Category Archives: journey
It has long been a goal of mine to read 1 book per month for an entire year. Every year I have really great intentions, but never actually get to a place where I intentionally set aside the time to read. I’m learning that I need time for personal development. And so do you. If you aren’t making time, start making the time.
At this point in 2015, 4 books are in my rear view mirror with many more ahead of me. I wanted to share the books that I have read so far this year. This is not intended to be a review of each book, although that might be a great future post, it is simply a list of where I’m at so far and what is immediately in front of me.
Done Reading |
[No More Dragons – Jim Burgen]
Real life ministry book. Don’t read if dirt under your finger nails makes you queazy.
[Give God Some Credit – Brett Andrews]
The story of New Life Christian Church
[United Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity – Trillia Newbell]
For those with a passion for racial reconciliation.
[Finding Your Way Back To God – Dave & Jon Ferguson]
For whatever reason you may have become disconnected from God, this book helps you find your way back.
Up Next |
[Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass]
[Ready. Set. Grow. – Scott Wilson]
[The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer]
[The Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman]
So that’s what I have read so far and what’s up next. What are you reading? What are your other suggestions for books to read this year?
It started out like any other day. I was in college. Classes began at 0700. Not my favorite way to start a day, but that’s how it was. Midway through the morning the office contacts me saying I have a phone call. I take the call to hear my frantic mother in a panic. My father had been taken to the Emergency Room with severe chest pain.
Three and a half weeks later, he passed away. He never woke up from a surgery designed to save him from the heart aneurism he had experienced. His body shut down and he would never speak to me again. I often wonder if he could hear me as I spoke to him, sense me as I hugged him and reminded him of my love for him.
My world had been flipped into absolute chaos. I was mad at God. I hated God. I wanted to die. I had no idea how to move forward. Without my father, moving on with life didn’t even make any sense. I had been thrust out of a state of perfect contentment. A great college, beautiful girlfriend, wonderful family. All of that shattered in a single phone call.
Some of you may know the feeling.
Your marriage is in a downward spiral. You don’t know what happened. You can’t explain it. But things just aren’t what they used to be.
Your children have pushed you to the edge. You don’t know how it got so out of control, but you think to yourself, “If only we lived in another place, another state, another house with another school, things would be better.”
You lose someone you love unexpectedly. The circumstances might be a fast-acting, terminal cancer, car accident, suicide or any number of other possibilities. Regardless, someone in your life is now no longer there and you have a hole, a gap, in your world.
Your finances have driven you underground. You are so far in debt you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. You have no room for generosity, you’re stressed about how to feed your kids, you have stopped answering phone calls from debt collectors and you’re just hoping to somehow disappear off their radar.
Everyone one of us has a story. A moment when life got messy, chaotic, unpredictable and painful. A story that makes us ask, “How do I get back on my feet again? How do I recover from this? Will I ever have contentment in my life or will it always be this way? How do I experience peace again?”
If this describes you, I want to offer a solution. A path to contentment. A path to solid footing again. A path that blows the “light at the end of the tunnel” out of the water and brings you into direct contact with the Maker of light.
First, read Psalm 136.
Pathway to Peace #1 – Give “Thanks” to God!
Thank God for the mess and chaos of life. Use those opportunities to seek the will of God and how He might be growing you or preparing you for something bigger and better in life. Read Psalm 136 again and see the times when God’s people could have chosen to give up. We’re reminded even in our worst moments of discontentment, chaos and pain to offer thanks to God for all He has already done. Have the discipline to remember all that God has done for you in the past and to offer an attitude of thankfulness to Him. A heart of thanks turns our attention from ourselves and moves us into a place of peace and contentment. It reminds us that life isn’t about my happiness, but it is about God purifying me into holiness.
Pathway to Peace #2 – Remember God’s Faithfulness!
This is where some discipline is required. In the pain and chaos of life, it can be difficult to see God at work. Our tendency is to assume He has left us for the time being and has moved on to someone else. Maybe He has given up on us or someone else needs Him more badly. Either way, we convince ourselves that if we are going to find peace, to grow our marriage, to heal our pains and to begin to get up on our feet again, it’s all on us. So we put all the pressure on ourselves to make it happen. In doing so, we fail to remember God’s faithfulness. Every verse in Psalm 136 ends with, “His faithful love endures forever.” No matter how far we fall, how unfaithful we are, how bad or deep our hurt is or chaotic life has become, God is the faithful one. We are unfaithful to our God. His love endures forever. He is faithful. If you’re feeling the chaos, it might be time to remember God’s faithfulness.
A storm rolled through town tonight. My family and I were watching my son at Tae Kwon Do. Suddenly the rains came and the thunder struck. I walked through the rain to pick my wife and children up at the curb. A rainbow appeared as we were leaving the parking lot. Driving home, every one in the van strained to see the colors in the sky. That’s when I said, “God is telling us, ‘Hi.'”
Let me stop here. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I never say weird things like that. Typically, that kind of “Christianese” simply annoys me. But for some reason, this time, it was different.
I was reminded of what God told us in Genesis 9:12-15…
Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.
Somewhere along the way, rainbows became associated with different movements or stereotypes.
As a child of the ’80’s, I remember when liking rainbows made you a “girl.”
Rainbows were somehow linked with unicorns and Rainbow Brite.
Now in our modern era, the rainbow has become the proud symbol of the gay and lesbian community. A flag waving with rainbow colors declares, “PRIDE.”
Yet, I stared into the colors of this rainbow. Each color shining clear and bright. A near, complete arch, stood proudly displayed in the sky. A bold reminder that rainbows are not girlie. They shouldn’t be linked with unicorns and fairies. And it is far bigger than a community of people. The rainbow stands alone as God’s promise to mankind. A promise to never again flood and destroy all of humanity.
In all honesty, I don’t fully understand God’s mindset when it comes to the flood. But there is one thing I know…the rainbow is His.
It is a symbol of mercy and grace.
It is a symbol of His covenant.
It’s God saying, “Hey, I’m still here.”
It is His.
I probably won’t stop and stare at every rainbow I see. I won’t get “girlie” every time the rain comes and a rainbow appears. I’m just not like that. But for some reason, tonight was different. God giving me a nudge. A simple…
Hi, Stan. My promise is still good. They never fail. I love you.
What do rainbows mean to you?
Last fall I played in a men’s flag football league in Fairfax, Virginia. It was a blast. One of my teammates was named, Bryan. He and I played defense on the same side of the field (this meant we got to know each other really well). He had a great phrase he would use during crucial moments of a game. He would look at me right in the eyes and say, “Time to do work, Rodda! Do work!” Granted, the grammar isn’t great, but the phrase gets the job
did done. That phrase and his intensity always challenged me to run a little faster, to jump higher and work harder than the guy lined up across from me.
Now jumping to present day life. Our Campus had an awesome Sunday. Our theme was, “Get Right With God.” We had really cool stories lined up for people to tell about how God has impacted their lives. We talked a lot about the Jordan River and water in Scripture. It seems to me that water, especially the Jordan, carries some powerful significance to God. Every time the Jordan is mentioned, it seems there is some transition in life, something leading to victory and hope.
- Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan
- Moses’ passing the mantle of leadership to Joshua
- Elijah passing the mantle of leadership to Elisha
We challenged people to come to the banks of the Jordan. To get their feet wet. To make a commitment. To dive all in for God. To give Him full control of their lives. To immerse themselves in the waters of baptism.
Then, we handed them a card. We challenged them to fill out the card and to tell us about a commitment they might need to make. We also asked them to tell us how we could pray for them. What things in life were holding them back from giving God their all and how we could we be praying for them.
Then it happened. I sat down that afternoon to read the cards. I began to pray for individuals by name who were going through some very serious things in life. And to think they trusted us enough to tell us what was going on behind closed doors. I believe it was a huge moment in the life of our Campus.
One man wrote…
I want to serve as a better example for my family – wife and kids. To live a life with God and Jesus in control.
…the strength to save my family.
And still another said…
My marriage. It is dying.
And this was just the beginning. As I prayed for these people and families, I was overwhelmed with emotion for them. I was blown away by their honesty and their stories. And that’s when it hit me. Do work!
Satan is doing work. He’s working. He’s getting after it. He’s destroying lives. He’s lying to people about what brings fulfillment and purpose. Oh yes, Satan does work!
Am I ready to, ‘Do work?’
The field is there. The people are ready. The hearts and souls of people are open and ready for transformation. As my friend Bryan would say, “It’s time to ‘Do work!'”
When you say it like that, it seems like a long time. I mean, nine years is a long time, right? Nine is almost ten and ten is a decade. A decade is a really long time, right?
If you start at zero it takes you an entire 3,285 days, 78,840 hours, 4,730,400 minutes, 283,824,000 seconds to get to nine years. That’s a long time, right?
Surely that time goes by so slowly. Every second, minute, month and year ticks by in an agonizingly, slow fashion. You can’t get there fast enough, right?
Well, apparently not. I mean, it was only last week when he was a tiny, newborn baby in my arms.
Then I blinked and this happened…
What the what?
Where did my more than 4 million minutes with him go?
How did 283 million seconds tick by so quickly?
Is this the feeling I’m supposed to have when the Bible tells me to, “take advantage of every opportunity?”
My son, you are so amazing! You are growing up to be an exceptional young man. I am blessed to have you in my life. Thank you so much for making this journey special. I love you with all my heart and will be here for you as long as I live. I pray for you everyday and it is my deepest desire that you choose to live your life for Jesus Christ!
I love you, Grant Isaac (Great Laughter)! Happy 9th Birthday!
I’m here at Exponential 2011 in Orlando, FL. Our New Life team is volunteering with a ton of cool stuff. We’re getting to see some pretty cool behind the scenes stuff at the coolest church planters conference on the planet (someone please pass that tid bit along to Todd Wilson for me). As we were preparing to volunteer today, we were going through some training. Our fearless leader stood up and inspired us to volunteer like it was our last day on earth. He was very excited and it was easy to get excited along with him. I wanted to share a little of what he said. If you’re a volunteer, apply what was said to your particular area of service.
In order to give this conference the “Wow” experience it deserves, volunteers have to own it like it’s their own. Our volunteer leader helped us with that. He told the story of Exponential and how it was the brainchild of so many great people. One of which he mentioned specifically was Dave Ferguson.
You are Dave Ferguson…
…he said. So I left and pretended to be Dave Ferguson today. That was fun.
The point was well taken though. If we want this conference to be as successful as it can be, we need to be as excited about it as Dave. We need to pretend we have invested as much in it as Dave has (and many others, I’m just using Dave because that was the name that was thrown out there today). I was inspired to, “Be Like Dave.” He’s cooler than Mike anyway.
Then our leader said, “Every moment is your moment of truth.” I loved that. I think that is a great, practical statement that all volunteers in any capacity can grab onto and believe in. Each moment is the only time you will have that moment. Your only moment to make a first impression. Your only moment to make the best impression for Christ that you can. Every moment is your moment of truth. I’ll be taking this one home to the volunteers at my Haymarket Campus.
If you are a volunteer at a church (or anywhere else for that matter), I want to encourage you.
Thank you so much for all you do.
I apologize for not telling you as often as I should.
I want to encourage you to view your role as a moment of truth. Put yourself in the shoes of “the boss” for a minute. Think about how much they invest in whatever it is you are doing. You are that person. Care for it as deeply as they do. Give it your all. Especially if you are volunteering in a ministry. There’s nothing more important than the work you are doing. View every moment as your moment of truth. It is your moment to make a huge impact on someone’s life and ultimately for the Kingdom of God.
Do you volunteer?
What do you do?
And, thank you. Thank you so much for volunteering!
Tomorrow, I’ll be Dave Ferguson again. Not a bad looking guy I guess. It could be worse. I could be….whoa! About got myself in trouble there.
I just finished a short run. I needed to clear my brain and have some time to think. It has been a while since I last went for a run. So before long, all I could think about was my legs. They were revolting in every way. When I got home, I did some stretching, but that didn’t help. So, I busted out the trusty, handheld muscle roller. For those who have used one of these, it’s a modern day, torture device.
Grab each end, and roll the small, plastic wheels over whatever muscle is sore. It’s amazing how many tiny bumps this
torture device health tool will find. Press down and slowly roll out the kink in your muscles. If you aren’t screaming in pain, or crying, you’re doing it wrong. The only thing that keeps you rolling over every muscle fiber, putting yourself through that kind of pain, is knowing that on the other side, your muscles will be thanking you.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about discipleship and all that Jesus expects of me. As a follower of Christ, there are certain disciplines that I want to have in my life. I want to spend time reading the Bible. I want to spend time praying. But sometimes those disciplines can be a little like the handheld, muscle roller.
Some days, I read the Bible and something jumps out at me. It lands on some of the most sensitive areas of my heart and soul. Then it begins to work, rolling back and forth. Often times there is pain and tears associated with the work God is doing. As a disciple of Jesus, I open myself up to being examined and improved by the Holy Spirit of God. And when He does His work, it can be painful as even the tiniest, hidden parts of me are exposed. He brings them to my attention and I’m forced to deal with them. I’m forced to look at my flaws in light of the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, who I claim to follow.
Yet, I want to be exposed. I want the Holy Spirit of God to see every part of me. Why? Because I know that growing through those times will lead to an even closer relationship with my Father.
This is not about how great or wonderful I am. This is about a journey of faith, growing to be more like Christ. And along the way, Jesus is shaping me into His likeness. Sometimes it’s a painful process, but I believe that it will all be worth it in the end.
Zechariah 13:9 – “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Have you ever used a muscle roller?
What images, metaphors, come to mind when you think of discipleship and growing to be more like Christ?
Jesus asks a lot of me. He has high expectations of me. And to be quite honest, His standard is not an easy one to reach. Maybe that’s why He says the road to destruction is wide and the road to salvation is narrow. In Luke 9, Jesus is talking to a crowd about what it means to follow Him. This is how He describes what it means to be a disciple.
Luke 9:23 – “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
That is no easy task. I mean, the cross was where criminals went to be tortured and die. It’s where people hung for days, starving to death while they urinated and defecated all over themselves. It’s where the smell of blood and sweat mixed under your nostrils. You simply died in your own shame and filth. It was the most gruesome way to die ever devised by mankind (in my opinion).
And that’s the standard for those who want to be followers of Christ is that on a daily basis, they take up their cross and follow Him. Daily cross-carrying, is the standard of discipleship for those claiming to follow Christ. The cross is very symbolic of your own death. Jesus carried His own cross to His death. Criminals carried their crosses to their death. In other words, Jesus wants me to die to myself and only live for one person; Him.
Being a disciple means that you are a follower, a student of someone. If I want to follow Jesus more closely, I need to study Him more. I need to spend more time in the Gospels, absorbing every move and conversation. I need to seek after Him as if I believe I was really lost without Him (and I do). And when I have discovered Him in a whole new way, I need to take His radical life and begin to replicate it on a daily basis.
I need to love the unlovable.
I need to serve even when it’s not in my best interest.
I need to teach as if eternity hung in the balance.
I need to spend time with the least of these.
I need to give all that I have, 100% of the time.
And no matter how far I think I have come, there is always a next step. There is always someone else to love. Someone to serve. Someone who needs to hear that Jesus is the way to God. I’m thankful for the words of Paul in Philippians 3…
Philippians 3:12-14 – “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,tbut I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
I’m so thankful for Christ. I’m so thankful for the forgiveness He offers me. I’m so thankful for grace. I’m so thankful for an example of how to live life. I know I will never attain perfection on this side of heaven, but I’m going to continue striving toward what I am called to. And I’m called to be more like Jesus.
What do you think about discipleship?
What do you need to do today to be more like Jesus? Tomorrow?
A few weeks ago, New Life Christian Church began a series of messages on the Thessalonian church. We called it, “Dream Church.” The Thessalonian Christians remain to this day some of the greatest examples of what a church and followers of Christ should look like.
So far, we have seen some pretty great things about these disciples from Thessaloniki (I was informed the original spelling is with a ‘ki’ not a ‘ca’). They were reaching the unreached, they spread the message of Christ all through Greece and beyond. They were following their leaders well and they believed in God’s Word. They really were an amazing group of people. Then we get to 1 Thessalonians 2:14-3:13. I had the privilege of speaking (you can find that message on the New Life website) on this particular section. In this particular passage we said, the dream church overcomes troubles. I expanded on that in the lesson to say, “The dream church overcomes troubles by standing firm in the Lord our God.”
After I had taught that lesson to our Centreville campus and then our Haymarket campus the following week, I got to thinking more abou the topic. I tried to answer the question, “What does it look like practically to overcome troubles that we face as followers of Christ?” The Thessalonian church was going through persecution. It’s somewhat safe to say that some had died for their faith. Paul knew full well what type of persecution the Jews were capable of, as he was once himself the leader of that very persecution. So what does it really take to overcome troubles? And I don’t mean minor inconveniences like; I accidentally left my cell phone at home today or I forgot I have no milk for my cereal. I mean serious troubles that cause us to doubt our faith and to doubt our God. It’s the big stuff in life that crashes in on us and sometimes it leaves us pretty beaten up.
How do you make it through life when a family member suddenly passes away unexpectedly?
How do you stand firm in your faith in God when your company goes out of business and you’re left without work?
How do you continue to trust in God when you are upside down on your home and can’t take care of your own family?
How do you stand firm in God when you can’t even stand up under the heavy hand of abuse?
Some people are really going through a lot. Life isn’t easy and often times, it isn’t fair.
I want to suggest one way to overcome these types of troubles.
You need a Timothy!
You need a Timothy in your life.
Paul goes on to write in chapter 3 of 1 Thessalonians that he was sending Timothy back to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them. Timothy will ultimately come back with an encouraging report about these followers of Christ.
I would suggest that you need someone in your life that you can share everything with. Someone who knows what’s going on in some of your darkest places. This is the person you can call at 2:00 am when you are about to make a bad decision. It’s the person who can call you at any moment and ask how things are going? And ultimately, it’s the person who encourages you, journeys through life with you and is a shoulder to lean on when you need it most. And yes, even sometimes, there to tell you when you’re being an idiot and you need to screw your head back on straight. Because sometimes we need that too (at least I do).
The Bible is filled with stories of people who had their “Timothy” in life.
David & Jonathan (and Nathan that one time).
Ruth & Naomi.
Paul & Silas.
Peter & Mark.
Life is meant to be done together, in community with others. Too many followers of Christ are going it alone. And to be honest, that’s sad. So stop doing life by yourself.
Stop trying to make it through everything on your own strength.
Find yourself a Timothy.
Utilize the strength and wisdom of another person to help you overcome when Satan is throwing his best stuff at you.
What other things can you think of?
What troubles have you overcome and how?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Let’s just be honest, many men don’t truly value their wives. Let me be more honest, I have not always valued my wife the way God expects me to. For that, I am eternally in debt to my amazing wife.
My guess is that most of you who read this blog have probably heard a song by Bruno Mars called, “Just The Way Your Are.” I’m not necessarily a fan of Bruno Mars personally, but I truly enjoy this song and wish that all men felt this way about their wives.
I want to challenge every man out there who has a spouse, is engaged or who would like to be married some day; when you have a wife, cherish her, love her, sacrifice for her, die on the side of a mountain for her. It doesn’t matter to me if you are on to your second or third marriage (or more), but if you will love your wife the way God intends, you will see your marriage bloom into something amazing.
Ephesians 5 offers some guiding principles. Some people take offense to them. Men believe they can never live up to them. But let me tell you where God stands on your marriage. God says this in Ephesians 5:25-27 (Message)…
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church-a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.
Your love for your wife should reflect the love Jesus has for the church. Jesus died for the church!
Your love for your wife should make her whole and complete. Does your love for her leave her feeling as if she is whole and complete? Or does she feel like something is missing?
Your love for your wife should bring out her best to your family and the world. How do you speak about your wife to your friends, neighbors and co-workers? Is she the “old ball and chain?” Or is she so much more than that to you?
Your love for your wife should bring out the best in her. If something isn’t right, don’t blame her first. Look at yourself and ask if you’re doing everything in your power to bring out the best in her or are you putting her in no-win situations.
Your love for your wife should have her looking holy, blameless and radiant to everyone on the planet. Can you say that you do that for your wife?
This passage is a great challenge. I believe that if men took it on fully, they would find the most satisfying and rewarding relationship with their wives. Everything would change if men would follow through on their role in the family. I wish I could say that I have lived this perfectly. I strive for this standard, but often I fall miserably short.
I mentioned Bruno Mars because I think that men (and women) go into a marriage or relationship thinking the other person will change. We often view the other as a project or someone we can fix. And when that philosophy doesn’t pan out, we give up. The relationship ends. And in many cases, the lives of those involved will never be the same.
So I’m posting the Bruno Mars song (I can’t vouch for comments on YouTube nor can I vouch for the ads). You should listen to it. Bruno isn’t perfect either I’m sure, but the words say a lot about how men should look at their wives (not other women walking by, by the way). And at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I have even imagined Jesus singing this song to the church. When the church is on its game, smiling like Jesus knows we can, the whole world takes notice.
God has given you a helper, men. And when you treat her the way God expects, you will not experience a better relationship with anyone, ever, on this planet. So get out there and love your wife like you’re supposed to. Sacrifice for her. Bring out the best in her. Never leave her.