Ready for Deployment

October 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Using every covert technique I had learned in the Army, I cowered down low to the ground and began inching forward hoping just to get one half-step closer. There were two of them, and I hoped to get so close I could count their teeth before taking aim. I was approximately fifteen feet away as the wind caused black, featherlike stigmas in the grass to blur my vision as I looked through the sights of my weapon.

My targets did not move.

A close friend of mine – a brother – was on watch with me on that fateful day, and he feared I was getting too close. I could see him in the distance raising his arm as if to say, “That’s close enough. Take your shot and get out of there!”

But I wanted to get closer.

12 feet.

10 feet.

8 feet.

It was time. I raised my weapon. And fired.

“Click!” My weapon of choice that day: A NIKON d70 SLR camera. Attached to it was a 70-300mm f/4-5.6G lens that allowed me to take the closest pictures without having to get too close. But I was too close…dangerously close. I was shooting pictures of two seven-foot American Alligators, apparently male and female. And at least one of them did not want me there.

American Alligator 03272006RTR

American Alligator 03272006RTR5

American Alligator 03272006RTR3

The one opened its mouth wide and began making noises while puffing himself up sending a message that this one wasn’t to be trifled with. As I crouched down, knees bent, head at my ankles and eyes through the view finder of my camera less than 10-feet away from him, he jumped toward the creek. Into the water he went with a giant splash. It all happened so quickly that in the millisecond it took me to stop looking through my camera and look up, the seven-foot giant was already  coming back up on land.

What if he jumped towards me instead of away from me?

American Alligator 03272006RTR6

I look back on that moment of bravery and stupidity (for the perfect picture) with a “what was I thinking” mentality. My good friend, Corey Conroy, who was with me on that day, reminisces about what could have happened at least once every couple of months. He proved his friendship long ago, but afterwards, he mentioned his plan to rescue me by sacrificing his camera on the alligator’s head if it had attacked. This meant a lot to me considering he is a photographer.

American Alligator 03272006RTR2

I wanted that picture, and I risked a lot to get it to the point of being careless.

Counting the cost and considering what you have to gain or lose come with a Raise the Risk (RTR) mentality. Prepare yourself for every moment. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Compare and contrast the pros and cons. And if at all possible – Move forward. Advance. Charge.

I was prepared to take this picture – I had all the right gear with me and the experience to get the right shot. As you follow Christ, the Holy Spirit prepares you for what lies ahead. The Holy Spirit lives within us to get us ready for the conversation we are not prepared to have today, but will be tomorrow. He trains us for the trials we will face in the future before they even get here. But we have to be diligent. We have to be prepared. We have to get ready.

Remember, you have already been deployed for active duty if you are a follower of Christ.

Raise the Risk Challenge:

  1. READ Ephesians 6:10-18 and ask the Holy Spirit to help you arm yourself.
  2. READ 1 Peter 3:15. Anticipate questions people you know may ask you about God and your faith in Jesus. What would you say to a friend that doesn’t believe Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6)?
  3. REFLECT on how God has prepared you for a trial you faced in the past before it came giving you His strength to see it through.

 

 

Pinky Power

July 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The intro music started and the team began to take the court. It was the first and last Christmas tournament he would ever play in and now as an 8th grader, he started to warm up. As the other team began to size up the competition, they began to whisper, point, and laugh. Even parents in the stands were making faces as they watched him shoot, dribble, and pass the ball. They thought the SKYHAWKS were a joke that day and they seriously underestimated the competition. The reason?

He had no hands – only a pinky on one finger.

“They’re so bad they had to let a kid with one finger on the team,” the opposition must have thought. Late in the first quarter, he took the court. He played great defense… handled the ball well… and then it happened. We called a play that would leave him wide open in the corner if run correctly. The screen was set and the ball came to him. The defender began to close the gap when the shot went up, and with a hand in his face he let it fly.

I knew what was about to happen, but apparently, I was one of only a few. I had seen him do this in practice many times. As the ball went in the hoop, it made the most beautiful sound – swish! People all over the gym went nuts! I looked over to one of our assistant coaches – tears filled his eyes. The athletic director of the school, Coach Lee Cardia, was crying, and I tried to keep my composure as I reflected on the weight of the moment.

This kid – Benton Jones – who had tried out for basketball every year since 5th grade – finally made the team. Then, in the biggest tournament of the year – the one that every basketball lover in the school looks forward to – he hits a three-pointer “in someone’s eye.” Does it get any better than that?

It does.

Hitting that shot in the corner was not a big deal to Benton. He would go on to be one of the better shooters on our team that year. Benton had spent hundreds of hours practicing during his four years of trying out but not making the team. I’ve seen more talented basketball lovers throw in the towel much earlier in their quest to become the next Michael Jordan.

image

Not only that, but with one pinky, Benton had the best handwriting in his class. He could throw a football better than most guys on my flag football team. And he rarely needed help with anything that he was expected to do at school. We called it “pinky power” that year, but we knew it was more than that. God had given Benton parents who raised the risk in how they reared him. In many areas of his life, they let him figure it out.

And for almost everything, he did.

Benton’s life theme is raising the risk. It started with feeding himself, then tying his shoes, then using scissors, then writing, then throwing a ball, and then driving (with a whole lot in-between). Stop and think about this for a minute. Didn’t all of us start out that way? We had to figure things out. Now some may have a higher IQ. Some may have better coordination. And some may have more fingers to complete the most basic tasks of this life. Regardless, we are finite beings who learn to figure things out.

We risk being criticized for trying something so challenging that we fail a few times before success comes. But when we persevere and push through, we achieve much more than we had planned. Doesn’t adversity lead to strength? Since when did we think that the easy way or the path of least resistance led to God’s will?

The next time you are challenged – or fail at something a few times – think back on Benton Jones or the thousands like him who don’t use a limitation as an excuse for mediocrity,  and raise the risk as you get back up one more time.

Benton just graduated from the University of North Florida. He is pictured here with one of his best friends, Blake Kennedy.

Benton just graduated from the University of North Florida. He is pictured here with one of his best friends, Blake Kennedy.

Raise the Risk: Today, Benton is involved in campus ministry at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He is working to change the world one student at a time through an evangelism and discipleship project known as Resolution, which is a part of Every Nation Campus Ministries. He writes,

As a campus missionary, I have the privilege of creating a team of partners who can support me financially so I can be FULLY focused on doing full-time campus ministry so, together, we can reach the campus for Christ. I am looking for both monthly supporters, which is often done through automated giving, and one time supporters, which can be done online.

To support Benton’s ministry and ongoing work to take the Gospel to college students, click here or send a check to Southpoint Community Church:

7556 Salisbury Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256
*Checks payable to “Florida Student Ministries” and the memo would read “Benton Jones – RTR”

You may contact Benton directly at his email saltmaster513@gmail.com to offer words of encouragement and affirmation or to ask any questions about his work in North Florida.

 

Closing Challenge:

1) Meditate on these verses from God’s word this week as you consider what you may be facing. (Romans 5:2-5; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; James 1:2-4, 12; Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 2:10)
2) Who or what is most challenging to you right now? Is this person or situation drawing you closer to God or drawing you away from God? If away from God, confess that to Him now.
3) Instead of asking God why He let you fail at something, ask Him what He is trying to teach you through this adversity.

Prayer: Ask God to put things in perspective for you in this life – in success and defeat.

 

Hollywood Preachers

March 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I know not all of you are preachers out there, but everyone in Christ is a minister of the Gospel, and I wanted to challenge you with the words of an old friend of mine who I have never met before, but of whom I know very well.

He writes to me, “As soon as a man lets his work become a matter of mere form or routine, it sinks into a performance in which the [person] is simply an actor.” He pleads further, “…speak from your hearts, or else do not speak at all.”

How easy is it to get caught up in the work we are supposed to be doing and to quickly forget the purpose behind it? Many preachers out there abandon the reality of their role for a mere counterfeit, sometimes Hollywood version, of the real thing. We become a part in a performance seen in some of the greatest American cities, but fail to provide our audience with the man or woman God has called us to be.

Maybe the reason is because we lack self-confidence. Maybe it’s because we see their success and think that the same script will bring equal results. Maybe it’s because we’re lazy. Maybe it’s because we’re tired. Or maybe it’s because we don’t believe that God truly does want us to sing a new song and breathe something fresh on our hearers.

This week, raise the risk in your preparation for your next sermon. Before you let some other preacher provide you with a script, pray that God would give you fresh eyes and a renewed spirit to write out His words for your hearers.

Then deliver them with passion and conviction.

If you can’t, maybe you should consider another work.

My friend concludes, “If you can be silent, be silent; but if you must speak for God, be thoroughly sincere about it. It would be better for you to go back to business, and weigh butter or sell reels of cotton, or do anything rather than pretend to be ministers of the Gospel unless God has called you to the work.”

Raise the Risk Challenge:
(1) Click here and purchase The Soul Winner by C.H. Spurgeon. He is the friend I have alluded to in this blog.
(2) Preachers: Seriously evaluate your sermon prep. How much time, prayer, and energy went into it?
(3) If you spend time looking at what others do for sermon ideas, take a sabbatical and ask God to breathe fire into your soul.

Coercion Ninja

February 29th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Source: Uploaded by user via Brooke on Pinterest


Admitting you are a Coercion Ninja is the first step to recovery. Say it with me, “Hi, my name is ____, and I am a Coercion Ninja.”

Communication. We either think we have it all together, or we know we do not.

5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:5-10

As I have shared before, Ron and I are completing a MAPP’s (Model Approach to Partnered Parenting) course to foster and adopt. Last night was the most pertinent information to date for yours truly. We discussed proactive parenting versus reactive parenting. In reactive parenting, we learned the art of coercion…and why we should flee this communication practice.

Perhaps you, like myself, are a unknowning black-belt coercion ninja?

Source: piccsy.com via Brooke on Pinterest

 

Simply stated, coercion involves trying to change a person’s behavior by casting guilt, humiliation, fear, discomfort, or other negative feelings.

Coercive Communication Practices Include:

  • Questioning-rapid fire 20 question style, “Where were you? Who were you with? Why didn’t you call? What were you doing?”
  • Arguing
  • Sarcasm
  • Force
  • Sudden Subtraction “You just lost your_______.” “Don’t count on getting _____ now.”
  • Lecturing
  • Threatening-”You will lose the car.” “I will call the cops.” “Don’t count on me helping you again.”
  • Criticizing
  • Despair
  • Silent Treatment
  • One-uping
  • Telling on your offender to others

Do you use any of the above in communicating with your children, family, co-workers, or sales-clerks? I certainly am guilty of a few of these. In fact, I think my family would make a great case study.

Perhaps, like me, the question is, “I know we can talk…but can we communicate?”

Coercive communication leads to unhealthy, unhappy and strained relationships. This leads to suspected ninja moves behind even sweet, well-meaning actions.

Source: zakkalife.blogspot.com via Brooke on Pinterest

 

The Bible Says

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

1 Peter 2:23

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Proverbs 10:32

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.

Ecclesiastes 10:12

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Raise the Risk Challenge:

    • Identify 2-3, or if you are like me, 4-5, coercive communication practices that you employ and confess these to God and a trusted friend, spouse, or family member.
    • Meditate on the above scriptures and commit one to memory.
    • Pray that God will teach you to communicate clearly and lovingly with all that you encounter.

Angry Birds

February 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

(If you are viewing in a reader click here to view video.)

Sometimes I wish I could just “stop it.” Getting angry that is.

Much like people’s addiction to Angry Birds, I have a constant resurrection of angry emotions that hover near the surface.

Ron and I are going through a 10 week course so that we can become foster/adoptive parents. This is a dream that we have had for over five years as a family, and growing within us for a lifetime before “we” were.

Imagine my ultimate excitement for this dream coming to fruition. I am a planner and one to take action quickly sometimes to my own disadvantage. Therefore, the last two weeks I have been rearranging furniture, repositioning pictures within our home, and cleaning out..all in the name of preparation should a 0-2 year old show up in the next 7 months… yes hurrying up for 7 months of waiting.

When I was rearranging artwork within our home, I happened to ask Ron how he thought two pictures would look in our entry way.

Can you believe that Ron did not like my newly suggested placement of the pictures? Shocker, we disagreed on a designing issue. I am sure we are the only husband and wife to do that…

Source: recyclart.org via Freshome.com on Pinterest

 

Well, instead of taking his opinion in an optimal way, I immediately grew defensive and then angry. (I know, a bit of an overreaction to say the least.)

We had a cordial verbal exchange which left me in a huff. You see, Ron nor I know what exactly is going to set me off until it happens. This is not a healthy position to live in. Angry flair ups do not happen every day, but often enough that I realize my anger is a weak spot only conquered via powerful seeking of the Holy Spirit.

After the failed redesign, I left to go for a walk. As I walk I contemplate whether this anger is a byproduct of my lion/beaver, D/C (DISC profile), Type A personality? Or, can I blame it on my hot-blooded southern lineage? Either way, my anger more often than I like, continues as a weak spot that threatens to get the better of me.

 

By now you may wonder why you are reading my posts at all.

Did you really think I had it all together?

I hope not.

Source: whatmattdoes.tumblr.com via Elle on Pinterest

 

If the authenticity I choose to portray only begins and ends with capitals, commas, and punctuation then I am giving an inaccurate picture of the sinner I am and the God that I serve.

My God forgives sinners like me using imperfect vessels for His perfect purposes.

Our salvation is not an excuse for sin (see Galatians 5), but it is a grace that grows us in righteousness and away from unrighteousness.

Anger itself is not a sin. Righteous anger is an emotion experienced by God and Jesus:

 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8

And he (Jesus)  looked around at them with anger, grieved at  their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 3:5

God’s anger brings His righteous, wrathful judgement unless abated by the prayers of His people.

The Old Testament is full of examples of the anger of God being abated through prayer. See Numbers 14 for one such example as Moses interceded on behalf of the unbelieving Israelites to enter into the Promise Land.

In addition, God’s servants showed righteous anger like that of David against the audacity of Goliath to defy “the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36)

 

Source: Uploaded by user via Erika on Pinterest

I have found that the best way for Christ-followers to combat sin and temptation is through prayer and scripture. Perhaps you also struggle with feelings of anger? If so, then may we seek to quench this flesh-born weakness of unrighteous anger with verses like these and others:

Whoever is  slow to anger has great understanding,  but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,  and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger Ephesians 4:26

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 1 Timothy 2:8

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth Colossians 3:8

Concerning the pictures in the foyer, I opted for tacking some of the children’s recent artwork instead of the pieces that I originally suggested. Their Jackson Pollock inspired pieces are a great fit for the space.

Concerning my anger, well that remains very much a work in progress. What ways do you combat anger in your own life?

~Brooke

 

Raise the Risk Challenge:

  • Determine a few causes of your anger. Perhaps your anger lies in perfectionism, control, or a past hurt that has not been dealt with and healed.
  • Seek God in prayer and then commit to memory one of the above verses as you make your anger a matter of prayer this week.
  • Read this very helpful, Bible-based article on Taming Your Anger and this one on 25 Ways to Provoke Our Children to Anger.
  • Perhaps some music to assist you as well? This one by Audrey Assad, or for the more hard-core this one by Lecrae. Enjoy.

Linking with:

 

Intentionality: Focus Your Energy

February 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Intentionality.

For me this word promotes encouragement to set and obtain goals.

Perhaps even more energizing is viewing lives lived with intentionality.

 

In Hungry for God: Hearing God’s Voice in the Ordinary and Everyday by Margaret Feinberg, I encountered this phrase:

 Don’t look where you don’t want to go.

This was the advice Margaret’s friend, Valerie, was given when attempting her first mountain biking excursion…I find it applicable to a life lived with intentionality.

If in fact we are not to focus where we do not want to go then the opposite must also be true: we must focus where we want to go. Which begs the questions:

Where do I want to go? What are my thoughts and vision set upon? Do I need to shift my thinking in some areas?

One Wednesday night a month, our middle school and high school ministries join forces for worship and Bible study during a time we call Unite. At last month’s Unite the high school students were given the opportunity to share what God put on their hearts.

I loved the intentionality of the testimonies of three students as listed below.

  • “I want to pray with 100 homeless people this year.”
  • “Please hold me accountable to gaining all attention for myself. If you see that I am drawing everyone’s attention to me, please stop me and ask me to put that energy into drawing attention to God. “
  • One student is joining with her peer to realize his vision for “Kneel United” a prayer concert to coincide with the Republican National Convention meeting in our backyard of Tampa, Florida. Kneel United would focus the prayers of God’s people within our country to pray as one.

Indeed this was a 1 Timothy 4:12 moment.

What movement is Christ drawing you to by the power of His word and the testimony of the saints?

Why not raise the risk with me and strive for intentionality? Determine where you want to go and press on to change yourself and the world through Christ Jesus. We are the body that Christ has chosen to bless others in this moment in history.

 

Profiles in Character: Katie Davis of Amazima Ministries

January 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

There have been several moments in my life where I have met a person, read their book, or heard them speak and then decided that they would make it to the”they follow Christ and I should attend to their teaching” list. My husband is at the top of that list. That being said, Ron would indeed tell you that David Platt easily comes in at the top three! Hence, when I saw the (54 minute) video below, I knew that the “list” had grown to also include Katie Davis of Amazima Ministries and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Kisses from Katie. (There is a shorter 3 minute video introducing Katie and her book at the bottom of the post.)
 

Katie is a mere 23 years old and began her life in Uganda at the even younger age of 18. Fresh out of highschool, she chose to forgo the persuasions of her family to begin college and instead committed to a 10 month stent of teaching pre-school in Uganda, Africa. Through a God-honoring commitment to say yes to raising the risk, Katie now finds herself a committed life-time resident of Uganda, adoptive mother to 13 girls, adoption advocate, New York Times bestseller of Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption,  and the Executive Director of Amazima Ministries. Here is an excerpt from her book. (p. 100)

Fear. It’s part of human nature, but it’s not something we got from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. ” When I imagine God creating each one of us and planting a purpose deep in our hearts, I never imagine that purpose being mediocrity. While the Bible doesn’t tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life’s calling will be, it does include a lot of general direction:

“You are to find me in the least of these. ” Yes.

“You are to leave your earthly possessions and come follow me. ” Yes.

“You are to love and serve the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes.

“You are to go make disciples of all nations.” Yes.

“You are to show mercy.” Yes.

“You are to live a life of mediocrity and abundance, holding on tight to your comfortable lifestyle, lest you lose it.” No.

I don’t think so. “Mediocrity and abundance” aren’t there. However, mediocrity and abundance, comfort and ease, do seem to be safe choices for many people, myself included. In stark contrast, leaving our possessions, following Jesus when we don’t have a well-defined plan, and entertaining strangers– well, that does sound a little scary, But what if, just beyond that risk, just beyond that fear is a life better than anything we have ever imagined: life to the fullest.

 

Today, I encourage you to read Katie’s book, her blog, or her guest post here, and then ask yourself, “How should I act in response to this and in light of the gospel?” In the words of my friend Jason, “Don’t do nothing.”

~Brooke

P.S. Reading Katie’s story reminded me of past missionary, Gladys Aylward to China. To read more about here visit the Bookshelf for listed readings.

 

Of Christmas Without “Them”

December 19th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

I can still hear her voice quiver as each year she gathered her houseful of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around the table. Just before the blessing, she would recount her love for her family and her thankfulness to God for being alive to share in the celebration of Christmas with those she loved most.

via Pinterest

My great-grandmother was a mother to five, three girls and two rambunctious boys, but known as “Mama” to most. I called her Grandmother Cost. She lived through the depression, along with her husband and children, and her life-long work ethic was a testimony to this.

Each Sunday she would prepare a home-cooked (usually home-grown) meal complete with a made-from-scratch, scrape the plate clean, chocolate cake. For any and all family that would gather to eat after church, Mama’s was the place to congregate.

via Pinterest

Her home would not grace the spreads of any fashionable magazines, but rather was a place of memories made. I can picture in my mind the brown and gold shag carpet and worn linoleum floors. Feel the coolness of rooms long ago filled with laughter and quarreling, that in the later decades remained shut to sustain heat in the main living areas.

It always felt to my childhood mind that the presence of those past memories and people,  namely at that time my great-grandfather I  never knew, roamed about in those rooms, but that is probably attributed to the overactive imagination of a child.

Mama worked her own garden and mowed her own lawn until her death in her mid nineties.  If the Braves or Crimson Tide were playing, you could find her in her matriarchal recliner occasionally arguing with calls made.

Sunday’s you would find her at church.

via Pinterest

My Grandmother Cost knew that her days were numbered, but she did not know the number of her days. That is why with tears and a quivering voice each Christmas before grace was said and thanks was given, she would let her offspring know of her love and appreciation for us all.

When we were ready to eat, we knew that Mama would be making her yearly speech and the room would grow uncomfortable with the thought of not having her presence at the table in subsequent years. They were the words of a woman who loved and was loved and needed to tell you one more time.

As we are entering Christmas week, my thoughts turn to broken hearts that have lost loved ones this year. How they must weep with their loss. I can recount the lives that I know have passed this year. A father, husband, and cop. A daughter, mother, and sister. A friend, co-worker, Papa and dad. These are only three lives who have in someway intersected with mine, but who bring hot tears when I think of their loved ones who miss them so much.

What about us? Who is it that we need to express our love, extend our gratitude, or grace with verbalized (perhaps unsought) forgiveness this Christmas?

This may be the last Christmas… or the beginning of more meaningful friend and family-filled Christmas’ to come.

I would much rather be remembered for a quiver in my sentimental voice than have regrets that I did not say, “I love you, He loves you, and the only real decision that will matter in light of eternity is:

What did we do with Jesus?”

When the coffin is closed, when death has stung, when our time has come, what did we do with the baby born in Bethlehem? The Christ-child turned crucified Savior and finally the risen King of Redeeming Kings?

We may have some regrets as we contemplate the thought of one last Christmas or that last Christmas with the one we loved. Our Father knows that we are but dust-formed lives. He sees, He knows, and He forgives those who ask. I pray for healing in hurting hearts that may read this post. After being a wreck earlier this year, I know even more fully that it is God who numbers our days.

As we joyfully celebrate this blessed season, may we seek restoration in Him and seek to restore others who are hurting and broken over Christmas without them.

If you are reading via e-mail subscription, get out your tissues and click here to watch the accompanying music video by Matthew West.

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Raise the Risk Challenge:

  • Say, “I love you, I forgive you, or thank you,” to those whom God speaks on your heart.
  • Write a card or word of encouragement to someone who is spending their Christmas without a dear family member or friend.
  • Help a family in need in spiritual and physical ways this Christmas.
  • Watch this message by my pastor, Dr. Willy Rice.

Going the Distance

December 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

From one of the greatest risk-takers I know personally and am privileged to call a friend, Doug Garner of Going the Distance Adventure Ministries. ~Ron

Rappelling over the edge of a 100′ cliff is exciting to say the least. It’s one of those few surreal moments in life that cause you to feel fully alive. For many people, the fear of heights makes rappelling a very difficult activity – that same fear also happens to be what makes rappelling very exhilarating.

Usually an argument breaks out in your mind as you weigh the idea of an amazing experience versus the perceived risk of falling to your death. Internally you experience a storm of opposing emotions that grip your heart with both anticipation and hesitation. I’ve seen many strong men become paralyzed with fear and consider walking back down the mountain trail instead of rappelling down the cliff face. The astounding thing is that most people beat down their fears in order to risk everything so they can experience this amazing adventure.

In order to do this they have to connect onto an 11mm rope tied to an anchor, walk to the edge of a cliff, lean back and push-off… gravity and rope pretty much do the rest. The hardest part is leaning back over the edge.

It feels very unnatural because at this point, you are taking the greatest risk.

It’s also when you are taking the biggest step of faith as you put your trust in your anchor, your rope, your harness, your hardware, and even in your own abilities (not to mention your faith in God!). It’s common for the fearful rappeller to get to the bottom of the rock face after conquering their fear and let out a shout of celebration looking up and yelling, “That was awesome! Can I do it again?”

A great one-word definition for faith is risk.

As Christians, we all want to be people of great faith, but do you realize that in order to be a person of great faith you must be a person of great risk? Obedience to God is always an act of faith and it always requires an element of risk. It may not be a life or death level of risk each time, but you will be risking something – rejection, loss, hurt feelings, being misunderstood, judged, falsely accused – in order to obey.

It’s this risk, this life of faith, that makes following God the most adventurous lifestyle known to mankind. There’s nothing more exciting in life than to follow God’s call because in doing so you are setting off on a lifelong faith journey in which God will bring you face-to-face with every fear and inhibition that robs you of living out your God-breathed potential. Taking steps of faith isn’t quite as exciting as rappelling… it’s much better. There are times when God will prompt you to “lean back over the edge” and share the Gospel with a total stranger – or even more difficult, a close family member – or stand up for someone being ridiculed or ask someone out on a date or pursue a dream He has planted in your heart. In each situation you will have to connect to your spiritual rope, walk to the edge, lean back, and push-off in faith as you risk everything in order to live life to the fullest (John 10:10). As you obey each time you will look up towards God and shout in celebration, “That was awesome! Can I do it again?”

There is no greater adventure than following Jesus. Don’t retreat back down the mountain trail! Instead, raise the risk by leaning back over the edge and watch God exhilarate your soul.

Holy Greetings of Grace and Peace

December 10th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:2

Paul’s letters begin with these words: grace and peace. Each time they are accompanied by, ” from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In his letters to Timothy, Paul also adds mercy.

Jesus mercifully came to pour out His grace so that the Holy Spirit might forever reign in believers hearts giving them peace.

That I would carry a greeting of grace and peace to my brothers and sisters in word, heart, and spirit.

How often is my soul in a state of unrest? Worry, sin, and striving can lead to this state, but abiding in Christ Jesus and growing in love and knowledge of Him ushers forth His grace and peace in my spirit and yours.

When the angels told of the birth of Christ, they ushered in their tidings with,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. ” Luke 2:14 (emphasis mine)

In the form of a warm and fleshy baby boy, peace and joy were birthed to earth so that striving and death could be ceased.

I long to behold the baby boy of Bethlehem whose birth we celebrate over two thousand years later. To be one of the lowly shepherds to coddle, kiss, and worship his tiny fingers and toes. To bask in the earthen glow of a heavenly Savior is to know Love.

Our King.

That I would carry grace and peace in my inner being alone is enough to change the countenance of my face.

My face tells the signs of my time spent with Jesus. When worry grips me and piles of laundry, clutter, my own self-inflicted to do list, or even worse, my sin, start to wear at my soul it is then I must recognize my thirst for my Savior and His Word beckoning to me, “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The shepherds momentarily laid down their duties to partake of His grace and joy. I should do the same.

How did the lowly shepherds spend the rest of their earthly days?

What joy did they take forth into their mundane tasks?

Was that moment in a stable enough to sustain them till heaven or did they ask God for more? How many of them lived the thirty-three years more to receive the eternal anointing of the Holy Spirit?

Indeed the baby boy of heaven changed everything.

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This Christmas season, might we remember to receive His grace and peace in all things as we worship the new-born King of Kings turn Risen Savior? Might we pause from tasks, turn from distractions, and then bow our heads in meditation and wonder at the gift of Christ our Savior?

Grace and peace to you in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas season and every one thereafter.

Raise the Risk Challenge:

  • Do not take my word for it. Look at the Pauline epistles (Romans, 1/2 Corinthians, Galatians,  Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1/2 Thessalonians, 1/2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon) and see for yourself his holy greetings of grace and peace.
  • How might you extend grace and peace to your family and/or circle of friends this Christmas? To other Christians around the world? To your neighbors?
  • In what areas of your life is there unrest? Ask Christ Jesus to rain down His peace. Seek His leading to discern areas of necessary change.

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