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04 July 2010

...Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!

The Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.... 
.......We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...... 
.....We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

This was the stance of the American colonies, on this day, in the year 1776.  They bickered back and forth with Britain For over 100 years about their treatment as a colony.  Finally, along came a small group of men that took a stance...that was a stance for the better.  They realized that the people didn't have to be treated like this, that there was a better way to govern, that they could do a better job.  And they did, with the full faith that it would work.  They had no idea what the repercussions would be for cutting ties with Britain.  They did it because they knew it had to be done, and with a Faith-based way of thinking and unconditional-love that no one before them could have matched other than God Himself.

God realized after so many years of letting us live as a human race, that there was no way we could continue to operate like we did.  So He did exactly as He said he would.   He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, on the cross.  God knew that we needed change, and knew that this would be the only way to "Get our attention" and to show us the amount of unconditional love that pours out from the Trinity.  That is called Agape love, unearned love God has for people.  He knew that He would be sending his only Son to die for us, but did it for US because He knew how much He cared for us!

Romans 8:38-39
(38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This year we celebrate 234 years as a nation.  While small in comparison to other countries, it is extremely significant considering in our relatively short lifetime we have grown to be a nation that flourishes on just about every aspect.  I think God intended the same results when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, it's just a matter of us taking that Agape love that He showed us and projecting it out so that others may come to know!

03 July 2010

I want to break free!

First off, sorry I haven't wrote in a few days.  Between my Navy school, and an impending 4th of July weekend, I was quite busy.  Anyway, back to the grind...

Last night I was with Hillary and her Mom, her sister, and some other of their friends.  The goal was to go to a place called "Half Shell" to sing karaoke.  I had never done it so I quickly obliged, I also assumed that this place was a restaurant, not a bar.  I found out very quickly that the bar atmosphere was not for me.  Just a bunch of intoxicated people and some REALLY ear piercing karaoke.  It was awkward, but as opposed to sitting there and pouting about it, we found our own entertainment through playing hangman, and me, cracking jokes at some of the people because they were acting out.  I took an awkward situation and turned it around.  I like to call that stepping outside the comfort zone.  It got me thinking about the times that God encourages us to step outside our "spiritual" comfort zone....

Genesis 12:1
"The Lord said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." 

Basically what that says is leave everything that you are comfortable with, and follow God!

That willingness to leave at the Lord's command opened up a whole new world for Abraham and for his family in what would become the Jews' "Promised Land." But first he had to "leave." Most of the major advances in our lives begin by taking the risk of leaving, or stepping out, of that comfort zone we are used too. Moses had to leave his "comfy" life as a shepherd in Midian to become the deliverer of God's people. Peter had to leave the security of his business to become a world-impacting leader for Jesus Christ.

God encourages us everyday to step out of our "Spiritual" comfort zone.  One in particular is by ministering to others and show Christ's love.  It doesn't have to be through preaching from a pulpit or screaming at someone from the side of the road to "repent."  It can be something as simple as helping someone feel good, showing them that God works in us, and that His Love is enough, or buying food for the car behind you in the drive-thru.

K-Love has a program every Monday called "Go M.A.D."  The MAD stands for Make A Difference.  They encourage people to do one thing to make a difference in someone's life and call in and share it with them.  I really like that, but it can be more than just Monday's.  We should live our lives in such a way that those who don't know God, will come to know God through our thoughts actions, and words.  Does that mean every now and then we have to do something we aren't used too?  ABSOLUTELY, but I promise you it will be worth it in the end! 

28 June 2010

It's always in the last place you left it...

Have you ever lost something?  It always seems to come up "lost" when we desperately need it at that moment doesn't it?  That starts the frantic "tear the room/car/closet apart mentality because I need it NOW" mode.  I seem to find myself in that "mode" a lot, and still haven't determined why.  Of course, when you ask someone near you if they've seen said object, they most times will respond with "It's always in the last place you left it."  It makes for a few laughs, but that phrase couldn't be more true.

The other day I was coming home from camp, and when I left I was triple sure I had everything ready to go.  I said to myself "I was only here for a night, what could I POSSIBLY forget?"  About half way through the drive I reached over to the passenger seat to get my water bottle, only to have no luck.  I was a tad bit frantic as I was afraid I'd left my favorite water bottle at camp, and that I wouldn't be able to get it back. I pulled the car over at the safest possible moment, and began that "tear the car apart mode."  I looked in the back seats, under the front seats, in my bags...any place I could think of....EXCEPT on top of my trunk where the rear spoiler is.  I drove half way home from camp with my favorite water bottle wedged in front of my rear spoiler.  I did the typical "DOH" smack on the head and said to myself "How did you get there?" (As if it would answer me back haha) I realized as I was climbing back in my car that it was because I had become complacent about my packing habits.  I thought "I've camped 100's of times, I have a good system, and on a short weekend I can't possibly forget anything"

We can relate this to our Faith as well.  We tend to reach a point in our Faith where we become "complacent" with the way God is working in our lives, and thats when we let our guard down.  At that point, believe it or not, we can tend to fall farther away from God and "temporarily misplace" our Faith.  And most of the time its not to the point where we have to tear our lives apart to find it again, but just enough to keep us looking, and it's ALWAYS in the last place we left it! :)

This verse in 2 Peter 3:9 gives a perspective on God's grace...
(9) “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

That to me is so amazing.  No matter what, we can misplace our Faith just like I did my water bottle, and it will be there right where we left it to pick back up and keep going.

Toby Mac's song "Get Back Up" is probably one of my favorite Christian rock songs right now.  It reminds me every day I listen that no matter what, God will be there ready for us to get back up again.  The Chorus is a great motivational line

We lose our way,
but we get back up again,
it's never to late to get back up again,
one day, you gonna shine again!
you may be knocked down but not out forever

So remember next time we think that we have hit "rock bottom" on our Faith, it's never to late to get back up again!

Have a great week!

27 June 2010

Sunday....day of rest

Genesis 2:2-3
(2) By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. (3) And God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.

So I do just that.  Saving up for an awesome start to the week by allowing my mind to rest this evening.  I do have a video to share with you that might make you laugh though! The guy in this video was featured in the Christian comedy series "Thou Shalt Laugh" Have a great Monday!

26 June 2010

When the speed limit of life changes...

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future 

I spent all of today at my local Boy Scout Camp (Pipsico Scout Reservation) Helping re-shingle a roof on our trading post.  It was HOT today for sure.  Once I left toward the end of the day I started my 1 and 1/2 hour drive back toward Virginia Beach.  About halfway home I was driving and was startled by a car that came flying past me.  I was confused at first, because I usually follow the speed limit +5 mph, but apparently I missed the speed limit sign that allowed me to accelerate to 55, so I was still going 50.

It got me to thinking about how life can be sometimes....

When we go about our day to day life, we are constantly in a rush.  I can be the first to attest to that fact being in the Military.  We are subconsciously programmed due to years of pressure from society to get everything done as quickly as possible.  We live in an era where technology is paramount, and basically, if you don't have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking utility, you're pretty much left in the dark.  But does it have to be like that?  I sometimes wonder to myself, "If God had a Facebook/Twitter, what would he post?" or "I wish I could text message God."  (Reminds me of the scene in the movie "Bruce Almighty, when Jim Carey decides to facilitate Prayer requests by email haha)

It is interesting to think about these things, but I had to smack myself out of that trance and realize that God loves it the most when we slow down and talk to Him, when we are praying and lifting up our concerns, when we put HIM first and don't lean on technological things like a crutch.....

I found out this week that it is really possible, last Sunday, my Sunday School class agreed to "Give up Facebook" for a week, just to re-enforce the fact that we can ALWAYS use more "God Time" and things like that will most times get in our way.  It has worked well for me, It gave me motivation to focus more on the Bible and Praying, and also to start this blog, which I believe is a way God can use me to Proclaim His Word.

Another way to visualize this topic is to think about driving.  How many times have we been driving and been distracted by something?  How many times have we blown through a yellow or red light in order to try and get somewhere that much faster(only to get caught by the next one 500 ft down the road).  How many times have we sped around that driver we thought was going too slow?  These are all things I see daily, or have seen in my time driving, and the list is a mile long.  It amazes me sometimes when we have "get-there-itis" and don't slow down to realize that we just missed our turn or exit.

You can tie that into your Faith Walk.  If you can imagine your walk with God as the road, your life as you choose to make it/driving habits as the car, God's word and "nudges" as any road signs you might pass, and sins and other bad decisions as texting while driving....  

Next time you're driving on a long country road or interstate, try and focus more on the road, so that you don't miss your exit (not saying we should get off our Walk with God, just using as an example)....don't miss that speed limit change and risk getting pulled over! and most importantly, don't risk straying off the path instantly by texting while driving!

Next time we're in a rush to see what God's plan is, don't worry...He'll show us in HIS time!

25 June 2010

Healing Rain....

Last night as I left the movies, it steadily started to rain.  Just a light sprinkle at that time, and it seemed as I walked closer to my car, the rain picked up until it was literally POURING outside.  The general consensus of the people around me who were dashing for any bit of cover was that they wanted NOTHING to do with this rain.  They wanted out of it as quickly as humanly possible and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them.  As the rain picked up, I found myself walking just a little quicker toward the car, it was almost an uncontrollable reflex....  

That brought up an interesting thought in this noodle of mine.

How many times has God attempted to "cleanse" our lives?  And, how many times have we turned and dashed away for cover as if we wanted nothing to do with it?  As I stood there at my car ready to open the door, I stopped and was getting wetter by the second.  While mildly uncomfortable, it was quite a relief from the 100 degree temperatures which we experienced here in Virginia Beach for the day.  I proceeded on with getting in the car and as soon as I turned the key, the song "Healing Rain" by Michael W. Smith was on K-Love Radio.  I thought to myself  "Thanks for the clarification God, because I was starting to wonder your method here..."  

It reminded me of the story of the great Flood in Genesis Chapter 6-9.
 Of this passage, Genesis 6:5-8 really stuck out too me:
(5) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (6) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (7) So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." (8) But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 

It re-iterates to me that everyday, we all do things that don't please the Lord.  It is in our nature, and that's just how it is.  Even though God said later in Chapter 9 that He would never flood the Earth again,  I still like to think of a good rainstorm as a "mini-flood"  Not out of anger, but out of understanding, and God's willingness to forgive us for the things we do wrong.  He is offering us a chance to cleanse every minute of the day, so that brings me to my previous question, If He offers us the opportunity to cleanse through the deliverance of a storm, why do we constantly run from it?  Is it because we're afraid to get a little wet? Afraid to be a little cold?

This reminds me of a story of my first mission trip.  Summer of 2007 I spent half a week with the youth group of Trinity United Methodist Church in Tuskegee, Alabama doing mission work on underprivileged homes.  Every night after a long day's work, we would always have devotion and reflection time.  One night in particular I remember very clearly.  We spent about 3 hours in the living room of that Parsonage, just giving our hearts, and everything in them up to God.  At the end, or at least when we declared it "The End" for the night, God thought otherwise.  We all went outside on the porch and immediately started pouring down rain.  I was a little skiddish at first at the fear of walking around soaking wet, but after a few of the girls ran out into the yard, I and the rest of the group succumbed to peer pressure and jumped right out there.  We danced in the rain for the entire time it was raining.  It was amazing the feeling I felt at that moment, and just as quickly as the moment began, it was over.  Then that smell of a fresh rain quickly followed.  "That was amazing" I thought to myself.  But I didn't realize until sometime after that it wasn't just about running around crazy and dancing in the rain at almost midnight, it was about experiencing the Love of God through his many blessings, and being wet after a rainstorm kind of brought the idea of "Healing Rain" into a perspective that I could really understand.  

Here's a closing thought, next time it rains and your outside, seize the opportunity to bathe yourself physically AND spiritually, and to remember He's there for you regardless of the circumstances. Think of that moment of being cold and wet as a "new beginning", a way to say "Thanks for the Healing Lord."  

24 June 2010

"Don't walk through the warmer..."

Today was a better day then the day before.  Of course, as I've heard before "Any day on this side of grass is a good day." (At least I think thats how it goes)  Although, is it really a "good day?"  Now don't get me wrong folks, I'm not necessarily "ready" to depart from this world, but I am kind of interested in what is it will be like.  Reminds me of that song "I Can Only Imagine" (That is a link to the YouTube video for "I can Only Imagine")  Now that is not the main topic for today's blog, but it was just a random thought I had to get out!  HAHA

"Back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress....."

We are constantly faced with choices in this life.  Ever since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, we were faced with choices.  Do I go Left or Right?  Forward or Backward? Eat desert first or main course? Continue ignoring God or turn and face him?  All of these are just a small example of some of the thousands of choices we face on a daily basis.  With that being said, how can we be sure we are making the RIGHT choice?  That is a question I cannot answer for you, it is a matter of your personal discovery and Prayer time with God.  When it comes to making major choices, I would encourage you to seek God in Prayer FIRST.

I found Joshua 24:14-15 is a good example of choices.
"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. (15) But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." 
Then the Israelites went on to respond in verses 16-18 saying:
"Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! (17) It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. (18) And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God."

That is a great example of choices.  Had the Israelites chose not to serve the Lord, they would have been turning their back on the very person who delivered them from Egypt and Slavery.

I found an interesting example of choices today while at lunch.  While standing in line at the Galley(Navy term for cafeteria),  I witnessed another military member walk through a door behind the serving line, and on that door was a BIG black sign that said "DO NOT WALK THROUGH THE WARMER." even after getting warned by another co-worker not to do so.  I was thinking to myself  "It's only a matter of time before someone gets a talkin' too."  I shrugged it aside and continued to wait for my food, expecting to see her come from the door from the kitchen, only to see her bust out of that same door.  But this time, guess who was standing there?  Her Chief (E-7 in the Navy, her enlisted boss).  I witnessed this girl go from content to SCARED in a matter of seconds.  Her Chief proceeded to tell her some things that I do not want to repeat on this blog....

My point in all this is,  we are nudged constantly by our peers daily on the subject of making choices, whether it be a Spiritual choice, or a worldly choice such as what to wear to work/school on a daily basis.  So why don't we at least consider thier opinions?!  We are constantly nudged by God about our choices in life, BUT WHY DON'T WE LISTEN!?  The girl that walked through that warmer today could have listened to her friend and not gotten into trouble, but when the Chief walked by its "all bets off."  If you consider God your Chief, don't let your choices get to the point where he has to "shake up your life" before you realize that your doing something that you shouldn't be!

In closing, I encourage you to "listen to those nudges" that God places in our path.  If something just doesn't seem right, or your confused, PRAYER WORKS...ask Him enough and he'll show you!

Have a great day!

Don't cry over spilled....Ketchup!

Yesterday I was having "one of those days."  My Navy school got out late which caused me to be late to VBUMC Praise band practice.  I could not figure out why I was so on edge about it.  It has happened before, but why now am I focusing so much on it?  The rest of the evening I was practically exploding on the inside, even though I was trying my hardest to put on a smile and "suck it up"...it just was not working yesterday.  

Later on that evening after Bible study, me and my girlfriend went to McDonald's.  For whatever reason, they were having some issues with service time.  I could tell the people around me were getting a little edgy, and to be quite honest with you, it was making me chuckle a little on the inside.  Why you ask?  Because I used to work in fast food so I have a little more patience for things like that...  

We got our food and took a seat and started eating.  After a few minutes I noticed that I had dripped ketchup on my shirt, so I wiped it off and kept eating.  About 2 minutes later I did the EXACT same thing, only about twice the size, in about the same spot.  I was amazed at my clumsiness.  I said to myself "I can understand once, but TWICE?!" haha...  That's where the motivation for this title came from.  

See I realized something yesterday.  All the events that occured (School getting out late, McDonald's being backed up, and the Ketchup on my shirt)  were all lessons in patience.  

God said in Galatians 5:21-23 -- "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." 

I don't like to think that God was "testing" me, but it kind of seemed like it yesterday.  It wasn't really testing, but I think Challenging me to be the better person.  He challenges us all to be the better person you know?  I could have very easily "shown my butt" in McDonald's just like the rest of the customers, but I chose not too because I know that deep down inside, that would not be pleasing to God.  It took all of those events yesterday for me to realize that.  

My girlfriend kept asking me if I was feeling better, and I was, little by little.  But I told her "sometimes it's good to be aggrevated for a short amount of time, because it reinforces that we are still human, and we still make mistakes."  I don't think that could be any farther from the truth.  If God didn't want us to make mistakes, he would pluck us all from this world and place us in the land of "perfect" (reminds me of those old commercials for something that always advertised "perfect" haha)  He let's us make mistakes to make us realize that no matter what, he will be there to pick us up, dust us off, and put us "back in the game."  That is amazing folks.  

So with all of this, I challenge you, have a little more patience for the "little things."  I promise you it won't hurt you, and you'll probably feel way better for it in the end!