A Reminder: Why We Do What We Do

God did it again. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but He never ceases to amaze me. This past week was a little rough. It came at a time that I had purposefully taken some time away to reconnect and refresh my relationship with God. When I came back from that time, it just seemed like there was just some things working against me to get me down.

I was feeling a little discouraged in my ministry. Nothing big. But a few small things were popping up here and there and I let that distract me from all of the good things that were happening. Then, on top of all of that, NW Oklahoma caught on fire. It hasn’t really hit the Canton area, at least not yet. But there is devastation to the west of us. People losing homes, fields, farms, entire herds, and even a couple of lives, with no real end in sight unless we get some rain.

All of this just led to even more discouragement. That’s what I felt when I woke up this morning (Sunday). I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I just felt down. So I spent a lot of time asking God to help my attitude and to be able to preach with conviction. I didn’t want to let a little discouragement to cause me to just go through the motions, which I tend to do every now and then.

As our service ended this morning, and people were leaving, I finally understood why I had been feeling the way I was feeling. The enemy didn’t want me on my game today. He wanted me to just go through the motions or to phone it in. I had noticed while I was preaching that a couple of teens were in the back and seemed pretty emotional. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, but I quickly found out.

They were both feeling the call to give their lives to Jesus and surrender to Him in baptism. After the service was over, I was able to talk with them about why they wanted to be baptized and to get things ready for tonight. They didn’t even want to wait until next Sunday. So as I write this, our baptistry is getting filled, and during our adult evening service tonight, we will have two new sisters in Christ and they surrender their lives to Christ through the act of baptism. (This won’t be published until Monday morning, so celebrate with us after the fact!)

That’s God’s perfect time again. That’s God reminding me that this is why I have given my life to serving Him. Watching these two girls come to an understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them makes all of the down times worth it. There is nothing better this side of heaven than getting to be a part of someone giving their life to Jesus. All the struggle, all the discouragement, all the restless nights are made worth it when we get to be a part of someone finally understanding that Jesus is the only thing that is worth anything in this life.

As I was talking with these two this morning, I congratulated them and then reminded them that this was the best decision that they were ever going to make in their entire lives. And that is all the encouragement I need to carry on in this calling of ministry that I have in my life. Even a Crosseyed Jesus Freak needs that reminder occasionally, so if you’re reading this and feeling discouraged in your walk with Jesus or in your ministry, take heart. There is a reason we do what we do. We have a Savior that loves us and died on the cross for us. That is the only chance that anyone has, so share Him with any and all who will listen! It’s all worth it in the end!


Why I Do What I Do

I love Paul’s letter to the Romans. I find myself going back to it over and over again in my personal quiet times. There is just something about it that resonates with me. Recently, as I was reading, a thought stuck out to me, and I realized it is exactly why I do what I do. Before I get lost in that, let’s look at the section of Romans that I was reading through. Paul is making his plea for his fellow Israelites to come to faith in Christ. To be saved through the blood of Jesus. He wants to see them accept who Jesus is. Romans 10:11-13 reads;

11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (CSB)

Paul is telling us that there is no distinction between Jews and everyone else, which is great news for us. Salvation through Jesus Christ is open to all! And that was a hard lesson for those of Jewish backgrounds to accept. But Paul continues his argument, and it is the next few verses that really stuck out to me. Romans 10:14-17 reads;

14 How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (CSB)

That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I write here on Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s why I teach Sunday school, Bible study on Sunday evenings, and youth group for the teens on Wednesday evenings. That’s why I preach!

Jesus is our only hope!

This world needs Jesus. He is the only thing that can heal the brokenness of this world. Jesus is our only hope! And the world needs to hear about Him. Like Paul says, how can they call on Him if they haven’t believed? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? God called me to preach His word. I didn’t choose this life. I accepted His call. And I don’t take that lightly.

There is nothing special about me. I’m an imperfect human being that tries his best to follow the call of God on his life. I’m not writing this post as a “look at me”. I’m writing this to remind us all that this world needs Jesus. He is our only hope. This world is broken and dying, and only in Jesus Christ, and His redemption of us on the cross, do we stand any chance.

So, if you are someone that Christ has called to preach His word, stand strong! And let me just say this. If you are a Christ follower, you have a story to tell. You might not be called to preach full time, but you can tell others about Jesus. You can show them that faith in Christ is the only way to navigate this world.

There is nothing special about the people who preach Christ. It is their message that is special. It is their message that is important. It is the gospel…the salvation offered to those that might give their lives to follow Jesus. That’s why I do what I do. Honestly, I could care less if anyone knows my name. It is my desire to step out of the way and let Jesus shine through me.

Every Sunday, those that lead our service where I serve gather to pray just before our worship service begins. It’s a practice that I started because I wanted us all to have our minds focused on God and glorifying Him. Part of my prayer is the same every time. “God, help us to lead well. Help us to step out of our own way, and let You shine through us. May it be your words that are heard this morning, and not ours. May everything we do this morning be for your glory”.

This world needs Jesus.

In other words, my prayer is always, “Help me to not make this about me. This is about You God, and You alone.” This world needs Jesus. There is no doubt about that to me. So, let me ask this. What are you doing to spread His word to those you come in contact with? Preachers, remember that it is not about us. It’s about pointing others to Him!


God is Always Faithful: Times of Transition

You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent on Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.  Life has been a little hectic to say the least over the last couple of months.  With all the craziness, however, one thing has remained perfectly clear.  God’s plan and timing so perfect, especially when we don’t understand exactly what is going on.

At the beginning of July, I was informed that my job in Carlsbad would be ending at the end of the month.  Around the same time that that happened, I was contacted by two different churches asking me to come visit with them for potential preaching positions.  We worked out the details to travel to these two church beginning in August and began fervently praying that God would open the doors to where He had in store for us next.

Well, God never disappoints.  I knew that in my head, but I also knew that His timing is not always when we want things.  I was preparing myself for the possibility that I would not step directly into another ministry position right away.  But this time, God had different plans. 

These past couple of months have been an whirlwind of emotion as we have said goodbye to friends and the town that we have called home for the last three years, and as we have moved to Canton, Oklahoma to begin preaching at Canton Christian Church.  Canton CC logoWhile I understand God’s faithfulness to us, I am absolutely blown away at how quickly He led us here to Canton.  We arrived in town just under a week ago, and I preached this past Sunday to officially begin my ministry here.


I don’t know what you are going through.  Times are tough and life has a way of throwing curve ball after curve ball at us.  Don’t lose hope.  God’s timing and plan is perfect.  He has proven that to me over and over again.  If you are going through something that you need prayer to help keep you focused on God, please reach out to me or someone else you trust.  I would be honored to pray with and for you.  Above all, never lose sight of the fact that God loves you!  Life is never promised to be easy, but it is worth it when we follow Him with our whole lives. 

As I get settled in here in Canton, I plan on trying to get back to regularly posting.  I’ve missed writing the last couple of months as life has just been crazy.  As my wife said after this past Sunday, “The best is yet to come!”


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.


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.


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. 


Be Still

A few days ago, I wrote about the idea that we wear our busyness as a badge of honor (read it here).  We are so busy with everything under the sun we don’t have time to share Jesus with other people.  What prompted that article was another article by another minister that was suggesting that we spend too much time studying the Bible.  I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that we spend too much time studying God’s word.  I do think however, we don’t spend enough time living out what we study in scripture. 

I suggested that we maybe find some other things that we are involved in and figure out a way to take a step back so that we can use that new found time to build relationships with others.  That’s is going to be the most effective way to share Jesus and what He has done for you.  But, I also think that we need to find ways to get away from everything every so often.  Completely unplug, and spend some time one-on-one with God. 

unpluggedBusyness is an epidemic.  We are constantly taking on more and more.  With the aid of technology, we have become great at multitasking, so much so that even when we are trying to unwind at the end of the day, watching tv, or whatever, we have our phones or tablets in our hands because we just can’t slow down.  I’m the worst at that.  Scrolling through Facebook or playing a game while trying to watch shows with my wife (she does it too). 

Busyness is an epidemic.

When people ask me how I’m doing, or how things are going, my go to response is something along the lines of “staying busy”.  Why?  Could it be that we are afraid if we aren’t so busy we seem to be running around “like a chicken with our head cut off” that others will think that we are slacking off?  Is it that we’re afraid that they will think that we aren’t putting enough effort into a task if we even appear to be able to relax?  It’s got to stop.  Especially in ministry.  Ministry is one of those vocations where there will always be more work to do.  That isn’t a ticket to slack off, but just a realization that we will never run out of things to do.

What ever happened to this simple notion; “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

There are times that we need to just stop, get still, and just know Him.  Rest in Him.  Relax in Him.  Spend time with Him.  I’m afraid we have forgotten that in our culture today.  I know that I have at times.  But it is something that we need to get back to on a regular basis.  It could be just for a few minutes each day, which is something that I would suggest.  But I think we could benefit from a greater chunk of time at times as well.

I want to point something out first.  This is something that we can see Jesus modeling for us during His three years of public ministry.  There are many occasions noted throughout the Gospels of Jesus going off on His own, usually up a mountain, and spending time with God.  If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to do this, then I think we have the same needs. 

While I strive to spend a few minutes alone with God daily, I want to take some extended periods of time as well.  I have something in mind too.  It involves going up a mountain, but it doesn’t have to for you.  gcc-picBecause of my relationship with Guadalupe Christian Camp (being on a couple of camp boards), I have the opportunity to spend time at the camp when/if I need to.  That’s my plan.  I don’t know how often yet, but occasionally I will pack a bag, get some easy to make food, and head up the mountain to spend some time being still and knowing that He is God.  I may write, I may read, I may do nothing but pray and meditate, but I will slow down and unplug from the world around. 

How are you going to “Be still, and know that He is God” in your own life?


Unexpected Encouragement: God’s Perfect Timing

Isn’t God’s encouragement amazing?  His timing is perfect, but almost every time we are surprised when it happens.  Just yesterday, I wrote about some questions that were hanging heavy on my mind and my heart.  I wouldn’t say that I was depressed, but I was feeling a little down.  I was feeling inadequate, and had lost my focus on God’s amazing grace.  I had forgotten that my strength is found in Him and not on anything that I do on my own. 

God’s timing is perfect, but almost every time we are surprised when it happens.

Even after I had written those words yesterday morning as I was preparing to preach, God began to remind me of who He is, and whose I am.  Through the music i was listening to, He reminded me that His grace is enough.  You can read all about that here.  But it went further than that.  As we went into worship with our faith family yesterday, other things just kept happening to remind me of God’s all sufficient power in my life.

God began to remind me of who He is, and whose I am.

Then the kicker happened today.  I got an unexpected message on Twitter from a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a long time (I wrote about him here).  All he asked was for my phone number.  Thinking that he had probably just gotten a new phone or something and just wanted to make sure he had my number if he needed to reach me later, I sent him my number and didn’t think much else about it.  That was until about three hours later and my phone rang.  Byron’s name popped up on the caller id.


(Left to right: Kelley, Me, Byron)

I wasn’t expecting to hear from him.  Like I said, I hadn’t talked to him in a long time.  But here he was calling.  I answered, and he went on to tell my about how much my writing here has been an encouragement to him lately.  How he is always excited when he sees a new article pop up on my Twitter account.  How my text to him a couple of months ago about Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” had been an answer to his prayers, as he is considering going back to school to get some form of degree in Worship Ministry and potentially pursue vocational ministry.

I was blown away.  Here he was thanking me for being an encouragement to him, and how God had used something from me to help give him confirmation about his prayers.  But what I was able to tell him is that his phone call was an answer to prayer for me.  He was encouraging me through thanking me for my encouragement to him.  I love writing on here, but hearing from someone that is excited to read what I write gave me so much encouragement to keep doing what I am doing.  And it gave me some extra motivation to press on and actually write my book. 

So, I’ll say it again.  Isn’t God’s encouragement and timing amazing?!  He knows exactly what we need and when we need it.  Byron and I were best friends in middle school and high school.  Then I moved away for college to pursue ministry as my calling.  We still consider each other great friends, but distance and life happens.  I was a groomsman in his wedding, and he was the best man in my wedding, but we just don’t have the opportunity to talk that much anymore.  Yet today, when he called out of the blue, it was like no distance or time had ever passed.  We picked up where we had left off pretty much.  And that is because we have the bond of not only friendship, but also brotherhood through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Isn’t God’s encouragement and timing amazing?!

If you are down or discouraged, take heart my friends.  God knows your pain and He knows your need.  You never know when and where His encouragement is going to come from.  Keep your head up and trust God! 


What God Taught Me About Prayer

About three weeks ago, I challenged our church to partner with the leadership and me to pray for our church and the impact we can have on our community for a full 24 hour period.  We broke the 24 hours into 15-minute time slots and asked people to sign up for slots that they would commit to praying for the whole time they signed up for.  I committed to take any of the time slots that were still left, so that we were assured of covering the full 24 hours.

As I write this now, we completed our 24-Hours of Prayer about three and a half hours ago, and as I’ve reflected on the time spent in prayer, focused on our church, I realized that God has taught me a lot through this process.  I’m still processing everything (and exhausted because I was up most of the night), but I feel that there is value for you to hear what I learned as well.

Prayer is one of those disciplines that I always feel like I can and need to improve in, and having a commitment to praying for a specific amount of time caused me to set up a plan for how to follow through and keep my commitment.  My wife graciously helped me cover some of the open slots, but in the end I had three hours and forty-five minutes that I had committed to praying during.  A big chunk of that time (two hours and 15 minutes) was in one block, from 1:15-3:30 AM.  I’m not saying this because I’m trying to brag about praying this much.  In fact, I was really concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and pray constantly through that entire time.

There were others that had committed to large chunks of time in one sitting like that as well, so to help them out, and myself, I put together a prayer packet, with a suggested order of prayer, Psalms that they could read and pray through, different prayers of Jesus they could read and pray as well, and also a selected reading from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline about prayer.  It was through this process that I discovered something that helped me so much.  Prayer is more about setting aside time to communicate with God than it is about the words that we say.  It should be a conversation between you and God, instead of just a one-sided listing of things you want from Him.

So, what did I specifically learn?

1. Start your prayer time with Confession

Starting prayer with time of confession to lay all of your sins at God’s feet really sets the time apart.  The time I spent in confession last night means more than I ever thought it would.  A prayer partner of mine taught me to do this a few years ago, but I never really understood the benefit of it until last night.  I started my prayer time confessing those things that I just can seem to shake in my life, and it was the usual reaction on my part.  That is until I realized just how broken I really am.  That was a hard realization, and it led me to literally weeping for a few minutes in my brokeness.  And it caused me to cry out to God like I hadn’t done in a long time.

Crying out to God like that helped me connect with Him again.  It led to the rest of what I learned throughout the rest of the night.  I got into the flow of a conversation like I was literally speaking to a friend in the same room.  That was something that I hadn’t felt in a long time either.  My two hour and 15 minute time block of prayer seemed to fly by after I was able to settle in to that conversation like I had.  If you are having a hard time connecting with God, make a point of spending time in confession to Him on a regular basis.  It may just be that the sin in your life is keeping you from that connection, and that confession and crying out for His help is all you need to reconnect.

2. There is value in praying for individuals

My prayer time actually started with a simple 15 minute session at 7:30 PM.  Since I just had 15 minutes, and was just finishing up dinner as well, I decided that that 15 minutes would be best spent praying for each individual that had agreed to pray during our prayer event.

Later on in the evening, after my time of confession during my long block, I wrote out a list of all the people that attend our church (we’re a small congregation, so it wasn’t too hard to name each person), and then spent some time praying for each individual and family.  It made me appreciate each person, even if there are things that I don’t agree with them on.  How can you hold a grudge with someone if you are committed to praying for them on a consistent basis?

3. Find your own style

For me, I concentrate best with music on in the background.  Complete silence allows my mind to wander, or I just flat out fall asleep (especially at 1:30 in the morning).  So I put headphones on, turned on my Pandora shuffle, and listened to Christian music while I was spending time with God.  In fact, when certain songs came on that really connect with me and are like prayers from my heart, I treated them just like that.  I stopped talking, and just worshipped along with the song that was playing.  They became my own prayers, and I even literally hit my knees a couple of times during the songs, because I was drawn to throw myself down before God.

The point I’m trying to make here is simple.  Find your own way to remain focused, especially if you are undertaking a long prayer time.  If it wasn’t for music playing in my ears, no matter how committed I was to praying, I would have either fallen asleep or I would have been just daydreaming.  But knowing that about myself, I was able to correct it and spend that time focused on God.

4. There is value in praying others’ prayers

I knew there I was going to have a hard time praying my own words for that long, no matter how committed I was to it.  So I took my own advice, and spent time praying through prayers from Psalms and Jesus’ own prayers.  I did this during my 6:00-6:30 time slot.  After my 3:30 session ended, I caught a little bit of a nap, setting an alarm for 5:50, so I would be awake for this short 30 minute session.

I was out of it, but awake enough to be able to follow through with my commitment.  This seemed like a good time to pray some already written prayers, instead of having to come up with my own words.  But at the same time, I wanted these to become my own prayers as well.  So I read through them, concentrating on the words, and placing them in my own life.

5. Journaling is great

Writing is something that I find great joy in.  I process things through my writing, whether someone else will ever read those words or not.  Journaling during my prayer time, however, is not something that I have been very consistent with over the years.  One of the journals that I have is a combination of Bible study notes, thoughts, and even a few prayers, although not many.  I had that laid out, not really sure what I was going to do with it, but at one point, when I had run out of words, I flipped through that journal, reading every prayer that I had written there.  It was a great experience, but it was also a little terrifying, because I realized some of the things that I was struggling with now, and had confessed earlier, were the same things I was confessing throughout this prayer journal, dating back several years.

I also spent over an hour total writing down some of my prayers.  That was a great experience, because I was able to really concentrate on my words, and communicate exactly what I wanted to say to God at that moment.  It is also great because now I have a record of my prayer time.  I prayed some pretty big prayers, and now I have a record of that, so I can look back at later and see how God has chosen to answer those prayers.  One of the prayers is actually going to be worked into my sermon this week, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t have them recorded.

6. Silence is part of prayer

Prayer cannot just be one sided.  If you are doing all of the talking the whole time, there is really no value in it.  It’s almost as if you are just dictating to God.  There is value in “Being still, and knowing that He is God”.  Sitting in silence, and just listening for what God may be trying to tell you is one of the best parts of prayer.  This world is full of noise, yet when we can shut out the outside world (even if that means listening to music) and just patiently waiting for God really helps our connection with Him.

This 24-Hours of Prayer that we did with our church has been an eye-opening experience for my.  In a lot of ways, I was actually disappointed when my time was over.  That is until I realized that I can spend time with God in these same ways anytime I want.  I just have to be committed to setting aside the time to spend with Him, and I am going to try to make this a daily thing for me from here on out (maybe not almost four hours a day).

What do you need to do to improve your prayer life?  Is there anything I can do to help?  Trust me when I say that spending committed time with God in prayer can truly change things!

Guilty (October 2015 Newsletter Article)

I’ve never been a fan of shows like Judge Judy but a clip appeared online this week that caught my attention.  It’s only about 30 second long, however, it caused a great deal of laughter between Kelley and I.  In the clip, the plaintiff is explaining what was in her purse that was stolen, apparently by the defendant.  She is going through the list of what she had to replace, and said that she had an ear-piece in the handbag.  Then, out of nowhere, in a move of stupidity, the defendant speaks up and says, “There was no earpiece in there ma’am” to Judge Judy.  And Judge Judy starts laughing hysterically.  This guy, not even realizing it, admits to stealing the purse.  In under 30 seconds, the case is over, the defendant has incriminated himself, and Judge Judy has awarded the plaintiff an award of $500.  The guy was guilty, but what made the situation so funny is that he accidentally admitted to the crime.  Who knows how the case would have gone if he had just kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t.  The man got what he deserved. 

We’re guilty too.  Romans 3:22-23 states, “22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”.  For all have sinned.  We are all guilty.  And honestly, if we think about it, if we were to go before God trying to hide that sin, we would mess up just like the defendant in front of Judge Judy.  We can’t fool God, and He’s going to know exactly what we did.  But the beautiful thing for us, as Christians, is that we don’t have to appear before God on judgement day alone.  We will have someone to fight for us.  Paul hints at this in a way in I Timothy 1:15-17, which reads, “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Paul is saying that he is that guy on Judge Judy.  The one that has sinned and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is guilty.  But Jesus has offered him mercy to show us all that His mercy and grace are available to us.  That should be comforting.  We don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing when we come before the judge.  We have someone that will confess us before Him.  Matthew 10:32-33 records Jesus as saying, “32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”  If we have confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior before men, and not been ashamed of Him, He will confess us before the Father.  We have someone that will be our advocate.  In fact, to finish out what Romans 3:22-23 is saying, read Romans 3:24-26.  It says, “24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

I, for one, am glad that I have Jesus.  I will not be ashamed of the fact that He is my Lord and Savior.  I want to live that through my life.  And He will be my advocate in front of the Father.  I won’t have to try to keep myself from saying “there was no earpiece in there, ma’am”.  We all know I’m guilty, but Jesus’ blood has paid the price for my sin, and for your sin if you’ve confessed Him before others!  No more being ashamed of Him!

Just Stop It (July Newsletter) 

God has been teaching me a lot recently. There is a common theme, however, that just keeps coming up over and over again. It’s something that I have always known in my head, but it’s something that for whatever reason I’ve had a hard time truly implementing in my life. I don’t know, maybe I have just kind of gone through the motions of my walk with Christ for so long, that I just couldn’t get to the point that Jesus has been calling me to over and over the last few weeks. And finally it broke me while Kelley and I were attending Jr. High Camp a few weeks ago. It took getting away from the normal, day-to-day activities, and easy access to technology (although I did have cell and internet service at camp) for me to finally hear and understand Jesus in a real and impactful way. What was He saying? Well that’s what I want to say to you today, as you read this article as well.
It’s not enough to just go through the motions anymore. Just stop it. Let Jesus become real in your life, or quit pretending that He is. In other words, let’s realize that awe that we are supposed to have of a God that gave it all for us, even while we were still sinners. If we aren’t able to be in awe of God because of His love for us, do we really understand what He did for us by going to the cross and dying for our sins? Romans 5:6-8 puts it this way;
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. 
If that doesn’t make you realize how awesome our God is then I don’t know what will. Again, it took getting away from the normal routine of life for it to become real to me this time. And I hope I remember to step away from the normal on a somewhat regular basis to reclaim that awe of God again and again. There is a lot of junk and muck that gets in the way through day-to-day living. We are all called to ministry in one way or another, and let me be the first to warn you; Ministry is messy. Being in ministry, whether paid ministry or volunteer ministry, can easily be described as being in the trenches. And being in the trenches is a very messy thing. Because in the trenches of ministry, we have to deal with our humanness and the humanness of those around us. It can bog us down, and we can become jaded. Through that jadedness, we can easily lose sight of the awesomeness of our God. But in that muck, in that messiness that we live in, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  
So take a step back, stop going through the motions, and find that awe of God again. Do whatever it is that makes you realize His awesomeness over and over again. While you’re reading this, Kelley and I are on vacation, and part of that vacation for us is taking a step back and making sure we are still in awe of the One that gave it all on the cross for us. Psalm 46:10 tells us that God said this about Himself; “Be still, and know that I am God…” That’s a call to be in awe of Him, and He tells us how to do it. Be still. Take a step back. Be in awe of the One who created it all and the One who gave it all because He loves us. Our God is and AWESOME GOD! It’s time we start living like it. God Bless