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Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 1988

I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Until November 18, 1988 I strove toward this goal out of completely narcissistic, self-centered and altruistic motivation. I wanted to impact the world in order for to gain a name for myself. A radical decision, which continues to manifest in on-going transformation while never ceasing to keep my way of thinking in an evolving mode, changed all the motivations toward the desire to make a difference in the world. Every morning, as I recognize I have breath, I give my day over to changing lives should that be made available to me that day. I do not want to mislead you by thinking I no longer want “credit” or that I sometimes envy others getting acknowledgment when my contribution might have been significant. No, while my core motivation is simply for people to move forward in life, I still struggle with that ego thing. But, one thing doesn’t change, when that stupid thinking kicks into gear I am reminded of the One Whom changed my life by diminishing all He was in order for me to be a completely different human being. Twenty-four years ago, this very day, in utter brokenness, I told Jesus He could have my life. My depravity needed to explanation so I simply said if He could do anything with whatever years He deemed I had left they were all His. Amazingly He took me up on my “offer!” I marvel at what Jesus has allowed me to participate in and how He is able to use my past (and present) sin to help others gain access to the One who wants more for each of our lives than we want for ourselves. Not only that, He wants it for better reasons than we usually have for the same “good” things. I would be neglecting the NUMBER ONE reason for my existence, giving praise to the Glorious God, if I wasn’t to write this to you today. God, through the sacrifice of His ONLY Son Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, has made me a new creation! The old me still fights through at times, but even that is forgiven as I truly seek to please the God of All Creation. I wake up daily with supreme purpose in my daily action. I KNOW that anything I do with a desire to honor God makes a difference. I live with dignity because the God of Creation claims me as His own simply because I have trusted in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and acknowledge daily that Jesus should be in charge. Jesus is my Lord. I battle (far too often) with disliking and impatience toward others, but Jesus reminds that while he hung on the cross he was forgiving my sins. He is still forgiving my sins and I am required to do the same. I am to love my enemies. I am to do good to my enemies. Darn it, I am also supposed to lend money to my enemies with no expectation that I will be repaid. If you don’t know Jesus and for some reason are reading this, please know what He has done for you. If you already believe, don’t let your shortcomings get in the way of the greatness He has in store for you. “Greatness” you might ask? Yes, after all, what is greater than knowing your life was used for someone else’s life to be led to meet your SAVIOR? Today, 24 years after this occurred for me, I seek to continue to grow, mature, and “infect” more people’s lives. Join me, the journey is amazing (but not easy, uncomplicated, or even safe). Thank you for taking the time to read.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How is your day going?

I am sitting on my porch just absorbing a beautiful day in Fresno. The sky is blue with patching white clouds gliding through the area. A slight breeze is blowing and it causes the trees to shimmer due to the clean leaves from the last rain. The redwoods in my yard are sprouting their new growth which is a brighter green and will turn into that deep alpine green I love in the forests. The roses are blooming in great abundance and I can smell the jasmine occasionally when the wind circulates just right. I wonder, how is your day going? Our clan has been going through “stuff” for a little while. But, I’m grateful for the trials, the hurts, and even the “what the hell?” kind of incidents that come with life. I seek solace, wisdom, and even an occasional venting with my Savior Jesus Christ. Other people’s pain helps me keep the wonder of the life I get to live in perspective. I wonder, how is your day going? I have a friend dealing with a serious issue that could have been death. She escaped that but now a life dealing with a possible recurrence will be sitting in the back of the mind. I wonder, how is your day going? I have people I know dealing with significant teenage issues that call for all they muster to demonstrate unconditional love, caring, but uncompromising in confronting the issues. It is time consuming and requires great effort to insure the rest of the children are not ignored during the process. I wonder, how is your day going? I have people in my direct life relationships and degree of six relationships who are dealing with terrible diseases with their spouses. They stay resolute in faith, convicted to following Christ’s will, and passionate in pleading for an alternative journey. I wonder, how is your day going? I have the privilege of a friendship where the parents have a severely (this is, quite possibly, understated) handicapped child who live with a discipline and dedication which is humbling in supporting their child. They pour out love and care with no direct knowledge that it is being received much less given back. They are the epitome of selflessness. I am honored to even be allowed in their presence. I wonder, how is your day going? Today, more than 30,000 children will lose their life to starvation. Thousands will become orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic in the world. Malaria will slaughter hundreds today. I wonder, how is your day going? Finally, I know a family whose daughter decided that suicide was an option (the act was intervened on), they had to tell a son to come home because they couldn’t afford his college of choice, another son continues to deal with a significant genetic issue, the wife broke her foot and the husband has to go in for a fairly “minor” heart surgery. Trust me when I say they will be deviating from their faith in the sovereignty of God. But, I wonder, how is your day going? Step outside and watch a hummingbird go from flower to flower. Watch a squirrel climb a tree. Shoot, watch the wind blow through the trees. Pray for the families you know that are going through circumstances like have been listed above. Above all, seek out God. He is near, I guarantee it. God bless you, jeff

Friday, March 23, 2012

Depression and faith in Jesus Christ

                Being a devote believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior it can be very tough to reconcile depression with the hope I, by faith, believe is in place for those who believe.  It is evident that I have battled depression the better part of my adult life and probably even adolescence.  Significant life circumstances, some put upon me and some caused by me, contributed to this “diagnosis.”  I don’t dispute any of it, yet going through the depression “cycles” sucks.
            As a strong believer in Christ Jesus, the Lord of All and the Creator of the Universe, I tend to get MORE depressed because I couldn’t “get” my hope to alleviate my depression.  But, I am learning some great lessons over the last year.  First, I am not the only follower of God who has struggled with this issue.  It appears that Moses, David, and Solomon (at the very least) struggled significantly with this issue of depression.  What I understand from their struggles is that sin has a pervasive effect.  It is not just “eternal” it affects our physical, social, emotional and psychological makeup.  Whether the sin is from other people or our own indiscretions we will be affected.  Sin, bottom line, is the disobedience to God’s ways and the preoccupation with self.
            My “natural” deficiencies get highlighted and magnified by my ego which has been distorted by my sin nature. As a consequence I take too much responsibility for what goes right in my life.  But, the opposite is also true.  As my depressive state shows, I also take way too much responsibility when things are less than ideal.
            Two recent “crises” have highlighted this for me and are helping me to understand how much more I need the Holy Spirit to transform me and how much more I need the Word of God to renew my mind to correctly address the issues of life.  For the sake of the people’s privacy I cannot elaborate.  Yet, suffice it to say one was of a critical, life ending attempt and the other was my inadequacy, despite a more than significant effort, to help someone achieve a dream. As a parent, these are the “worst” case scenarios.
            I am already on a medication for depression (actually an anxiety med) and very grateful for it.  It has helped me to stay balanced in a very traumatic and stressful time in life.  I am not given to exaggeration and many who know me say I am understating the stress associated with the issues at hand.  Yet, I have been secure in God’s providential care. This security, I believe, helps me see the stresses more objectively and address them in a more biblical manner.
            First lesson I am now learning: depression is NOT a sin associated with lack of faith!  This is crucial.  If Moses, David and Solomon were regarded as stalwarts in faith (even with blatant sins) and they struggled with depressive issues, then surely God isn’t going to write off my “lack of faith” and cease to use me.  It may very well be their understanding of their inadequacies was exactly why God could use them effectively and eternally for our benefit.  While they struggled with these inadequacies they remained open to God leading them in His will.
            Second lesson: God uses psychiatry, psychology, etc. to help us address our emotional/psychological frailty.  American culture contributes significantly to the issue of self orientation.  We have been created by God to be “other” oriented.  Our culture and Christian faith are in direct conflict with each other.  Even in our attempts to be other oriented, our failings (i.e. lack of expected results) become a false, negative perception of self.  The issues arising from family of origin and life circumstances have a far greater effect on our decision making processes and self understanding than most of us can acknowledge.  Christ alone should be our identity, results are only the responsibility of God, and every situation is under the direct control of God, the Creator of the universe.  Yet, faith in these all important truths, still get distorted by our basic sin nature which makes “self” responsible over God.
            Third lesson: Medication, because it takes care of the “edge”; therapy, because an outside/objective/trained individual helps us sort out the circumstances of our life; and a developing faith and understanding of Scripture (our ULTIMATE guide and healer) are necessary for us to proceed in the “abundant life” Christ has granted us through our devotion to Him.  It is not easy, it can be messy, it will have travails, it will even have “defeats,” but the process will transform us to look more like Christ and better serve the portion of the world we have been called to serve.
            Last lesson:  Whatever I am, it is solely because of Christ.  I am wholly different than I was the day I first trusted in Christ (November 18, 1988) and I am significantly different than I was one year ago.  It is the intention of God and the desire of my heart that I will be significantly different one year from now. I will still have depressive states. I will still fail in some noble attempts. And I will still, very unfortunately, sin.  Yet, what I know conclusively is God will be with me.  He will not leave me OR forsake me.  As the great Scripture promises through David, “Though I walk through the valley of death, you are with me, your rod and staff they protect me…”
            May this blog message encourage my fellow believing family members toward overcoming the difficulties in life.  And, if you don’t believe, may you have the courage to inquire of me to my faith.  God bless you all.  You are each individually created by God for His purposes.

jeff

Friday, January 27, 2012

urbanchristianmaggot

People wonder why I use the tag “urbanchristianmaggot” and I felt that I should share why this has meaning and direction for my life. First, and foremost, I am someone who strives to follow and obey the teaching of Jesus Christ. He died for me because I could not live up to the ten commandments. I have broken everyone one of those laws. Ten simple “do’s”, NOT “don’ts.” Who can argue that it is ok to steal, lie, murder, be jealous, commit adultery, live for yourself?
God is not telling us to “not lie,” He is telling us to be truthful! He not telling us to “not commit adultery,” He is telling us to fulfill our vows to honor our marriage commitment. He actually gave us the commandments to help us understand why we fall short of His expectations for our lives. When we fall short we sever our relationship with Him. What parent doesn’t understand this outlook? When our children fail to live up to our rules and world view do we not get angry, have sorrow, and even remorse when that behavior becomes habit? If you believe we are created in His image (and I do!) then it makes complete sense that God feels that same way.
God “decided” to provide the final solution so we would not miss out on being with Him. And not just for today, but for all eternity. Christ came to fulfill the law. He did that perfectly and He did that on our behalf. God created Hell for Satan and the demons, not for us. But when we reject Christ we align ourselves (even when we don’t know that is what we have done) to Satan and deserve the same eternal punishment. God’s love is poured out to us through the actions of Christ. Christ took our place and died so our sins (falling short of commandments) would be eternally forgiven. No amount of “good” works or intentions can overcome this shortfall. Only trusting in Jesus being the one who should be charge (that is the meaning of LORD) and believing in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead after three days according to the Scriptures (this put the forgiveness in place and fulfills centuries old prophecy support the authority of God Word, the Bible) we are not only “saved” from Hell we are “saved” to live out the purpose for which God created us!
Very seriously, I will talk with you about this or message back and forth if you would like. “Friend” me on Facebook with a message or you can call me at 559-978-1370. Leave a message since I won’t know the caller. I promise to return the call within 24 hours.
The reason for the “maggot” portion of the tag line is pretty simple. This is what I was before Christ. I decided to follow Him at the age of 30. I had been divorced twice (mostly due to me), became a drug addict as an adult, was violent, completely unethical, and even stole $5,000 from a very good person who followed Christ and happened to be my sister. “Maggot” represents what I was without Christ. It also represents EVERYONE who does not have Christ. Nothing “counts” for good without Christ. That sounds pretty condemning and judgmental I know. But as Penn Jilliet (an avowed atheist) said, “How much must I hate someone to NOT (bold is mine) tell people about Hell.” I simply am proclaiming my love for you and desire for you to not exist in eternity in Hell. A terrible, tortuous, painful, constant state of understanding of rejecting the God who loved you completely! I do not condemn you. I do not judge you. In fact, the Bible forbids me for doing so!!!! I care for you at a level which often surprises me. My nature without Christ would be to say, “screw you!” Yet Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord, commands me to “love my enemies,” “do good to them,” and to allow them borrow from me without expectation of being paid back! If you don’t know Christ and Christians haven’t treated you this way, please know they have failed miserably in their faith. BUT, Jesus Christ hasn’t, you will have no excuse before Him on Judgment Day because a “Christian” failed you. Christ did not fail you.
Lastly, I use the word “urban” in my tag to communicate the area of life I love and believe I have been called to serve. I won’t give a sociological lesson here but the bottom line is this, most people live in an urban environment. Even our suburban and rural communities are becoming urbanized through technology. It is in the urban environment we will find the most people. I am continually surprised at how much I care for people I will never have contact with. Yet, through my faith in Christ, through my desire for Christ to work through my life, through my desire that Christ is SEEN in my life, I focus on the urban community. In Fresno CA, where I live, this means a special emphasis on an area called “Highway City.” This area’s epicenter is Shaw and 99. Draw a half mile circle around this geographical point and that, for all intent and purposes, is Highway City. I was allowed, by the grace of God, to start a church (Central Community Church) in this economically, educationally, and vocationally challenged area and also lead a faith-based non-profit (community benefit organization [ CBO]) named Highway City Community Development. I also teach at a local Christian university and pastor at a suburban church (New Harvest, in Clovis CA) with the desire and calling to lead others toward this vital area of ministry in the world. I also serve, at this point in time, a bilingual church in Paso Robles, CA named Harvest Bible Church.
If you have read this far I want you to understand three things. (1) I want you to know Christ. Not just because I don’t want you to go to Hell due to falling short of God’s commands, but to live out the life that God has designed for you to live through Jesus Christ. (2) I desire that you understand that your life is to be lived on behalf of others! First, live for the purpose of honoring God and, just as important, you live your life for others. (3) Finally, your life may just plain SUCK right now! I say, “So what!” So did mine and I have the privilege and responsibility to lead a life that helps people get past those very really issues. Do you want to “stay STUCK on SUCK” or move to helping others (which means helping yourself) toward a life which has purpose, dignity, and brings honor to our Creator?
I reiterate what I wrote earlier, contact me through Facebook messaging or call me. I unashamedly declare that I am an “urbanchristianmaggot” and grateful for the incredible privilege to live with Christ and proclaim the hope and salvation found in the only name in which people can be saved JESUS CHRIST!!