3 Guaranteed Ways To Screw Up Your Life…Or To Save It

SONY DSCIn life we think there are few guarantees outside of taxes and death, but I’m here to tell you that there are more.  These guarantees may not kill you or cause you a hospital stay, but they will jack up your life.  The wisest man in the world Solomon shares these words in Proverbs 4.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.” 

- Proverbs 4:25-27

You’ve heard it said to “watch you step” and this is a great way to sum up this Proverb.  When we decide to not mind where we are walking it usually leads us to a minefield of disaster.  Although this Proverb is written in the affirmative and gives wisdom of what TO do to avoid struggles, there is also wisdom in reading it in the negative and looking at what could happen if you DON’T follow his instruction.

I believe reading between these lines Solomon outlines 3 ways to screw up your life.

1.  “Let your eyes look straight ahead fix your gaze directly before you.” v. 25

A great way to see your life tail spin is to take your eyes off of God and believe what other people, places, or things are better than Him.  We live in a world of instant gratification.  Even churches aren’t immune to this reality.   People will hop churches when something doesn’t fit them, someone doesn’t smile at us, the music is too loud, or the pastor wears jeans.  But our daily lives are this way too and when we choose to lose sight of the path God has laid out for us we will stumble and will fall…sometimes hard.  So if you want to screw up your life believe that she “understands you” better than your wife, buy into his smooth words that he will be your knight in shining armor, cut the corners at work, and have another drink or 7.  Or if you want a life that avoids evil and unnecessary challenges stay on God’s path, fix your eyes on Him, and don’t get distracted.

2.  “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” v. 26

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often found myself in messes asking the question “How in the world did I get here?”  It’s the same sensation we get while driving on a long road trip and realizing we don’t remember the last 10-15 miles worth of road we travelled.  This happens in life too if we don’t stay present in the moment and in tune with the direction God has for us.  We can’t afford to let our minds wander or take a break from God’s plan.  Taking a break allows time for Satan to make up the distance we’ve created by following God and believe me if he gets a head of steam he will hit you like a freight train.  If you want to screw up your life take a break from following God’s plan.  Stop serving your wife, become selfish with your time, stop going to church, look out for your interests first, and look for quick gratification.  These are guaranteed to throw your life off course, but if you don’t find that appetizing I’d tell you to “keep your head”.  Consider yourself an addict of sin which means you never can afford to stop God therapy or you will relapse.  It’s true what they say “once an addict always an addict”.

3.  “Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”  v. 27

One of if not THE best way to screw up your life is to believe Satan cares about you.  Let me be blunt.  The only thing Satan cares about is killing you and he will do it however he can.  When we start being lulled into believing that Satan has our best interests in mind we will do all kinds of things because they all sound so good!  Cheating on your wife, having another drink, messaging your ex-boyfriend on Facebook, staying a little later at work (again), checking that website one more time, or anything else your mind can imagine sound amazing coming from a sweat talking Satan.  If you want to screw up your life believe Satan cares about.  Of course you could decide to believe that God loves you far more than you can imagine.  The proof of that is the Son he gave up so that you wouldn’t have to be apart from Him by His grace.  To me that seems like a love and commitment I want to stay connected to and not a two-faced Satan.

Listen, it’s your life.  You can live it however you feel.  God has given you free will as proof of that fact.  If you want to sin you may, but understand that path has a pain and destruction littered all along the ditches.

But what God wants for you is far different.  Sure, His path may be a little dusty and winding, but in the end where you end up and what you’ve accomplished will be worth it.

Don’t screw up your life by stepping on the sweet smelling, well paged, wide path of evil.  Save your life by following God’s plan, keep your eyes fixed on him, stay the course, and live life to the full!

 

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“If You’d Just Fix YOU, We’d Be Fine!” – Marriage Conflict Delusion

Relationship-Spats-Horiz-WebI’m not sure if you heard about this phenomenon, but married people fight. I know!  It floored me too when I read an article on it this week on my USA Today App.  :)

Ok, ok, I know your screen is dripping with sarcasm so I’ll stop the charade.

 

It’s no secret that in marriage there are times of peace and times of war.  The truth is that disagreements are inevitable.  Especially when you consider that sometimes marriage feels like putting two territorial jungle cats into a cage and watching them fight for dominance.  No matter what the breed of cat or the type of relationship we have we all fight for the same thing.

We battle for “self”.

How can I get my quota of “self” as high as possible so I experience the least amount of change and the highest amount of satisfaction.  We all look into the mirror and judge our expectations of one another off of our current state of being.  After all, it’s gotten us this far and we feel pretty good about who we are so why wouldn’t the other person not want to have some of my way of doing things in their life so they could feel good too?

It seems so simple.

Yet, when the other person doesn’t yield and won’t buy our “How To Be Me In 5 Easy Steps” Starter Kit for $39.95 we get mad and start to resent them.  We dig our heals in physically, emotionally, and spiritually and prepare for war.  This is when communication gets shut off, sex is used as a weapon, and becoming roommates in your own home begins.

One of the most common battle cries from one camp to the other, especially when one person sobers up enough to realize they need help, is “I don’t need help, YOU do! “, “If you get fixed everything will be fine.”, or “You need counseling to figure out your issues, because your broken not me.”

Now listen, there are times when one person needs to get more help over another.  Addiction and abuse are mistresses in your relationships and until that third party is taken out true healing cannot begin.  In those cases one person does need to seek help before moving on, but the other person also will need help too.

However, for the majority of marriages out there the notion that one person needs to “just get fixed and everything will be better” is not only untrue, arrogant, and prideful, but unBiblical as well.

When a couple steps forward before God and desires to become married they are not just doing it so they can wear a dress, have a party, and go on an exotic vacation.  The commitment is far greater than the size of the bar tab at the end of the evening.

The commitment is a covenant between themselves and God where in they submit their “self” and embrace the “we” or the “one”.  These aren’t just clever words that pastors think up so divorce rates go down, but rather these are the words of Jesus himself!

Listen to what he says about marriage to a group of religious Pharisees trying to find loopholes for divorce in the gospel of Mark.

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Mark 10:7-9

Jesus, quoting Genesis 2:24, is saying that when you step across the relational line and vow to marry one another things change.  You no longer think in terms of “I” but in “we” which means that you can’t look at one person or the other person as the problem because you both are.  One person isn’t the sick one you both are sick.  One person doesn’t need help you both need help. One person doesn’t need counseling you both need counseling.  The reason is that in God’s eyes He can’t see you as anything BUT one united person!

King Solomon drives at the heart of why this is so important in Ecclesiastes when he says

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

By telling your spouse they need to get fixed while you stay home and keep being “awesome” you are in essence telling them “you are on your own buddy, good luck getting up.”

That’s not how God designed Christian marriage to work.  Sure, it’s how the world will tell you things should work, but we don’t buy what the world is selling.  We believe God has a better plan and His plan is laser focused on working together through any challenges we may face.

Listen, is it going to be hard to work through some stuff in your marriage?  Yes, but you didn’t sign up for easy, you signed up for “richer/poorer, life/death, sickness/health” remember!  You signed up to follow Christ in your marriage to be “be Holy as He is Holy”.

Here’s the bottom line:

The best way for Satan to break up your marriage is to get you isolated and alone so he can fill you with lies, pride, and despair.  The only way to combat him is for you both to have a God honoring, Satan destroying, and joy-filled marriage that is united together through any and all circumstances.

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Jimmy Hoffa & Other Dumb Things We Dig Up

 

Jimmy_riddle_hoffaJimmy Hoffa was a key leader in the mob in the 60‘s and 70‘s and accused of being party to terrible crimes.  The mystery surrounding him is legendary, but none more illusive than where and how he died.  Hoffa was officially declared dead in 1982 but his body was never found.  However, this was not for a lack of trying.  Since 1975 over 15 different leads have led to countless hours expended by FBI agents and excavating companies digging up locations where he was presumed to be buried.

 

It’s been estimated that for just this one case well over $3 million has been spent looking for Hoffa.  A dead guy.  Who is still dead.  And will continue to be dead when and if they find where he’s buried.

There won’t be any Hoffa arrest, interrogation, or trial.  Hoffa won’t be able to stand in front of his victim’s family’s and give an answer as to why he did what he did.  Why?

Because he’s dead.

Yet we still search and I’m sure when this most recent dig in a field in Michigan turns up nothing but cow bones, PBR cans, and old Eminem CDs they will not stop looking

The reason is that it seems to be our human nature to dig up dead stuff.  We love to dig up things in our past and other’s past all the time. As a pastor, I usually see this past exhuming process occur in 3 different ways.

 

 1. Exhuming The Past To Learn

Sometime digging up the past comes from a genuine desire to know the truth about where we’ve come from.  Family lineage and seeking to know about who you are and where you came form can be incredible healthy.  I know of people that have discovered siblings they never knew, royalty they were a part of, and details about their great grandparents they never shared.  Digging up the past to seek clarity on your present can be extremely helpful and exciting if kept in its pure form.

 

 2. Exhuming The Past To Hurt Others

Other times we dig up stuff to use against other people to make sure they don’t forget what they did. Typically I see this type of exhuming done in unhealthy relationships.  In the heat of an argument about something “big”, like leaving the toilet seat up, a venomous snowball will be created. It’s formed out of past offenses, hurts, and fears that he or she did from years ago which have nothing to do with the porcelain predicament you currently are in.  A huge fight ensues, both sides are wounded, and they stand in a graveyard of dug up bones of their past that they thought they had buried.

 

 3. Exhuming The Past To Punish Yourself

Finally I see people dig around in the past so that they don’t forget the things they did.  It’s personal punishment so as to maintain the proper amount of guilt and shame those offenses demand.  They feel they have forfeited any right to joy in their life because of what they have done.  Sadly, these people will live in a perpetual state of self-induced depression and guilt because they can’t put the shovel down.  Digging up their past has become their one and only future endeavor.

As healthy as digging up the past is to learn about who you are, using the the past to hurt and punish is exponentially more detrimental.  In fact God would say that by doing this you are sinning because you have lost sight of what forgiveness is.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13 (emphasis mine)

I am not saying that when someone does something to you it doesn’t need to be addressed.  Sweeping things under the rug is not forgiveness.  I am saying approach the situation with the same attitude and heart that Jesus approached us.  A heart beating to offer grace to one another.  Forgiveness is choosing to not allow your past to define your future and walking in the freedom God gives us through forgiving others as He forgave us.

Digging up the skeletons of our past does nothing more than re-dirty our hands and keeps us from being washed clean by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Once God has made us clean through Jesus the last thing he wants us to do is dive back into the muck He pulled us from.

So let’s stop digging in graveyards and start living in the freedom Jesus promises.

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5 Ways To Have A Better Father’s Day Next Year

fathers-day-2Father’s Day came and went.

Another moment in time when we stop to recognize men for being fathers.  A day that says “thanks dad” by grilling meat without green stuff, buying dad a tie or mug, and letting him sneak in a nap without anyone getting on his case for being lazy.

Yet I know there are dads out there, like me, that would love to have looked back on the last year and done a little better as a dad.  We can all think of areas we wish we could have done a little bit more or done a whole lot less when raising our kids.

Sure this can be a monotonous exercise bordering on insanity, but here are

5 things I believe we can do as dads this year to enjoy our next Father’s Day.

 

1. Realign Your Priorities

This year let’s start by realigning our priorities.   Maybe this year we can say “no” overtime and “yes” to playtime with our kids so we won’t look back with regret.  Let’s reorganize the “org chart” of our life and strive to put God first, wife second, kids third, and everything else after that.  If we reorganize now we will have less to regret later. Work tasks can be completed, lawns can still be mowed, and the gym will always be there but our kids keep growing and marching forward with or without us.

 

2.  Love Your Kids’ Mother 

If you want to be a better father start by being a better husband.  One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a strong marriage to observe and emulate.  Now, I understand there are lots of single parents out there who are both mom and dad at times.  I realize you have a tremendous uphill climb that I pray God strengthens you through.  However there are plenty of dads out there who are married and they need to step up and love their wives.  The pity party is over, it’s time for action.  Rise up off the couch, get out of bed, come home on time, quit a softball league or 6, and invest time and energy into your family.  That’s what they care about maybe, we should too.

 

3.  Put Your Kids To Bed 

There are so many ways we can interact with our kids. But I know for me, few can compare with bedtime.  Sure it can be crazy, yes kids stall to squeeze in a few more seconds of “freedom”, and I too want to sit on the couch just as much as the next guy, but something magical happens when my kids snuggle in for bed.  It’s as if they are the most open to talk, let their guard down, and listen.  Take this time to talk with your kids about their hopes, fears, and future before they drift off to dream about it anyway.  But don’t stop there.  Pray with them too and let them know that both of their dads love them very much.  The lower case “d” dad and the big “D” dad.

 

4.  Lead Your Family To Church

Nearly every dad I’ve come across wants their children and family to know about God.  I’m willing to bet 98% of the guys I talk to want that, but less than 5% of that group are willing to be the leader in making it reality.  They will either pack up the wife and kids and send them to get their “God fill-up” or they will treat God like a fad diet and yo-yo their spiritual life until they just quit altogether.  Don’t make your wife be the spiritual initiator in the family this year.  You set the pace for the family and make going to church is as important as watching the football game.  After all, what good will it do if your kids know the Bears starting line-up by memory, but have no idea who God is when it’s all said and done?

 

5.  Read Your Bible

I guarantee every morning my kids will see two things when they get to the kitchen.  A cup of coffee on the counter and my Bible right next to it.  I pray that when my kids grow up they remember that.  But even if they don’t, I will still have a cup of coffee and my Bible every morning.  Why?  Because I read my Bible to further my relationship with God not to look cool to my kids.  However, as I read my Bible I can’t help but see how God wants me to be a better father, husband, and man.  The bottom line is that if I’m in the Word I’m less likely to be in the World which means I’m hard at Work.

So get to work men!  There’s a better Father’s Day in your future if you do.

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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: That Doesn’t Go There!

Now, at one point I had a music room in our house containing my guitar gear, amplifiers, and other music stuff in it so I could rehearse properly.  However, when Aniston was born that room quickly become a shrine to every Disney Princess ever created and more girl clothes than NYC Fashion Week.  So instead of going in my music room of inspiration I usually sing in the kitchen, while holding my 1 year old son, and watching my daughter become a 4 year old teenager in front of my eyes.

Not exactly how John Mayer probably does it, but I’m ok with it….for now :)

The other day I was at home rehearsing some songs for an upcoming wedding I’m doing.  I had my normal cast of characters with me as Easton wiggled in my arms and Aniston pretended to talk to someone on a plastic phone she was holding upside down.

For some reason this was the day Easton realized that the music he heard was coming from me and more specifically my mouth.  This was fascinating to him and apparently he wanted to find the source.  So every time I would sing, Easton would cram his whole hand in my mouth in search of those notes.

It started with examining my teeth, then my tongue, then all the way back to my epiglottis (that is the hangy thing in the back of your throat that looks like a punching bag).  When he realized that I was laughing when he did it which made it oh so much more fun.  However on one of his explorations he got a little phalange happy and his index finger missed my mouth and went right into my left nostril.

His little finger must have been modified with a diamond tip because it felt like a spear being inserted into my brain.  My eyes watered, he giggled, and then the blood started to flow.

When my 4 year old daughter Aniston saw what was happening she ran over to us.  Obviously she was concerned, but after finding out that Easton caused this injury by his finger failure her Doc McStuffin’s diagnosis was spot on.  “Daddy, that doesn’t go there!”

I know for me this happens a lot with my walk with God.  I’m walking along with Him and feeling as though things are going great and then all of sudden I feel a drop of blood from somewhere.  I look around only to realize that I had to put myself in situations, postures, or attitudes that didn’t belong there.  As a result I was hurting myself and other’s and maybe didn’t even mean to do it, but the reality is the blood was flowing.

In that moment I just wish I could go back in time and make things better.  We’ve all been there, but we’d like to take back the word, wipe off the sarcasm, get off the couch, turn the car around, or delete that message.  All we want is to reset the scene the way we know it should be and where all the pieces are designed to fit.

The only problem is that when I try to do the clean-up in the situation I usually make things worse.  The slow drip that started from my nose is now an arterial gusher spurting out all over the place with every beat of the my heart.

This verse in Lamentations really sparked my desire to write this blog and helped me triage the situations in my life much better.

“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old” Lamentations 5:21

My desire to make things right, put things back, or take things out of places they don’t belong must first come by restoring myself back to God.  I need to confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness from Him.  We must restore ourselves back to Jesus in order for the tourniquet to be placed on the wound and stop the bleeding we’ve caused.

In John 15 Jesus calls this place we return to and remain in as the “vine”.  Jesus is the vine that provides true life and in it we can bear fruit by living our lives in and through Him.  If we do this and return to Him Jesus says, “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

This doesn’t mean that cars will fall out of the sky and land in our driveway because the vine of God doesn’t work like a piñata.  However, the answer to our prayers for help and healing in our relationships are best heard when we are abiding in Jesus.  Resting in Him.  Following Him.  Learning from Him.  Confessing to Him.  These are the postures that keep our “fingers” in our life where they belong and not causing damage by going where they shouldn’t.

So restore yourself back to Christ today and let the true healing begin to take shape in your life and those around you.  If you don’t, you may feel light headed and woozy the rest of your life.

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