Thoughts From That Other Jesus Freak

*Yesterday, I posted an article that I had written as a guest post for a friend of mine.  He has written a guest post for Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, and I am excited to share his words with you today.  Peter writes at https://www.onlyopendoor.com/ about the Church and why we need to be involved.  He’s also the youth minister at First Christian Church in Lovington, NM and in his own words is, “That Other Jesus Freak”.*

My 15th birthday was a day of joy and total sorrow. Just like any other birthday, I got to choose a friend to join me and my family for dinner at a restaurant of my choice. After dinner, I was told we would take my friend home, then head home for a bit before anyone was allowed to do anything that evening. It was then that my parents sat my brothers and I down in the living room. I knew something was up, we never met this way. That evening, my parents broke the news that my father only had months to live.

Years later, I had the opportunity to become a youth pastor in Arizona. I was fresh out of college, well, I was 26 at the time I graduated, and this was my first chance to work in the ministry. I was excited and scared to be moving from Minnesota to Arizona. Things started off so well, but they didn’t end up that way. After only months, I started to feel the negative attitude of some in the church, and it never really got any better, which ultimately led to my negative departure.

These stories are not meant to depress you or make you feel sorry for me. I share these stories because as a Jesus Freak, I feel the need to share the positive side of these negative stories. You see, God answers all our prayers. You might be thinking, you prayed that God would take your father? That would be insane. I prayed for my father to be healed. I prayed to be able to do God’s work and to grow in my own spiritual walk. God’s answer is not always the one we want though.

You see, my father was healed. He was a Christ follower, and I truly believe that he has a new body, free of tumors, in heaven. Not exactly the healing I wanted at the time. I also would have loved to continue working with the students I had in Arizona, but God wanted me to take some time away from ministry to grow personally before landing me in New Mexico as a youth pastor once more.

There will be trials in our lives, especially if we choose to follow Jesus Christ. It isn’t an easy life to be a true Christ follower. If it were easy, there would be more people that would give up the things this world offers to follow Christ. There will be tough times ahead.

But we can have comfort in Christ through these tough times!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (CSB)

Being courageous is sometimes easier said than done. It is not easy to be courageous when you are faced with uncertainty and loss. But Jesus also tell us this in Luke 12:25-26

“Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? 26 If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest” (CSB)

We cannot live our days worrying about what will come. We MUST learn to trust that God will provide us with what we need. When the times are tough, call on Him. When things are going well, thank Him. Don’t worry about what the world will think of you when you follow Christ.

“I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

Thoughts from that other Jesus Freak, Peter Wernimont.

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Make It Your Own

*This post originally appeared on my friend Peter’s new blog here.  Check it out and follow his work there.*

CHRCHPeter asked me to write a guest post for his new blog.  It’s been great getting to know him over the last few months since he moved to New Mexico.  We’ve collaborated on a lot of stuff for Guadalupe Christian Camp, and he is the only other person I know with a “Jesus Freak” tattoo.

I’m a lot like Peter in how he described his experience growing up in the church.  My grandparents weren’t in ministry like his, but I grew up basically in the church anytime the doors were open.  And that was great.  I love that I grew up that way, but I came to a point in my life that I walked away from the Church.  Here’s some things I’ve learned from and about my experience of walking away.

I used an excuse of something I was frustrated about to justify walking away.

During my time in youth group, I was all in.  I was a leader in the group, especially in the last two or three years of high school.  It was that youth group that helped me through the death of my father as a fifteen year old.  One of the main things that we fought hard for during my time was a united group.

As we entered the youth group as seventh graders, it became pretty apparent that there were some major cliques in the group.  The students in the class before me and my class fought very hard to dispel the cliques, and try to be as united of a group as we could be.  Not trying to brag, but I feel that we did a pretty good job of that.  We tried to be friends with everyone in the group, and hang out with everyone as much as possible. 

After graduating high school and moving to the college age Sunday school class, however, I found out real quick that those cliques had reformed there.  Instead of trying to get rid of the cliques, I used them as an excuse to start slowly walking away from the Church.  There were other subconscious factors that lead to this as well, so I used it as an excuse.  It started as just missing Sunday school, but slowly and surely it go to the point I would miss a Sunday altogether.  And then the next thing I knew, I was skipping multiple Sundays and using my job as an excuse.

I thought it was possible to be a Christ follower on my own.

I convinced myself through this whole thing that I could maintain my relationship with Christ on my own.  I didn’t need to be going to church every week.  I was planning on going into ministry any way, so I was in a good place.  Pay attention to this section if you don’t pay attention to anything else.  I was dead wrong.  One thing I have figured out in my life is that God created us to be in community with Him…and with fellow Christ followers.  Christianity is not a path that can be easily walked without love, support, and accountability from a community of other believers.  It just can’t happen.

The more I tried to follow Jesus on my own without that community, the more I just started really going through the motions of my belief and faith.  When I ended up going to Bible College a couple of years later, that translated into just having fun and not taking my faith, or my studies seriously.  Here I was, living on campus surrounded by fellow Christ followers, but I was still just pretending and going through the motions.  You cannot follow Christ on your own…at least not very well.

The longer I was away, the harder it was to go back.

I think subconsciously I started realizing this, but I had walked away from a true Christian community for a few years now.  A simple turn back to God was all that was needed.  Think of the story of the Prodigal son.  God is ready to run to us when we finally take a step back toward Him.  But it’s not always easy to get to a place where you are ready to take that step.

Pride in trying to do it all on my own was a huge stumbling block.  Again, I really think I saw what was happening, but I thought that I could fix it on my own.  I had this.  I could come back anytime I wanted to.  But the longer I was away, the more pride got in my way.  It’s hard to stand up and admit, even to God, that you’ve messed up. 

It wasn’t until a relationship ended in a very hurtful way that I truly began to wake up, to realize that I desperately needed God and a strong Christian community to truly live out my faith.  But I also realized something that would really change everything for me…

My faith was not my own…yet.

I realized that the faith that was so strong even through my youth group years wasn’t really my own.  I had been raised to believe in Jesus, to know the Bible stories, to go to Church, and all of those things are great.  There is nothing wrong with any of it.  But at some point, you have to take that faith that your parents instilled in you, and it has to become your own.

I was baptized because all my friends were getting baptized.  It was just the natural thing to do.  I loved God, don’t get me wrong, but I was living on a faith that was given to me by my parents and my friends.  And that’s a good starting place.  You just can’t stay there the rest of your life and truly live the way that God is calling you to.  It has to mean something to YOU…not for someone else, but for you. 

There is a passage in Mark 8 where Jesus is talking to His disciples.  He asks them the question “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  They respond, “Some say Elijah, others John the Baptist, still others a prophet.”  And those were good answers.  They were putting Jesus up there with some of the heroes of Hebrew history.  But that’s not who Jesus really was.  He then turned the question from who the crowd thought He was to the disciples.  “Who do you say I am?!”  Peter spoke up and gave the first confession of faith.  He said “You are the Christ!”

When we are living by someone else’s faith, even if they are correct in their understanding, we can be like the crowds.  Jesus is important.  No doubt about it.  But He may not be seen as Lord of our lives.  We have to answer Jesus’ second question.  It’s not one that He just asked the twelve disciples 2,000 years ago.  He is asking us as well.  Who do you say that Jesus is?  Until we view Jesus as the true Lord and Savior of our lives, and therefore put Him in the proper place in our lives, we will not be living our own faith.  If we are not living our own faith yet, then it’s easy to make excuses and not gather with other Christ followers.  That’s why the percentage of people who claim to be Christians and the percentage of people who are actually active in Church is so drastically different.

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Kraig Birchfield is the main author on crosseyedjesusfreak.com.  You can check out more of his articles there.  He is first and foremost a Christ follower.  He is a husband to Kelley, a writer, preacher, and a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.

Defending the Faith Conference

--How do you stand up for truth in a word gone mad--

I wrote a bit of a teaser for it yesterday, but as promised, I want to tell you about Guadalupe Christian Camp’s upcoming “Defending the Faith Conference”.  This is the first annual apologetics conference that the camp is going to be hosting on July 29-31, and I would absolutely love for you to join us.  Let me get some housekeeping issues out of the way.  If you are interested, make your plans now, because there are only a few days left for the early bird rate of $45 per person.  After July 3, the price goes up to $55 per person.  All you need to do to register is to contact David Shaw at dcshaw529@gmail.com, letting him know how many will be joining your party.  Then you pay when you get to the camp on Saturday. 

How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!

So let me pose a question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”  That’s exactly the question that we are going to be trying to walk through during the main sessions and the Q&A times throughout the event.  And that is one of the most important and relevant questions that we as Christ followers need to answer in our own lives.  We have to be ready to give a defense of our faith at a moments notice.  That doesn’t mean that we have to have all the answers.  That would be impossible.  But we need to be prepared.  In fact, Paul challenges Timothy with that specifically.  In II Timothy 4:2-4, Paul writes the following to Timothy;

2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Verses 3 and 4 sound like Paul was looking directly into our time.  There is no absolute truth anymore, according to the society we live in.  There are many ways to God, and the fact that Christianity claims to be the only way to God is insensitive…or at least that’s what the world around us is screaming at the top of its lungs.  All paths lead to God.  Well, if you are a Christ follower, then you know that that is not what Jesus taught.  Jesus made a very bold claim in John 14:6-7.  He said;

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Like I said, that is a bold claim.  But Jesus backed that claim up by going to the cross and God raising Him from the dead.  We have to stand firm.  We have to be bold.  We know the truth: Jesus is the only way to God.  But we have to speak that truth in love.  That’s what we are going to be discussing in this inaugural event held at Guadalupe Christian Camp.  I, along with three other area preachers, will be presenting on a variety of different topics.  Stephen B, a Christian comedian will also be there on Saturday night presenting his comedy routine.  This promises to be a great weekend, and we would love to have you join us.  The camp is located at 56 Christian Camp Road, Carlsbad, NM  88220, about an hour outside of Carlsbad. 

Let’s come together, and answer the question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”

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Refreshed and Refocused

I’ve been absent for a little while.  My apologies for that.  But I was working a week of church camp last week at Guadalupe Christian Camp for Jr. and Sr. High students.  While I had access to internet there, I felt my time was more valuable investing in the week there instead of trying to write for “Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak”.  I mean, I had to write a sermon while I was there anyway, so I didn’t take anymore time for this.

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It was a great week.  We had 38 teenagers and quite a few adults from West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that attended the week, and I do believe that lives were changed.  We had a speaker from Illinois that blew it out of the water, as well as a Christian band from El Paso that was just as interested in investing in the lives of the teens there as they were about playing music for the evening sessions. 

We got to get away from our normal hectic schedules and spend time with fellow Christ followers, up on a mountain, away from distractions.  Although it was a scorching hot week, we were able to enjoy God’s creation together in a few different ways as well.  One of those was spending time at Sitting Bull Falls, hiking and swimming one afternoon (the temperature gauge in the van I drove read 108 degrees when we parked at the falls).  On Friday morning, we went on the annual hike to the ridge that has quickly become one of my favorite places that I have seen in person on this earth. 

As tired as I have been since returning, the physical exhaustion has been well worth it.  I came back mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed.  That’s something that I’ve needed for a long time.  I got to spend time with other ministers, discussing our churches and what things we need prayer and support in.  Just bouncing ideas off of others is so beneficial.  I got to have some good laughs with the other adults there as well.

One thing happened on two separate nights, however, that may top any camp experience I have ever had.  Well, not really because I received my call into ministry at a week of camp, but this was awesome anyway…just not on the exact same level.  On Thursday night, we were having a camp fire/smores night, and a couple of the band members were there playing acoustic guitars.  The night was coming to an end, and I jokingly asked the lead band member if he knew “Jesus Freak” and explained my website.  They didn’t know the song by memory, but looked up the chords and started playing.  That is when a bunch of the other adults and I started singing our lungs out to an impromptu jam session of “Jesus Freak”.  It was incredible.

Then, the next night at worship was supposed to be more of a concert style worship with the band.  Wally told me early that night that he was going to call me from the sound booth to come up to the stage to help him with something, but that it was for the kids.  I asked what, but he wouldn’t tell me.  When he finally called me up, he handed me a mic and said they were going to play “Jesus Freak”.  I got the other guy at camp with a Jesus Freak tattoo to join me on stage, handed him the mic, because I don’t sing into mics, and we got to sing on stage to a live version of “Jesus Freak”.  As you could imagine, this Crosseyed Jesus Freak was flying high after that.

It just reminds me of where our focus should be though.  Where does your passion lay?  This world tries to distract us, but if I’m going to claim to be a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, I need to be focused on Jesus 100% of the time…or at least as much of that time as I can be.  We have to be strong in our faith.  That’s why this event that I want to tell you about is so important. Guadalupe Christian Camp is getting ready to host its First Annual “Defending the Faith Conference” at the end of July.  Check back here tomorrow for an article about that, but if you are in southeast New Mexico or west Texas, consider joining us for this conference.

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Betrayal

I was texting with a friend of mine back east this week.  I hadn’t had a chance to check in with her in a few weeks, and I could just sense something was wrong through some things on social media.  So I checked in on her.  I asked if everything was ok.  She had recently started dating someone, and I just had the sense that something bad had happened to that relationship.  And unfortunately I was correct.  He had ended the relationship with my friend, and she felt betrayed.  Her heart was broken, and she was still processing what was going on. 

We didn’t have a lot of time to chat at the time, but the whole situation got me thinking about betrayal.  I don’t know what it is, but there is just something in human nature that seems to make us betray one another.  If you have never faced the betrayal of another human being, I would count you very fortunate.  Even Jesus Himself was betrayed.  And that betrayal came from one of His twelve closest companions over the last three years of His life. 

My heart hurts for my friend.  She deserves so much better than what happened.  But the fact remains that we all face betrayals from time to time.  That doesn’t make it any easier to process them when they happen though.  Whether it’s a significant other turning their back on you, a friend spreading a rumor about something that you told them in confidence, a co-worker stabbing you in the back to get ahead, or whatever other betrayals you could imagine, being betrayed hurts.

Betraying others hurts as well.  And whether we want to admit it or not, as much as we have faced betrayals from others, we have probably betrayed someone ourselves at some point. Whether we wanted to or not.  That doesn’t make it right, but that is the reality of sin.  It makes this world that we live in broken.  And broken people treat each other horribly at times.  That’s where God’s grace comes in.  Through a relationship with Him, through the blood of Jesus, we can set aside that human nature, and strive to treat each other with love and respect. 

God will never leave us or abandon us.

That doesn’t mean that we will never sin or mess up again.  Of course we will, because we live in a broken world.  But that is no longer our default setting if we have truly given our lives to Jesus in being a Christ follower.  People are going to betray each other, and that hurts.  Pretty much everyone of us knows that firsthand.  But here is the best news of all.  God will never leave us or abandon us.  He will never betray us.  The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 13:5; “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.”  He is quoting a passage from Deuteronomy 31, where God promised that He would never abandon His people.

Put your trust in God.  Give your life to Him.  Life will always be tough.  We will mess up, and we will hurt one another.  But we have a promise from God that He will never betray us!

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Marriage is Not a Competition

I’m not the perfect husband.  In fact, I get marriage wrong more than I would like to admit.  I love my wife, but there are times that I don’t treat her as well as I should.  But I’m trying to get better.  I’m trying to love her with the love that she deserves.  I want to have the strongest marriage possible.  In other words, our marriage is a work in progress.  Most are.  I’m not a marriage expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m trying to be the best partner I can be for my wife.

I write that to get to this.  We have seriously got to change our attitude, thoughts, expectations, and even our jokes about marriage in this country.  This is especially true if you are a Christ follower.  I almost wrote this post a couple of months ago, but decided not to at the time.  I can’t sit silent any longer.  We have an incorrect view of what marriage should be.  It’s a partnership in life and love, but most of the time you hear it talked about as a competition.  Who gets the most out of it, and if you’re not the one winning, what do you need to do to get what you deserve? 

At least that seems to be the attitude that is most prevalent in our society today.  Let me give you an example.  This is what finally pushed me over the edge to write this post.  I came across this picture the other day on social media.  It reads, “Marriage is simple. Your wife does whatever she wants and you do whatever she wants.”

Marriage, really?

Really?  That’s what we think about love and agreeing to spend the rest of our lives with someone anymore?  And it’s not just this one picture or thought floating around out there.  It is hammered down our throats everywhere we look.  There is a winner and a loser in marriage relationships.  Fights are normal.  Make sure you win, no matter the cost.  There is an episode of the sitcom Friends that shows this same thought process.  Monica and Chandler are discussing something, and Chandler thought they had already come to a decision.  Monica, however, makes another decision.  Chandler responds with something like, “but we’ve already discussed this and I won.”  Monica’s response is the attitude I’m talking about here.  She says, “…and now that you’re marrying me, you don’t get to win anymore.”

Like I said earlier, I’m not a marriage expert, but that attitude is not healthy.  I know that most would argue that the picture above is something that was done as a joke.  I would agree, at least I would like to think that.  But even if that is the case, it eventually leads to a misperception about marriage.  If you joke about something long enough and to enough people, you start to believe it, even if you never intended to in the first place.  And the real issue is that a fellow Christ follower is the one that posted the picture.  That’s not the Biblical picture of what marriage should be. 

The same day I saw the pic above, I found what follows (shared by the same person).  You see the difference right?  Like the description says, it’s not about control.  It’s about respect.  Mutual respect.  No one partner any more important than the other.  A true partnership.  There may be different roles in a marriage, but it should be a true partnership. 

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That’s what I see when I read the instructions for marriage throughout the New Testament.  It’s not about the man being the dominant partner.  It’s not about the woman being the dominant partner either.  It’s about a true partnership.  Let me share this with you.  This is part of a wedding ceremony that I did last year.  Names have been removed for privacy.  It starts with a reading of Ephesians 5:21-33.

Let’s take a look at what Paul writes about marriage in his letter to the Ephesians.  Reading from chapter 5:21-33;

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Over the years, this passage has been taken out of context and been used to say only that women should submit to men.  But there is something so beautiful in this passage when you realize that Paul is actually giving equality to men and women in marriage.  During the time of Paul, women were considered little more than property, so when Paul turned around and said that husbands were to love their wives as Christ loves the church, that was a radical new idea. 

So, Groom, while it is true that Bride is encouraged to follow your lead, you are encouraged to love her sacrificially, putting her wants and needs in front of your own.  You are encouraged to care for her.  You are encouraged to love her with an unbreakable and unending love.  And you are encouraged to love her in Christ.

Bride, the same can be said for you.  You are encouraged to love Groom sacrificially, putting his wants and needs in front of your own.  You are encouraged to care for him.  You are encouraged to love him with an unbreakable and unending love.  And you are encouraged to love him in Christ.

Marriage is not a competition between two people, and when we treat it like it is, even in a joking manner, we make a mockery of what God intended to be a life partnership.  One that He uses to also describe the relationship that He wants with us.  Christ followers, stop falling into the trap that society is perpetuating.  Marriage is a beautiful thing.  It is God-honoring when done correctly.  We are to be helpmates to one another in our marriages, not fighting against each other to see who can “win”.  When that is what we focus on, neither partner truly wins.  It’s a loss across the board.

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Give Honor Where Honor is Due: Remembering the Fallen, and the Sacrifice of Jesus

Memorial Day

I want to take a moment this morning to honor and thank all of those that have given their lives for this country.  Memorial Day is much more than just a 3-day weekend and an excuse to grill out (although I do plan to do some grilling today).  It’s about honoring those that have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the freedom that we enjoy in the U.S.A today.  In that vain, we showed a video yesterday in our church service honoring those that have fallen.  You can watch the video here if you’d like.

We showed it right before our message time, and I followed the video with a short reminder.  It wasn’t scripted and I didn’t record it, so I don’t remember word for word what I said.  But it is this reminder that I want to write about this morning.  The video, in case you didn’t watch it, was a recording of a speech that late U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave regarding the sacrifices that so many have made to make and keep this country free.  At the end, he said something along the lines of “we will always be willing to make these sacrifices, because we are AMERICANS”.

While I think it is a very good thing to honor and remember those that have fought and died to keep this country free, we, as Christ followers have to remember as well that our citizenship is in Heaven.  We may be Americans, but more importantly, we are Christ followers.  We have countless men and women that have given their lives for this country and our freedom.  But we have to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for this whole world (and us individually). 

Adding to those thoughts, we need to realize something.  All to often, we get these out of order.  And it’s easy to do so, because we can often see the results of the sacrifices made for our freedom.  They are tangible.  We see the families of those lost.  We can visit places like Arlington National Cemetery.  So it is easier to wrap our minds around these sacrifices, and because of that, we celebrate, remember, and honor these more than the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

Our allegiance, as Christ followers, needs to be Christ first.  I’m not saying not to have pride in your country.  I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t be honoring the men and women of our military.  I’m not even saying that we should cease to be patriotic.  Anyone that knows me knows that I have a high respect for our military.  I love this country.  The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays every year.

But what I am saying is, if you are a Christ follower, you need to be living for and celebrating Him more than our country.  You need to be placing your allegiance in Christ above your country, meaning that if and when something goes against Christ and His teachings, we follow Jesus.  With or without our country, and the freedom that has been fought and sacrificed so hard for, none of us really have a chance if it wasn’t for Jesus.

Our military men and women have a long history of fighting for our freedom, and I am so thankful for that.  But Jesus is the one that made the ultimate sacrifice that paid the price for our sins.  A price that we could never pay on our own.  Because the wages of sin is death, and He paid the price for anyone and everyone that is willing to follow Him.  The apostle Paul tells us about this sacrifice and what it really means for us.  In Romans 5:6-8, he writes;

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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So, while you are celebrating Memorial Day, remember first that it is more than just a 3-day weekend and an excuse to grill.  It is about honoring and remembering those that have given their lives for this country.  And it is right that we do so.  But also remember that the ultimate act of sacrificial love was performed over 2,000 years ago, on a cross, by a man that didn’t deserve what He went through.  Jesus willingly went to the cross for my sin, for your sin, for the sin of the world.  Ultimate freedom is found in Him, and only Him.

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In the Stillness

Day by Day
dc Talk “Day by Day”

For the past few days, I’ve been conducting sort of a personal experiment.  One that I never thought I would willingly do of my own decision.  I’ve been getting up at 5 A.M.  Why?  Well there are a few reasons.  One, I have been convicted that I need to set aside more time for personal Bible study and prayer.  I try to focus on my relationship with God, but I’ve discovered that if I don’t set aside time first thing in the morning, then I let the busyness of my life and schedule get in the way.  There aren’t a lot of things to distract me from my quiet time when I am doing it before 6 A.M. 

But that isn’t the only reason.  I was doing pretty well with my quiet time over the last few weeks anyway.  I was just making sure that I got up a little earlier than I needed to, so I could spend some time with God before I started the rest of my day.  And it was working pretty well.  Then, I read an article that has been circulating in the ministry/Christian living circles the last couple of weeks.  In it, the author stated that he regularly got up at 3 A.M, did his quiet time, and began his day.  I kind of laughed.  There is no way I could sustain that schedule.  I’m too much of a night owl (even getting up at 5 A.M. this week, I can’t seem to get to bed before 10:30). 

But there was something that caught my attention in his article.  Part of his morning routine was at least an hour on the treadmill.  In his effort to give his mornings completely to God (which is an admirable goal), he was giving at least an hour to taking care of his body physically.  A few months ago, my wife and I were taking that pretty seriously, and were going to the gym regularly.  Because of a few different issues, we let our gym membership go, however, so that focus hasn’t been there.  I realized I needed to start taking care of myself better.  I was doing well with my spiritual side, but I had been neglecting the physical side.

I live in the desert.  Carlsbad, NM regularly hits triple-digit temperatures during the summer, and we’re almost there (101 is the projected temp tomorrow), so doing anything physical outside after my workday is not necessarily the best option.  So, this past Sunday, knowing I needed to leave the house around 7:45 to 8:00 to get to the church to finalize everything for our services, I got up at 5.  I did my quiet time (drinking plenty of coffee to help this night owl stay awake and focused).  Around 6, just as the dawn was breaking, I left my house on a walk.  The path I walked was the same that I was regularly walking when I was going to the gym a few months ago as well. 

Screenshot 2017-05-24 12.15.31It’s a gorgeous walk, that ends up being around 2.67 miles, most of which wind along the Pecos River here in Carlsbad.  I repeated the wake up time on Monday, but because of a nasty mist/rain going on, I didn’t make the full walk.  I tried, but the closer I got to the river (we live a few blocks from it), the harder it was raining.  I had headphones and my cell phone with me, so I turned around and went back home because I didn’t want to take a chance on ruining my electronics. 

Tuesday, I woke up and did my quiet time, but was not feeling well, so I went back to sleep for a little while.  I got up and did some sermon prep, but didn’t want to neglect my walk two days in a row.  After finishing up the study I was doing for sermon prep, I went on my walk in the mid morning, before returning to my work.  And then I come to today, and the inspiration for this post.  I actually woke before my alarm even went off, got my coffee ready, sent off an e-mail prayer chain that I needed to make sure I remembered, and settled in for my quiet time.

God spoke to me so much in that time today.  I have actually already written another article based on something that He opened up to me this morning, but it’s going to be my next submission to the local newspaper.  I’ll post it here on Saturday morning, after it’s been published in the paper.  But it wasn’t just my Bible reading and quiet time that impacted me this morning.  When I left for my walk, it was a crisp 49 degrees.  Pretty chilly on a day that is supposed to hit the mid 90’s this afternoon.  But I went anyway.  I would actually rather walk in that cool of weather vs. close to triple digits in the evening. 

As I got down to the river area (lovingly referred to as “The Beach” around town), the Sun was just rising over the pine trees on the other side of the river.  The water was almost completely calm.  I love that area of town.  I know how pretty and peaceful it can be.  But something was different this morning.  I don’t know if it was because of how cool the temperature was, or that there was not another person to be seen at the moment, or what.  I was completely awestruck with the beauty that God had given me this morning. 

While I have been studying and having quiet time before going on these walks, I also try to use my time walking as prayer time as well.  I have Christian music going in my headphones, and I just try to pour my heart out to God.  But I was almost speechless this morning.  From the beauty of the river and the sunrise, to the fish that were breaking the surface of the water, feeding as I walked across the footbridge from one side of the river to the other, God was just surrounding me with His love, and the beauty of His creation.

Pecos RiverMy wife and I have a different view of things.  I like to experience the beauty of a moment and just take it it.  She wants to be able to look back on these moments, and experience them over and over again.  What do I mean?  She takes tons of pictures, I don’t.  I just want to soak in the moment (plus, i have my phone strapped to my arm and it’s not that easy to take pictures that way).  So the picture I have here is from her this morning.  She took a walk about an hour after I got back.  But the beauty is still there.

I don’t know why, but today just reminded me to try to see the beauty in everything.  We get distracted by the world around as, and just go through the motions.  At least I know that’s what happens to me.  Maybe it’s because I have been a little more focused on spending time with God in a tangible way in the last few weeks, but He showed up in a big way today, reminding me of His grace, His love, and His beauty.  He’s probably been trying to remind me of all of those things a lot recently.  I just finally allowed myself to slow down enough to see it.  And I’m glad I did. 

Slow down.  Spend time with God.  It doesn’t matter if you get up early, stay up late, block out a chunk of time in the middle of your afternoon, or whenever, just find a time that works for you.  Focus on your relationship with God.  You never know what you might be missing when you don’t. 

thoughts-from-a-crosseyed-jesus-freak

Keep Your Focus

CleVs.Bos

Last Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Boston Celtics with an embarrassing 40+ point win.  Boston couldn’t do anything, and it looked as if they had just completely given up.  I, along with just about anyone that I heard say anything about the series assumed it was over.  Cleveland, who had won both of the first two games in Boston, was coming home and was going to easily win the next two games to sweep the series and go to the NBA Finals.  There was little doubt, especially since Boston’s star player had been ruled out for the rest of the playoffs due to an injury in the first half of game two.

The problem is that Cleveland seemed to take this for granted as well.  They seemed to just assume they had the series won, and it was going to easily fall to them.  And during the first half of game three on Sunday, that is exactly what seemed to be happening.  The Cavaliers took a commanding 21-pt lead at one point, entering halftime with a 16-point lead.  I actually stopped watching the game at that point, helping out with something else around the house.  I thought the game was over.

That is, until the fourth quarter started and I happened to glance at the game again.  That huge halftime lead had been cut to single digits.  So, I started watching the game again, hoping that the Cavs would hold on and start playing with some purpose again.  But that didn’t happen.  Boston, who looked completely out of the series and ready for the off-season fought back and hit a game-winning three-point shot with .01 seconds left.  LeBron James, who played the entire fourth quarter, went scoreless in it.  If you follow basketball at all, you know that is something that rarely happens. 

So what happened?  How did a team that was dominating the entire playoffs, and especially this series, give up a 21-point lead to allow Boston to steal a game in Cleveland?  It’s a pretty simple explanation, and it is definitely something that we, as Christ followers, can learn a lot from as well.  Continue reading “Keep Your Focus”