An Easter Prayer Of Preparation

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Please join me today in a moment of reflection in preparation for this upcoming Easter weekend.

Father God,

You are the Maker of both the heavens and the earth.  

You are the Creator of all that I see and the breath that I breathe.  

In You is found the origin and summation of every good and perfect gift I have or ever will have in my lifetime.

Beyond the stretches of time, Mighty God, you are The One that…

Thought of me.

Created me.

Wired me.

Loved me.

But Father despite your love for me I have chosen other things to steal my focus, my attention, my worship.  I have sinned against you in word, deed, and thought by making other things more important than You.  I have willingly chosen to go against what I know is written in your Word and have decided to turn down my own path.  

This path has led me to destruction time and time again as You well know.  And although I may pretend that I’m ok with what I’m doing…I’m not.  I am broken, hopeless, and alone without you.

But as You always do, you never give up on me.

You demonstrated this Truth through your Son Jesus.  I thank you that you sent Him to Earth, to live among us, in our shoes, in our pain, and in our temptation.  His relatability is what gives Him viability and vitality to my soul.  Through His death, burial, and resurrection my soul can once again find the rest and peace you designed it to have.

Thank you Lord Jesus for enduring the cross and experiencing not only death, but separation from your Father so that I may never feel that pain.  Thank you for not giving up on me, but showing patience in my unbelief and moments of weakness.  Thank you for allowing me to doubt and for being big enough for my questions.  Thank you for your love that is so big and so wide, but yet is only found fully when we follow how you’ve called us to live.

Father God thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit for his counseling, guidance, and prompting in my life.  May He continue to convict me of sin, challenge me to follow you closer, and encourage me to live more boldly for You.

Finally Father as I approach this weekend called Easter and remember your most amazing gift to us, please help me fully appreciate what you did.  Search my heart and tear away anything that is of me and replace it with all that is You.  Please do not let me go through the motions any more, but help me apply what I know to be true despite the challenges this world will bring me.  

Forgive me of my sin and renew me with your Spirit once more.  Help me to not to be caught up in the commercialization of this day, but to be overwhelmed by Jesus’ justification for my sin.

Thank you Father.

Thank you Father.

Thank you Father.

In the precious Name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

Be blessed my friends.

 

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Do People Really Want The Jesus Of The Bible?

Jesus the real dealJesus is controversial.

I’m not sure if you knew that, so I’ll say it again.

Jesus is controversial.

In fact he’s not even popular.

I’m willing to bet you’ve had conversations about God with people before.  You probably didn’t have difficulty having an open discussion about God and your views versus theirs, but when Jesus comes into the picture the dialogue changes.  When you bring Jesus into your side of the conversation, you may have instantly started a fight and a flammable one at that.

Why?

It’s because Jesus is a fire starter not a fire retardant.

However, there is a version of Jesus that doesn’t do that.

It’s the politically correct version of Jesus.  It’s the nice Jesus that loves everyone and lets everyone into heaven despite their sin.  It’s the Jesus that drinks decaf coffee, recycles, and wears Tom’s shoes.  It’s the Jesus with all the Grace and none of the wrath.  It’s the Jesus that will let you mold Him to fit your life choices, life styles, and opinions so you will like Him.

The problem is that’s not the Jesus of the Bible.

Here is what Jesus says about Himself in His Book.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26-27

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” - Luke 14:33

Do we really want to follow THAT Jesus?

Do we really want a Jesus that asks us to give up everything to follow Him?  That wants us to stop sleeping with our boyfriend?  That desires for us to give money away instead of spending it all on ourselves?  Do we really want to be the Jesus Freak at school?  Do we really want to do as Jesus does and love our enemies?

Do we really want to follow THAT Jesus?

Most of us would say “no” and I’ll tell you why.

We don’t want to change to match Jesus; we want Jesus to change to match us.  We want Jesus to be our personal chameleon and change His colors to match ours so we can keep on sinning.

Arrogantly we try to make a self-made savior that we can follow without any strings attached.  We take the gift of Grace that was paid for in blood by the Son of God and we twist it to match our perverted nature.

Here’s a news flash to all of us…we don’t have that option.

We don’t get to choose the version of Jesus we want.  Jesus died to set us free from the sin that binds us and offers to give us life to live to the full, but only if we accept Him as is.  To follow the REAL Jesus that asks for everything we have and gives us everything we need in return.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I like the real Jesus all the time either because His way is hard and requires sacrifice, but it’s the Jesus I believe in.  It’s the Jesus I love.  It’s the Jesus that has radically changed my life and it’s the Jesus I trust with my eternal destiny.

I’m ok saying it…I love the unPopular Jesus and you should too.

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Do You Have Gangrene Thumbs?

My thumbs are the farthest thing from green.  They are closer to black if I’m honest.  Come to think of it, I guess you could say I have gangrene thumbs.  I kill nearly every plant I’ve ever had and vegans everywhere could consider it cruel and unusual punishment.

If the world came to an end today and all I was left with to survive on was a packet of seeds and some potting soil you would most certainly find me dead.  Most likely clutching that unopened pack of seeds with my head resting on the potting soil I decided to use for a pillow.

I don’t have the patience or the skill to grow much of anything.

What’s ironic though is that I am fascinated by farming.  I will nauseate my wife with questions about agriculture as we drive to her parents house in Iowa because I’m amazed at what those men and women can do.  Year in and year out they produce food for the world while I can’t produce a single tomato for my tacos.

How in the world are they able to sustain thousands of acres of land and grow exactly what they want!?  Thank goodness they can otherwise I’d starve.

As Christians, we don’t have the option to farm out our spiritual growth to someone else.  The difference between our botanical green thumb and our spiritual thumb is that regardless of color our spiritual thumb will always produce something.

In Galatians, Paul describes two different types of spiritual harvests.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  - Galatians 5:19-21

He starts out by showing the yield of what he calls the “acts of the flesh”.  These fleshly acts are at times hard to read, but they are without a doubt accurate.  And what’s chilling about this list is that it is 100% possible for us to produce these things on our own.  It takes ZERO involvement from God.  We can use our gangrene thumbs and create a bounty of weeds without end if we want, but it will never draw us anywhere near God.  In fact it will always leave us on the outside looking in.

Thankfully there is other ground to plow that is far more productive.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” - Galatians 5:22-24

In contrast to our gangrenous thumbs is God’s gorgeous Hand.  When we pursue Him and His will it will always lead to far greater fare.  The difficult part of this farming is that it will not allow for instant gratification.  Just like an apple tree doesn’t grow like a Chia Pet overnight so it is with our spiritual fruit. It sometimes takes time and tending to each individual plant to produce the fruit you desire.  This will mean pruning and failing often in order to create the greatest crop possible in our life.

There isn’t a Whole Foods for the soul where you can pick and choose the spiritual fruit you want in your life.  It requires you to till up the soil of your soul and start planting the seeds of God.  You have to water it with the Word, soak it with prayer, and tend it with care and compassion to produce the crop you desire.

Believe me, you may be surrounded by a house full of dead plants you’ve killed, but with God as your Gardner the fields of your soul will be teeming with life.

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10 Lessons From 10 Years Of Marriage (Part 2)

While you are reading this I’m most likely finishing a book, snorkeling with some freaky fish, or floating around the lazy river at the resort for the 500th time, but anyway you slice it I’m still enjoying my time in Mexico!  It’s our 10 year anniversary treat and Cherie and I have been looking forward to for a loooooooooong time.

This week I’ve taken a moment to reflect on my past decade of marriage and jot down 10 lesson’s I’ve learned.  You can take a look at the first 5 later, but right now here are the final 5 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage.

Lesson #5 – Kids Are Icing On The Cake

After years of trying, God final blessed Cherie and I with two beautiful children Aniston and Easton.  Though we continue to be amazed with how God is able to multiple love infinitely with each addition to our family we still come back to the fact that our relationship is #1.  Children are great but they are just the icing on the cake.  We’ve learned that to be the best parents we can we need to be the best married couple we can and to be the best married couple we can be we must pursue God as best as we can.  Without the right Foundation you really have nothing.

Lesson #4 – My Wife Hates Surprises

It only took me 10 years to realize that my wife hates surprise parties or surprises in general.  Believe me, I know get it and will not be trying to sneak one by her.  This was important because as we live life together I get to know Cherie more and learn more about her.  I pray I never stop uncovering new nuances to the love of my life.  Lord knows I’m a piñata of surprises and annoyances, but we both love even this part of the journey too.

Lesson #3 – Marriage Takes Effort

The white picket fence technicolor family is a myth.  There is no such thing as a wife that wakes up in the morning with make-up on and there isn’t a man out there that enjoys mowing the lawn in Dockers.  Marriage is about the sweat pants and morning breath of life.  It is being patient, kind, loving, forgiving, and serving even when you didn’t think you left the light on or the toilet seat up.  Marriage takes effort and it’s not always fun, but it’s always worth it.  Don’t give up when things get tough.  Keep fighting!.

Lesson #2 – I Still Don’t Like Sweat Potatoes 

My wife has done a great job of helping to open my eyes to new things throughout these past 10 years.  Turning the lights off, hanging up clothes, and the difference between lights and darks have been ground breaking epiphanies for me. However I still hate sweat potatoes and I always will.  Not even my wife’s gorgeous blue eyes can convince me.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to still be me and not be who my wife wants me to be.  Just because the Bible says you become one when you get married doesn’t mean you become twins.  It’s ok to be an individual and that’s a good thing.

Lesson #1 – The Best Is Yet To Come

Although I can look back on the last 10 years of marriage and be more than overwhelmed with the amazing things God has done I know the best is yet to come.  I know I get to grow more as a husband and daddy.  I know there will be graduations and sports games.  I know I will beat my head against the wall in frustration, hold my head in hands full of tears, and grab my sides in joyful laughter.  But most of all I know I will be more in love with Cherie every day that God gives us together.  The best is truly yet to come.

I hope a few of these struck a chord with you or atleast encouraged you along your journey.  We don’t have it all figured out and there are markers along our road these past 10 years to prove it, but as I look back I can see more fingerprints of God than anything else.  His grace sustains and guides us daily and I pray He does the same for you.

Well that’s it for now so I’ll see you later probably smelling like Aloe Vera!

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10 Lessons From 10 Years Of Marriage (Part 1)

As you read this, I will either be on a plane or on a beach in Mexico celebrating 10 years of marriage with my amazing wife Cherie.  Ok, so our anniversary was in August, but let’s face it I’d rather be getting sunburnt while you’re freezing in snow so I feel better about myself.  :)

10 years is a long time…like a decade long…like how long Friends was on TV long…like how many years it’s been since I’ve had hair long…it’s a long time.  I realize that there are many more sets of 10 ahead of Cherie and I, but this first 10 years has afforded me the blessing of learning a great deal about life and marriage.

My hope is that these 10 short lessons I’ve learned will also bless you.  Perhaps they will even encourage you to enjoy what God has done in your life regardless of the challenges you may be facing.

Here are the first 5 Lessons I’ve Learned…so far:

Lesson #10 -  You Aren’t Fully In Love At The Wedding

At our wedding I was in love with Cherie more than anyone I’d ever met in my life, but I didn’t know how much I loved her until 10 years worth of life together.  When I said “I do” my love balloon was barely full of air, but I thought it was busting at the seams!  Over the years I’ve seen that more love can fit into that balloon than I ever thought possible the more in love I become with her.  Love is truly like wine as it only gets better with age.

Lesson #9 – Money Doesn’t Make A Difference

Our first Christmas we celebrated with a dead ficus tree, 1/2 of string of lights, one ornament, and microwave dinners.  We didn’t have two pennies to rub together but it was awesome.  Now that we do have a few pennies to make friction with we still remember the ficus and that money doesn’t make a difference in our happiness.

Lesson #8 – I Love Going Home

Cherie and I both work very hard and love what we do, but there is no better feeling than the anticipation of going home.  I’m so glad that we have a relationship that we WANT to be with each other.  This takes effort, but the return on investment is completely worth it.

Lesson #7 – I Still Date My Wife

One of the best things about being married is dating my wife.  Ten years in and we still plan outings, concerts, dinners, or just trips to the coffee shop to be together.  I know that when I look on my calendar and see an appointment for a 6:00 PM meeting with a hot brunette I still get butterflies.  One of our greatest strengths as a couple is that we still pursue one another and love being together

Lesson #6 – LIfe is Hard And God is Good

Although we have a great marriage and have loved our first 10 years together life is still hard.  Jobs, bosses, coworkers, infertility, sickness, family, friends, moves, and on and on I could go have created difficulties.  Yet through it all the fact that we both lean into God for our strength in all things has sustained us.  We have been faithful to Him and He has been oh so faithful to us.  Yes, life is hard, but God is amazing.

I know that I thank Him daily for the life He’s given me and the privilege of 10 years with my best friend.  Take a second to thank Him for the blessings in your life and ask for his continued guidance in your life.

 

Stay tuned…1-5 is next time….

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What Anchors Your Soul?

My family and I went to KeyLime Cove a few weekends ago or as the astute Dr. Casey Tygrett calls it “E-Coli Cove”.  It was this kid’s first time at a water park and they loved it.  Ok, maybe Aniston enjoyed the video games and tickets that she won more than the slides, but for the baby book we will say she loved it.

Well, one of the areas that Aniston loved was this little wave pool area (which is a killer quad workout if you are wondering).  While Cherie and Aniston played in that area, I decided to take Easton on the lazy river.  If you’ve never been on a lazy river you  basically float on an inner tube as a gentle current takes you around the perimeter of the water park.  So I jumped on the tube and put Easton on my lap and off we floated.  Now my son is a very…how do you say…active child and never sits still.  But on the lazy river he found his nirvana and was completely still.  Didn’t move a muscle.

Yes we’ve decided to install one in our townhouse.  It’s totally worth it.

But what’s unique about the lazy river is that it starts and stops right by the wave pool.  The current of the wave pool is what pushes you down the lazy river.  So every time we’d go around the horn we’d encounter the wave pool…on a tube…with a 9 month old.

So normally Cherie would be there to meet me with Aniston “aka Ariel”, but a couple times she did not get there in time.  This meant Easton and I would have to ride the wave pool currents left only to my killer tube steering skills to save us.  Fearing that I’d soon capsize and drown my 9 month old son at E-coli Cove, I had to holler at Cherie to come help us right the ship.

Thankfully Cherie got there in time, but for awhile it was a little nutty.

Our lives sometimes feel like we are riding on an inner tube in the wave pool.  We are getting tossed from one side to the other and don’t know if we can hang on.  We just don’t know if we can keep the ship upright.  Our minds race, the stress mounts, and our nerves stand straight on end.

Our world feels out of control and lost at sea.

We try several things to right the ship though don’t we?  We will try to tread water by working harder, longer, faster.  Sometimes we even add things to our plate to make our boats heavier in hopes this will stop the bobbing up and down.  I mean at the very least I can distract myself with these other things to ignore the storm I’m in.

In reality none of those work and in fact they only make the waves choppier.

Our souls long for something different.  Something calming…something solid to hold onto.  Our souls long for an anchor.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” - Hebrews 6:19

What is this hope?

The hope is Jesus Christ and the anchor of His Grace, Mercy, Peace, and Forgiveness that He offers in a life rooted in Him.  Our souls are desperate to be anchored back to the dock and refuge of God.

Only there will we find peace and calm.

If we choose to anchor our souls in anything other than the truth of God we are left to our own life saving techniques.  We will be tossed back and forth in life guaranteed to have perpetual spiritual sea sickness.

I plead that we all anchor our souls properly.  To allow God to calm the seas of our life and give us the ability to tether our lives back to the rock that is unshakable, not weathered by the storms of our life.

Two ways we can do this is through God’s Word and Prayer To God.

Through God’s Word we are able to find the bedrock of Truth that God desperately wants us to cling to.  Through His Word we replace the lies of “work longer, harder, faster” with Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take time each day to read, meditate, and apply His Word to your life so that waves of Scripture will fill your mind and not fear or doubt.

The second thing you can do is Pray to God.  Prayer is our opportunity to simply talk to God and to be honest, transparent in front of God.  This is the place where there is no need to be someone you’re not, believe me, He already knows the real you anyway. :)

Paul gives us wise words in Philippians 4:6 when he says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Calm the seas in your life today by throwing down your anchor in the bedrock of God’s love and Truth.  Trust that there is nothing He can’t handle and nothing He can’t calm.

Anchors away!!!

 

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