Christmas Is The Birth Of Grace

Manger

If you ask most people why we celebrate Christmas to a man they will say it is to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Even a staunch atheists has to relent that Christmas was established to celebrate the birth of Christ. They may not like it, but that’s the deal.  Now of course there are those out there that will argue that December 25th is not the exact date of His birth and that it’s actually in October and if you celebrate in December God will make you an umpa lumpa and will hate you forever.  I honestly don’t concern myself with that too much because it’s waste of energy.  Let’s face it, if for one day each year the world focuses their attention back to Christ (even if just for a second or half heartily) and because of that gets people to perhaps step into a church for the one time a year to hear of what Christ did then it’s worth it whatever day it landed on.  I mean, I highly doubt that when we get to heaven God is going to shake his finger at us, take away our grace card stained with Jesus’ blood, and tell us to stand in the corner because we were celebrating on the wrong date.  Just seems to be a little outside the character of God if you ask me.

I digress.

The disciple John has an interesting way of describing Christmas.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (NIV)

When my children were born I got to see what a beautiful, developed human life looked like.  There were fingers, toes, hair (yes Hunt’s have hair at some point), and life was pouring out of them with each cry.  Yet I also saw other things born.  I saw joy, soul expansion, and a new level of love.  You see with a birth of a baby comes things we see the describable and the indescribable.

In that manager thousands of years ago that same beautifully developed human life was on display.  It was void of the beeping of monitors, doctors in scrubs, and over priced meals, but nonetheless a baby was born.  Those same indescribable side benefits of joy and love were felt too, but as Jesus was held in the arms of His mother out of him poured something that no other baby could offer.

Grace.

It was His grace that when fully developed would save the entire world.

John uses the Greek word “charis” which means “merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”  Found within that baby boy was the solution to the sin of the world.  It is grace that would pour out of his hands, feet, and sides.  It is grace that would drip down His face as He prayed for His father to take this cup from him (Luke 22:44, NIV).  It is grace that would look upon the faces of sinners and see them for who they were in the eyes of the Father and not in the eyes of the world.  It is grace that would forgive the prostitute, play with children, and heal the blind.  And it was not just a small amount of grace, but an uncontainable amount.

John tell us that, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  – John 1:16 (ESV)

It was grace upon grace that was born at Christmas.

So yes, we remember the manager and the cast of characters present at the birth of Christ, but may we also stare deeply into the eyes of this small boy and remember that found within Him was what would save the world.  That behind the frailty of this little body was the unstoppable gift of grace found in Him.  A grace that saved a wretch like me and that wipes my sins as white as snow.

So celebrate Him for His birth, but worship Him for His grace.

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3 Gifts Your Wife Doesn’t Need This Christmas

no-bad-gifts

Christmas is rapidly approaching and men all over the world are scrambling to get things for their wives. Last minute websites are being scoured and raiding of closets trying to find the right size of clothes without having to ask is taking place. Men are talking to other men with the same intense and painful topic of conversation being; “What are you getting your wife for Christmas?”In many desperate cases purchases will be made that are more expensive than originally planned just to throw a little bling at them and hopefully throw them off the scent of your procrastination. Others will go for quantity and wrap up as much stuff as they can, praying that the pile of presents will distract them from the mound of guilt that has piled up on the guy’s shoulders. It is madness I tell you!

After over a decade of marriage I’ve realized and given in to the fact that my wife LOVES to get her own presents so I’ve stopped even trying. Now I don’t recommend this technique to other men (only if you have a wife that is wired this way), unless you want to sleep on the couch in the garage until Easter. However, before you start Googling “Desperate Gifts For a Lazy Husband”consider some things that we give our wives all the time, but that they can do without.

#1 – Don’t Get Her the Gift of Laziness

At Christmas I see guys checkout for various reasons. Some will blame it on the weather, others on their wife’s need to have the perfect holiday, others on the fact that they feel they are just in the way most of the time. So what we decided is that we will give our wife the gift of space in the form of doing nothing. While space can be good, sitting on your “space saver”watching football while wiggling your toes in that annoying manner is not good. This Christmas consider giving your wife the gift of engagement. Ask her how you can help and then follow through. Ask her what is on her list and how you can take things off her plate. Ask her if you can take the kids for an afternoon so she can get to the things she needs to get done without distractions. Talk with your wife about how she is doing and find out where you can ease her load even just a little. A little less football will not kill you, but your wife may if you don’t get it in gear.

#2 – Don’t Get Her the Gift of Guilt

My fellow husbands, Christmas can be draining on our wives for so many reasons. Some are discussed above, but other times our wives are drained because they want things to be perfect for the family. This means that how things look, where things hang, when dinner happens, and the traditions that we do as a family are very important. This is not the time to mention that you feel neglected or that you never have time for each other. This is like wrapping up a smoldering pile of guilt and letting her open it every day. Instead of piling on guilt, find a way this year to understand more about WHY these things are important. It may have to do with her traditions and how important Christmas was to her. It may be because she had a crummy Christmas time growing up and she doesn’t want to repeat that pattern. Whatever the reason, maybe try to understand and sympathize. Sarcasm and guilt won’t make things better, but understanding and appreciation will help.

#3 – Don’t Get Her the Gift of Spiritual Responsibility

I’m going to let you in on a quick secret. Christmas is not really supposed to be about presents and bad smelling cologne that you pretend to like from your Aunt Georgina just to keep the peace. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. The savior of the world. The King of Kings. The Lord of Lords come to save the world from sin. THAT Is what Christmas is all about. Men, when we leave the responsibility of keeping our families focused on that to our wives solely we are abdicating a major responsibility in the home. On top of that, we are strapping one more weight onto the spirits of our wives for them to carry around. Men, this Christmas step up and keep Christ in Christmas. (Ok, I went there, but it’s really true!) We need to be the ones that push pause before the ravenous kids unwrap their presents and reflect on why we are doing what we are doing. Take a few moments and read Luke 2 out loud. Before you eat dinner, pray with your family and thank God for Jesus this time of year. Decide which Christmas Eve service you are going to as a family (prior to the night before) instead of making your wife drag you to one. This year make the decision that the spiritual pulse of Christmas will start with you. Of course allowing your wife to be an integral part of it is crucial, but take the initiative to lead your family well this year and I guarantee you will see your wife light up.

So before you go out and buy your wife a bunch of stuff she really doesn’t want, consider the things that she really does need from you. Think about how you can let your wife enjoy Christmas this year instead of enduring it. Be a part of centering your family onto the real reason for all of this madness each year and I know she will not be in line on December 26th wanting to return it.

Merry Christmas men!

Now go be a great husband to your wife.

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True Confessions of a First Time Dad: My Son Plays The Drums On The Potty

Drummer

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great poets and philosophers of our time, Gloria Estefan, once said:

Rhythm is gonna get you

Rhythm is gonna get you

Rhythm is gonna get you

The rhythm is gonna get you tonight

This may very well sum up my son perfectly. Since the moment he became aware that he had appendages Easton has been tapping, banging, slapping, and knocking on things to make sounds. He can listen to a song on the radio and within seconds will announce to me, “Daddy, hear da drums?” Fortunately, he doesn’t need much to feed his rhythmic addiction. Here are just a few examples of his need for beat.

  • He literally turns the kitchen upside down emptying our Tupperware draw to get the right tom sounds.
  • He uses empty oatmeal cans at Mimi and Papa’s house as his trap set, but soon realized he needed a seat to sit on so he quickly modified his set up to use a can as a throne.
  • He found that the empty cups they give you at Cracker Barrel for the kids milk are perfect sized drums. He turned them over, unwrapped the straws and went to town to the chagrin of the Cracker Barrel customers. That wasn’t enough though as he quickly realized the lids looked like cymbals. Soon I heard, “Daddy, cymbals!” This meant that I was now the cymbal holder and he was Alex Van Halen.
  • Whenever he eats, as he chews a bite will bang out a beat with the end of his fork.
  • He is mesmerized at the drummers and “Miss’r Kevin” in church. He dances and keeps a beat on me or Cherie as we hold him during worship.

My son is a drumming freak! Our good friend Mr. Don was kind enough to give him a used pair of drumsticks awhile back and you would have thought he gave him chocolate milk in a non-sippy cup he was so excited. Well those drumsticks have been used on pretty much everything which is exciting and horrifying if you are on the wrong end of one of those bad boys. But what took his obsession to a fever pitch has to be the other day when he needed to drum on the counter while he went potty.

To put it lightly, Easton is not the biggest fan of potty training. In fact, he will willingly ask for the changing table over the potty any day regardless of the “encouragement prize” offered. But the other morning, he decided that drumming while he pooped was cool. I can only tell you that it worked awesome! My fellow parents understand that any successful potty moment is amazing regardless of the methods needed. Here are a couple pictures just to see my man in action

. IMG_7352 IMG_7351 Although my son is awfully fond of the his drums I see a bigger and deeper thing at play in him even at two years old. I believe my little buddy is experience true worship. He is enjoying and loving the moment he is in and he is expressing that through tapping, through singing, through laughing, through giggling, and through any other way he can at his little age. Worship is more than just music though, it is about expressing your love and joy of God in all that you do. The Psalmists were brilliant at articulating this comprehensive worship experience.

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name,

It is good to praise the Lord

    and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning

    and your faithfulness at night,

to the music of the ten-stringed lyre

    and the melody of the harp.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;

    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

How great are your works, Lord,

    how profound your thoughts!

- Psalm 92:1-5

 

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

- Psalm 150:1-6

So do you hear the drums when you are worshiping? I don’t necessarily mean the actual drums, but the drum beat of God in your soul? Do you sense God stirring something in you as you wake up in the morning or when you are at work? Do you feel like God has designed you for something great? Does your spirit light up when you think about all He’s done for you and your family?

It’s time to start living your life by following the beat of a different Drummer.  God is waiting for you to believe that the life He has for you will dwarf anything you’ve ever experienced.  It won’t always be pretty and you will have problems, but there will be a purpose, passion, and meaning to it you’ve never thought possible.

As you become less and He becomes more your world takes on a whole new focus. You begin to realize all that you are and all that you have is because of Him and we begin to finally worship.

So grab a stick and start listening to God’s cadence for you life.  Believe me, your life will never be the same…in a good way.

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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: I’m Surviving Kindergarten..Kinda

school

There she went.

She marched right in the door, hung up her backpack, washed her hands and sat down to get to work.  No sign of a sniffle, no elongated hug, and not even a hint of leg clinging.  Part of me was proud and a bigger part of me was crushed that my sweet little girl was ok heading off into her next adventure.

My baby girl had entered the realm of big girl status as she became a kindergartener.

I nearly wet myself.

How did it happen?  This little miracle who was hooked up to oxygen and breathing machines as a newborn is now untethered and ready to tackle the world.  I sometimes don’t know what to think when I see her growing up.  I mean I know this is how the whole thing works and deep down I want her to grow up, but a big part of me also…doesn’t.

  • I want her to stay as my little Beeger and snuggle up with me when she wakes up in the morning.
  • I want her to have just a little trouble saying her “S’s”.
  • I want her to use big words she hears Cherie and I say and then ask later what they mean.
  • I want to be able to watch her sleep at night like I did when she was in the NICU so I can stroke her hair and tell her daddy loves her.
  • I want to help her tie her shoes so I feel like she still needs me.
  • I want lightning bugs to excite her and princesses to be cool.
  • I want her to ask me to dance with her and throw her up in the air again and again.
  • I want my little sweet girl to stay little….

But I know I can’t…I know she must grow…I know God has big plans for my little girl.

One day the world will know my little girl not because of who I am, but because of who God made her to be.  She will be a leader, a wife, a mother, but more importantly, I pray, that she loves Jesus.  My deepest desire is that she follows God’s grace-filled path all the days of her life and leans into the truth of His love.

Yet, there is something that has kicked me in the butt the past few days, weeks, and months.

What my baby girl knows about God starts with what she sees in me.

Does she see me say one thing on Sunday and act another way on Monday?  Is the Bible a book that gets dusted off once a year when grandma comes around or does she see me face down in it every morning when she wakes up?  Do we take her to church on Sunday so “mom and dad can have a break” or is church a place where she grows and learns about this God that loves her?  Does she see me living a kindergarten faith when I should have graduated into a higher level long ago?

To be honest it scares me to death, but I know that this is my greatest responsibility.  If I were to die with nothing to my name and with no one knowing me, but I raised children that loved Jesus then my life would be a success.  But if I were to live a life of worldly success and left with my children in the dark for their eternity I would be a failure.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think there won’t be bumps along the road as she gets older.  I know that she will not like me most days and that I will embarrass her.  I realize that she may want me to drop her off down the block so she won’t be seen with me.  I know that having a dad as a pastor won’t always be a “cool thing” to her, but without question she will know she is loved by me.  She will know that God loves her.  She will know that I can’t wait to see her grow into the woman of God she was destined to be.

I know God does the saving, but I need to be doing the exampling.

My prayer is simple yet powerful:

“God help my daughter see You in me today so that one day I might see You in her.” 

 

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Remembering The Day When Time Stood Still – September 11, 2001

Below is the invocation I gave at the Patriot’s Day Memorial Ceremony in Lockport, Illinois.  May we continue to persevere and bring God’s love into this world each and every day of our lives.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

We stand here  on a gray and overcast day having to squint even to see the sun. Yet, it almost seems to be a fitting. Father as we stand in remembrance today our minds think back to another day of gray in our history. A day where we had to squint to see the sun through billows of smoke and uncertainty. All of us remember where we were that day and none of us will forget the feeling of anger, pain, and sorrow that welled up in our spirits.

Father God we stand here surrounded by heroes remembering heroes, loved ones remembering the fallen, and the living still effected by this day when gray covered our worlds. We look to a flag that represents our freedom and ask “How could this happen in a country built on freedom.”

But God amongst the doubt and confusion one thing still remains and that is You. You are the God of yesterday, today, and forever. You are the God of all things and Creator of all things and even in the midst of our gray You still reign. We are promised of this truth in Your word where in Psalm 121 we are assured of Your strength.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

where does my help come from?

 
My help comes from the Lord,
    

the Maker of heaven and earth.
 

He will not let your foot slip—
    

he who watches over you will not slumber;
 

indeed, he who watches over Israel
    

will neither slumber nor sleep.
 

The Lord watches over you—
    

the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
    

nor the moon by night.
 

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
   

 he will watch over your life;
 

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    

both now and forevermore.

-Psalm 121

 

So although Father we remember today a moment where time seemed to stand still and evil appeared to be winning. We are reminded that You are still on Your throne and You have won the ultimate victory. On Calvary’s hill your Son Jesus defeated death and tore the gray clouds of evil apart forever. So we as Your people vow to not stay stagnate in fear, but to move forward in confidence knowing You are with us.

The proof of that promise is in the breath that we breathe. That even as we stand under gray clouds, we breath in the breath of life that proves we are still alive. That we can still make a difference. That we can still bring Your love into this world.

May that promise rest on us now as we remember the dark day of September 11, 2001, but may we also remember that September 12, 2014 is there for the taking and by Your strength we can make a difference as we stand in Your power.

Father we ask that You meet us now and remain with us forever. For it is in the matchless name of Jesus that we find our strength and in whom we pray.

- Amen

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Little Boy On The Corner

boybeirutcurb

Sitting on the curb, just a normal concrete ledge

Two anxious little feet dangling over the edge

 

His backpack rests beside him filled with all that he should need

A blanket and some snacks for his stuffed friend Mr B.

 

With a cautious stare he looks, down an empty city block

Just praying he will see his daddy’s big black truck.

 

Mommy stands real close smoking a nervous cigarette

His deep blue eyes look up to ask, “Is he here yet?”

 

She’s been standing on this curb for far too many days

Ever since those papers came that parted both their ways.

 

He said this and she said that trying just to hurt each other

But what got up in the middle now sits on this small corner.

 

Little feet don’t care about who gets stuff and money

All they want is one house with a mommy and a daddy

 

Things get tough, feelings change, and the grass looks greener

But even through the rough times its worth if for your junior

 

Our actions speak greater than the size of all our words

Cuz those actions are what he follows as his begins to grow.

 

If this little voice could speak and say something that you’d hear

He’d ask you this small thing that might take away the tears.

 

In the moments when you feel like there’s nothing left to give

Did you open up my bedroom door and watch me sleeping there?

 

And if you did come in I have a question for you my father

Would you rather see me there than sitting on this corner?

 

Please don’t leave for things that are new or fresh or fun

Choose what’s never going to leave the love of me, your son.

 

Teach me how to live this life even when it’s rough.

Show me how to love my wife even if it’s tough.

 

I don’t want a weekend dad I see on every Tuesday

I want to see my dad each day I think that’s his duty.

 

So out there waits a boy just trying to grow stronger.

Will daddy sit down beside him or is he right around the corner?

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4 Summer “Musts” For Dads

So the summer has finally arrived and all my fellow dads are saying AMEN!  We start thinking of fishing, biking, golfing, grilling, and all things outdoors.  After the bone chilling winter all of us Chicago-ians experienced, we are ready to break out of the freeze and jump in the pool until we get nice and wrinkly.

But not so fast dads…

Before we check out and run off into the summer sunset, I think it’s vitally important that we don’t leave our family in the dust.  Sure some of those things I mentioned above can involve your family, but often we see those as our personal releases.  While I believe that is completely needed and warranted I also want to challenge you to spend time with your family too.

Here are 4 Summer “Musts” For Dads.

#1 – Don’t Take A Summer Break From God

I see it all the time.  When the thermostat goes up, church attendance goes down.  Now don’t get me wrong, heading out for a weekend trip is not a bad thing at all.  We do it too believe it or not!  The dangerous part is when you miss the whole summer.  As dads, our kids need to know that worshiping God isn’t seasonal.  We must lead in our commitment to come together to learn from God’s word and connecting with other people through service and community.  Stay connected with God by coming to church even if it means wearing your swimming trunks so you can jump right back in the pool.  Remember what the writer of Hebrews says:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Just remember, a relationship with God is not a seasonal activity.

 

#2 – Date Your Wife

When church attendance dips it usually will mark a decline in the happiness in marriages too.  While you are staying committed to attending church make a point to attend to your wife’s needs too.  Warmer weather reduces the number of excuses you have for dating your wife.  Make a point to go on a date at least once a week this summer even if only for an hour while the kids play at the neighbors.  Swap out a couple hours here and there with friends so they can get some time away too!  Invest in the relationship with your wife with the same intensity you care for your lawn, car, or golf swing.  You’ll be amazed that the results in your marriage are far more rewarding.

 

#3 – Spend Time With Your Kids (bleachers don’t count)

I am realizing more and more how busy our kids are getting these days.  I really love seeing Aniston playing t-ball, gymnastics, and dance, but I also know that when I’m watching her through a glass window or sitting in a camping chair I’m not really spending time with her.  I’m spending time around her but not with her.  The fact that Easton is there and we get to hang out on the swings is awesome, but even then my attention is divided.  My challenge to myself and to you is to take this summer and spend time with your kids.  I’m not saying stop attending their activities, but I’m am saying make a point to hang out with them one-on-one.  Go for a bike ride, take them fishing, let them help you wash the car, or even grab a few sandwiches and have a picnic.  Don’t worry no one will revoke your man card.

Here are a few places to get ideas:

10 Things To Do With Your Teens by: All Pro Dads

10 Things To Do With Your Daughters  By: AskMen

5 Things To Do With Your Sons By: AskMen

 

#4 – Make A Difference In Your Community

I know that when summer hits we all find ways to get away and spend extra time doing stuff.  The relaxation factor is critical to recharging our batteries before the next winter blast hits, but that can only last so long.  All of us as men have a desire to fix things, go on a mission, or get our hands dirty.  My final challenge to you is to make a difference in your community with the extra time you have this summer.  Involve your family in this process as you teach them the value of giving back, taking care of those in need, and being selfless.  There are needs all around you so don’t make the excuse you don’t know where to start!  Ok, let me give you a list to jump off from:

  • Ask a local church for a list of the organizations they support and call one of them.
  • Find a soup kitchen for the homeless and volunteer.
  • If you kids are old enough, grab the lawn mowers and start mowing people’s yards for free.
  • Grab a bag and some gloves and pick up trash on the side of the road.
  • Set up a free car wash with no strings attached for the neighborhood.
  • E-mail me and come paint my house :)

Summer is great, but just like Christmas decorations the excitement fades after a few weeks.  Don’t get into a summer rut this year.  Be intentional about what you do with your individual free time, but also with the time you spend with you family.  Never lose sight that where you find your most joy and energy is in the family God has given you.  Spending time with them and working on your relationship with God will grow you more than you ever thought possible.  Get into this habit now and regardless of what the thermostat says you will always be warm inside.

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 29 – Fear Failures

dtl_17_4_2014_9_41_56When I was little I was afraid of the dark.  This isn’t a huge revelation as most kids and even some adults are afraid of what happens when the lights go out.  Shadows get cast on the wall, GI-Joe action figures seems to look at you, the wind is just a little louder than you remember it, even your dog with sleep apnea can become a little creepy in the still of night you.  Sometimes all you can do is just tuck the covers over your head until the fear subsides or you pass out from lack of oxygen.

Fear is not just relegated to the time when your eyes switch from using cones to rods.  It is much less about physiology as it is with psychology.  Our eyes know that the FatHead sticker on the wall is just Andy Daulton from the Bengals.  But something inside us makes us question that fact and we start to think he may be a red haired, ginger, alien trying to attack us while we sleep.  It’s as if our mind is playing tricks on us and then convinces our heart it’s true so that we freak out…and possibly wet the bed.

Life can seem fearful too.

Difficult things happen to us on a daily basis.  From stressful bosses at work to bullies in the halls to difficult spouses in our homes our lives are in a constant state of adjustment based on what is happening.  Life will often throw you more curveballs than fastballs which always keeps you off balance.  I know so many people that live just waiting for the next bad thing to happen as if it was as inevitable as junk mail.  President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”   Well if that’s true then it is a miracle we see anyone on the streets at all!  Let’s face it, there are things to be fearful everywhere we turn.  We could easily succumb to these fears, stay in our house, watch The Bachelor, and wait for the police to come and reposes our house, but God didn’t design us that way.

Proverbs 29, although not completely about fear, does have underpinnings of the effects of it.  There are several examples such as dealing with spoiled people (v. 21), an angry person (v 22), fools with rage (v. 11), unfair government officials (v. 4-5), and even concerns about raising chidden (v. 15,17, 21).  Yet as Solomon nears the end of this piece we read these words:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Proverbs 29:25

This is the release our souls need.

You see fear is easily one of the “go to” techniques of Satan that keeps us from truly living.  Have you ever noticed that our fear is typically at it’s worst when we are considering doing something for God?  All of a sudden you become acutely aware of your past mistakes, weaknesses, empty bank account, meager abilities, lack of time, and all kinds of things that you normally don’t even think about.  He wants to bring those things up so that you become more focused on them and less about the promises of God.  Promises that tell you that you can do “all things through He who strengthens you”. (Phil. 4:13)  On top of all your shortcomings Satan will bring about fear of man issues too.  He will start to seed your spirit with ideas like, “No one will listen to you”, “They will turn on you if you do that”, or “I’m sure the boss will fire you if he finds out.”  Even though God is the creator of all things including man, we still place what other people say above what God says and we start to let fear choke us.  We start to let it squeeze the life out of us like a Boa Constrictor.  I call this Fear Failure.  This is losing before the game even begins.  We let fear get the best of us and slowly steal our life.

As Believers, we need to shake ourselves loose from this man made fear.  Solomon tells us that man’s fear will be a snare to us, but trusting in God will keep us safe.  That doesn’t mean that life will be easy or that we will never have fear sneak around the corner again.  It means that even if we do start to feel the butterflies rise up we have the reassurance that God is with us. His love for us will quickly smothers any fear flame from growing.  Since Jesus died for our sins and took the sting of eternal death we truly have nothing left to fear.  The rest of life becomes a roller coaster adventure complete with our hands up in the air and smile on our face trusting that God is in control.

There are too many people reading this that fear has taken over your life.  You are keeping yourself from following God’s lead and you are stifling the plan God has for you.  I want to encourage you to take your foot off the brake and let God put the pedal to the metal in your life.  Don’t let the voice of your past keep you from the future God has in store for you.  Dream big!  If God has placed it on your heart he wants you to transfer it to your hands.  Come to love the feeling of being almost out of control for the things of God and see where He takes you.

God has great things stored up in you so throw open the gates and let them rush out for His glory!  Don’t let Fear Failures keep you inside any longer.  Get out there and start living for Him!

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A Friday Prayer From Francis

Prayer HandsSometimes what we need  as the week ends is to begin in prayer.  I found this prayer from Sir Francis Drake and I thought it was a powerful reminder to us all.  I pray that we do find rest and enjoyment with our families as we break from our time of work.  However, may our weekends be filled with more than just entertainment and pleasure.  I pray that we allow God to disturb us out of our slumber and impact this world for Him.  Chew on these words and have a great weekend!

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

- Sir Francis Drake -1577

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 28: Do You Turn Heads When You Walk In The Room?

dixonwonderbrarestaurantBaseball has been a huge part of my life.  If you’ve read anything of mine it’s most likely you’ve stumbled upon that fact once or twice.  It was such a important part of my life as it helped shape my character, drive, work ethic, integrity, sense of team, and focus.  On top of that God gifted me to play it well enough compete at high levels of competition.  This gift provided me many opportunities I would not have had without the game in my life.  

In 1996 my American Legion team from Rapid City, South Dakota made it all the way to the American Legion World Series.  It took over 100 games to get there and I even started college a couple days late just to play in it.  Although the tournament was amazing the keynote speaker they brought into speak to the teams was the best part.

Beyond just being a baseball fan I am a HUGE Cincinnati Reds fan.  Ever since I was a small boy my favorite player was Johnny Bench who was part of the Big Red Machine.  Granted this team was before my birth, but The Big Red Machine was arguably one of the greatest baseball teams of all time.  Between 1970 – 1976 they averaged 98 wins a season, captured 5 National League West Division titles, 4 National League Pennants, and 2 World Series rings.  The were hard nosed players with names such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey Sr., Tony Perez, and Dave Concepcion.  Although a great group of athletes they were managed by an even greater man.  Sparky Anderson.

Sparky was born in a small town in South Dakota called Bridgewater.  This is part of the reason he is so near to my heart.  He was a small town boy that made it big through hard work, dedication, but most importantly a faith in Christ.  He is legendary Hall of Fame manager, but is respected in the game as one of the greatest human beings to ever put on the uniform.  It was Sparky who was the keynote speaker at the World Series that year, but it was the group from South Dakota that he made a point to spend time with afterwards.  Here is my picture with Sparky.  I’m the one directly to his right with the good looking hair. :)

1996 Sparky Anderson Picture

Part of what amazed me about Sparky was that when he walked into a room (or a dugout) people stopped what they were doing and paid attention.  It wasn’t that he was a loud with a harsh tone because in fact he was the exact opposite.  He was a quiet, mild mannered man, but oozed respect causing you to hang on every word he said.  Whether it was telling stories of the Big Red Machine or talking about baseball as a metaphor for life, every obnoxious, arrogant teenager there sobered up and had the utmost respect.  Sparky was a man whose life and resume spoke for itself, but it was how that life was lived out that spoke the loudest.

I have to imagine that Solomon was that type of man when he entered a room.  Through God’s gifting of wisdom, I would tend to think that people leaned in when he spoke.  His wealth and power were one thing, but his wisdom was worth much more.  Wealth and possessions have a limited shelf life, but wisdom is priceless.  A God fearing, God honoring, God seeking leader will be infectious to those they lead.  The effects of that type of leadership are obvious in Proverbs 28.

  • A Godly leader can stand tall on their decisions because they are rooted in Christ. (v. 1)
  • A Godly leader finds it easy to resist the temptation of the unGodly wicked. (v. 4)
  • A Godly leader knows his definition is not defined by his bank account but by his integrity. (v. 6, 11)
  • A Godly leader will be celebrated with pure joy by those that they lead for leading well. (v. 12, 28)
  • A Godly leader will own up to their mistakes instead of hiding them. (v. 13)
  • A Godly leader will find blessing as they follow God’s will and keep peace. (v. 20, 25)
  • A Godly leader will trust God far more than they trust themselves when making decisions. (v. 26)

I believe that when a Godly leader walks into the room there is a difference.  There is a calmness, peace, and focus that they possess which people who follow their own desires lack.  When your goal in life is to get rich, successful, and popular regardless of the cost there is a glaring weakness to your character.  Just as people recognize the difference of a Godly leader they also recognize the stench of a swindler.  A selfish leader enjoys the scent of their own musk and prefers to wallow in the glistening facade of their “greatness” rather than pursue the peace found in Christ.

Don’t be get sucked into the lies of individualism and success.  Be overwhelmed with the wisdom found in following God’s way for your life.  You may be surprised.  Earthly success may still come to you, but it will pale in the comparison to the reward awaiting you in eternity.   Strive to be the person, father, mother, sister, brother, student, business person, waiter, husband, wife, person that when you walk in the room people see a difference.  A difference that is clearly the light of Christ pouring out of you in every aspect of your life.  Make your goal to be a head turner for Christ.

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