4/13/2012

News Update

OFFICIALLY SIGNED ON

As a young twenty year old, I dreamt about what it would be like to work with AIM. Back then, it was Jay Jarboe leading the AIM program. Richard Rogers taught the class Scheme of Redemption, Cline Paden was chancellor of the Sunset School of Preaching, and I was preparing to go to the mission field. Of course, working with AIM was only a dream when I was twenty.

Last month, I had the pleasure of signing a contract with Sunset as the new AIM Care Counselor. What a joy that was to make it official and say that I am now a permanent part of this place that is Sunset. God has truly blessed me.
My role as AIM Care Counselor was defined within the contract given to me. To serve AIM students in Lubbock, on the field, and returning home. To provide sound advice and encouragement to those in need. To model Christ in my actions and words. These were all tasks given to me that challenge and excite me in my new role.

Please continue to keep this task in your prayers. Jessica and I are very excited about my new job. However, we realize just how overwhelmingly important the job is too. Your prayers are vital to this mission.

AIM GRADUATION SUCCESS

The Lord continues to bless us here with amazing connections and relationships. This last month, Jessica and I watched four individuals very special to us graduate the AIM program. Why are they so special to us? Because of our connection to them in various times in our life.

I’ll never forget the victory we had as missionaries in Mexico. It was such a joy to baptize a family into Christ. Now, to see one of those family members become a missionary, this is indeed something to celebrate. What a blessing to see Evelyn graduate from AIM.

Again, who would have thought that we would witness Nick from Shawnee, Rafael from Leon, Mexico, or Shae Baker my little cousin (and former flower girl), graduate as missionaries? And yet, this is the blessing of service in the kingdom. In all these connections (and so many more), God is indeed multiplying our ministry.

MARCH MADNESS

It’s not just a term for NCAA college basketball. Around these parts, March is a crazy month for many reasons. Between welcoming back the graduates off the field, hosting reentry for students going through culture shock, having Camp Adventure for future students, and heading to the Tulsa workshop, there is a lot going on. Still, we managed to get it all finished and wrap up March Madness smoothly. Alls well that ends well as they say. March ended on a very high note.

2/16/2012

First Johnson AIM CARE Newsletter



It has been a great first month here and we are excited to share all that God is doing in Lubbock. Thank you for your partnership in our ministry.
Chris and Jessica Johnson









Finally In Lubbock

It took us until February 1st to make it to Texas; still, after months of planning, packing, and preparing… we have actually arrived! I (Chris) spent most of January in Lubbock without the family, while Jessica prepared for the move. Then, I traveled to Oklahoma, where we packed up the house and boxed up a 26 ft. Penske truck. The move was easy with the help of a few of our good Lakeview friends who decided to make the road trip with us. All in all, it was a great little adventure heading back to the Panhandle of Texas.

Of course, with any move there are challenges. In our case, the biggest obstacle is the fact that we have yet to sell our Oklahoma home. The walls are painted, the ceiling fans are dusted, and everything is in order. The only problem is that no buyers are to be found! Please pray for this need we have right now. Our house selling is the most important step that can be made right now. Until it sells, we will still be stuck in transition. However, we know that the Lord is in control and has this need figured out. We anticipate eagerly seeing the answers to this challenge we currently have. More than that though, we look forward to seeing more exciting ministry opportunities in Lubbock.

All Things Work Together

Jessica and I have been asking ourselves for the last few weeks about how this new work will fit together with some of the other ministries we have been involved in. We ask, “How did Mexico prepare us for working with AIM? What role did Lakeview play in contributing to our ministry in Lubbock?” The answers to those questions have already come our way.

When working in Shawnee, I met Baron Staggs.I had known of Baron for years, as he was the younger brother to one of our apprentice missionaries in Mexico. Quickly I learned to love Baron as I enjoyed working with him for one week at Lakeview two years ago. Fast forward a couple of years and Baron and I are both living in Lubbock. Last week he asked if I would come study the Bible with one of his friends who had a few questions about God. Little did I know what God was doing. Just hours later and Baron’s friend was giving his life over to Christ! Yes, all things do work together for the good.

However, there have been many other examples of the pieces “falling together” in this new ministry. A few weeks ago, I opened up my office for the first time to the AIM students for counseling. As the doors opened, I had nearly a dozen apprentice missionaries flooding my office to discuss their needs. From 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, I had a steady stream of students throughout the day, coming to me for advice and counsel. It was overwhelming to say the least.

As the day was unfolding, I thought to myself, “What an amazing day. I hadn’t experienced anything like this since I was working in Bethel, counseling kids last year.” Then it dawned on me. God had used the last year at Bethel school to prepare me for working in Lubbock. God is indeed good!

Needless to say, this has been an exciting ride. We have already begun seeing God’s hand at work in our lives. It is truly exciting to watch the Lord’s work. Whether in Oklahoma or in Texas, there is a lot of ministry to be done.

It Couldn't Have Been Accomplished...

From September to January, Jessica and I put thousands of miles on the car, traveling across the country trying to find partners in this work. The vision was clear to us. 150 college-aged, apprentice missionaries in need of counsel. These wonderful workers of God were willing to serve him through culture shock and major life change. Still, they needed an advocate in their corner. Someone to talk to. Someone willing to listen. The job seemed right for us.

Still, like the apprentice missionaries, we needed advocates in our corner. A non-profit organization like AIM requires partners. Those willing to sacrifice time, money, and prayers, to ensure that the work could be completed. God sent us you. So many of you have been with us for so long. You have believed in us, served us, and helped us arrive at our newest destination. We thank God for you!

It couldn’t have been accomplished without your partnership. This task was simply too great. May you know that the Kingdom is blessed by your work. May the Lord comfort you in your work with our family.

Chris' Article For The Lifeline Magazine

There are some adventures that stay with us a very long time. These are the journeys and events written on our hearts and engraved into our memories. For me, my decision to go to the AIM program at age nineteen was one of those adventures. I will never forget the cold Scottish rains, the heat generated from a sack of fresh "fish and chips", nor can I forget about the joy of sharing my faith for the first time in downtown Glasgow. As the Scotts say, AIM was "pure dead brilliant."

Seventeen years is a long time to return to the AIM program. Back then I was a student, an apprentice missionary. Now I come as missionary care counselor. Roles very different, with a common thread of spreading good news to the entire world.

As I unload my boxes into my new office, I remember the program I once joined. A lot has changed since then. For one, there was less talk about psychological needs and good mental health. Sure, we knew about reverse culture-shock and missionary care, but those things weren't talked about to the extent they are today. For that reason, my AIM experience didn't require having a missionary counselor on staff at all times. However, as I said earlier, a lot has changed in seventeen years.

My predecessor, Ben Walker knew the importance of mental health on the mission field. Before Ben came along, the AIM program had never staffed a full-time counselor. He began a role that has become vital to this place. Ben's ministry paved the way and carved out the path for missionary care. Like him, I pray I will have many good years in this important position.

When I consider the task ahead, I am truly humbled. Fifty apprentice missionaries live in Lubbock. Another one hundred live abroad in various countries doing ministry. Each with their own struggles, their own challenges, and their own needs. Looking at the overwhelming duty of this work, there are many emotions that I feel. However, I am extremely eager. Definitely this is where I was meant to be. As I told the AIM students last week, "We all have ministries that God is leading us towards. I do too. You are my mission field." - Chris Johnson

4/20/2011

The Bible

The Bible is unlike any book ever written. From a Lord who is ceaseless in love came a message that is timeless. Its worth is priceless and its application is endless. These teachings are ageless, but to some they are useless, because with shameless hearts they think less of the words that would make them blameless before their sinless savior.

I ran across this New York Times article from 1909, talking about how the Bible is the most popular book of all time. You should read it.... it's pretty interesting.

Read the article here!

4/18/2011

Unexplained Miracle

I've been reading a book called "Fingerprints of God," which deals with the psychology and biology of faith. As I read, it is fascinating to me how that doctors have discovered a link between illness and God. That is to say that when I person is sick, they can pray and find psychological healing that is unexplainable to scientists. How is it that a person can have such unhealthy levels of stress, turn to say a prayer, and suddenly have peace? The phenomena is baffling to doctors.

So, once again we discover healing that only God can provide. A God able to bind the wounded. A God who heals the broken soul.

Get "Fingerprints of God" on Amazon.

4/13/2011

Pac-Man Fever

Today my son asked if he could play Pac-Man at home. As he put it, "The games you used to play were a lot of fun. Puzzle games." Then he asked a question. "Dad, were there any bad games when you were a kid?" I answered, "No. Not really." He said, "Things were better then."

I can assure you, things were not always better back then. However, when it comes to temptation in technology, we don't realize how hard our children and grandchildren have it. It might be time to start looking at the temptation our kids face and ask ourselves, "Is it fair?" Then, maybe we should do our kids the service they have been wanting from us and "pull the plug." Kids have it hard enough without us bringing sin into our homes. Or, maybe we should just look at the ratings and ask ourselves, "Do they really need to play this game?" If we could help just one kid preserve his or her innocence a little longer, wouldn't it be worth it?

11/15/2010

Meet My Old Friend Molek

Zephaniah1: 4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place, the very names of the idolatrous priests— 5 those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molek.

So, my question is, "What's a Molek?" It sounds like a bad haircut from the 80's really. Thing is, when I read this verse, that's the only word with no real point of reference. Of course, I've been told a little about Molek. Less famous than his counterpart Baal, Molek was a Canaanite god who was worshiped through human sacrifice. So basically, to worship Molek one had to reject the authority and rule of Jehovah God and place one's individual experience above the human life of others. Ok.... so now I get it. Basically Molek is where God is taken off his throne, others are objectified, and I am glorified. Wow, so now I know what a Molek is.

A Molek is when we would rather sacrifice the needs of our children and God's call for us as parents, so that we can gratify the cravings of laziness. A Molek is when we sacrifice integrity by watching movies and television that are inappropriate for Christians. A Molek is when we lose our influence, by objectifying and demoralizing women. A Molek is when we hurt God's children through gossip, being judgmental, or by being racist. A Molek is when we love this world so much that we reject the creator of it. A Molek is when we let fear prevent us from being truthful with others about our need for Christ and to cast off the sin that entangles us all. A Molek is when we make worship all about us and not about God and his church. A Molek is when we ignore the hungry, the hurting, the broken as a way to maintain peace in our own lives. A Molek is when we become so self absorbed, that God is forgotten and people are run over.

Yes, I know Molek. Molek is everywhere. According to Zephaniah, worshiping both Molek and the Lord God will result in destruction. We cannot have two masters... so we must decide who we will worship. God or Molek?

10/18/2010

Another Night At A Temporary Inn

C.S. Lewis in his book "The Problem of Pain" talks about the fact that we humans will never experience true peace here on earth. The reason for this is simple. God wants us always to remember that there is something better out there for us. "This world is not our home." So, we dwell on this earth in "pleasant inns," not mistaking our temporary shelter for the permanent homes God has for us in eternity.

Suppose C.S. Lewis is right. What if God in his great love, purposefully chose to allow us to endure trials here on earth, if for no other reason than to remind us that this place is not where we want to be? What if pain on earth were a tool of evangelism? Could sorrow be an instrument of God, always reminding us that life here is not like life there?

Today, no matter the trial, no matter the sorrow, we find temporary peace. Our peace comes from the inescapable truth that good things are coming on the horizon. No matter how hard we try or want it, earth will always have some level, some amount of pain. And yet, just like the light from the empty tomb overpowering a wooden cross, God's blessing isn't far away either. One day we will be with him in comfort. One day we will have our permanent peace.

- Chris Johnson

8/13/2010

A Poem About Slime

Maybe we all did come from slime,

the goo that grew to form mankind.

A single celled organism,

evolved into our disposition.

And so we find ourselves here today,

a spineless, souless lump of clay.

Without a future and without a past,

a life formed from a souless mass.

Unless of course we all are wrong,

and something more did come along.

To create the life we know and love,

perhaps it was a God above.

By Chris

8/10/2010

What Bonhoeffer Said About Discipleship

I ran across this quote and had to share it. There are a dozen little gems here, so good luck digging!


Jesus Christ must suffer and be rejected. This is the "must" of God's promise in which the Scripture is fulfilled. Jesus was the Christ who could still be celebrated in suffering. That suffering could still be the basis of all the world's pity and wonder. Suffering as something tragic could still carry within it its own value, its own honor and dignity. But Jesus is the Christ who is rejected in suffering. Being rejected takes away from suffering any dignity and honor. Suffering and being rejected are the summary expression for the cross of Jesus. Death on the cross means suffering and dying as one who is rejected and cast out. Jesus must suffer and be rejected by virtue of divine necessity. Any attempt at thwarting the necessary is satanic, even and precisely when it comes out of the circle of the disciples, for it does not want to let Christ be Christ... Thus for Jesus it now becomes necessary to relate the “must” of suffering to his disciples in a clear and unambiguous way. As Christ is Christ only as the suffering and rejected one, so the disciple is a disciple only as one who suffers and is rejected, as one crucified with Jesus. Discipleship understood as being bound to the person of Jesus Christ, places the disciple under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you enjoyed this reading, try "I Want to Live These Days with You- Dietrich Bonhoeffer."

8/04/2010

Walk By Faith

Judges 7:2 The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her. 3 announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' " So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

My brother-in-law, Guy Stover, spoke tonight about trusting in God. I really liked the idea that he brought up about us truly trusting the Lord, even when the odds are stacked against us. Trusting him, when it doesn't seem like we should... now this is faith.

Today I read a quote from Benjamin Franklin that says, "The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason." I suppose that is what Gideon had to do when God said, "You have too many men." At some point, faith requires us to believe, even when nothing makes sense.

I guess if faith were easy, it wouldn't be faith. That's the thing about faith. It has to be difficult to work right. So, we trust, even when the light of reason has faded. Even when logic and reason have departed. Even then, we walk by faith and not by sight.

8/03/2010

Crime Stopped By Jesus

What Is The Greatest Risk In Christianity?

What is the greatest risk in Christianity? The risk of doing the wrong thing? The risk of saying the wrong thing? The risk of overstepping boundaries? The risk of changing something or doing something that shouldn't be changed or done?

As a kid growing up, those were the risks I was concerned about. "Be careful when doing your work Christian. Be careful that you don't overstep. Make sure you don't speak out of turn. Be aware that you will be judged for your actions and words." These seemed like good rules to go by at the time.

Then I read the story of the talents in Matthew 25. You know the one. A man goes away and entrusts 5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent to his workers. After the journey, he returns to find that the workers have invested and doubled his money. All do this, but one. The man with 1 talent says, "Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you."

Fear and worry about the master's hardness, prevented the worker from investing. The master agrees with his servant, that he is indeed a man who "harvests where he hasn't sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed." However, the master won't agree that he is a "hard man." In the end, the master kicks the servant out of his presence for his unwillingness to invest the master's money.

So, according to this story, what is the greatest risk in the kingdom? The risk of overstepping bounds? The risk of saying the wrong thing? Or, could it be the risk of being paralyzed with fear because we don't know the master? The risk of thinking God is "hard" when he is actually generous? The risk of risking nothing?

We are challenged today to risk something for God. To speak when we need to speak, to make changes when they are appropriately needed, to be bold as he has called us to be, to start new things and do new things that are worthy investments for the Lord. We are cautious in our investing. We are aware that we work for the king and handle his money, which he has entrusted to us. We know not all things belong to us, and so we leave those things as they are. We recognize there are things that God has entrusted into our hands, talents that he wants us to invest. We are forever cautious to invest wisely. But we also realize that the greater sin is not the sin of doing or saying too much. Rather, the greatest sin is doing or saying too little!


For more on this subject, check out Lucado's book, Cure For The Common Life.

Before There Was "Friends"... There Was Friendship

7/31/2010

It's Harder To Frown Than To Smile

I'm sure you've heard that saying, "It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile." Science is still not exactly sure how many more muscles it takes to frown (most estimates seem to be around 3x's). Still, the number really isn't important. What matters is the amount of effort it takes to come across badly, verses coming across good. And, this saying isn't just true of facial expressions. I've noticed that it's true of how we treat others as well.

It's harder to avoid than it is to acknowledge.
It's harder to snub than it is to support.
It's harder to maintain a lie than it is the truth.
It's harder to live life feeling sorry for one's self than it is to be content.
It's harder to be bitter than it is to be joyful.
It's harder to maintain power than it is to share.
I could keep going, but you see my point.

It's too hard to maintain a frown. It's too much work to always avoid a brother. I'd rather just go the opposite direction and live a life of redemption, true forgiveness, and peace. It's not really about Christianity (although that's a good reason too). Rather, being kind just sounds easier to me.

7/29/2010

USA TODAY Remembers Kyle

STROUD, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say a high school golf star was killed in a single-car accident hours after competing in the All-State golf tournament in Broken Arrow.

Bethel's Kyle Lewis was alone in his car, which left the road and struck a bridge embankment on the Turner Turnpike near Stroud on Monday. Authorities say it's unknown why his car left the road.

A moment of silence will be observed at the remaining All-State events this week.

Lewis, a graduating senior, had signed a letter of intent to play golf at Oklahoma and had planned to move to Norman next month. Oklahoma golf coach Ryan Hybl says the team is mourning Lewis' death. He says Lewis "was going to be a great ambassador for our university."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Taken from USA TODAY

7/27/2010

If We Could Erase Yesterday

Yesterday I posted a blog about being ready to be called home with God. Hours after that blog was posted, one of our kids in the youth group, Kyle Lewis was called home.

May God bless his family through your prayers, good Christian.

- Chris

7/26/2010

Are You Ready To Go?

I wasn't watching the clock, I was just sitting, relaxing, and minding my own business. Suddenly I looked up and my family was at the door ready. Jessica looked and said, "It's time. Are you ready to go?"

I've been thinking a lot about the parable of Matthew 25:1-13. As the parable goes, ten maidens waited for a wedding party to begin, anticipating the arrival of the groom. However, five didn't bring oil for their lamps, so were forced to leave early to buy oil, before the groom made an appearance. Anyway, while they were out, the groom arrived and shut the door to the party, leaving five of the maidens outside and alone.

As I listen to that parable, I think about the sorrow of not being ready when one's time is up, when one's number is called. We never know when God will return. We never know when our time will come. What we do know is that today is the day for faithfulness and obedience.

Are you ready to go? The clock may be ticking down faster than you realize.

Isaiah 55:6
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call on him while he is near.

Hebrews 4:7
Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

Stephen Hawking on God

Stephen Hawking in A brief history of time c.1988

"One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterward in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!"


7/22/2010

"We Don't See What Abraham Sees"



Matthew 22:31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

Blinded By Sin

Matthew 6:22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"

I think sometimes we don't realize how much darkness we have within us. Our gaze has been tainted, our insight is blurred, and our perceptive is hazy. Why is this the case? Because of sin. Sin has been blocking our view and so we find ourselves unable to see straight for the plank within our own eyes.

Sin in the life of the Christian results in spiritual blindness. The problem is, the blind don't know they are blind. Many times, the blind feel so confident in their ability to see that they communicate with arrogance, self-centeredness and a spirit of judgmental condemnation. This is the trouble with blindness. Such a condition cannot respond accurately and with a clear understanding.

God calls us today to remove the sin from our lives. By casting out sin, we will see more clearly in our other relationships. Casting out sin results in light's exposure. Light's exposure is not to be feared, but is rather a joy to those who desire to walk in the truth.

7/19/2010

The Whole of The Empty Tomb

"If there were no empty tomb... this would all just be for nothing." I've heard that a hundred times and read it from scripture more often than I know. Every time I read it or hear it, I think of this statement from the perspective of Christian evidences. "If God hadn't raised from the dead, then Jesus was a sham. The empty tomb validates Christ."

The empty tomb doesn't just validate Christ though. The empty tomb validates us. It validates our journey, our struggle, our fight against sin, our life-long sacrifices and never-ending challenge to be more in Christ. The empty tomb is a resounding trumpet call, and a banner for victory. The empty tomb draws us towards peace that passes understanding.

As Peter raced towards the tomb, he must have been filled with a world of emotions. Would the object of his faith still lay dead in a closed cell? Would his convictions remain lifeless and overpowered? Would his failings triumph over his faith? Would death, depression, guilt, hostility, emptiness, and sorrow reign? No. As Peter ran up to the tomb, death had departed. Loneliness had left. Sorrow had fallen short. All that was left was the possibility and optimism of a new glorious day!

Today we celebrate an empty tomb. A reminder that in the end, peace and life and love will reign once more. We race towards that day, knowing that victory will come, even though death and sorrow seem so prevalent along our journey.

7/07/2010

My Private/Public Faith

God enters by a private door into every individual. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
As soon as a man has found Christ, he begins to find others. -- Charles H. Spurgeon

Within the heart of Christianity lies a single dilemma. If God calls man to share the good news with the whole world, why does he spend so much time speaking about the secrecy required of the believer? In other words, why emphasize "praying in secret" when God also tells his disciples to be an example to non believers? Why does Christ sometimes call his followers to keep silent about what they have seen, and other times to "proclaim from the roofs?" Even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in two different verses both "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" and also, "don't do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." This conflict can be difficult to understand.

There are lots of answers to Jesus' teachings on this. Some situations involve context, while others require an understanding of God's plan for the cross. Obviously some verses have to do with boasting, while other texts emphasize spreading the Gospel. However, that isn't really why I am writing today. I am not concerned with why Jesus encouraged both a private and a public Christianity. Rather, I want to suggest that Jesus wants every Christian to have both. We all need both a private and a public Christianity.

Reading through the "parable of the yeast," Jesus says that the kingdom of Heaven is like yeast being worked into dough. Interestingly, commentators disagree as to the nature of Christianity in regards to this parable. Some say that yeast in dough is radically transformative, creating bold and undeniable changes. Others suggest that yeast in dough is silent, quiet, incognito and "slow rising." What if Christianity were both? What if Christianity were radical, and secret? What if it were hidden and bright?

God has called us to a loud faith. One that proclaims broadly and shares boldly the message of truth. Likewise, he calls us to a quiet faith. One which secretly lives out the message and silently contends for righteousness. Can we have both? Can we learn to balance a private and public walk with God? What would such a faith look like? Isn't that the question?

How Can We Trust That Which Is Unseen?

6/27/2010

I Forgive You!

Jesus: Removing the Toughest Stains

Romans 7:20- Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:24-25- What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!


I've really been enjoying our class on Romans at church. One of the things I enjoy about it has been found in this text. As Paul speaks of sin, he reminds us of the all too common problem so many of us face. Often times, we want to do good, we want to be righteous, but we simply aren't. Most of the time, we are at war within, struggling to be exactly what God calls us to be. In the end, we find ourselves "losing the battle" to the desires of our hearts. Paul, comes back and addresses this issue by saying, "Who can save me from this cycle? Well.... Jesus of course!"

Sometimes we need something to penetrate our hearts deeper than we have the ability to do. We've tried scrubbing the crud off of us, tried removing the grime from our lives, just to be left with disappointment, sadness, and bloody knuckles. Isn't it good to know that there is one here who can get deeper? One who can get deep down where we can't and eliminate the filth that we've been struggling to eliminate. I think that's Paul's point here. Sometimes hard work can't resolve an issue. Only the creator of the heart knows how to truly purify the heart. Try scrubbing.... and you may just end up depressed and disillusioned. Ask him to scrub, and see what happens inside of you. Maybe that is what Paul's talking about.

6/16/2010

Some questions only true disciples get to ask

I was talking to a friend the other day who indicated he had some doubts in his faith. He told me, "I almost feel like an atheist, asking if God is real." As I heard him talk, I realized that he was wording his question wrong. The issue was not that he felt like an atheist. Rather the issue was that he was questioning the church's relevance in the world today. My friend knows God's word. He loves God and has followed him even to do mission work. Still, he is asking himself about how relevant his faith is to the world. What about the Christians who get caught up in sin and can't get out? What about the homeless dying in the streets? What about the churches that don't get along? What about the power of TV and how it seems to influence others in ways that a single person speaking for Christ never could? Yes... my friend had a good question. But it was a spiritual question. The question of a true believer, not a spiritual weakling.

In John 1 the apostles first meet Jesus and say that he is amazing. "You're the king of Israel, the one John spoke of, the one Moses wrote about." By Mark 4 in the boat, they are asking Jesus, "Don't you care if we drown?" John the baptist starts off his ministry telling the disciples that Jesus is the lamb of God. Later in prison, he sends word to ask Christ "are you the one to come, or should we expect someone else?" Moses self sacrificially denied himself Egyptian treasure, caring about the other slaves, and boldly defending them even to the point of murder. Years later, he stands before God and asks the Lord if he will send someone else, since Moses "can't speak." I guess my point is that there are some level of questions that only a mature disciple has the right to ask. Only a Peter in the boat with Jesus gets to ask Jesus if he cares. Only a John in prison gets to question God's identity. Only a Moses before the burning bush can question God's decision making. If we heard these questions, we might just say to Peter, John, or Moses, "You are unspiritual."

Nope, these are the questions of the faithful. Only disciples get to ask those kind of questions.

What questions have you asked God? Maybe you aren't an atheist at all. Maybe you are a true believer on a journey with God.

6/14/2010

Artificial Insemination And The Search For Identity

I was given this article about children born through artificial insemination. The stats are staggering!

"Two-thirds of adult donor offspring agree with the statement 'My sperm donor is half of who I am.' Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related. About two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins. Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems."

Want the whole article? Read it here!

Thanks to John Clemmons for the link!

6/13/2010

What would you do?



Sort of reminds me of a parable I read once.

6/09/2010

How To Convert A Criminal To Christ

God's Workmanship

I've been running into a dilemma while doing my counseling outside of church. I want to try and help people see their true self worth. The problem is, I'm not allowed to mention God unless they do. So, how do you tell someone the true value they have, when God can't be mentioned?

Today I'm reading through Ephesians again and I ran across that verse, "we are God's workmanship." It gets me to thinking about some of those famous paintings I discovered when I was an apprentice missionary in Europe. I saw a few Rembrandt's, some Picaso's, some Dali's, and a famous one by Da Vinci (guess which one). Some were breathtaking. Others were pretty ordinary. All were famous and priceless. What gave them value? The value of the work was found in who the artist was. The value of workmanship is determined by the worker. This is God's work. I am God's work. One cannot appreciate value until one understands the maker.

Wish I could tell my clients, "Without God, you are just human. But with God, you are priceless."

6/07/2010

Video: In Every Aspect of Life, God Is There!





If God had a fingerprint, what would it look like? Possibly 1.618.

6/03/2010

Do What You Came For, Judas!

Yesterday I was reading through Acts and made a powerful discovery. In Acts 1, the Apostles make mention of Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and then never mention Judas again. In fact, Judas is never mentioned again in scripture! Even references to Judas are eliminated from scripture. In I Corinthians 11 when speaking of the Lord's Supper, betrayal is referenced. Outside of this though, there is really nothing to bring us back to Judas. One reason for this could be because as humanity, we all denied and crucified Jesus. In other words, Judas was not the enemy of Christ, but an instrument representing all of us. "We all killed Jesus" seems to be the theme of scripture, not just Judas alone. Still, I wonder what Biblical truth this has for me in my life.

You'd think if someone murdered and betrayed Christ, everyone would be talking about that guy. I mean, there is no one more despicable than Judas... right? The whole "kiss" thing must have left his mark on society back in the first century. Still, we never read about apostolic anger towards Judas. Peter never spends a chapter in his letter talking about his frustrations with his old "friend." That is so the opposite of me.

When people hurt us, how do we respond? Do we talk about the hurt? Do we dwell on the pain? Do we dissect their character, paint them as demonic, and think about their disobedience and sin? The apostles just moved on. I don't know how or why. Maybe because they loved God so much. Maybe because they knew that we are all guilty before God. Maybe they just understood the bigger role Judas played and that each of them were capable of the same thing. Either way, Acts 1 concludes the story of Judas in scripture.

6/02/2010

The Ways of Jesus Are Perfect!

Psalm 77: 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?

They may be difficult or complicated. They may not always make sense. They may be hard to swallow and harder to live by, but Christ's ways are always good. Jesus' ways are perfect. They are perfect in so many ways and on so many levels. Christ's ways remind us who we are to be. They challenge us in moments of victory. They lift us up in times of struggle. Christ's ways are a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path, a rock of solid foundation within the storm, and a mighty fortress when the enemy attacks. Who is like Jesus? Who moves and leads and saves and strengthens as our God does.

Never forget the God of your youth. Never reject the one whose ways are perfect. Jesus' ways are right... always... no matter what we think or feel.

6/01/2010

The Ways of Jesus Are Impossibly Hard

I still remember sitting in Bible school when the teacher said "Jesus' yoke is easy and his burden is light." At the time, I was 23 and so I just raised my hand and shouted out, "That seems like a contradiction since he also says you've gotta hate your father and mother, carry your cross daily, and turn the other cheek." The teacher rightly rebuked me for my disrespect, and unjustly ignored me for having a legitimate question worthy of being addressed.

So, whoever said following Jesus is easy was nuts (with the exception of Christ himself who was inspired, spirit-filled, and sinless). Seriously, imitating Christ is a standard that seems so lofty and high... who could ever reach it? Maybe for some people following Christ is simple. As they get older, it becomes easier and more simplistic. I can buy that! For me though, Christianity is just plain hard. I see those who have walked the long road for years faithfully... and yet, even they couldn't stand up to the scrutiny of God's plumb line (or ruler for those of you who are measuring). The standard reaches deep and wide. No one is worthy, not even one.

Maybe this is the place where I talk for a while about grace. Maybe here is where we discuss how we've all been forgiven, we all are not worthy, we are all saved by grace through faith. Maybe so. Still, before you toss me a simplistic bone to answer my heart's dilemma, remember that this is an enigma that has plagued me for years. Is it easy to follow Jesus? Depends on who you ask. Depends on when you ask it.

5/27/2010

Raising Kids... Comedy Video



Hate to see our youth teens graduating, but am proud of them. This one is for you parents out there.

5/26/2010

Just a spoonful of Jesus...

Matthew 5:6

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

I have been thinking a lot about why God isn't mightily working in our lives, like he could be. Why do we feel so spiritually weak? Why are we so ineffective? Why do we fail so often or fall into sin so regularly? There are so many questions here and often times few answers. I just want to ask God, "Where is all of this power you talk about? Why can't we move mountains? Show me this peace, this joy, this _______ that the Bible speaks of, but that seems so elusive to me." Once I'm done complaining, I often times pick up my Bible, I read a verse, I say a prayer, and then I go fast to sleep, ready for a new day of failures and frustrations.

I wonder sometimes... what if the problem is that my spirituality isn't filled with me thirsting for God deeply. Maybe I'm drinking too shallow. Maybe I'm sipping Jesus and not swimming deep in him. What if instead of picking up a gallon of God, I'm drinking from an eye dropper. I've chosen a thimble of theory, a spoonful of spirituality, or a drop of divinity, but I've forsaken the fountain of flowing water of my Lord. Why do we fail? Because we'd rather dip our tongues in God's word for a second and then spend all day long watching TV. Guess what? In the end, all we've done is show him that we thirst for television.

It's time to thirst for God! Time to drink deep! Time to jump into the fountain free and take a long, refreshing swim!

5/25/2010

How much does God love you?



My kids used to ask me, "Daddy, how much do you love me?" I'd always raise my arms up and say, "This much." It made sense to them, since my arms were so much bigger than theirs. That was an easy game to play. Dad has big arms, he can reach really far, and his love is really wide.

God's arms are invisible. How will we ever know how big God's love is, when God has no arms? And then I remember God coming to earth in the flesh. At the cross, he raises his arms outward and says, "Guess how much I love you?" How wide are those arms? Wider than we will ever know.

The business of Christianity

"As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray." Martin Luther

Which gets me to asking..... "Am I in the business of
Christianity?"

5/17/2010

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Lately I've been thinking a lot about fear. Fear is a funny thing because it can often be so unfounded. It's like, "paying interest on money you have not borrowed" - Zig Ziglar. Point being, I wonder how many wars, how many church splits, how many divorces occurred because of fear. People getting scared and "running off with their thoughts." Christians "jumping to unnecessary conclusions." How many times have I let fear determine the truth, rather than let the truth be determined by reality? Fear is such a powerful force in the world and it should not be underestimated. So, controlling fear might very well mean controlling fate. Possibly, he who takes fear by the horns holds destiny in his hands.

5/06/2010

Happy Mothers Day From Mr. T

Climbing, Coasting, and Crashing

I've been thinking a lot about what people really want out of life. Sometimes we find ourselves crashing and burning. Slamming into sin, watching our lives fall apart under us, finding ourselves knee deep in a world we never imagined for ourselves. No one dreams of crashing and burning. And yet, this is the place that we can find ourselves.

When we crash, often the response is to turn to God. After all, God can make us soar again. God lifts us up under his wings and elevates us above the clouds. He rockets us forward to new heights. It only makes sense that when we are flat on our backs we would turn to the Father.

The thing is, most people really don't want to go quite as high as God wants to propel them. They are content flying under Satan's radar. They have been happy for years just coasting and don't want to get too close to God's glory. After all, God's glory may be good, it may be filled with joy and peace and love, but it also can be hot around the collar. Where God dwells, men are exposed to the truth of themselves. People who get extreme for God are also the types who are criticized, martyred, and who become social outcasts. One can't keep his or her feet in this world and soar with God at the same time. A decision must be made.

Truth be told, most people just like to coast. They enjoy the freedom of flying under the radar, simple and free. With their heads in the clouds, people want to glide. The thing is, God didn't make us to glide. God made us to shine like stars high above the world we live in. Thus, coasting eventually results in a loss of altitude, a drop in cabin pressure, crashing and burning. People who choose to coast (and don't climb towards God) just end up crashing.

If you ask people, would you rather be Holy or Happy, most people will say, "Happy." Most people just want to get by. They like flying gently with the birds. Fact is, that kind of flying is for the birds. We need people willing to climb, willing to soar above the clouds where its hot. We need people willing to go the distance with God, to an altitude of holiness. Cruising has gotten us nowhere. Cruising is getting us killed. Climbing, now that's where its at!

5/05/2010

Here's all you've gotta do

I'll never forget the day I was walking along in Scotland and I told a woman all she had to do. I was an apprentice missionary 15 years ago, and I spoke trying to convince an elderly lady that if she wanted salvation and to be right with God, all she had to do was _____ .

Maybe there's a time and a place to show the simplicity of the Good News, but I'd like to suggest that the wording "all you've gotta do" demonstrates the problem we have in understanding the Gospel.

In the last few years, I've heard "all you've gotta do" around every corner. All you've gotta do is be baptized. All you've gotta do is believe. All you've gotta do is call Jesus into your heart. All you've gotta do is get right with God. All you've gotta do are these 5 steps for salvation. All you've gotta do is go to church.

Jesus' words are so contrary to ours. For example, in John 3 where we get both the powerful message of simplistic belief in Jesus, as well as the call for baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus never says "all you've gotta do." Rather, Jesus argues that if Nicodemus wants to enter the kingdom of God, he must be "born again." The point is, Jesus doesn't say "Get into magic water. Say a magic prayer. Follow these magic steps." Rather, Jesus is arguing for total and complete surrender of self over to God. While total and complete surrender of self surly involves death in baptism, the gift of the Spirit, and salvation by grace through faith, Jesus doesn't just say "Do this simple act" or "think this spiritual thought." Instead Christ pushes for a transformed mind and lifestyle based on death of self and life to God.

Again, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus could have given them any combination of words. Surely if the sinner's prayer was the solution to mankind's problem, Jesus would have just quoted that prayer to his disciples. Likewise, Christ could have told them to pray that God give them "the answers" to salvation. He could have said, "When you pray, just ask me into your hearts." Likewise he could have said, "When you pray, ask God for help understanding the five steps." No, Jesus talked to them about God's holiness and relationship to his people. How mankind needed to submit to God's will and direction. How the kingdom was advancing and they needed to be less about themselves than about that kingdom. Does that mean Jesus hates prayers that begin, "Lord, come into my heart?" Does that mean that believers shouldn't repent or confess or be baptized? No. Rather it means that God is calling his people to something much greater than they might actually understand.

Christianity is not a quick fix or an easy 1,2,3. Christianity begins and ends with a cross. Christianity is about a lifestyle, a change both internally and externally. A move from self towards God. One should be careful when saying, "Here's all you've gotta do." Jesus never did that.

Mark 10: 17 "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" 20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." 21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

5/04/2010

A story of sacrificial love

90-Year-Old Ready For Prom - Kansas City News Story - KMBC Kansas City

I'm telling you.... if this isn't a story of self sacrifice... I don't know what is. "Ummm, Sure Granny. Join me at the prom."

5/03/2010

Yes, you look good. But you're also lifeless!

Luke 11:40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?

I've heard Jesus say that a dozen times in scripture. Speaking about fig trees, whitewashed tombs, dirty cups... things that look OK on the outside but are rotten in the middle. I've gotta tell you, when I read verses like these, most of the time I think to myself, "Praise God that I'm no Pharisee." It's as if I can just ignore these warnings, because pharisees are legalistic religious jerks, so I don't have to worry about falling in their footsteps.

In a real way, I think I might be missing out on an important point made by Jesus here. Christ isn't just calling them legalistic in these passages or warning them about being "nice." Jesus is arguing (I believe) that one's faith needs to be more than just structure and system, it needs to also be sincere.

There are lots of trees in the Forrest. However, some lack fruit and leaves. They stand tall enough alright, but they also are dead. No water nurtures their core, and they become just lifeless husks. What would I rather be? A living sapling 2 inches tall, or a towering cedar with no life? My life sometimes looks towering. The structure is all there. 2.5 kids, wife, career, friendships, religious heritage, house, and credentials. Still, all I've done is built up structure without life. Rather a little tree with life than a big dead tree. Rather less credentials or success with Jesus than accomplishments without him.

Yes, my tree is big, but is it watered by Christ and bearing his fruit? If not, I'm just a dead tree, a whitewashed tomb, or a dirty cup.