Monday, March 25, 2013

1000 Gifts Challenge

At church this Sunday LeAnn, our pastor's wife, talked about a book she read by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts and the challenge that lies within the page of the book. LeAnn challenged each of us to look for the small and large gifts God has placed in our lives.   We need to take the time to see the little things in our lives and not try rushing through "to get more done".  Check out this video by Ann Voskamp.

I have decided to take this challenge to look at my own life to see all the blessings God has given to me in the good and "bad" times. I picked up a copy of Ann's book today to read as I begin my journey.  I think each of us could gain a lot of joy and contentment if we were always looking for the gift of every situation in our lives. Would you like to join me in this? You can follow some of the gifts via my twitter account @MrJoshuaBrown and follow others using the hashtag #1000gifts.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Going Overboard

Due to the snow/ice storm last week our small group combined the last two lessons of the Christian Atheist into one session this Sunday.  The two concepts addressed were believing in God but pursuing happiness at any cost and believing in God but not wanting to go overboard. 

Pursing Happiness at Any Cost
Often in life we live like happiness is our ultimate goal and decide if we are not happy than we are doing something wrong.  At times we choose happiness over at deeper relationship with God.  Pastor Craig talked about three different times that God doesn't want us to be happy.
  1. God doesn't want us to be happy when it causes us to do something wrong or unwise. 
  2. God doesn't want us to be happy when it is only based on things of this world.  
  3. God doesn't want us to be happy instead of being blessed (more than happy)
Pastor Craig shared what many consider their happiness formula.  Better Possessions + Peaceful Circumstances + Thrilling Experiences + Right Relationships + Perfect Appearance = HAPPINESS.  We can never be happy all of the time because the happenings of this world will let you down.  We are not made for this world, so nothing in this world will ultimately make us happy.   The more we fall in love with God, the less the things of this world will pull and draw us away from him. 

Not Wanting to Go Overboard
Revelations 3:15-16 says "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  This is the scripture that idea of Christian Atheist or Lukewarm Christians come from.  Pastor Craig gave us a list of 10 things Lukewarm Christians may struggle with in their lives.
  1. Crave acceptance from people more than acceptance from God.
  2. Rarely share their faith in Christ. 
  3. Do whatever it takes to alleviate their guilt.
  4. Think more about life on earth than eternity in heaven.
  5. Gauge their morality by comparing themselves to others. 
  6. Want to be saved from the penalty of sin without changing their lives.
  7. Only turn to God when they're in a bind or when they're in trouble.
  8.  Give when it doesn't impinge on their standard of living.
  9. Are not much different from the rest of this world. 
  10. Want the benefits of what Christ did without conforming to who he is. 
I know at times I struggle with these and continue to pray that God helps me move on the continuum to be more on fire for him in this world.  I hope you too continually are drawn closer to him.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Looking at Our Time

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend the All Pro Dad group that meets at my school and sit in on the discussion. There are some great men who lead the group and had a powerful message to share with the dads and their children at their monthly breakfast. This month's focus was on "What do we do with all of our time?"

A powerful quote was shared it read "Your busy schedule + Your children's busy schedule = Missed opportunities to enjoy life and each other." This really spoke powerfully to me thinking back on the many things I missed in William's life his first few years trying to keep a hectic schedule. I work now to limit the number of things I get involved with that William cannot be with me at and make an effort to be involved in the things William is interested in.

One of the activities that they had us do was to look through the different days of the week and write down all of the activities that we spend time doing in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Then we circled all the activities that we were being intentional to create quality family time. After this we went through the days again and wrote down times that we could or should add this quality family time. It is amazing when we are not being intentional with our time that the things and people that matter most are sometimes the first to be moved off our calendars.

Each of us has a limited time on this Earth and our children will never be the same age again. We need to make sure to take advantage of all the time we have with them. At the end of the meeting they played a version of "Cats In the Cradle" by Harry Chapin that I shared on the blog facebook page this week. I am going to share a version from Johnny Cash that is too fast, just like life.
At the end of each meeting they have a challenge activity to do with your children.  This month we were asked to plan and do an activity with our child(ren) and make sure to turn off our cell phones.  So that is my challenge to each of your too.  Moms you can play too.  Plan an activity and let me know what you do! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

God's Competition for Our Hearts

The fourth part of Craig Groeschel's series on being a Christian Atheist concentrates on when we believe in God but trust more in money.  For most of us, the number one competitor for our hearts is money.  People tend to trust money to provide happiness and security in their lives, but this is not where we should search for happiness or security. 

As we fall deeper in love with God and look toward him for our security and happiness we become content and generous with out time and money.  One of the major problems with Christian Atheists is that they love and serve money and use God, we should be doing exactly the opposite.  When we truly get to know God, we will love and worship him and use money to serve him.  The more that we love, worship and serve God, the lesson money will have grip on our hearts. 

Pastor Craig used the term "functional savior" as a way to name anything (or anyone) that we put ahead of Christ.  For lots of people this may be possessions, money, time, etc.  We must always put God first and not allow money or our possessions to become more important to us then God or our family.

One of my favorite scriptures from this session was 1 Timothy 6:17-19.  It says
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. (The Message)
Our family has found some of our greatest joy has came at times in which we can do good, help others and be extravagantly generous.  We look forward to getting all of our finances in order by cleaning up messes from the past (debt) so we can have even more occasions to be generous to others in need around us.