When I feel closest to God is…

When do you feel closest to God?

Is it during the early morning hours before the house stirs awake with movement from the family?

Is it during the late evening hours when everyone else is asleep in their beds and you finally get a chance to be alone and think?

When do you feel closest to God?

During the times of worship at your church or in your own personal times at home?

During the times you read the Bible?

When do you feel closest to God?

Is it during the times you’re at your weakest point and you don’t think you can go another step?

Is it during your times of victory and when everything seems to be going just right?

When do you feel closest to God?

During times of prayer where you get to talk one-on-one with the Creator of the Universe?

During the times of complete and total silence where you don’t know what to say at all and you simply sit… wait… listen?

When do you feel closest to God?

Is it when you journal your thoughts toward him as you sip your morning coffee?

Is it when you take a long walk and meditate on His goodness and beautiful creation as you admire your surroundings?

When do you feel closest to God?

Is it when you are blessed with an unexpected blessing that came at just the perfect moment and you realize there was no way that happened by coincidence?

Is it when you extend a blessing to someone else, even if that someone is on the side of the street with a sign that says, “will work for food?”

When do you feel closest to God?

During your travel time as you commute from place to place?

During the time the perfect song comes on the radio that fits the season of life you’re walking through?

           ——————-Me Too ———————

I have felt close to God on all these occasions and more.

God reveals Himself to each of His kids in the most remarkable, unexpected, intentionally planned, and romantic ways.

The question is, are you looking for those moments and are you working at creating those moments?

————–When I feel closest to God is…———————-

When I hold my sleeping child.

It’s the way He reveals Himself the most to me during this season of my life.

I still feel close to Him in prayer, worship, quiet times, and all the other ways listed above, but this is a special way He and I connect.

Its hard to explain. But theres nothing like it that I have ever felt before.

—————— Here’s Why ——————–

Even before our daughter was born and everyday since, and even all through my wife’s labor and delivery, we have had worship and prayer music playing in her room 24/7. It has done nothing but create a peaceful atmosphere for her and our home.

On the days I get to put her down for her nap, and the nights I get to put her to bed, I hold her close and rock her gently to sleep as we both listen to the worship songs softly playing in the background.

11754302_1036296956394565_2570428843331097761_oAs I continue to rock her as to make sure she is good and asleep before setting her in her crib, I focus on the songs that are playing. The words, the scriptures, the intentionality of the offering of praise and thanksgiving directed to the God who created this tiny bundle of joy and who has entrusted my wife and I with for the rest of our lives.

Its in these moments I cant help but thank Him for my little girl. I start to pray over her and speak prophetic words over her life as she sleeps.

As the music plays I can always sense His presence.

When my days feel rough and I don’t have a single answer to any of life’s countless questions, I can feel His peace.

When I feel worn out and tired, I can feel His strength.

When I don’t know what to say, I can feel Him speak to me.

————-As I hold my baby girl …  I can feel God holding me…————

When do you feel closest to God?

 

Life Lesson #13 Crossing The Line

We’ve all heard the phrase, or even the Jonny Cash song, “I walk the line.” But how close is too close?

My little girl LOVES to go outside! Even though she is currently one and a half years old, I am already teaching her the importance/danger of crossing the street right in front of our house.
Luckily we live near the end of a culdasac so there is hardly any cars that come down our street. Regardless, a street is not to be taken lightly.
So there is this line that runs perfectly across our driveway where the street and our driveway meet. Every day when we take our little girl outside, I aways tell her to freeze or stop at that line, look both ways for cars, and then go (only if mommy or daddy is with her). Again, she’s one and a half, so as you can imagine this is a constant reminder. And I mean constant.
When I got home today I took my little girl outside in our front yard like she always begs me to do. We have our traditional activities: we go for walks and find new “treasures” each week (random objects like rocks, pieces of our neighbors fall wreath that blew off months ago, pine cones, etc.), we climb a nearby dirt pile together and shout “King of the hill” before she jumps off and into my arms, we explore the open areas around our neighborhood, and we color our driveway with sidewalk chalk.
As we were coming to the end of our outdoor adventure, Harmony decided that it would be cute to run toward the street, freeze, and then run back to me and her mommy before she ever got close to the “line.”
After 4-5 rounds of that game, she decided it was time to run all the way to end the of the driveway and freeze in the middle of the street. Luckily there were no cars driving down our street as I quickly ran after her. I swept her up in my arms, took 2 steps back into our driveway and set her down behind the “line.”
“Harmony.” I told her. “Remember? You can not cross this line.” child-feet-old-stone-block-red-sneakers-urchin-style-crossing-white-line-edge-contrast-colors-close-up-hesitating-54809535
She nodded as if she understood and proceeded to walk right across the line again. I picked her back up and sat her back down on my side of the line.
“Harmony. Baby, you can’t just cross this line without looking or without me or mommy. When you come to this line you have to freeze, look both ways for cars, and if I’m with you then you can go.”
As she heard me say “go” she stepped out into the street again as if she was in a race. I lovingly picked her back up and set her down once more.
This time, Harmony sat on her bottom and began to inch her way closer to the line.
As she scooted closer and closer, thats when today’s life lesson hit me….
Innocent as my daughter was in her thinking and actions, it still reminded me of how so many times we “test” God the same way Harmony was testing me.
God gives us clear direction in His Word on how to perceive and choose the good and bad set before us. Sometimes its as plain as the nose on our face.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19
 
Maybe you’re like my daughter in that you have constantly crossed the line/ boundary God has placed in your life for your protection. Maybe you have a story to tell on countless times where God seemed to pick you up and move you back to that place of safety like I did with my little one.
 
Maybe you’re like my daughter in that even though you know you’re not suppose to cross “that line” you still inch yourself closer and closer and closer.
 
“How close can I get to sin without sinning?”
  • How much soft porn imagery can I look at before its considered hard porn, or even considered to be a sin?
  • How many drinks can I take before I get drunk?
  • How many puffs can I take before I get high?
  • How many times can I roll the die before I loose everything?
  • How many more jobs can I do before I become a workaholic?
  • How much can I flirt with a co-woker before it’s considered to be cheating on my spouse?
  • How many days can I go without talking to God in prayer, or reading the Bible, before I feel convicted?
  • How many times can I show up late for work before I get written up?
  • How far is too far before its considered premarital sex?
If you’re asking yourself any of these questions, or anything similar to them, maybe it’s time to rethink where your “line” is.
 
The line I am referring to is a boundary. A boundary is better defined as: “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line, a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.”
 
The reason I am showing my daughter the “line” in our driveway is to protect her from getting hurt by a passing car. The reason God is showing you the “line” in your life is to protect you from getting hurt. 
 
You might not think you’re going to get hurt. But lets face it, my daughter doesn’t think that of herself either. But we all know that if I stopped warning her, and if she stopped listening to my voice, she could one day get hurt. The same is true for you and me. If we stop listening to the Holy Spirit’s warnings and the tugging at our hearts, we too could one day get hurt.
 
Jesus said in John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
You may be all too familiar with the Lord’s voice telling you to not go any further. But you tend to ignore Him. 
 
You may be hearing Him call you, warning you of the “lines” in your life, but are you living out the last part of that verse? Are you “following” Jesus? Following Jesus is living your life fully dedicated to Him in every way.
 
Or maybe you’re one who has never heard God call your name. 
 
It’s never too late to call out to Him.
 
The Bible says in James 4:8 “ Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We just have to be willing to take that first step and He promises He will come to us. 
 
The good news is, that God is loving and gracious, quick to forgive and slow to anger. If you need to ask Him for forgiveness, help, strength, and guidance, He will extend it to you. But it’s up to you and I to live it out (that’s why this is a “life lesson”).
 
So I encourage you today to rethink the “lines” in your life. 
Have you gotten too close to the edge? 
Have you crossed over?
Where is the “safe zone.”
How is your relationship with God?
 
God gave us the Bible not as rules that need to be followed so we can have a ticket into heaven, but as a road map on your journey here on earth. That road map can help you live a blessed life if you just let it.
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Life Lesson #12: There is PURPOSE for me in 2017

At the end of each year, my wife and I ask the Lord what could be one word to help us focus on during the approaching new year. These words are ones that we mediate on throughout the year and we have written in a visibly public place in our home to help remind us of what God told us if we were to forget or lose sight of it.

In 2015 we knew the Lord was telling us that there would be NEWNESS for us. And man that could have never been more accurate (click the link above to read the full story)! We had a baby and moved our family of three out of state. Leaving our family and friends and all we knew behind we knew that we were in God’s perfect will. We had a new baby in this new state, at a new home, with a new church, a new job, new friends, the list goes on and on. My wife and I have never seen God move in our lives like that before. But it’s that exact peace that came from knowing that He was leading and guiding us that beckons us to seek Him deeper each year to lead our family down a new path.

In 2016 our word was SELF-CONTROL.  Which ironically was the focus of the first month for me to speak in Kid’s Church. Through 2016, my wife and I learned that self-control is applied in every area of your life: food, education, sex, meeting goals and fulfilling dreams, keeping your anger in check, having Bible studies, prayer times, church days, and quiet times, and much more. Self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. You know that they say, “save the best for last.” Self-control, just like all the fruit of the Spirit, is not a “one and done” thing. Instead, it is an ever-increasing challenge to submit to the Lord in a commitment to following His lead for the rest of your life.

living-your-purpose

This New Year my wife felt the Lord impress on her heart that the new word for our family is the word – PURPOSE.

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. An intended or desired result, end, aim, or goal. Determination or resoluteness.

 

I tell the kids I teach each Sunday and Wednesday at church, “You were made by God ON purpose FOR a purpose.” And it’s true. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Notice two great points in this verse:

  1. God created you. You are not an accident.
  2. God has a plan for you. You have a purpose in life. (Jeremiah. 29:11)

But do we live each day with THAT sense of purpose over our lives?

*I believe that God has a purpose for everyone.

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).

This scripture is talking about Pharaoh when he mistakenly thought that he was in control. However, God put him in the place of being an Egyptian leader for His purpose. God has a purpose for everyone—including those who resist Him. Ultimately, God will get the glory no matter the person because He is the Giver of purpose in every life whether they live for Him or not. 

*I believe that God’s purpose can’t be undone.

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). 

Once God has established His purposes for our lives—no one can change it. What door God has shut, no man can open and what door God has opened, no man can shut. People will wear themselves out in efforts to make a situation turn badly for believers, yet God will still ultimately accomplish His plans. Christians can take courage that He is working everything for our good even through the most difficult life situations.

*I believe that God’s purpose is the one that lasts.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Our lives are only here today and gone tomorrow; however, God’s purposes can be fulfilled throughout multiple generations. We can make our plans and set out to see them accomplished, but if we don’t pray and seek God’s direction—we could find ourselves drifting in an ocean of problems without a sail or compass. Every plan should begin and end with God in mind first.

I believe to live a purposeful life is to live a balanced life between planning and intentionality.

  1. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Benjamin Franklin. You can plan a to-do-list and have purpose in doing it while having the satisfaction of accomplishment. Yet, if you’re not careful, this lifestyle can lead to burn out, frustration, and loneliness.
  2. Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” Glenda Cloud. Being intentional about something means to put great thought into what you are wanting to accomplish. Intentional living is carefully planning out the steps in how a process will be followed and really focusing on the “WHY” of the end result. Being intentional is a great motivator for any goal. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels on a project, it may be time to ask yourself what was the intention for the end goal and is it worth it?

 

So here’s an encouragement for my family and yours this New Year:

LIVE LIFE ON PURPOSE

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*These Biblical truths I found from: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/7-important-bible-verses-about-purpose.

Life Lesson #11: Through The Eyes Of A Child

On Friday, December 9th 2016, my wife and I took our daughter to Tulsa, Oklahoma to experience the well renown “Christmas Train” at Dry Gulch U.S.A.

First off, if you’ve never been to Dry Gulch U.S.A. to experience their church summer camp, you’ve missed out. As a kid of the 90’s I grew up with Gospel Bill, played by Pastor Willie George from Church On The Move. The set of the western town became this amazing Kids Camp!

My first time there as a camper, I was blown away! It was surreal to walk down the streets of a western town that I saw on T.V. so many times. The General Store from the T.V. show was there and had become a place to purchase souvenirs. The steam locomotive was there and was fully operational. Our bunks were in some of the buildings right off of the main street of the western town. Dry Gulch offered an overall great experience in the environment. Everything was so clean and fresh looking.

Dry Gulch U.S.A. offered amazing outdoor activities such as water slides, swimming pools, horseback riding, bumper cars, Go-Karts, lake day with a banana boat and tubing behind a jet ski, and much more.

dry-gulch-camp

But my favorite part of camp was seeing one of the main characters show up one evening during our chapel service. I’ll never forget that night as the character Elmer Barnes, played by Jeff Merrill, came and spoke to the campers about who the Holy Spirit is.

Fast-forward 15 plus years to Friday, December 9th 2016…

I found myself walking down memory lane again as my wife and I carried our one-year old girl down the streets of Dry Gulch U.S.A to get in line at the Depot in order to ride the famous “Christmas Train.”

dry-gulch

The town was so festive and lively. Western Christmas music played over the outdoor speakers, Christmas lights lined each building, large fire pits were scattered throughout the streets for chilled guests to get warm, the carousel was playing music as kids were taken on a magical ride on horses, dogs, giraffes, and tigers. Desserts and food were being prepared for your order, carolers were dressed for the occasion as they walked around town singing, horse drawn stage coach rides went around the wooded area as the steam locomotive blew its whistle.

trainNot long after we were in line, it was time to board the Christmas Train. I held my daughter up so she could look out the window at what was about to happen. Once everyone was on board, we waved to the people outside as the train started on its way.

A voiceover of Pastor Willie George (a.k.a. Gospel Bill) came over the speakers in each train car, welcoming the passengers to Dry Gulch U.S.A. and the Christmas Train. Beautifully composed music blended in behind his voice as he started to tell the story of Christmas as the train passed through a tunnel. We soon passed by live re-enacted scenes from the bible and beautiful paintings that all worked together to tell the story of Christmas.

This was by far the best version of the story of Christmas I’ve ever heard because its started with Genesis chapter 1 where God made everything and reminded the listeners that even before the beginning of time, God had a plan. The train took us through major chronological events from the bible, explaining to us that the reason God sent His Son Jesus to be born from a virgin was to become the Savior of mankind. Ever since the fall of man back in the Garden of Eden, the world has only become more and more corrupt.

87beb52a-4416-45a2-905e-251f59c78767The best part of this Christmas Adventure was watching my little girl during the whole story. Her eyes were fixed on each scene and each colorful picture. Her eyes were filled with wonder as she took it all in. Not only was her mind learning of these true events and what God did for her, but her spirit was being encouraged too.

My wife and I were tearing up as we watched how she was drawn into the story of Christmas. Something special happened to us that night. We saw Christmas through our daughter’s eyes. The Holy Spirit reminded us what it was like to witness the message of the Gospel for the first time and how it changed our lives forever. We were reminded of the joy and hope that the Christmas story brings to everyone who believes.

It’s cheesy. It’s cliché. But we all need to stop and remember that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Take some time to slow down this Christmas and look at Christmas through the eyes of a child. Notice the joy, the hope, the excitement, and the faith they have. It’s contagious. Notice the innocence, purity, and compassion they have that we have seemed to have lost sight of as adults.

One time, Jesus’ disciples asked, “‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”Matthew 8:1-5

Take a moment and listen to this song by Bethel Church.

Listen closely to the words of this song that were sang spontaneously in a worship set.

I truly believe that this is a major key that will help thrust the Body of Christ into a deeper relationship with God. That in turn affects how we have relationships with other people, which in turn will show others who God is and that He loves them very much regardless of race, religion, or past.

May we never lose our wonder of who God is and what He has done for us. Let us strive to see God through the eyes of a child with hope, joy, and faith.

 

Life Lesson #10: Pain then Joy

We stepped into the waiting  room of the doctor’s office and I took a seat holding my now one-year-old little girl. 

The room was cold, as every doctor’s office is. They must all have the same building inspector who requires each office to become the next ice age for their patients.

As my wife went to check us in at the reception desk, I sat holding my little girl trying to keep us both warm. Luckily, this appointment was not due to my little girl being sick. Instead it was her one-year-old checkup.

Since she wasn’t sick, and ever since she discovered how to walk, she wasn’t in much of a “hold me daddy” kind of mood. She wanted to get down and explore. So, we froze to death as she explored the area of the waiting room, being careful not to go too far from me.

As I watched and played with her, I couldn’t believe how fast one whole year had already come and gone. In just the few short days after her first birthday, she had already started to grasp so much! 

She started to associate “da-da” to me when she called out. She started to walk on her own. She started to comprehend the simple signs of American Sign Language I was teaching her. And so much more! 

God had truly blessed me and my wife with a very special little girl! 

The time came, and her name was called. It was time to see the doctor. She was weighed and measured. Her eyes, nose, and mouth were inspected, and her joints checked out.

Everything was great! Our little one-year-old was happy and healthy.

And then came the nurse…

I knew what was about to happen. I knew far before we even arrived at the doctor’s office what was about to happen. I just didn’t have the heart to tell my little girl.

You guessed it; she was going to get a shot. Not just one! Oh no! Not just two! But four shots!

Four shots to help her continue to grow and remain healthy.

In order to help her remain healthy and strong and enjoy the good things of life, she first had to go through a brief moment of pain.

I don’t like shots! Who does? I mean, I’m not anti-needle by any means. If I’m super sick and I know a shot will make me feel better quickly…. give me the shot over a pill! But still…. I don’t like shots.

As I laid my little girl down on the table and looked at her smiling up at me, it was clear that she had no idea what was about to happen. (Mind you this wasn’t her first set of shots). 

As the nurse poked my little girl with all four shots, my daughter’s face turned crimson red as she held her breath in pain. Letting out what she bravely held in was quickly released in a desperate scream for help. 

I cringed. My toes curled. And yes… my butt cheeks clinched. It felt like something inside me was dying. Even though I was holding her hand, even though I was right by her ear telling her that everything would be ok, even though I reminded her that I was right there with her through it all, it wasn’t enough. She wanted off that table in my arms -NOW.

The band-aids were applied to the boo-boos and I quickly swept her in my arms. 

As she sobbed from the pain and the feeling of betrayal, I patted her back and told her how brave she was and how much I love her. 30 seconds later her crocodile tears finally stopped and her beautiful smile broke through, once more melting our hearts. 

Then it hit me…

God does the same for us…

God, our Heavenly Father, also knows that in order to help us remain healthy and strong and enjoy the good things of life, we first have to go through a brief moment of pain. Just like my daughter had to get the shots in order to remain healthy.

Just like I allowed the painful feeling of the four shots to be injected into my daughter’s tiny body, our Heavenly Father allows us to experience pain in life knowing that everything will be ok in the end.

In the moment of our life’s pain we may be doing everything we can to hold ourselves together and pretend nothing is wrong just like my little girl did. And then one day, we finally burst out crying for God to give us peace.

All I can see is God standing right there by our side, holding our hand, telling us in our ear that everything is going to be ok. And as the dust settles and the storms of life clear, we can see that through it all, God was with us the entire time.

So today’s life lesson is one that I hope finds you at the perfect moment in your life where you just need to be reminded that whatever it is you’re facing in life right now, whatever pain you may be feeling, God is right by your side.

It sucks. I know.

But God allows things to happen to us because He knows the outcome. He knows it will make us stronger. He knows that if we just lean on Him, press into Him, call out to Him, our faith will be made stronger.

So I leave you with this today… words straight from the mouth of God straight to your heart…

“Do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Happy 1st Birthday Harmony

Dear Harmony,

Today you are 1 year old!

Happy Birthday sweet girl! Your mommy and I love you so much and we wanted to do something special for you each year as you grow!

We hope that one day when you can look back at this video (and others as the years go by) you can remember us and all the wonderful times and sweet moments we shared together!

“You’re the Harmony to my Melody.”

Love,

Daddy.

Saturday, July 23rd 2016

Life Lesson #9: A End Year Evaluation

Well, here it is… the end of the year 2015 is upon us. During this time, many people are looking to the new year. Many of which already have resolutions set in place.

And that brings us to today’s Life Lesson:

Maybe you’re one of those people. Is your resolution the ever popular weight loss goal? What about having a plan to get out of financial debt? No doubt, the new year is a great time to start fresh and better ourselves for the sake of others, our families, and ourselves.

However, I want to help you step into the new year with what could be the most important new year’s resolution ever. That is, to deepen your relationship with God.

Before you step into this new year with your goals and resolutions in mind, I want you to pause and take a moment to look back at all you have been through this year.

Celebrate the wins. Learn from your losses.

But most of all, ask yourself this question: “Am I closer in my walk with God now, than I was at the start of 2015?”

You see. When we are closer to God than we were yesterday, that means we are constantly seeking His presence.

The Bible promises us in James 4:8 that if we, “draw near to God, He will draw near to us.”

Darkness cannot live in the light of Christ and sinful habits disappear.

Now, thats not to say that old habits wont try reintroducing themselves to you or that life with Christ here on earth will be filled with rainbows, flowers, and unicorns.

John 16:33 shares Jesus’ words, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

But I invite you to take 29 minutes and listen to this message I shared back in 2013 and apply it to your current year.

I truly believe that this message form the Bible is the very foundation of our Christina faith. When we make the effort to draw closer to God each and every day, all the other things will fall into place. You will strive to be healthier, you will strive to use your finances correctly, you will strive to better yourself in your relationships. Why? Because Jesus is all about those things.

I hope you enjoy this message titled, abide.

I hope it becomes the foundation for your new year that you can build upon.