My Head is in the Clouds

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I like running, but that has nothing to do with my post…it’s just a good way to start, I guess. Anyway, while I was running this morning I noticed that there was a single cloud in the sky, next to the sun. I couldn’t help but to stare at the cloud while I was rounding the first turn on the track (I can stare as long as I want as long as I don’t run into anything) and the more I looked, the clearer an image started to form…

 

It’s funny how when we look at something, people see different things. Take for the instance the cloud that I saw this morning. The first time I saw it, I thought it looked like an elephant preaching behind a pulpit (yep, that’s right… an elephant preaching behind a pulpit). The second time I saw it, though, the elephant was gone and the cloud turned into a hand trying to grab a fish. The final time I saw it, it was a hand holding a fish up in the air, as if it gained the greatest prize in the world (see pic above). 

What do you see? 

 

Now, I am not a man who usually attaches spiritual meanings to things like this…

Who am I kidding? Yes, I do! 

While I do believe that God speaks to us in many different ways and shows us things that are beyond our comprehension, I don’t think He fashioned that cloud just for me…but what He did do was help me to see something that I may not have normally seen in an inanimate object. 

I saw the elephant preaching behind the pulpit because I have a desire to preach the Word of God with power…and what better way to illustrate that, or confirm that in my life, than an elephant preaching behind a pulpit. 

The hand trying to grab the fish is the goal of every Christian, to be fishers of people. To go out into the world and help people see what I see, to know what I know, to experience Christ in the same way that I experience Him. 

The hand holding the fish in victory is what I hope happens in my ministry! I want people to know Christ because of my work. I want people to love Christ because of how God is using me! I want to be a fisher of people, but I also want to hold a soul up to God and say, “This one’s for you, Lord!”

 

But then again, maybe that cloud was only a cloud and nothing more…

Thank you, God, for the clouds and the messages that come with them.

 

Peace, Love, and Soul

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The Bittersweet taste of Ministry

Sometimes we are called to things that we did not expect to be called to.
I have found this statement to be true many of times in my ministry and today is one of those moments.
Two years ago I was visiting Richland Christian Church trying to become their minister… I had just finished my trial sermon and had an opportunity to talk with the staff to discuss the possibility of coming on, it was there that I was hot with the following question:
“If you come how long do you plan on staying?”
That question hit me hard… I wanted stability and a place where my family and I could grow for awhile… but I knew the timeline was only known to one person, “That’s up to God,” I replied.
It is now two years later (to the Sunday) and I now know the answer to that question.
Today, I resigned from Richland Christian Church, here is what I read to them at the end of service:
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To the Elders of Richland Christian Church and to the family of Christ at Richland Christian Church,
      When Isaiah saw God in chapter 6 of his book, he thought he was a dead man, but through God’s grace and provision, an angel came forth and purified the lips of Isaiah so  he could be declared clean and thus stand in the presence of God. Then, in a test of Isaiah’s faithfulness to Him, God asked,”Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
      To Isaiah, the response was a no-brainer, “Here am I. Send me!” At that moment Isaiah realized how much God had given him and he knew the only response he could ever give God was to go wherever He wanted.
       I have formed my own life around this philosophy. I go when God calls me, I go where God calls me, and I stay for as long as God calls me. Two years ago, God called me and my family to Richland Christian Church, we grew here, we gained fantastic relationships here, and we saw God’s hand move miraculously here. Yet, it is in the midst of a fruitful ministry that we hear God asking us to go where He wants us to go.
        Last Sunday my family and I accepted a call for me to be the Senior Minister at Paoli Christian Church and thus will be resigning from Richland Christian Church. As it stands, my last Sunday will be September 9th.
       On a personal note, I wanted all of you to know that our decision to move on is only due to God’s calling on our lives and nothing else. I pray for only great things for the future of this church and that God would use this opportunity to make Richland Christian Church a stronger and healthier church that makes a huge impact on the community in Spencer County.
        Pray for us as we pray for you. We love you and will miss seeing your wonderful faces every Sunday. We know this isn’t goodbye, but only a temporary separation until we see each other again, either on this side of eternity or the other.
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Heather and I are a mixed bag of emotions… On one hand we are sad to leave a community that has been so close to our hearts over the years, but on the other hand, we are excited to see what the Lord as for us at Paoli Christian Church.
To those of you who have been by our side here at Richland, thank you… You have helped make these last two years the most successful ministry I have ever had.
To those of you anxiously awaiting my first Sunday at Paoli, I can’t wait to see how God moves through our community as we team together to bring the Kingdom to the who need it most.
Peace, Love, and Soul

A Note of Thanks

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I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity about my alma mater lately…

And while I cannot confirm or deny any of what has been said to me, I wanted to do something that I haven’t heard any current or former student do since I attended Cincinnati Christian University. 

THANK YOU…

Thank you CCU for taking a kid that came from a broken home and loving him like he was one of your own. 

Thank you CCU for taking a kid who had a passion for Christ and leading him to a preaching major. 

Thank you CCU for sitting with me while I struggled with life issues and giving me biblical advice to overcome them. 

Thank you CCU for teaching me about Christ and strengthening my faith. 

Thank you CCU for giving me an environment where I could foster Christ-centered relationships. 

Thank you CCU for being in the midst of a broken city and being a light in that darkness…for being a light in my darkness. 

Thank you CCU for being Christ to me and to thousands of others students that have been on, and are currently on, your campus. 

THANK YOU. 

 

They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the legacy that they leave behind…an organization is no different. If you want to see the impact CCU has on its students take a look at the people who have graduated from there…Not all of us are in professional ministry but I guarantee you, whatever it is that we are doing, it is making a huge impact for the Kingdom of God.

Here’s a challenge to all the current and former students of Cincinnati Christian University…Join me by posting on your wall a simple thank you to CCU…just one thing that you are thankful for…and let’s turn this negativity into something positive…

 

THANK YOU. 

Changing more than diapers when it comes to our children…

Now granted, that title only works for the first (hopefully) 3 years of their lives…but it does speak volumes.

Mondays are the days that I spend really digging into the text for my sermon on the upcoming Sunday and this Sunday we are dealing with Psalm 78, a great Psalm about teaching children the importance of God’s faithfulness, to have confidence in Him, and to keep His commands the best that they can (while teaching grace at the same time, mind you…)

So how does this fit with diapers? Easy, for the first 3 years (again, hopefully) of our children’s lives we change diapers in order to keep them healthy, but for their entire lives we change and mold their hearts in order to keep them spiritually healthy (everyone together now, “Oh! Now I get it!”). I truly believe that the most important job that a parent has, or will ever have, is the job of turning their children into followers of Christ!

But we aren’t going to do that by shoving facts down their throats…

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for reading the Bible to my kids, praying with them, bringing them to Church, and answering whatever question they might have about God (like Noah asking me how God can live in our hearts while living everywhere all at the same time). However, there are times that well-intentioned parents can throw fact after fact, Bible verse after Bible verse, rule after rule, at their kids and forget to demonstrate the love of Christ that children need to internalize in order to truly follow Christ.

Alright Mr. Smart Guy…(That’s my impression of what you are thinking, how did I do?) how do we change the hearts of our kids?

Glad you asked…

The more I think about it, the more I have to believe that if we are going to change the hearts of our kids it comes down to one word…

PASSION

Passion…such a small word with a huge meaning. If we are going to change the hearts of our children, mold them into the image of Christ, then we must allow our passion for Jesus to shine brighter than anything else in our lives. They have to SEE our relationship with Christ in action…when we serve, they should be there next to us, handing out clothes and food to the homeless. If we worship, they better be right there next to us singing their hearts out for God. When we pray, they need to see us struggling to come up with the words that express how thankful we are to a God that loves us so much!

You know better than anybody that your relationship with Jesus Christ is more experiential than anything else, so our kids need to experience Christ in order for their relationship to flourish…that can only happen if we lead them to those experiences. So teach those Bible Verses, Pray with your kids on a regular basis, and bring them to Church…but do it passionately and watch to see what happens!

Peace, Love, and Soul

Taking Prayer to the Next Level

Talking with Jesus

On Tuesday mornings, I have the distinct pleasure of leading a Bible Study with a group of guys who have a desire to follow Jesus, followed a time of mentoring with an individual guy who has the same desire and passion. Well, today’s conversations really touched my heart, because we talked about making Jesus more of a priority in our lives and how prayer is really the key for making that happen.

I haven’t been praying like I should.

I know, I know…”You can’t be so hard on yourself Larry.” I realize that, and I don’t think I am. See, I have the same desire and passion for following Jesus that every Christian has, and there are times when that passion and drive for Jesus takes us to the next level of a deeper relationship with Christ.

And now it’s time to take prayer to that next level.

Because of today’s studies, I was able to discuss the Lord’s Prayer with the man that I mentor every week. As I talked about Matthew 6:9-13 with this guy, I realized the depth and passion that is needed to make that prayer meaningful to our daily walk with Christ. So, in response, I decided to write a teaching that breaks down the Lord’s prayer, line by line, and applies to it our everyday lives.

My “prayer” (yes, I meant to use that word) is that our prayer time with Christ would have more meaning and depth than it ever has, and I believe that this teaching of Matthew 6 will help (if it only helps me, then it was still time well spent) do just that.

Take the time to look this over, practice it in your own prayer life, and comment back to me on how it impacted (or even transformed) your time of conversation with your Father.

It’s time to go to the next level…will you join me?

Peace, Love, and Soul.

 

Here’s the Teaching:

 

Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

  • The Term “Hallowed” means holy or sacred; in essence, this means that we are acknowledging God for who He is.
  • The very first thing we do in our prayer time is to thank God for being God.
  • BE SPECIFIC…Thank God for being the giver of all things. Thank God for giving you another day of life, for your family, for your friends, for your job.
  • Thank God for who He is.Thank Him for Jesus Christ, for His death on the Cross, and for His Resurrection. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you, and how through Him, you can live the life God has called you to live.

After you thank God for who He is and how He operates in your life, move on…

‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

  • In order for this part of the prayer to be powerful, we have to first realize that God has complete control in Heaven. Is Will, is always accomplished in Heaven. Thus, in asking God for His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are asking God to have full control of our lives, just like He has full control in Heaven.
  • In this part of your prayer, pray for God to take control. BE SPECIFIC…share with God those areas of your life where you struggle to give Him control. Submit your will, your choices, your control over to God and let Him know that you are willing to listen to what He has to say. That you are willing to follow His commands, because you Love Him and you what to do what He asks.

‘Give us this day our daily bread.

  • The daily bread spoken of by Jesus is a call for God to take care of our basic needs. What are your basic needs? Most Americans today have the same needs: Shelter, Clothes, Food, a Job, Money to pay bills, and a means of transportation (your list may vary).
  • God wants us to ask for those needs, because He is our loving Father and wants to treat us like His children. God promises to take care of our needs, so at this moment in your prayer time, share with your Father the needs of your life and thank Him for taking care of those needs.

And forgive us our sins, as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.

  • This is perhaps the most intimate part of our prayer time, because we are being completely transparent and honest with God. Share with God your struggles, those parts in your life where you fall, and ask Him for Forgiveness. BE SPECIFIC…let God see your pain, your issues, and ask Him to make you clean.
  • The second half of that line is also important. Not only are you asking for God’s forgiveness for your faults, but you are also asking God to give you the strength to treat others in the same way. What people have wronged you that you are struggling with forgiving? Ask God to help you overcome your anger, your bitterness, and whatever other emotions you are experiencing so that you can fully forgive the people in your life that have sinned against you. This is vitally important because it means that you realize that if God can forgive you for what you’ve  done to Him, you should be able to forgive others for what they’ve done to you.

Once you have accepted that forgiveness and are working towards that same attitude with others, you can move on to the next part of this prayer…

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

  • Notice how this says, “Don’t lead us…”. That means that we don’t even have to be tempted, that we can ask God to take us away from the areas of our lives that cause us to stumble. In this time of prayer, ask God to keep you away from the temptations of your life…to not even bring you close to that temptation. By doing this you are recognizing that God is the only one who can save you from yourself. God wants to deliver us from the evil of our lives, but we have to ask Him to help. That is why we pray for God to do just that.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

  • Finally, you go back to where you began: by recognizing that God is God. When you finish with your prayer time, Thank God for being God. Because God is who He says He is, your sins can be forgiven, your attitudes can be changed, and your temptations can be taken away. Because God is who He says He is, you can have a better life and an eternity of life in His presence. Because God is who He says He is, you are loved, accepted, and desired. Take the time as you finish this prayer time to thank God for the impact He has on your life and ask for His continuing presence on your journey through this world.

In Jesus Name,
AMEN.

Living Life…

Today I lived life and I didn’t even mean to.

Now that I am closer to home, I try to make visits to Cincinnati every couple months or so. Today, was one of those trips so I decided to spend most of the day with Chuck, my oldest brother on my mom’s side.

That’s where the living life came into play.

Chuck is the owner of La Terza Artisan Coffee Roastery and every week finds himself delivering all over Cincinnati. I joined him today and got a chance to meet all of the people that he meets on a regular basis. One of those people, named Doug, started a conversation with me about being life and eventually we found ourselves talking about finding a new style in the way he performs music. I normally don’t get into conversations like this, but I couldn’t help myself today. Soon I found myself lost in the conversation and passionately engaging Doug in dialogue.

And that’s when I felt alive…

I know that sounds kind of silly, even a little touchy-feely, but for me it was very serious. As soon as Doug started talking I felt the urge to just share life with Doug, and in the process be a light of Jesus Christ. Our conversation didn’t go very long, but as soon as it was over I started dialoguing with the other lady in the shop…we talked about children and how through them we can learn how to be passionate about life. It was a great conversation with complete strangers and I have to admit, I enjoyed every second!

After the conversation I reflected on what had just happened. How through two meaningful conversations I can feel so alive and passionate about my calling and my life. I soon realized that this is how I was designed to live: A servant of God going through this world engaging people right where they are…and in the process have meaningful conversations with a purpose. Even though Jesus was mentioned by name, He was certainly brought into the conversation.

We all are meant to live this way. Not merely going through life trying to survive, but living life to its fullest so that the glory of Christ can not only be taught, but be shown in our everyday circumstance. Here’s my challenge to you today: Live Life and Live it abundantly. Enjoy the conversations of everyday life, meet new people, engage them, and show them the love of Jesus Christ.

As soon as I get home, I will introduce this concept to my family and we will start living life together as a family. Will you join us?

Peace, Love, and Soul.

Never Give Up

Hebrews 12:1–3 (NIV) – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Never Give Up. That was my main message last week as I went to help the 7th and 8th graders at Pine Haven Christian Assembly. That was also my message last night as we celebrated our last Youth Group meeting at Forest Lake Christian Church. Take a look at these verses and you will know exactly why we are never to give up.

God has given us a path to run, and because of our sin and the influence of Satan in this world the race is a little harder to finish then it should be. Yet when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we can finish the race ahead of the pack.

Think of it this way: When I was preparing to go to Iraq I was told that we were going to be running at least 3 times a week. All of us were put into three groups, the fast runners, the average runners, and the slow runners; I was put in the average runners. Not to be outdone by anyone, the next morning I ran with the fast group. “I Can do this,” I thought, and so I began running.

What I didn’t realize is that I was really slow compared to the fast group, so I quickly fell behind. After the run my senior officer, the one in charge of the fast group, came up to me and said, “You have one week to prove that you belong here or you go back to the average group!”

Tuesday came and I didn’t get any better.

Wednesday came and I didn’t get any better.

Thursday came and I ran a little faster, but could not catch up. The time of day that we ran was so early, the sun wasn’t even up yet, and so I had a horrible time motivating myself to finish any faster. I remember as I approached the finish line that morning that I needed some motivation if I was to stay with the group, so I burned the image of the finish line in my head.

Friday came and the entire time I ran I thought of that finish line and how badly I wanted to get there with the group. I was in the zone that day and didn’t see anything but that finish line the entire run. When the finish line actually came I found that no one else was there. “Oh great,” I thought, “I was so slow that the rest of the group went to breakfast before me.” But as I looked back I saw the rest of the fast group coming in behind me. I didn’t just stay with the group I had finished faster than anyone in the company.

God taught me a lesson that day that applies to my spiritual life. As long as you fix your eyes on the finish line, You will always finish strong. As long as we, as Christians, fix our eyes on Christ… we are ensured that we too will finish the race strong.

Never Give Up.