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According To Him

April 30, 2014 1 comment
To which voice are you listening?

To which voice are you listening?

Music is one of my passions. From time to time I’ll hear a song that has a new meaning for me – it might not necessarily be the meaning the songwriter/artist had in mind when they wrote or performed it, but it speaks to me in a certain way. I heard this song a while back that has resonated with me a lot lately. Orianthi’s “According To You” talks about a girl who is trying to make a decision between two guys (possibly a current boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend). One views her as positive things, but the other views her in a negative manner.

Throughout my life I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues and as a result this song spoke to me on another level. It felt like it was an inner monologue for me – like it was Satan saying I was all these negative things, but according to God I’m the positive things. The lyrics say “According to you I’m stupid, I’m useless…I can’t do anything right.” (This is something that Satan tries to convince us of on a daily basis.) On the other side of the conversation is God’s view of us – “According to him, I’m beautiful…incredible…He can’t get me out of his head. According to him I’m funny…irresistible…everything he ever wanted.”

Toward the end of the song she turns the lyrics around to the negative guy and says “According to me, you’re stupid… you’re useless…you can’t do anything right.” She is basically saying to him “You know what…I don’t care what you think! I’m important in someone else’s eyes and that’s all that matters to me!” (If only we could have the strength to say this to Satan every time he comes at us with his lies!) This song is just a reminder to me that regardless of what Satan tries to make me believe about myself, God sees me through HIS eyes of love and grace…finding me irresistible and everything HE ever wanted.

Photo Credit: By eonlegend

Misheard and Misunderstood

December 2, 2013 2 comments
Go straight to the ULTIMATE source!

Go straight to the ULTIMATE source!

In days before video games and the Internet were popular, children used to play a game called telephone. You would get a group of friends together and the first person would whisper something in a second person’s ear. That second person in turn would whisper what they thought they heard into a third person’s ear, and so on until the last person would say out loud what they thought they had heard. The first message might have been something like “my favorite color is blue” but by the time it got to the last person it became something like “I ate my favorite shoe.” It’s funny how things can easily be misheard and misunderstood.

Misheard song lyrics can also be pretty hysterical at times. Did Destiny’s Child sing about being a “Survivor, I’m gonna make it!” or was it “I’m on Survivor, I’m a Jamaican?!” Did Elton John really sing about a “Tiny Dancer” or was it really an ode to Who’s The Boss star Tony Danza? One individual has even created a YouTube channel dedicated to Bad Lip Reading in songs, movie, and television.

Life can be complicated. We all go through times in our life where we may misunderstand things, but what do we do about it? When you feel like you’ve misheard things or if you want clarification, go straight to the source. Gossip can often be stopped right in its tracks when you confront it from the start instead of letting it fester. The same can be said for our spiritual lives. When in doubt, go straight to the ULTIMATE source to find clarification and don’t just believe what you’re told…find it out for yourself.

Photo Credit: By DrGBB

Blessed By The Best

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment
I Am Thankful

When was the last time you counted your blessings?

Small group for me is a weekly highlight! I get to hang out with four other guys and just talk about life. This week, one of the questions that was posed was “Who is someone in your life that you see and think ‘They have an AMAZING faith!’ ?” As we each took a turn sharing our answer, one of the guys talked about his aunt. The main thing that really had a positive influence on him was any time someone would ask her how she was, she always responded with the phrase “I’m blessed by The Best!” It instantaneously became my new mantra.

When someone asks how we are, our first inclination is to turn to the circumstances in our life. We respond with “Well, my car broke down today on the way to work” or the typical go-to response of “I’m fine.” Why don’t we stop and think about the blessings we have been given when we are asked that question? Blessings aren’t circumstantial! God can bless us whether things are going well or if we are having a bad day.

One thing I do every morning when I’m driving to work is pray – specifically that God would bless me in ways that: 1) I would know beyond the shadow of a doubt it was Him so I could give Him all the credit and glory AND 2) I would be enabled to grow and be strengthened in my faith. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, take the time to thank God for those blessings and find ways to bless those around you.

How have you been “Blessed By The Best” lately?

Photo Credit: By MTSOfan

Desiring God’s Will – Is It Really That Simple?

August 28, 2013 1 comment
How can we truly desire God's will?

How can we truly desire the will of God?

The topic of God’s will can be very perplexing if we let it. We think of it as an equation: If I do “this” and then do “that” it will equal the will of God. It’s not quite that simple, or is it? I remember hearing someone say “Find where God is active in your life and join Him.” David G. Benner’s book Desiring God’s Will: Aligning Our Hearts with the Heart of God tries to shed some light on how we can truly desire God’s will, embrace it, and live in it.

This book is the third and final book in a series (Surrender to Love and The Gift of Being Yourself being the first and second books respectively). Its seven chapters include: Ways of Willing; My Kingdom, Thy Kingdom; Love and Will; Choosing God; Will and Desire; Choosing the Cross; Developing a Discerning Heart. I think Dr. Benner puts it best when he says, “Surrendering to God’s will makes little sense if we are not convinced of the depths of God’s love for us.” He further discusses how we get confused about God’s will thinking we must “know” it rather than how to “choose” it. He also talks about how we on our own don’t have the willpower to truly desire God’s will…that it is something for which we truly need Him to act on our behalf.

I found this final book to be an easy read and found myself eager to finish it to learn more about the topic of God’s will. I had several takeaways, but here are just a few:

  • “What a tragedy if we lump choosing God in with things that are not naturally attractive. Is it any wonder that the thought of surrendering to God’s will evokes mixed feelings? Choosing God’s dream for us feels like choosing to take bitter medicine.”
  • “Looked at carefully, willfulness is more against something than for something.”
  • “The act of willing surrender is a choice of openness, a choice of abandonment of self-determination, a choice of cooperation with God.”
  • “Discipline was, for Jesus as it should be for us, grounded in relationship and shaped by desire.”
  • “We become love only only by surrender and self-sacrifice. The beginning of this journey is the return to ‘our Father,’ a journey that we take with the other prodigal sons and daughters who are brothers and sisters.”
  • “God’s will cannot be separated from God’s kingdom.”

I highly recommend this book. It is more geared to those who are more established in their faith, but I also think that new believers would also be able to gain a great deal of knowledge from it as well.

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

Speak To Me Through The Stillness

August 11, 2013 2 comments
God uses His word to speak to us.

God uses His Word to speak to us.

This weekend was our annual Singles Leader Retreat for church. “Be” was our theme this year and the scripture this was based on was Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” We had four sessions and the topics were “Be Present,” “Be Still,” “Be Yourself,” and “Be Grateful.” The session that was most relevant to me right now was “Be Still.”  This session was led by John Hambrick and Sue Bates (two members of the staff at Buckhead Church).

One thing that John said really hit home with me – “Our purpose is to experience and enjoy God!” To help us better understand this concept, they gave us eight verses from scripture and asked us to go spend an hour alone, praying, reading the passages, and listening to hear what God had to say to us through these scriptures. At first I didn’t think it would take me the whole hour, but the time quickly passed. I just wanted to share these scriptures and what God revealed to me through them (I am linking the verses below to The Message Translation, because I really like how it speaks as we would today).

Romans 11:36 – God is the source. Nothing happens to us (challenges, growth, rewards, etc.) without His permission. If it’s something good, He entrusts me and values me enough for me to take on the task. If it’s a challenge or a period of growth, He thinks I can handle it.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Be present and enjoy what God is doing in your life right now. Don’t let the negativity of others take your joy and your focus away form what is important. Give God the glory!

Psalm 19:1-4 – Don’t be so busy that you forget to stop and look at God’s creation. Class is always in session and we can learn so much from just being silent.

2 Peter 1:3-4 – A relationship with God is an investment. You have to spend time being intimate and personal with Him in order to grow in your relationship. Be a participant, not a spectator.

Psalm 73:24-28 – God is holding my hand and leading me. He doesn’t force “followship” but He leads tenderly and with wisdom. Desire only God…He is the only thing that lasts. As I grow older God is still strong, firm, and faithful…He never changes.

John 17:21-23 – God sent us to be right where we are at this present time and place. He has a reason for our current placement and often we may not understand why, but if we take a step back and look at it from a different perspective we can embrace it and be a part of what God is doing now. God loved us so, we have no excuse for not loving others.

Philippians 4:4-7 – Experience and embrace God 24/7. Give people no doubt to Whom you belong. Replace worrying with prayer. When you give your worries to God through prayer, the results are life changing.

Psalm 27:4 – Be fully present with God. Observe and acknowledge the beauty of all He has done in and through you. Imagine yourself at the throne of God, in His presence bowing at His feet in reverence. Fear and be awestruck by God.

What is God saying to you through these passages?

Photo Credit: By Ryk Neethling

Migraines and Sin

Both migraines and sin are evil.

Migraines and sin have several similarities.

Recently I have had the misfortune of dealing with migraines. The positive thing is that I found out what was causing said migraines (a tooth issue) and have had it fixed, which has resulted in relief. In dealing with the migraines, God has used them to reveal to me how much they are like sin in our lives. It may sound silly at first, but please hear me out as it will make sense when I am finished.

When you have a migraine, you don’t want to be exposed to light. When we deal with sin in our lives we honestly don’t want to be exposed to light either. We take the “what people don’t know won’t hurt them” approach and try to keep our sin hidden from others, but no matter how hard we try that sin will eventually be brought into the light for all to see in some form or fashion.

You don’t like being told what to do when you have a migraine. The last thing you want is someone trying to tell you how to “fix” your migraine issue. Sin is the same in that we don’t want people telling us what we should be doing to “fix” our sin problem. We would rather just attempt to do things on our own, but we all know how that ends. Migraines cause us to become isolated from others – you just want to be alone and not be bothered. Sin isolates us from the people who love us the most…our friends and family. We seclude ourselves from others because we don’t want to be judged or just don’t want to face others due to the shame we feel as a result of our sin.

Both migraines and sin involve pain of some kind – with migraines the pain is almost always immediate and lingers, but with sin pain doesn’t always happen instantaneously…it can take some time before you feel the painful consequences of sin. There are also after effects with both – a migraine may make you may feel weak, fatigued, sick, or exhausted afterwards and sin may do the very same thing. Both migraines and sin can feel paralyzing, in that once you’re dealing with them you feel constricted and can’t move.

I’ve often found myself bargaining with God when dealing with either a migraine or sin. “God, if you make this migraine go away, then I’ll <fill in the blank>!” These negotiations are based on things which we never plan on following through – “God, if you get me out of this situation I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life, I’ll tithe, and I’ll never do this again!” God can easily see through our child-like pleas and knows what it will take to bring us back around to Him and sometimes it takes us suffering the consequences of our actions.

Migraines can happen to anyone…no one is immune. The same is true of sin – the only one who was sinless was Jesus Christ. Romans 8:23 states it clearly – “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The thing is, just because we are prone to sin doesn’t mean we have an excuse to sin. What we do with this sin us completely up to us. Will you let it consume you and rule your life? Will you ask for God’s forgiveness, turn from it, and use it as a learning experience?

What is another illustration you’ve heard comparing sin to something else?

Photo Credit: By Ben Photog

The Grace of God is Amazing

The Grace of God is an excellent read!

The Grace of God is an excellent read!

I lead a men’s small group through the church I attend. As a group, we decided to read and discuss the book The Grace of God by Andy Stanley. I had read What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey a few years ago, so I was interested in reading Pastor Stanley’s thoughts on grace. One of the guys in the group had found a free online study guide so we used that as well as just talking in the group as to what caught our attention, anything with which we agreed, and anything with which we disagreed.

The book itself is an easy at only 13 chapters. In each chapter, Pastor Stanley talks about one or two people from the Bible (like David, Adam & Eve, and Abraham) and how God gave them grace in their respective situations. Society as a whole typically believes the “What’s In It For Me?” or “That’s Not Fair (For Me)?” mentality and grace is a concept that goes against that way of thinking. With Grace, we are not given what we deserve…we are given what we DON’T deserve. In one of the chapters Andy reminds the reader of the parable of day laborers (Matthew 20:1-16). In this story you really see three versions of “fair” so to speak: 1) What a given day laborer thought was fair to himself 2) What other day laborers thought was fair with regards to another given day laborer 3) What the land owner thought was fair. If we went by what was “fair” which definition would we use? (Of course we would use the definition that most benefits us…but God chose to provide grace instead of what was “fair!”

With this book, Andy is not trying define what grace is, he is just showing examples of grace in the Bible in order for the reader to get a better understanding of it. If you are looking for a book that provides more of a definition or goes over the entire concept of grace, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey would probably be a better read for you. I really enjoyed this book and was constantly finding myself learning something new regarding God and grace. Here are just a few takeaways that I had:

  • “Just as God was under no compulsion to create and provide, so mankind was under no compulsion to receive and reciprocate God’s love. Grace in its purest form can have no strings attached.”
  • “When the one true God initiated his relationship with mankind, it didn’t begin with a command; it began with an invitation: will you trust me?”
  • “The presence of sin means that sometimes we don’t get the good that we deserve. The presence of grace means that sometimes we don’t get the consequences we deserve. Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don’t deserve.”
  • “God initiated a relationship with his people before he even told them what the rules were…Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.”

I would definitely recommend this book either as a group study or something to read on your own. It has so much to offer and will help the reader get a better understanding and appreciation of God’s grace.

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

Being Yourself is a Gift Most Treasured!

The Gift of Being Yourself is a must read!

The Gift of Being Yourself is a must read!

Have you ever read a book that you felt was written specifically for you? The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner was definitely that book for me. It is the second book in a series of three books (the first book being Surrender to Love and the final book being Desiring God’s Will) that a friend recommended to me. There are only six chapters so it really isn’t a difficult read.

The chapter titles give you an idea of the specific topics covered by the book: Transformational Knowing of Self and God, Knowing God, First Steps Toward Knowing Yourself, Knowing Yourself as You Really Are, Unmasking Your False Self, and Becoming Your True Self.

A few of the takeaways that I had from the book were:

  • “Even when Jesus felt that God had abandoned him in the Garden of Gethsemane, his confidence in the love of the Father was so great that he still desired God’s will over his own. Jesus knew that he was loved whether or not he felt like it. His identity was grounded in God.”
  • “Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted — even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance. And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are — before you start your self-improvement projects!”
  • “Until we are willing to accept the unpleasant truths of our existence, we rationalize or deny responsibility for our behavior.”
  • “Knowing the depths of God’s personal love for each of us as individuals is the foundation of all genuine self-knowledge.”
  • “The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self — the real me.”

I highly recommend this book (and series) to anyone who is really struggling with self-esteem or self-image. This book helped me realize that it’s not my public persona (how I want to be seen) that God loves and wants to know…it’s the me behind closed doors that He wants me to embrace in order to truly reach my full potential, to become what He desires for me to be.

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

Saying Goodbye to the Original Ragamuffin

April 14, 2013 1 comment
Meeting Brennan Manning.

Meeting Brennan Manning.

September of 2008, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Brennan Manning. He was speaking at the NPCC Single’s Labor Day Retreat. Mr. Manning was a very meek individual who truly loved God. If you had seen him, he looked like any other senior adult who could have been someone’s grandfather. He shared with us his testimony – a story of alcoholism, being a priest, homelessness, and hitting rock bottom.

What I loved so much about Mr. Manning was after he spoke, we were given the opportunity to meet him. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him and his response was “Why would you want your picture taken with me? I’m no one special. God is the one who did it all through me.” I was floored by his humbleness and in talking with him further, I knew that God had truly used this man to further His kingdom. He also signed my copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel with simply “In Abba’s Embrace – Brennan.”

As someone who loves to write, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet two of the authors who have had a huge impact on my life (Brennan Manning and Donald Miller) and both interactions left me loving these two authors even more than I did prior to the encounters. I was saddened to hear that Brennan Manning passed away last week. In memory of Mr. Manning, I wanted to share a few quotes from The Ragamuffin Gospel that really blessed me.

“The Kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious cast of people who understand they are sinners because they experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”

“God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”

“Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image — in each case a dreadfully small God.”

“The danger with our good works, spiritual investments, and all the rest of it is that we can construct a picture of ourselves in which we situate our self-worth. Complacency in ourselves then replaces sheer delight in God’s unconditional love. Our doing becomes the very undoing of the ragamuffin gospel.”

One Step Closer – U2 and God

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment
One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God

One Step Closer is a MUST read for any fan of the band U2!

If you know me well at all, you know that U2 is my all time favorite band. I had the amazing opportunity to see them live the last time they came to Atlanta and it was well worth the price of admission. The fact that they sang one of my favorite songs, 40, made my experience “even better than the real thing” (sorry, I promise no more U2 song title puns). One of my life-long friends got me a book for Christmas several years ago and I just finally got around to reading it. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen takes the reader through twelve different topics regarding Christianity and shows how different songs in the U2 music catalog fit within these topics.

The topics covered include: Singing Scripture, Psalms as Thanksgiving and Lament, Wisdom as Desire and Illusion, Prophecy as Judgment and Hope, Parables as Offense and Mercy, Apocalypse as Ecstasy and Healing, Singing the Cross, Faith (Not Sight), Hope (Not Possession), Love (Not Power), Now (Not Yet), and Singing the Truth. I learned so much about my favorite band as well as what motivates them to do what they do. They are not in it for the fame and fortune – they feel God has given them a platform to share via their music. Some categorize the band as “too Christian” while others label them as “not Christian enough” but the author likens the band’s songs to modern parables.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes and take aways from the book:

  • “We don’t get what we deserve; we get what God offers. As Bono put it in a recent interview, ‘It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.'”
  • “If we thought it was all about us, it would <expletive> us up. Something happens, but it is not something we make happen. It only happens when God walks through the room.” – Larry Mullen, Jr. (drummer for U2)
  • “Great music, like great lives, moves us to see with more clarity.”
  • “The band has always had the feeling – not unlike Flannery O’Connor in her writing – that revelation will come if they wait and pay attention.”
  • “These relationships – to friends, family, and community – speak to a conscious effort to overcome the vertigo of being rock stars so that they can find ways to be normal people.”
  • “They (the band) decided very early on that they would transgress the rule that rock bands don’t sing about religion and politics.”
  • “It’s absolutely clear what’s on God’s mind. You just have to read Scripture. Those who read Scripture and don’t come away with God’s preferential concern for the poor are just blind given that there are 2,103 verses of Scripture about the poor.”  Bono (lead singer of U2)
  • “To make a difference, one must be different.”

I left this book with a better understanding of U2 and the thought process behind their lyrics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves U2 or is just interested in seeing how other believers in the world are making a difference.

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

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