God is Good… No Matter What.

God is good, no matter what.

I had a lot of aspirations when I first got into ministry… to be a Senior Minister of a thriving church, to be a published author, and to share the Gospel of Christ throughout the nation.

Eight years into it and I am no longer a Senior Minister, I haven’t gotten past the point of thinking about writing a book, and very few people (although they are very important to me) actually know who I am.

God is good, no matter what.

I have had to keep on reminding myself of that truth ever since the day I got fired from my last church. Up until then I was at least a Senior Minister… I had something to grab a hold of, a light to lead me as I fought up that ladder of what I believed God had called me to be. I may not have had popularity or a book deal, but at least I had that.

It’s funny how one moment you think you’re accomplishing something in life and then, in an instant, all of that can be taken away from you. In a blink of an eye, a group of men looked at me, took my very reason for living in this world, and crushed it.

God is good, no matter what.

Trust me, I have played this over and over again in my head. I have looked for a nugget of truth in the accusations, have cried out for peace, I’ve even tried to build up a wall around my emotions so I didn’t have to think about it. I’ve done everything I know how to do to overcome all of this, and yet none of it has worked. I still hurt, I still have pain, I still feel lost.

God is good, no matter what.

This is true…I know because I’ve lived it. Despite everything I’m going through God has provided me with another full-time ministry position at a place where Heather and I can heal, He has surrounded us with supportive friends and family who have loved us through this storm, and He is encouraging us as we come to Him with our brokenness.

I’m writing this because I need to… deep down I need to understand what God wants me do with this and what He has planned for my life, but another part of me wants to help others who might be going through the same thing. If you are going through some real junk, let me say this to you:

  • Your pain doesn’t define you, God defines you.
  • God has more for you than the junk you are experiencing.
  • Never stop striving after God… like a rock-climber grasping for the next rock, never let go of God.
  • God loves you for you… yeah, He wants to change you into His image, but He still loves you even if you struggle with following Him.
  • Just because God calls you to something it doesn’t mean He’s going to place it in your hands… you may have to go through some growing pains to get there. Remember, it took David 10 years after God anointed Him as king before he sat in that throne.
  • The church is a mess and there are some horrible people in it who need Jesus just as bad as you, so relax and trust that God is changing them like He is changing you. The church might be a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess.
  • Even when God seems distant and acts as if He doesn’t care… He is right there with you, walking through the valley alongside you, helping you to get to the other side.

These are the things that I have been thinking about and leaning on over the last 8 months and it has gotten me through a lot…. my hope is that it can get you through it as well.

God is good, no matter what.

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Who do I trust?

I am a trusting person. 

     Some say to a fault, but that’s just how I was wired. I always give people the benefit of the doubt, I always take people at their word (at least until they prove otherwise), I always believe that people want to do good even though, most of the time, they are incapable of accomplishing that task on their own. 

Is that naive of me? Probably, but this is how God wired me, that is how God made me. 

      Yet, even in that truth I have to admit that as a sinful human being I have drastically distorted that God-given ability to trust and love all people no matter who they are into something it was never meant to be. 

And that is the reason I am writing this post. 

    I am so willing to trust others that I take their opinions towards me and my abilities to heart and I live my life according to how they think I should live it. 

“You really shouldn’t be so outspoken.” – So I learn to shut up. 

“You really shouldn’t wear contacts.” – So I put my glasses back on. 

but the one I’m the most ashamed about…

“You really shouldn’t preach that way.” – So I learn the methods of popular preachers and model them, because I know that they will get the response I want. 

     And that is the crux of the whole issue for me. I so desperately want the approval of the people around me I will inherently do whatever I can to gain their approval and applause. 

Hello, my name is Larry Vinson and my idol is self-glorification. 

     It’s taken me awhile, but I am so glad I have labeled this major sin in my life. For years I have lived a life that has been nothing but doing what others want so they can turn to me and tell me what a great job I have done pleasing them. 

It’s time to change. 

      The truth is that the only praise I should ever desire in my life is not my own, not from those around me, but from God. The only person that should be dictating my life is the Holy Spirit living within me. I should be living my life in pursuit of His approval and no one else’s. 

Does that mean I won’t listen to those who have wise words for me? 

     No. I will always seek wisdom from other people, but every piece of advice I garner will be matched up with Scripture and brought to God for approval. 

That’s what I’ve been missing. A life that is centered around what God deems worthy and nothing else. 

     I’m starting to think that this is not my problem alone. I think we all go through this. From the high school student who dresses like celebrities because they know others will approve to the adult who doesn’t speak up when they see something wrong because it’s not the “proper” thing to do. 

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we allow our culture to tell us what the “perfect” human looks like? 

Truth is, there is only one perfect human and we should be looking to Him for what we should be doing. 

My challenge is to do what John the Baptist did in John 3 when faced with peer pressure on changing how he did things… 

“He must increase, I must decrease.” 

      John knew that he was doing the right thing by allowing Christ to take over his ministry and he didn’t care what other people thought. John lived a life of doing what God wanted him to do no matter the cost. I need to learn from that. 

It’s time for me to be less about me, to be less about pursuing self-glorification, and to be more about Christ and the glorification of His name. 

Peace, Love, and Soul

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There are many different belief systems out in the world today about who God is and how involved He is in our lives. Some believe that god is a distant god, one who created the heavens and the earth and just sits back watching us like we’re Jersey Shore (I know, I know, old reference, but I don’t watch that junk anyway)…

That god is depressing to think of.

Others think God is slightly more active, only engaging His people when He wants to ruin their lives. Bruce Almighty compared this type of god to a bully holding a magnifying glass and we’re the ants scrambling for our lives. I compare this god to the parent who only communicate to their child through yelling or put-downs.

That god is abusive.

Stil, there are others who see God as heavily involved in their lives. They ask him for advice on what clothes they should wear that day or what decisions they should make for breakfast, or any other mundane decisions that their own brains could come up with on their own.

That god is oppressive.

I take a balanced approach… God is heavily active in my life, but He allows me to make my own decisions and to experience the consequences associated with those decisions. He is a parent with a loving heart that guides me in life and helps me take the right steps to a closer relationship…

And like any other parent would do with their child, He talks to me.

Now before you start taking my measurements for my straight jacket (At least the white would be fashionable this time of year) let me explain…

God talks to His people. I couldn’t tell you what He sounds like, but I can tell you He has spoken.

I know this crazy, but it’s only crazy for people who don’t follow Him. Jesus tells us that,

““My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” (John 10:27).

I asked my brother Chuck once what God sounded like and I will never forget what he told me…

“It’s like trying to hear a small whisper in a room full of noise.”

Exactly.

Think about it this way…

One day I was driving down the highway and one of my favorite songs came on the radio…

One thing you have to know about Paoli, IN is that there are two spots on the highway where K-love does not work, I have no idea why, it just doesn’t work…

Anyway, I was coming up to one of those spots and it started to get staticky, but because I had heard this song a thousand times before I could sing right on along without missing a beat.

That’s what it is like listening to the voice of God. At first it’s really hard to separate His voice from the static, but the more used to His voice you are, the easier it becomes.

So as you go out today, take the time to separate the noise from the voice of God and find out what He is saying to you…

I’ll tell you what He said to me next time.

Peace, Love, and Soul.

A Little Bit of Coffee and a Whole Lot of Jesus

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I like coffee. A lot. 

It’s a culmination of a couple of things… it’s the smell, it’s the taste, it’s the process of making it… making sure the coffee to water ratio is just right so you get that perfect taste. 

SIDE NOTE: I am in no way referring to store-bought coffee. That is junk. I prefer freshly roasted, grounded-in-my-office, bold coffee (shout-out to my brother’s coffee, La Terza … do people even do shout-outs anymore?) 

Anyway, I like coffee, but I am finding it even more enjoyable when I combine it with things that I love to do. 

Last weekend I officiated a wedding for some friends of mine (congrats Rhonda and Wes) and they had live music. During that time I found myself sitting back, coffee in hand, enjoying two of the things in this world that get me to relax. 

But something strange happened. 

While I was sitting there enjoying my coffee and music, I felt closer to God. 

This feeling happened again on Sunday. That morning, the Youth Minister of our church preached and I was able to sit in the front pew, coffee in hand, worshipping with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

And I felt closer to God. 

I felt as if I needed to test this out, so this morning I got to the office early, turned on Spotify, sat down with (you guessed it) coffee in hand, and closed my eyes.

The feeling came again. I felt closer to God.  

All three of these moments brought me closer to God… so I got to thinking… does everybody have these? 

Do we all have something we enjoy that we can infuse God into the center of? 

I found it in coffee… but can someone find it in cooking, in dancing, in working out, in running, or (in my wife’s case) cleaning? 

I think so. 

It’s not because the act that we do is magical. It’s not as if the coffee is bringing me closer to God. 

It’s coffee that has become my gateway to relaxation and when I’m relaxed and focused on God… 

I feel closer to Him

I can talk with Him

and I can hear Him talk  with me. 

I’m going to start doing this a lot more… I hope you can join me. 

Peace, Love, and Soul.

Where is God?

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Last week was bittersweet for me. 

On one hand I got to take a wonderfully relaxing vacation with my beautiful wife and 4 kids… but on the other hand our world had one of the worst weeks of tragedies we have ever experienced (at least in recent memory). 

With the debate of gun control still raging in the United States, people are still struggling with the recent tragedies of Sandyhook and Colorado. To have a bombing, a plant explosion, an avalanche, two earthquakes, and a lockdown of an entire city in one week on top of all that… seems a bit much, doesn’t it? 

And while this all impacts people different ways, one of the most popular questions being asked is this: 

“Where is God?”

Good question, and one that deserves an honest response.

(Side note: Don’t worry, this won’t be a religious rant about how godless this country is. Nor will this be a guilt inducing speech that points fingers at everyone but me… this is simply a statement on God’s presence in the midst of tragedy). 

He’s Here. God is Here. He is alive and He is well (cue Newsboys here)

That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? 

oh… you want more than that?

You only have to look at the struggling story of God and His people to know that He is here…

Look at the first tragedy ever recorded in the Bible, the fall of man. Before this tragic event we enjoyed God’s full presence. We talked with Him, we walked with Him, we explored the new world with Him, we did everything together. 

Once sin entered the picture, once we decided we wanted more than what God was offering, we were separated from God, not knowing if we’d ever see Him again. 

God had different plans. 

God wanted us back, He wanted us to experience Him in the same way we used to. So He crafted a plan…

Jeremiah 31:33–34 – ““I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.””

God knew if He could get to our hearts, to the very core of who we are, then we could enjoy Him like we did back in the beginning of time. 

Enter Jesus. Fully God, Fully Human… God knew that the only way to execute His plan was to execute Himself for all of mankind:

John 14:6 – ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

John 12:32 – “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

To those who are seeking God need only to come to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who died for our sins so we can experience the real and living God in this world. 

Jesus cares about people in the midst of darkness…

Matthew 23:37 – ““Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

This could very easily be said of today. Jesus sees the grip of evil in this world and wants so desperately for it to be eradicated, but that won’t happen until all people come to Him to be washed of their sins:

2 Corinthians 5:17–19 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”

But once it is eradicated, once all evil is purged from this world. Those who have been cleansed in this world, will be with God forever, in the same way we were at the beginning of time: 

Revelation 21:1–7 – “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

No more tears. No more pain. No more evil. Just God and His people. 

That does my heart good. 

That’s not until later…how does this speak to the question of where God is? 

Easy.

God has been trying to show Himself since the beginning of time. He’s always wanted us to be with Him, but because of the evil that exists within all of us, He became distant. He had to.

Yet, ever since that day God has been trying to get us to realize that He still wants to be with us. He sent Himself, in the form of a human, to die for us so that we could see Him in the midst of this world. 

And now, anyone who accepts God will become one with God and will experience Him, in this world, everyday of our lives. 

Even in the midst of intense tragedy.

Romans 8:38–39 – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To those who have experienced loss in this past week, my heart goes out to. I pray that during this difficult time, you aren’t asking, “Where is God?”

Instead, I pray that you’ll be thanking Him for being there. 

 

Peace, Love, and Soul.

He did it again…

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Yesterday I woke up at my normal time at 4 AM to make sure I could finish my sermon on time for morning service…

Us procrastinators love last minute deadlines…

I went through my normal routine, got showered, shaved, dressed, kissed my sleeping wife on the cheek, and went to grab my keys. 

Only one problem: I couldn’t find my church keys. 

I looked everywhere until I finally remembered that I left them inside the church the day before while officiating a wedding. 

So I drove to church in order to work on my sermon from the comfort of my van. 

Now I know what you’re thinking…

“Larry, why not just work at home?” 

Good question… it’s because I can’t focus at home… home is not a workplace, it’s a play place. 

Anyway… due to the “cramped” conditions, I worked at half the speed I normally do typing out my sermon and by the time I got let in to the church (thanks Dave) and finished my sermon it was 1 hour before service.

Since Heather and I have only one car, I hurriedly went home and grabbed her and the kids and took them back to church, prayed with my elders, and finished service prep with 10 minutes to go before service. 

To say that I was frazzled was an understatement… but when I am frazzled, He is calm. 

God has an amazing way to show us His amazing calmness when we are at our most frazzled. Jesus tells us to come to Him when we are frazzled, for His work load is easy and light. If we come to Him, He promises to give us rest. 

That’s what yesterday’s worship service did for me. It calmed me, it gave me joy, it replaced all of my frazzledness with a heart ready to lift up and praise Jesus! 

I know, ministers are supposed to have it together (that’s one of the biggest lies in the church)… but I didn’t have it together yesterday, it was God who had it… and I needed it. 

How frazzled are you today? How much do you need God to take away the stress of your life and replace it with His carefree workload? 

Learn today to give it all to God and let Him show you how awesome He truly is!

Giving Back to My Best Friend

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This is my best friend. She has acquired that role through (soon to be) eight years of hard labor, sweat, and tears. No one else comes close to that role, and no one ever will. Outside of Christ, Heather is the best thing that has ever happened to me… 

Alright, enough kissing up… 

As many of you know, over the last year I have been going through counseling in order to help me become a better father, husband, and more importantly, a better child of God. One of the greatest revelations I have had is the fact that God celebrates me just as I am, imperfections and all. 

This revelation has been able to do what so many other things have not…it has permeated the very core of who I am..and how I respond to those I care about most. 

This is where the picture comes in…and my best friend.

Before I went into counseling I ran my household the way I thought “men” ran their household…with high expectations and void of any and all emotion. While I thought Heather was happy, and I’m sure she was, there was a large part of her that was quietly being pushed down, so as not to upset the status quo of our house. 

God wants me to celebrate my wife…for who she is, not who I want her to be. 

I should have known that, but now that I do I wanted to Heather to know how much I celebrated who she truly is. For those of you who know Heather, you know she is a self-proclaimed “Christian Flower Child” who is more of a free-spirit than anything else.

As a husband who celebrates his wife, I want her to realize this part of herself again, I want her to be that free-spirit that I know she wants to be…so I bought her that purse. It wasn’t hard to find, I went to a hippy store (yes, I stood out like a sore thumb) and with the help of the owner, I found the perfect bag for a perfect woman. 

So Heather, if you’re reading this, and you better be, than realize that I love you for you…I don’t want you to be afraid to be who God made you…It’s time to celebrate. 

Peace, Love, and Soul