God is in the details

There is an old English idiom, “The devil in the details.”

It refers to the “small things in plans and schemes that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on.”

Scripture tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

We tend to think of God as a big picture kind of guy. A master planner, with an eye on the grand scheme.

We think, He may know what he wants for us, where He wants us to end up, but there is no way He knows all the details that are needed to make that happen for each of us. He must need our “help.”

So we go through our lives worried about the details. Thinking that if we work out the details for ourselves, we will somehow stumble across God’s plan for our lives.

And do we ever stress and obsess over the details. Which usually leads to us coming up with our own plan. A plan with an end game that leads to what we think we want or need out of life.

We have been taught that “God is faithful to those that trust in Him.”

But do we really believe it. Do we trust that God has a plan for us, details and all, or just a vague plan of where he wants us to be.

I take pride in being able to figure out scenarios before they happen. In life and work, I try to “see the whole board” before committing to anything. 

I have spent a great deal of my life trying to figure out God’s plan for me, trying to beat him to the next step and know what is going to happen next. Impatiently looking for just a glimpse, a revelation, of what His plan is.

As I am getting older, I am just realizing the full potential in that statement — “God is Faithful to those that trust in Him.”

You see, we don’t have to figure out the details. We only need to TRUST that He knows what He is doing.

Sure it sounds simple enough, but like so many things in life, it is easier said than done.

Country singer Garth Brooks had a hit song about “Unanswered Prayers.” Looking back at our lives how many times have we thought we had found a good plan for our lives and asked God for help in making it happen. Only to look back later and see just how foolish we were.

Over the years I never lost sight, or doubted that He has a plan for me, but never fully trusted Him to deliver without my help. I always ended up looking at what I thought was a good plan, thinking that somehow I had messed up the details and missed my window. Only to find out that the possibilities were still there, I was just looking out the wrong window.

It stands to reason that if we trust that God has a plan for us, that we should trust that he knows the details. Because if you trust in Him and are Faithful, there will come a time when He may just pull back the curtain a little and give you a glimpse of what is possible.

No matter how many twists and turns your life has taken, no matter how many times you thought you had it figured out, to only be oh so wrong, you may realize His plan goes beyond anything you could ever imagine.

When you see just what his plan entails – at how all the cosmic tumblers fall into place at just the right time – you will stand in awe, and know that He is God.

Because, as it turns out, God is all about the details.

And I am all about the music, so I leave you with a song from my new favorite worship band – Jesus Culture “Your Love Never Fails”

2013: A Time for Everything

As it is written, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

And 2013 was sure a testimony to that.

We had times of joy and celebration, with birthdays and anniversaries, graduations and promotions.

Times of tearing down and times of healing.  Times of gathering, and times to uproot.

We had our time to weep and time to mourn. 

RIP Aunt Darlena Mettler, good friend and colleague Gabe Acosta, old family friends Jim Parsons and Dave Wyant, just to name a few.

And we gathered together and shared the good times and the bad. And God was there, helping us weather the storms and teaching us to dance in the rain.

May the Lord continue to keep you and bless you in the coming year.

Eclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Jason Day and Mike Barnes leading worship at Me's Bible Study

Jason Day and Mike Barnes leading worship at Me’s Bible Study

The Christmas story

LUKE 2:1-20
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Proclamation: Men of Faith — Lineage and Legacy

Last month I attended a session of the Act Like Men conference in Long Beach. The “Act Like Men” comes from one of my favorite Bible verses, I Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be on the Alert, Stand firm in the Faith, ACT LIKE MEN, be strong.”

(On a side note, some translations have the phrase “Be Courageous” rather than “Act Like Men.” I find it outstanding that those two phrases are synonymous.) 

Among the topics discussed at the conference was “Lineage and Legacy”.

The two speakers in the Saturday morning session spoke the Truth to a filled Long Beach Arena. Even if it wasn’t a message that we wanted to hear, it was one we needed to hear.

Mark Driscoll, from Seattle, read from Genesis, the lineage portion following Noah and the flood. It starts with Noah’s sons and goes generation by generation, listing the man, how long he lived and who his son was, over and over again. That is, until it gets to Abraham. God led Abraham and his family away from their past and started something new.

Driscoll asked the question why we don’t have more detail about this long list of men. He said it is because they were all Godless pagans who did nothing worthy of mentioning.

But starting with Abraham, his son Issac, and his son Jacob, God started a new legacy. From that point forward the Bible is filled with references to Abraham. When people ask what God they serve, they say, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Quite the lineage and legacy.

Matt Chandler, from Texas, spoke of his past as a military brat. He said his Dad was a hard man that liked to drink and abuse his wife and kids. Just like his Father before him, and his Father before him.

He talked about how people who grow up with a legacy like that always promise themselves that they will never fall victim to those demons, but as they try and deal with it alone, they fall right back into that trap as that is all they know.

Chandler then talked about the day he found God, or rather God found him. He said because of his relationship with Jesus, his kids are growing up with a Father that is involved with the church, and the community and loves them and loves their Mother. He said it is because of that, the legacy of addiction and abuse he inherited from his Father will die with him. “Thank God, I will take that legacy to my grave,” Chandler said. “My kids will never have to know that ugliness.”

Driscoll also addressed those that, by the grace of God, were not born into such a legacy. Those that were raised in church by Men of Faith. “You guys were born in the Red Zone,” he said, using a football reference to make his point. “You didn’t have far to go to reach the goal. Some of us had further to go, some of us were not even on the field, because our Fathers got drunk in the parking lot during the tailgate party.”

His message was clear, “Never judge a man by where he is, judge him by how far he has come,” Driscoll said.

He carried a big chain onto the stage. Talked about each of us being a link in the chain.

He said many of us are the first chain in the link, starting a new legacy, just like Abraham, and need to set an example that will carry from generation to generation.

Others, he said, may be three or four links down from the start of the chain, but we must be steadfast and live up to the legacy handed down from our Fathers. “Don’t be the weak link!”

As for me, I fall into that latter category. Growing up, involvement in church was all that I knew. Like Bryan Duncan once sang, “I was born on Saturday, and in church on Sunday, and I guarantee I was never late.”

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to thank the Men in my family ad my life for standing firm in the Faith, and acting like Men.

From my Grandfathers Harold Goff and Charles Pennington, to my late Father Edward Ray Goff, God, Family and Church were a way of life. It is all I have known.

And still more Men of Faith have played a huge role in my life.

To my uncles Marvin, Glen and Mark Goff and Dan Mettler on my Dad’s side, and Steve Pennington on my Mom’s side, Thank you all.

To the late great Bob Adcock, thank you for showing me how to live like a man.

To the father’s of my friends, such as Art Cobb, Steve Cope, Roger Green, and the belated Jim Parsons and Dennis Malcolm, thanks you for providing a shining example. (Adding the late Dave Wyant to this list.)

To the mentors at church, like Brad Shearer, Bob Veach and Joe Adcock. Your tireless efforts helping the youth of the area has not gone unnoticed.

To my contemporaries, Robert Cobb, Josh Parsons, and Tom Robinson, you are doing your Fathers’ proud with the leadership role you have taken in church and with your families.

To Brant Hansen, the afternoon DJ on Air1 radio, you may have grown up the geeky kid in class, but the things God is doing through you and Air1 are truly amazing.

To Mike Barnes, your leadership in The Grove men’s group each week is a blessing.

I salute you all, and give Thanks for your inspiration and leadership in my life over the years.

May God continue to keep you and Bless you.

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branthansen dad

Worlds Colliding: The Gabriel Luis Acotsa Effect

The sudden loss of good friend and colleague Gabriel Luis Acosta has me giving a closer examination to how we go about living our lives.

One of the biggest things I have had to deal with was the colliding of two worlds.

In our everyday lives and interactions with people we have spheres of influence. Our friends and family, work, school, etc.

There are people we know that travel in multiple circles, but for a lot of us, those worlds remain apart. As the 90s song suggests, “you gotta keep’em separated.”

I worked with Gabe for 16 years at the San Bernardino Sun newspaper. But we also attended the same church, sitting in worship services and Bible studies together.

Last week I watched as my worlds collided. Church people, family, friends and co-workers all gathered in the same place, interacting with each other.

For some, that kind of event can be a scary thing. A lot of people like to keep their worlds apart because they tend to act differently depending on who they are with.

I have witnessed family and friends tell stories about someone, and co-workers tell their stories, and you have to stop and wonder whether they are talking about the same person.

But as I sat and listed to the everyone tell stories about Gabe, I realized he never had to worry about that.

All of the stories — whether they came from friends, family or co-workers — had a central theme. Gabe was an upbeat, encouraging guy who had three main passions in life — his work (photography), his family and his God. Though not particularly in that order.

You see, it didn’t matter which circle of Gabe’s life you came from, he was the same guy in all of them.

How many of us can say that?

Over the years I have tried to let it be known who I am and what I stand for without beating anyone over the head with it. Something I learned from my Father.

But I am now looking at things with a new perspective. Am I really being my true self with everyone I meet. Or am I holding back for fear of being rejected or ridiculed. Afraid of having that sometimes awkward conversation about God and Faith.

I don’t want to be the guy that when my time comes, people are sharing stories and have someone say, “I never knew that about him,” when it comes to my Faith.

So I leave you with this thought …

If your friends, family and co-workers got together to share stories about you, would they be talking about the same person?

Let your Faith eclipse any fears you might have, you will be amazed what God can do.

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Free at Last — A fresh look at DC Talk’s ground-breaking album more than 20 years later

DcTalkFreeatLast I have an work commute of close to an hour each way. And over the years I have found that it seems to go faster if I crank some of my favorite music (Third Day, Toby Mac, Air1 radio) and I always end up singing along as I drive by myself.

I spent an afternoon with my younger cousins (9 and 11). I took them to an Angels game. More than the game, I was looking forward to the trip in the car, because I knew I could crank my music and look in the back seat and find them singing along with every word.

They seemed to really like Toby Mac, and the Newsboys song “God’s Not Dead.”

I thought I would drop some old-school knowledge on them. I told them that the lead singer for Newsboys, Michael Tait, was once in a group with Toby Mac.

They seemed interested, so I told the older one to look in the case of CDs and pull out the one that was all black with a white silhouette of three guys with their arms in the air. (DC Talk fans will recognize I am talking about “Free at Last”)

I popped in the CD, and watched as he began bobbing his head to the rhythm, listening intently to the words. I started going over the playlist in my head, trying to figure out which song he might really enjoy.

But then it hit me, this might not be the best CD to introduce to a kid. There are no explicit lyrics or anything, but the subject matter is pretty deep.

Socially Acceptable (dealing with societies pressures), That Kind of Girl (finding a Godly mate) The Hard Way (which talks about the struggles of the Christian walk), and I don’t Want It (dealing with the pressure for pre-marital sex).

I quickly faded it out after the opening Love is a Verb, changing back to Air1. Disappointed that I couldn’t fully share music that meant a great deal to me. But they are inquisitive boys, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to answer the questions they were sure to have on the subject matter.

I have spent the last week listening to my DC Talk music. And have a new perspective on Free At Last.

I have always said that album was groundbreaking musically, putting DC Talk on the map. Their previous albums had more of a garage band feel to them, but this was over the top production-wise, putting it on par with anything else that was out there at the time.

I believe it was really a step forward for Christian music, which at the time belonged to greats like Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and Bryan Duncan.

DC Talk opened the door — make that broke the door down — for those that would follow. From Grammy winners Lecrae and Kirk Franklin to KJ-52 and Manafest (both of whom I recently saw on the Air1 Club Awesome Tour) to a whole host of Christian music artists that flood the airwaves of radio stations like Air1 and KLove.

But looking at it again, it was also the lyrics and subject matter that made it so popular. I was a freshman at Biola University in Southern California when Free at Last came out in the Fall of 1992. And the songs on that album really struck a chord with me as well as that 16-25 age range, as we were all dealing with these issues.

Toby Mac, Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith changed the music scene.

I first heard DC Talk in the Spring of 1991 as they opened for Michael W. Smith. At the time, my friends and I had been writing Christian lyrics to some of our favorite songs, and DC Talk blew me away. I bought both of their cassettes that night (Yes, I said cassette tapes).

By the Spring of 1993, Michael W. Smith, one of the top names in Christian music was coming out on tour again, and DC Talk was with him. But all anyone on the Biola campus could talk about was, “Are you going to the DC Talk concert this week?”

They had that big of an impact on that age group, because of the things they were singing about. And, as I found out, not just the younger generations either.

A number of years later, I was visiting my family back east and was telling my uncle, several years my elder, about a book I was reading called, “Under God,” which is about stories of Faith from throughout U.S. history. I told him the book was put together by Toby Mac and Michael Tait. He said, “The DC Talk guys?” I asked what he knew of DC Talk, and he broke out singing the chorus to Time is Ticking from the Free at Last album.

Free at Last became so big, the songs were starting to show up on secular radio stations. And with that came the attention of the the larger music labels.

Toby and Michael have talked about how when the secular labels came calling they all had the same request. “If you could just tone down the message some, you could garner a lot more success.” Michael said that would be the point when Toby would get up and walk out on the meeting.

As they were preparing for their next album, they knew they had to go big. Free at Last raised the bar pretty high.

But how do you top a ground-breaking album, how do you give the fans the “Funky Jesus Music” they crave, all the while sending a message to the power structure that you are not going away?

Two words: JESUS FREAK.

The title track off their next album was a hard-rocking anthem the became the signature song for the group.

But through the success of their later albums (Jesus Freak, Supernatural) the group kept going back to Free at Last and remixing those songs on their tours. The Hard Way was remixed several times and became a fan favorite.

Even as the trio launched solo careers, they would still perform old DC Talk songs, much to the delight of the crowds.

With Michael Tait leading Newsboys and Kevin Max the new voice behind the Audio Adrenaline comeback, fans can only hope they team up with TobyMac for a super tour.

Something I wrote a couple years ago, but still holds true …

A number of years ago, I discovered the Christian Music group THIRD DAY and have been loving them ever since. I will be seeing them in concert for the first time next month in Ontario.

I seem to feel a special connection beyond their lyrics that come off as Christian poetry, and their sweet Southern Rock sound that takes me home. And as I look back over the last 5-6 years of my life I start to find that connection with Third Day. Like a good friend, they always seem to be there with a message I need to hear at that particular time.

Some of those instances …

After spending several years letting my career drag me away from attending church on a regular basis, I was finding my way back, listening to Air1 radio and kept hearing Third Day’s “Come on back to Me” what seemed like every hour on the hour. I went back to Magnolia Ave. Baptist that week only to have the guest speaker preach on the Prodigal son.

A year or so later, my Father, who lived on the other side of the country, suffered a stroke, and I was unable to see him for several months. Not long after that his mother, who was also in West Virginia, passed away. I found myself on a red-eye flight to Ohio and a three-hour drive into West Virginia, listening to Third Day the whole way. The “Wherever you are” album had just come out and I listened to that CD over and over and found a common theme of Hope and Inspiration throughout the album, including their hit “Cry out to Jesus.”  I managed to make it through a rough week with a funeral and some quality time with my Dad.

In 2007, just as I was ready to go back and buy some of Third Day’s older albums, they released a pair of Chronology albums with songs from their first 10 years. I drive by myself most of the time and have a habit of turning the music up loud and singing along. It was while I was enjoying these albums that included live shows of their worship songs, that I got news that my Father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. I again found myself on a red-eye flight to Ohio and a lengthy car ride to West Virginia. I spent the better part of a month in West Virginia watching my Dad slowly fade away. Listening to Third Day’s music became my way to cope. One night on a trip from Ohio to West Virginia I broke down emotionally while trying to sing along with the CD, I actually had to pull the car over. and it wasn’t the song I thought it would be.

Third Day had a live version of “Blessed Assurance,”  my Father’s favorite Hymn, but that wasn’t what triggered the breakdown it was “Creed.”  With the lyrics “And I believe what I believe, is what makes me what I am.”  I came to the conclusion that I believe what I believe because my Father believed what he believed. After that night I was able to make it through the week and was at peace a week later when my Father passed.

The following spring, Third Day released a new album “Revelation,” filled with songs about finding your place and what God has planned for you. Still at a loss following my Father’s death, which occurred 20 years after my Mother’s, I found myself looking for God to do something special. It was more than me looking, I had a sense that something was on the horizon, I just knew something was going to happen and could not wait. I was looking for a glimpse, for a … Revelation. In a year of constant change, despite layoffs, downsizing and furloughs, I managed to stay positive and even managed to stay employed as my chosen profession began to spiral downward.

Recently I have taken stock in my life, while also reflecting on the lives of my parents. I have had so many conversations with people over the years about how my parents helped shape their lives. Twenty years after her passing, the mention of my Mom’s name brought together two people on a Mission trip in Cambodia. For too long I have let my career define me and rule my life and I am looking to shed that image and make a difference in my world.

As I struggle to find my place, I prepare to head to a concert with Third Day, Toby Mac (another one of my favorites) and Michael W. Smith. Almost on cue, Third Day will drop a new album that week titled “Move.” I have heard two tracks off the new CD, “Lift up your face (Salvation is calling your name)”  and “Make your Move.” … Well, that sounds about right.

Since I wrote this, Third Day has released another album, “Miracle.” Once again filling my head with their trademark Southern sound, speaking such great Truth with their lyrics.

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Third Day — The Soundtrack of My Life