Saturday, December 31, 2011

God's Word and Prayer

At the end of this year, my mind goes to the transformation that has happened in my own life in the course of one year. The list would be long indeed! Big statement here. Though mostly inside, God has changed me more this year than any other year since the life-changing transformation that happened while I was at Pine Cove as a boat driver in the summer of 1998.

As I look back on the year, what I see is God's word and prayer. Even though confusion, frustration, questioning, struggle, pain, and discernment could make their case to be what characterizes this year for me, I notice the sometimes subtle presence of God's word and prayer.

The nature of my job (to teach Bible classes) kept me going back to God's word. In my preparations God surprised me regularly with small things. As I reflect on this, it seems like God purified me little by little through it all with his word.
"Is not my word like fire, says the Lord..." Jeremiah 23:29a

Prayer was there too because of the nature of my job. At times I forced myself to ask others what I could pray for because I knew prayer changes things. It did. Even those small prayers said out of obligation, those prayers I'm supposed to pray because I'm the campus minister. Even more, I see those prayers said through silence, reflection, and tears from this year. Flash prayers like, "What is going on, Lord?" or "Give me patience, God!" opened up vistas of divine revelation.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:18
God's word and prayer. Commit to these in 2012 and reflect on what happened in your life at this time next year!

Go in peace! Serve the Lord!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Picture

I want to paint a picture
Without drawing a line
It will speak beyond itself
And to nature divine

It points and displays beauty
It fashions itself with word
It creates a connection
And feelings never heard

I want to paint a picture
Without skill or technique
It will dance beyond expectation
And rest in land unique

It wrestles with struggle
It smiles with wisdom
It hovers through silence
And reveals kingdom

I want to paint a picture
Without pride in me
It will honor God and Man
And hang upon His tree

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Advisers and Action, Part 2

"Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but with many advisers victory is won." Proverbs 11:14
Today I continue yesterday's thought concerning the challenge associated with asking for advice and following through with action. I ended yesterday saying that asking for advice is only the first step in moving forward. A much more difficult step is actually taking a step!

Looking at the Proverb above it is obvious that the king of a nation must act to address the enemies looking to take the nation. No wise king would seek the counsel of his advisers and say, "Hey, that is great advice! Thanks for giving me that advice about preventing our enemy from destroying us!" and then do nothing. Yet, how quick I am to ask my friends for advice and put off any decision because it is a hard decision!

Regarding my office, one day I went to the library in Conroe with Tanya and the kids. While they ran with excitement to pick their own books, I went upstairs on a quest of my own. I left with a book called, Order From Chaos by Liz Davenport. Going through that book helped me begin to take another step I needed to get organized.

Interestingly enough, as I completely gutted my office to create some space to organize I found Adonna's written plan I mentioned yesterday. Reading through Adonna's plan again, I was amazed at how similar they were.

It baffles me why I never saw her advice and acted on it back in 2008! All I know is that now, I'm ready to act on the advice. The difference is found in me. I am ready to make a plan and follow through with it. What advice have you already received that you are needing to act on?

I've found that good intentions are only that...good intentions!

I also hear James 2:14-19 humming a little ditty in the background:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that...and shudder.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Advisers and Action, Part 1

Breaks have generally been the time when I concentrate on getting things more organized, especially in my office. As I have been doing this again, I recall a time when an anonymous person (still unknown) hired a professional organizer to help me overcome my organizational struggles. At first, it was difficult to admit that I needed someone else to help me do something as simple as organize my office. "After all," I blindly reasoned, "I can do this 'simple' stuff myself! Why bring someone else in?"

Well, I learned through this exercise that having many advisers is wise. Several Proverbs (11:14; 15:22; 24:6) make this incredibly obvious! Proverbs 24:6 is characteristic: "Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers." They bring various perspectives and offer varying opinions. So, Adonna came in and helped me a great deal! She wrote out a plan of action and gave me great advice! I'm incredibly grateful for her expertise!

Here is what happened.

I kept the plan she developed near my desk for a while. It made me feel good. I had a plan! It was awesome! So...I made sure the plan was close, laying near enough for me to see it so that I could hop on it as soon as I had some time! Every time I looked at it, good emotions and smiles came to my heart, especially since my desk stayed clean for much longer than any other time I'd cleaned it off before! I had a plan after all!

Occasionally, I would take her plan into my hands and flip through it's pages reminding myself of the plan! Stirring myself once again I resolved to get to it soon, maybe even this coming weekend. Having made this "absolutely definitive and concrete plan" with the awesome word "maybe" (cough, cough), I put her plan back in it's place. Well, as you can imagine, the busyness of ministry continued. Eventually, another "important thing" to remember got placed on top of this great organization plan that never completely materialized!

While I will continue this story tomorrow, here is a concluding thought for today. Asking for advice is difficult! It forces us to come to terms with our own deficiencies. We see the weaknesses...and so do our advisers! In the end, however, we must recognize it is only a FIRST STEP in moving forward. Following through with the plan is much more difficult!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Way of the Lord

Israel was in exile. Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple decimated. They were scattered among the nations. Israel's big three were gone: no land, no temple, and no identity!

In this context, Isaiah 40-55, speaks an unbelievable message of hope! Like yesterday's post (telling Israel to put on new clothes) we see amazing images of what God is going to do to restore the big three. They will go back to their land. They will rebuilt the temple. And they will be seen as God's people with innumerable descendants. God's message through Isaiah gave them hope for the future beyond their present situation.

I can hear the clamoring of critics and doubters now! "There is no way this is possible!" "The odds of that happening are horrible!" "Why would you even consider such a thing!?" "That is a pipe dream!" "Look at you now!" "You think God is with you? Ha!" "God will never accept you!"

And then this:
" thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts..." Isaiah 55:8-9
The simple reminder this morning is to remember that the Lord's ways surpass our ways.

We may think we have the way of the Lord nailed down and forget to seek his guidance or hear his message. Our internal (and external) critic may blind us to the amazing transformation that God's Spirit desires to work in us. Our current situation may be so bad that we're convinced that it will never be restored or redeemed. We could be so "cold" that we think "warmth" will come from the Lord!

Be careful. God is in the business of taking what is "lost" and working salvation. Call out to Him! His ways are higher, deeper, and beyond our ways! That is awesome!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Put on Brighter Clothes

"Rouse yourself, rouse yourself! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath....Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city...Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter Zion!" Isaiah 51:17; 52:1-2
This is only a small part of a compelling sermon first preached to a people scattered all over the place after the Lord brought devastation and destruction to Israel. Having experienced captivity for some time I imagine the mourning clothing of sack cloth and ashes alongside the chains of their tormentors being a daily reality fixated in their minds. Perhaps they are so inclined to accept this way of living that they "fall asleep" thinking that no hope exists for them, that there is no brighter days ahead.

To hear a message like this is jolting! There is hope? There are beautiful garments for us? There is something more for us than chains and old clothes?

As this Christmas Break Exercise continues we may need a little jolting of ourselves, a little "Hey...get up! Rouse yourself! Shake off the dust! Take off those chains! Put on some brighter clothes!" This sermon reminds us to put on our Jesus-type clothes each day. It is a choice we must make today! We choose to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12). These clothes compel us forward through the day to interact with those around us.

Knowing we need to put on each one, which piece of clothing do you need to put on most today? Wake up and put it on! Stand up in the clothing that the Lord provides us!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Gift of Prayer

We praise you, O Lord, for your goodness! You alone are God; there is no other! We fall down in your presence! You alone come near! You alone are able to work righteousness and justice!

How often it is that we claim to possess what only you can claim! How quick we run to cherish the gifts we receive without recognizing you, O Lord, as the one who gives them to us! How slow we are to see our family as worthy of our sacrifice and time!

Father, open the gifts that we give you today! With every one, we show you our heart one more layer deep! Savior, we wait for your surprises with eagerness. Remind us, Holy Spirit, today when we need to see you most! Encourage us, Lord, to fight ever-present temptations with your energy!

We praise you, O Lord, for your goodness!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

God Hugs

"Hey man!" the guy says getting my attention. Without invitation he invades my personal space and gives me a comforting hug. "You look like you needed a hug!" I did need that hug, and I appreciated it very much. Yes, two grown men hugging is cool!

As I've mentioned before, I think God likes to surprise us with hugs, especially for those of us who show and receive love through touch. What I cherish about God hugs are the disguises in which they come. Here is a brief list of God hugs I've received lately:

  • An actual, meaningful hug
  • A person told me that they'd been praying for me (without me asking!)
  • I watched the wind sneak through a forest
  • I heard the apt words of a prophet to me
  • A killer, awesome food gift given out of the blue
  • I found out that someone talked good about me behind my back
  • I watched my kids point their friends to Jesus

God wants to hug you! He has probably done it many times over today already. He disguises himself so well that we have to spend regular time becoming more familiar with them. How have you experienced God's hugs lately?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yearning and Seeking

"My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you..." Isaiah 26:9a
As this Christmas Break Exercise continues, I wanted to remind you of the Christmas Break "Bucket" List. Take a moment and read through this list again. Even those of us who are beyond our college years can find small ways to keep our souls yearning for the Lord! Number eleven is a great one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wait a Second!?

I hope you are enjoying the change of pace that comes with Christmas break! You've been waiting for it with great vigor! Your eyes have been on this season for a while!

As you think about this season for which you've been eagerly anticipating, hear this word from Isaiah 25:9:
"Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
I love how Isaiah talks as if he can see the Lord right there in front of him. "There he is! Look at Him! Look how awesome He is!" This text forces me, as I continue this Christmas Break Exercise, to look around while I'm on break. The Lord is here! I've been waiting for this time. God is amazing! Let us be exuberant...about the salvation the Lord has provided!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wells of Salvation

"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among nations; proclaim that his name is exalted." Isaiah 12:3-4

I recall only one well from which I have ever drawn water; it was at my grandparent's farmhouse. It was good water, cold and refreshing on hot summer days. As a young boy, I remember being confused about the well water though! I was afraid that my grandparents underestimated how much water to put in the well. What if we ran out of water!?

I love the language of drawing "from the wells of salvation!" Salvation here is never something we put in to draw back out later on when it is needed. We could never claim any part of it! Indeed, salvation is something that comes from the depths of the Lord. And there is plenty of it to go around, and more than one well.

Remember during this break to take a drink. Draw from the wells of salvation today! How do you do that? Thank the Lord! Call on his name! Tell someone about how God has worked among us recently! Lift up God's name!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

By "My" Hands

The Christmas Break Exercise continues this morning!

Yesterday was the last day that we had carpet in the big room of the KFC building. Here is a picture of it before we got to ripping out the carpet.

I could talk about how awesome a job I did in getting the carpet out. Genius could point out that I cut it first in small strips to make it easier to pull up. I thought about cutting hand holds in the carpet too so I could get a better grip! I'm so wise. My strength could also win the day as I point to that! You can tell my strength just by looking at me, after all! Look at me...I

Hear the word of the Lord about Assyria, who God used to destroy Israel for their rebellion, from Isaiah 10:12-13:
"When the Lord has finished all his work [read "destruction"] on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says: 'By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I have...plundered their treasures.'"
It is so easy to slip into thinking that I am the one who does all these awesome things...whatever those awesome things are! Classes...assignments...finals...tight budget...many friends...spiritual progress. I easily forget that I am merely the tool in God's hand. I am the instrument he uses to accomplish his purposes.

Remember to keep your pride in check during the break, especially when around family. It is easy to think too highly of yourself in these moments. Remember that you are still learning and that many people know more than you do. Knowledge and understanding belong to the Lord! Strength and power are His! The Lord says, "All things come about by my hands."

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Vineyard

I praise God for this Christmas Break Exercise where we have the opportunity each morning to focus our minds on the way of Jesus to water our hearts for the day. Hear the word of the Lord from Isaiah 5:1-2:
"Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes."
Notice that Isaiah is singing a love song for God. Interestingly enough, the love song is startling for Israel. It speaks of all that God has done for Israel, his provisions, and his protection. In spite of all of it, however, Israel returns sour grapes! As we see a few verses later (Isaiah 5:7), the Lord expected to see justice, but saw bloodshed; he expected righteousness, but heard a cry!

We pause for just a minute to thank God for all that he has provided for his people, for us who desire to draw near him and learn his ways! Spend a minute (or four) to thank God for his provisions in your life.

Let us pray that God's provisions result in the fruit that He desires for us. During this break, may God see in us useful grapes! Search us, O God, and know our heart; test us and know our thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Righteousness and Praise Spring Up

This is part of the Christmas Break Exercise designed to keep us focused on the way of Christ in small ways each day.
"For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations." Isaiah 61:11
The earth teaches us the way that God works if we pay it a little attention. God is the one who causes shoots to come out of the ground and seeds to spring up! If you were to watch these things happen this entire afternoon expecting to see the growth, I may think you are crazy. However, if you were to trust that God causes the growth over the course of this break with small moments of turning towards Him, I may think you are beginning to understand.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Learn from God Himself

This is your first Saturday of Christmas break! Woo hoo! We are continuing the Christmas Break Exercise designed to help us stay focused each day during Christmas break. I explained it in more depth here. Here is the brief thought for today.

As an extension of yesterday's thought, take a look at what happens on the mountain of the Lord's house in Isaiah 2:3: "Many people shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.'..."

God teaches on the mountain! Spend a little bit of time reflecting on the things that God has taught you this last semester about his ways. How have you "gone to the mountain" and seen him at work in your life? How has he changed your life even in one semester?

Remember that God continues to teach us even now! He reveals himself to us in the most unlikely places. We can learn from him on a big beach in Hawaii or on a bean bag in our home. Be alert! Search and look for his teaching around you today.

[btw...where are you planning to assemble with a community of faith tomorrow? Who can you ask to go with you?]

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Chief Mountain

"In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it." Isaiah 2:2

Tanya and I had the privilege of climbing to the summit of Mt. Fuji (12,389 feet) when we went to Okitsu, Japan on a Let's Start Talking project in 2001. It was amazing! I'd never seen the world from that height before or since. As we rested after our incredibly intense, four-hour climb, we enjoyed the spectacular, awe-inspiring view of Japan. There were no other mountains even close to the height of Japan's tallest mountain! Nothing blocked our marvelous view.

As I read Isaiah 2:2 at the beginning of this Christmas break, I wonder what other "mountains" in my life may be blocking my view of God's world as it is meant to be viewed. This break is a good time for me to consider some of my high, established mountains. Perhaps the mountain of fear towers over all else for me. Maybe it's school or family or future. I bet the mountain called "being in a relationship" tempts some of us with the promise of an amazing view.

I wonder if this Christmas break will be for you the picture of the "days to come" that Isaiah paints. Will Christmas break be the time when the mountain of the Lord's house is established as the highest of the mountains in your life? Will you raise during this Christmas break this mountain above the hills, rightly identified as hills instead of competing mountains?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Focused Break

I remember the way that I thought while I was in college as Christmas break approached. The stress still lingering from finals, I was ready for a much-needed and much-deserved (at least I thought it was a much-deserved) break from it all!

Once I turned in my last final, my brain said, "I am done! No more. It's over!" My body followed as did (even with the greatest of intentions to avoid it) my spiritual walk! Break in and break out I resolved to read through a book of the Bible, write in my journal every day, meditate on my life in silence, pray for longer periods of time, or some other kind of "super spiritual" thing!

What ended up happening, more often, was sitting on the couch at home, wasting time on the computer, watching TV and movies, hanging out with friends, doing the Christmas thing, and whatever "worthy" thing came along. Basically, I had no plan except to take whatever came.

Well, I still fight those tendencies (see this blog post from 2006 before Thanksgiving) even though there is now much less Christmas break for me. It is mainly filled with traveling here, there, and yonder. While it is still awesome to see family and catch up a little bit, we are on the go with an agenda determined by others. We have this party, that party, another gathering, and more travel between two families.

What can I do to stay focused?

I'm glad you asked because I want to help myself and others who struggle with breaks like I do. Each day, beginning tomorrow, I will be posting a brief, little biblical thought for the day to keep us focused on Jesus. Most likely, these posts will be nothing earth-shattering, mind-blowing, and hair-reducing. They will be simple, straightforward posts designed to help us stay focused on the way of Christ in the midst of the craziness that follows Christmas!

If you want to go on this journey with me, you can subscribe to these posts via email or just check back each day. You could bookmark the tag, Christmas Break Exercise, to see all of these posts at once too!

I pray that this is a blessing to you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reverence Matures

The voice is familiar and somewhat vague
Laughs, family, gifts, on stage

The drag is noticed too, distinguished from rest
Jealousy, dishes, money, and guest

It comes to announce good tidings and cheers
It surprises sometimes and new life appears

It follows us hidden down beneath
It retrains itself without relief

They keep it at bay and traditions continue
They perform it again without new venue

They struggle for clarity with all a blur
They hear and doubt the gold and myrrh

What do you hear? What do you feel?
They unite and reverence they reveal

Monday, December 12, 2011

Worship and Justice Must Dance Together

How does a believing community navigate the tensions that surface when we seek to emphasize both worship and justice?

It is an interesting juxtaposition needing more serious thought and reflection because the gravity within our communal heart seems to pull us closer to one over, and many times against, the other.

Justice pulls us. We cry out to our God, like the slaves called Israel in Egypt, who we believe will rescue us from our afflictions and from the injustices done to us! We seek to right the wrong. We desire the respect that comes with being created in the image of the living God who chose us as His people, His possession.

Worship pulls us. We lift up our song, like Moses and Miriam, to testify to the true and just God! We tell others about the highest mountain of the Lord where everyone can learn the ways of the Lord to walk well in His light (see Isaiah 2:2-5). We stream to Zion as His servant receiving from Him what only He can provide: salvation and just judgments. We draw near to God in worship!

Worshiping God is good and right. However, in its zeal worship can pull us too close to itself. Rather, it can pull us too far from justice. Without care, an intense focus on worship can cause our concern for justice to become stagnant, deformed, and even misguided. We may draw near to God presumptuously and forget the slavery from which we came. We can, like all nations, find security in ourselves. We can, even unconsciously, think that our privileged state came from our own power, our own cunning, or our own alliances. We may begin to wrongly think that God "graciously" overlooks our rebellion, sin, and ever-increasing works of injustice. Our minds may begin to justify our agendas of oppression, acceptance of bribes, and worship of idols.

Thus, we rightly hear the seemingly faint background music of Isaiah 1-39. These songs (or sermons, really) reveal that worship must remember justice. Orphan and widow are important. As we seek to establish ourselves in a society bent toward pious and personal experiences of worship, we know that worship must dance in step with justice. We live with reverence before a God who created the world. There is no other besides Him who works justice. He alone is God!

To do justice is good and right! However, in its zeal justice can pull us too close to itself. Rather, it can pull us too far from worship. Without care, an intense focus on justice can cause our concern for worship to become stagnant, deformed, and even misguided. We may readily run to another nation to perform justice in behalf of the poor while forgetting our own poverty each week in communion as we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. We can, like some great non-profits, focus on making this world a better place failing even to acknowledge in worship with other believers the God who made the world. We may begin to dismiss worship at church as irrelevant to God's "true work" in social activism and lose the prayerful reverence that true justice requires. Our minds may begin to justify our absence from communal worship, selfishness in good works, and badges of "righteousness."

Thus, we rightly hear the seemingly faint background music of Isaiah 55-56. This text (and Isaiah 58, especially) reveals that justice must remember worship. Fasting and sabbath are important. As we seek to establish ourselves in a society bent toward wonderful works of justice for the marginalized minority among us, we know that justice must dance in step with worship. We live with reverence before a God who created the world. There is no other besides Him whom we worship. He alone is God!

How does a believing community navigate the tensions that surface when we seek to emphasize both worship and justice?

We begin to dance.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Small Prayer

At the end of this semester, Father, allow us the opportunity to see your kingdom in our small, seemingly insignificant actions. Nourish our spirits enough to reach the depths of your love in offering a smile. Help us to imagine and discern new possibilities for living fully alive as we give away our attention. Provide us relief, Lord, from our constant conformity to busyness. And strengthen us as you transform our lives according to your business. We trust you with every small, yeast-like, kingdom-oriented action. Amen.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Apologetic Heart

As a word guy, I have sporadic moments where words just come to me. Lately, they have been manifesting themselves in poetic attire. A few days ago this poem appeared.


It comes in moments
You and I apart
I taste God's love
And am cut in heart

Apologies are hard for me
I must admit and you know
It pains me the humility
But to the cross I must go

I'm sorry for my slacking
In the humble leadership we need
I'm sorry that I hurt you
In word, in thought, in deed

I love you because of God
And your captivating beauty a perk
I commit to you again this day
To love you like God and kill the jerk

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Z2 Convergence Video

It is a little more than a month before our second annual Z2 Convergence! This year it is just outside of Tyler, Texas at Pine Cove. The price for this three-night, eight-meal experience is amazing! Only $85 and you can buy your tickets online.

We finally got a Z2 promo video put together that lets people know a little more about this regional event during MLK weekend.

Even if you have no group to go with, you can converge with us! This is a place where God and students collide in engaging worship, motivating discussions, and energizing fellowship to inspire us to live for Jesus Christ completely!

Christmas Break To-Do List

Below is a list of good ideas for college students to consider doing during Christmas break, a time when we are tempted to go on break from our commitment to Christ. I tailored this idea specifically for the Kats for Christ ministry.
  1. Discuss how you’ve grown spiritually this semester with at least one family member.
  2. Take one whole day alone with Jesus.
  3. Hang out with one person from high school with whom you need to reconnect.
  4. Read one book of the Bible you’ve never read before.
  5. Plug in fully to your church – volunteering, attending, going to the college ministry – even if it’s way less awesome than the Kats for Christ.
  6. Tell your parents how much you appreciate them.
  7. Pray regularly that God would make you the kind of student that glorifies Him best.
  8. Pray through your course schedule for next semester and discern whether God would have you change anything.
  9. Read one Christian book. (Ask Chris if you need ideas!)
  10. Take at least three days in a row to fully rest.
  11. Contact Chris at least once to let him know how things are going and how he can pray for you.
  12. Help your parents in some way that surprises them.
  13. Prayer walk a college campus in or near your town, even if it’s a rival school.
  14. Pray for the Kats for Christ ministry every day (and write down anything God shows you).
  15. Pray for your upcoming professors. By name.
  16. Think up ways to serve your upcoming professors.
  17. Pray through your areas of campus involvement. What needs to change?
  18. Pray through your Kats for Christ ministry involvement. What needs to change?
  19. Go through your closets at home and donate things you know you will never use anymore.
  20. Keep doing the spiritual habits you’ve developed at college – avoid skipping even once, or it’ll be hard to keep the habit all Break.
  21. Call your closest friends regularly, and keep each other on track spiritually.
  22. Connect with Christian youth in your town (or even their parents), and help them think about preparing for college.
Even though this list is for those in college, some of them remind me that I too am tempted to "go on break" from my normal commitment to Christ!

Lord, may you strength me as I get ready for Christmas break. May my mind and heart turn toward your goodness and newness offered everyday. You have made today what it is, with its struggles and triumphs. I praise you for this day! I thank you! I imagine your smile wrapping me up into your love during Christmas break. Lead me, Lord, closer to you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Work the Raw Materials

I regularly sit to discuss various forms of this question: "What does God want me to do with my life?" We talk through this sometimes over the course of a semester, semesters, or years. I love guiding and helping others through this time of searching; it seems to come with the territory as a campus minister. Dan Miller has been a good resource for me in these conversations for some time.

Today's post was a little longer than normal, but contained some great perspective on the raw materials called spiritual gifts. Here is an excerpt:
God’s gifts are raw materials, not finished products. Think about the most revered sacrament in the church – Holy Communion. Does God give us bread and wine? Where can you find those in nature? You can’t. God makes wheat, He doesn’t make bread. He makes grapes – not wine. But when we take the raw materials God gives us, we can add our work and give them back to him as an offering.
And I remember reading in the most popular “self-help” book available: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” ( 2 Thes. 3:10)
This is a picture of the spiritual life for each of us. Every one of you has special gifts – singing, writing, gardening, art, computer skills, selling abilities, teaching others, encouraging others – but whatever our gift is – it’s a raw product. It has limited value until we apply the discipline necessary to make it useful to ourselves and others.
We get nothing but rough materials – life doesn’t hand us the finished product. Life may even bring us obstacles or heartache along the way. But ultimately, our lives are the bread that we prepare. Our lives are what those around us see as the result of what we’ve done with those raw materials.
So the issue is balance – is it all us, NO. Is it all God, NO. We develop the raw products of what God has given us. ...
I recently read a couple books by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. He comments on how to joyfully surrender ourselves to God, and how to pray: "Asking for something from God does not mean talking God into it; it means an awakening of the gift within ourselves."
I really like how he encourages us to work to enhance the gifts God has given us. Instead of waiting for lunch to be plopped down right in front of us, we can enjoy the same end (lunch) with more perspective, maturity, and transformation having made it ourselves.

We are more fully alive having taken the gifts God has given us and working to make the heavenly banquet the best it can be! It would certainly be great to have "God open all the doors, creating the perfect (and clear) path" for our lives! Yet, we would jeopardize the incredibly important process that can lead to an amazing feast!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A New Old Friend

I shared this on our first Wednesday night two weeks ago with about 60 college students. It is written in a way that lends itself to speaking rather than reading.

I was planning on doing this nice little testimony that is somewhat familiar, but something happened a couple of weeks ago that I have to tell you about! It kindof fits with what we are going to talk about tonight, so that is why I’m doing that instead.

Okay, so … do you have one of those friends that impacts you so much that just thinking about that person brings a smile to your face? Just picturing them in your head and…knowing who they are…they just encourage you. Many people (even many of you) really do have that affect on me, but there are two close friends of mine, David and Doug, who just the thought of them encourages me. And distance or time has no effect on that feeling. No matter how long it is between the times we talk or see each other, it is as if we just pick right back up where we left off. I love it and hope to never lose that kind of relationship that I have with these guys! In fact, I think we can only handle two or three of these kinds of relationships during our lifetime. Some people could have more, but even one of these is enough!

Here is why I say that…I ran into this guy again a couple of weeks ago that may be another one of these kind of friends for me. It is sometimes hard to know right away, but you never know. You just take it as it comes. I really hope that it happens though…

I had met him a long time ago. I actually grew up with him in Carrollton, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. My parent’s still live in the same house where I grew up, so there were a few of us who went to the same elementary school, same Junior High, and same High School. He was in that group, so that is why I’ve known him a long time. We have this unique connection (that we’ve known each other so long), even though we’ve had a kindof superficial relationship.

He was one of those “popular ones” in school (all the way through High School too!). And since I was more of a “nerd” than anything else we just ran in different circles. Every now and then I’d notice him in one of my classes, but we rarely talked or interacted. I can say, though, that…I do remember he was easy to talk to back then. I always felt like he had that ability … you know those people? … they have a unique ability to somehow relate to all the different cliques in school. It was weird, but I always wished I could do that like him.

[I still remember thinking in the middle of Junior High, “What happened between Elementary School and Junior High?” I wondered why so many kids that I regularly played with in Elementary School no longer talked to me in Junior High. It was as if we never knew each other!]

Anyway, this guy somehow connected to all those different groups of people. It was probably because I was jealous of him that he stuck out to me. So, a couple of weeks ago I was in Houston just sitting down reading something to pass the time. I happen to look up…and I saw him coming my way. I was like, “Do I know this guy?” At first, I was trying to remember where I knew him from…because he looked very familiar. [I’ve lived in so many different places that it’s sometimes hard for me to keep all the people straight.] … Then I was like “dude…that's him!”

So, I stood up and was like, “Hey!” I had no idea if he would even remember me, but he was like, “Dude! What’s up, Chris Blair! It’s good to see you! How are ya!?” I was really taken back that he knew my name. He just started asking me to update him on things. We talked for a good while. I was overwhelmed with how easy he made it to catch up. I was also amazed at how mature he was.

Since I’m such a different person than I was in High School, I sometimes assume that people from back then would be shocked to know that I am a campus minister. But he was actually really encouraged to hear that and he talked about his relationship with God and how God has been working in his life in powerful ways! It’s so cool! You can really tell when someone is really connected to God…they are soaking up God’s word…they pray all the time, and they are just connected!

Normally in those kind of conversations, if I’m a little honest, I typically feel like I’m the one who has something to teach or offer someone else. But, with this guy, I actually started feeling like I had more to learn about how God had been working in his life than how God has been working in my life. It was an odd feeling! But…I felt good about it. He made me feel good about it!

Then…this is where it took an even more odd turn for me...he told me that he was thinking about moving to Huntsville! It is hard to describe the excitement I had after our conversation! Seriously…if he moves to Huntsville…I’m going to invite him to come around to hang out. You’ve GOT to meet this guy! He’s self-employed…well kindof (I can explain that later)…but he has a lot of time to spend with people, so that’s what he does. He spends tons of time with others. He told me…wherever he ends up…that he’d be more than happy to come speak to us and about all the ways God has worked in his life! And so, I’m really excited about that!

But…even more than just speaking to us, he said he really would like to spend serious time getting to know everyone here personally. This is what blows my mind! He told me that it really bothers him to just show up at some event, tell about God, and then everyone leaves to go their own way. He told me that he really wants to show others how God really works so that they can live the way that God made them to live. And, listen up…this guy KNOWS how God works…because he lives life to the fullest!

I KNOW this guy will change your whole life. Just listening to his stories, watching how alive he is for God, receiving a new perspective on life from him, and responding to his invitation EVERY DAY to SPEND TIME WITH HIM and to TELL OTHERS about his way of living is so…what I want to do...for the rest of my life! That is how much this guy has impacted me recently. I love spending time with my rediscovered new old friend who’s always been there…Jesus.

He wants to move in. He wants to show me everything about how God works so that I can live the way God made me to live. What is cool is that … He wants to move in with you too. He wants to show you the way God works so that you can live the way God made you to live!

I’ve heard the call, “Come and follow me!” Our invitation with the Kats for Christ is to come and experience the life that God desires to have you live. We are so about Jesus, because he is the only one who will transform you to live as he lived … completely alive!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Father, open my eyes to see ways to cultivate an attitude that values your kingdom at Sam Houston State University. Help me to imagine and discern new possibilities to be excellent students of Jesus. Write your story using the instrument called us, your people longing to do your will. May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth like in heaven. Amen.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Why Worship

Last night in the combined Bible class we dared to broach the subject of worship! Instead of focusing on the 'how' questions, we focused on the 'why.' We were seeking to make connections between our worship of God and our life outside of worship. It seemed like many tables were having great discussion! I enjoyed our discussion.

As I prepared for this class, I was reminded of a previous blog post I wrote several years ago on a Monday. It reminds me of a couple of reasons why I have come to worship God. One is a completely unhealthy reason I sometimes come to worship (to be critical) and another is more healthy reason (to be moved by God). I have made a few edits...I hope you enjoy.


Being honest, I sat yesterday in our weekly Sunday service with a critical eye. I was going to see if 'they' could move me...whoever 'they' were. The service began normally. I had seen it before, heard it before, prayed it before, and gone through that motion before. I was wearing the t-shirt. As we progressed through the service, I found myself trying to focus on what was happening. However, I kept thinking about me doing what I was doing. Nothing was moving me at all. I was anticipating after service when I could tell someone (probably Tanya) how 'they' never moved me in that worship. Time for the invitation song.

"Lay Your Burdens Down..." the song begins. As I stood to let other people respond (obviously excluding myself) to the message the thought occurred to me, "Why is this the song of invitation? It is such a great song!" I stood anyway, closed my eyes, sang, and was overwhelmed by a gracious, divine surprise.

This song moved me! Rather, God used this song to move me. Seriously...I was shaking by the end of the song. Oddly enough, I was still trying to stop shaking because I wanted to prove my point that nothing in the service could move me. Then I could wallow in my own self-absorption of an empty worship service. But, something else happened. I was moved. It was God. I could do nothing to stop it! Amazing!

Reflecting on this over the last day, I have learned how much I need to grow! Why am I coming to worship trying to prove that nothing will move me? I need to be seeking in coming to worship the very thing I was avoiding: God's presence. Yet, amazingly enough, God was gracious to allow a song to usher his presence into my life. How many times does God use songs to move me in worship? Too many.

Thank you, God, for being so gracious. Thank you for your patience with me. I need to grow so much. Let me continue to be aware of your presence in my life. May your praise be on my lips throughout the day. Keep me from the cynicism I experienced yesterday...all for your glory. You are the one I need. Let me seek you alone.


I wonder what are some reasons that you come to worship (good or bad, healthy or unhealthy)? Share in the comments section below.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Praising God

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits..." Psalm 103:1-2
Last night I facilitated a great conversation about praising God in our combined adult Bible class, Going Deep. I had asked the tables to discuss a small way that they have seen God at work. After that I wondered if the table discussion itself could be considered praise of God. One of the points of conversation centered on whether everything we did could be considered praise of God. This was an interesting development, especially as I asked a followup question, "Are you sure everything we do can be considered praise of God?"

Truly the summons to "let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6) is present! We certainly need to praise the Lord with everything. I just wonder, as I mentioned as an example last night, whether we would consider even lament as praise of God. Praise, in my mind, could be contained within lament, yet I think they are two distinct things. Is praise just all the good fluffy bunny stuff? Is there a darker side to praise that still contains trust?

I tend to think expressions of praise (both verbal and non-verbal, human and non-human) include expressions of thanks, blessing, magnifying, glorifying, and singing. And my last post about talking to trees betrays my thinking in terms of all creations' ability to speak. What do you think: is there a line to help us understand where praise begins and ends? (leave a quick comment on the blog)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Talking to Trees

Have you ever talked to trees? I did that again yesterday. Here is what I heard them say:

I heard God's creation reaching out as high as possible toward the sky. They were grounded, though, accomplishing the purposes for which they were created. Their shout was clearly a communal one saying, "We move together, intertwined! Each one of us affected by the other, we know it is best to draw on that blessing." I am humbled at their voice; they proclaim their creator every time.

Willing to risk sounding insane, I think everyone needs to talk to trees every now and then! Their message is captivating!
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Psalm 19:1-4a

Monday, May 09, 2011

My Finals Week Prayer

"May the Lord give you His perspective, even during finals week!

May His wisdom guide you to study diligently.
May His patience compel you to attend to one thing at a time.
May His peace multiply any rest you receive.
May His food energize you continually.
May His quietness permeate your breaks.
May His calmness reign in your anxiety.
May His love make you smile.
May His grace help you receive your final as a gift.
May His son's humility bring you confidence.
May His Spirit's power bring to your mind all that you have studied.

May the Lord be praised for all He does, even during finals week!"

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Love Your Enemies

"You have heard that it has been said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven because his sun rises on the evil and good and it rains on the righteous and unrighteous." Matthew 5:43-44

I hear the radical call to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I wonder who Jesus had in mind as he calls his followers to a perfect, mature righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). I wonder if we are misusing this text?

Is my enemy a national enemy I've never met deemed an enemy by a particular government? Perhaps. That is certainly the assumption behind those who use this text to support the call to love a national enemy. (btw...I'm certainly okay with giving Bin Laden the 'enemy' label!)

In the midst of all the buzz however, I'm compelled by Jesus' little sermon to consider a more personal application. I wonder if this statement forces me to see my enemy as a person I know, Joe Smith, who does everything he can to slander me, speak all kinds of evil against me, insult me, and work against me?

Jesus' words here are rightly considered as we hear of Bin Laden's death. I am just a little hesitant to see those who work against America as "my" personal enemies. While, as a US citizen, I am bothered when others attack us, I refuse to directly equate America's enemies as my enemies. It frustrates me when any allegiances to America (or lack of allegiances) are equated with allegiances to Christ. I consider Jesus Lord rather than America. If I understand the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, my prayers need to desire God's kingdom to come on the entire earth, even to the exclusion of America.

So, in light of Bin Laden's death, my allegiances to Christ may compel me to pray for the Iraqi moms who continue to lose their sons in war against my nation. My allegiances to Christ may help me to consider the possibility that Bin Laden was equally made in God's image. Was he even a child of God? That kind of perspective (and just the question itself) may be blasphemous to some. At the same time, I wonder if this is exactly the perspective of another perfect righteousness Matthew points us toward?

Monday, April 04, 2011


"The spring reminds me of your provisions, Lord.

The brown, parched grass fills itself with your green fullness.
The uncovered, wintery tree clothes itself with your fresh attire.
The cold, turbulent wind breathes out your steady warmth.
The expectant, needy creature experiences your youthful rebirth.
The devoted, Lenten assembly anticipates your amazing resurgence.

You provide so much in Spring. Thank you.
Help me to see more of that today, Lord. Amen."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spiritual Discernment

"As I become aware of your presence this morning, Lord,
may I promptly respond to your movements with complete trust.

Losing my natural inhibitions that may keep me stagnant in kingdom service,
may your Spirit compel my heart forward with immediacy and sensitivity.

When I am confronted today with a situation needing prompt action,
teach me how to discern well the difference between
my own sound judgment and your own providential desire.

Lead me in the way, Lord. Amen!"

Friday, March 04, 2011

Your Hand

"My heart, my mind, and my strength are yours today, Lord.
I commit them into your hand.

When my inward desires stray even just a little, may your hand steer my heart.

When my thoughts distract me from your purposes, may your hand focus my mind.

When my body is overcome with weakness, may your hand sustain my strength.

My heart, my mind, and my strength are yours today, Lord.
I commit them into your hand."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Words of Blessing - HCOC

Long time since my last post. Crazy!

The power of the spoken word is amazing. I feel compelled to bless others through my words more regularly. Stumbling across some powerful written prayers recently, I desire to spend more time writing out prayers and blessings. I start with a blessing for our congregation at Huntsville Church of Christ. It is one that mimics the blessing Isaac made over Jacob in Genesis 27:27-29.

"Wow! What an amazingly gracious and forgiving people who truly know how much the Lord has forgiven them!

May the Lord work his powerful character among you all and bountifully increase the number of His people.

May whole communities come to you to learn about and participate in the Lord's work.

May all kinds of people find in you a love so great and abundant that all receive the blessing of life with God Almighty.

May you take advantage of the Lord's blessing you and actively pursue greater understanding of Him.

May He sustain you and protect you always."