Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biological Weapons

I'm not sure if it's the cloudy morning, the remains of yesterday's tasks that wait for me on my desk, or my first two hour work-out since joining the gym, but I'm struggling to get myself in gear this morning.....

I'm not a big fan of the television show "24", but I have watched it on occasion. I got home about 8:45 last night and just wanted to "veg out" (and I don't mean eating vegetables...yuck!). I saw a preview on TV about last night's episode of "24" and was intrigued enough to watch it.

Since I haven't watched the show much before, I can't tell you exactly what the storyline was, but last night's show was about a government contractor that built some biological weapons and planned to use them against Washington. Jack Bauer ended up getting infected by the chemical when a storage container ruptured. His fate is yet to be determined, but it's not looking good for ol' Jack. (from what I hear, this is the point of the show!)

I am intrigued by the idea of biological warfare. I've heard about biological weapons for most of my life. I've seen depictions in movies and television shows of what a war fought with biological weapons might look like. It's extremely scary for most people to think about the possibility of that ever happening, especially on our home soil.

As I was running on the treadmill early this morning, I was thinking about the show last night and how powerful those biological weapons could be. In an instant, they can literally infect massive numbers of people.

Then an interesting thought came to me..... what if believers around the world thought of themselves as "biological weapons" for the cause of Christ?

After all, we are the children of God - 1 John 3:1-3 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

In Matthew 5:13-14, we are given a vivid description by Jesus himself about what His believers are supposed to "be".... "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

We are called to be salt.... not to just our neighbors, but to the EARTH! We are called to be light.... not just to our friends and family, but to the WORLD! Would it be a big stretch to think of believers, who are truly being salt and light, as weapons in the hands of God to penetrate the darkness that attempts to hold the world captive?

I don't think it's a stretch at all.... listen to the words of Jesus as He gives us the Great Commission(an authoritative order, charge, or direction) in Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Doesn't it sound as though God's plan for redeeming the world includes you and I as believers? He could have certainly done it without us, and He does it in spite of us, but His battle plan was for us to be "Biological Weapons" - children of God that are infecting the world with the gospel of Jesus. I guess you could say that we are designed to be Weapons Of Mass Discipleship! (I know... it's corny!)

Am I a "Biological Weapon" for the cause of Christ, or have I allowed my life to get so out of focus that I'm more of a hindrance to the cause than I am a warrior?

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, March 30, 2009

How $225 Changed A Life Forever

Wow! We had a super busy weekend at Skipstone. We had a group of sixty students and leaders from Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Peachtree City here for a weekend retreat. We facilitated the zipline for them on Friday night, and some team building activities on Saturday. On Sunday, we attended the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro and spent the afternoon leading their student ministry leaders through some team building activities. It was a fun, but exhausting, weekend!

Something very neat happened while we were at FBC Jonesboro. During the morning worship service, they had three young girls who were baptized. The first was a cute little girl who had to walk on her tip toes to keep her head above the water. She read her testimony of praying to receive Christ as her personal Savior after talking about it with her dad at home.

As they introduced the second girl, I could tell that Shondi was thinking about something. The girl was a little older, and her testimony was that she had been coming to church with her grandparents since she was very young. She had heard the gospel many times, but in Sunday School one morning she heard it for the first time with her heart and she prayed to receive Christ.

As the third little girl was presented, I could tell that a "light bulb" came on for Shondi. She recognized the last two little girls as campers from last year at Skipstone. They were sisters, whose grandparents sent them to camp last summer at Skipstone.

As the third little girl began to share her testimony, she confirmed what Shondi was thinking... she recalled praying to receive Christ as her personal Savior while attending camp last summer with her sister!

Now I'm sure this doesn't have the same meaning for you as it did for us, but when you invest your life in something, the "fruit" of that labor brings an overwhelming sense of joy and reassurance that your labor is not in vain. We were so blessed to know that through the ministry of Skipstone, we were able to be a small part of this young girl's life. It's not often that we get to see how the decisions made each Summer at camp end up changing a life or a family.

If I'm honest, I probably wasn't as attentive during the sermon as I should have been. My heart was heavy for the hundreds of other kids out there who are in situations just like that little girl. They live in homes where mom and dad may not be the primary spiritual influence, or maybe they are no spiritual influence at all. Were it not for loving grandparents, who seized the opportunity to invest in the spiritual development of those girls, they may never have come to know Christ.

One thing that most people don't realize about the ministry of Skipstone is that more than a third of our Summer campers come to us on some kind of scholarship. That means that we don't turn children away who can't afford to come to camp. That also means that we are responsible for raising financial support every summer to make that possible. After all, it doesn't cost any us less to house, feed, and provide staff and programs for campers on scholarships.

That being said, we are projecting the need for 250 scholarships this summer. That may not sound like a huge number, but if you do the math it works out to well over $50,000 needed in the next six weeks just to cover the cost of camp for kids like these two little girls.

In the past, we have just absorbed whatever shortfall we have when all of the scholarship funds are in. My heart is heavy that the ministry will not be in a position to do that this year. Unless God's people step up and give generously, we will undoubtedly have to turn some of these kids away this summer.

Now I realize that some of you are thinking "where is your faith? Surely God will provide for those needs!" and your are right. This ministry is built on a foundation of faith. God will meet those needs, and God works through people! We would be foolish and unwise stewards to cripple the ministry of Skipstone by absorbing a $50,000 loss when God has already provided the resources to meet this need. My part is to make the need known. His part is to move the hearts of people to action.

Will $225 for a week of camp really make a difference? It certainly did for those little girls... an eternal difference. Is the need really as great as we say? Here is an email we received this weekend from another loving grandmother.....

Dear Mrs. Moody,

"I am contacting you because I read your story and it truly touched me, just the goodness of God got to me. A couple of years ago I sent my grandson to your camp before it became Skipstone and he counts it as the best thing that ever happened to him in his short life. He is now a ninth grader and lives with us again and boy did he have a tough time before he made it back to us. He's a great kid with so much energy and is open to try new things which I love. Unfortunately, I am disabled and my husband was laid off from the mill so camp is a luxury that we certainly cannot afford but he deserves it, I'd even say he needs it. Do you have any scholarships available? I'll understand if you don't as I know times are very tough but I'm praying you do. I won't mention it to my grandson, so he won't be disappointed if it doesn't work out but I hope it does. Thank you in advance for any consideration given."

Could God be speaking to you about giving a scholarship this summer? Would you be willing to sacrifice $35 worth of "something" (eating out, entertainment, etc) a week for the next six weeks to be a part of making a difference in the life of a child? If you had been sitting where we were sitting Sunday, and had seen the joy on the faces of those little girls, you wouldn't think twice about it!

Whatever It Takes,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Reign On My Parade"

The last couple of days have been pretty crazy around here, thus the two day hiatus from blogging.

Shondi and decided to take some time off on Thursday since our weekends have been so busy lately with hosting groups at the camp. I say we took "some time off", because we always end up finding something "work related" to do if we are anywhere near home! We did manage to pull of a lunch date and an hour at the gym together (I know.... seems a little counter-productive doesn't it?). We did enjoy just spending the day together. Our offices are right next to each other, but some days we only cross paths a couple of times in a whole day!

I got a late start Friday because of the rain. When it's raining hard, I try to be a gentleman and shuttle folks from the parking lot to the lobby so they don't have to "swim"! When I finally got to my office, I tried to start blogging, but the "life" switch had already been turned on and my office was a revolving door. After a few failed attempts to focus, I just gave up on blogging and got busy with the day's work.

As I sit here in my office on a quiet Saturday morning, the rain and thunder are singing a song outside my windows. It's funny how much you hear people talking about the rain, or lack of rain, whichever the case my be. The AJC (of which I'm not a big fan) even has a Weather VENT now. It's a place where people can comment on, or complain about, the weather. I happened upon it today and I thought one particular post summed it up pretty well "I love the weather vent. It's the epitome of complaning without any result."

It's amazing what the weather brings out in us and tells us about ourselves. We complain when it's hot and dry in the Summer. We complain when it rains too much, especially if it ruins "our plans" for the day. We complain when it's cold in the Winter (but want it to snow!). We complain about raking the leaves each Fall, and about the pollen that covers our cars in the Spring. We want the weather to "cooperate" with us, so that we can do our thing. If you don't believe it, ask yourself if you've ever said "well if the rain holds off" or "if mother nature will cut us some slack". The reality is that we have all probably complained about the weather at some point in our lives, because it has caused a change in our plans.

As I read that "Weather VENT" this morning, and even thought about how the storms that are forecast for later today are altering my plans, I was drawn to a verse in Proverbs 16:9 "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." It's true isn't it? We can plan our day out, schedule out our week, and even strategically map out our future, but it's inevitable that our plans change. One of the phrases used almost daily around Skipstone is "Okay guys, change of plans....".

Life never seems to happen like we plan. Often God allows us to go through storms that alter our course. Sometimes He allows us to find the end of ourselves in the deep waters of circumstances. Occasionally, we may go through dry seasons in our life, when nothing seems to be going right. Often we are distracted by the "pollen"... the residue that rests on us as a result of living in a sinful world.

When we go through those times, our perspective is that God is somehow trying to "rain on our parade"! We wonder why He allows things to happen that mess up our plans. After all, if we are spending time with Him, and attempting to live for Him, doesn't it make sense that He would want to bless our plans?

It all goes back to the thing that God is teaching me about perspective. I can only see what is behind me and where I am right now, and my perspective is limited even in that. But God's perspective is so much different than that. He sees everything in my path, and often He sends a storm, a flood, or a drought to direct my steps to the path that will ultimately be the best for me.

Here is the whisper....It is not God's desire to "rain" on your parade. His desire is to "REIGN" on your parade.

If we will surrender our plans to Him, we'll see the storms for what the really are.... divine interventions sent from the hand and heart of God to direct our steps.

Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

Let Him REIGN on your parade today!

Whatever It Takes,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Greater Things Are Yet To Come

I got a great surprise when I opened my email this morning. We've been working on some master site planning for Skipstone for the last several weeks. We are "dreaming out loud" about what we feel God wants the ministry to look like in the next several years. This morning, I got the first preliminary drawing of the main campus. I don't know why it made me so excited..... after all, it's only a piece of paper with some building footprints on it!

I think I'm most excited because now we will have a better tool to use to share with others the vision that God has placed in our hearts for Skipstone. We still have a lot of work to do on the planning, but the anticipation of getting one step closer to moving forward gave me a great jump start to the day!

I wonder how many of us give much thought to the vision that God has for us personally..... do I get as excited about fulfilling God's purpose for my life as I do about ministry and buildings? Do we realize that God has a perfect plan for our lives and that He has equipped us all with abilities and spiritual gifts that are to be used to fulfill that perfect plan?

One of my favorite new worship songs is "You're The God Of This City". It was written by a band from Northern Ireland called Bluetree. The song was born when the group had the opportunity to play in a bar near Bangkok, Thailand as part of a week long ministry effort there. It will be worth your time to read the story of what happened. The thing that I love about the song is that for us personally, in our families, in our occupations, in our relationships, and in our walk with Jesus, GREATER THINGS ARE YET TO COME! What an awesome reminder for all of us.

I came across a video of the song performed by Chris Tomlin. I was moved deeply as I thought about my calling, the vision for the ministry of Skipstone, and how even though the master plan is awesome to me, the MASTER's plans have even greater things ahead for us! I pray that you will realize that's true for every believer today!

Whatever It Takes,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweatin' With The Oldies

It feels a little weird to be writing my blog at 8am instead on 6am, but it's a necessary part of a new discipline that I'm working through.... it's called exercise! After procrastinating for several weeks, we took the plunge yesterday and joined the gym.

I had my first workout this morning and let's just say that I'm thankful that most people my age aren't at the gym early! While the senior adult couple on the treadmills next to me read the morning paper and hardly broke a sweat, I looked like somebody had thrown me into the club pool! They have a really cool room where you can watch the morning news while you workout. That would be great except I had so much sweat pouring down my face that I couldn't see the TVs. I think I heard them snicker at me a couple of times.

It's been a long time since I put any effort into taking care of my body. It's not so much that I didn't think it was important, just that it wasn't a very big priority in my life in light of everything else I have going on. As I have been praying about priorities, I've become much more aware of the fact that my body needs to be healthy and strong in order to accomplish the vision that God has given us for Skipstone.

I saw a shirt once that said " If our body is the temple, then I'm a mega-church!" That's pretty funny (I almost bought it!), but the truth is that our bodies are the temple of God. He doesn't reside in fancy brick buildings with imported stain glass, He takes up residence in us...."Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

This past weekend, our church had their Middle School D-NOW weekend. The theme was "Locker Room" and they talked about how when big things happen in the locker room, big things happen on the field. The key verse was I Timothy 4:8 "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." A funny thing happened when they ordered the t-shirts for the event.... they came back with the wrong verse! Instead of I Timothy 4:8, they had I Timothy 3:8 "Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain." Needless to say, Eagle's Landing has 250 shirts for sale at a very reasonable price!

As I've thought about this journey of "getting in shape", especially in light of I Timothy 4:8, I'm prayerful about four ideas that will help me physically and spiritually:

1. Attitude - Whether we are getting in shape spiritually or physically, our attitude is critically important. If I see my faith as a list of "do not's" as opposed to a guide for victorious living, I'm not likely to grow very much. If I focus on what I "can't eat" instead of the good stuff I "should eat", the results may be disappointing.

2. Environment - If I want to develop my spiritual life and become a strong Christian, I must choose the right environment. I need to surround myself with people who are striving to do the same, and that love me enough to hold me accountable. The same is true with physical training.... I must drive pass the Krispy Kreme store with the "hot sign" on or I will have a lot more running to do. (incidentally, I found it interesting that an hour in the gym this morning burned about 300 calories... about like cutting one coke out my day....this is not going to be easy!)

3. Intentional - This is one of my words for the year. In every area of my life, I want to be more intentional. Spiritual growth doesn't just happen.... I must be intentional about my time with God. Contrary to what we see on TV, there is no magic way to get in shape... it just requires being intentional about going to the gym or watching what we eat.

4. Commitment - This doesn't require a lot of explanation. Spiritual growth is a direct result of fresh commitments to God in our everyday walk.... surrendering more and more of our life to him. Probably the reason most of us don't get in shape or stay in shape is because we are not committed to it - at least not for the long haul.

I'm looking forward to hearing what God has to say to me in the coming weeks. I know that if I'm not spending time with Him, and tapping into Him as the source of my strength, this gym thing just isn't going to work! I can't do it, but HE can..."...Christ in me, the hope of glory!" Colossians 1:27

Have a BLESSED day and Live For Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Encouragement Encounters"

We had an amazing and extremely busy weekend at Skipstone. Liberty Hill Church of Canton and Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church of Atlanta both had retreats here this weekend, which we facilitated ziplines for at 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday evenings.

We also took six of our staff to Eagles Landing FBC to facilitate recreation and team building for over 200 middle school students as a part of their Disciple Now weekend. It was a very challenging weekend, but it was awesome to know that we were a small part of the great work God did in the hearts of young people. We know of at least 57 students who prayed to receive Christ as their personal savior this weekend.

We spent time on Sunday after church with a young couple who feels that God is calling them into camp ministry. We enjoyed a nice lunch together and just spent some time encouraging one another in the ministry.

That brings me to what's on my heart this morning... the wonderful ministry of encouragement. While not everyone we meet is unkind or rude, meeting an encourager is becoming a rare thing. If you want an interesting lesson on encouragement, take a note pad along with you for a week and jot down the times someone speaks a word of encouragement to you. My guess is that most of us could get by with only an index card on which to chronicle our "encouragement encounters" and would still have room to list on our own attempts to encourage someone else.

It might amaze you the same way it amazed me when I took a quick look to see what God's word has to say about encouragement. Throughout scripture, we find hundreds of references related to the ministry of encouragement. One of the most notable is found in Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

If we could ever grasp that one verse, it would be transformational in our lives, but "building up others" is so contrary to our flesh that we are far more prone to build up ourselves than to consider the needs of others. Even more sad is the reality that we often tear down or criticize others in the process of building up ourselves. We are indeed selfish people!

As I've prayed through this today, I've considered what I need to do in order to become a better encourager. I think the first step is to realize the power of our words. Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue has the power of life and death". Life & death..... seriously? I don't think most of us consider the reality that every word that proceeds from our mouth either speaks life or speaks death. On the other hand, can't you remember a time when even the smallest, seemingly insignificant words of "death" or discouragement spoken to you injured you in way you didn't think was possible? The old adage the "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" could not be further from the truth!

Once we realize the power of our words, we must adopt an Ephesians 4:29 "filter" through which every word we speak is filtered. In other words, is what I am about to say going to pass the test? Is is wholesome? Is it helpful? Will it build the other person up? Will it meet their needs? Is it beneficial for them? If I'm honest, that kind of "filter" would cripple my ability to communicate.... so much of what I say is just rubbish! I just don't see how I can discipline myself to that point.

Which brings me to my last step.... we must recognize that becoming an encourager doesn't start with our tongues or our mouths, it starts with our hearts. What comes out of or mouths starts in our hearts, so we need to get this right at the source. Matthew 15:18 says "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean'." This is great news to me..... because I have already recognized the condition of my heart. I join Jeremiah in calling it what it is "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" Jer. 17:9

I know my heart, but I also know who resides in my heart! The same Jesus who took up residence in my heart when I surrendered my life to Him as a young man is the source of strength that I need in order to surrender my thoughts and words through the filter of His word each day. John 15:5 "..apart from me you can do nothing."

So here's the challenge.... when is the last time you spoke a word of encouragement to someone. How long has it been since you sent an email to encourage a brother or sister in Christ? Are you guilty of bypassing the Ephesians 4:29 filter and speaking unwholesome words that tear down and discourage?

Although I remember a lot of the words of "death" that have been spoken to me over the years, I've overcome a lot of that pain by the words of "life" that people have spoken to me too. I have a file in my desk filled with hundreds of cards and letters of encouragement that students, friends, relatives, and even strangers have sent me through the years. When I get discouraged and think ministry just isn't worth it, I open that file and I'm reminded of the opportunities that God has given me to make a difference, and how those that I took the time to encourage have now become a source of encouragement to me.

Each one of us knows someone who needs a word of encouragement today. Let's choose to be encouragers and be a part of building someone up in Christ today!

Whatever It Takes,

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Blog I Didn't "Feel" Like Writing

Anyone who has ever attempted to keep up a "journal" or "blog" of any kind will probably tell you that there are days when your heart is so full that you can't wait to put it on paper (or online in the case of blogging). There are also days when you dread sitting down to blank sheet of paper (or an empty screen) because you just don't "feel" like doing it for whatever reason.

Today, I fall into the category of the latter.... I really just don't "feel" like blogging today. The last couple of days have been particularly stressful. I'm hurting for some friends who are struggling in a big way financially. I have friends in ministry who are in the midst of battles that I'm concerned about. I'm a little overwhelmed with all that is on my plate (OK..... more like a "LOT" overwhelmed!) I'm intimidated by what I believe God has planned for Skipstone, and wonder if I'm up for the task. I'm struggling to keep my priorities in order in regards to my daily walk, my family, the ministry, and the other commitments that I have. To put in plainly.... "I" am the problem!

Whenever I get to days like today, I always think of my "Mama Betty", my grandmother on my father's side of the family. She was one of the godliest people I ever knew. I can not remember one unkind word spoken from her lips. I'm sure that she had days like today, but I don't think a single person ever knew about them.

She was a fountain of encouragement to me every single minute that we spent together. She believed in me when I thought no one else did. She made me feel like I could do anything. She demonstrated the principle of "loving others more than you love yourself" to me and to everyone around her.

She walked with God. She loved her family. She faithfully served God as a pastor's wife for more than four decades. She never let her circumstances interfere with her calling. She kept her priorities in order. She was a Proverbs 31 woman: "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

One of the biggest life lessons I learned from "Mama Betty" is that we can't live this life based on we "feel". I should probably clarify that... we can't live this life victoriously based on how we "feel". How we "feel" is solely based on our flesh...on how WE view and interpret what's going in our life and circumstances. If we attempt to walk through this life trying to live victoriously based on how we "feel", we just end up being a bunch of frustrated believers, of little use to the work of the Kingdom.

So what's the answer? I can't ignore how I "feel" right? After all, everything I mentioned that is on my heart is real. God created us with feelings, and I feel all sorts of different emotions about these things. Am I wrong?

I believe that "feelings" have their place in our lives, even in our spiritual lives. It's often our feelings that move us to action. If I feel threatened, I fight or run (usually run). If I feel a burden for something or someone, I often act to ease it. If I feel like I have been wronged, I'm apt to try to resolve the situation. If I'm happy or excited, I dance (not really, but thinking about it makes me smile).

The point is... our feelings are real and can be useful to our spiritual growth. The key is that we must lay what we "feel" alongside what is "real". What is "real" is always a better guide than what we "feel". When we put them side by side, the "real" brings what we "feel" into check, and truth is born. Truth brings peace and hope, and suddenly our "feelings" are more about the anticipation of what God is doing than about our circumstances.

When I "feel" alone, I need to lay that alongside the "real" promise of God from Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

When I "feel" scared, I need to lay that alongside the "real" promise of God from Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba,Father.""

The list goes on and on, but the principle is the same... the truth of God's word is the fulcrum on which we balance what we "feel" and what we know is "real"!

How's your balance today?

Whatever It Takes,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Foul Little Lunch Box!

As I walked into the chapel building yesterday morning, I was confronted with the foulest of odors. I searched every nook and cranny, checked every trash can, and made sure that everyone had remembered the "flush" rule the day before. I wasn't able to find the source of the smell, so I went on about my morning responsibilities.

After a few minutes passed, I decided to take another stroll through the building to see if I could at least narrow down the possibilities. It was strange, but I couldn't really smell the odor as strong as I did when I first came in. I began to think that maybe it wasn't that bad and that I was just overreacting.

After another few minutes passed, Shondi walked in the door just outside my office and immediately starting making false accusations against me (I think you know what I mean here!). I explained to her that I was most certainly not the source of the odor and in fact had spent part of my morning trying to locate the source.

Since guys can't find anything (at least that what Shondi says.....OK, she's right), Shondi make a quick trip through the building doing her own search for the "obvious" source of the odor. As kids started coming in, they had plenty of ideas about the possible cause (some of which involved pointing at each other!), but no one could find anything.

Eventually, everyone moved on to their duties for the day, and we fumigated the building with air freshener and lit a bunch of candles with all different fragrances. They actually did a decent job hiding the smell for a time, although I felt like I was at one of those candle and incense stores at the mall because of all the weird aromas in the building.

As the afternoon came to end, the fragrances had pretty much worn off, and the source of the odor had kicked into high gear. The odor was absolutely overwhelming. With the help of Glenn, Randy and Mrs. Carolyn, we narrowed it down to something in the corner room of the lobby. Randy and I searched the attic while Glenn went to get a ladder to check in the soffit and ceilings. We still didn't find anything.

It was almost time for us to leave for church and we were about to call of the search when Glenn picked up a little zippered lunch box from the floor of the little room off of the foyer. I saw the pain in his eyes as he lifted the lunch box towards his nose. There was no doubt that the source had been discovered. Being the curious guy that I am, I had to know how such a tiny little lunch box could produce an odor so foul that it took over a 5000 square foot building for the day.

I slowly tried to open the zipper to see what was inside, but I was on the verge of gagging (and possibly creating another "situation" in the lobby), so I ran out the front door to get some air. I did finally get the lunch box open enough to see that it was a small container of rice and some kind of extremely decomposed "something".

If you know me at all, you know that I love illustrations. I think that's why I enjoy writing this blog every day.... I'm usually just journaling what God has been teaching me in my everyday walk. So what can I learn from the little foul lunch box?

We all recognize that we are sinners. Even as believers, we are still just sinners saved by grace. In fact, the Bible says that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8. Our sin is what separates us from God. If there is unconfessed sin in our lives, we cannot have fellowship with God.

It's important for us to deal with our sin daily, but for some reason, we try to hide it instead. We compare our sins to the sins of others, so they don't seem so bad. We call it something other than what it is... a bad temper, a habit, a struggle, or a "tough time". Sin is sin and sin keeps us from a closer walk with Jesus. Calling it anything else is just lighting a few candles and using up a can of Oust to try to hide what's really going on in our hearts. We want to deal with the surface stuff, but God wants us to deal with the source. Sometimes we don't even "smell" the odor of our sins any more because we have gotten so used to the smell!

Listen for the "whisper"....
1 John 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. To know that God loves me in spite of me completely changes everything for me. When I desire to have "clean hands and a pure heart"(Psalm 24:4) before Him, He can use my life in ways that I never imagined.

So does it matter what we smell like as believers? I think so... "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing" 2 Corinthians 2:15

Clean out the foul little lunch box today...you'll be glad that you did!

Whatever It Takes,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG Should Be Ashamed.....& Maybe We Should Be Too!

I'm sure I'm not the only one outraged at the news of AIG's plans to pay out big bonuses to their executives with the bailout money they received. In fact, so many people are upset that it's been the big headline in the news for several days now, and will likely be until a something is done about it. It's just infuriating to us to know that AIG chose not to use the money they received for it's intended purpose.

I can remember a time when I felt the same way on a much more personal level. A week after Shondi and I were married, we moved to Dallas, Texas to attend Criswell College. We had no money, thought $250 a month for rent was outrageous, and basically just "scraped by" while working our way through school with part time jobs that we didn't particularly enjoy.

One of my mentors as a teenager was a man in my home church affectionately known as "Uncle Ralph". I didn't understand at the time what a genius he was. He had two teenage daughters, and most of our youth group spent half of their lives at "Uncle Ralph's" house. Looking back now, I realize that he made his house the "hangout" all of those years so that he could keep a close eye on his daughters!

"Uncle Ralph" invested a lot time with me as a young teenager. We cut firewood together (again, now I see the genius - free labor), did projects around the church (more free labor!), and just hung out and watched football at his house (we brought the food!).

When Shondi and I got to Dallas, "Uncle Ralph" and his family started sending us a check for $50 a month to support us while we were in school. Now $50 a month doesn't sound like much today, but for the two of us in 1988 it was a lot of money. We always did a "date night" on whichever day of the month "Uncle Ralph's" check came. We didn't necessarily go somewhere fancy, but we always went out to eat.

One particular night will always stand out in my mind. "Uncle Ralph's" check had come, and we were going to a restaurant in Dallas called the "Blackeyed Pea". After we finished our meal and walked out into the parking lot, we were approached by a man who gave us a very convincing story about how his family was homeless and living in their station wagon. He pointed to a raggedy station wagon with a woman and several kids inside that seemed to validate the story. I looked at Shondi and got the "OK", and reached into my pocket to give him the money that was left from "Uncle Ralph's" gift to us. I think it was close to $30.

We got in our car and sat for a minute to take it all in. We felt so good to have been able to help a family in the same way that "Uncle Ralph's" family had been helping us. We watched as the family pulled out of the parking lot and drove away. We stopped several blocks away at a convenience store to pick up some milk on our way home. Several blocks later, we saw the unthinkable..... the guy that we had just given the money to was walking out of a package store while his family sat in the station wagon out front.

It was all I could do not to turn in to that parking lot and give that guy a piece of my mind (or more). We were furious... we could have used that money for so many other things, even our own needs, but this jerk swindled us and went to get drunk to celebrate! Our only consolation was that we both felt that we had given him the money because God lead us to do it.

I've since made it my responsibility to hear God in those kinds of situations and let God deal with the person who may choose to take advantage of me. I will admit that it's rare that God prompts me to give like I did that night in Dallas, it's more often a very specific need that He directs me to.

I could spend some time on this, but what's on my heart this morning is "How does God feel when He looks at how we are using what He gave to us?". I'm not just talking about money and possessions, although what we do with those things says a lot about who we are. I'm talking about the gift of salvation, the spiritual gifts and talent's he's given each of us, and the opportunities he's put before us to make a difference in this world.

I know that He's a loving God, but he's also a just God. I wonder if, at times, he feels about us like we feel about AIG? He's given us everything...life, salvation, talents and abilities, and opportunities to invest our lives in something eternal. I wonder if His heart feels like mine did that night in Dallas when the sacrificial gift I gave was used for something so contrary to what I gave it for?

I wonder if the very reason He is allowing our financial world to crumble is help us see the hypocrisy of our crying and whining about what everyone else is doing wrong, when we may doing the exact same thing with all that God has given to us? I just wonder....

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

Whatever It Takes,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Volunteer Help Needed - Data Entry!

We are looking for a volunteer to help us enter contact information into our database. If you are gifted in this area and would like to help, please contact Chip Moody at skipstone@bellsouth.net or 770-227-8966. Thanks!

The Faith Walk Is No "Cake Walk"

I wasn't sure that I would blog anything this morning. I've had a couple of restless nights, which generally translates into God revealing new truths to me that I won't be still enough to hear any other time of the day. I've been here an hour this morning, studying and reading, and praying about what to share today. It's been a battle this morning to say the least.

I spent almost the whole day yesterday "visioneering" and planning, one of the parts of my calling that I enjoy the most. Most of the day was spent with my friend Bob Cupp, whose kids are students here at Skipstone. Bob is a land use planner who specializes in golf course design. Before you ask, we're not planning to build a golf course at Skipstone! We are, however, working on a master site plan for the campus in preparation for some new construction later this year.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Bob yesterday. It's realy cool when God puts people in our path who share our same passion and zeal for Kingdom work, but have different gifts and talents than we do, and therefore shed new light on the vision. I'm not sure we got everything done on the master planning side of things, but I felt as though we had encountered God in our time of "dreaming out loud" yesterday.

I wonder if the restlessness in my heart the last couple of days is a result of fatigue or an attempt by the enemy to plant seeds of discouragement. I remember very vividly the time in my life when I was shaken from the belief that if we are obeying God, and doing all that He asked of us, that everything would be great and we would feel happy and safe. I grew up in churches that painted that kind of picture of the Christian life.

In the mid 1990's, in a most unsual way, God gave Shondi and I some of the most clear and profound direction we had ever received through a series of bizarre circumstances and an undeniable call to obedience. It was the first of several "walks of faith" that God called us to, the latest of which we are walking today at Skipstone.

There's not time for all of the details here, but God moved us to the small town of Skiatook, Oklahoma. That sounds fairly ordinary, but it was as far from ordinary to us. When we loaded up our belongings here in Georgia, we had no idea where we would be unloading them in Oklahoma. We had no jobs there, we had no reason to go there, and we had no assurance from anyone that we hadn't completely lost our minds! All we knew was that God was calling us to a level of obedience that completley rocked our world.

I remember how excited I was to realize that my faith had grown to a point that I would even consider doing something so far out of my comfort zone. I was certain that the windows of heaven were about to open up and pour down all kinds of blessing on us for taking such a "giant leap of faith".

I also remember the devastation I felt when our van was vandalized and most of our possesions were stolen from our home during the first week we were there. I couldn't beleive that God would allow that to happen after we had been so faithful to hear His voice and to obey. I immediately starting second guessing the move, and convinced myself that I must have "missed" God. Surely he wouldn't have called us all the way to Oklahoma to make our lives miserable. I was ready to come back home!

Since God knew every thought in my mind, He wasted no time in bringing a "prophet" into my path that would become one of the most influencial people in my life. He wasn't a "prophet" in the biblical sense, but he was one of the few people I've encountered that loved me enough to tell me the truth about God's word.... what I needed to hear and not necessarily what I wanted to hear. I was looking for sympathy, but he gave me a spiritual "kick in the rear". I was looking for nuture and assurance, but he told me to Jesus was the only assurance I needed. I wanted peace, but he insisted that initmacy with Jesus was more important.

I wondered during my restlessness last night if perhaps I was geting a gentle reminder that whenever we attempt something for God, we should expect some oppostion from the enemy. As long as we are content to stay where we are in our walk, things may be peaceful, but the faith walk is no "cake walk". We are not guaranteed an easy journey, only a faithful companion!

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Being A "Saturated" Christian

Can you believe all of the rain we have gotten in the last couple of weeks? I'm later than normal getting to my office today because I discovered some new roof leaks that were revealed from the excessive rains this weekend. I also drove around the lake to be sure our High School students would be able to get to class without the canoes this morning!

Our Pastor was talking about the rain yesterday morning during our prayer time. He mentioned that the ground had become so saturated that the water was just standing or "running off". The ground is so full that the water is now flowing out of it instead of soaking into it.

As I thought about that illustration, I began to wonder what a "saturated" Christian looks like. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've met very many.

Now I've met some dry Christians. Those are the ones that walked down an aisle at some point in their past, filled out a card, said a little prayer, and were perhaps even baptized. Unfortunately, their baptism was the closest they ever came to being "saturated", and that was just with water!

I've also met some "damp" Christians. Unlike the dry Christians, these are the ones who really did have a genuine salvation experience. There was a time in their past that they were excited about their walk with Jesus. They may have even served in a ministry of some kind for a period of time. They are damp, but not really "saturated".

I hate to say it, but I've more than my share of "stagnant" or "sponge" Christians. These are the ones who have a genuine walk with Jesus. They are usually involved in their church, know God's word, spend time praying (if only at mealtimes), and most likely are serving God in some way. They are like sponges, soaking it all in. That's fine unless they never "squeeze out" the sponge. The result ends up being a stagnated Christian.

So when we talk about being a "saturated" Christian, what does that mean? To me, if goes back to asking questions... What is that we are thirsty for? We are all thirsty for something, and we have all tried all kinds of things to quench our thirst....money, possessions, good deeds, relationships, and "experiences" untold.

Being a "saturated" Christian means that my thirst has been quenched totally and completely by relationship with Jesus. In Him, I am complete and lacking nothing. Any hint of thirst I have is simply a desire to know Him more completely. He is all that I want and He is all that I need. Now another question.... In light of that description, how many "saturated" Christians do you know? Which category best describes your life and mine?

The good news is that no matter where we are today, we don't have to stay there any longer. We can ask God to give us a desire for "living water" that will quench our every thirst today. One of our good friends in Christian camping uses Psalm 42:1-2 as the verse for their camp "As the deer pants for streams of water,so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

How thirsty are we for God? He's far superior to Gatorade - Is HE In You?

Whatever It Takes,

Friday, March 13, 2009

Selfless Living

I intend to write a book someday about the most selfless people I've ever met. I love surrounding myself with people who are more concerned about others than about themselves. Not only does it bring out the best in me, it's biblical living that is, in itself, a form of worship to God. Billy Graham once said "The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service".

My wife Shondi is one of my spiritual heroes. She's the most amazing person that I know. As I tossed and turned in my bed last night(while she was leading a lock-in for our middle school girls from school), I kept thinking about how much of her life is spent pouring into others. At least a dozen times a day, I encounter her encouraging or comforting a student or staff member. She pours into our staff and our students in a way that almost seems "magical", that in reality is just the result of Jesus overflowing out of her life and into the lives of others.

Matthew 22:36 is one of the most profound passages in all of scripture. The "high and mighty" Pharisees, who were forever trying to "trap Jesus in His words"(Matt. 22:13), were asking Him about the greatest commandment in all of the law. Jesus gave them an answer that they never expected when He said "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I think this is profound in this way... the Pharisees were masters of the law. They knew every word of the law and they devoted themselves wholly to following it. The Pharisees were threatened by the presence of Jesus because the truth of who He was was so contrary to their lifestyle of "being religious" by following a list of rules.

Here's the "whisper".... the majority of people find it much easier to be "religious" than to devote their lives to an everyday relationship with Jesus. Religion requires me to follow a lists of "dos and don'ts", but a relationship with Jesus calls for a total surrender of my life to Him. I am called to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. As I grow into that, He gives me the ability to love others more than I love myself.

There is no way to "make" somebody love their neighbor. You can't put a list of rules together to be sure that people will end up loving others more than themselves. We don't have the capability of loving others more than ourselves. That is only accomplished through a heart that has been overtaken by the love of Jesus.

I think everyday is a good day for a heart check-up. How is my heart today? Has my flesh convinced me that as long as I do "this or that", or as long as I'm better than "so and so", I'm OK with Jesus. Is there any evidence that I belong to Jesus or am I just religious? Am I serving others through the overflow of my heart, which has been overtaken by Jesus or do I serve out of duty, or for my own gain?

Franklin P. Jones once said "Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile."

Love somebody more than yourself today!

Whatever It Takes,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Calling Bigger Than Yourself

In my queit time this morning, I was thinking about the awesome responsibility that God has given me to serve here at Skipstone. It seems that with each new day, new doors of opportunity are opening. The vision that was planted in my heart over twenty years ago has become so "God-sized" that at times I'm tempted to just put on the brakes and say "Lord, I'm not sure I can do this".

I came across an old leadership lesson I used to teach to Sunday School leaders when I was digging through some old files in my office at home the other night. It was titled " A Calling Out Of The Comfort Zone". I laughed as Shondi(my wife) "preached" my outline to me. It was funny because what I thought was "a calling out of the comfort zone" then pales in comparison to how far out of my comfort zone I'm living today.

Don't misunderstand, I walk to my office every morning with a heart full of thanksgiving for the blessings God has given us, both personally, and in the ministry of Skipstone. At the same time, I'm realizing more and more every day that the plans that God has for this place and this ministry are far beyond what I ever imagined.

At times, I'm tempted to quit, or at very least "hold on for dear life!". Trying to balance my walk with God, my marriage, my family, my calling to this ministry, and my commitments is overwhelming. Making time to be still and listen for God's "whisper" to my heart is a daily challenge. Keeping my priorities in order is daily struggle. More often than I want, I find my self no longer moving forward, but instead looking for my comfort zone so I can "hold on" and play it safe.

I may have shared this video clip before, but Francis Chan did a great illustration of this using a balance beam. I pray it encourages you as it did me. When my life is over, I long to hear "well done thay good and faithful servant"!

Whatever It Takes,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Deliver Us From Evil

Well we've finally come to the last petition of the Lord's Prayer from Matthew 6 "but deliver us from the evil one." I've said before that it's my personal opinion that most of us don't have to deal with the devil very often. I say that because in my observation, the average Christian stays tripped up, bound up, and defeated by their own flesh so often that the devil need not worry about us.

Having said that, it is true that the devil wants to destroy people, especially anyone who is attempting anything for God or is engaging in Kingdom work. John 10:10 references this when it paints a picture of what satan's goals are "only to steal and kill and destroy". Never underestimate the power of satan. He is constantly setting traps, hoping to destroy God's people and steal away our joy of life in Christ.

I've always thought of the "deliver us from the evil one" petition as a prayer for protection, but it's actually much more than that. The word "deliver" in the original language is not so much a picture of building a wall of protection, but speaks more of "snatching us away" from the evil one. I think this is important.

The protection we are offered in Christ is not just a passive "I hope you have a peaceful day" kind of thing, it's an active, offensive, perhaps even preemptive strike from the mighty hand of our Father against anything that the devil would try to do to us today. It goes back to the first words of this prayer, "Our Father". A good father doesn't just "hope" his children are safe, he is aware of what is going on and when he senses danger, he acts to protect his own. Even animals have that instinct, so how much more so does "Our Father" protect His children?

One of my favorite authors is Max Lucado. In my studies on this passage, I came across something that he said that I think wraps this up well....

"The phrase is best understood with a simple illustration. Imagine a father and son walking down an icy street. The father cautions the boy to be careful, but the boy is too excited to slow down. He hits the first patch of ice. Up go the feet and down plops the bottom. Dad comes along and helps him to his feet. The boy apologizes for disregarding the warning and then, tightly holding his father’s big hand, he asks, “Keep me from the slippery spots. Don’t let me fall again.”

The Father is so willing to comply. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Ps. 37:23–24 TLB). Such is the heart of this petition. It’s a tender request of a child to a father. The last few slips have taught us—the walk is too treacherous to make alone. So we place our small hand in his large one and say, “Please, Abba, keep me from evil.”" by Max Lucado

Have a BLESSED day and Live For Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Four Words To Fight Temptation

Today we find ourselves almost to the end of the Lord's Prayer from Matthew 6. We dealt with forgiveness yesterday..."forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". That brings us to a verse that in my opinion is often misunderstood.

You have probably heard someone say something along the lines of "the temptation was just too strong, and I gave in". Maybe you've even said that yourself. When we get to Matthew 6:13 "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.", we stumble upon something that every believer faces every day, perhaps almost every moment of every day - temptation.

Now temptation in and of itself is not a sin. In fact, one definition of temptation is "an enticement to do wrong by a promise of pleasure or gain". We know that temptation is not a sin because Jesus lived a sinless life, yet the best illustration in scripture regarding temptation has Jesus as the "star" of the scene. It's found just a few chapters before we get to our text on the Lord's Prayer.

Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

The best way to avoid being led into temptation is to follow our role model Jesus. Unlike our temptations, which are mostly initiated by our own flesh, Jesus is dealing with the master of deception, satan, who even tries tripping Jesus up with scripture. So what was the strategy Jesus used to fight temptation? I think it can be boiled down to four words that we can carry with us every day.

Those four words aren't "I shouldn't do it", "Please help me Jesus", or even "I will not sin". The four words tap into the only power we have against temptation. "As it is written" are the four words found throughout the story of the devil tempting Jesus. I think it's incredibly important to catch this.... Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless, blameless, and holy life did not depend on anything in himself when it came to resisting temptation. He went straight back to to source of His strength, the word of God.

Psalm 119:11 is one of my favorite verses. It reminds me of this strategy that Jesus used when fighting temptation. It says "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

So when we find ourselves battling temptation today, let's remember where our strength is found... not in our weak and ever-changing flesh, but in the power of the inerrant, unchanging word of God!

Have A BLESSED day and Live for Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Real Forgiveness

We survived the "crazy busy" weekend, but I'm really missing that "lost" hour of sleep this morning. I rested a lot yesterday, but it didn't translate over to this morning very well. I almost always wake up about 30 minutes before my alarm clock goes off, regardless of what time I set it for. Today, the beeping of the alarm clock almost made me "jump" out of the bed!

I want to attempt to finish going through the Lord's Prayer from Matthew 6 this week.
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

We made it down to "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors". If you are like me, you've quoted the Lord's Prayer on numerous occasions in your life. I've often said it at a graveside funeral service or with a family in crisis. When we work our way down to this part of he prayer, to me it's like a call do a whole new level of commitment. Up to this point, we have been dealing a lot with "vertical reconciliation", surrendering our "will" and our "rights" to our loving father. Now we begin seeing a call to "horizontal reconciliation".

We are confronted with the question "how do you want to be forgiven when you fail in your walk with God?" We have a fast answer..... we want complete forgiveness, the kind where Jesus "cast our sins as far as the east is from the west". We want Him to remember our sins no more. We want reconciliation with God, with no remembrance of our sin on his part. We don't want God hanging it over our heads, ready to drop it on us again when we fail the next time. That's what we want, but that may not be what we get.

Now we have to deal with "horizontal reconciliation". The principle here is unmistakable..... we will be forgiven based on the distance we are willing to go in forgiving others. Now before anyone gets amped up about this, let me give an illustration I read while studying this.....

T. Diggs from Community Bible Church in MA, wrote in his blog "we tend to hang ‘guillotines of forgiveness’ over the heads of those in our lives. We remember. We withhold. We don’t reconcile. We don’t fully extend the hand and embrace the forgiven. Forgiveness – okay. Forget – probably not, but we’ll see. Friends – never. This small phrase should give us tremendous pause. If I pray this, then I am asking Him to forgive me in the exact same way I forgive others. Am I sure I want to pray this? Because I better get it right. Eternity hangs in the balance. My eternity depends on His forgiveness of my sins, His willingness to forget them, and His love for me that is so deep that He now calls me ‘friend.’ (John 15:14, 15). That’s crucial – because to be called His friend means that His forgiveness has reached its natural end."

T. Diggs nailed it! When I read his description of the "guillotines of forgiveness" that we hang over those we have supposedly forgiven, I was deeply convicted. It's easier for me to forgive the "sin" someone commits against me, but I tend to struggle more in forgiving the "sinner". In other words, I have the guillotine ready and a "trigger happy" finger just waiting for them to wrong me again so I can drop it on them. What a miserable picture and representation of biblical forgiveness!

Since we know God's Word is true, we must consider this "next level" kind of living. It scares me to think about God "tolerating" me instead of totally and completely forgiving me and even calling me His friend. There are so many people that I have "spoken" forgiveness to over the years, but in light of what I've learned, I may not have done it biblically.

In order to forgive like Christ forgives, I recognize that I can only do it with His power at work in me. It goes right back to the first part of the Lord's Prayer.... we have to see Him as "our father", whose perspective from heaven is different than ours, whose holiness is the benchmark by which we are to measure our walk, and whose will requires requires our daily surrender. It's only then that we can begin to experience and demonstrate true forgiveness.

Have a BLESSED day and Live For Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Crazy Busy" Weekend At Skipstone

This weekend at Skipstone just may be the craziest weekend we've had so far. We have a team of 30 people from Clemson Presbyterian Church in South Carolina coming in that will be doing ministry at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. They had a couple of guys come in late last night and the others will be here later today.

We have a second team of people from Sports Fan Outreach coming in that are also doing ministry at the speedway. They also had a couple of guys come in last night and have 18 others coming in today.

The bus will be leaving in a few minutes for our High School field trip to the Breman Museum and lunch at Mary Mac's. They will be back at around 2:00pm today.

We have some friends who were instrumental in helping us get started at Skipstone that are coming at 10:00am in their motorhome to stay for the weekend and go to the races. We have a young couple that grew up in our student ministry coming to spend the weekend with us as well.

Later today, we have about 50 middle school boys and their dads coming for a promotional event for a BATTLEZONE weekend we are doing in April. We'll be taking them to the speedway for qualifying tonight and then back here for nighttime ziplines and a bonfire. We'll also be feeding the Clemson group supper and they will be having a worship service in the dining hall.

Saturday, we are feeding the Clemson group breakfast and having a coffee and prayer time for the Sports Fan Outreach group. As soon as they leave for the speedway, we are cleaning everything up for our Summer Camp Open House event for ministers of youth and children. We will be feeding them lunch, giving some tours, and facilitating ziplines and recreation for them. Mark Hall from Casting Crowns will be our special guest speaker...pretty cool - Thanks Mark!

I'm cutting out after lunch to take a my boys and some friends to the truck race at the speedway. As soon as we get back, we are heading for my daughter's 16th birthday party. While we are at the birthday party, our awesome staff will be feeding the Clemson group. They will be having an evening worship service after dinner.

Sunday morning we'll do it again, breakfast for the Clemson group and coffee and prayer time for the Sports Fan Outreach group. After ministry at the speedway in the morning, we'll feed the Clemson group lunch and both groups will be leaving.

As I was whining to God about how insane this weekend schedule was, I was drawn to a thought..... how amazing and awesome God really is to have the power and wisdom to know and manage every detail of my life, and the lives of every other person on the face of the earth. There isn't a day planner or PDA or iphone that could handle that kind of schedule, only the sovereign creator of the universe, who power and wisdom knows no limits!

Matthew 10:29-31
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

It sure gives me comfort to know how BIG my God is.... every day, I have the opportunity to trust Him with every detail of my life, and He doesn't sweat the big stuff, much less the small!

Have a BLESSED weekend.... Live Out Loud For Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A "Wow" Moment With God & Students

I've been to a lot of church and youth group worship services in my lifetime. I've been in some that were hilarious, some that were interesting, and some that were, quick frankly, boring! I've been in a handful of worship services that could only be described as "WOW". Last night was added to my list of "WOW" moments.

For the last several weeks, our youth pastors have been talking about dating. They started with the history and purpose for dating, and walked through what modern day dating looks like when we line it up alongside God's word. It's been a very intriguing study.

Last night was the final night of the series. We had a very pointed lesson on purity, specifically sexual purity. Reagan (one of our youth pastors) did an absolutely amazing job teaching about a very uncomfortable subject. You could just sense a spirit of conviction falling over the room as he taught from God's word about purity. The key verse was Ephesians 5:3 "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

When he was finished, an invitation was given for students to make a purity pledge to God, their parents, their friends, their family of faith, and their future mates to keep themselves pure in heart, mind, and body. I was absolutely blown away when I saw the response.... in a room of about 400 teenagers and a lot of parents, I'd say at least 80% of the students went forward.

Many had already planned to have their parents go forward with them and their parent's presented them with a purity ring as a symbol of the commitment they were making. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen....moms and dads looking their teenagers in the eyes, praying over them, and embracing each other with tears flowing. Students who didn't have their parents present flocked to the altar to pray and publicly take a stand by signing their purity pledge cards in front of their peers.

The cards also had a blank line on them with the words "presented to" preceding the blank. It was explained that each year that goes by that students continue to faithfully keep that commitment to purity will make that little card even more valuable and precious to them. Ultimately, on their wedding day, they can write in the name of the person they are marrying in the "presented to" line as the ultimate gift of themselves to their spouse. They were each given an acrylic frame so that they could keep their commitment card in a conspicuous place as a reminder of the pledge they made to God.

Now I recognize that not every single one of those students is likely to follow through on such a pledge. I've been a part of some "True Love Waits" events in the past, so I realize some students are just going with the flow. What was so special about last night was the overwhelming sense of conviction and a spirit of sincerity that I have not experienced often. I was encouraged by such a powerful response from this generation to TRUTH.

One of my favorite worships songs is "Hosanna" by Hillsong United. As I study each morning in my office, I can hear our students in chapel singing it from time to time. Here are the verses and bridge:

"I see the king of glory Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes, The whole earth shakes

I see his love and mercy, Washing over all our sin
The people sing, The people sing

I see a generation, Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith, With selfless faith

I see a near revival, Stirring as we pray and seek
We're on our knees, We're on our knees

Heal my heart and make it clean, Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart from what breaks yours, Everything I am for your kingdoms cause
As I go from nothing to Eternity"

How much time are you investing in this generation of students? Does it cross your mind to pray for them, encourage them, and love them like Jesus? Or have you become cynical, a doubter who thinks that are destined to be "just teenagers"? Are you intentionally pouring in to the life of a student, or have you believed the lie that they don't want anything to do with adults? Have you missed the significance of our opportunity to impact that next generation of leaders, who God could greatly use to help turn the heart of this nation back to Him?

Sure.... a lot of them need a "rod of correction", but a lot of them just need someone who loves them enough to tell them the truth, in love, and help them navigate the treacherous roads of adolescence. How about you?

Whatver It Takes,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's Ok To Love Bread!

It was an earlier than normal morning for me today. Our staff unusually meets from 9-11am on Wednesdays, but we are having a "rolling staff meeting" today. We are heading to LaGrange at 7:30am to tour a state of the art gymnasium that includes a high ropes course in the ceiling. I heard about it several weeks ago and thought it would be good inspiration for us as we continue planning here at Skipstone.

I want to jump back into The Lord's Prayer that we have been looking at from Matthew 6...This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Today we get to a petition that we've all probably prayed many times..."give us today our daily bread". I know that around here, we are continuously talking about God providing "our daily bread". For me, I've always thought of this petition mostly as a request for God to provide the resources I need to get me through the day. I think that is a fair interpretation, but the more I have started asking questions, I think there may be a lot more being said in these six words.

First, what kind of bread is He talking about? Does it seem strange to you that we should be begging for bread, as though we are facing starvation? Just a few verses later here in Chapter 6, Jesus tells us "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." So is this a contradiction? Are we to beg God for provision for the physical? He says that He already knows we need these things.

I think what has happened for me goes right back to my ongoing battle with my flesh. I tend to bend this prayer in the direction of provision, because my flesh is always crying out for my comfort. I think the bread that Jesus is speaking of is the presence of God. In John 6:33, Jesus is referred to as "the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Throughout John 6, the reference to Jesus being the "bread of life" is repeated several times.

So what exactly are we praying? We are asking for the presence of God to invade our life in a way that we are completely full, satisfied by His presence alone.

I think the word "give" is also a hint that Jesus was was talking about a different kind of bread. The reality is that we can go out and work and earn the money we need for physical bread (of course that ability comes from Him too), but we can't do anything to earn the bread of life, the presence of God. God knows our tendencies, so He put this word "give" here to remind us that His involvement in our daily lives is a gift that He wants to give us, just for the asking.

Lastly, I wonder why we need to ask for the gift of his presence "daily"? Listen to how Bob Hansel of Calvary Church in Memphis explained it "The Bread of Life, without which none of us can continue on—and of which God is the only source—is measured out one day at a time, ours to use or misuse in any way that we decide. We can try to keep and hoard it in a miserly narrow existence, or we can let it flow into and through us to touch and enrich the lives of others. It is a gift that intended for us to unwrap and discover with joy and wonder each and every morning, something to excite us with the ever-changing potential it brings for living generously and victoriously. That's the opportunity we're asking God to give us each time we offer this prayer that Jesus taught us."

That's good stuff... have you discovered the presence of God with "joy and wonder" lately?

Have a Blessed Day and Live For Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"What Does Salt Taste Like"

It's CRAZY cold this morning! After making some moves (that would make Scott Hamilton jealous) on the ice outside the dining hall this morning, I had to put my blog post on hold and go to Walmart to buy some salt!

Although we've been working through the Lord's Prayer for the last several days, I couldn't help but think about salt this morning and the passage from Matthew 5:13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."

That's an amazing illustration to me. We, as believers, are the "salt" of the earth? What does that mean?

Most commentaries that I have ever read liken this reference to believers "making a difference", "adding flavor", "penetrating" or "preserving", all characteristics or uses of salt. I think there are some great applications along those ideas, but I'm learning to not read God's word like I've always read it. I think familiarity can be one of our biggest obstacles to really understanding God's word.

For example, if I were to ask you the question "How does salt taste?", I bet you answer would be "salty". So although salt has many characteristics, such as those listed above, would it be fair to say that "saltiness" is the most prevalent characteristic of salt? It would be hard to imagine "salt" that isn't "salty"!

If that's is true, how does the verse apply? What does it mean for us to be "the salt of the earth"? Just as salt must be salty, there must be something about us that defines our walk with Jesus, something that "marks" us as a child of God. The way we live our life, our values, our morality, and our faithfulness are all signs of our walk with God.

This verse from Matthew 5:13 is part of the Sermon On The Mount. In the verses preceding our verse on being "the salt of the earth", Jesus gives us the characteristics of Christianity, the "stuff" that defines us:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."

So how salty am I? Just as salt is salty, as a believer I must be meek. Just as salt is salty, as a believer I must be pure in heart. If I'm not living out my faith in a way that the world can see, I'm like salt that's not salty!

Have a great day and BE SALTY-LIVE OUT LOUD!

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Want It All!

It's been a very interesting couple of days here at Skipstone. Our lake was overflowing it's banks on Saturday from all of the rain, and then we experienced a snow storm yesterday unlike one I can remember here in recent history. I'm looking out my window now at a mixture of frozen mud, beautiful snow, and clear blue skies.

We had to cancel school today, so I spent a little extra time in "the word" at home this morning. For those of you who don't know me well, I named my bed "the word" back in my youth ministry days, so that when I was late to work, I could tell the Pastor "I'm sorry... I just got carried away and spent too much time in the word this morning!". I know..... it's terrible, almost as bad as the fishing boat I named "visitation".... "sorry I can't be at the work day this Saturday, I'm taking some friends out on visitation". I wish I could tell you I was kidding, but we all start somewhere in our walk, and mine wasn't too pretty in the early days!

As we come to the phrase "on earth as it is in heaven", I will readily admit that I had to do a lot of homework to even begin understanding this. I read numerous commentaries, and honestly didn't find a lot that was agreeing with what I felt God was saying to me. I think it's important to emphasize that what I share on here each morning is just a journal my personal thoughts and the things that I feel God is showing me and "working out" in my own heart. I probably miss it from time to time when it comes to defining the "theology" of some of this!

Nevertheless, here we go... what does it mean to pray "on earth as it is in heaven"? It's not easy for me to explain my thoughts here, but I'll use an example that I've used many times over the years, both with my own four kids and with the students I have served. When I was a young man (long, long ago!), one of my jobs in the house was to carry out the garbage. I didn't want to take it out, I didn't enjoy taking it out, and I can't count the number of times that I was chastised and disciplined for my failure to take it out! I really don't know why it was such a big deal for me. After all, there are worse jobs to have in the house...laundry, dishes,and vacuuming (which were all designed by the devil himself)come to mind.

It was my parent's WILL for me to take out the garbage. I was disobedient many times because I didn't take it out. I was also punished, forgiven, and then given another chance to take out the trash (I had such forgiving parents...thanks for a another chance to take out the garbage!) After many times through this cycle, my parents took things to a whole new level. I had finally learned to take out the garbage, just to keep them off my butt (this is not a metaphor, my parent's favorite verse was "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the ROD of correction will drive it FAR from him"). That was one the first verses I ever memorized!

The next step was to learn that obedience meant doing WHAT I told to do, WHEN I was told to do it, with the right ATTITUDE. Now I'm sure that none of you have ever been sarcastic or made a big scene with your parents, but I can remember taking out the garbage while mumbling under my breath, making snide comments, stomping out the door, slamming the door, and acting is if the bag weighed 300lbs and that they were abusing me by making such a small child (I was never really small) do such a big chore. I did everything in my power to create as much drama as possible, while making sure that I followed their "WILL" for me to take out the garbage so I could avoid the unpleasant punishment that was certain to come if I didn't.

As I pondered the words "on earth as it is in heaven", in light of what we have already studied about "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done", I believe that this could be referring to the posture or attitude of our hearts as it relates to God's will. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we can do God's will, but still miss the blessing of doing it with the right spirit. It may be that it's not so much what we do concerning God's will, but how and with what attitude we do it.

Philippians 2:10-11 says "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." I know that is true, but I think our reverence for the name of Jesus should look more like that of the angels in heaven than of those "on earth and under the earth"! Throughout scripture, God is painted as a ruler, and we must submit to Him as His people, as servants. Wouldn't we look more like Jesus though if we willingly submitted our lives to Him, as one with no rights, personal agenda, or will of our own?

In the Greek, there are two words used to distinguish the will of God. One is used to describe doing God's will with little, if any regard to how we do it. The other is used to describe doing His will as He requires, with the result being "His good pleasure". For example, God's will was done when the people sacrificed an animal in the Old Testament, but if they chose the most fit, best sacrifice, it was more acceptable to God.

To me, this sounds like the difference between the perfect will of God, and the permissive will of God. As we pray, we are to ask "Our Father" for His will to be done "on earth as it is in Heaven". In other words, "I want to be in your perfect will, willingly surrendering my life to you as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable in your sight".

Have a great day and live for Jesus!

Whatever It Takes,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snow Day Tomorrow!

School is officially cancelled for Monday, March 2nd. Have fun and be safe. We will see you Tuesday morning!