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shocked into gratitude

I believe I am a fairly grateful man. I am grateful for my life; I am grateful for my wife; I am grateful for my kids; I am grateful for Trinity Church; I am grateful for the privilege of preaching. I woke up today grateful for all those things. I wake up every day grateful for those things, but I have to admit that most of the time it is a gratitude in the back of my mind, a reality that I don't openly acknowledge enough or feel passionately.
 
Well today I got shocked, slapped, and shoved into a real and present attitude of gratitude for those things, so much so that it was accompanied by a deep well of emotion to the point of tears. As I was sitting in a Starbucks preparing for a message on gratitude, in walked a man I knew in Bible College and a fellow pastor friend who I haven't seen in over nine years. We locked eyes and he walked straight over and called me by name and sat down. He asked what I had been up to all these years, where I was pastoring, etc.
 
When I asked him the same question he proceeded to tell me about a marriage that had dissolved, about the pain of that loss, and the many consequences visited upon his life by the choices made by another person that he could do nothing about. As he shared the reality of that pain, he still spoke of faith, purpose and hope. I couldn't imagine what he has been through as he has lost so much in such a short amount of time, and he didn't really even see it coming. The life he knew and enjoyed had been turned upside down and was gone.
 
My heart went out to him and grieved for him. As he left the store I was shocked into a renewed gratitude for my life, wife, kids, and the opportunity to be sitting here writing this blog.
 
Dear Jesus I want to say, “THANK YOU for all that you have blessed me with. May you cause me never to take these things for granted. In your name, Amen.”
 
May the Lord allow you a moment this week to be shocked into gratitude.
 

go

Our nine-person missions team, which includes my daughter Abbey, took off for Haiti today and in thinking about their journey, the word "GO" came to mind. The Gospel is all about "Going.” Actually I did a quick word search in the Bible regarding the word "GO" and discovered that it is used 1485 times in the Bible. A large number of those times the word is used pertaining to God commanding His people to GO in a new direction, GO to a person, GO to a people, GO to battle, GO and get something, etc.
 
"Going" is something that comes naturally to us as human beings. God put that curiosity in mankind. It has caused us to discover new lands, to go into outer space, to land on the moon, to go to new places, to take new jobs, "to go where no man has gone before" (sorry sappy Star Trek line for the sake of my Treky wife Annette). God has put in us a desire to discover and explore. He put that in us so that we would be predisposed to going where He wants us to go. Our trouble is we have a tendency to take that natural inclination that God put in us and use it only for ourselves and our desires.
 
I mentioned to Abbey today as I was driving her to the church to catch the van to the airport, that God was going to bless her for GOING to Haiti, for taking this time from her life and from her friends, with all the expense and giving it to God to bless some people she has never met. Why will God bless her and all those who went? Because it is precisely what God did for us. May we be open to letting God control more of our "GOING."
 
"GO therefore and make disciples of all nations....." Matthew 28:19
 
"And proclaim as you GO, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 10:7
 

reboot

AHHHH! My cell phone is driving me crazy. It has this glitch that randomly and without warning, will by itself, power down and reboot itself. The only pattern I can detect is that it will only do this when I am using one of its functions—whether dialing, on a phone call, texting, writing an e-mail, checking Facebook or surfing the web. So basically anytime I am trying to use it, it will reboot itself once or twice a day interrupting whatever I was doing. SO ANNOYING!
 
I know, I know, such a "first world" problem and some of my missionary friends would be laughing at me right now as I whine about how "rough" I have it. Sorry but it still drives me nuts.
 
As I was commiserating about it after its most recent reboot, I had this thought, “It’s been a bit of a stressful couple of weeks for me and some of my friends, and I wondered what it would look like if God could reach down and without warning and in the middle of some important function of ours, just power us down and reboot us?” I guess in some cases our own bodies do that for us when we have gone too long without rest, but that generally means we are in pretty bad shape. What if God could just shut us down before it came to our bodies having to react? My gut tells me He tries to speak to us about needing a reboot countless times in prayer and from the Word, but we most likely aren't listening because we are too busy "functioning.”
 
I wonder when my phone will reboot and annoy me again today.
 

i want

A little boy around two years old comes into a Starbucks with his mom. Mom is holding his hand as he is stumbling out of sure excitement as they approach the counter where all the food and juices and prepared coffee drinks are. In this refrigerated case are sandwiches, salads, fruit, cheese, oatmeal, as well as cakes, cookies, cake pops, tarts etc. You know what I am talking about, right? Who hasn't seen a Starbucks’ food counter, right?
 
Anyway, as they approached the display of goodness the little boy, still struggling with his speech and ability to enunciate words, just starts pointing rapidly and randomly at the goodies in the case. He no sooner spots something and starts pointing saying, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” over and over again, than he would spot something else and do the same. He must have spotted and pointed at a dozen things or more, many of which he had no clue what they were, or even if he would really like them. He was just responding to the "I want" nature that resided in him and resides in us.
 
Mom looked down several times and, without letting go of his hand, would simply and patiently say, “Ok, Ok, Ok.” She then looked up and told the server what she wanted. Then she stepped up to the cash machine and paid as the little boy tried to get a glimpse of what was actually purchased for him. I never got a good look at what mom actually bought, but it fit into a small bag and wasn't anywhere near all of what the little boy’s hand pointed to and wanted.
 
How that must be what we look like as heaven watches us point at the display case of life and point and cry out, “God! God! God!” We are not even sure of all it is we are asking or have asked God the Father for, or if we are really going to like it. We definitely don't know how much it will cost when God steps up to pay or provide.
 
As the mom and little boy leave the store, he has long forgotten about what was in the case; he is focused like a laser on the tiny bag in mom's hand. I am sure mom purchased the item she thought was best. I wonder if he ended up liking her choice for him?

encouraged

"And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul.....

But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." 1 Samuel 30:6

As I was studying today, I was listening to some worship music and then I started to listen to a couple of my favorite preachers online, and I found my spirit being lifted up. I felt my heart being lifted. I found my confidence rising. I sensed a peace resting on me. I found myself being encouraged. I was encouraging myself in the Lord. Here's the interesting thing. I found myself being encouraged but I didn't even feel that I was discouraged or down or sad or anything else negative.

What I want to impart is that we can be under an atmosphere of discouragement and not even know it until we begin to touch encouragement. We can be suffering from a low grade assault on our spirits and not even know it until the light of encouragement starts to shine the light on our spirits. So my encouragement to you today is to find a way to encourage yourself in the Lord regardless of whether or not you feel discouraged.

May encouraging ourselves in the Lord be a daily discipline for us all.

training

My daughter Abbey is a pretty committed workout queen. Yesterday she challenged me to do one of her workouts, so she became my trainer for the next 40 minutes. What I realized is that getting worked out by someone is very different from when I work out on my own. She had me do exercises that I didn't know that tested muscles I don't normally mess with. She gave me a goal of time or reps that were not what I would have chosen. She kept me moving. She was encouraging. In the end it was a better workout than if I had done it on my own. I was sore sure, but that was a good thing.

I think it is not much different from our walk with Jesus. We need someone to "work us out.” We need someone to push us, challenge us and encourage us. I don't think we do well at discipling ourselves. Who do you have in your life that is pushing, challenging and encouraging you?

waiting

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of "waiting." I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not very good at waiting, and I think I’m safe in saying that not very many of you are good at it either. Those of you that believe you are good at waiting, be thankful because I think you are in the minority.
 
People that are poor at waiting experience some common issues. We generally let our emotions take over; we can often become mean; we can seek to find someone to blame for making us wait; we take out our impatience on others; we get even more irritated by people around us who appear to not be bothered by our waiting. We are the epitome of the phrase, "misery likes company."
 
The trouble with waiting is that it is a discipline that we must choose to learn to do. Learning to wait can be one of the most difficult lessons in life, especially for the believer; for the believer our hope and confidence and faith is supposed to be in God, and waiting on Him is to draw us closer to Him, and so waiting tests the very core of our relationship with God.
 
Waiting is not easy but it is necessary, so let’s learn to wait.

freedom

In drafting the Constitution, most of the Founding Fathers believed that the safeguards written into it would protect the rights of Americans. But when the Constitution was sent to the states in 1787 for ratification, people like Patrick Henry and others protested the lack of a specific statement of rights.
 
Two years after the new American government went into effect, the Bill Of Rights was added as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Congress discussed nearly 200 proposals for amendments before it presented these ten to the states for approval. The states ratified these amendments and they became part of the Constitution in 1791. There are now 27 amendments to the Constitution.
 
The First Amendment consists of five of our basic rights as Americans. They are:
 
Freedom of Religion
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of Petition
 
I write concerning this First Amendment, as it is fundamental to the function of all free societies and specifically for the purpose of this blog, our function as a church. We need to thank God for this First Amendment and never take it for granted, as down through history and in many societies the Church of Jesus Christ has been outlawed, persecuted, shut down, silenced and controlled.
 
Scripture instructs us: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high position, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
 
So on this Fourth of July give thanks to God and pray for our Land, that we may never lose these freedoms.

culture

Culture can be defined as "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious or social group; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes a society." Culture is an extremely challenging subject, especially in the times we live in because it seems to be more inconsistent, changing and volatile than ever before.
 
This week the Supreme Court, on a 5 to 4 vote, struck down a key portion of the "Defense of Marriage Act" that was signed into law in 1996 by large majority in the House and Senate, and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The main point of DOMA was that marriage, and all its benefits, was acknowledged to be between a man and a woman as had been understood for most of human history and evident in the laws of nature.
 
In less than 20 years under the pressure of present day "culture," many of those who voted for DOMA now applaud the change in the view of marriage being between a man and woman, including Former President Bill Clinton who applauded the High Court’s decision that struck at the heart of the bill he himself signed into law.
 
We are in a dangerous place as a nation when, under the pressure of present day culture and for political expediency, long-held societal and scriptural views can be changed completely in less than 20 years.
 
When a society’s values are assaulted and changed on the strength and reason of CULTURE ALONE, we are on a slippery slope as a society.
 
Have no fear, God is not dead and He gets the last word - not culture.

father's day

It has been quite a spring in the Simmons’ household. This spring has marked some significant miles stones for our family:
 
My son, Alec, has celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary with his lovely wife, Allison, and graduates with his Master’s Degree in Education.
 
My daughter, Abbey, graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Literature from PLU.
 
My daughter, Audrey, graduated from High School as well as completing her AA Degree from Pierce College.
 
Now believe it or not, I do not share that to brag. I share that as a point of reference for myself and Annette, to reflect on the faithfulness of God and that in spite of our weaknesses as parents, we did do something right occasionally.
 
Personally, I am generally a high-guilt retention person. I feel I could better write a "What Not to Do" parenting book as opposed to a "How to" parenting book. Yet I am so thankful this spring as I watch my kids graduate. As they move on with their lives, I look at them and smile and believe the very best for them, and feel a sense of satisfaction in their success.
 
I believe in general that dads feel a lot like I do. We are more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths. We look at our kids and see all their successes and abilities and wonder where they got them. We look at their struggles and take responsibility for it.
 
Today I just sit back and thank God for His faithfulness to me and my kids, and that he allowed me to do more right as a dad than I did wrong, and I am going to rest in that.
 
Happy Father’s Day out there and may you sit back, be grateful and rest in God's faithfulness to you as well.
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