God of My 20’s: Doing For vs. Getting to Know

(Post #4 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Bob Morrissey

May 11, 1992, as a 5th-grade boy in a revival service at our church I knew God called me to the ministry. I never doubted it – not as a teenager, not as a Bible college student, and not as a young married man in my early 20’s. However, my twenties were some tough years. I knew much about God, but I did not know Him very well personally. I could quote hundreds of verses of scripture. I could stand and teach my adult Sunday school class confidently. On the occasion that I was invited to preach to the church where I was on staff, I could hardly wait for the time to arrive and hated when it was over. I was living to do things for God without a deep and intimate relationship with Him.

The God of my 20’s was somebody I could do something for.

He was somebody I could impress with my abilities.

He was somebody that needed me.

The lost world around me needed me because they didn’t know God, and I did-or at least I thought I did. I was what was wrong with Christianity. I wanted God to use me to do something great to change people and to change the world, but didn’t realize God needed to change me before He could ever work through me to help people. The God of my 20’s was not the God I know now because I constantly judged people. I judged their piercings, tattoos, clothing, music, and everything I could see. I never truly saw people. I only saw their exterior.

Meanwhile at home, I was short tempered with my wife and kids. I often left her home to take care of our children while I was serving God in the ministry. Because I did not know the heart of God, I ignored my greatest ministry-being a godly husband and father. Thankfully my wife knew God better than me and was very patient with me.

The God of my 20’s was patient with me. He let me fail. He let me embarrass myself, and put me with a pastor who was not afraid to correct me, but loved me enough to endure my mistakes. In my late 20’s God brought a couple of older men my way who I was ready to seek advice from.

If I could encourage and advise those in their 20’s I would say:

  1. Spend as much time with God as you do serving God.
  2. God does great things with young people, but He is not in a hurry. Have patience.
  3. Those who do things for God without knowing God often use people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people. Be a people builder!
  4. Get someone in their 50’s or older to be your close friend. Listen and Learn.

Faith Like a Child

(Day 3 of a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Matt. 18:2-4

I have always heard that Jesus calls us to have “faith like a child.” And that is absolutely right, of course; but what does that mean?

I have had the privilege to work with children in different capacities since I was in 6th grade. So, I used to think I had it figured out. Boy was I wrong. God is still teaching me what it truly means to have childlike faith.

As I think about it today, what I am inspired to focus on is the absolute, unwavering confidence that children place in their earthly fathers. I wonder if God makes some of us this way as children to prep us for adulthood and the confidence we should have in Him.

Let me share a story from my childhood to express what I mean. I was probably eight, which means my little brother was four. We each had our own room, but we were having a sleep over in his room on this particular night. In the middle of the night, we heard a scary rattling noise.

To us it sounded like a diamond-back rattle snake had slithered its way into the bedroom and was looking for some small boys to strike with its dripping fangs and eat. So we ran straight out of my brother’s room and into my parent’s room and woke up our dad.

We told him the situation, and he went to investigate. Here’s the thing, my dad is a tall, strong, and smart man. So my brother and I were not scared anymore with him on the job. There was no doubt in our minds that no matter how big that snake was, it had no chance against our dad! He would defeat that scaly beast before it could even open its fang-incasing mouth.

Turns out that rattling sound was just a fly buzzing around in my brother’s lamp, not a giant man-eating monster. My brother and I felt so bad we woke my dad up for a harmless fly, but he was as gentle and as patient as ever. My dad looked at us and said, “Boys, I would rather you wake me up for ten flies than not wake me up for one snake.”

What I learned from that experience is that having childlike faith means having the same kind of complete, immovable confidence in our heavenly Father. God is infinitely greater than we can ever imagine. When we pray to Him and ask for help, we do not have to waste our time doubting. We can be sure He will take care of us and defeat whatever is scaring us. Because whatever it is does not stand a chance against our big strong Dad! Totally confidence is what He deserves.

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:11-13

by Frank Welch

Fruity Fridays: Slow, Soft, Seeing Gentleness

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Eric Vorhies 

When I think of gentleness, the first image that comes to mind is a new parent holding their child. Or maybe, gentleness is the appropriate amount of pressure to a car’s gas pedal when a teen is behind the wheel. It’s the spy in the movie handling the bomb, it’s a team of nurses in the hospital transferring a patient from a stretcher to a bed, and it’s the way one picks up the pieces of broken glass. Gentleness is slow in the way it moves. It understands the importance of a situation and is aware of the consequences of hurriedness. Gentleness is soft in the way it touches. It is reserved for handling the most delicate and fragile of all items. Gentleness sees in the way eyes cannot. Gentleness is guided, not by the present situation, but by the possibilities of many situations that are yet to come. 

Everyone understands the consequences of not being gentle when holding a baby. You could drop them… which apparently isn’t funny to even joke about. But what about the consequences of handling a relationship? Like luggage at an airport — most of the damage is on the inside and goes unseen by the person who handled it poorly. How messed up will someone be on the inside if they are not handled with gentleness? 

I need you to understand something — I haven’t been able to write this post because I have been distracted with life. Work has been unpleasantly slow, and I have been primarily a stay-at-home parent (which I am not good at) of three boys under 5yo (who I love dearly) that are, by default, very dependent on me. Then today, I learned that some very expensive equipment of mine can’t be fixed, I ordered the wrong rental to use this weekend in place of my broken equipment, and everything was frustratingly avoidable. I haven’t wanted to write this because gentleness has been absent from my life. 

And it makes me think…

The level of gentleness that God must possess…It seems unfathomable. Think about it — I am broken with sin, you are broken with sin…everyone is broken. We are metaphorically like fractured and cracked pieces of glass or jars of clay, and God is carrying us to our destination, slowly, softly, and seeing everything that could go wrong. My eyes well up thinking about how differently He has Fathered me than I would have fathered myself. 

The thing that has been weighing heavily on me is the thought that I might somehow be contributing to the brokenness of those around me because I am not being gentle. Is my sin damaging the fragile parts of the people I care most about? I have been short when I should have been patient. I have projected frustration when I should have projected insightfulness. I have been rash when I should have been calming. I have shaken the relational foundations with others to cope with my own feelings.

Maybe you are like me in some way…not applying gentleness to situations that resemble a bomb that is about to explode or to relationships that so are damaged they need to be treated like an ER patient.

Well, that’s why James writes, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Be Slow when you react to people. It will give you time to find the right words to say, if anything needs to be said at all.

Be Soft in the way you deal with them. It is not about the amount of pressure that is applied, but how and where and when that pressure is applied that can break something…or someone.

And See the potential consequences of how not being gentle will play out. Because deep down, we are vulnerable and susceptible to being damaged because of the baggage we carry.

4 Lessons from “The Loving Father” Parable (also called “The Prodigal Son” parable)

The parable found in Luke 15 focuses mostly on the actions of the younger son.  Yet, when you consider the dad’s reactions, there are several relationship lessons to glean.  Here are four of them:

  • Cold, Reckless Behavior Hurts but Doesn’t Change Unconditional Love

The son’s request was premature. His message might as well have been, “I wish you were dead.” The only recorded reaction from the father is his granting the request. Hurtful words and actions may challenge but will not alter unconditional love.

  • Be Ready to Forgive

Forgiveness can be immediate when requested if the heart has been prepared to give it.  The sooner the preparation begins the sooner the loving reaction will be available.  The opportunity may be a long time coming; love is patient and can stay ready to forgive.

  • Initiate Restoration

Forgiveness can lead to full restoration.  The fullness degree can be greatly impacted if the forgiving party initiates the restoration.  The time needed to complete the restoration can be shortened when the forgiver initiates its beginning.

  • Never Stop Loving Rebels, Hostile or Hidden

Not all rebels are cold and reckless.  The rebellion style may alter the method of forgiveness and restoration, yet the character of love can remain.  Love endures.