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The “Good News” is HOPE. The “Gospel” is the crux of our faith. John 3:16 puts it SO plainly, that even little children can understand, (paraphrasing) “For God loved the world (you and me) SO much, that He gave His Son (Jesus) as a sacrifice, so that if we  believe that Jesus died in our place on the cross, we will not perish, but have everlasting life!” This message is re-iterated throughout the New Testament, with each iteration bringing more clarity, more enlightenment to that extraordinary act of Love. In Galatians 2:20, Paul adds even more clarity to the implications of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I
who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Paul wrote this at a time where he was refuting Peter’s stance on Gentiles and Jews being equal as believers. Peter was leaning toward the Jewish law concerning Gentiles, which led Paul to make the point that we are no longer under the law. The law had been washed away as it were with the blood from Jesus’ death. When we acknowledge / associate ourselves with Jesus’ act on the cross, we allow our “Self” to suffer the same fate as Jesus: death. In doing so, a transaction takes place where “self” exchanged for Christ. Self is no longer our center, Jesus is. The implications of this concept is enormous!  Instead of having the confines of the law of Moses dictating how we live, we now have freedom to TRULY live because Christ now lives in us!

As my dad used to put it so eloquently, “What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?”

 Associate yourself with Christ. Accept Him as your Lord and Savior. In doing so, you effectively kill your self – your ego, on the very same cross that Jesus died on. What do you get in return? EVERLASTING life, because the One who conquered death is LIVING in you! Your spirit is reborn under the new covenant, not the old. In 2 Corinthians chapter 3:6-11, Paul talks about the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant:

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the
face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Death is replaced with Life, Temporary is replaced with Permanence, Condemnation is replaced with Righteousness, and Law is replaced with Love. I want permanence in God’s kingdom, I want His  righteousness to replace my condemnation, and most of all, I want to spend eternity with the One who loves me SO much, that He gave Himself up for me.

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God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. -Psalms 46

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I got a text Wednesday night that a friend had a stroke and was life flighted to the hospital in the Springs. I immediately changed out of my PJs and headed down to see him and his family. I got to see Jimmy in the ER and he was awake, looking around and acknowledged me being there. I got to hold his hand and tell him that I was praying for him and loved him. His wife was in great spirits, just thankful that her husband was being taken care of.

I met Jimmy on a mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma to help tornado victims back in 2013. Jimmy worked tirelessly, did whatever anyone asked, and we had great conversations in the evenings. Jimmy is one of the first people I met coming to Colorado and he set the bar for everyone else. Although he was dealing with employment issues (like me), and whatever else, I never saw him without a smile, without an encouraging word to me.

That night, after I saw Jimmy, his brain started swelling due to the stroke. The next day, the doctors informed the family that they would have to go to surgery to try and stop the swelling. This morning, the email said that the swelling had put Jimmy into a coma that he would not wake up from.

Life if so precious. It is elusive, like a puff of smoke, just waiting for a wind strong enough to whisk it away. I will miss Jimmy’s smile and his friendship, but I am happy for him. To be absent of the body is to be with Christ. I know without a doubt that my friend will be at Jesus’ feet and I  will see  him again one day.

I am reminded every day that God’s plan IS the best plan. We have plans, we have ideas about what we  want or where we are going, but they are subjective to God’s plans (with or without our cooperation). God is NOT a chess player as some might think, moving us like chess pieces around the board of life; He is a Father, who allows us to grow and make mistakes, always nudging us closer to the truth in order to live a fulfilled life. Does He allow suffering, poverty, and death? Not in a malevolent way as many think. The greatest gift God gave man is also man’s greatest downfall: free will. We are intelligent, we are invincible,  our species is the “Clint Eastwood” of the universe. And yet, there is a soft spot in our spirit, a need that never gets met, an itch that eludes any satisfying scratch. This is our innate, fully designed need for our Creator, just as a child needs its parents.

To reign in all the emotions that are scattered all over this blog, I will say this: Life is precious, Eternal Life is priceless. To fully enjoy the first, you HAVE to address the latter. I immediately thought of my children, my brothers, my sisters, and most of all, my wife. I will miss them when I leave this earth, but that emotion is paled by the excitement of being in the presence of my Creator and knowing that when my family sees me again, I will be FULLY ALIVE!

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only son, so that none shall perish, but have eternal life.”

 

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God continues to prove to me that He loves me. And more than that, He knows my name. And more than that, He truly cares about me. Robin had talked to the radiologist last week and of course, the information was realistic. I  guess I was half hoping – No, WHOLE hoping that she would be giving Robin amazing news that the cancer has been eradicated and she wouldn’t even need radiation. Truly, the Lord will provide yet another miracle and give her a clean slate! So the realistic news she received was less than uhmm, joyful.

I had planned on a short camping trip to retreat and regroup. I wanted to visit the top of Bison Peak. It is a 12,439 ft. mountain in Park county,  about 18 miles north on county road 77, before you get to the Taryall reservoir. It is known for it’s unique rock formations at the summit, and it’s secludedness. I guess with all the 14′ers in the state, 12,000 ft doesn’t rate. It was perfect for me on both counts. Taz and  I set out to find rocks, views, and peace. bp1

The Ute Creek trail starts out crossing the Taryall river by foot bridge, then across a meadow and gently slopes up from 8,500 ft. It runs through Aspen groves and Ponderosa Pine, following the Ute creek up to its source, Bison Peak. The trail sign said 4 miles to the McCurdy Brookside trail (a trail that runs north/south across both Bison Mtn and McCurdy Mtn) and 9 miles to Lost Park. The first mile and a half was a very gentle climb. Taz and I barely noticed we were going up at all, except for the creek running the opposite way, down hill. The trail started separating from the creek and soon we found the creek about 200 feet below us and the trail decided to get serious and then the rain set in.bp2 We found two huge boulders leaning against one another and decided to wait out the rain. It was a good opportunity for me to take a break as well. After going up for ever, I finally got a peek through the trees and the view spoke volumes of our altitude. We were finally getting closer to 12,000 ft.bp4 Taz was very good about scouting ahead, then coming back to check on me as I was stopping after every switchback to catch some air. Man, I really have to lighten my pack! We finally reached the McCurdy Trail and decided to camp there for the night. We would have enough  time to follow the trail north into the Lost Park to find water. bp6 I set up my hammock and tarp, then Taz and I set off for water. We only had to hike about 1/2 mile to find the headwaters of Indian creek. We filled up our water bottles and headed home. That night, the temperature dropped to 27 degrees and  left a heavy frost on everything. About 0230 hrs, Taz had enough of the cold and decided to jump in my hammock with me.

We got up the next morning and I got the fire going again, fixed Taz’s breakfast and mine, then we started up the McCurdy trail to summit Bison peak. The trail went up through the bristle cone pines and after two long switch backs, breaks in the trees started opening up to reveal the world around.bp7 The closer we got to tree line, the greater the views got. I could see as far south west as Badger Mtn,  Southeast all the way to Pike’s Peak, The Collegiates were looming to the west, and the Platte and Kenosha mountain ranges to the north. Taz was patient in waiting on me to catch up on several occasions.bp8 The top was so close! Even with the reduced weight of my  day pack (I only took my camera, water bottles, and water filtration system), it was still a chore to climb the mountain. At 11,000 feet and above, you really feel the effects of reduced oxygen. At the top, you could see the  trail marked with cairns, leading you off the summit and south, towards McCurdy mountain.bp93 Taz and I just stood on the saddle and took in the beauty of the  unique rock formations all over the top. I looked across and saw a herd of mule deer  crossing the summit. They moved so fast, and so smoothly. They covered so much ground in so little time.  I  got really jealous, thinking how I had to slog my way up  the mountain yesterday.  bp96

All the while, I  was  talking to the Lord about Robin’s situation. I  KNOW God has been with us every step of her journey. I KNOW God is faithful and everything works together for His glory, but sometimes it just wears on you and like children, we need reminders that we are loved, and we are cared for, and things will be okay. When I saw the deer, God spoke to me “Andrew, how can you look upon all this and still doubt Me? My plan is STILL the best plan and I am in control of all this. I will NOT forsake you, nor leave you.” I fell to my knees and wept and thanked God for loving us so much!

I stayed on the summit for another 2.5 hours, just drinking in the views and God’s amazing handy work.bp94centinelbp95bp97 I found rocks, tons of views, and most importantly,  peace.

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Trying to wrap my head around Chapter 4 in 1 Peter, It’s summed up in the last verse:

19 ” Therefore, those also who suffer according to
the will of God shall entrust their souls to a
faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

It makes sense! No healthy person wants to suffer, and to hear someone say they are willing to suffer for Christ, or are going through things and giving God glory and thanking Him for it is just weird – until you truly get it. I’ve tweaked my own personal definition of discipleship down to this: “Abandoning one’s self, for the sake of another.” If you are willing to abandon your Self (your desires, your comfort, your safe areas) for Christ, you will put yourself in harm’s way without hesitation, all for the sake of Christ. Not because its the cavalier thing to do, but because you hold to the blind knowledge (Faith) that Christ is going to bring you through ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for His glory and edification. The question is, Are you willing to abandon your self?

In John 21:15 – 17, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and twice Peter answered “You know I love you” and the third time he answered “You know ALL things…” Peter’s word for love (Phileo) was not the same as Jesus’ word for love (Agape). I truly believe that Jesus was asking Peter, “Are you willing to abandon your self for me?” and Peter answered twice, “Lord, you know I like you, but…”.  To be a true disciple of Christ is to abandon your self- love Him with wreckless abandon. When you love like this, you WILL put yourself in harm’s way. You WILL suffer for Christ, but with the intimate knowledge that no matter what happens, your soul is safe, and kept by the Father’s love. Does that mean you’re weird? No. It means that you trust in God’s infinite wisdom and unfailing love!