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Archive for February, 2009

I am not opposed to Lent…entirely.  I am however opposed to people telling others what they themselves have decided to go without for 40 days.  I have been in/overheard so many conversations where people were telling each other what they had decided to live without. “I am giving up soft drinks” one would say, and another “I am giving up Beer”, or “rock candy”, “television” or whatever.  Doesn’t telling someone what you are fasting from defeat the whole purpose of fasting and rob you of your heavenly reward?  Well according to scripture it does.16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. -Mathew 6:16  Jesus was speaking specifically about how to fast when fasting completely from food.  I think fasting is great, it is after all Biblical.  I just don’t believe you or I giving up Dr. Pepper’s really draws us closer to God.  I believe what Jesus truly wants from us is as John Piper has said “All of us all of the time”.  More than anything God wants our obedience, not our sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22).  Jesus wants our complete allegiance and submission to his authority and ministry call for our lives.  If you want to give up “24”, or “Lost” go ahead but remember what God truly desires is more of you and your time, not the sacrifice of your favorite television show or candy bar.  After all Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us by giving His life for our own (John 3:16).  What sacrifice could we offer that would compare with that?

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Isiah 40:30-31Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I am sick.  My own body has betrayed me.  There is no cure for what I have, only treatment that allows me function like “normal,” healthy people.  I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Eever heard of it?  Well don’t worry neither had I prior to 2/24/07.  Before that fateful day, I was extremely healthy and fit.  I had just finished my 4th and best marathon just two months prior.  The week before I ran my best 10k race in a time of 40:51.  On Thursday February 22nd my younger brother and I went on a 6 mile run around Auburn.  I will always remember that run, not because it was my last healthy run, but because my brother was hit by a car.  Don’t worry it was more like he ran into the side of a car.  On Friday February 23rd Trey and I played tennis prior to Tenly and me packing up and heading to Rainbow City to see my parents.  My dad and I rose early the next morning for some fishing on an unusually warm late winter’s morning.  After catching my first fish of the day, I reached down to pull my plastic worm and hook from the beautiful fish’s’ mouth.  Then it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. I felt dizzy.  I called to my father who was fishing nearby and told him of my vertigo and asked him to assist me with my hook retrieval from the mouth of the bass.  Over the next few days I would feel physically weak, constantly tired, and unable to think clearly and remember things well.  I sought the medical advice of four different doctors who thought I was dealing with a mono type virus known as Epstein Barr.  Two of the doctors I continued to see were baffled after my symptoms failed to subside.  Some days I was too tired to get out of bed until well into the afternoon.  A once strong man was now reduced to weak and scared.  I began to search the internet for ideas concerning my symptoms and each time CFS would come back.  I read where less than one percent of the world’s population had been diagnosed with this rare but complex syndrome.  The symptoms read back to me were a prefect match for what I felt which was  extreme fatigue, severe headaches, earaches, brain fogg, and difficulty with memory.  How could this be I wondered.  One day I was healthy and strong in peek physical condition and the next sick.  This is how so many things in our lives happen.  We don’t see anything coming, but thankfully there is one who does, Jesus Christ.  I was diagnoised officially in August of 2007 with CFS.  I still struggle with it today, though I am a lot better than I was two years ago.  My battle goes on as I run the race set before me.  Though I can’t run all the road races I once loved, I run a race that yields much more fruit and satisfaction.  The following I wrote one year ago today.  The title in the email I sent (pre blog days) was “One Year Later.”  What I said then still rings true today.  So here it is Two Years Later.     

        

What the Lord has taught me the past 2 year’s

 

1.  I thought I was strong, but I was weak. 

I used to pride myself in being physically and mentally strong.  I used to think I was tough. I had finished four marathons, survived kidney stones, and played junior college basketball (where everyone knows if there is no blood, then there are no fouls).  The truth is however, I found out real quick I was weak, and my health had been a gift from God not a result of all my hard work.   

2. I thought I depended fully on Christ before, but I didn’t. 

         I can recall a certain marathon I ran in Richmond Virginia in the fall of 2005.  Twenty miles into the race, and six miles to go I fell apart.  We runners call this “hitting the wall.”  It’s where you completely run out of gas, and your body says, “Ok time to stop.”  I remember praying a whole lot to God for the next six miles.  As I ran a little and walked a lot, I told God, “Lord you didn’t get me into to this, so I don’t expect you to get me out of this.  Just please help me get through it.”  I did finish, and Ispent the next hour and a half in the medical tent lying on a cot wrapped in a blanket sipping green PowerAde.

After getting sick, I realized what relying on Christ really meant.  It meant helping me just yo get out of bed in the morning, helping me to stay positive and patient even though the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me and at the same teaching me that while my mind and body were betraying me, He was not.  It meant saying Lord, “Please help me to have enough energy to go to work today and to think clearly and not feel like taking a nap by lunch time. I was depending on God not to help me finish a long run or a hard workout, but to live my life.

3. I though I would qualify for the Boston Marathon and run 1200 miles    

         Coming off my best marathon in December of 2006, I was planning for my best marathon and qualifying for Boston in 2007.  I also planned to run at least 1200 miles.  The previous year I had fallen desperately short of my goal of 1200 by 13 miles.  Well as you can probably guess I ran zero marathons and not much more than 100 miles.  God’s plan for me was to run a different race which would test my perseverance and endurance in much greater ways than any road race. God put my faith to the test, not for his benefit, but for mine.  I ran a race of faithfulness.  God asked me to be faithful and trust him in great times of uncertainty and even doubt.  I ran a race this past year much more difficult and rewarding than any marathon I had ever run before.  

4. Spiritual Growth is never easy     

         Growing is often painful and this was certainly no exception.  I can say without reservation that this past year has been the best time in my life for growing as a man of God.  I struggled many days and felt sorry for myself even some.  My life was altered greatly, but my focus and resolve for Christ became stronger.  I spent more and more time in the word, battled my doubt in prayer, and promised God I trusted him no matter what.  While CFS altered my lifestyle greatly, Christ altered my life even more; more like Him and less like me.

5. God never promised me good health to begin with      

         This was probably the greatest breakthrough The Lord showed me during this trying time.  For the first month I was sick I moped around, felt sorry for myself, and doubted God’s goodness for my life.  I prayed everyday for God to make me better, but he never did. Then God spoke to my spirit and told me while he could heal my body, he didn’t owe me anything and that my health had always been and will always be a gift from Him.  Well said God.   

6. We are not promised tomorrow. We are not in control of our own lives

         I never planned on getting sick that day I went fishing with my dad.  You always hear coaches say things like “play every play likes it’s your last.”  Well that is some pretty good wisdom.  None of us know when our last play will come or our last day will arrive. Our purpose is to make the most of every moment the Lord gives us and to make much of Him.  We would like to think we are in control of our lives, but we are not and in spite of my sickness I am very thankful for that. 

 

7.      God is good no matter what we go through

This is so easy to say when times are good, but much more difficult when they are not.  God taught me to praise him even when I didn’t feel like it. God is greater than our circumstance.  His goodness can be cherished even in the hardest of times.

8.      Whatever God is doing is ultimately for my good and His glory

This is truly Romans 8:28-29.  God is purposing every event in my life as an opportunity to grow me as a Son and bring due glory to His Holy and great name.

9.      “God wants all of me all of the time”   

Prior to my sickness, I heard Pastor John Piper say the previous statement, and now I understand it more fully.  If I were very honest, I would say even though I gave God credit for all things in my life in my heart I kept some of the glory for myself; especially when it came to sports.  I would say to myself, “I worked hard, I trained right, I deserve to succeed.”  God does not share His glory with anyone else.  He is the giver of all good things even the abilities and success I enjoyed in sports.  His glory is His own.

10.  God’s goal for my life is not to see how fit I can get or how many marathons I can run, but rather to conform me to the image of his Son.

Enough said!

10.  Jesus is my best and most constant friend

During my most difficult times during this past year, and as well as throughout my life, Christ has never left me to myself.  Simply said, I have no other friend like Jesus.

11.  My best days are yet to come

No matter if God chooses to heal my body here on earth or in heaven my best days are ahead of me.  Even the person who suffers through the most difficult life still gets the good end of the deal if they are in Christn- an eternity filled with no pain, no suffering, and perfect love and fellowship with a perfect savior.  I know for certain my sufferings pale in comparison with the sufferings of others, so I count my blessings.  And yes CFS has been a blessing in my life.

 

Concluding thoughts

            I am down, but never out.  I am wounded, but not dead.  I am sick, but I am hopeful.  I am weak, but I am stronger.  I am in a fight, but I am not alone.  I am eternally victorious because of my Jesus.     

 

Looking forward to another great year of waking with Christ!

 

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A Monkey’s Tale

What Monkey’s in Kenya teach us about Creation, the fall, and the return of Christ?  

 

            Francis has told me many stories of his childhood growing up in Kenya.  He has told me stories of wild elephants loose in the town, hunting buffalo with only a spear, and the danger of the deceivingly docile hippo. My favorite of all his stories is the story of the monkeys.  What is the story of the Monkeys?  It is the story of God’s created order, the fall, and some pesky monkeys showing out. 

Francis says that monkeys in Kenya don’t respect women.  I said to him, “What do you mean?”  He told me that monkeys are a bit of a pest in Kenya. They mess with crops and eat corn and vegetables among other things.  He told me that if a man goes after a monkey with stick and throws it at him, the monkey will run in fear. However, if a woman gets after a monkey and throws the stick at him, the monkey will not run, and he will pick up the stick and throw it back at her.  Francis went on to say that a monkey will even run from a small boy but not a grown woman. 

I have thought often of this story from Francis with some laughter and much intrigue.  I was first told this story probably five or six months ago, but it wasn’t until yesterday the Lord brought to my mind the greatest reality of this story.  During my time at seminary I was trained to think critically and creatively, but more importantly I was trained to treat every situation, issue, circumstance, or story as a theological one.  Perhaps I am a slow learner, but it wasn’t until yesterday that it all became clear to me.

In Genesis chapter 1:26-30 the author recalls the story of God making man in His image and everything else in creation, i.e plants, birds, beasts, all living things being put under his (Adam) authority.  Adam was lord of the earth.  All living things were subject to his rule.  This is the first thing that came to mind regarding the monkeys in Kenya. They are acting according to the created order.  Romans 1:20 also says  20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen ,being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. This verse deals with the fact that all mankind can see through the cosmos, through nature, and the created order that there is a God who is supreme and who has created all.  This is called general revelation and leaves us all without excuse regarding our knowledge of God, but this alone is not enough to save us.  God has generally revealed himself by all that we can see, touch, smell, and feel, but he has given us His special revelation through His word and chiefly Jesus Christ. God’s special revelation is enough to save us.  The monkeys in Kenya are just acting according to their God-given nature and the created order, but not perfectly.

The way the monkeys act toward women is somewhat comical, but quite disrespectful.  Why if the monkeys act according to the created order with respect to the man’s position as ruler over them, do they act with such disregard for the women?  I believe that answer is found in Genesis 3.  When man and woman gave into the serpent’s lie and took the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the curse of sin came upon them and they along with the entire cosmos were cursed and subjected to futility by God.  One of the obvious curses of the fall is lions, sharks, alligators, and bears attacking and occasionally eating people.  According to the created order of Genesis 1, that is just not the way things are supposed to be.  So it is with the women of Kenya experiencing the world, the creation, and the monkeys in a fallen state.  If this were pre fall Kenya, the monkeys would respect the position of the wife/woman as the helpmate of the man, his complement.  But this is post fall Kenya, and the monkeys just like the people are living with the effects of the fall.  The monkeys blatant disrespect for the women of Kenya is a result of the fall, which is still being felt today.  The monkeys should honor the women of Kenya as they do the men, but again this is post fall Kenya and they don’t.

But fear not my friends, the women of Kenya will have their day, and their day will have no end.  You see when Christ returns and creates the new Heavens and the new earth, He will undue all that man has done in causing the fall of the cosmos. We are not the only ones looking forward to this glorious day. Romans 8:20-23 reminds us that creation also looks forward to the return of Christ and His making all things new.  20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. We are not the only ones who suffer here on this earth. Creation suffers as well, not willingly, but by the hands of man who first sinned.  There is good news still to come.  Christ will return. He will take home His saints, and He will make all things new and final.  The final redemption and return of Christ is a cosmic one.  It is about redeeming the souls of men, cats, trees, the cosmos and teaching monkeys that they are to mind the women of Kenya because just like the men they are created in God’s image and are higher on the ladder of created order.  So, to the women of Kenya, even as the monkeys mock you in their defiance, shout to them, “Your days of rebellion are numbered,” and then thank God that in the end you will laugh last because of Christ.         

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One of the truest marks of friendship lies in the ability and desire to confront one another, especially when it is difficult.  I write those words and these that follow with a heavy heart.  A sense of deep disappointment and pain I feel because I have a friend who refuses to confront me.  You may wonder why I just don’t go to him and speak to the issue.  Well that would be nice, however I don’t know why he wont confront me, only that all attempts on my behalf towards communication with him go reciprocated.  The story as I understand it……Me and a certain individual (who I will not name, and am certain does not read this blog) have been the closet of friends for going on ten years as of this past year.  We have shared many great memories together including great times, laughs, tears and dreams.  I was a member of his wedding party and he mine.  In 2008 something changed. I did not hear from him for a lengthy period of time (which was only slightly unusal when considering the fact that he was never the best at keeping in touch).  I attempted to contact him through phone and he eventually returned my call but I did not personally receive it.  A message was left and I returned his call soon after and asked him to call me back at his convenience.  The message was admittely brief and to the point due to the fact that I was frustrated at our lack of consistent communication. That was in April of last year and nothing from him since.  I even emailed him a detailed account of my daughters’ birth the day I arrived home from the hospital with my wife and newest member of the family.  Nothing, not a word of congratulations or rejoicing.  I asked him to call me, because I had not saved his new cell phone number from the message he left me in April.  Never heard a word from him.  I emailed him Thanksgiving and Christmas wishing he and his wife a safe and happy holiday.  I even mailed him a Christmas card with my daughter on it.  Still no word from my closest friend of ten years.  I would be lying to you at this point if I said I had not sinned during this time concerning my attitude.  I have felt bitterness and resentment towards him, and still do as some levels.  I am praying to God for the power to overcome these sinful attitudes and asking a friend to keep me accountable to do so.  Still I am hurt.  Hurt over the fact that someone so close apparently cares for me so little.  You may wonder my I decided to post this concerning a friend.  Well it is with great difficulty that I work through the details of this story.  If I could confront him I would, I have several times in the past, and though it is hard would do it today.  The problem is my friend does not want talk with me apparently because of something he feels I have done to wrong him.  The sad part of this story is my friend is a very godly man who knows he is in sin concerning his actions towards me.  He and I both have been prideful and well be held accountable for our sins.  My encouragement to you all who read this is simply this, if you have an issue with a friend confront them in love and share your thoughts clearly with them in the spirit of unity and reconciliation in the name of Christ. That is biblical and God honoring.  Satan is very crafty at using pride to tear down great bonds of Christ-centered friendships. Life is not promised beyond our current breath, so reconcile while there is time.  And whatever you do don’t disappear on your friends when they wrong you, confront them with the love of Christ lest they say perhaps you were never truely a friend to begin with 

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I recall the winter of 2002, being a particularly cold one.  I spent the month of January working at Montclair Hospital in Birmingham, AL as part of a class I took at Samford University, Pastoral Care.  Five days a week for the entire month from 8am-12pm I was learning and experiencing pastoral care in the hospital setting.  I learned many great things in my brief time there.  I did an over night stay where I was on-call with a pager.  I got to go visit the room where they kept body parts, including a box labeled “brain box.”  I also went to the hospital blood bank where I almost passed out, and I learned from the other full time chaplains on staff at the hospital.  But all my great experiences combined, paled in comparison to one encounter with an elderly man.  As a part of our learning experience we were assigned a floor and a hall to go and visit patients by offering support, council(the spiritual kind not the medical kind), and prayer.  I met a very special man on my floor named Mr. Chambers.  Mr. Chambers was well into his eighties and his body was worn down from years of living and recently battling cancer.  He did not hear very well, so when I talked to him people walking by his room likely thought I was screaming at him.  Day after day I would go and visit him (if he was not resting) and we enjoyed each others’ company and conversation immensely.  One day before I was set to leave I asked him if I could pray for him.  He gladly accepted, and so I grabbed his frail hand and prayed for him.  I asked God to bless his life, bless his family, give him strength and peace, and heal his body.  I closed the prayer by asking God to do all these things in Christ name, amen.  I lifted my hands opened my eyes and started to release his hand, but he did not release my hand.  In fact he squeezed my hand with seemingly all the strengthth he had and he prayed for me.  He prayed for my life, for the ministry God would give me, and for the Father to always bless me and keep me.  I can’t recall every word he prayed for me, but I can recall very vividly feeling so humbled and blessed by a man who was laid up in a hospital bed slowly dying looking and reaching beyond himself to a young minister, a young man.    I went in that room to serve him, and he served me.  That prayer, that moment touched my life in a way few others have.  To this day I consider that to be the sweetest and most heart-felt prayers anyone has ever prayed for me.  That frail and dying hand squeezing mine beyond the pain and years I know he felt with every breath will go down in my history as a moment that stood still in time and stands still in my mind.  I dedicate this blog entry to Mr. Chambers who soon after that went on to be with the Lord, but left with me a living example of what I hope to be if one day lying on a hospital bed dying, frail in form, but mighty in Spirit and Jesus Christ.     

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,-II Timothy 3:16

Just last week as I was walking on the campus of Georgia Tech from my office to Swimming practice I noticed something of interest.  A squirrel confused, alone, and running from side to side across the walkway.  This unfortunate fellow found himself in the middle of a heavily trafficked pedestrian walkway.  People on both sides were passing in opposite directions and he knew not where to go.  He would dart this way, no, no that way.  I think I can make it to the grass he likely thought to himself.  Here I go, wait, wait, ok back this way.  Back and forth, back and forth the squirrel was confounded.  It got me to thinking about how many people live their lives each day as the squirrel?  No I don’t mean gathering nuts and daringly running out in front of automobiles.  But rather people living their lives each day influenced completely by their present situation or circumstance.  It happens all to often for non Christians because of the lack of a governing authority on their lives.  We as Christians submit to God’s word as the final and supreme authority in our lives.  We allow the Word of God to influence our direction, our opinions, our decisions.  To be quite frank….we do as scripture says (if we are wise).  The squirrel has no scripture for he can not read.  Sure God has programed certain things into his tiny innate being that allow for him to live and reproduce, but he does not understand that playing in the street will cause him to be late coming home to his family because he will get run over.  Scripture would help the squirrel make better daily decisions about his life and the well being of his family.  Many lost are like the Oprah’s of the world picking and choosing what they wish to believe based on their own feelings, new ideologies, and the change in weather.  The major difference between squirrels and lost people when it comes to Biblical authority is the lost reject the authority of scripture, and here again squirrels cant read.  As Christians we know how scripture governs our lives and allows us to speak with consistency on all significant issues.  The unbeleieving have a difficult if not impossible task of making sense of the world and keeping a consistent voice on various life issues.  Ultimately lost people are not squirrels though, they have the opportunity to receive Christ many of them and submit to Him through His Word.  They will answer for their lives and the decisions they made.  The unfortunate reality is many will live their entire lives the Georgia Tech squirrel confused, alone, and without any clear direction.  God save the squirrel I saw, and may God save the sinner even more.

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