Random Quote "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal."
-C.S. Lewis
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Random Scripture Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:10-11
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A little longer

This is an incredible song written by Jenn Johnson.  Right now it is my prayer, with a focus on the first verse.  God, what can I do for you?  What can I give to you?  What kind of song would you like me to sing?  Show me, O Lord, and I will follow you.  I will only do and say what I see you do and hear you speak.  My entire life is yours.

A little longer
w/m by: Jenn Johnson

What can I do for you
What can I give to you
What kind of song would you like me to sing
I’ll dance a dance for you
I’ll pour out my love to you
What can I give to you beautiful king

Cause I can’t thank you enough
I can’t thank you enough

Then I hear you sing to me
You don’t have to do a thing 
Just simply be with me and let those things go
It can wait another minute
Wait this moment is too sweet please stay here with me
And love on me a little longer
Cause I’m in love with you

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The Inner City Calls

I recently spent eight days in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, spreading the gospel for Christ.  It is an area of the city that is less than one square mile in size, with approximately 30,000 residents.  The population density in 2000 was nearly 45,000 people per square mile.  It has a very large homeless population and is known for its diversity and very high crime.  Just in this month, March of 2009, there have been at least four shootings.

As I settled in for the week and hit the streets, God broke my heart for His people.  I longed for them to know Him.  Although they suffered in the flesh, I hoped that they could all see, perceive, hear, and understand the good news that God had for them.  Throughout the week, I struggled with many things that the enemy was trying to speak to me.  It ranged from the enemy trying to bring me down with struggles happening in my personal life, to him speaking to me that I had no place ministering to those in the city and that it wasn't what I was made for.

As the week went on, the struggles continued.  But satan suffered huge blows and suffering when fears of mine were broken and I was able to preach the gospel to hundreds of God's children.  Urban ministry isn't quite what I had expected.  What did I expect?  I couldn't really say for sure.  It was different, which I had expected.  Seeing as clear as day some of the extreme needs that people have such as housing and food was a constant reminder of who my real provider is.  If you simply walked down the street with a box of food, the interest of those around you would be piqued in no time at all; something as simple as food, which I take for granted every meal.

Will God call me long term to the inner city someday?  Sure, it's possible.  He certainly called me there for a week, why couldn't He call me there longer?  There's a reason I was on this trip (many, I'm sure).  In the Tenderloin, He did great works in my heart when I wasn't even realizing it.  I look at things a bit differently now.  I'm sure God will use this trip to change my heart well into the future.  But if it's one thing He's changed already, it's that I'm ready.  When He calls, I will answer.  No matter the cost.  No matter the discomfort.  No matter the difficulty.  I will follow Him wherever He leads - into the darkest city in the world, to the most uncomfortable bed, to the least amount of money.  Here am I!  Lord, send me.

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"  Then I said, "Here am I!  Send me."  And he said, "Go, and say to this people…"  Isaiah 6:8-9

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Gobekli Tepe: the lost Garden of Eden?

There was recently an article posted on Daily Mail about a place called Gobekli Tepe.  Gobekli Tepe was discovered by a Kurdish man in the rolling plains of Turkey in the summer of 1994.  The site, described by some as the most important archaeological site in the world, is believed to be the possible location of the Garden of Eden found in the story of Genesis.  The site contains many large stone pillars with carvings on them.

In Genesis, the Garden of Eden is said to lie where four rivers meet.  It is widely accepted that two of these rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates.  Gobekli Tepe lies between both of these rivers.

Is this the true location of the Garden of Eden?  I don't think anybody is sure, but the topic is still very fascinating to learn about, realizing that there is always the possibility it could indeed be the place where Adam and Eve once lived in the garden .

Gobekli Tepe on Wikipedia.

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Generous Bake Sales

It's pretty clear that when it comes to giving, many people would rather keep things to themselves.  So, it is easy to understand that when someone is fundraising for some type of charitable donation that people are much more likely to "donate" when they get something in return.  A few examples include bake sales, car washes, benefit banquets, etc.  This is understandable in the secular world - we are so caught up in materialism that it is difficult to be a giver when we don't immediately (if ever) see a return on our investment.

But take a step outside of the secular world for a moment, and step into the greater Kingdom.  We are called to be givers, so why do bake sales and other fundraisers work so well even within the church?  Do we finally realize how bad those raising funds need them, and take the cookies or washed car because it's offered, or is what we get in return really an incentive to lure us into giving?  I know I'm guilty of wanting the baked goods.  Yes, I could have given to a cause weeks ago, but now there is pie!  If I give money I get the pie, and justify the high cost because it's going to a good cause.  But that's something that isn't right in my heart.  I wasn't in it for the giving, I was in it for the pie.  This isn't the kind of cheerful giving God wants.  Is it possible to cheerfully give, and accept something in return which is ultimately lowering the amount of your donation?  I'm not convinced a truly generous church needs to have fundraisers.  But, we are imperfect.  How do we become more generous givers, giving away what has first been given to us?

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."  (Matthew 6:2-4)

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Watch and pray - turn off the TV!

When Jesus was with his disciples in Gethsemane, He gave some of the most valuable instruction in the history of the world.  It's easy to read these verses and write them off as something you're familiar with, but I'd like to suggest that within them there is something often overlooked that holds tremendous value and importance.

Jesus In Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"  (Matthew 26:36-46)
Jesus asks a few simple things of His disciples while they are in Gethsemane.  He asks them to sit, stay, and keep watch with him.  He finds them sleeping and is let down.  Again, he tells them to watch and pray so that they will not fall into temptation.  He left again, finding His disciples asleep once more upon His return.  Then, this happened a third time.  When He returns the third time, He tells them that the hour is near and to rise.

Watch and Pray

Jesus tells us to watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation.  We are told that our Spirit is willing (to not fall into temptation), but our body is weak.  That is to say that if we do not watch and pray, we are likely to fall into temptation of things that are not of God; things that He knows are not best for us.
To watch means to keep watch spiritually for yourself and those around you, praying that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit and not fall into temptation.  Watching means to be spiritually awake and alert, paying close attention to any shifts in the atmosphere around you.  Keep watch to make sure that your surroundings do not influence you, but that you remain constant in God.  Do not let your surroundings influence you, but instead influence your surroundings.  Watching makes you spiritually alert, allowing you to be correctly positioned for every situation, reacting with a Kingdom response.  Prayer is this response.  Too often we are caught by surprise while sleeping, and we respond incorrectly to the situation.
If it's distracting you from God, don't waste time following organized sports, watching TV, or being lazy.  Even the things that are not sin must be taken out of our lives if they are holding us back from the King.  Just like Jesus told His disciples, the time to wake up is now.
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)

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A story of painful disobedience

Onething08, a youth conference organized by IHOP (International House of Prayer), recently came to a close in Kansas City, MO.  During the final session in the four day conference, one of the speakers, Stuart Greaves, was encouraged by Lou Engle to share a troubling story.  Unfortunately, this is an example of one of the possible outcomes when we don't obey God's Spirit when it prompts us to do something.

The Story

Stuart has a good friend that owns an apartment complex.  His friend was leaving town and asked Stuart to take some time off work to watch his complex, so he agreed.  While he was working at the complex, a man of middle eastern decent approached him and asked him for help with a washer and dryer.

"Sure, I can help you with that," Stuart said.

While assisting the man with the washer and dryer, he felt a stirring in his spirit and sensed that he needed to share the gospel with him.  However, he remembered of a book he recently read that said all you need to do is be consistently friendly to Muslims and they will eventually ask you questions about your faith.  In the current day, he now strongly dislikes the book.  He let it get the best of him and he passed on sharing the gospel with the man on that day.

Later, while reading scripture, he came across a passage in Acts that greatly convicted him, where Paul says that he is innocent of the blood of all men because he has not hesitated to share the entire will of God with them.

Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  (Acts 20:26-27)

This scripture is saying that if we are hesitant to share the gospel with someone that does not know it, then we are responsible for their blood on our day of judgment.

Even after this passage convicted him, he watched a Bible video on Acts sometime later.  The same passage came up and it convicted him yet again.

He later found out that after his friend had returned to his apartment complex, it was swarmed with many police.

"There was a terrorist staying in my complex," his friend told him.

It turns out, the terrorist was the man that Stuart did not share the gospel with on that day.  He went to a nearby gun shop and purchased a gun, taking it to the Empire State Building.  He shot and killed six people that day before turning the gun on himself.

Stuart said that he will never forget that man's face.

Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

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Hindrances to Hearing God

How does God speak to you?  What keeps us from hearing God?  I'm sure there could be a million different things that could get in the way of us hearing God, but all of these things center around the same problem: thorns.  Thorns prevent us from hearing God.  In Mark chapter 4, we are told that three things choke the word: cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.  Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth.  But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away.  And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.  But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." (Mark 4:3-8, NKJV)

And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;  and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.  Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:13-20, NKJV)

Cares of this world are things that are often necessary for life in the societies we live in.  These things include school and work.  These are not bad things.  However, they can become a large hindrance if we get so wrapped up in them that we forget about the most important thing of all; a relationship with Christ.  Often times the cares of this world can invade our lives so much that these things become a drug to us.  We can become addicted to busyness.  We end up having a life jam-packed full of things to do, yet somehow it doesn't seem like much of a life.

The deceitfulness of riches is related much to our trust in God.  If we let riches deceive us, we ultimately lack trust in God and believe that our big screen TV, trip to Hawaii, or brand new car will somehow satisfy us greater than any non-material possession that God could give us.  We couldn't be more wrong.  Growing up in a materialistic culture, this is exceptionally hard to grasp.  We would much rather have mediocre instant gratification than the greatest prize of all that we cannot yet see.

The desires for other things can be defined as anything that distracts us from a purposeful relationship with Christ.  Often times these things can be sinful, but they are certainly not limited to sin.  An addiction to television, sports, business or any other thing lacking an eternal purpose can be just as distracting from God as an addiction to drugs can be.  We simply cannot keep living day to day focusing on the future, believing that some day we'll change.  The time is never later, the time is always now.  Each day we let pass where we don't create some kind of eternal purpose is a day lost in this world.

By far, the biggest reason we have difficulty hearing God is that we're not listening, or we have selective hearing.  It's absolutely crucial that we build a daily relationship with Christ.  Everything else in our lives flows out of the health of that relationship.  We have a choice to make.  Live life without Christ, or live life for and with Him.  If we choose the latter, we must be fully committed and fight the good fight.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 11-16, NIV)

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Dreaming In Vain

Dreaming In Vain

Given the correct context, a healthy thing for a Christian to do is dream.  When we dream, we often imagine something beyond our reach.  We imagine something we cannot accomplish on our own.  We dream of something that requires a higher power to carry out.  The problem with dreaming about something is that we must not dream in vain.  When we dream in vain, believing that our dream will have no effect, we disable ourselves from accomplishing that dream.  But there is hope; we don't have to dream in vain, because we have never dreamt anything so extraordinary that God has not first dreamed Himself.

Dream vs. Hope

I began thinking about what the difference might exactly be between a dream and a hope.  Here are a couple definitions I found interesting.

Dream - a wild or vain fancy.
Hope - to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

This makes it seem like a hope is more realistic - something that is more likely to actually happen and not a wild thought you had in your mind.  In scripture, it seems to be pretty clear that God is a god of hope.  We see this in many different places.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

God Is On Our Side

We should constantly be hoping to see great things happen with God: to introduce a friend to Him, to have an impact on your school's campus or workplace, to pour out His Spirit in the darkest areas.  We don't need to dream in vain.  God is with us, and He is a great god.  Expect great things.

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."(Matthew 19:26)

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No Discipline Seems Pleasant

Why is it that we sometimes consistently struggle with the same things over and over again?  Why are we able to consciously make bad decisions, knowing they will be bad, and regret them later multiple times?  We lack discipline.  Discipline is not fun, and it is not easy.  Luckily, discipline produces a harvest.

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:7-11, NIV, emphasis added)

Discipline can apply to nearly anything.  Often times while learning discipline, we need to learn how to say no to something, or yes to other things.  It's necessary.  It's hard.  But God promises us that being disciplined by Him is worth it.  One of the most important disciplines you can develop is to spend time with Him daily.  It's surprisingly not the easiest thing to do, but so important.

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Wake Up, Child, The Fruit Is Too Valuable

God Doesn't Want 10% of Your Money

Sometimes today there is a common misconception within the church in regards to money.  Many people think that it is required, or at least a good goal, to "tithe" your money, giving 10% of it to the church.  Although widely practiced today across the world, it may come as a shock to some that God doesn't want 10% of your money.  Let me rephrase that more clearly.  God does not want only 10% of your money.  God wants all of your money.  No, he isn't a greedy God that wants to make you poor because you've given all of your money to Him.  However, on top of all your money, God wants all your time, all your relationships, and every other thing, whether or not it is tangible, in your life.

It's imperative that we give all we have to God.  We can only keep what we give away - an interesting concept, I know.  Personally, I've discovered that although God wants everything in my life, what He always seems to want the most is what I don't want to give up to Him.  This is where the tithe comes in.  Money is an issue for many people, and it's increasingly easy to serve money and not God.  The tithe is a simple, measurable way to at least take a step towards knowing that money doesn't have complete control over us.  If we give the first 10% of everything we make to God, it's certainly a good place to start.  Ideally, we should give as much money to God as we can afford (church, helping the poor, etc.), but what's really important is that money has no control over us.  We need to understand that we wouldn't have it if God didn't first give it to us.

The Fruit Is Too Valuable

We must give God all that we have, and if we tell Him we'll do that, we absolutely must.  The Lord deals harshly with those that lie to the Spirit.  Just as a further illustration of giving all to Him, can we keep watching our favorite TV shows or listening to our favorite music?  Maybe, but we certainly can't keep it if it's an idol in our heart.  However, even if something isn't an idol, we must push aside ALL things that may not even be sin in our lives, but distract us from pursuing Him at all.  We have no time for comfort.  The time is now to seek Him.  The Spirit is placing a demand to let these distractions go.  The fruit is too valuable to be distracted by anything not having an eternal purpose.  The world will always out-entertain us and out-buy us.  But with all their billions they can't buy what we have.  God's gifts are freely given.

Wake Up, Child

I'm convinced that the current condition of the church is directly connected to the image of God in people's minds.  If we refuse to give all to Him, we likely don't believe deep inside our hearts that He is indeed a judge.  We often skip out on some of God's traits and flock to the areas that make us comfortable.  He is loving, He is merciful, but He is also a judge.  We must wake up out of spiritual death and religious complacency.  Do we really believe in the Word?  Dig in and search it out for yourself.  If we believe the book, God demands ALL from you.  His Word DEMANDS absolute action and obedience from your life or you must not believe it in the deepest parts of your heart and soul.  Keep in mind that God should never come first on your priority list.  He is Lord of everything and He should BE the list.

I've heard before that this past generation would have rather had good kids, not Godly kids.  Why would parents not want Godly kids?  Because Godly kids would convict parents of their lifestyle.  Let's not be a generation that raises good kids.  Raise Godly kids that will convict you, but before that happens you must be a sincere child of God yourself.

Take a few minutes to think and pray about what you haven't given to God.  Maybe you're not giving him your trust in a relationship, maybe you struggle with giving up any of your money, or maybe you have difficulty giving Him some of your time so you can get to know each other better.  Whatever it is, you need to give it all to Him.  Only when you give all to Him can you experience a relationship with Him in the way it's meant to be experienced.

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