Friday, August 27, 2010

Some More Crazy Times

It's been a while since I've posted because as what has become the norm in the Eaton family, life has been crazy. I posted a couple of months ago about the Past Mile of life and how it had been hard with some family tragedy. Well I can honestly say we have not lived through any more tragedies, but just the weight and repercussions of those experiences. In with that has been even more "things" that have weighed us down. Having to fix another busted water pipe to starting school mixed in with other disappointments and burdens has wore us down even more. I even told my mom one day this week that I'm near accepting the fact that hardly anything will ever really go our way. As I sit here typing, mind completely frazzled, my body feeling like it has been pushed way beyond its limits I have to still be thankful. I am thankful for what I do have. I know that we are supposed to be thankful for the trials we face since it produces endurance (James 1:4). However I will be honest and say that at the moment I am not very thankful for these trials. Things could definitely be worse, I know that. But currently it is hard to see the outcome of the big picture. Though that is case currently, I want to list the things in my life that I am thankful:

-my wife- she's the greatest ever
-my close family- mom, dad, sister and her husband, nieces and nephew
-my cousin Josh's heart surgery was a success
-close friends who actually support me
-the beautiful weather we have been experiencing- I'm sitting in the library of TWC's campus and looking out the window it is just beautiful. I'm thankful for the time I have been able to spend on this wonderful campus.
-my Jeep- we've been able to experience this beautiful weather greatly with the top down.
-my salvation- the fact that Jesus would die for me is overwhelming. Especially when I consider how much I take Him for granted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fresh Start Part 3

We finished this week the final part of the Fresh Start series focusing even more this week on prayer. We spent the night worshiping through song and praying for specific areas including: praying for each other in the room, lost friends, teachers and administrators, and for ourself in taking a stand for Christ this school year. After that I got the students who had graduated high school and are transitioning into college/jobs and college ministry to sit in chairs up front. I took a moment to encourage and challenge them and then we had a time for anyone who wanted to could pray over them individually. I challenged these students that they would cling to Jesus, stay firm in Him, and that they would allow God to direct their hearts, reading 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sense of Entitlement

My wife has been extremely busy at work lately as they have been having registration for the upcoming school year. She works in the Financial Aid office and so she has been dealing with many many people as they get their finances straight before classes begin. One thing that has frustrated her is when people haven’t done the necessary paperwork, etc. for their funds but complain anyway. Especially when it might be a small amount that makes little or no difference. I used to work in the Financial Aid office of another college and I remember students getting upset about $500 when they hadn’t done what was necessary to receive it. They get upset like they are entitled to the money. They are not entitled to anything unless they do what is necessary to obtain it.

This has been hard for her as she wants to say (but is professional and does not) to them that it is not as important as they are making it out to be. When a student has complained about something like this she wants to respond “yeah and I don’t have a dad anymore because he just passed away”. I deal with the same things in my position where people feel they are entitled to something and the truth is they are not.

What we must all realize is that we are not entitled to anything. We are not even entitled to salvation by Jesus Christ, but He freely gives it because He loves us. I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that leads us to believe that we are entitled anything in life. What I read is that we are to humble ourselves and serve others. I know personally that when I allow myself to fall down this past that it leads to more sin in my life.

This is just something to consider today. Are you living your life with expectations that you are owed or entitled to anything? My prayer is that you humble yourself and be the bondservant that you are called to be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fresh Start- Part 2

We continued the Fresh Start series this week by thinking about "Facing the Future". We again read Isaiah 6:1-8 but focused mainly on verse 8. Isaiah not only says that he will go for God but he exclaims "I will go!". Sometimes we may still do something for God but not necessarily do it joyfully. Remember when as a kid your parents might ask if you would want to help with a certain chore and you were really excited to help out. Or maybe you were in a setting where someone asked for a volunteer and you raised your hand and really wanted to help out or do whatever task was at hand. Well I believe this is how Isaiah was reacting here to God's question of "Whom shall I send?". Isaiah didn't simply say "God I'll go do this for you". Instead he put emotion into it with an exclamation mark! I believe Isaiah was in essence saying with excitement that he would go, give it his all, and be in awe that God would use him.

This year each student will have opportunities to follow God daily. God will be leading them, and each one of us to carry out His will. We can either simply reject following God, do what He wants but do it as a chore, or we can do it full of joy. We closed the night by spending some time spread out and quiet, asking God to examine our hearts in prayer. Then each person had a note card to write down: 1) their goals for this next year, and 2) how they plan to accomplish these goals. My desire for these students, myself, and anyone who reads this is that we will set goals to follow God, and do it with a heart full of joy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our A/C Is Broken

This summer has been an extremely hot one here in Tennessee. One thing that I am thankful for daily is air conditioning. We've been fortunate in our own home that our air conditioner tore up at the beginning of summer but what was only supposed to be a temporary fix has lasted so far. Our A/C in one of our vehicles has went out twice but we think we have it fixed this time. When we were at Centrifuge camp back in June the air conditioner in the boys dorm room did not work well and so here is a video we made about it and what we attempted to do to let others know about our "misery".

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fresh Start- Release the Past

This past Wednesday night we began a short series titled "Fresh Start". The new school year is here, actually our local schools started today. Some may hate or love it when the new school year begins. I for one always hated because I despised school my whole life including now, but that's not the topic at hand. Each year as students in school they have the opportunity to begin anew. In other words the previous year or years may have not went exactly like they wish they had. They may have made mistakes they wish they could take back. Their reputations may be of a different character than they want now. But with a new school year, you can decide to make a change. You can make a fresh start.

The scripture listed on the picture is Isaiah 43:19. This takes place while the Jews were in exile in Babylon. Years earlier they had been delivered out of slaver in Egypt and now they should not only live in that victory, but look ahead to future victories as well. They must look at the road that God would provide them in the wilderness. As this school year approaches there may be times in the wilderness, but we have to look ahead for the road that God is paving for us.

We took at look at Isaiah 6:1-8, which we also did earlier this year in one message of the Crazy Love series but this time we're taking a different focus. When Isaiah had the vision of God he realized his uncleanliness. He realized his sinned and desired change. The hot coal is a symbol of the purification that takes place when we confess our sins to God and turn to Him.

We spent the last several minutes of the night with the students scattered around the youth house in prayer. They had a note card to write on the answer to the following question: What would you change about yourself from the past school year?" We spent some time examining our hearts and writing the things that we want to release in order to move forward. I challenge you to do the same as well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

God's Revelation- Part 3

I want to talk about one more aspect of God’s revelation and that is confusing what God is saying as opposed to what you want Him to say. This is one thing that can either make me laugh or make me really frustrated. Funny because I have heard some ridiculous things that people have said that God has told them to do. Frustrated because people have said to me what they “think” God wants me to do.

Let’s think about the first one. I have heard people say that God is leading them to do something that is obviously not something that God would lead them to do. So I believe this is the first thing you need to consider when listening to God: Does what He is saying line up with His Word? If what you believe He is saying contradicts or does not line up with the Bible then He isn’t saying it to you! Secondly, is what you say or think God is saying to you actually only what you want Him to say? There are many things in my life that I wish God would say to me or lead me to do but He isn’t and so those are paths I cannot travel.

Now for the other things that can be frustrating. Sometimes people take it upon themselves to share with someone else what God is leading them to do. This is an area where you have to be extremely careful. God gives people the gift of prophecy, which is speaking the Word of God boldly and proclaiming His truths. This can include but is definitely not exclusive to telling individuals such things as what you believe God is saying to them. God may lead you to do this, but you have to know for sure that this is true. You have to ask yourself those questions in the last paragraph: “Does it contradict the bible? & Is it what you want instead of what God wants?” I am afraid that people sometimes might speak to others this way and be totally out of line, while at other times they may be spot on. The thing is you have to be extremely careful here. I know that I have been offended and frustrated by others in the past when they told me “what they thought God was telling me”. The truth is it either didn’t line up with God’s Word or it was totally what they wanted themselves.

I just wanted to share one final aspect of God’s revelation that was on my heart and encourage you to always consider these areas when you sense God is speaking to you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

God's Revelation- Part 2

Today I want to share another time in my life when God revealed Himself to me through special revelation. I am not exactly sure why I feel the need to share this, but I know that I do not always have know why God is leading me to do something. One of the ways that God reveals Himself in special revelation is through dreams. Now this is one you have to be careful with. If we took every dream we have as believing it was God speaking then we would probably all do some crazy things. I know that I can speak for myself in saying that I have had some pretty ridiculous dreams. However there was one time that I know for sure that God was speaking to me.

My call into ministry was pretty wild when I think about it. I struggled with the call for a while, and even took a different job trying to avoid it. However I remember knowing for sure that God was calling me into ministry, specifically youth ministry at Clearwater at the time. I made it known that this was what God was calling me to do, but it was a long process (which I now know was preparation and a time for me to cling to God). However through this long process I doubted myself, I doubted that God was calling me, and I doubted that it would work out. It was pretty incredible all the different ways that God spoke to me during these several months, but one in particular I will never forget.

My granny had died unexpectedly in February 2008. A couple of months later I had a dream that was so real that I remember so much of it in extreme detail. I won’t share everything in it, but the gist was that in my dream I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with my granny as we walked and talked about a few things, including a little about my confusion of God calling me into ministry and my doubts concerning it. As we were talking about these things my granny looked at me with a big smile and said “Nathan, it’s all going to work out”. I woke up knowing that this was a way that God was speaking to me and confirming in me what He had already revealed. There were so many other details in the dream that were vivid letting me know that this was a message from God.

I want to be careful in sharing this because I think we need to be careful in believing that God may be speaking to us through a dream. Like I said earlier I have personally had some crazy dreams in my life and know that they would have led me to do crazy things if for one moment I believe God was speaking in them. I know that God has never spoken to me in any other dream than this. Also there was definitely no doubt that He was speaking to me in this one. Again I don’t know why I felt the need to share this on my blog, but I have wanted to for some time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

God's Revelation- Part 1

I think the toughest questions I have ever been asked are “How do I know God is speaking to me?” and “How do I hear from God?”. There is definitely no easy or quick answer. It has especially been tough when a non-Christian or someone who has never been exposed to church asks this. God speaks to us in so many ways and that is so exciting when you think about it.

I have learned that the ways that God speaks to us can be placed into two broad categories: General Revelation and Special Revelation. These are the two broad categories of the way God reveals Himself to us. It’s interesting because my first series I did with the students was “Glory Revealed”, then at one point I did a series simply called “Reveal”, which is also this years See You At the Pole theme. I think one of the biggest ways some may confuse God speaking is with emotions. Usually our emotions are not a good indicator of what God is saying because our emotions are fickle and can’t be trusted.

General revelation is very broad and can be broken into three categories itself: the universe, the conscience, and God’s providence. Special revelation on the other hand is the direct communication from God to mankind. There are several ways that God has revealed Himself or still does reveal Himself through special revelation. These include: the actual voice of God, theophanies (the appearance of God in a physical or visible sense), God’s activity throughout history, dreams, visions, the lot, the urim and thummim (Exodus 28:30), angels, prophets, object lessons or illustrations (why it’s so important to listen in church), the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Bible. Now I know this seems like a seminary lesson but I want to share a few instances of how God has spoken to me.

I want to share in this post about how God revealed Himself to me just yesterday. As I have shared previously, these have been extremely difficult and emotional times for us and as I mentioned earlier it can be tough to distinguish when God is speaking during emotional times. Well with that it has been hard for me to find motivation for some things and to be honest I have been frustrated with a few things and experienced some confusion. I decided to spend a couple hours at my favorite coffee shop Java on the Square and do some studying as I prepared for the next few Wednesday nights. It seemed that as soon as I opened my Bible, read some scripture and some notes I had on my computer that God really began speaking to me. I was trying to figure out what to do as a back to school series and what I wanted to convey to the students regarding making this year a fresh start if the past year(s) hadn’t been so great for them. God led me to the right scripture for it. I have used this scripture in Isaiah 6 earlier this year but we are going to focus on a different portion of it than before. Not only that but when I had been in Isaiah 6 earlier this year I felt God revealing Himself to me then. It was incredible getting that confirmation that it is where we need to spend a few weeks. Then all of the sudden a special song comes on the radio that confirms what God is speaking to me even more. This along with a couple of cool conversations with people in the coffee shop even more grounded in me the things that I knew God was saying to me. I know the explanation seems very generic and I feel it needs to be. I guess I could say that my exhaustion, emotions, and taking to heart some hurtful things that people have said have led me to doubt some things. But in this moment God gave me a peace about what I was sensing He was revealing to me. I was overwhelmed by the way God was speaking to me and the peace He was providing and found it difficult to not cry while sitting in the coffee shop. I want to share this with you not to say “look at me and the encounter I had with God” as to brag about it. Instead I want to say cling to God and He will reveal Himself to you. I want to encourage you if you are struggling with hearing from God, to continue to listen for Him to reveal Himself. I don’t have all the answers just yet, but know that He will reveal them to me as I need them.