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Circumstances for Clapping Hands is a blog about reasons to give praise to God, despite my circumstances. As Henry David Thoreau once addressed, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” The challenges: 1) Find value in everything you do and 2) Find joy in doing it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Sigh of Relief...

I know it's been well over a month since I last added to my blog, but simply put, when one gets a new job, everything else slows down.

With that, this past month has been truly amazing. Making a return to teaching, at a school I once was employed at (years ago) has been a tremendous honor. Furthermore, re-connecting with former students and seeing both their maturity and faith grow to unbelievable heights has been uniquely special.

My very first class of seventh graders are now seniors, and I have never been prouder. Like a parent excited for their child, I find myself in a similar state of mind (however a sibling relationship may be a more appropriate comparison.)

Having the opportunity to see former students living close to Christ daily would always bring a huge smile to any Bible teacher's face. This is my experience everyday!!! God has blessed me with this experience...just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What It Means To Be Still...

I've always heard people say, "Just be still and let God work." What an absolutely amazing line, but how often do people really understand it, let alone do it?

For me, this line has been the essence of my Summer. Actually it can be traced way back to our most recent Spring. In such time I have seen God push, pull, stretch, press, and challenge me beyond imagination. Furthermore, my overall sense of Pride has been abandoned and replaced with a heavy load of Humility. Likewise, this summer has opened my eyes to the clearest of truths. Simply put, when God opens a door, who am I too shut it in refusal?

Not to say that walking through it would be an easy task, I believe it to be quite the contrary. In fact I have found each door to be uniquely different in weight and size, yet I have still managed to fit through safely, only to find a new challenge on the other side.

It's here where the lessons have been learned. What makes a person better is their ability to trust God through any process, no matter the difficulty. I've learned that the immediate will (most likely) be difficult during any type of change, perhaps even unbearable for the common man. But that's just it! I now know that with God, I am not like the common man.

Phil 4:13: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Perhaps undervalued due to its repeated use, but very true nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Down & Out?

"When mistakes are made, even serious ones, there is always another chance. What we call failure is not falling down but the staying down." - Mary Pickford

I don't often give much credence to verbiage shared by Hollywood, yet I think Ms. Pickford hits it on the nose. As I'm sure it happens much in an actor's life, so to does failure affect the Christian's walk daily.

But how does failure really influence us? It's simple, by discouraging us to try again. I know the feeling, I've experienced it daily. Whether it be by way of occupation, relationships, or other, we fail everyday.

Our biggest failure to date however, might be one we often overlook. A daily search for forgiveness from the only true provider of such.

I've realized lately that as Christians we do take for granted personal forgiveness. How often do we actually stop and ask for forgiveness after a sin, big or small? Truth is not very often, thus neglecting an important exercise in our daily relationship with God. In forgetting to do so, I believe we mis-out on some future blessings designed specifically for us?

Just a thought or two...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting It Right...

Recently, I’ve taken interest in the severity of different types of sin. I know many would say that some sins are worse than others, while more would say, “sin is sin.” Leaving that topic for another day, one sin often displayed throughout the Bible that I find most interesting is that of Pride. Easily recognizable then, it is still very prevalent in today’s world as well.

Proverbs 6:16-19 states, "These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren."

This passage caught me a bit off-guard. Considering every offense that God detests and endures from His creation, the first on the list is pride.

As I’ve continued my daily Bible reading, the Old Testament refers to numerous kings who suffered from their inability to be humble. King Hezekiah (2 Kings), who I read about today, even after faithfully serving the Lord throughout his life fell prey to the consequences of pride. After showing the Babylonian visitors his abundance in wealth, his kingdom was eventually “ran-sacked” by the Babylonian Empire.

In the New Testament, pride is the sin that caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, choosing rather to follow personal interests instead of Old Testament prophesies.

Think about this. How often does pride rear its ugly face during the course of our day? More often than not, I would bet we put ourselves in situations where pride controls what could be a promising situation.

Take some time to examine yourself, especially your heart. Take some notice as to how you react when criticized. Is your initial reaction anger and/or resentment or a willingness of acceptance and a desire to improve?

Truth is, we have influence over our reactions. Perhaps more so than we’d like to believe. With God’s help, our ability to control prideful behavior and actions becomes more promising. As God humbled himself for us, perhaps we should humble ourselves to His word(s).

* Some thoughts found within this post were shared by Sovereign Grace Bible Church.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Purpose In Prayer

I’ve once heard it said, “In the midst of uncertainty, God always remains certain.”

The Bible is full of situations and circumstances where individuals encounter varying levels of uncertainty. Some endured ridicule, others starvation, and many more the threat of injury or loss of life. What I find most interesting, is that when levels of uncertainty intrude upon our daily activities, we miss the opportunity to learn from biblical examples.

What’s the point? A frustrating truth that has taken hold within many Christian circles is the notion that God equals immediate prosperity. But biblically, that’s not always the case.

Moses and his time spent communicating with God, never physically entered the Promised Land. Job in all his faith was agonizingly tortured, Jeremiah beaten, Zechariah stoned, and even the disciples were ridiculed. Why? I believe to prove that prayer reveals God's plan for you...not necessarily your plan for you.

One important point I would like to make clear is that the action of prayer, though always offering an immediate response, does not always offer one that is agreeable to you. The purpose of living by faith is to improve our trust, most noticeably towards God’s opinion or plan. Through the act of prayer, God reveals himself more intimately, and his plan for our lives.

By living God’s will, many who faced difficulty have been blessed for their faith. No, not immediately but eternally and that’s the point. By living simply and following God, each was exalted. I believe the author of the book of Hebrews said it best when he remarked, “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” This is a pivotal statement when examining the value of prayer. Perhaps we should listen to what is being said, even if it’s not what we want to hear. Even better, perhaps we should follow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Slapped In the Face...

It's not often that a person blatantly ignores God. Or is it?

This morning I read of a dream Solomon had while King of Israel. Having been made both wealthy and wise, he had flourished under the guidance of the Lord, yet still found a way to fail.

In the dream God praised Solomon for his service, but warned him of the harsh consequences should he choose to follow other gods. Simply put: follow the God, live well-worship other gods, lose lots.

A command told via dream that couldn't be questioned. An edict so simple, it couldn't be misunderstood. Yet, in the end it was ignored and the nation of Israel was punished through a series of unfortunate events.

Think about this: How often do you ignore a simple command that leads to a harsh consequence?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

God Did What?

For the past week I've committed myself to reading the Bible daily. Though done numerous times, I have found this particular endeavor quite enjoyable. Reading familiar stories of Saul, David, and Solomon (you guessed it...I'm reading 2 Samuel) it's amazing how (though familiar) each story offers new insight.

The notion of God's forgiveness comes to mind. How often do we actually think about the fact that God forgives ALL sins? What's more, how often do we really appreciate God for his ACT of forgiveness?

Even well before the crucifixion, we see God's grace and mercy for his people. David alone could attest to this. Chosen to succeed Saul, David was blessed beyond imagination, but through one deceitful action (with Bathsheba) he suffered multiple consequences. Yet, God still continued to bless him post affair. Even more astounding was David's ability to recognize God's favor throughout (the good and bad.)

How often do we stop to see God working in our lives (even through the bad times)? Do we ever really think that God can take something bad and use it for good? Based on previous events I believe He can, after all He did with Solomon (David and Bathsheba's son).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Holding Your Breath...

It's truly amazing to witness growth (especially when it involves you.)

Recently I have been waiting for "something" to happen. Without any description, let's just say it is something I have prayed for awhile. In past years, I would have worried myself sick, wondering, waiting, trying to control (what is) an uncontrollable situation.

Besides biblical support, including wisdom gained from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and such, I attribute many of my lessons learned regarding patience and happiness to my lovely wife. Her ability to not only understand my feelings, but serve as a human voice for the Holy Spirit has been remarkable.

It's amazing that after six years of marriage, I can now say, "whatever happens-happens for a reason." Trust me, we all want things to go a certain way, but God has a better plan. Yes I will continue my wishful thinking, but I will also enjoy every step of my walk with the Lord too.

Question: Who has proven to be a "rock of stability" or a "calming voice" for you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Special Day...

I'm going to jump off the (biblical) topics that have filled previous posts and reflect on what a wonderful day I had spent with my lovely wife.

As a teacher when faced with a long period of time off, its easy to get excited about the prospects with regards to things possible. However, with financial struggles facing so many, it's been easy for Lindsey and I to relate. With that in mind, our two loves unexpectedly collided, producing a wonderful day.

Lindsey's love of art and mine of driving, allowed us to experience a day of fun in the sun, resting and sitting at the beach. More wonderful, was that my wife got to paint the action at the beach.

It's a tremendous joy to see a loved one experience pure happiness. For my wife, fulfilling that is easy. Show her love through words and action. Today, I got to tell her I love her and show her the same. A day well spent and a true blessing for sure!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Other Side of Damascus...

Today at church I had the privilege of listening to one of the best speakers I've heard with reference to ministry. Francis Chan, who my ears first encountered way back during my years at Biola, spoke via video message this morning from his home church of Cornerstone Community (Simi Valley).

The topic was simple, "God is strong." His purpose, to speak with reference to our perspective of God when dealing with "life". After listening to a multitude of people speak on similar topics in past, Chan's vivid description of this topic can be summarized in three valued points.

- Where is our focus? Too often we limit God's strength by our own definition of power. (Example: If we can't control it, God surely can't either.)
- Where is our faith? Similarly, we try to remove God's sovereignty from our daily lives, replacing it with the idea that WE are in control.
- Where is our confidence? Finally, we disable our ability to confront life's daily problems due to the fact that WE lack confidence in God's authority.

It's funny to sit and re-read these notes. As Christians, often times we feel like God's in control. Yet, when things get hard or distractions brew, the hypocrite in us says one of two things: "I got it God," or "How could you have let this happen God?"

One of the best quotes I've heard lately is Chan's reference to J. Vernon McGee (the well known Presbyterian minister) who once said, "This is God's universe, He does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don't have a universe."

Who are we to say, "I've got it God," or worse, "How could you have let this happen?" It's by His reason alone that we exist and it's by His will that we function. Where our foresight is limited, His remains limitless. Even when the immediate looks bleak, the possibilities for improvement always remain.

With that in mind, how can we be anything but STRONG IN OUR FAITH? Like Paul who embraced a life-altering event on the road to Damascus, I hope this message does the same.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Improving the Possibilities

Question of the day: How often do we allow past decisions to influence the future?

We see how poor decisions hinder us everyday. Biblical descriptions abound (note the first book of Kings). More specifically, we hear stories of why people did or didn't do something, usually followed by a description of a previous experience. Not to say that past experiences hold no value, I think they do. But how influential should they really be?

I see a mistake as just another motivation to improve. Without them, where would we find lessons?

The challenge: Find something you want to do (or something you've even failed at a previous time) and go and try it (again.) Use the lessons learned to IMPROVE who you are or what you are doing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Here's One for You...

Always looking for the humors in life, this story might take the cake. Not so much because it's funny (ha ha) but rather because it's funny (due to it's defining of priorities).

Let's Begin:

My brother, his lovely wife and three adorable children have lived in Jerusalem, Israel for the past ten years. Currently pursuing his doctorate in Ancient Hebrew, my brother fits the mold of (what some may declare as) a Beautiful Mind, minus the crazy or Sheldon from the cbs show "The Big Bang Theory".

Since he's been there, he has totaled his car twice and took us on a rather interesting trip down the wrong road along the boarder of Lebanon on which two flat tires turned first into fearing for our lives, then being saved by an angel in a Kibbutz. After the most recent accident their same little car was totaled beyond repair and a prayer was answered when the aunt of my sister-in-law "donated" her car to the family. After enduring the process of delivery from Italy to Israel (by boat) and screening for anything foreign (bombs and such), paying the delivery person to smuggle in the unlabeled Italian bottle of wine in the trunk, and an exorbitant amount of fees to have the thing shipped, the car was finally released after three weeks.

Excited beyond belief, the family reveled in their new prize and rightfully so. A lovely used (yet nicer than any other you'd see on many European or Israeli streets) car was now theirs. No more worries...

The fairytale ended yesterday morning when my brother, while attempting to take his 5-year-old to school, noticed the car was gone. Though secured by both "the club" and a very advanced security system, the car had vanished. Saddened and frustrated, calls were made to local authorities and time was spent waiting for any news.

Here's where things get a bit funny (again, when a person gauges the priorities of life.)

At 11 o'clock that same night a call was received by my sister-in-law by an unknown caller stating the car was in Ramallah (a Palestinian controlled part of Israel), waiting for ransom to be paid!

Everyone they knew advised them against going into the West Bank to retrieve the car, and they were obviously relieved by this affirmation. But after a few more calls, the Italian authorities (who are Palestinian sympathizers) told my sister-in-law that if the Palestinian police were NOT in on this little ploy, the abductors could be prosecuted and likely retaliate against whomever squealed on them (i.e. my brother).

To put it simply, I've never heard of such an event, however here is the lesson of the day: people=valuable, cars=not so much.

Just this once let's hope the Palestinian cops were in on it.

One Step at a Time...

Recently I've engaged God in a deal making process. You know the type: You do this for me and I'll do that for you. Needless to say, I've come to the point that God's nature doesn't operate under the guise that He needs our help...or does it?

Bare with me for a moment (if you would) but after recently reading an interesting description relating to man's relationship with God, I've gained much respect for God's tolerance of His creation. The author Neil S. Wilson describes in one event that, "Elisha knew God's power relied on the faithfulness of those whose faith was being tested."

Think about it. Everyday choices are made, good and bad. Things constantly sway and improve for some while things worsen for others. Maybe the solution stems from the previously mentioned quote. Are we faithful? Maybe prophets such as Elisha, Elijah, Nehemiah, Micaiah (lesser known-see 1 Kings 22) and such had strong faith due to their VISUAL encounters with God's work. Not that they saw Him necessarily, but they saw His work in progress. Note-The Prophets of Baal, a Chariot of Fire, the construction of a Wall, and the immediate outcome of a previous description.

Having served in Christian Education for some time, two questions I always enjoy asking my students are, "Does God change His mind?" and "If so, does free will effect His plan?" Ultimately students voice their opinions endlessly, with no real answer given. However I believe to have found a new, simple statement to leave them with. "God's power does rely on the faithfulness of those whose faith is being tested." I don't think we control God by any means, however I do believe God limits His power in times where lessons are apparent. How else would we grow in our faith?

The point: What decisions did you make for God today and what decisions did He make for you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Knock on the Head...

"Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest." Luke 12:25-26

Without question this has become my least favorite passage in the Bible. Its blunt description of the obvious threatens what each of us feel daily. Yet, even when Luke (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) spells it out in the simplest of terms, we often mishandle our day-to-day tasks, worrying over the uncontrollable, unknown, or even impossible.

It's been a long time coming, but after creating this blog (last night), I woke up this morning with a sensation of renewal. It's as if all of a sudden I'm beginning to understand statements such as "be patient" or "just relax", each commonly followed by "trust God".

Could it be that simple? I think so. Life is a faithful journey full of excitement. God wants to test our adaptability through faith. I can't imagine a better adventure than the one God offers everyday and that's a circumstance for clapping hands.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Day Like No Other...

Undoubtedly as a man, I fall into the social category I deem as,"Frustrated Fools". Raised as a firm believer in God's ability to provide for His creation (something I still very much practice) I often stray off the provisional path in search of what I think is best.

It happens on a daily basis for most men:

Socially: Is what I'm doing today going to be as satisfying tomorrow?
Career: Can I see myself doing this long term?
Relationally: Is she really worth it?
Spiritually: Does God really know best?

Too often we as men know the correct answers, but choose rather to focus on our own individual needs and desires; ignoring the simple truth that what God has given us, was given for a reason. Happiness in what you have is simply a choice made daily. Is it wrong to look to the future? Absolutely not! Is it a mistake to long for the future at the cost of the present? You know the answer to that. Take a long look at who you are, where you're at, and what you're doing. Then, realize you are who you are, where you are, doing just that for a reason. You may not know now, but God does. Accept the challenge that God wants you to figure it out. Achieve that, and I guarantee your life will progress (and remember progression is a positive term.)

Verse of the day: 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Why Now?

Every day it would seem easy to overlook the simple things; circumstances or situations that remind us the value of praise. What forces a person to neglect the beauties of life, disabling one’s ability to distinguish the twists and turns of life as interesting and exciting? Why do people seemingly forget to enjoy the "now", choosing instead to encounter the endless worries and pressures of future uncertainties? Truth is, as humans we are never satisfied with the present as a whole. Letting ideas of “what could be” or “should be” commonly interfere with our abilities to enjoy the present “as is.”

Circumstances for Clapping Hands reminds readers to recognize the valued parts of the everyday.