Sunday, September 23, 2007


Tim Hughes

God in my living

There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping
 God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting
God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing
Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything
Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

I've been pondering the lyrics to this song recently. I actually have the song stuck in my head right now. I desperately want to be in this place, where my every moment is focused on Him. I guess that is what the lyrics are asking for "Be my everything." The song also eludes that the only way this will happen is if Christ is "in us." The Holy Spirit. It is such an abstract concept, it is tough for my concrete-sequential mind to understand. I'm starting to though, be patient.

I have felt some freedom through an understanding of a concept that I have known, but not really "known" (if you know what I mean). Here it is: before we know God, before we are Christians, we are our sin, our sin comes from within us. When we experience a true conversion, we become lily white, we are pure in God's eyes, He no longer sees our sins, we are no longer sin. So, my line of thought would be, OK, then why do I keep sinning, why am I tempted? Becoming a believer doesn't stop us from sinning, we still have free will, the revolution is that we are no longer the originator of those sins, we no longer own it. The temptation, the sin comes from something outside of you, it comes from Satan. Ephesians 4:12 says "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We are no longer an enemy. Our nature is no longer the enemy, our enemy is in a realm we can't even see, that is why the Holy Spirit is so critical in our battle. The Holy Spirit is EVERYTHING. It is literally, "Christ in me." Without Him, how could we battle against "spiritual forces of evil" we can't even see.

The truth is that the only way we can make it through this difficult world is if we have Christ in us. That is why I desperately want God to be my everything. In my living, breathing, waking, sleeping, resting, working, thinking, speaking, hoping, dreaming, watching, waiting, laughing, weeping, hurting, healing, (and writing), BE MY EVERYTHING!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Carl's Shoes

Recently, my wife Serenity and I have been able to have some "date" nights. They have consisted of going downtown and interacting with the homeless. Last night we went down with some friends of ours to a place called Transitional Youth (TY). TY is a place where youth can have a safe place to hang out, get fed, watch a movie, and play some games - cool place. Daniel, one of the leaders, is doing some really awesome work there.

I usually put very little expectations on our activities, probably because I don't put much mental effort into being intentional and praying through how God can use me specifically to minister to the people I come in contact with, not just homeless, but in my day to day walk. As we were praying prior to going inside TY, Serenity prayed about how scared and nervous she was about going in, and that made me get scared and nervous and I stopped focusing on how He was going to use me, and began to focus on my own awkwardness and shortcomings relationally. Never a good thing. So that set the stage.

The first 30 minutes I felt awkward, and nervous. Tim, one of the friends who introduced us to TY, was playing pool with a kid. I like pool, I like to compete, I desperately wanted to break the ice and engage with someone, so I decided to watch their pool game. I think this kid could smell the awkwardness on me. After watching for a few minutes, I decided to introduce myself. I asked, "what's your name," and without looking at me, responded with "does it really matter," and continued to shoot pool. I actually thought to myself. . . . "does it." How superficial was my approach to this guy? Did I want to know this kid, or did I want the awkwardness to go away? He had a valid response.

Earlier I had a conversation with a guy named Carl, he was probably late 20's. He was mentally ill, so the conversation flowed in and out of where he had been, things he had done, and cyborgs and computer chips placed in his brain. A really weird place to be, especially when you feel a demonic presence around him, but you feel God is asking you to keep the conversation going. I felt compelled to continue talking with him. There was a sweetness to him, I could obviously tell he was hurting, and he had pain from his past. He was revealing this to me in small pieces; group homes, foster care, physical abuse from others in the group homes, jail, hurt, pain, and on top of that, a mental illness that plagued him. A patchwork of his story goes something like this: He lived in California, was in a variety of foster homes, ended up in a group home where he got beat up, which resulted in some damage to his head and face, began using, and for one reason or the other, went to jail multiple times.

God kept bringing my eyes to his feet. I remember the Holy Spirit saying: "He looks to be your shoe size." As the night went on, I ended up playing ping pong with him. My desire to build his self esteem was blown away by my desire to win at everything (I'm still working on that one). We blew right past 21 points (usually the place where one person wins) and played to something like 52-23 when I said, do you want to start over 0-0, and play to 11? Carl started playing and I lost 11-9. God humbles you, even through ping pong. For being non-coherent with many of his thoughts and ideas, Carl was a pretty good foos ball player as well. Turns out, group homes and foster care have a lot of ping pong and foos ball tables.

I went to the kitchen and got him a soda. Once again, as I was drinking my soda, my eyes fell to his shoes and I heard once again "your shoe size." I said "Dude, do you want my shoes?" He responded by talking about how uncomfortable his shoes really were, I think he misunderstood my question. I repeated it, "do you want my shoes?" After a little more nudging, Carl accepted. I have to be honest here, this was not a reluctant gift. I have plenty of shoes, I actually have another pair almost identical to the ones I offered, plus my reasoning for giving my shoes up was almost self-centered due to the fact that in Under the Overpass, Mike Yankowski lays out a situation almost identical to this, where he spoke about his flip flops and the pain and blood from stubbing his toe to a group of Christians he encountered. Their eventual response was, "we'll be praying for you," as they walked out the doorway, in perfectly good flip flops. I couldn't NOT give up my shoes, my own guilt would be overwhelming.

So, I wore Carl's shoes home, they weren't too bad. As we prayed on the way home, it hit me, I may literally be in his shoes, but I'm not "in his shoes." I don't have to find a safe place to lay my head down for the night. I don't have to search for my next meal. My heart began to break for Carl, knowing that right then (RIGHT NOW), he is on the streets, possibly hungry, possibly scared, and probably confused.

If I truly want to "be the least" how could I accomplish that by giving my left over junk to Goodwill and having them redistribute the wealth God has blessed me with. What better way could I have symbolically showed Carl that what is mine is his, he is important, and ultimately God loves him. I don't think Carl understood that last night, but if he encountered that every day, every night, that demon who is using him, confusing him, and controlling his every thought would flee. It would have to. The love it would encounter, the people it would come across, that spirit would run, because it fears Christ, and Christ is love. I pray that God gives me a supernatural understanding that He is in me, there is no need for fear and awkwardness and that I can continue to take advantage of His love by pouring it out to others.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Boat For Sale: Free

I love to fish. I'm not a very good fisherman, but I do love it. I love waking up early, putting the boat in the water, I love the quiet mornings, and the beautiful trees that line the shore, but most of all, I love to land big fish.

A month ago I was fishing with a buddy of mine, Brandon. He is a good fisherman. Nobody was catching a thing, but Brandon hooked into a 23 inch Rainbow that was thick. My adrenaline rushed, and I was happy to help him land it. I picked it up to take a better look at it and the beast was so big the line sliced through my finger and left a cut for 3 weeks. I enjoyed having it in my boat, but I still wanted one of my own.

One reason I love reading stories about the disciples is that many of them were fisherman. They probably loved it for many of the same reasons I do. But when Christ came calling, He asked them to put down their nets and follow Him (Matt. 4:18-20). And Peter, along with his brother Andrew did it. That is amazing. Did Matthew leave something out? Did it really go down like that: "Hey, you guys, put down your nets, we are going to fish for men." "Ok stranger, I will follow you." What was it exactly that Christ was asking them to do? I think he wasn't telling them not to fish, I think it was more than that, Christ was calling them to forget who they thought they were (fishermen) and pick up a new identity, one firmly planted on the foundation of who they were in Christ.

The thing I can relate to is the fact that after Christ died, Peter picks the nets back up and starts fishing again. Too often in my own life, when I have doubt, when I'm not sure, I don't look to Christ, I look for the old way, the way that used to work, I go back and pick up my nets.

I can picture it: Peter and Andrew are sitting around wondering what just happened the last 3 years and start thinking, "let's do a little fishing to clear our heads, get our mind off of all of this and relax." But they end up not being able to catch a thing. It may be slightly pathetic, but when I go fishing, I think my own self worth is wrapped up in whether or not I catch fish, so I'm guessing when Peter and Andrew didn't catch anything, they weren't able to relax. That is why when this far off character (Jesus) yells to them to throw their nets out the other side of the boat, they actually do it. And, as usual, Jesus comes through with a miracle, 153 fish! Peter then jumps in the water and swims towards Jesus. After fixing Peter breakfast, Christ asks him: "Do you truly love me more than these?" (John 21:15) Donald Miller in his book Searching for God Knows What suggests that "these" in Christ's question is not the disciples, but the fish. In other words, Christ might have been asking Peter, "Didn't I tell you to follow me?"

I should know who I am in Christ, but instead I keep going fishing. I search for my identity in how many fish I catch, how funny I am, how smart I am, how athletic I am, this is what I look to to "define" me. But when I am looking to Him, and am solid in His purpose for my life, I can rest easy knowing that it doesn't matter how many fish I catch.

I have denied him more often than Peter, but Christ is patient. I have times where I just want to pick back up my nets, but Christ is patient. So I remind myself each day to look vertically.

I am however, giving my boat away.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Photo Shoot

I know it is a slight deviation from my usual posts, but I think some of you would love to see some pictures of my family, and I would love to show them off. Here we are at a recent family picture day. This was about as good as it would get with three kids under 5.

Here is our Eva.

Avery and Ally did a little posing on their own.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Theologian Ricky

I met a guy named Ricky yesterday. He is a homeless man who lives downtown. My wife and I led a group from our church downtown to bless the poor with bags full of goodies. Socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, Clif bars, and an ice cold bottle of water, among other things, were put in the bags. I handed one to Ricky while he was standing near a street performer. We began talking, and instantly he asked me if I believed in predestination. Ricky started preaching to me, telling me that God loved me and how God looks at a man's heart. It was awesome, one more way that you become blessed when you go downtown to bless the poor and homeless. See, every time I go downtown I go to bless the poor, and I come back to find that God has exposed one more area of brokenness in my own life. The men and women down there end up teaching me more about Christ than I teach them. A lot of these guys are street theologians and have a better grasp on what it means to follow Christ than I do, they live it out every day. Ricky then asked me, "Hey, are you the guy who gave me this bag of stuff?" My heart sunk, and I responded to him that I was, and we practically went through the same conversation over again, with Ricky adding that he was predestined to spread the Word to the "street people." Ricky is a follower of Christ, I know it for sure, even with mental illness, God blesses people through him. I then look at my own self-doubt, and feel foolish when I doubt my own abilities. Then God gently says, but you are nothing if you rely on your own abilities. God uses the weak to teach the strong, people like Ricky show me how prideful I am. Like I have something more to offer God than Ricky does. Looking at Ricky I understand that I can't lean on my own abilities, and better yet, I don't have to.

In Me by
Casting Crowns

if you ask me to leap
out of my boat on the crashing waves
if you ask me to go
preach to the lost world that jesus saves

i'll go, but i cannot go alone
cause i know i'm nothing on my own
but the power of christ in me makes me strong
makes me strong

cause when i'm weak, you make me strong
when i'm blind, you shine your light on me
cause i'll never get by living on my own ability
how refreshing to know you don't need me
so i'll stand on your truth, and i'll fight with your strength
until you bring the victory, by the power of christ in me

if you ask me to run
and carry your light into foreign land
if you ask me to fight
deliver your people from satan's hand

to reach out with your hands
to learn through your eyes
to love with the love of a savior
to feel with your heart
and to think with your mind
i'd give my last breath for your glory

Good Sermon

I need to remind myself of the disciple Stephen. Most people refer to him as Stephen the Martyr, and although he was the first martyr, I don't think that is what he should be remembered for. He was one of 7 disciples to be chosen to lead food distribution to the poor and to reach out to the widows in the community of believers in the early church of Acts. He was known as an excellent leader and speaker, and above all you could say he had extreme faith in the sovereignty of God. When he was falsely accused of speaking blasphemy against Moses and against God (Acts 6:11), he didn't quiet his message, fearing what the people would do. He was eventually pulled before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, and asked to defend himself, which he did rightly, the entire time knowing that he was speaking his death sentence (Acts 7, read it, it is pretty scathing, good stuff, the kind that gets your own blood flowing). Did he water it down? Did he trim the claws of Judah? Nope, he spoke from the heart, and obviously allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through him. Scary, but he must have fully believed "where O' death, is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:55) He knew his fate, and kept talking, unashamed, unafraid. Ultimately, he knew who God was. I think that is important, so I will repeat it, he knew who God was, and he was bold in his beliefs because of it.

I believe that a real understanding of God always leads to practical and compassionate actions toward people. That is why I think Stephen knew who God was, he wanted to reach out to the poor and widows. Trust me, I don't believe that I have an understanding of God, far from it, but he is giving me glimpses, and a compassion for the poor and marginalized is what is overflowing from that glimpse.

The main reason I have to remind myself of Stephen's ministry is that it wasn't too long, and probably looked nothing like he had envisioned it. One sermon and then stoned to death. God better be sovereign. He takes a good leader, a great debater and speaker and offs him after one sermon. Just one more reminder that God doesn't need us, no matter how talented we are. God calls us more to be obedient than He does to be good. Whew, that takes some pressure off. We don't see the big picture, only God does, but maybe Stephen's words when he was being stoned "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60) planted a seed into the guy holding the coats, Saul, who two chapters later has his own conversion and becomes possibly the biggest reason for the spread of the Gospel in the early church. I have to be OK with our ministry whether it looks like Paul's, or even if it looks like Stephen's ------ because God is sovereign.