Who Will Truly Be the Authority in My Life? Me? Or God?

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By Beau Leaman

I grew up in downtown Puyallup with everyone on my mother’s side living on the same street. It was our turf. We played army together, tackle football in the mud, and attached sleds to our ATV’s in the winter. It was a little bit of paradise.

I attended a private Christian school in Tacoma, and my church family was only 15 minutes from our house. My parents not only taught me the word, but they lived it. Daily routines consisted of family prayer time at night, family devotions in the morning, and countless hours of Scripture memorization. In grade school, according to my mother, I was always known as the kid who hated to be in trouble, and was honest as soon as possible with any mistakes.

One of my biggest strengths is empathy. Since I was a child, I have always been concerned with those less fortunate than me, as well as those put down for another’s personal gain. I always had pretty decent grades, and for quite a bit I was the most athletic kid in my school. On the surface I had a great life, and no one looking from the outside would ever beg to differ.

While I was considered athletic, it came in seasons. I dealt with a lot of insecurities.  I found my worth because of my athletic ability, and when I did not perform, I chose myself as my authority. Growing up, I fed my insecurities by having as many friends as possible and when I needed God to walk with, I chose myself as my authority. I wanted to be known as the kid that had it all together, and when people did not see me the way I wanted, I chose myself, instead of God.

Six months into my marriage I had a necessary “Come to Jesus moment.” Things were not the way I had envisioned them, and that was my first problem. I had not given my marriage to Christ, and allowed Him all authority in my life. I believe each person, young or old, enters a crossroad in their life. This crossroad could be your testimony, a time you truly felt you became a man or woman, or simply surrendered your life to Christ.

After my first year of marriage, I was at a crossroad. Choose God as my authority, or continue to feed my insecurities and ruin my marriage. Praise God I chose to nail my insecurities to the cross. This was not simply a magic potion ordeal, but a process I chose to give to Christ, and take up my cross. I wrestle with this daily, but I find hope in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there is nothing He will not come along side me with, and be my refuge.

Really think through your life. Who is your authority? You? Or God?

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Mission Scrubbed Becomes Mission Accomplished!

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By Stan Peterson

I have been traveling down a long, winding road to becoming a U.S. Army Chaplain.  I applied back in June of 2012 and have been awaiting a green light for my medical exam, which is the last portion of my Chaplain Packet. I need to complete my Chaplain Packet prior to going before an Accession Board where a team of high ranking chaplains will determine whether or not I will be accepted into the regular Army as a Chaplain.

Last week I was notified that I was approved to fly to Los Angeles to take my medical exam. On Wednesday my family drove me to the airport, dropped me off in love, and returned to the house. I checked the departure monitor, found my flight number, and saw the words “on schedule.” I proceeded to the TSA checkpoint, where I was x-ray’d and allowed through to my gate. I found a comfortable chair and nestled in, preparing to spend my hour and a half wait listening to an Old Testament lecture and taking notes on my MacBook.

About 45 minutes into the wait I got a call from the north Los Angeles area; I knew this was my recruiter. I did not think he’d be calling me to wish me a good flight, so I assumed he was giving me pick-up instructions for after my arrival at LAX. His voice tipped it off — I knew it was not good news. The processing station would not take me because of a lack of paperwork.

He apologized profusely and I forgave him. He said that he would reschedule me for the end of this month, and our conversation ended after he apologized again and said that he would take me out to dinner after my medical exam.

We laughed together and I said goodbye. I hung up the phone, took a deep breath, and called my beautiful wife, who’d just arrived safely at home 15 minutes earlier. This was an “uncomfortable grace.”  I have been rescheduled for this medical exam three times since this last October. At this moment, how was I to react? I could react out of my feelings. What was I feeling? Frustration, anger, disappointment. But did my feelings justify my thoughts and actions? Who was I to get upset with the recruiter, let alone his commanding officer? What good would it do to spew out my long list of sacrifices and entitlements?

No, this was a grace from God!  An “uncomfortable grace.” As Paul Tripp puts it, “God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.” I was weak and wanting, wanting in so many different ways; but His grace is sufficient, and in my weakness His power is perfected.  I say this not to boast in me or my response to this circumstance but to boast in the cross of Christ and what God does to test and grow us. God has done this with the saints from the beginning. We see it in the life of Abraham when God calls him to sacrifice Isaac. We see it in Gideon when God asks him to tear down his father’s idols. We see it in Esther going before King Ahasuerus to plead for Israel.

Whether you are a man, woman, or child, “God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.”  Be encouraged!  This testing is a sign of God’s purpose in our lives. God loves you and He does not withhold from those He loves. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

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The Secret to Having Fun!

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By Nate Champneys

I meet weekly with a dear friend of mine who just turned 70. He has given me so much wisdom and advice over the years that I told him at one point that I felt like our relationship was very one sided. I felt like I got way more out of being his friend than he got out of being mine. A few weeks later he said to me, “Nate, you mentioned that you felt you get more out of our relationship than I do … well, I have something I would like you to teach me.”

I thought, Hmmm…what could I possibly teach him? This is a man who has done a lot in his lifetime. He has more life experience than I probably will ever have. “I want you to teach me to have fun,” he said. “I have had a very hard life and have spent my whole life working very hard, but I feel like I never learned to have fun.”

I didn’t really know what to say. I have just taken fun for granted my whole life.

It occurred to me that in general, my generation is very entertainment-driven. I don’t think we actually can comprehend fully a life without fun. Furthermore I think we tend to make a lot of our decisions based on how entertaining something may be. My friend is 70 years old. His generation has seen a lot. He has seen a lot. There seems to be a difference between my generation and my friend’s generation when it comes to entertainment.

My friend’s generation understand that there are many things that we must do in life that are not fun, they are not entertaining but must be done just the same. I look at myself and I think I have always had the expectation that I must have some sort of fun in my life on a regular basis.

This whole discussion got me thinking about fun and made me ask the question: What is fun? This thing that I seem to take for granted in my life, what is it that makes something fun? So when my friend asked me to teach him how to have fun my first response was this: ICE CREAM. Ice cream is fun, right? One of my favorite memories as a kid was when my family would spontaneously go out for ice cream. Ice cream is an inexpensive way to add a little fun into your life.

But the more I thought about it, I didn’t really know why ice cream was fun. It just is. But is it the ice cream itself that is fun or the experience? In my opinion, Ice cream at home is not as much fun as going out for ice cream so maybe it is the spontaneity of going to get ice cream that is fun.

As I thought about myself and what I find fun, I think I have finally discovered the secret to fun. Do you want to know what it is? Okay here it is. BREAK RULES. Yes, I really mean break rules. No, I do not want you to go rob a bank. Please don’t go drive 110 m.p.h. in a school zone. Here is what I mean by break rules.

We all have unwritten rules that we live our lives by. For example, most of us probably have a rule that we live by, that we do not go for walks in the dark at midnight. It is something we just don’t do. I use this example because this is exactly what my wife and I did while visiting her family one Christmas. They thought we were crazy! But we had such a fun time walking in the snow in the dark. It is one my favorite memories with my wife and one of the things that made it fun was it was something we did that didn’t make any sense. Life doesn’t always have to make sense.

I used to run the junior high program at a church in Chicagoland. At one of our summer events we made gallons of chocolate pudding and had a giant chocolate pudding fight. The students are still talking about it to this day. Why was it so fun? We broke a rule. We live by the unwritten rule that you don’t throw chocolate pudding at people. You have to be able to ask this question: “What is the worst thing that will happen?” “The kids might stain their clothes.” We had all the kids bring clothes that could get dirty. Problem solved. “Pudding will get everywhere.” We had the pudding fight in a pasture where it didn’t matter. Again, problem solved.

You also have to ask the question: “Is it really that big of a deal if ______?” To have fun by breaking rules, you just have to make sure that the consequences are acceptable. Obviously it would make no sense to go for a walk at midnight if you have a job interview at 7 a.m. the next day or to have a pudding fight after in church clothes, in the sanctuary.

Now I am married to a planner. She likes all her ducks in a row. She likes everything planned out to the “T”. And that is okay sometimes too. You can plan fun too, but even she would admit that her life has been a lot more fun when she learned how relax and “go with it” when my spontaneous nature comes out.

Here’s an idea. You probably have a rule that you didn’t realize that you had, that you don’t go away for the weekend without planning out where you are going. Break that rule. Just get in your car and start driving. Just remember though, spontaneous fun and rule breaking is never about the destination. It’s about the fun ride there.

I was on a walk with my family the other day and we walked by a flock of geese on a patch of grass by the road. I looked at my three year old and asked, “Would you like to chase the geese?” His eyes lit up so without a moment of hesitation, my three year old, my one and half year, my 9 month pregnant wife and I chased geese. It was so much fun! As children, we are really good at living in the moment and not caring what other people think.

As adults we view living in the moment as immature and we care what everybody thinks. We do need to be mature when its time to be mature, but I firmly believe that there are times in life when, for a little while its okay to live in the moment. We need to plan for the future but we also need to stop once in a while and do something crazy. Break a rule! Chase geese!

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The Bible’s Imperfect Women (and Men) of Faith!

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By Larry Short

Stan spoke compellingly last weekend about the faith of Abraham, which, while very imperfect, was reckoned unto him as righteousness. Abraham’s faith changed the world, and established him as “the father of our faith.”

But what about his wife, Sarah? She too is also cited in Hebrews 11 and could therefore be considered “the mother of our faith.” During the teaching time on this Mother’s Day weekend we will dig into her story, as well as those of other women of imperfect faith in the Bible. Whether they were leading a dysfunctional family (like yours and mine!), or otherwise seeking to live out their calling from God, they too changed the world!

I think Scripture holds a different view of faith than we often do (in our lack of it). We seem to think faith will be easy and automatic if only we had “more proof.” But the truth is that faith is never easy and automatic, no matter how much proof is at hand. Jesus taught that faith grows slowly and inexorably, like a mustard seed, only when it is invested, or planted. We may not “feel” like believing, but we all should know already that our feelings are not the ultimate judge of reality. (When did you last “feel” like going to the dentist … even though you know it’s good for you?) When true faith is called for, we must take a risk, stake a claim on it, as Sarah and Abraham did.

The good news is, our faith will then grow! Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Unfortunately it doesn’t work the other way around.

People “of imperfect faith” in the Scripture show us that the secret of finding God (and changing the world) lies in the earnestness and honesty of the seeking. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

We will end the teaching time on Sunday with an opportunity to share how the women who have impacted our lives through their imperfect faith have changed the world … including my own mother, the most significant influence in my early life, who has been walking with Jesus for the past 13 years!

I’m really looking forward to our time on Mother’s Day, and hope you all are as well. See you then!

(PS: If I’ve whetted your appetite for more on this topic, please see my blog: Hearing the voice of God.)

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Not a Big Deal

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By Nate Champneys

The book of Exodus is one of my favorite books in the Bible and I’m constantly going back to it. The reason I love it so much is that I love getting to know God through the intimate relationship He had with Moses. Moses was known as “a friend of God.” Wow. Now that is something I want to understand!

One of my favorite passages in Exodus is chapter 33. The golden calf incident (where the Israelites made and worshiped an idol) has just taken place and God tells Moses to get ready to take the Israelites to the Promised Land. God says He will not be going with them. In verse 12, Moses begins to plead with God and basically says that he doesn’t want to lead the people if God doesn’t go with him. I love God’s response to him in verse 17: “I will do what you have asked, because I am your friend and I am pleased with you.”

Now in the next chapter, God tells Moses to cut two new tablets to replace the ones Moses broke. We don’t know how much time has passed since the last story as it just says, “one day,” but it seems that Moses is reminding God of their previous conversation when he says in verse 9, “Lord, if You are really pleased with me, I pray that You will go with us. It is true that these people are sinful and rebellious, but forgive our sin and let us be Your people.”

And here is God’s response: “I promise to perform miracles for you that have never been seen anywhere on earth. Neighboring nations will stand in fear and know that I was the one who did these marvelous things. I will force out the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, BUT YOU MUST DO WHAT I COMMAND.” God tells Moses that He is going to be with him and do amazing things, but Moses just needs to obey.

The crazy thing is that disobedience is exactly the thing that would be Moses’s downfall later in the book of Numbers. It’s almost as though God is telling Moses to obey knowing that Moses would struggle with obedience later on. But it wasn’t obedience in the big things that Moses had trouble with; it was obedience in the little things. In Numbers chapter 20, God commands Moses to speak to a rock to get water for the Israelites, and instead Moses hits the rock with his staff. This “little” disobedience cost Moses the privilege of entering the Promised Land!

We tend to rank sin in terms of severity, but it is clear in Scripture that the sins that we don’t take seriously are just as grievous to God as the “serious” ones. Take a moment to examine your own life. What are the small things in your life that you have written off as, “not a big deal?”

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