Saturday, January 30, 2010

Follow, following, followers.....

As I've said before, this is a place where I can put my own dealings and interactions with the Creator, the God of the Universe. I write this because I have found that people have the same questions I do sometime.

"Am I the only one going through_________right now?"

"Why do I keep having questions about _________?"

"Why can't I just get this and be done with it? What's wrong with me that it's taking so long?"

I tell you that I follow Christ; at least I try. I try and follow His example and His teachings. Do I always succeed? Nope, not even. Sometimes, I even feel like I'm doing more harm for Christianity than good. I feel like I'm a caution sign of what can be wrong about us rather than what can be right about God.

But yet and still I try.

Okay, let's back up some. As I've told you before (I think) I have a Facebook account and now a Twitter account. The FB was opened up when I was a small group leader in the High School ministry of our previous church in Tennessee. I used it because it was an easy way to keep in contact with my guys outside of the church walls.

The twitter is something I've come into recently. I resisted and resisted and resisted. And now.....I'm hooked. It's a techno-geek thing and most of you probably wouldn't understand. That's okay, not everything is for everyone.

With twitter, you have people who follow your account. Basically, you are "tweeting" 140 character snippets throughout your day (or however often you do) and people sign on to "follow" or "read" your tweets. And you can sign up to "follow" other people's tweets as well.

Without delving too much into the medium, this is like any other social medium. The people you meet and sometimes talk to are from all walks of life and all different races, colors, creeds, etc. They bring to the table their own experiences and their own past and their own issues.

It's a great place to me. But some of the people I follow or who follow me are not exactly those you would expect to meet you in the church or to be the kind of person you would most likely talk to out in public. They have friended me and we tweet back and forth, just like a lot of my friends on Facebook. And sometimes, SOMETIMES, they even come and ask questions that they couldn't ask anywhere else for fear of being laughed at or made fun.

Jesus hung out with these type of people. He loved on them, and brought them close to Him, in order to teach them about the kingdom of Heaven; and about God and how much He wanted to reconcile them to Him. He didn't judge them for who they were on Earth, only for what they meant to God. Jesus may not have approved of their way of life; but when they got to know Him, they came to that realization on their own. They didn't need a bunch of Pharisees hitting them over the head with their phylacteries and their regulations. They were loved into the kingdom.

Now this isn't a lecture on being able to go into a bar and preach to the people there or into a strip club or wherever else you think. I'm not saying that we should use spreading the gospel as a reason for that kind of behavior.

But, if someone I happen to come into contact with is of a different lifestyle than you and they befriend me to ask me questions, you shouldn't turn your nose up at either of us. If you see me slipping into some behaviors that I shouldn't, then I fully expect you to take me aside and remind me of the great "I AM" I represent.

But don't tell me that just because she curses, or he drinks a little or they are living together that I shouldn't be friends with them. Don't tell me that I shouldn't talk to that person because God doesn't like their behavior. Don't tell me that people are talking about it because of what that person does for a living.

Don't.....do....it.

You can counsel me on how to interact with them properly and not to put myself in an embarrassing situation. You can help me to figure out how to reach a person in a lifestyle or with questions that I may not readily be able to answer. But don't you condemn someone just because they are different.

Romans 10:14-15, 17 (NKJV)-"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!'...So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

We are called to live a life of love and compassion. We are called to be a light in the earth, and salt to the world. Why would He call us to do that with those who already know Him? We are to be an example to those who DON'T know Him, in order to bring them saving knowledge. There are people that I will never get to interact with in my sphere of influence, that you will see most every day and vice versa.

We need to be about our Father's business. Don't put yourself somewhere that will cause you to stumble. But by the same token, don't run from the world and insulate yourself and be happy that you are saved and going to Heaven. Don't you want to take some of those others around you with you? Or do you think they aren't worthy of knowing God?


Let's remember, at one time, someone thought we were worthy of investing time and energy in to be brought into the kingdom. Why do we always seem to forget that fact?

And if I'm way off on this, please feel free to let me know. I'm not saying I have this Christian walk down by any means. Let's help each other and not hinder the gospel.

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Let it go......

*Matthew 6:12 (NKJV)-"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." 

What does this mean to you? Is that as hard a concept for you to grasp as it is for me? I think God means something completely different about forgiveness than we comprehend. And that is NOT an excuse for us not to forgive those we come into contact with daily.

To me, forgiveness means to give up.

It means to give up my right to hold on to this angry little ball of fire and hate and discontent because of something you said/did/do that makes me so dad-blamed mad! It means that I have no right to take revenge on you. None, nada, zip.

It means that I have to have compassion on you and love you. I may not LIKE you as a person, but I have to love you as God loves you. That's what forgiveness means to me. It means giving up my rights for the sake of the One who gave up His rights for me.

It means getting off my high horse.

Think about that person who, when they walk in the room, you immediately start scoping out the exits and planning out your strategy should you have to face them. Imagine all the fear and dread that comes into mind when you see them. Imagine that person (and for some of you, I acknowledge, it could be me. I'm okay with that; I love you anyway!) and all the accompanying feelings that come attached to his/her presence.

Now, ask yourself: Who died and made you God?

Don't lie....you thought about it. Some may try and be indignant and say, "But you don't understand, Bo! This person did the most mean, low-down, dirty...."

Did that person take a tool and a spike and nail up God in human flesh on a cross? Did that person stand by and heckle Him as He bled to death so that the gap between God and us could be bridged? Did that person do something so heinous to you that you want them to be apart from God forever?

Really?

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be sin for us on the cross. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, we have been granted the favor of being able to boldly stand at the throne of God and find His mercy.

"Well, I don't want them to be separated from God, Bo. I just want them to feel a little of how I felt when they hurt me."

Oh, I see. What about you? How about the people YOU step on to get your way? How about the people YOU hurt in everyday life? Would YOU want your co-workers to pray that prayer about you? Would you want that boss you disrespect to feel that way? How about your children or even your spouse?

What if we didn't place ourselves at the center of the Universe, and left that spot to the One who already occupies it? What if we placed ourselves on the other side of the coin, so to speak? What if we remembered that we are not the only ones who get hurt or angry?

What if we just decided to forgive and let it go?

I admit freely that I messed up this past week with a co-worker. I'm openly and freely acknowledging that I lost my cool and kinda blamed God and asked why she had to intrude on my life. And He reminded me that I needed to learn compassion for all His children, not just the ones I like to hang around. He reminded me that Jesus came to the ones no one else wanted. He came to heal the hurting and the bruised. And He did it for me. And now, my responsibility is to pay it forward.

I need to apologize. I need to allow God to forgive me, and then I need to forgive that person. And I need to have compassion and love.

In the end, that's all that separates those who claim to know and love God, from those who don't.

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Driving in the fog

My wife and I just recently moved back here to the Pacific Northwest from Knoxville, TN. (Go Vols!!) The longer we were there, the more we realized that, while it was the place we called "home", it wasn't the place that felt like it.

I worked with the youth there, a very scarring experience which I hope never to repeat....NOT. I loved my young men, and they taught me something every time we got together. I started sensing a great movement in the youth here in the NW. In articles I read, or during my prayer time, I felt that there was a great undercurrent of movement of the Holy Spirit in the youth of this area.

And I felt I was being groomed to be a part of it.Yeah, surprise to you; imagine MY surprise!

Not to make this longer than necessary, that's most of the reason I'm here. So, now I'm just waiting and wondering when God is going to open this magical door and everything that I put my wife and daughters through to move us out here comes to fruition. My wife has already found a service niche right here in the city we live. She is absolutely loving it and growing daily. She has been blessed by this move more than any of us.

My daughters are learning and growing faster than before. They resented being brought out here at first; and it lasted until school started (about a week). Now, they are so immersed in being here it's intolerable!

And I'm still waiting on my door to open.

So, I go to work, and I come home, and I go to work, and I come home. We are also searching for a church to join with; one that makes the right connection with our family. We have friends and friends who are so close out here they are family, and God is truly blessing us.

And I'm still waiting on my door to open.

So last night, I was very excited to get the opportunity to go out with one of the young men I've been blessed to have as a friend. We've known his family since we lived here before, and he has grown into a fine young man. He has been very busy with school and work, and realized that he had let his social life slide past, so he reached out to me to begin reconnecting.

He is studying to become a meteorologist....I think. I don't know if there is a more technical term or whatever. I'm sure if there is, he will correct me post haste. Anyway, he is taking a lot of weather and atmospheric related courses, sciences, and mathematics. (My kind of subjects....minus the weather and atmospheric stuff!) And when we get together he loves to regale me with facts about weather phenomena that I honestly don't know about, but if it's important to him, it's important to me.

The weather last night was rainy, and he offered to drive us to our meal. On our way back home, we were remarking about the rain, and the weather and he said something which really struck me and I thought about it all night. He said he wished it was really foggy right now. I asked him why, and he said,

"I love driving in the fog. You never know what's coming up."

Now, the modest, educated, grown-up adult in most of us immediately begins thinking this way about that statement. We start imagining all of the animals that wander into the road when the fog is really pea-soup thick. Or we get upset because we can't speed to the job we continually moan about hating. Or how people ride your bumper because they just naturally daisy chain like that in inclement weather.

He was genuinely excited about it.

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)-"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

He was right. Driving in the fog is cool. We've just forgotten, in our wise old ways, how much fun it is. We've forgotten that we are supposed to be in a sort of fog.

Why? you may say. Well, for one, we aren't God, and we're not privy to everything in the Universe like Him. He knows all, from start to finish. He puts you places and introduces you to people for His glory, not your own.

Oh, we can get wisdom from God if we ask. But we don't need to see that WHOLE thing. Like the shepherd of old, who only had a lamp on his feet. The light would only illuminate one step ahead of him at a time. And that's all he needed.

For another, if God revealed the entire plan to you, you would see all the twists and turns it would take. And, as we are all wont to do, we would try and circumvent all the valleys and low points. We'd just plot a course straight from A to Z and bypass as much of the bad stuff as possible. But it's in the storms and bad weather that we seem to learn the most.

All of a sudden, I'm not waiting on a door to open. I'm driving in the fog. My lights work, and my vehicle is tuned up. As long as I stay in His Word, and commune with Him, I don't have to worry about the fog. I can't overdrive my lights. I need to drive as safely and as comfortably as possible, to see where to steer next.

The curves are there, as are the low points. I don't have to be scared of going through them, because I know that I know that I know that I'm protected. And when I come out the other side, I'll be able to see what kind of valley God guided me through, and I'll smile.

Don't be afraid of the fog; revel in it. It's a reminder to us that God is our guide; we're not responsible for lighting our own path. Take your time in it and get there safely.

I'm not standing in front a shut door waiting anymore. I'm driving in the fog to the next destination in my Christian walk. And I'm okay with that now.

Wanna ride?

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Am I a good search engine?

Alright, here we go. I've had breakfast; and pressed me some coffee. The girls are gone, and the wife is still in bed. I'm gonna have my quiet time.

*shuffling papers* Got my notes......*arranging laptop and Crackberry*....Cool.

Pray before I start transcribing notes.......

Now then...*sounds of typing*........what the heck is wrong with this laptop bottom? Why won't it sit flat? What is the deal here?

Oh well, I'm doing my Bible study.....it's not really that noticeable. I'll just continue on.

*typing*......man, this is really irking me. You know, it's liike there is something caught on the bottom of one of the feet.....

Okay, this is stupid. It's not that big of a deal. Stop worrying about the bottom of my laptop and get back to the sermon notes. Okay.....*typing slowly dying off*.....okay, is there something on the bottom of this in one of the feet or a wire or something.....

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That looks pretty dumb, huh? Some of you are sitting there thinking, "Okay, Bo has gone off the deep end. He has truly lost it." Some of my techno-geek-perfectionist friends, however, understand EXACTLY how hard it is sometime to focus on pressing in toward God. We want everything to be....just....so....

I would like to ask you this-have you ever read God's Word? Do you realize some of the kinds of people God choose to be His mouthpieces? Have you read the exploits of some of the people God used in the Bible?

Wow.

We say we want to grow closer to God, and yet.....sometimes we just don't quite get it. Once again, I can't tell you what that looks like in your life; but I can tell you how it looks in mine. This morning, the introductory paragraph, that was my #epicfail moment. (Yeah, I used a hash tag on that. I #twitter...a lot. Too much it seems!) That was how my morning started when I began my God-time.

How do I get my quiet time? What do I do to keep from being distracted? In my life, I press in. I keep going. I don't stop. I do whatever I can to control the external disturbances, and then I just keep going.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)-" And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." 

That is how I get my quiet time. I keep going. I seek Him, just like I seek on the 'net when I'm looking for a new blackberry application or searching for something to fix what's going wrong on one of my computers. I seek Him just like I do anything else that means something to me. And I don't let the distractions stop me.

It used to be that, if I got distracted enough, I would just quit. I would think that was for the best, because I wasn't really into it. If I was distracted, then I wasn't giving God my all. And since He wanted my all, I needed to wait until I was properly motivated to commune with Him.

Yeah, it sounded a lot better than it looked written down.

So now, what do I do? I understand my personality more. I also understand that I am married, with 3 daughters still under my roof and all the trappings that come with it. So I am not always going to be COMPLETELY without distractions. But I can minimize them enough. I have earplugs for when I'm not the only one in the house. I have a way of setting up my desk that alerts my family that I am about to begin my Bible study so I will be unavailable for a bit. But most of all; I persevere.

If someone asks me a question-I answer it. Then, I go back to my studies.

If I remember something I'm supposed to write in my calendar, I write it on a scrap piece of paper I have at my desk so I don't have to dwell on remembering it until I'm done. And then, I go back to my studies.

If I need a drink, or a break, I take one. And then, I go back to my studies.

I let my time with God go until I know that I know that I know that He has shown me something that He wants me to carry with me throughout my day. That time may vary from day to day, and I'm okay with it. The important thing is to keep pressing in until I reach that point of knowing.

Everyone knows about the internet search engine Google. It's become so common in our language. We normally call looking something up "Googling it" even if we're using another search engine. There is even a search page named "lmgtfy.com" which stands for "let me Google that for you". It's for those times when someone asks you a question they could have Googled themselves, but they're just too lazy. So you can Google it for them, and send them the results. Neat huh?

As Christians, we should also be a search engine. We should be the one that points people we come into contact with toward Jesus Christ. All input into our search box should direct an answer toward the Godhead.

Oh, and it shouldn't matter about the initial query's language (Missionaries!!). We should be able to handle all kinds of questions. And if we don't know the answer, we can meta-link to others in our sphere of influence to help us, because it's not about us, it's about Jesus.

And the best of all? There will never be a server overload or a network error or other troubles because our computer system is backed up and He saves continually. So what are you waiting for?

Join me. There is a big world out there looking for answers.

Here, let me show God to you........

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Start

January 1st, 2010.

Doesn’t it look kinda ominous there? A new year, a new decade. 10 years ago, we were on the edges of our collective seats, wondering if the world was going to come to an end because of the Y2K bug.

Yeah, it never materialized.

Today is the day of renewal for a lot of people. They start the New Year with a fresh set of legs and a sprinting pace. Then, for whatever reason, they figure out that this pace is just way too fast. So, instead of slowing down to a more manageable one, they just figure they can’t reach the goal anyway.

So they stop.

How do I know this? Come on, I’ve been there. I know because I live it. I didn’t want this entry to be another in a long line of how you should start the New Year running messages. There are plenty of those out there.

I’m not knocking anyone else, so please don’t start that either. Each person who does a blog, or a journal, or preaches a sermon, should utter what God has placed on their heart. But it is still wrapped in the framework of their circumstances and surroundings. I’m not here to add to the ones who tell you to read this, and do that, and all. At least, I’m not trying to be.

I’m going this route. Slow, steady, and for the long run. For your consideration, I ask you to grow with God this year.

“Now wait Bo! You just said you weren’t gonna add on to us!”

I know, I know. I want you to know and learn who you are in God this year. It will make everything else fall right in line. These are what I’m gonna concentrate on for right now, and I hope you can get something from them too.

John 3:16-17 (NKJV)-“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

1 John 4:18-19 (NKJV)-“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”

First, God loves you. I know, I know-we SAY we know that. Look back on last year. Did you know it then? Did you live it? I know I didn’t always. It was a process. And I had to approach each situation with the same faith and intensity.

God loves YOU. How would it change your life if you TRULY grasped that concept? How many of us would sacrifice our child to save someone? God and Jesus knowingly corroborated to reconcile us back into alignment with them. How? They concocted this boondoggle of a plan. Jesus would step out of His deity and live as a Man. And God would heap all our sins and transgressions upon His innocent Son.

Our belief in His sinless sacrifice would pave the way for our relationship renewal back with God. Simple, elegant, and beyond anything we could ever imagine or conceive. How many of us would do the same? I wouldn’t even sacrifice my most rebellious daughter for the world. Oh, I’d hem and haw around about it and heighten the intensity and anticipation during the commercial breaks. But in the end, I’d sooner step into her place than see her in any kind of pain or anguish.
So can you imagine how that HAD to affect God? And He did it all for US. Everything He did was to bring us back to Him, because we couldn’t do it on our own; WOULDN’T do it on our own given the opportunity.

So when you grasp that concept, then you understand the depths of what has been done for you. Then the second reference comes in; He loved us FIRST. Oh, I love God now, after what I have seen that He was willing to do for me to bring me back to Him. But the truth of the matter is that He loved me first, in my unregenerate, sinful state.

He adored ME enough to do this. He appreciated me enough to break the bonds of fear and anxiety from my life. He has given me hope in a world where it sometimes seems hope is non-existent. He perfected me with His love, and He didn’t do it with a hammer or a mallet, or a thunder stick. He did it with love and affection and gentleness.

He did it with undeserved, unmerited love because He IS the definition of love.

That’s where I want to start you out this year. I’m not even going to ask you to read a bunch of stuff and all. I want you to start there. Learn that God loves you right now. Learn that God loved you before, and He will love you after. WE make the choice to turn our backs on Him. But even then, He still loves us.

I truly believe when we grasp the concept of His love for us, everything else will achieve crystal clarity. I want to do more, read more, grow more in Him, because nothing else (not even my Blackberry, or Crackberry as it is more aptly named) matters. The only thing that matters is Him.

Everything I have, I have because God loved me enough to allow me to have it. Every skill I have is because I have been given that talent by God Himself. Every person in my circle of friends is there because they are someone God specifically put into my life to either grow me or for me to plant a seed of growth.

Set goals this year, but make them manageable. Make your first priority getting to know the One who allowed you to see a new decade start. Be blessed by Him through getting to know His love and affection for you.

This year, I am starting off with a fast, January 4th-24th. I had tossed around not putting it in here, because I don’t know how long it’s going to go. A church I attended in Tennessee started every New Year off with a 21 day fast. Yes, I have done it, and yes, it has helped me tremendously.

I haven’t kept my spiritual (or physical) trim, so I hope to start over again. I’m not going to look back on past failures; I’m looking forward to future triumphs. I say that to tell you, please, please, please if there is something you feel you need prayer for, let me know.

Don’t be scared, and don’t let the voices tell you it’s insignificant or that God doesn’t care. He cares about you, remember? He loves you and wants the best for you.

You can e-mail me at bonocchio(at)gmail(dot)com. [I do that so the spambots trolling around don’t get my address.] And that goes straight to my Blackberry, so I’ll know whenever someone sends me something :) (hey, I’m using it for God!)

Don’t let another day go by without experiencing God’s love and affection for you. Let Him pour out on you and yours the same as He has done for me and my family. I also want to thank those of you who keep in touch with me and keep reading this blog. It means a lot to me; more than you know. Let’s go on to do great things in 2010.

Be blessed in the Lord today.