It sure is an exciting week! Here’s one of the highlights…
When I hear the word “earnest” I think of Jim Varney going to camp in that classic 90’s comedy.
But, when I stumbled across it in the book of Ephesians from the Bible, I had a hunch I was looking at something very important to me. The word appears in the 14th verse in the 1st chapter of a letter written from the Apostle Paul to believers in the city of Ephesus. Here is what I read:
“In whom ye also trusted after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
The Holy Spirit.
He who keeps Christians debating and unbelievers confused.
The Holy Ghost.
Debated. Loved. Feared.
We all may have our preconceived ideas on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but when we open the Bible… we get a clear picture of His role. When we take all the scriptures that we find, they become a tapestry that weaves together and gives us a clearer picture of what our lives should look like.
Here are a couple nuggets:
Vs. 13: “…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
This is something that happened AFTER they believed and put their faith in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit “sealed” the new believer.
This word literally meant to “set a seal upon” or “to mark a thing”. (See Strongs #4972) The Greek word is “sphragizo” and is linked to the idea of using a signet ring or other instrument to stamp in order to show ownership.
Interesting Fact: This sealing is said to have sometimes been done in antiquity by the use of religious tattoos.
So, we see that as believers we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. However, when we follow that into verse 14 we gain an even greater depth of understanding to what that really means:
“…(The Holy Spirit) which is the earnest of our inheritance…” Ephesians 1:14a
The word “earnest” here is “the downpayment” or “the money pledged until the full payment can be made”. In other words, Jesus tells us that He will be returning and that He is leaving something (or Someone) with us until His return. This understanding brings Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14:15-18 into a clearer understanding.
He is our downpayment. Jesus is sure to return and He wanted us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit until His return. He tells us in John 14:18 that He won’t leave us as orphans. No matter how alone you may feel today, you are not. Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit.
So, how does this scripture affect our lives? What can we apply to our life today because of it?
1. As a Christian, you are NEVER alone. No matter how you feel, it is important to remind yourself that the Holy Spirit is there. Call on Him to help you in your times of questioning or loneliness or fear.
2. Look at the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5. This is the production of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Measure your life to this list and pray for this “fruit” to be evident in your life.
3. Jesus is coming soon. Revelation 22:7. Don’t forget it. The Holy Spirit is but a deposit for that which is to come.
Be encouraged today and strive to embrace the Holy Spirit and all that He has for you!
Until next time… love God and love others and live your life to the fullest!
Face it… we need it in our lives. I love simple things because they help me focus in and look at what is really important. I find myself continually being tugged in a million different directions and this can cause me to not focus on the deeper things of life. Simplicity allows me to do just that… get deeper.
When I find someone or something that allows a greater simplicity to be cultivated in my spiritual life, I am overwhelmed with joy. I need a simple faith to rise in me each and ever day. Being a spiritual leader, it’s important that we don’t forsake “simple faith” for “weighty issues” that can distract us and even pull us away from Jesus… our “first love”.
So, this is my song of simplicity today. There’s not much to it… but there is SO MUCH to it also. Take a listen. Close your eyes. Let the words become your words. Let your heart connect with God. Ask the question… “If I give it all to you, will you make it all new.”
His whisper today is simply this… “Yes”. (2 Cor. 5:17)
“If I give it all to you will You make it all new?”
“If I open up my hands will You fill them again?”
Well, a lot has happened in the past few days and there is so much that I can share on. I decided to start with the one thing that I’ve been surrounded with for the last few days… Alaskan Wildlife.
I have seen SO MANY animals! Let me just highlight a few that I’ve had the honor to come face to face with:
For the moose’s entire story, check out my previous post here.
To read more about this little guy and his message to the world, “CHEEP!” (including the day I almost died), click here.
REINDEER or CARIBOU.
These guys were behind the fence at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center . That velvet on their antlers will be gone when it’s time to mate. This is a time when you DO NOT want to meet a reindeer in the wild. If you come between a male and his little lady… you are going to get hurt!
A symbol of America! Majestic, strong and a picture of power.
This thing is a BEAST! I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark field.
RED FOX: (No, I’m not talking about the guy from Sanford and Son!)
This guy is kicking it in the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
A large portion of these bison will be reintroduced into Alaskan wilderness in spring of 2015. A species has been revitalized and saved.
These guys are hungry, hungry, hungry. They came running!
Finally, we came face to face with the most terrifying and vicious beast in Alaska…
THE GREAT XANDER BEAR!
In Alaska, I am continually experiencing things that I have never experienced before. From the food that I am eating to the places that I’ve been seeing… every day is awe inspiring. The other day, I also experienced another first in my life. I came face to face with a wild moose.
We had seen so many different animals, but the one that we still hadn’t seen was a moose. Everyone around me tells me that they can often be seen on the roadways… however, I hadn’t seen one yet. This was a fact that I was lamenting when my 14 year old looked out the window and said, “Oh My! Look at that!”
What he had seen out the window was none other than a moose! From my window, this is what I saw:
I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening! I mean… a wild MOOSE!
So, I had to get a better view. This caused me to travel down the stairs, out of the house and into the backyard. I was worried that the moose would run away, so I was very sneaky (don’t underestimate my sneakiness) and was able to reach the moose. Check out the video here:
It was incredible to see him. After I figured out that he wasn’t going to run away, I became much more brazen. My wife and kids were watching from the upstairs window and all I hear from my nine year old was, “Come on dad! You can get closer than that!” Well, this simply empowered me to get closer and closer and closer.
As I am getting closer, I hear my wife say, “Get away Greg! Get away! It says here that more people die from Moose attacks in Alaska than Bear attacks.”
“Thanks for the advice, dear, now that I’m about 4 feet away.”
When the moose was far enough away, we let the kids outside to see him.
Later, this moose came back and made his way to the front yard. We were literally just a few feet away.
Well, I have to tell you that I felt so blessed to have had this opportunity and honored to be able to share it with you. Coming face to face with a moose is a memory that I won’t quickly forget.
I love being a dad! It’s the greatest! On Father’s Day, it’s important to take time to remember the little things.
You know… the handmade cards, the infinite questions, the “crunchy coffee”.
If you are looking for a smile today, take two and a half minutes to watch this video:
I hope that made you smile!
Happy Fathers Day!
I need to begin this blog post by letting you know that the simple words that I am about to use have absolutely NO reflection on what I experienced yesterday. Words can’t describe the beauty and majesty and awesomeness of the journey that I went on. I will try to capture a few experiences for you… but just know that I will only tap into about 10% of what it really was.
“So, yesterday I went on a hike.”
Those words sound simple… easy…. relaxing… fun. They don’t reflect the reality on what really happened. Let me try it again.
“So, yesterday I tasted death, breathed in life and explored an area that most will never see with their own eyes.”
The second sentence sounds a little truer to reality.
I hiked a mountain from sea level to over 3,000 feet. I went from sunny green to pure white snow. I breathed thin air and explored a hidden waterfall. I saw mines and wildlife and purity. Here are a couple photos of the journey.
There were many different things that took place during this hike. From the wonderful guys that I was able to hike it with to the sheer beauty and massiveness of God’s creation around me, I was speechless. Here are a couple cool stories from the mountain.
As we stood on the trail taking in the sheer awesomeness of our surroundings, we heard a sound that pierced through the silence. It was loud and sounded just like this… “CHEEP!” It was startling and I immediately turned to the sound. I looked over… then down… and saw this little creature staring up at me…
This little animal is called a “marmot“. It looks a lot like a praire dog and is super cute. It would pop his head up and look at us. We were only a few feet away. After a few minutes it would throw it’s butt up into the air and dive into its hole. A few seconds later, he would pop up in a new hole. We spent some time taking photos and we were super still… enjoying the moment.
Then comes the story that my wife doesn’t want to read. So, if you are married to me… skip to the next story. But, if not, read on!
There are different ways to climb over a mountain. There is the well trodden path and then there is the “other path”. Robert Frost made this path so tempting in my favorite poem, “The Road Not Taken“, however when you are on that road… you may discover why no one takes it.
We chose the “waterfall route”. This would be the “road not taken” by most. I, at the beginning, was incredibly excited about this route. I love waterfalls. I love adventure. And… how hard could it be?
This waterfall was MASSIVE! Let me give you a better perspective on this “waterfall”. See if you can find the person in this photo…
Now, this waterfall plummets double what you see. It is huge! We hiked around the corner that you see at the base of that waterfall. The waterfall continues up through that crevasse. This is the point where the story gets a little crazy.
Once we go around this corner we have to climb up a steep incline to get over this mountain. Now, I say “steep incline” and you may not understand. This is steep and loose rock. You are holding on to loose rock and climbing up a mountain. Oh… and did I mention that if you slip, you fall down that waterfall. Yes… hundreds of feet to a cold, Alaskan death.
We get halfway up and we have to move sideways on the edge of cliff on loose rocks for a space of about 25 feet. Needless to say, I was praying extra hard in that moment. I could feel the small gravel that sat on a steep incline that held me up from death moving under my feet and hands. I talked with God. I made deals with God. I searched my soul and confessed my sins and balanced two thoughts in my mind… “What on earth are you doing Greg!?!?!” and “This is stinking awesome!!!!”
This is the epitome of my life. I am continually wavering between those two thoughts in my mind. I look at what I have done, am doing and want to do and there is a balance between terror and elation in my heart. It is an incredible rush and I love it.
Well, since you are reading this you know that I didn’t die. I made it to the other side with limbs shaking and breathing deep breaths. I thought my story was over… but really it was just beginning.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
After I made it through “devil’s crossing” (this is what I have affectionately named that spot), I still had to climb up a steep mountain which could lead to my death, but I was reassured by my guide Chase that I was to hold on to the moss. Yes… my friends… MOSS! That stuff which people slip on all the time. This is my life line. This is what I am white knuckled holding on to as I picture my plummet… and the heart attack that is sure to follow… in my mind.
I make it nearly to the top and am about 5 feet away when I see my two friends being incredibly quiet and pointing to something. It was at this moment that I see the mountain goat which is only three feet away from them. This NEVER happens! People climb mountains for weeks and never see a mountain goat and here we are only three feet away. With flowing hair and two sharp horns it looks at them and then looks at me.
Now, let me tell you what went through my mind… “Here I am cheating death and climbing up a cliff hanging on to moss and I have made it to the top. At this pinnacle moment of my life, God has brought a mountain goat to charge at me and buck me off the top of this mountain.” I don’t know if this was a mixture of fear and adrenaline pouring into my frontal lobe or what… but it is truly what I thought.
So, here I am in the midst of this magical moment, clinging to the moss under shaking legs and the goat heads to me. I knew that I needed to capture this moment. I couldn’t let it pass before my eyes. So, with one hand clinging to the moss, I slowly reach into my pocket, grab my Iphone and take this video…
Needless to say, that was AWESOME!
At the top of this hike we were over 3,000 feet. It was covered in snow with a glacier lake. There was a small structure where you can stay if a storm sneaks up on you. I won’t waste your time with words… check out some photos from the top.
So, we hiked past the top in order to see a glacier. This is my second glacier in two days and I feel incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity. The glacier was beautiful! Here are a couple pics from the glacier. The glacier is circled in first photo and the second one is one of my hiking partners named Caspar.
Well, that’s enough for now. I hope you enjoyed! Have a great day and remember… “Live Life to the Fullest!”
The rains have come, the clouds have descended and the great times continue to roll.
Here’s the break down of the past few days…
Woke up and went to church. We chose a church that is only about 10 minutes from where we are staying. It is called “The Crossing” and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The kids went to the kids ministry and we were able to go to the main sanctuary for worship and the word. The worship team was great and I got a lot from the message.
After church we headed back to the house and then went back to downtown Anchorage for day two of Luis Palau and “Love Alaska“. There were even more people there on the second day. We walked around, the kids had their faces painted, we watched a ventriloquist, played on some inflatables, watched Lincoln Brewster perform and then listened to Luis Palau and his son Andrew.
Andrew shared his story on coming to Christ. He has a book if you’re interested in learning more called “The Secret Life of a Fool“. He did a great job communicating and his dad followed him. Luis Palau was relevant, thoughtful, funny and filled with grace. There were between 10 and 20 thousand people there (I think I heard someone say about 17,000). Many people heard the gospel and made decisions to follow Jesus. I believe that they have the support of around 1,200 congregations that are committed to following up with these people to keep them growing. I was honored to be part of this event.
Zion decided that he wanted to partake in the VBS at the “Crossing” church that we attended on Sunday. So, the day started early. I dropped him off and then went to a coffeeshop called “Jitters”. I spent the morning working on my Father’s Day message for THE PLACE Church this coming Sunday. God gave me some great insight on a portion of scripture found in 1 Corinthians that I am excited to share.
The rain started falling on Monday. Not pouring… just a steady and gentle rain. It was nice. It is amazing because I normally hate rain… but because I live in Arizona, I never see it. Now, I appreciate it and don’t mind when it starts falling on my head.
At the coffee shop, there was a strange guy sitting across from me on his cell phone. He looked like this…
Now, I’m not sure what he was doing under that coat, but I think he should really read my new book called “Porn Again: Breaking the Strongholds of Pornography“.
On the ride home we saw the most beautiful and bright rainbow that I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I could only get a photo of the dimming side, but the other side was brilliant and hiding behind the trees whenever I had my camera.
When we got home we went out back and started throwing around the frisbee. Xander is doing a great job throwing! I wish I was throwing as good as him at the age of five!
That night… some serious Skipbo action. If you’ve never played it… go buy it today. Shoot… buy it here. You can thank me later!
Finally, off to bed with the cloudy skies. It never got dark, but just dim enough and damp enough to offer an incredible sleep environment.
For me, Saturday started out in the way that every perfect day should start… with a run. Running is very therapeutic for me and I try to run every time I’m in a new place. This, however, is a whole new kind of perfect. Running trails specifically leaving from the house where I am staying at… cloud cover providing the perfect 65 degree tempatures… small and steady inclines both up and down. I couldn’t ask for a better place to run. So, I took off and ran about 2.5 miles away from the house, turned around and ran back… finishing at 5.15 miles. A great start to a perfect day.
After finishing the run, we decided to stick around the homestead. We have been running pretty hard lately and knew that it was good to give the kids a break. So, we cozied up in the theatre room and took in the movie “Flushed Away” and some “Full House”. There is nothing like “Full House” on the big screen. My kids were in seventh heaven.
In the afternoon we headed out to downtown Anchorage. Our friends are helping to throw “Love Alaska” which is an event put on by Luis Palau. The event was an incredible success. There were THOUSANDS of people everywhere. Dirtbikes were flying through the air, bands were jamming, kids were bouncing around and games were being played. My kids were having a blast.
They jumped, ran, sang and sucked down some deep fried hotdogs.
We stuck around for my boys to see the band Kutless perform. It was Zion and Xander’s first ever official concert. There was a moment where Zion had his hand lifting praising God, Dylan was singing and Xander was clapping and I said to myself, “This is awesome!” That’s what it is all about… isn’t it? Allowing your kids the opportunity to experience a great time and put another positive memory in their belt. This one… is for both of us.
The best memories are like that. They are for all of us. I will remember that moment and so will they. We will have different perspectives on what made it special… but it will be special for both of us. It wasn’t easy to make this memory come to pass, but it was well worth it and will pay out some incredible dividends in the long run.
Think back through your life… what means the most to you? It’s probably not that car or that house or that thing. Most likely, it is a memory you made with someone who is close to you. It’s that story you tell. It’s the history you’ve made and are making.
So, get ready today… make a memory… create some history… go do something great and fun and memorable. It will surely be worth whatever you invest in it!
p.s. I am trying to learn how to some stand up this summer. I wrote my first jokes. It’s amazing how they just started flowing when I started writing. They crack me up… if that’s all they do… it’s worth it :-D
As many days are spent in Alaska… today we spent the day in the great outdoors. There is so much to see in Alaska and the weather has been absolutely FABULOUS our entire stay so far. The weather has held around 70 degrees during the day with no rain. This is perfect for some outdoor activities and today was one of beauty.
We started out the day staying at our house and hanging around the movie room. We took in a showing of Madagascar, tore up some lunch and headed out the door.
First stop… caffeine. We headed to a cool little spot in Eagle River called “Jitters”. The place was packed with people and over half of them were pint sized. Looking around, I saw that many of them had the same T-shirts on. It was a “Boys and Girls” club and they were all sucking down Frappachinos like they were going out of style. I ordered my regular… a Hazelnut Latte… and found a spot by the fireplace. It was a nice place with a good vibe. I am sure that I will be making a few more stops in this place before my time in Alaska is done.
Next stop was a place called “Thunderbird Falls”. This place was a little more elusive as my GPS took me 20 miles in one direction and then 20 miles in the other direction. I finally received GPS coordinates and set off to make it happen. We parked, plunked $5 in the “honor box” for visiting and headed down the trail.
I was assured that this hike was an “easy hike” by many people. It starts off with a hill that is pretty long and at a steady incline. For me… no problem. However, my wife is six months prego and I kept picturing her going into labor on an Alaskan trail. The bears would be the least of my worries at that point. We pushed through the trail which wasn’t as “easy” as we expected. The falls were beautiful, but the swarms of mosquitoes that were waiting for us at the end of the trail made the waterfall less “amazing”. Between swatting the ones buzzing my ears and killing the ones landing on my neck, I just wanted to squeeze out a few photos and get the heck out of there.
Finally, we made it out of the den of malaria and headed back to the car. Hitting the car, we searched out Yelp for another fun activity. It led us into the heart of Anchorage to a place called “Point Woronzof”.
This spot was amazing. We parked at the top and followed a trail to the bottom. I couldn’t determine which was cooler… the rock beach or the planes that seemed to be landing in the parking lot. The seals actually come up and hang out on this beach, but they were all out fishing or sleeping or watching reruns when we were there. The kids threw rocks into the ocean as we tried to skip oversized boulders across the salty waves. They went “plunk” and disappeared under the liquid… only to be pushed to the shore again.
On our way back we stopped off for some pizza. We went to a cheap little hole in the wall called Napoli’s Pizza. We got crazy and ordered one with gyro meat and feta cheese. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried one of these before… but it was delectable! A new fave… for sure.
Now, I’m back at the house with a lamb meat hangover. It’s been a great day so far. The beauty around me astounds me every moment that I’m here. I appreciate the mountains and the trees and the water and even the mosquitoes! (I’m sure God put them here for some reason).
That’s how you have to look at life sometimes. Sure… the mosquitoes are a pain in my butt. They make me miss out on enjoying a great moment. But, there is some reason for them. And, I have to simply accept that.
We all have mosquitoes in our lives. Maybe they are people or things that seem to steal a little bit from our lives. We didn’t put them there… but they are there. So, we choose what we do with them. Swat them and keep smiling or choose not to leave the house.
Some people never go out because of the bad things or the negative things that “could happen”. They never take a risk or a chance on something bigger because they fear what may happen. They have been bit in the past and never want to be bit again. So… they stay at home. They choose to do nothing and are left wondering why life is so boring.
I want to encourage you to go hiking and get bit. Risk something and fall down. Reach for something and miss. Because, it is only in reaching that you stretch and trying that you do. You only have one life… make it count!
Here’s a random shot of the cute cat who is staying with me. His name is Oscar!