Thursday, April 24, 2008

Praise First and Always

Praise First and Always
Psalm 66 & 67

Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of His name; offer Him glory and praise! Psalm 66: 1-2
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God our God will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him. Psalm 67: 3-7

Think about what is right and good in your life. Count the many, many blessings that God has given you time and again. Think about the thousands of meals He has provided you and your family over your lifetime. Think about the hundreds of paychecks and thousands of dollars that have already come your way. Remember the loving times that you have enjoyed throughout your life.

Think back on your long past. Remember the sicknesses and injuries that you’ve been able to get through. Tell God with your voice, “thank you, Lord, for all these things.”

Remember the rain that He brought to your land. Remember the warmth of a fire and blankets on your bed in the winter; and don’t take for granted the cooling of a shade or an air conditioner in the summer. Remember the laughter. Remember the kisses and the hugs. Remember the tears of joy. Remember the songs that moved you.

Think of your incredible freedom. Think of your wonderful loved ones. Think of those who have encouraged you and shared something of value with you. Think of the breath of air you’ve been freely given at this very moment – ah, and here comes another one. Think of the wonder of your body, your lungs, your muscles, your veins and arteries, and the strong heart that continues to beat totally outside of your control. These are all gifts – rich gifts that God has steadfastly and faithfully provided each of us. He has given you so many good things that you will not be able to remember them all. You won’t even be able to count them all!

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing praise to Your name.” Psalm 66:3-4

Praise God with your voice for all these things. Praise You, God. Can you say these words? Say them out loud. Say them louder. Don’t withhold your praise. God is pleased with your praise – your finest praise. Give Him your very best praise. Think of what He has done and continues to give you day in and day out, and don’t forget to praise Him with all that is within you. Meditate in praise. Speak words of your praise for Him. Sing your praises to His holy name!

Instead of worrying about what the future will bring, think back on what the past has already brought. If you are honest and will think of all the good that has already happened, you will be able to see the truth that the past is the great indicator that many, many more great things lie ahead.

Don’t be like the 10 lepers that Jesus healed – nine of which didn’t even bother to thank Him. No, be like the one who praised Jesus and was so grateful for Him. Recognize your healing. Rejoice in what is good. Be like David, thinking of His Savior day and night and praising Him even when the enemy was stalking all around him. When enemies slandered David over and over, he turned to God and thanked the Lord that He was with him and protecting him.

God loves us. And He loves our praise. Acknowledging Him, thanking Him, and praising Him is the least we can do in the midst of His overwhelming gifts of love for us.

Don’t focus on what might not be perfect or not exactly the way you think it ought to be. Think instead on how great our God is and how much He cares for you. Being with Him is the greatest condition you could ever want or need in your life. His presence is the ultimate condition and thing you can ever desire.

You can count on His presence right now. He is with you exactly at this moment. You can count on His steadfast love and presence being with you today and tomorrow. He provided that abundant love and protection in the past and He will do the same in the future. So, don’t ever withhold your praise. Praise Him in a loud voice first and you will find that your disposition will brighten, your countenance will glow, and your attitude will soar.

God hates grumbling and complaining, but He loves our praise. So, let us without any inhibition choose to praise Him out loud. Praise You, Lord. (louder) Praise You, Lord. (louder still) Praise You, Lord. “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard.” Psalm 66:8
Don’t withhold your praise. Don’t be afraid to praise. Our God inhabits praise - and He responds with blessings and a rich harvest when you lift up your praise to Him.

“You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Praise Him in a loud voice first and you will see your harvest. Quit d.o.u.b.t.i.n.g. Stop fretting. Start KNOWING that you are loved greatly and you will experience that place of abundance, not because of what you were able to do, but because of what God will do for you when you praise Him.
Oh yes, the place of abundance appears after the fire, after the water. So, praise first. Praise always. Let all that is within us praise the Lord! Praise His holy name…
God Bless,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spiritual Reproduction

Spiritual Reproduction by John Maxwell

In the Great Commission, Jesus said that we were to make disciples, not converts. He didn't tell us to go out and just save people, but He said to make disciples, to reproduce ourselves.

As a pastor, I was constantly aware of two commitments: one, to have a congregation that understood discipleship; two, to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. These are the two things that I, as a leader, feel that I am accountable for. And churches that are growing have been able to successfully do both.

Spiritual Reproduction Is What Discipleship Is All About!

Discipleship is not:
1. Just a Christian education
It's not about implanting information for knowledge's sake.
In other words, it's not just going to Sunday school class. It's not just imparting information. It's not us just learning things mentally. That is part of discipleship, but that isn't the ultimate goal.
2. Cookies and punch
Fellowship is to take place in the church; discipleship takes place in the world.
We're good at coming together for food and fellowship, and we enjoy that, but discipleship is more than that. Fellowship takes place in the church, but discipleship is to take place in our church world to reach out to the people around us.
3. Scripture memorizationIntellectual exercise is not enough unless there is life change.
It's not just memorizing scripture so we can go around quoting what God's word says. Discipleship is more than knowing God's word. Discipleship is living God's word. It's applying the scriptural truths to our hearts.
Discipleship is not just imparting knowledge. What are we doing with what we teach on Sunday? What are we doing with the word of God? Do we take God's word and just read it and say, "Well, you know, I think that's good, people should follow it," or do we look at it and apply it to our own hearts and lives?
There's a passage of Scripture that just grabs me: John 7:17. Listen to these words. "If any man will do my will, then he will know whether my teaching is of God or not." Did you catch the sequence here? Did you notice that doing God's will comes before understanding God's will? The most popular messages I ever preached were on knowing God's will. People were always saying, "How do I know the will of God for my life?" Do you know how you know the will of God?
You know the will of God not just by thinking, not by just studying, not just by taking out your pen and writing notes, but God's will begins to unfold within us as we utilize it in our lives, as we walk in the light. We become disciples of Christ as we begin to take God's word and do something about it.
At the end of every message that I give, I usually scribble two words with a question mark: So what? I'm asking myself every time I speak to people, "So what?" "So what, John, you just gave a message. Was there something that needed to be applied? Was there something that needed to be shared? Was there something that needed to be exercised?"
I contend that we are educated as Christians way beyond our level of obedience. What would happen if, after I finished a Sunday morning sermon and gave an application, we didn't have church again until people did something about it? (Some people I wouldn't see until the next Easter!) Do we take God's word and really apply it?

Discipleship is...
My desire is to make disciples. That's the command that Jesus has given me, and in my view, discipleship is:
1. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:20)
It's a command, not a suggestion, to imitate what Jesus did with the twelve. He said, "Make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you."
2. Multiplication through reproduction (II Timothy 2:2)
We must "multiply" as Christians, because addition won't keep up with the population growth. Discipleship is us multiplying ourselves in the lives of others. "And the things that you have received from me in the presence of many witnesses, those entrust to the faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
3. Apprenticeship (I Thessalonians 2:7-8)
Jesus lived with His men and invested His life in them. Here's what Paul told the Christians. "We choose to be like children or like a mother nursing her baby. We cared so much for you that you became so dear to us that we were willing to give our lives to you when we gave you God's message."
I can’t help but be inspired by Jesus in these passages! In His time, there were two models of discipleship: the Greek model and the Hebrew model. The Greek model was teaching—we think of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Alexander the Great. It was an enlightenment, information that pleased the mind. But Jesus discipled according to the Hebrew model: on-the-job training. Jesus took his twelve disciples with him and they experienced things together.
Disciple-making involves a developmental relationship where a mature Christian invests and mentors a willing apprentice so that he or she not only matures as well, but also becomes a multiplying Christian.

Question: What do you possess, spiritually, that you can pass on?

Question: Do you know of any people who could benefit from your spiritual maturity?

Question: Although you are not perfect, would you commit to multiplying at least one spiritual discipline or quality in someone else?

Early in my preaching career, in my second church in Ohio , I decided that I wanted to be a disciple, and began to call the pastors of some of the great churches all over America . I wanted to learn something from men who had been very successful. I'd call them and say, "You don't know who I am, but my name is John Maxwell and I'm a pastor and you're a great man of God and you have a great church. I want to learn from the best."
For about the first five years of our married life, Margaret and I never could afford a vacation, but I’d speak at a revival somewhere near a city with one of those great churches. And when I called the pastors of these churches, because they didn't know who I was, I would say, "I'll give you a hundred dollars if you'll give me 30 minutes of your time." I was making $12,800 bucks a year, but I wanted so badly to be a disciple and to learn. I wanted so badly to sit at the feet of somebody who knew more than I knew.
I would go to these pastors for my appointment and walk in with my tape recorder so that I could record the answers. I had a legal pad with pages of questions, and I would ask my questions as fast as I could with that tape recorder on. When the 30 minutes were over, I would turn off the tape recorder, put my stuff back in my briefcase, stand up, reach in my pocket for the hundred dollar check already made out to that pastor and hand it to him.
Interestingly enough, in every single case, those pastors would look at that check and smile. They saw a kid who wanted desperately to build a great church for God. And they'd hand my hundred dollars back, and sometimes they'd ask me to go to lunch with them. I would accept, but usually I couldn’t eat. I would just ask more questions.
Often, I’d leave those lunches, get in my car, and bawl like a baby. For the last hour, I had spent some time with what I would call a great man of God; and a little bit of that spirit, a little bit of that man, a little bit of that sense of God that was in his life had begun to ooze into my life. Peter tells us that the elderly women should pour their lives into the younger women, that there ought to be a desire to enhance the body of Christ, where we become our brother's and our sister's keeper. And those who are more experienced in the word begin to help those who are younger in the word.
Younger Christians are so much fun! They don't have a clue, but they're fun! I had one come up to me and show me John 3:16. He said, "Look what I found." It's just so much fun to be around a new Christian because they're so happy; they're so joyful. Our problem, as older Christians, is that we get to a certain level where we've been there, done that, and we've kind of got our system worked out. All of a sudden we forget that our obligation doesn't stop with our own spiritual development, but our obligation is to begin to pour ourselves into someone else.

The Original Blueprint...

I desire for us as Christians to begin to pour our lives into one another. Jesus did such a good job of this. Jesus modeled for us a lifestyle of spiritual reproduction. It was "on the job training" in real-life contexts. Note Jesus' IDEA of spiritual reproduction:

I - Instruction in a real-life context.

D - Demonstration in a real-life context. He not only taught them in parables, but He was also always showing them. He was visualizing. He was incarnating, fleshing out truth before them. Remember the time the disciples came up to Jesus and they said, "Lord, teach us to pray." Do you know why they asked that question? Because they had watched Him pray. They had seen Him go up to the mountain. And when He came back after prayer, incredible things happened in His ministry, and it began to make the disciples hungry and thirsty to know what that man knew. So as they watched him, they begin to want to know more about God.

E - Exposure in a real-life context. It's where Jesus would take the disciples into these situations and they would try it.

A - Accountability or assessment in a real-life context. After they tried it, and after they experimented, they came back and they talked about it.

If you understand church history, you know discipleship did really well for the first 300 years. The church grew by Christians reproducing Christians. But in A.D. 313, the Emperor Constantine made Christianity a state religion. Worst thing that ever happened was that the head honcho officially ordered everybody to do be Christians. When he said that, he forced people that weren't even believers to be in the Christian church. And all of a sudden, it went from a vibrant body of Jesus Christ, a community thriving with reproduction, to a sterile institution. And we dropped the ball in 313. Since then, the church has tried to come back to this issue of reproducing itself.

This strategy worked right to the 4th century. Then we dropped the ball. Why?

1. Human nature
We tend to drift into comfort zones - the path of least resistance.
There's a tendency for all of us to kind of coast, relax, rest, to lay back. That's the truth for every one of us.

2. Clergy vs. laity distinction
A wide gap grew between clergy and laity.
This distinction basically says that there are professionals that should do all that, and we pay them – they’re the pastoral staff or leadership team. There's a tendency to say, "I sit in the pew and I let the leadership team do that. All we are is laity anyway." The word "laity," by the way, comes from the Latin root word "idiot." Clergy comes from the root word "church."
My desire for churches is to cut that clergy/laity stuff completely out. We don't need clergy and laity. Instead, aren't we all a part of the body of Christ? Don't we all have spiritual gifts? Shouldn't we all be using them for the glory of God? Don't you realize you're going to be accountable to God for your spiritual gifts? Just because I happen to be a "pastor" doesn't mean that I'm going to be anymore accountable for my spiritual gifts than you are for yours. You've got to go find out what it is and utilize it for Christ.

We must return to the original blueprint...

As we invest in people, we must be committed to three things:
1. A Person
2. A Process
3. A Purpose

Have you ever sat down with a more mature believer and been discipled one-on-one so that you can just grow in your Christian walk with God? If you've been discipled, have you received enough strength and to turn around and say, “I want to pour my life into someone else?”

Think for a moment, what would happen if every one of us reproduced ourselves even once? Staggering, isn't it? Let's decide to get involved in the kingdom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why are you Holding Back?

God has lead each and every one of you here reading this at such a time as this. I was reading through my emails this evening and came across this message. It was sent to me from a dear friend, Eric, that I know the Lord has arranged our paths to cross. I do know that what God has planned for our future together is way greater than what I could imagine and that I am certain.

Here is what Eric had to share as he quotes his mother, Brenda, "I am impressed to Dream much much larger dreams." God is doing a mighty thing. He is calling all kings and captains of industry who will to a significantly larger work than any that have come before.

Are you stretching your thinking? Are you daring to dream larger dreams? Are you looking for and expecting God to show up in mightier and mightier ways? If Jesus is coming soon, and I believe it and so do most who were at todays meeting, then why are you holding back? What good does it do any of us to hold back any reserve?

Man the sails, trim the fat, lighten the ship and tack into the wind! It is time for those who are going to, to make a difference in a HUGE way.

We have been giving many multitude of amazing opportunities and we are chosen for this generation to see the wonders no other generation will have seen and to see God do more through us than any other before. He has called us to "greater works than these" and we need to put feet and hands to those.

Don't waste time with the wrong approach or the wrong people. Don't wonder if you know that you know. Believe in the calling you had and step up to the plate. God is ready to knock it out of the park and we are all on the team cheering you on brother and sister.
Can you tell I am excited?

What excites you? Share that. They come to see what is the reason that you are on fire. Don't leave them guessing. Tell them. I am proud to call you brother and sister. I am humbled by the great things He is doing in our lives. I believe in you and what God wants to do in you and the dreams that He has laid on your heart. What are you going to do about it?


Thank you Eric for sharing this with me. You can be sure of this...I'm here cheering you on and God is on our side...no doubt.

God Bless,

Albert

Thursday, April 10, 2008

God Work's Through Us - A testimony by Rex Russell

I have had the opportunity to work with Jim Yates on several occasions. The message below is about his "amazing" daughter, Karen and her incredible testimony. She is really a special lady.

This excerpt is from a book by Rex Russell (a former youth pastor of Karen's) currently in the process of being published named "The Butterfly Effect of Grace". Karen's story was also published years ago in a book written by Bill Glass (former pro football player, now an evangelist and writer).

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.

Only through experience of

trial and suffering

can the soul be strengthened,

ambition inspired,

and success achieved.

Helen Keller 1880 - 1968

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.

Man looks at the outward appearance,

but the LORD

looks at the heart."

1 Sam 16:7 NIV

It seems like yesterday I sat in a board room surrounded by men staring at me. There were questions on my ministry philosophy and how I would "do better" than the last guy. Somehow I made it through those "confirmation hearings" and was offered the student minister position. Previously I had traveled and spoken to students, and I was looking forward to being with them up close and personal, which I knew would be very different and very challenging. I was right.

It was the first week, if not the first day, when someone said to me, "Have you met Karen?" It wasn't the last time I heard that question. The pastor wanted me to make sure I met Karen. The first time I visited with my secretary, she asked if I had met Karen. I had been in student ministry long enough that many thoughts went through my mind. Do I want to meet Karen? Are they warning me, or trying to prepare me for a junior high student from, well, you get the idea? Needless to say, I was a bit concerned about my first encounter with Karen.

Then I did meet Karen.

And it changed my life.

Let me introduce you to Karen. This is Karen's story, in her own words. With her and her mother's permission I share this with you.

I was born in April of 1975 with a condition known as Goldenhar's Syndrome. It affects people in different ways but it causes craniofacial deformities. In my case, I was born without a right ear, lung, or thumb. In addition I am missing some of the bones on the right side of my face including my right jawbone. This gives my face an asymmetrical appearance. I was born with a cleft lip and palate which were repaired when I was very young .. Although this wasn't discovered until a few years ago, I was also born with an atrial septal defect (hole between the top two chambers of my heart). Finally, I began to develop scoliosis (curvature of the spine) at about the age of five. This became and is still considered to be a severe curvature. I can't stand up completely straight or hold my head straight and there is a hump on my back. As far as surgeries go, I have had a total of seven operations. Most people with this syndrome have many more but my parents and I together with the physicians involved in my care made the decision not to pursue extensive reconstruction on my face. Because I only have one lung and also because it is extremely difficult to intubate me (put a tube down my throat during surgery to enable the anesthesiologist to maintain an airway during surgery), it was decided that the risks outweighed the potential benefits of reconstructive surgery in my particular situation. I should also mention that I have a growth hormone deficiency so even though I am now 32 years old, I am still only 4 feet 7 inches tall and weigh 75 pounds.

Karen attended a high school with over 2,500 students. Karen grew up in Dallas, Texas, where it seems that everyone is cosmetically and surgically perfect, no matter what the cost or pain. Plastic surgeons are touted in every newspaper and magazine promising eternal beauty and ageless miracles. Every ad on TV screams to our need, our desperate need, to look beautiful and appear healthy 24/7; even if we are not. Our vanity knows no end.

Karen understands and loves God more than you or I ever will.

Karen takes nothing for granted.

Nothing.

You and I do every day.

Every minute of every day.

Yes we do.

Karen's mother, Pat, tells a powerful story of when she was first approached by the doctor that delivered Karen. He began to tell her the different problems that Karen was born with. She said all she could think was, "Stop telling me these things!" The list kept going. Pat said she was headed to a bible study one morning as she was dealing with this overwhelming challenge of caring for this new born with so many medical and life challenges. She said she walked into the room and even though the teacher had no idea what she was going through she had written on the board this verse;

Isaiah 55:8 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways my ways, declare the Lord'.

Can you imagine that morning how that sentence must have leaped off the board? Pat told me the passage of scripture that carried her through many difficult days and nights was Psalm 139:13-16;

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Read that again, and this time try and picture what it was like when Pat watched Karen fall asleep at night. There had to be more than one night when she stood on the edge of her faith, leaning over into doubt, wondering how this would bring Glory to God. It did. How many nights did her faith whisper to Karen, "God is great, and He is very, very good. You can trust Him. He makes no mistakes. You are a perfectly formed gift from Heaven."

I remember the first time I sat down with Karen for a one-on-one conversation. She told me her favorite passage of scripture was where Samuel is sent by God to anoint the new king of Israel. He goes to the house of Jesse, in Bethlehem, who has eight sons. One of the first sons brought before Samuel is Eliab, David's older brother. According to the text, Eliab is a strong, handsome warrior who Samuel thinks is the new King of Israel. But look at what happens:

"When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, 'Surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the LORD.' But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'" I Samuel 16:6-7

Karen said, "That passage encourages me, and it helps me to know that God always looks at my heart."

One year we went to a large camp with 1,500 students from all over the state. On a Tuesday night Karen got up and told her life story. She told how God was her source of strength. She said that even though she had many opportunities to question God for how she was born, she never did because she knew and understood that God never makes mistakes. She said she knew she was not an accident or just an incident; she was created by God, for God. She told about how when she felt afraid before a surgery or alone in a large crowd of people she remembered the unconditional love and acceptance of God. As she talked, Karen seemed to have a connection with God that was different and real. The thorn in her side, that would never go away, seemed to bring an intimacy and fellowship that was so deep.

She read her story from a piece of paper, never looking up at the crowd, and then quietly sat down. There was silence. You knew everyone there just heard truth. You knew this was a moment you would never forget. We didn't. After that brief silence, the entire place gave her a standing ovation. Karen always got a standing ovation. You could not remain seated after you heard her story.

It was as if in five minutes Karen helped every person in that place understand, for the first time, you have no problems.

You have much to be grateful for.

Life is precious.

Life is a gift.

God is good.

You and I are so self absorbed.

Yes, we are.

Karen didn't say that or even try to suggest it, but the message of her story said it very clearly.

Oh, by the way, Karen would tell you that she has no problems either. When Karen emailed her story to me, the title of the email was, "Romans 8:28, and we know that all things work together for good, to those that love God and who are called according to His purpose." You have to wrap your mind around that. Karen understands that everything has a purpose. Even for her, every day is a gift from God, to be lived with hope and joy. And someone, somewhere is always going through something much worse than you are right now. Wow. Perspective?

The speaker for the camp that week was a man named Dave Busby. If you ever heard Dave speak you know he was a very powerful speaker. Not much rocked Dave's world. He had his own valley of pain to walk through, having been born with cystic fibrosis and developed polio at a very early age. He lived and walked in a depth with God that staggered everyone's imagination. Dave was scheduled to get up and speak after Karen's testimony that night. He was sitting just a few chairs down from me and I remember he just sat there and stared at the stage. Karen had already sat down, to a standing ovation. When Dave got up to speak he seemed baffled and distracted. He asked his wife to come up on stage and pray for him before he spoke. She did and he delivered a powerful message.

Later that week at breakfast Dave told me that Karen's story disturbed him so much that he completely lost his train of thought. He told me that her "humility and transparency" were so "thick" on the stage when he got up he felt he needed to take off his shoes and run out the back. He told me that the "cloud" was heavy on stage when he got up to speak and that Karen had "rearranged" the platform. After hearing Karen speak the heart of God that night, he wasn't sure why he even tried to follow her.

I told him he should try and be her youth pastor. He said no thank you, last night was hard enough.

One student minister told me his group went back to their cabin and talked for hours about what Karen said. It set the tone for the week and even the summer for those students. They saw a living, breathing example of what it means to live life to the fullest, no matter what.

I remember one night Karen got up in front of the youth group and asked them to forgive her for not being a bolder witness at her high school campus. One of her friends looked up at me and just shook her head as if to say, "She is the most powerful witness on that campus just by the way she lives her life. How can she think she has let us or God down?" The bar had just been set much higher.

My favorite memory of Karen was her high school graduation. Her graduating class was enormous, 639 students. Karen was almost at the end of the list alphabetically, so by the time she walked the stage we all were pretty worn out. When the school official called out her name and she walked across the stage, her class began to clap. Then they stood up and gave Karen a standing ovation. The coolest sight was when one of the first people to stand up was Greg Ostertag, one of her class mates. Greg is the seven-foot basketball center who later played for the Utah Jazz. Greg was one of the students that began the standing ovation as if to say, "Karen, I've always looked up to you!"

I could tell you story after story of Karen—about how many times other students told me she made them think differently about their own lives and how they were challenged to live a life that was worthy of imitation. I remember driving home at night after a youth event that Karen was at and wondering what she would be doing years later—how her life would continue to bring life to others.

The thing I learned most from Karen was how simple it is to lead others to a deeper walk just by living a quiet, genuine, life. It doesn't have to be famous, or fast, or strong, or bold. It just has to be real.

Karen's faith had a color and a sound. It was bright and it was loud. If you knew Karen you would know this to be an odd description

of her. Karen does not draw attention to herself. Karen is not loud. She is quiet and soft spoken. But I believe if faith gives off a color in heaven, Karen's faith is like a rainbow that has no end and no beginning. And if faith has a sound; Karen's must sound like a 1,000 voice choir. So the next time you need a visual of what faith may look like to those of us who need to be reminded everyday that what we do, how we respond and react to the hand that is dealt to us here on earth ask yourself this question; What shade of faith does the world need to see in my life, and is my faith a whisper or a shout?"

Karen also taught me that life is sometimes difficult. Life is sometimes painful. It is sometimes confusing and harsh and unfair. But life is also a gift from God. It is a package to be opened every day. Don't look at what you don't have, but be thankful for what you do have; your life is His design.

It is His plan.

It is His purpose.

He has never second guessed a decision.

He built Karen from scratch; it was a good day.

It was a very good day.

If you've never met Karen, you've missed one of the most incredible people in the world. Karen reminds me daily of the simplicity of the good news of the gospel. If ever there was an icon for the butterfly effect of grace, it is Karen. Everyone who has come in contact with her will tell you today that she changed their life. Even today I will run into student ministry colleagues that met Karen and they will always ask about her.

Thank you, Karen, for allowing me to share your incredible life story. I know you are never one to seek out the spotlight. You need to know you changed my life. And now with your permission I have extended that reach.

Unfortunately I cannot remember all the students' names I worked with over the years.

I will never forget Karen Yates.

Karen, God used you to open my eyes to so much. I remember sentences you said to me. I remember where I was standing when you told me your favorite passage of scripture and why it was so special to you. I remember the look on your face when we had that awesome graduation party for you. I remember when you sat down after speaking at different events, almost baffled at why everyone was still clapping and still standing.

Karen, I have never told you this before, but every time I read the last chapter of Max Lucado's book The Applause of Heaven, I think of you. Max ends that book with a picture of what it might be like when we enter heaven for the first time:

"You'll be home soon too. You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before. Each moment is a step taken. Each breath is a page turned. Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed. You are closer to home than you've ever been. Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you'll descend the ramp and enter the City. You'll see faces that are waiting for you. You'll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And, maybe, just maybe—in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and….applaud."

Karen, it won't be your first standing ovation.

But this one will last for what seems like an eternity.





God Bless!

Monday, April 7, 2008

God's Yellow Pages

Let your fingers do the walking thru the Bible - Use God's Yellow Pages. This is a wonderful link with guidance when you have issues and you need answers, when you need references to adhering to Christian virtues & character and direction on the teachings about life's problems.

http://web2.airmail.net/dpelc/yellow/

God Bless,

Albert

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