Category Archives: Leadership

I Give You My Word…Kinda

When I was 10, I made a bet with my friend Luke.  He played on a rival baseball team and we were about to play them and so we decided to put a “wager” on the game.  If we won he had to drink water for entire week.  That meant no pop, milk, orange juice, or anything else with taste.  It had to be water.  If I lost I would have to drink milk for an entire week without substitute.

I know…it was a big bet.

Long story short…we lost the game.

So the next morning as I was about to pour myself a glass of OJ when my mom grabbed the bottle and said, “What are you doing?”  I said, “getting some OJ.”  She said, “Are you forgetting something?”  I said, “No, the glass is right there I think I’m covered” to which she replied, “I don’t think so.”

My mom took the time to “remind me” that I had lost the best with Luke and now I needed to do what I said I was going to do.  So for an entire week I drank milk.

Fast-forward two years and I’m at a swimming meet.  I had just finished a couple of races and I was exhausted.  The bummer was that I had one more race called the 500m Freestyle left to swim.  It was a beast of a race and I decided I wasn’t going to swim it.  By the time I got up to the grand stands it was very near the time I was supposed swim.  When my mom saw me she said, “What are you doing here?  You’re about to race!”  I shrugged my shoulders and told her I wasn’t going to do it.

The next thing I know I felt a mommy paw grabbing my right arm and dragging my Speedo covered butt down the stairs.  As I stumbled to catch my breath, I remember her saying, “You signed up to swim this race and you are going to swim it.”  My mom LITERALLY pushed me onto the starting blocks seconds before the starter shot the gun.

FOR THE RECORD:  I cried the whole time, my goggles filled with tears, but I nearly won that stupid race.

Why in the world do I tell you these stories?  It’s to share with you that from a very young age my mom and dad taught me to honor the commitments I kept.  They knew that they wanted me to be a man of integrity that kept his word and did what he said he was going to do. That has stuck with me to this very day.

Why is this a big deal?

Well for starters it’s the right thing to do and secondly Jesus taught us to do it.

Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)

Jesus’ brother James also encourages us to do the same thing when he says, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.” (James 5:12)

This means:

  • If you said you’d show up…show up.
  • If you promised to drive them…drive them.
  • If you said you’d help out…help out.
  • If you committed to love them “till death does you part”…love them.

Our world doesn’t get this.  It doesn’t get it because it focuses on “me” and “I” more than anything else.  If honoring our commitment gets in the way of “me” doing something then, I choose “me” every time regardless of who I let down.

In essence we’re saying, “I give you my word…kinda.”

However, honoring your commitments can be one of the most effective ways of showing Christ’s transformation in your life.  It shows Christ driven integrity.  It is a visual example that you are who you say you are.  It shows that you are living your life by a different rhythm than the beat of the rest of the world.

Now don’t get crazy.

If you have committed to cutting tails off puppies or are a member of hit man squad for the mob I’m not saying you should keep those commitments in the name of Jesus.  That is called sin and you should repent in the name of Jesus.

I’m talking about the commitments that you make that won’t lead to jail time or personal injury.  🙂

Do I realize there may be times you have to back out of things?  YES!!!  I totally do and have had to unfortunately do it myself.  I feel terrible about it and I know I haven’t honored those people or organizations well.

However, I have tried to honor them in the way I’ve backed out.

Here are keys I’ve found to doing this in a Godly way:

  1. Pray about how your decision first to ask God’s wisdom and guidance.
  2. Never assume that they can “find someone else” or that you “weren’t that important”.  If that were the case they would probably be calling you thanking you for you offer, but they are ok now.
  3. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, I repeat NEVER tell them in a text, e-mail, Twitter message, Facebook message, through someone else, or any other passive aggressive manner.
  4. Talk with them face-to-face out of respect and so they can hear your heart.  If in person is not possible, call them on the phone.
  5. Explain the circumstances surrounding why you can’t do it and offer to help them another time or in another way.
  6. Apologize for not being able to fulfill your commitment.

Listen, I know this is hard.  I know life happens and things get in the way, but I also know that impact committed people have on the world.

You want to be the person that when someone sees you or looks at your name on a list they instantly say “Oh, Joe!  He’s solid.  We can count on him.”

You want that!

I want that!

Jesus wants that!

Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 6:6 – Does Hard Work Have Large Talons?

“You lazy fool, look at an ant.  Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two!”

Proverbs 6:6 (MSG)

My wife is from a small town in Iowa.  A one stop light, everybody knows your business, with 7 different churches in it kinda small.  But from a young age Cherie’s parents new she wanted something bigger.  To motivate her to achieve these things, they gave her tangible examples of why she needed to work hard and go to college.

The most vivid of these motivators was working in the chicken coops of a local farm.  Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about unless you’ve seen the movie Napoleon Dynamite.  Here is a refresher clip from the movie to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

That is exactly what my wife’s parents had her do!

Yep, Cherie is hardcore!

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a chicken farmer or living in a small town.  But Cherie’s parents wanted to expose her to this type work so she could see the options she had in life.  She could stay in the small town to work these kinds of jobs or she could go to college, work hard, meet a good-looking baseball player 🙂 , and pursue the dreams she said she wanted to achieve.

The choice was hers, but achieving her dreams would take hard work.

In Proverbs 6, Solomon uses the example of the ant to call out those of us that are lazy.  It’s easy to see why he used an ant if you’ve ever watched one work.  They are quick to the task and quicker to the next one.  Let’s face it, if you only have 60 days to live you better get after it!  In the life of an ant there is no time for lounging and relaxing.

Our world is different.

In the Western World, it seems we define work as the annoying thing that gets in the way of relaxing.  Fewer and fewer people look at work as a privilege and approach it with the responsibility God says that it is.  Paul reminds us of the spiritual aspect of our work in Colossians 3:23 when he says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  Work is ultimately not for our benefit, it is for God’s ultimate glory.

Before I go too much further, I want to be clear.  I completely understand in the economy of today that jobs are difficult to get, let alone excel in.  I have prayed  for countless people that are not shy from hard work at all.  This proverb is not directed at you and I pray God’s timing will provide work for you soon.

Now let’s be fair, I cherish my free time with my family and enjoy snuggling on the couch with my wife as much as the next married guy.  God even designed the creative order to have rest woven into it by evidence of the command to Sabbath.

However, I do see a rising epidemic of people that find no value in hard work and are becoming obese with laziness.  Men and women have seemingly become allergic to hard work and as a result have no drive, direction, or future.  They have chosen to live life through the reality “stars” they watch reruns of at 2:00 on a Tuesday in their jammies.

The Message translation of Proverbs 6:9-11 hits it on the head.  Listen to Solomon’s warning to us all that find laziness our friend.

“So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?

How long before you get out of bed?

A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,

sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?

Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,

poverty your permanent houseguest!”

No one can scrape your booty off the couch and make you work.  If that were possible there would be far less mother’s cooking lunch for their 30-year-old son’s during their “break” from playing Halo in her basement.

The decision to work comes from within you and I.  But the desire for working needs to come from a heart of genuine worship of God.   We should never use the gift of life God gives us to idly sit on the sidelines of life out of a spirit of entitlement.

Rather, out of a spirit of thankfulness, we should work as hard as we can to show our affection for Him and allow that to be part of our testimony of His greatness in our life.

I’m Just Trying To Hold It Together

How many of these statements have you said in the past 6 months?

  • “I’ve got to be strong for them.”
  • “If I don’t keep it together it’ll all fall apart.”
  • “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

Some of you (me included) are smiling because you’ve said one or all of those in the last 12 hours let alone 6 months!  These statements are really overarching feelings that scream “I’M JUST TRYING TO HOLD IT TOGETHER!!!!”  In a world of chaos, stress, hustle, bustle, and muscle there are moments when things seem to be coming loose at the edges.  In those moments our faith receives heavy testing and we are faced with how to deal with the idea of control.

As a firstborn, Type A+, extreme “planner” who is married to a firstborn, Type A+, extreme “planner”, I know a thing or two about control.   My wife and I love lists, spreadsheets, dry erase boards, label makers, organization apps, and anything else nerdy short of a pocket protector.  We feel planning for things ahead of time reduces stress in the moment so we try to be ahead of the game.  Whether it’s financially or just packing for a trip to Iowa we try to pre-think about all that needs to be done.

That works great with suitcases and buying couches, but it always seems to fail when it comes to real life stuff.  Stuff like babies in NICUs, illness, family situations, or job stresses.  Pharmacies would sell far less antidepressants and antianxiety medication if we were able to predict those events as accurately as the inflation costs of new windows in your home.  Sorry to break it to you gang, but “that aint how it works.”

Whether we can see the events coming or not, we still deal with them and most of us will choose 1 of 3 responses:

  1. I’ll just ignore it.  If I pretend it’s not there, it’ll just go away.
  2. I’m going to tackle this thing myself.  I’ll put my head down and deal with it.
  3. I’m not strong enough to deal with this so I’m checking out and giving up.

To be sure, all of these responses will produces results.  Not always the best results, but results nonetheless.  What saddens me (especially when I do it too) is when Christians fall into these same lines of response.

I say saddens because as Christians we profess to believe in a pretty amazing, awesome, and powerful God, but often we “reduce Him to the size of our biggest problem”, as Mark Batterson would say.  We think the God that created everything from the atom to the heavens can’t possibly save my marriage or help me with my difficult child.

So instead we choose to tackle our challenges by our own efforts and then wonder why we are exhausted, crying, burnt out, and miserable all the time.  The reason this happens is because we are going against what God designed.  We are forgetting Who holds this whole thing together and news flash… it isn’t you or I.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  – Colossians 1:15-17 (emphasis mine)

Thank goodness Paul is there to remind us that in the midst of the storm of life God is still there holding things together.  He doesn’t take breaks, go on holiday, or get distracted.  He is laser focused on His creation and is active and working with in it.  So we should be quick to remember that if we are going to lean into anything in our time of struggle, need, joy, or contentment it should be into the strength of God.

So stop trying to be the superhero of your life when God hasn’t asked you to do that.  The bottom line truth is that if you are trying to hold your life together by anything other than God you simply have the wrong glue.

More Than Just Words: Until Death Pauses Our Life

“Until Death Do Us Part”

I heard a pastor friend say once that he’d “much rather do funerals than weddings”.  His reason is that funerals celebrate better than anything else the life of someone and, for the Christian, to speak of the reward of heaven for a life lived well.

On the other hand, to him weddings  have so much glitz and glamour to them.  So much so that most people don’t remember the ceremony let alone the pastor’s message.  I guess to him there is too much idealism and optimism in the way of the truth of what’s in store.  But in death, a reality hits you that is stronger than any force I’ve ever experienced.

Death makes you think.  Death makes you reconsider.  Death makes you sober up.  Death makes you look in the mirror and face the stark realties of life.

Death can cause a grown man to cry and families’ oceans apart reunite.  I’ve seen funerals be the moment a mother and son reconcile and grandkids see their grandparents for the first time.

But the death of a spouse is a one of the most crushing things I’ve ever experienced.  Especially when it happens too early by our human standards.  However, a marriage that is able to see it through all the way to death is one of the most staggering examples of God’s hand at work I’ve ever seen.

This is the reality that until “death do us part” screams for when you promise it to your spouse.  It means that you promise to be with them to the very end of this life.  It might mean hospital beds, nursing homes, car crashes, or heart attacks, but it means to the very end.

However, for the Christian, this good-bye is really only like pushing the pause button on our time with our spouse.  As a Christ follower the best days, months, years, eternity is yet to come.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Don’t kid yourself.  There is more than this life.  Eternity is real.

On the other side of all the pain and garbage we have gone through, that stuff will not even register in our memory after about 7 seconds in the presence of Christ.

But don’t get ahead of yourself.  Cherish and enjoy the gifts that God has given us on this side of Heaven and the most important of them being your spouse.  Realize that saying “until death do we part” is a gift that we are given by the other person that literally lasts a lifetime.

Another pastor I follow says that one of his goals in life is to be able to live long enough to preach his wife’s funeral.  He says it would be one of the greatest honors to be able to have said he care for and celebrated her well all the way to the very end.  I want to be that kind of husband…that kind of man…that kind of Christ follower.

Be the kind of people that want that for each other too.  Love each other so well that not even thought of death can keep you from breaking the vows you promised each other.


More Than Just Words: I Won’t Tap Out

“In Sickness and in Health”

Hospitals do something to you.

I’ve walked through the doors of many a hospital in different capacities.  I’ve been a patient, a visitor, a student, an employee, a friend, a father, a grandson, a nephew, and a pastor.

Hospitals just do something to you.

They are places of healing and joy, but within the very same walls are juxtaposed feelings of suffering and sorrow.  But through all of these emotional ups and downs there is one common thing.

It’s the human element.

You see, in each room you don’t find robots you find real people, with real stories, with real emotions, and who need a real God.

As a pastor I have had the unbelievable honor of being by the bedside as loved ones pass.  I’ve seen newborn babies being held by their mother for the first time.  I’ve held the hand of friends that are fighting for their last days.  I’ve been in the waiting room as people wait to hear test results.  I’ve seen little ones with wires and tubes coming out of them as parents sit helplessly by their side.

But through all of it I’ve seen God move and He is Good.

I’ve also seen husbands leave wives sick with MS and 2 kids.  I’ve seen “men” make their wives find their own rides to chemotherapy.  I’ve heard stories of parents leaving their newborn baby in the NICU for the hospital to deal with when the thought of raising a disabled child was too much.

But through all of it I’ve seen God move and He is Good.

You see God is consistent.  We are inconsistent.  He is not affected by our emotional roller coaster.  He does not succumb to our weaknesses.  He has always been here and will always be here far after we are gone.  He is the Rock that does not move.

It is the confidence in an unchanging, unflappable, unconditional God that allows us to look our spouse in the eyes and tell them we will be with them “in sickness and in health.”

It’s because the God we worship did not tap out when the going got tough.  He didn’t bag it when the pain was excruciating, when the wounds were bleeding, when the whips were tearing, when the guards were mocking, when the people were spitting, and when His father was forsaking.

1 Peter 2:23 – 24 tells us, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

I believe leaving your sick spouse in the middle of their time of need is like leaving a soldier wounded in the middle of a war with enemies all around.  If a soldier did that they would be dishonorably discharged and disgraced by their country, but if we do that to our spouse it’s called “making sure we are happy.”  We can’t tap out when the going gets tough.  We can’t tap out when the medical bills get high.  We can’t tap out when being intimate with them is never again a possibility.  We can’t tap out when sickness is more common than health.

Jesus did not give up on us in our time of need because of His love for us and because of that we should NEVER give up on our spouse because of our love for them.

In sickness and in health has no limits.  It means I won’t tap out!

More Than Just Words – The Good, Bad, and The Unbelievable

“For Better and For Worse”

I always find it funny when people say “I wish I could just know what the future holds.”  It’s funny to me because there is no way they would want that wish to come true.

If you want to know the future it comes with both sides of the coin.  That awareness comes with the good side and the bad side.

  • You get to know when you are going to get married, but you also see when you are going to get into that auto accident.
  • You see that promotion you are going to get, but you also see when the doctor says the results don’t look good.
  • You see the birth of your first child, but you also see when your wife says I’m moving out.

The good stuff is what we’ll eat up, but the bad stuff, we’d rather leave that on the plate with the veggies.  Fortunately, we don’t get the glimpse into the future we’d like, but when it comes to marriage it shouldn’t matter.

When we look our spouse, our best friend, in the eyes on our wedding day and promise to be there for them for “better or for worse” it’s not said as a question.  It’s not said with a little more emphasis on the “better” and mumbling the “worse.”  No, loud and proud we vow to our spouse that we will be there with them through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As Christians, we know where we get this level of commitment, and it’s not from Mel Gibson riding a horse with Smurf paint on his face.  It’s Jesus Christ.

 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  – Matthew 28:16-20

You gotta love this section of Scripture.  So, despite the fact that He spent 3 years with them, did miracles in front of them, cast out demons in front of them, was crucified in front of them, and now is resurrected in front of them “some still doubted.”  Nice!

So hang on, despite the fact that there were some doubters in the posse He still commissions them to go and spread the Gospel to the world.  Then, to put the cherry on the top of the unbelievable cake, He tells them despite the doubters and despite the fact that He KNEW they would not be perfect after He ascends to heaven, He says “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

There it is.

He’s with them despite the good, the bad, and the unbelievable.   He’s with them NO MATTER WHAT!

So when we as Christians enter into our marriage vows to our spouse that’s the intense dedication we come into it with.  We come into it humbly following the lead of our Lord and Savior, that despite our sin and imperfection, promised to be with us always.  So if we are completely sold out to Him then we must be completely sold out to our spouse.

  • So when your husband is lazy and doesn’t help out around the house like you think he should, you stick with him.
  • So when you wife is amazing one minute and totally crabby the next, you stick with her.
  • So when the butterflies are gone and you don’t sit on the couch and make-out like you used to, you stick it out.

For better and for worse” is our opportunity to show our spouse that we are in it no matter what.  And when people look like you are crazy to stick it out you need only point to Jesus when asked why you do what you do.

If He was willing to love and trust us with spreading the Gospel despite our good, bad, and unbelievable hearts then the least we can do is show that same commitment to our spouse.

More Than Just Words – I Take You

“I take you to be my spouse.”

When I do a wedding ceremony I always start to get anxious when the time comes for the couple to recite their vows.  The main reason is that I have nightmares of saying the wrong names for the couple, or saying something dumb like “do you John take Suzy to be your husband,” and then realizing I was one tuxedo away from conducting a civil union.  It’s terrible!

I can thankfully say I’ve yet to do this only by the grace of God, but I’m sure now it’s only a matter of time.

As we start breaking down the traditional wedding vows it doesn’t take long for us to get to one of the most intimate parts of the marriage vows.

“I Take You.”

Man, just think about that for a minute!  “I…Take…You.”

That is intense!

Consider what you are saying. You are telling the person (and God) that you are accepting this person into your life as is.  There are no qualifiers.  I Take You doesn’t allow for exceptions like “I’ll take you if you lose weight” or “stop drinking” or “choose a new sports team” or “get a better job.”

No, I Take You means you have ended the dating, the window shopping, the considering, and you’ve made up your mind.  You’ve taken in all the information, experiences, and opinions you needed in the time you think was appropriate and now it’s done.

This person is going to be your spouse and you promise to take them as is.

Let me ask you something that may sting.

Are you holding resentment towards your spouse for things he or she does that you looked past before you were married?

In other words, are you deciding now not take your spouse “as is” anymore?

Part of getting to the I Take You moment is taking the time to really get to know the person you are going to marry beyond how they look in a dimly lit bar.  It’s asking real questions that have real answers and not just ones that can be answered Yes, No, or LOL.

It’s knowing who you are first and what you want in a spouse second.  You need to establish priorities that are nonnegotiable like God, kids, and finances before you get in the white dress or penguin suit and are all hopped up on emotion.

Proverbs 20:25 says “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows.”

In other words, don’t promise first and then think second.  You need to think through what you are doing, whom you are doing it with, and what that could look like in the future before you look that person in the eyes and say “I Take You”.

Now don’t kid yourself.  There isn’t a flawless person out there for everyone.  My wife got the last one.  🙂

All of us have our nuances and garbage that we come to the table of relationship with, but what is critical is that we call these things for what they are and not ignore them or glamorize them into something they are not.

  • A person that can’t balance a checkbook is not just free spirited, they are irresponsible.
  • A person that gets drunk every night isn’t the life of the party, they are an alcoholic.
  • A person that doesn’t believe in God isn’t “finding himself or herself,” they are an atheist who will pull you more away from God than you will ever know.

You need to call it for what it is now so that later on you aren’t staring in a mirror asking “what happened to my life?”  I want you to be fully aware of all that it means to be a spouse to someone and enjoy the ride that is called marriage.

Because when you stand in front of your loved ones and God on that special day and say “I Take You” that is the beginning of a vow that lasts a lifetime.

A Promise Better Than Tim Tebow

On September 27, 2008 the University of Florida lost a football game to the University of Mississippi.  In the athletic world this was a huge upset and one that potentially shattered the national championship dreams of the promising Gators team.

That year, the Gators were led by a young man named Tim Tebow.  Tebow was the strong, ruddy, athletic, handsome, well-spoken, quarterback and the unquestionable leader of the Gators football team.

After the loss, Tebow came into the post game press conference and didn’t take questions, had nothing prepared, but instead gave this off the cuff speech which has now been named “The Promise”.

The Promise

“To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry.

I’m extremely sorry.

We were hoping for an undefeated season.

That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.

I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

You will never see any player in the entire country

play as hard as I will play the rest of the season.

You will never see someone push the rest of the team

as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.

You will never see a team play harder

than we will the rest of the season.

– God Bless”

Tebow’s speech and leadership inspired the Gators that year and they went on to win the National Championship against the Oklahoma Sooners.  This speech is now carved into the side of the Gator’s football stadium for all to see and has been pointed to as one of the most inspirational speeches in college athletic history.

That was pretty good…but not the best I’ve heard.

Rewind history a few thousand years and let me introduce you to another handsome, ruddy, athletic, well spoken young man.  He was the youngest of 8 boys in his family and was a sheepherder for his father while his other brothers were warriors.  However, don’t dismiss him too quickly as some boy scout because by his own hands he defeated a lion and bear while protecting his flock.

At that time, King Saul led the nation of Israel and they were in a constant battle with the Philistines.  To make matters worse the Philistines were giant men and standing head and shoulders above the rest (literally) was Goliath.  The 9-foot tall Goliath was a nemesis to the nation of Israel and taunted them night and day looking for someone to fight him.  Beat him and the Philistines would surrender, but no one would accept the challenge.

Enter into the scene our sheepherder.  His name is David and while bringing lunches to his brothers he hears Goliath spouting off and he didn’t take to kindly to his taunts.  After being mocked by his brothers, blessed by King Saul, removing some ill-fitting armor, and making a quick stop at the toy store for a sling and a couple rocks David approaches Goliath and gives this speech.

David said to the Philistine,“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” “  – 1 Samuel 18:45-47

If you don’t have goose bumps right now or have the urge to run through a brick wall you better be in a hospital bed under heavy anesthesia because that is good stuff!

Now I’m not going to make some cheesy correlation that Tim Tebow is the modern day David or anything like that.  Calm down.

But what I do want to point out is this…it’s the same God.

  • It’s the same God that David called upon in his time of battle and is who we call upon now in our daily struggles.
  • It’s the same God whose strength all of us as Christians pull from whether leading a football team, leading a company, or leading our family.
  • It’s the same God that looked down on the war of sin waging in this world and sent His very best to save us…Jesus Christ.

So my encouragement for you is not from speeches we hear but from the God we worship.  It’s not in good-looking athletic role models, but from the King of the Universe.  It’s a charge to live our lives pushing forward with the strength of God to tackle anything that may come our way.

Now THAT’s a real promise.


Trust Me, You Don’t Want That!

Recently I ran into a great section of Scripture in 1 Samuel that really spoke to me. It is Chapter 8 and we find Israel being led well by the prophet Samuel for many years, but yet they still aren’t happy.   Shocking I know.

As a prophet of God (and a great one at that) Samuel was God’s voice to the people of Israel and had guided and protected them without the use of a king.  But now the grumble bunnies had surfaced again and this time they wanted to have a powerful king to point to as their leader.  Apparently the All Mighty God was not enough I guess.

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But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” ” – 1 Samuel 8:6-9

So Samuel tells the people of Israel what God says and outlines exactly what would happen if they chose to be ruled by a king.  God was so specific that he even told them how much of what they owned the king would take from them along with what jobs they would occupy under his rule.  As transparent as He could possible be, He basically says,  “A king?  Oh no.  Trust me, you don’t want that.  That would be a bad thing and you will not be too happy with that decision.”

But did they listen?

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20

Now check out this haunting response from God.

“When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord.  The Lord answered. “Listen to them and give them a king. – 1 Samuel 8:21-22 (emphasis mine)

Out of God’s love and compassion He tells the people of Israel the consequences of asking for a king.  They refuse to listen to His warnings and God gives them what they want.  Knowing full well it will hurt them.

Boy did that hit me like a ton of bricks.

How many times in my life have I read my Bible and known God’s will for what to do and not to do, but yet I still do what I want anyway?  I’m not sure I can even count them all, but I know more times than not I paid the price for not following God’s plan.

Sure there are lots of things in this life that we can’t see and only God knows why they happen, but honestly these are the exceptions to the rule.  There are far more things that we have our eyes wide open to the dangers of but still do, and yet we are shocked that the consequences still happen.

For crying out loud He said it was going to end up this way!

We may not always believe this, but God’s plan is not designed to steal our joy it’s designed to create it.

My hope for you and I is that we can start to listen and obey God’s designed for us from the beginning instead of constantly having to dust our selves off from another avoidable tumble through life.  Believe me God is hoping you choose the path He has laid out for you because on it you will find a tremendously fulfilling life.

Trust me you don’t want the other one.

True Confessions of a First Time Dad: Can You Really See Me Up There?

The other day my wife Cherie and I were standing in the loft area of our townhouse watching Aniston play on the deck with her kitchen set.  At one point we saw her take one of the toy forks and try to “comb” our dog Pachino’s hair with it. 

That poor dog has been through so much in the last 2 years the last thing he needs is to be impaled.

So before she had the chance to thrust, I said “Aniston, don’t do that to Pachino” in my deepest daddy voice I have.  You would have thought God himself had just spoken because the look on her face was priceless.  She didn’t know that we could see her and she didn’t seem to be able to see us through the window which made for a great “how the heck did he know?” moment.

I also remember when I was in Subway a few months ago I placed my order with the sandwich artist behind the counter only to quickly realize that he was a rookie.  He wasn’t a completely new person so he started to construct my meatball sandwich on his own.  He got the bread cut, the cheese down, and started to put the meatballs on before an employee came over to help out.

Through the fakest smile I’ve seen in a long time the fellow employee said to the newbie.  “Be careful not to put too many meatballs on the sub because she is watching.”  The newbie said, “who is watching…Sue?” darting his head looking for the manager.  Still smiling, the employee continued “Yes, she has a camera that when she’s not here she watches from home and will call into the store to yell at people putting too much food on the sandwiches.” The newbie said “no way, can she really see me up there?” as if he thought he was being hazed for being the new guy, but quickly recounted the meatball and took one away after seeing the seriousness of the other guy’s face. 

Do you ever think God can’t see you?

I mean, do you sometimes allow yourself to believe that God has to be doing more important stuff than watching the TV monitor with your life on it in the Heavenly control room?

Now, I’m not saying that God is waiting to slap your hand for giving a great guy like me an extra meatball, but He is watching. 

Look at what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 33:13-15.

From heaven the Lord looks down

and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches

all who live on the earth –

he who forms the hearts of all,

who considers everything they do.

This should actually come as a great relief to us as Christians.  To know that the Coach is watching, and what we are doing does matter should give us a great deal of reassurance in why we live how we live.

Let’s face it, instead of having to guess what’s on the test (like I had to do in Organic Chemistry in college), I like knowing that it all matters.  It all counts.  Knowing that doesn’t let me take a break or roll the dice thinking that He won’t ask about this little sin.

Now, where I would be extremely concerned is if I had to make amends for all of the stuff I did that He does see.  Every slip of the tongue, every white lie, every miss use of my money, every choice word I have for that guy that just cut me off.  If I was held accountable for all of that…I’d be nervous.

But as a Christian I am free of all sin because of Christ. 

Not so that I can be cocky about having a “Get Out Of Hell Free Card”, but so that I might be humbled and grateful for the gift of Grace given to me by Jesus that I desire to live differently for Him. 

That’s why I’m glad this Psalm didn’t end with the weird Guy watching me in the sky part, but continued:

But the eyes of the Lord are on those

who fear him,

On those whose hope is in his

Unfailing love,

To deliver them from death… – Psalm 33:18-19

So, live your life glad that your Dad is watching and make Him proud by how you live.