Look Up!

Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

light-man-new-year-hope

During the summer before I entered the fifth grade, my cousins were home. Their dad was in the Air Force, and they were preparing to move to Japan. I always loved when they came to visit (still do). We played, laughed, talked, and enjoyed that time. There was one particular day that I remember well.

My young brother had been playing in a plastic swimming pool earlier in the day. He has a great imagination and if my memory serves me correctly, he was pretending to play baseball. He would pretend the ball was pitched to him. He would pretend to hit the ball and then he would round the bases. Home plate was the swimming pool of course. There was always a play at the plate, and he would have to make a head first slide into the swimming pool in order to beat the tag.

Well, he left all of his gear in the pool. Or at least he left his bat. This was not your typical plastic wiffle ball bat. It was a molded plastic bat made to look as though it had wood grain in it. The plastic was thicker than a normal wiffle ball bat. You couldn’t bend it over your knee like you could a wiffle ball bat. As the bat sat in the pool all afternoon, it slowly began to fill with water.

That afternoon, my older cousin, my brother, and me were out in the yard. My cousin began to swing the water-logged bat. For some reason my Atlanta Braves hat was in the pool as well. My cousin picked up the hat had tried to hit it.

I was standing about twenty feet to his left. Almost in perfect position to be playing third base if we were playing on a short field. For a second, I looked down. I looked away. I cannot remember if I happened to look back at what he was doing or if someone called my name. I am leaning toward the latter. As soon as I looked back toward him, I saw the bat flying through the air, spinning.

At this moment all things turned to slow motion. It felt like a minute before the bat got to me, but it had to be a split second because I had no time to raise my hand to block the bat.

BAM! The bat crashed into my face leaving those fake wood grain impressions.  As I grabbed my face, I could feel blood running through my fingers. I screamed!

My dad and my aunt were in the front of our house painting shutters. They didn’t move when they heard me scream. I guess I must have screamed a lot. They just thought I was being dramatic. So, my older brother obviously disturbed by the blood ran and got my dad. When we got the bleeding stopped, I got into the car and he took me to the doctor. I looked into the mirror of our Volkswagen Beetle and my nose obviously no longer straight. The doctor popped it back into place and then followed up with surgery a week later.

For a split second I had looked down. I often wonder what would be different if I had been looking up. What if I would not have taken my eyes off of the bat? There is no way of knowing what the outcome would have been. I only like to think that I could have had time to pull my arms in front of my face. Maybe I could have walked away that day with two bruised forearms instead of a broken nose.

In Daniel chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar looks down from his rooftop to his kingdom below. He sees the great Babylon – the city that he built, the palace that he built, the hanging gardens that he built – his kingdom. He boasts of his greatness and his glory. And his kingdom was great. He did had two of the ancient wonders in his kingdom – the forty-foot-high double-encased walls that chariots could ride on and the famous hanging gardens. By worldly standards, he was on top. He had everything that anyone could want. He was the most powerful man in the world. So, he did what powerful men do. He looked down and he admired the kingdom that he had built. He was distracted from looking up by all of the wonderful and glorious things that he had built.

But, as he looked down, he was about to receive a lesson from above. A year prior to his rooftop boast, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. It was a horrifying dream. It was a dream that Nebuchadnezzar could not figure out. It was a dream that was about his future. No one in the land could interpret the dream for the king except for Daniel, the man of God. Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that his dream was a prophecy about his fate. A tragic fate that would leave him humiliated. If he did not change his arrogant ways, he would be driven out from his kingdom and made to eat the grass like the oxen (Daniel 4:4-27)

Nebuchadnezzar looked down on his kingdom and he boasted arrogantly about how great he was. In Daniel 4:31, the words of his greatness were still in his mouth with a word from heaven came down and decreed his fate. Nebuchadnezzar was immediately driven from men and began to eat grass like an ox (Daniel 4:33). How humiliating! At one point he was at his highest height. At another point, we was brought as low as you could possibly get.

What do you look down on? What kingdoms have you built that you take pride in? We build kingdoms of friendship, grades, sports, and reputation. We build kingdoms of wealth, houses, jobs, and families. We take pride in how much money we have. We take pride in how big our house is. We take pride in how good our children are. We take pride in how good our grades and our jobs are. We look down on these little kingdoms, and we like Nebuchadnezzar declare how great we are and how great our little kingdoms are. We look down on our social media profiles and we admire the number of notifications that we get. We live and die by the number in those little red circles. They give us a false sense of security about how great we are.

Others don’t look down on little kingdoms and say, “How great I am!” You look down on yourself and think about all your shortcomings. You look at everyone else’s kingdom and think that you are not worthy. You don’t like the life you’ve been given and you certainly don’t enjoy it. You would probably never be caught boasting and bragging about how great things are. But, you too are looking down on your kingdom, and perhaps you would do everything in your power to keep your life miserable. N. D. Wilson has a quote in his book Dandelion Fire that says, “Self-loathing and self-worship can easily be the same thing. You hate the small sack of fluids and resentments that you are, and you would go to any length, and betray anything and anyone, to preserve it.” Self-loathing – looking down on yourself – is still a form of worshipping your own little kingdom.

What happened to Nebuchadnezzar after his humiliation is a lesson for all of us to learn. In Daniel 4:34, Nebuchadnezzar says, “At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to the heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever.”

Nebuchadnezzar looked up. He looked up to the heavens and realized who was really in charge. He confessed that God is the Most High. He took his focus off himself and looked up to God.

Nebuchadnezzar’s fall and restoration is a lesson for us all. Let’s learn from his mistakes so that we are not humiliated like him. Take your eyes off of yourself and your kingdom. Look up. Look up and see the world around you, nothing you have built is greater than the world that God has built. Look up from your phone. Look up from computer. Look up from your job. Look up and recognize that God is the King. Look up to Jesus, the one who was lifted up for your sins (John 3:14-16).

Looking down leads to destruction. Looking up leads to life.

Look up!

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New Music: The Burning Edge of Dawn by Andrew Peterson

Leaving a Mark, Music, Uncategorized

The Burning Edge of Dawn

In the summer of 2000, I first heard Andrew Peterson when I listened to his second album, Carried Along. In 2002, I first saw Andrew Peterson in concert not long after his third album, Clear to Venus, was released. Joined by Laura Story and Gabe Scott, he opened that concert with “Land of My Sojourn” by Rich Mullins from his A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. I had just finished a biography about Rich Mullins. At the same time, I had also discover half.com and I was in the middle of completed my Rich Mullins CD collection.

Andrew Peterson’s music and storytelling struck a chord with me then and it still does now. So, when I hear that he is releasing a new album I immediately pre-order it. The Burning Edge of Dawn is Andrew Peterson’s first full length album since 2012.

I have been listening to three of the songs from the album since early September, and I have had a quick listen through the album this morning since the full download was available. His thoughtful lyrics have already encouraged me.

While I am sure that all of these songs will be my favorite at one point or another, here are a few tracks that have grabbed me so far.

#3 “We Will Survive” – We have all been in a place of cloudy uncertainty. In those times, we need someone to remind us of God’s goodness – to tell us the story we need to hear. We need a voice of clarity to call out above the many voices within us and tell us ” there is nothing left to fear and nothing left to hide.” We all need someone to look us “in the eye and say we will survive.”

#8 “Be Kind to Yourself” – This is a song that he wrote for his daughter. An encouragement for us all to be kind to ourselves, even “when the voices in your mind are anything but kind.” While the love from a father for his daughter shines through, the message of God’s love for his children is crystal clear.

#10 “The Sower’s Song” – This is a powerful song from Isaiah 55 and John 15 with images of God as a gardener who will bring about his purposes.

I am looking forward to many more listens through this album. Listen, download, and buy this album here

Also read Andrew Peterson’s interview at the Gospel Coalition here

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Tell the Story

Christian Living, Evangelism, Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

When I have exciting news to tell, I cannot keep it in. I have to tell somebody or it feels like my inside will explode. I am sure that most of you are like me. When something fantastic happens to you, you cannot wait to tell it. When you have good news you have to tell someone. Our instatwittersnapface culture has pushed people into a new realm of pressure that says we must find new and creative ways to share news. Our news feeds and pages are cluttered with newly engaged couples, newly expectant couples, and others who just have to tell their stories. We have a motivation to share our good news because we want our friends and family to experience the joy and live in the moment with us.

You will likely never receive a text from someone that says, “Hey, the most amazing thing happened to me, but I’m not going to tell you about it.” There are two reasons you probably will never receive a text like that. One, the grammar is correct, and it is written in a complete sentence. Two, no one has a life changing event and keeps it to themselves.

In Daniel chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar has a life-changing event. This man of great power makes a proclamation about the God of the Universe to the entire world. He declares this message “to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all earth (Daniel 4:1).” As we continue to read in chapter 4, we see a man who has been personally affected by the almighty God of the Universe. He is humbled, and God reveals to Nebuchadnezzar who he really is – a powerful, mighty, great God whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion endures from generation to generation.

As a followers of Christ, we have been changed by a personal God. Jesus Christ came to this earth as a man, went to the cross, and stood in our place. He carried the weight of our sin and in exchange he gave us his righteousness. In Christ we have the guarantee of a new life and a hope of a resurrection. This is the best news ever. This is life changing. This is a story that has to be told.

The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a story that must be told “to all peoples, nations, and languages.” This is the greatest story ever told.  The almighty God of the universe, the greatest author of all time, has written us into His grand story. And he has privileged us to be his storytellers.

Coming Home

Leaving a Mark, Parent, Uncategorized

“Home is not as much of a place as it is somewhere that you belong, somewhere that you are accepted.” Tim Keller

Over the past several years left the country to go on a mission trip. Our church has been very involved in missions over the last decade, and I decided to try to go to as many places that I could in order to share the gospel, encourage believers, and do whatever was needed.

There are two things that I like about traveling. Enjoying the journey and going home. I have been blessed to travel to many great places in the world. Over the last several years, I have fallen in love with all kinds of people. Some of them were specific people who are now very dear to my heart. But, generally I have come to a place that I just love people. I am amazed and intrigued by the differences and similarities of cultures that I have visited. There are things that are quite different such as languages, dress, gestures, and food. Yet there are similarities such as friendship, laughter, affection, and need for Christ. I love seeing the beauty of the world that God has made. I love exploring new places (new to me anyway). I enjoy trying new foods and drinks (this is something that I especially like to do. I think it all started with my first trip overseas to Japan in 1994. I even brought back a lot of soda cans with me because I was so intrigued by the exotic sodas.).

As much as I love the journey, I love coming home. Tim Keller says that home is not as much of a place as it is somewhere that you belong, somewhere that you are accepted. Within the past seven years, I have gotten married and been blessed with three wonderful children. Every day since my wedding has been an adventure of new things and a deepening of my understanding of home.  So whether I am coming home form a long trip or just a day at work, one of my favorite parts of coming home is the outpouring of hugs from three little people and a beautiful, loving wife who make the return home as good as the exploration of a new place.

A Mother’s Day Prayer

Leaving a Mark, Prayer, Uncategorized

IrisOur Father, God, creator of all things.  We praise you for all things and in all things.  We especially praise you and thank you today for mothers.  On a day that has been set aside to honor our mothers we lift up prayers of petition on behalf of mothers.

We pray for new mothers who are coming to terms with new responsibilities.  Give them strength to rely on you.

We pray for expectant mothers who are wondering and waiting.  Give them the ability to trust in you.

We pray for mothers who are tired, stressed, or depressed.  Give them the endurance to serve you as they serve their families.

We pray for mothers who are struggling to balance the tasks of work and family.  Give them the perseverance that they need to glorify you in the home and the workplace.

We pray for mothers who are raising children on their own.  Remind them and teach them that you alone are our help.  Help us all to realize that God’s help can come from his body, the church. Let us as a church rise up and help these mothers.

We pray for mothers who have lost children.  Give them the comfort and support that they need in times of darkness and despair.  May their hope be in you.

We pray for mothers who have adopted children. Give them the ability to love these children as you have loved us and adopted us as your children.

We pray for those who care for the children of others as childcare providers or foster mothers. We thank you that they have dedicated themselves to loving and providing care.

We pray for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.  Give them the opportunities to serve as mothers in the Lord for those who are in need. Fulfill their desires.

Bless all mothers that their love may be deep, tender, and reflective of your love. Strengthen them and equip them that they may lead their children to know you and follow after your ways.

In Christ Name We pray

Amen.

I’ll Come Back

Discipleship, Faith, Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

For the last several months, my son has wanted to go to school.  I know this is unusual and in about 5-10 years, this will not be his sentiment toward school. But, as of now I think it is pretty cool.  I want him to be a young man who is inquisitive and wants to learn.  So far, he has lived up to this desire of mine.  He is bright, and he surprises me often with the amount of things that he can remember and recall.  I know that most every three-year-old is little sponges, soaking up everything they see, hear, touch, taste, smell.  He has an incredible imagination and he makes me laugh often. I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying these first years.

Next week, he will begin pre-school.  It is only for two days a week, and only a few hours a day. But, this is a big step for us as a family and him as a young boy. I know that parents have been sending their children to pre-school for years, and for some this is no big deal. But, for me this is huge. He will be in a place where he will have to make decisions for himself. He will have to be alone in some things.  He will not have mommy and daddy right beside him, telling him what to do every minute of the day. I know he will have good teachers and good guidance,but it won’t be me.

This is the first time that I have really released my son into the world. I can tell that he is excited to go.  But, I am a little hesitant. My desire is to keep him close, protect him, make decisions for him, and watch over him. But, I know my job and my responsibility as a parent is to launch him into the world. He is only three, and he still has many years under my watch.

My only prayer is this: “God, may I be a man after your heart who desires to know you and make you known.  May my life be an accurate reflection of who you are so that my son will know you. Give me wisdom to prepare him for the obstacles that he will face.”

My highest priority is for my son to know Christ and follow him.  If he is a great athlete and a follower of Christ, praise God. If he is a great writer and a follower of Christ, praise God. If he is a great musician and a follower of Christ, praise God. If he does none of these things yet is a follower of Christ, praise God.

In our last conversation about going to school, I asked him if he was excited about going to school.  HE said that he was very excited.  I asked him why he didn’t want to stay with his mommy anymore. He looked at me very matter-of-factly and said, “I’ll come back.”

I like this. I know that whatever happens in his life, I will always be his dad. I know he is going to make mistakes and bad decisions. I know he will fail and take the wrong paths. But, want to show him the roads to follow, the paths to take, the way of following Christ. I want to show him this so that when he is on his own he will know the way home. Wherever, he goes, he will know how to come back.

One of my favorite artists wrote a song about this very thing.  I think it is fitting to end this post with “You’ll Find Your Way” by Andrew Peterson.

Joy in the Journey

Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

This fall, I read through the Hobbit with 11 other people.  We met at my house.  We read the story out loud. We laughed, we sang, we scratched our heads, we ate, we played. It was refreshing.

On Monday nights for an average of an hour and a half we used our imagination as we delved into Middle earth, guided by the pen and wit of Tolkein. It was a welcome break from the busyness taht can sometimes swallow us in the daily grind.  Our little journey was quite like the journey of the dwarves and Bilbo Baggins that Tolkein penned in 1937.  As the weeks went by, the group slowly got to know one another.  Their personalities began to emerge.  They begin to fit together as a group.  I watched them gather outside of my home for other events. It was really cool to watch and to be a part of this little adventure.

What I learned from the Hobbit Book club:
1. The Hobbit is a great story
2. Reading the Hobbit is really fun
3. Reading the Hobbit out loud is a lot more fun
4. Trying to sing all of the songs in the book can be a difficult task
5. Tolkein is pretty much a genius
6. By the middle of the story Dwalin really comes into his own
7. The Shire would be a desirable location to live if your residence was Bag End
8. Spending time with real people is way better than facebook
9. Watching teenagers and 20-somethings interacting with your kids is awesome

I am writing this on Monday night when I would have been preparing for the book club. The adventure is over for now. I guess this is how Bilbo felt when he got back to his hole in the ground. He had his gold and he had his memories.

I don’t have gold, but I won’t forget our little adventure. Thanks guys.

 

Follow Me, I Will Make You…

Leaving a Mark, Spurgeon Quotes, Uncategorized

Christians are unfinished. You cannot wait until you think you are ready to follow Christ, because you will never be ready. You will never be fit to follow the Lord. You will never be worthy to be His Child, if you wait until you have made yourself that. When Christ calls us, he calls us to a new life. He makes us new people.

When Christ calls us by His grace, we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also think of what He can make us. It is “Follow Me, and I will make you.” We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be. It is not, “Follow Me, because of what you are already.” It is not, “Follow Me, because you may make something of yourselves.” But, “Follow Me, because of what I will make you.” Verily, I might say of each one of us as soon as we are converted, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (Spurgeon, The Soul Winner)

When Christ called, the disciples they did not become fishers of men instantaneously. But, by following Christ, He made them into what he said he would.  He made them great teachers, preachers, and evangelists. If it is not yet evident what Christ is making of you, continue to follow him patiently and faithfully, and you shall see!

Cultivating a Life of Prayer

Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

I recently started reading the book The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre as a part of Tim Challies “Reading Classics Together”.  You read one Chapter a week, make notes, think of application, and then add to the comments on Tim Challies blog (he posts about the book every Thursday).  It is a great activity and a way to read great books together with a lot of people.  There is often great insight in the comments.

As I read along, I will be posting a few short thoughts on each chapter.  If you would like to begin reading through this book, here is a link to the book (http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Life-Prayer-The-Life-blood/dp/1845505867/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338576730&sr=8-1). Read through the book and visit challies.com on Thursdays to read along.

Chapter 1 – The Life of Prayer

In chapter one, McIntyre talks about the importance of cultivating a life of prayer.  This seems to be more intimate and thorough than desiring simply to cultivate a time of prayer. I have always thought of the importance of having a dedicated time of prayer.  For instance, it would be good to pray for 30 min to an hour or more in the morning.  I’ve tried this many times and have failed miserably. Praying is difficult work.  It takes focus and endurance.  Satan, our adversary, does not want us to be people of prayer.  I have oftentimes thought that he attacks our communication with God.  He distracts in times of our Scripture reading (God communicating with us) and our prayer (us communicating with God).  If Satan can keep God’s people cut off from God, then he has accomplished much.  He has declared war on the children of God, and we desperately need to stay connected to our great General.

I love the idea of not just developing an intentional time of prayer, but cultivating a life of prayer.  Andrew Bonar (McIntyre’s colleague and predecessor) said, “I see that unless I keep up short prayer every day throughout the whole day, at intervals, I lose the spirit of prayer.  I would never lose sight any hour of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and if I have this sight I shall be able to pray” (Andrew A. Bonar, Diary, 7 October 1860). It is this kind of consistency and continuity that I desire.

I also loved how McIntyre discusses the image of a praying life in the Old Testament as walking with God. Too often, I view prayer strictly as closing my door, getting on my knees, and lifting up other brothers and sisters.  What is needed is to cultivate a life of prayer that abounds in ceaseless and uninterrupted connection.

Often times, those who are called upon to pray may find themselves stuttering and stammering, looking for the right words to pray. McIntyre says that a cultivation of this type of life (a habit of prayer) “will secure its expressions on all suitable occasions.”

John Piper says that “prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic  intercom.” McIntye concludes this chapter with a great quote about prayer. May we remember this as we pray. He says, “Soldier of Christ, you are in the enemies territory, keep to the Lord’s watch.”

On Preaching, Teaching, and Prayer

Leaving a Mark, Uncategorized

Here is a great little anecdote from Charles Spurgeon for those of you preaching and teaching this Sunday.

 “When a poor man was breaking granite by the roadside, he was down on his knees while he gave his blows, and a minister passing by said, ‘Ah, my friend, here you are at your hard work. Your work is just like mine; you have to break stones, and so do I.’ ‘Yes,’ said the man, ‘and if you manage to break stony hearts, you will have to do it as I do, down on your knees.’

The man was right, no one can us the gospel hammer well except he is much on his knees, but the gospel hammer soon splints flinty hearts when a man knows how to pray. Prevail with God, and you will prevail with men. Straight from the closet to the pulpit let us come, with the anointing oil of God’s Spirit fresh upon us. What we receive in secrecy we are cheerfully to dispense in public. Let us never venture to speak for God to men, until we have spoken for men to God. Yes, dear hearers, if you want a blessing on your Sunday-school teaching, or any other form of Christian labour, mix it with fervent intercession.” From the Soul Winner

Make much of prayer as you prepare you lessons for this Sunday!