. Frank sees God everywhere he looks. How can you be beautiful today in sacrifice?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Assisted Living Singing

Tonight our SHARE group went to the Town Creek Facility to sing songs. We put our kids out there to sing various children's songs. The B-I-B-L-E, Jesus Loves Me (the clapping version), I'm All Wrapped Up, Blue Skies and Rainbows, and a few more. The kids had also colored some pictures to give to the people watching us from their wheel chairs. After putting our kids on display we felt compelled to sing a few classic hymns that opened a few eyes and perked up our audience. I saw one lady just close her eyes and mouth the words with a huge smile on her face.

This small (and for some awkward) offering had Jesus written all over it. Our little 30 minutes of time meant the world to these people whose routine consists of mainly hanging out in a common area waiting for someone to come talk to them.

I had a thought as I was wheeling one lady (ninety something years old...she couldn't remember) back to the common area. If the Lord blesses me with as many years, I pray that people come to see me to sing praises to God. What a blessing it was tonight.

Fruit of the Spirit Suggestions

If you are going to produce a crop of apples, you don’t just go out and make them appear out of nowhere. No…you go and work the ground (till it up)…get the ground ready to receive the seeds…then you plant the seeds (which BTW look nothing like what comes out…i.e. you don’t plant an apple to get apples…you plant an apple seed)…then you water and give it appropriate sunlight…and God amazingly produces the fruit…in time…not immediately.

To produce the heart-level fruit of the Spirit, you will find a similar process with your heart. You work the ground, get it ready to receive the seeds, and you plant seeds that don’t look like what you will end up with (i.e. if you want patience you don’t plant patience...you plant something else). Then you cultivate the environment of your heart.

Constant cultivation of what is planted needs to happen…beware of the hard ground, the rocks, and the weeds that can creep in if we fail to pay attention. Are you cultivating your heart now so that God can produce in you the fruit that he desires of this world? Here are a few suggestions for cultivating the heart for later fruit of the spirit:

To cultivate joy,
  • Ask God to show you how good he is
  • Meditate on how beautiful his creation is
  • Smell the flowers and thank God for them.
  • Have a personal worship retreat.
  • Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
  • Pray the scripture, pausing to meditate when the Spirit leads
To cultivate faithfulness and peace in your marriage
  • Pray together
  • Thank each other regularly (write it down every day: record of rights)
  • Hold each other closely without selfish agendas…just for the sake of affirming the other
  • Don’t take things so personally (most of the time its not a big deal)
  • Offer forgiveness
  • Ask for forgiveness. Admit when you are wrong quickly.
  • Smile and laugh at each other.
  • Don’t get historical. Remember the time you chose to forget how you've been wronged.
  • Watch the sun go down together. Just enjoy the beauty of God.
  • Tell others that you won't (not "can't") do something because you want to spend good time with your spouse.
To cultivate kindness and goodness at work,
  • Ask them what you can pray for (actually pray for them there)
  • Ask God to show you their strengths
  • Begin thanking them for things they’ve done (“I overheard your conversation with so-and-so and that really encouraged me”)
  • Free attention give-away: seriously listen attentively; don’t talk about you
  • Spend 30 full minutes imagining yourself as another person with whom it is difficult to be kind or good (God will hopefully open your heart toward her or him)
To cultivate gentleness and patience,
  • Indirection – stand in longest line at the grocery store
  • Indirection – go the speed limit (tell yourself…I’m cultivating my heart)
  • Work with children
  • Initiate a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English well
  • Put yourself in situations where you can cultivate a selfless heart (trust that in time, God will produce his fruit in you)
  • Confess regularly your own faults (who of us is perfect?)
To cultivate self-control,
  • Ask God to teach you to say no to yourself in small things
  • Indirection – practice fasting (learn to say no to your own body in eating [a basic need], and you will begin to see self-control in other temptations)
  • Inconvenience yourself regularly, and take it not as an inconvenience but an wonderful opportunity to learn self-control that you weren’t expecting (act of service)
  • When someone does something horrible to you, don’t tell anyone about it…ever!!
  • When you do something good, don’t tell anyone about it…ever!!
  • Limit your speaking for a day...see what you learn about others and yourself
  • Don't eat your normal snack or dessert or whatever for a day
To cultivate love,
  • Spend time with God just listening…ask him to show you his love
  • Spend personal time worshipping God in song.
  • Read about how God loves horrible people
  • His love is something hard to understand
  • No conditions…on his love?
  • Begin to experiment with how you can practice this love too
  • Do all these things
Remember that all these suggestions are only ways to cultivate your heart. And this is not even close to an exhaustive list. Please feel free to add your own in a comment to this post.

Word of Caution: You could easily turn these suggestions into rules and regulations to be performed, but that again doesn’t work on the heart. You would be doing the very thing that you are trying to avoid. Richard Foster: “The Disciplines of the spiritual life are a means not an end. The end is ‘to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.’ The end is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).” (Foster, Streams of Living Water, 55)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Frank Laubach

I am trying a new experiment that I borrowed from Frank Laubach. He worked among the Moros on one of the Philippine islands. He journals about his experiment. On January 20, 1930 he said, "Two years ago a profound dissatisfaction led me to begin trying to line up my actions with the will of God about every fifteen minutes or every half hour." He talks about seeking to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master.

I must admit my intrigue. His conversation with God and desire to respond to God's will is impressive. It reminds me of Christ's passion. As I read through his journey, I am overcome with his honesty in his failure and his humility in his success.

As a part of this experiment, Frank commits himself to intercessory prayer for the Moros. He notices through this intense focus on others that people seem to treat him differently. This sentence is just as interesting to me: "I feel, I feel like one who has had his violin out of tune with the orchestra and at last is in harmony with the music of the universe." Wow!

I could go on and on (perhaps I will later), but I have begun this little experiment of Frank Laubach's. I'm not exactly sure yet what it looks like to align my will with God's, but I do know that my thoughts are more filled with God than normal. This scares me, but I also feel Satan waiting patiently to test this experiment with all his might! My prayer is that I walk through this instead of run with a full head of steam. May God be praised and may his strength work mightily!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Last night was our last party. There was a homecoming party that prevented several readers from coming, but the turnout was more than I had anticipated, twenty-two.

We played a few fun games together. The fish game was a hit. When you hear "fish" in the story you lift up your right finger while trying to catch with your left hand the finger of the person next to you. (I cheated a little bit because I knew the story, so I got pretty far. I just let others catch my finger at the end...wink...wink.)

Then we had a few snacks along with coke floats. It was interesting to watch the faces of the readers as we explained what a coke float was. They'd never heard of such a thing, but they tried it and liked it.

One of my readers surprised us with a piñata. Kayla went first, then Courtney, Emily, Tanya, and finally I went. It was so demolished at the end that they pulled it up to the top and it broke. Imagine that. I didn't even have to hit it! I just thought about hitting it and it broke!! Yes...I'm that strong.

Anyway, at the end we gave our readers their certificates, took some pictures, talked a little more, and then said goodbye. I can't believe we are finished with the work of our project already!! We have a ton of emails, many pictures, a few gifts, many memories, and confidence that God worked through it all for His glory.

Now we trust that his work is not finished here. God was working before we came and will continue after we leave. We praise him for this opportunity and ask him to spread the fragrance of Christ wherever we go.

Enjoy the pictures below.


The first worked on a word find with many of the words from our Luke workbook they'd been working on.
Tyler's just chillin' with his balloon thinking about something!!

Courtney and Kayla are having fun as we wait for the readers to show up. She couldn't wait to eat ice cream a little later on!

The human first human knot went well. In the end there were two circles they couldn't get untangled.

Our little human knot ended the same way, but it took us a very long time to realize it.

The "fish" game. No one really listened to the story. They were just listening for some form of the word fish before trying to not let their finger get caught by the person next to them. I almost won both times!!

These were three of my four readers. From left to right: Briceida, Ruth, and Tania.

We enjoyed snacks afterwards. Someone brought some "arroz con leche." It was very good!

Emily is trying to give the piñata her best hit. She missed several times. I didn't even swing!

Tania and Tanya. ¡Qué bonita mi amor es!

This is the other preacher, Elio, who works with Raul and Betty at the church. He teaches the Bible class on Sunday mornings.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Daily Schedule

The routine continues.

We get up early (it starts getting light about 5:30 or so), get started with breakfast, feed Kayla and Tyler, get them dressed, pack a lunch for Kayla, and get bags ready for the day. Tanya leaves to walk to the school to read about 7:30am (its about a 15 minute walk) and the rest of our family starts walking about 8:00am until a taxi comes by to take us to the Christian school here in Panama.

Betty Alvarado helps run the Christian bilingual school at the Church of Christ. She offered that Kayla go to this school while she was here...and it didn't cost us anything! What a blessing this has been to us and our daughter! She is working on her Spanish all the time. It is kind of funny to listen to. It kind of sounds like Spanish, but it really isn't any language at all (at least to us). She has so many friends now in Panama. Her teachers love her (and her red hair).

Tyler and I hang out for a little while, he takes a nap, I get a few things done for our project, and then we make our way to the cafeteria about 11:15am where we will meet the rest of the team for lunch. After lunch Tanya and Tyler go back to the house while I go to read for the afternoon. Depending on our plans for dinner we meet each other, cook dinner, have our team devotional and depart to our respective houses.

For our family, this begins our nightly routine of baths; after a long day of high humidity and a little rain (yes it rains every day only with a couple of exceptions since we've been here), this is much needed. After baths we get ready for bed and get to sleep. This early time to bed (sometime around 9pm) makes getting up so early the next morning easier! Then we get to do it all over again.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into our daily schedule while here in Panama.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reading Away

Emily arrived safely last night and I just talked to Spencer who is waiting for his flight at the airport. Please pray that this transition goes smoothly.

Our reading continues today. We are completely full. There are no more spots available for reading unless a reader can't come to any of their reading times. This is great news! This is also the time when our relationships with our readers starts to get a little more serious. We need continual prayers for these deepening relationships. Ask that God give us wisdom to know what questions are necessary to bring our readers closer to Him. I wait to see what he does this week through our service.

Below are a few pictures to give you a glimpse into our work. Most of our time is spent reading the Bible with the students at the University, so it would be misleading to not include these pictures. Please pray for these 8-hour days of reading.







Thursday, June 12, 2008

Texas Party

Last night was our first party. It was a Texas party. Betty and Raul (the preacher here) told us that this was the most readers that have ever been to a party since they started about 5 years ago. There were 34 total, including us. We played Texas People Bingo and Texas Pictionary. We explained Texas slang, but I think that was difficult to understand in Spanish. Oh yeah...we also brought Texas dirt for everyone to eat (see the picture below) along with my grandmother's special Texas sweet tea.

With all the people there we were able to sign up more readers. Now our schedule is completely full!! Praise the Lord!! Enjoy the pictures from the party.


This is our dirt. Really it was a pudding recipe with Oreo cookies on top.

Our team.

Spencer and Raul explain how to play Texas Bingo.

We rush around trying to find people who fit certain criteria on our Texas Bingo sheet.

More Texas Bingo.

Our Texas Pictionary was a hit with our very own Vanna White. Kayla loved erasing what was drawn after each contestant came to draw their masterpiece. One time, she accidently erased the score!! Everyone at the party rightly thought that it was so cute.

Kayla still being cute.

Tyler hit this ball all over the place. He will definitely be a baller!!
Until next time. Peace.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Panama Pictures



Here are a couple of pictures of our family. I thought I would share them today. We are near the Bridge of the Americas at the end (or beginning) of the Panama Canal. There were several big cargo ships leaving the canal and cranking up their engines. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Worship in Panama

Worship in another country has always been a blessing! This morning proved to be the case once again. It was refreshing to hear the sermon translated into English, but it was also good to hear Spanish songs of adoration to our Lord. The people were so warm and friendly this morning. They enjoyed seeing Kayla and Tyler too. Our children are such easy conversation starters.

Our reading starts again tomorrow morning. Pray that God continues to give us strength to offer his grace in our conversations. Also pray that our party on Thursday is a success. Thanks for your continued support.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Update from Panama

We have arrived!! Hitting the ground running we have been reading one-on-one with readers every day since we arrived. One of Courtney's readers showed up for Wednesday night service with her mother and child. What a cool thing after only inviting them that morning.

Kayla and Tyler are adjusting well. Just this morning Kayla was singing, "Arriba, up; abajo, down." She also like to say outside the window "Hola. Buenos dias" to the people next door.

It is fun to see EVERYONE (no exception) watch Kayla with her beautiful red hair. Wherever we go people talk about what a beautiful doll she is.

With eyes on us constantly, please pray that we bring glory to our God and take advantage of that witness. The people in Panama are so nice. They are eager to improve their English and make a good American friend. We are grateful that we have this opportunity.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Panama!!

We leave for Panama on Monday morning. Things are kindof getting crazy around here! There are always last minute things to get together. That is just how these trips go.

I am excited to see how our whole family does in another country together. I'm sure we will do fine, but someone mentioned on Sunday that Tyler is going to be walking when he gets back. That will probably be true! I never thought of that. We think the family we are staying with has a little girl about Kayla's age, so language might be interesting, but really cool to watch. Hopefully the little Spanish Kayla does know will help out.

This year is also going to be good to see how God works through what we offer. Our team is wonderful! I can't wait to read again.

Lord, please guide our steps. Let us walk with you. Continue to prepare the hearts that will be touched by your word this summer, my own included. You are amazing. Protect us for your name's sake. Amen.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chris' Personality

Thanks to Doug Page for leading me to this page. It was good to take this personality test again. I think I scored the same before, but I'm not exactly sure. When I read the whole profile, it was pretty insightful into how I approached ministry! It is nice to know that I have a similar personality to people like Albert Eistein and Socrates. Interesting. Very interesting. Check it out.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

INTP - The "Engineer"

INTPs are logical, individualistic, reserved, and very curious individuals. They focus on ideas, theories and the explanation of how things work. They are especially adept at discussions and debate. They have the ability to focus intently on a subject. They appreciate and respect intelligence in others.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

KFC Video

I hope you enjoy our end-of-the-year video as much as I did putting it together. Later.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

TV Pauses Brain

It is amazing how much we allow the TV to put our minds on pause. Sitting in a hotel recently, I was eating breakfast. One of the attendants was working below one of the cabinets when she accidently hit something that turned the TV off. It was funny to see the reactions of the people sitting in the area. Silence. They were kindof woken up from a sleep. They began looking around like what are we supposed to do now. Weird.

It was actually a brief moment of peace for me. I was kindof hoping that she wouldn't get it back on so I wouldn't have to start my day off thinking about sports. Oh well. She got it back on and our brains went back on pause again.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Children's Play and Creativity

When you watch a child play there will come a time when she will become bored. Her ideas for playing have reached a standstill. Usually, the child will walk around in a kindof daze looking for some idea, some new way of playing, something, anything. They might even come to their parents during this time. However, if left alone during that time (during that "boredom"), creativity will usually come. Something will spark an idea, something not connected before, and play will continue with serious vigor. Imagination comes out of the windows. They are again in their world of play.

Watching children play has proved to be a nourishing thing for my class and sermon preparation. In using some of these ideas, creativity is sparked like I've never experienced before. Let me explain.

I get to a place in my class and sermon preparation where I get bored. I don't see any connection between the text and life. The text is just one of those toys I've played with a thousand times. Nothing is there. It is at this moment when many teachers or preachers reach toward other outsiders, like parents so-to-speak who can help us "play" with the text. This is not a good move at this point.

When I get bored with the text, I stay there and begin to use my imagination, however vain I think the effort might be. For me (not necessarily for everyone), my dry erase board becomes a canvas for my imagination. I do a little bit of free association as I walk around the room bored with this text I keep reading aloud. Any image, idea, word, connection (no matter how outlandish) goes on my canvas. At some point, creativity happens. Sometimes it doesn't happen for a while. I might even have to go to something else (some other text) knowing that I will come back to my boredom.

Ever since I have started this, God has faithfully ushered in creativity. Even in how to present the text or arrange the class time. It is funny how this has sparked a new era, so-to-speak, in my ministry preparation.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me. Thank you, Lord, for making my job such a joy. You are so faithful to sustain.