Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 22 – Are The Rich More Valuable Than The Poor?


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“Rich and poor have this in common;

The Lord is the Maker of them all.”

Proverbs 22:2

 

 

Are rich people more important than poor people?

Does the size of your bank account dictate your worth as a person?

Does more money mean you have a better life?

Should the poor have less influence on the world than the rich?

All of these questions in one form or another swirl in every corner of the globe.  Arguably the divide between the rich and the poor is the greatest humanitarian chasm in our world.  To my US friends, It is important to point out that by the world’s standards even the poor in the United States are rich which should jar us to the core.  However, even within the US the poor and rich live in two different stratospheres it would seem.  We don’t have to look hard to see this truth.

I have never seen the Academy Awards invites the homeless guy begging for change outside the 7/11 to walk the red carpet ahead of Angelina Jolie.  The fact that I can type “Jolie” without a spell check proves that I have seen and know her name without ever physically seeing or knowing her.  But why do I know her better than I know my neighbor from central South Dakota who is a single dad with two young kids and an ex-wife with a criminal record?  The poor are not summoned to congress to talk about their views on the new tax laws.  The poor don’t get invited onto TV shows to talk about the books they wish they could write. The poor aren’t asked to endorse shoes by Nike as they walk around town pushing their stolen Wal-mart shopping cart.

There clearly is a difference in social equality that goes beyond just the bottom line of your checking account.  However there is equality in the eyes of God.  He tells us that regardless of what we make we are all created equal by our Maker.  However, before you read too far into what I’ve said, this is not a rich people bashing session or a poor people pity party.  It is about the responsibility we have, regardless where God has you on the tax bracket, to live your life with integrity, wisdom, and love for Him.  God doesn’t hate rich people and He doesn’t hate the poor, but He is disappointed when we refuse to follow His wisdom for our life especially towards one another.

In Proverbs 22:7, Solomon says that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” which, whether we like it or not, is 100% true.  The reality is that the society we live in is mostly driven by the influence of those that have succeeded and have therefore been given a position of power.  The manner in which we reward those people for that influence is in the form of money.  Yes there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part this is the societal norm we’ve ascribed to.  Before this, power was determined by amount of farmland and livestock, but as society progressed money replaced this system and who knows eventually people may be paid in Golden Retriever puppies if that catches on.  However, according to God, with power comes responsibility.

Solomon goes on to say,

“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich both come to poverty.” Proverbs 22:16

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor, and do not crush the needy in court.”  Proverbs 22:22

Historically, the abuse of power has resulted in a fall from power eventually and those that try to buy there favor with the rich only degrade their integrity into a counterfeit existence.  They may drive nicer cars, but they are more poor in spirit than they ever have been.  Rather God says, that “a generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (v. 9) and “a good name is more desirable than great riches.” (v. 1)

A rich person does not become poor because they share their wealth.  They become poor because they have sold their soul to stuff and the Life within them slowly becomes bankrupt.  Equally as true is that a poor person isn’t poor because they don’t have money.  Yes, sometimes they are poor because they’ve chosen a habit over work, laziness or dedication, or have sold their soul to anyone and anything, but their true poverty comes from not having their eyes focused on the true Ruler of their life.

A wise person seeks God over anything else in this world.  Independent of a checking account balance, they seek His face in any all decisions while not separating their lives into spiritual and not spiritual categories.

For us this means:

  • Parents we should start speaking wisdom to our children at a very young age so it will grow into their lives early. (v. 6).
  • Spouses, speak words of life into your husband or wife to make their spirit rich. (v.11).
  • Christians, make the decision that God is important enough to be number one in our life so we don’t end up spiritually bankrupt.

Wisdom springs from a spirit humbly submitting to God’s will and content with whatever blessing God may bring.  A posture like that brings us into a completely different spiritual tax bracket and one more valuable than gold.  Love each other well and be rich in the love of God.

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4 Things The Flu Taught Me About Sin

Recession-Flu_1245775c

Last week I caught the Influenza A virus that has been crushing every corner of the United States.  I wish I knew the person who spewed their mucous laden, virus infused spit on me so I could “thank them”, but alas I do not.  What I do know is that between bouts of trying to pry the toilet off it’s base while dry heaving my soul into the bowl and having schizophrenic episodes of body shivers and sweats I realized that the flu actually teaches me a lot about sin.

 

Here are Four Things I learned.

1.  The Flu Makes You Look Repulsive…so does Sin

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but you don’t look good when you have the flu.  Pale, sweaty, and puffy are not part of the next “in” fitness craze.  The reason is that the virus inside you is causing your body to revolt and fight it with every possible means necessary.  It’s not looking for style points.  The same happens with sin in our life.  You look repulsive when you sin.  Your soul is trying to do whatever it can to make things right but the sin just distorts the whole picture.

2.  The Flu Isolates You…so does Sin

My room became my cave for 3 days and no one wanted to come in.  My wife would only come into check to make sure I was alive and maybe thrown a Lysol grenade in from time to time, but other than that it was me, my pillows, and my misery.  Sin will cause you to do the same thing.  Sin wants you to isolate yourself and build up a cocoon of selfishness that no one can penetrate.  Sin wants you weak, alone, and dependent on only it to survive.

3.  The Flu Hits When You Are Weak…so does Sin

The easiest time for you to get the flu is when you are stressed, tired, and not eating the right things.  When your body is weakened it’s defenses are compromised which is a playground for viruses.  Why in the world do you think so many college students get mono around finals time?  It’s because they are stressed out and their bodies are more worried about their calc final than fighting off a bug.  Sin loves when we are weak too.  In fact what it loves to do is attack you when you are down and out because it can get it’s best claws in then.  If you are wondering why you seem to be sinning more maybe check how you are taking care of yourself and your soul.

4.  The Flu Is Easily Spread To Others…so is Sin

The worst part about the flu I just had was that I spread it to my staff.  Yep, we had an all staff retreat the day I started to feel crummy and it wasn’t until after the retreat was over that I went to the doctor.  Sure enough about a day later, one by one my staff was texting me and saying they had it too.  The flu was now having a field day with my crew, but you could trace it back to this guy right here.  I felt doubly terrible.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but your sin effects other people too.  There is collateral damage to the decisions we make when we sin.  It effects those we love and care about even when we think it’s only effecting us.  That’s part of the evil of sin.  It sprays like a shotgun not like the sniper’s bullet we want it to be.

There is not doubt that the flu sucks the life out of you.

Don’t kid yourself, sin is sucking the life out of you too.

The difference is that the flu will usually pass after a few days, but sin may last an eternity if you don’t deal with it.  Jesus is the answer to your sin virus.

He says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Let me let you in on a little secret.

You and I make really crummy sin doctors.  In fact we are literally the worst, but Jesus is the Surgeon General of sin annihilation.  Let Him do what he does best and run like the wind from the sin in your life.  Believe me, living a life with Jesus Christ MD as your personal physician is way better than self diagnosing and being in the fetal position rocking back in forth in a warm shower the rest of your life.

 

 

 

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Doing The Right Thing Sometimes Means Wearing A Tie

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In the world today, doing the right thing can be hard.  Granted, the line between what is right and wrong is quickly graying in the minds of society on a daily basis. Yet, I still believe at our core we know what is truly right and truly wrong even if we lie to ourselves from time to time for our own selfish gain.

 

The reason I can say that’s true is because of what I see around Christmas. Without fail, every year people become more generous, more kind, and more selfless. People will give to charities, donate toys for underprivileged kids, volunteer at homeless shelters, and even set aside grudges to hang out with family they dislike.

What baffles me though is the goodwill we show in December doesn’t have to stop when the New Year’s ball drops.  In fact, those organizations we all serve and support don’t freeze in time until next year when they unthaw to let us back into their worlds again.  They keep going and could still use our help.  This is true with our fellow man as well.  Those around us still need our help and support even after the candy canes are off the light poles downtown.

Yet it always happens that when the credit card bills come rolling in or the stress of our job hits a fever pitch we curl back into a selfish fetal position and worry only about our needs. The human condition is innately focused on protecting the self.  It makes sense to be that way if you are in the middle of an alley surrounded by ninjas with throwing stars, but not so much when you’re simple lying about being sick so you don’t have to help a friend change their tire when it’s snowing outside.

Occasionally, I hear of stories where this selfish shell is bucked off and the true human spirit peaks through. This is one of those stories: a group of 5th grade boys did the right thing for their 6-year old friend Danny.

Jesus helps us to realize that when we are doing the right thing, helping one another, looking out for the good of not just ourselves we are actually interacting with God himself.  Jesus says these words in Matthew which contrast what happens or doesn’t happen when we are confronted with doing the right thing.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.-Matthew 25:40 (emphasis mine)

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.- Matthew 25:45 (emphasis mine)

Our responsibility as Christians is to be men and women of faith that look beyond our self to the needs of others.  We are to see our lives not as joy rides focused on emptying our bucket list of fun things, but as ambassadors for the least of these by how we love them.  Of course God wants us to live our life to the full and enjoy the families, resources, and experiences he brings across our paths, but he doesn’t want us to do those things in spite of loving our neighbor.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be!

  • Buy a single mom a meal at the restaurant
  • Shovel the driveway of your neighbors
  • Put some cash in an envelope for a friend that needs it
  • Sit by the tough coworker at lunch
  • Be honest about your expense report
  • Go back in the grocery store when you forget to pay for something
  • Apologize to your kids when you are wrong
  • Or any other number of no brainer “right” things to do.

Finding “the least of these” or the “right thing to do”  is not difficult if we open our eyes.  Heck, sometimes it’s as easy as putting on a tie and standing in the gap for friend.

So don’t wait for next year’s Christmas to do what God wants you to do today.  Just do it! 

 

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A Las Vegas Winter Coat

sweat-skin-1So there I was in Las Vegas wearing a full winter coat.

I had gloves in my jacket pockets and a stocking hat in my backpack.

Tucked away was an ice scraper and some hand warmers just in case.

Now one would think that wearing a snow coat in the middle of the desert would be at best not advised.  After all the average temperature in Las Vegas in the middle of December is still 65 degrees.  I mean wearing that amount of clothing in those temperatures makes about as much sense as the president of PETA being the keynote speaker at a hunting convention.  It just doesn’t end well.

But, what if I told you Las Vegas wasn’t my final destination.

See, I wasn’t in the middle of the Las Vegas strip doing push-ups, I was in the airport.  I was getting ready to connect to a flight to Chicago.  A city where the current temperature was literally colder than the North Pole at the time.  I had a car buried in snow and my family to get into it so that coat and thermals was crucial to me surviving and getting my family safely home.

Now think about this.  What if I had given in to the awkwardness of being in Vegas with my winter gear and planned for Vegas instead of Chicago?

What if I had planned on shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a sweatshirt at night for my time in Las Vegas?  After all, I would have fit right in when I was there, but I would have been in trouble when I got to my final destination.  Real.  Trouble.

As Christians I think we sometimes get tired of wearing our spiritual winter coats in this world.  It would seem that we are being held back to all that this world has to offer because of this Christian coat

  • Why can’t I sleep with whomever I want?  Oh, the coat.
  • Why can’t I spend my money however I want?  Oh yeah, the coat.
  • Why can’t I talk, think, and act however I please?  Of course, the COAT.

Why do I need to wear this stupid Christian coat all the time!?

The reason is that you aren’t dressing for this world but for the next.  This isn’t our final destination, but rather a stop until the eternity plane makes it’s final descent.

The writer of Hebrews says it this way, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” - Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

Peter would say, “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” - 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)

The problem with shedding our spiritual coat for the fashionable clothing of the world is that we may create comfort in this life, but we have lost sight that this isn’t our final destination.  At some point our worldly Visa will expire and we will be forced to head to our home country.

Let me break away from my analogy and talk straight.

The life we live now as Christians is not for waste or a period of “waiting around” until we die.  It has purpose and meaning that should bring God glory.  However, this life is not the end either, but just the beginning of the life God has called us to.  We are aliens in this world in that we live contrary to the way the world says we ought to live.  In doing so we may feel strange, look strange, and act strange, but we are living not for the approval of here and now, but of the yet to come.  We are living for an audience of One who we will one day spend our eternity.

If we are able to keep that perspective then we will learn to be comfortable being out of fashion in this life so we are on the cutting edge in the next.   So bundle up and smile because the best is yet to come on the next leg of this flight.

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A Christmas Heart Tattoo

Cute_Heart_Wallpaper_jmkbuI’ll be honest I am really considering getting a tattoo.  I feel my super white skin is a tattooer’s dream canvas and I’ve been keeping it from them for too long.  Ok, so I don’t think like that, but I do think I want to get one.  After all my little brother Brandon has some ink already and I can’t let him get too far ahead of me. 

The problem I run into is always the same however.

“What should I get?”

I’ve gone around and around of what I want to put on my body since it will last forever.  It’s ranged from Bible verses to Pound Puppies to even a glow in the dark picture of Stewart Scott from Sportscenter that can only be seen in a laser tag arena, lit up by black lights, and when he glows you can read the word “BooYah” on his left arm.  Ok, so I really only have thought about Bible verses, but I had to sweeten the pot a little.

A tattoo is a permanent fixture on your body it is true.  And, yes, there are some people out there that will tell you you’re going to hell if you get a tattoo.  However, those guys must have missed the verse in Revelation 19 where Jesus comes back riding a horse, wearing a robe dipped in blood, with a tattoo on His leg.  I mean if it’s good for Jesus, it’s good for me.  But I do agree that it is a big decision and not one that you rush into.   Ask any Spring Breaker that rushes into it and then later regrets getting Kermit the Frog riding in the Barbie convertible on their forearm every time they go for a job interview.  All that to say, I still don’t know what I want, but when I do get one it is going to mean something deeply to me and I want to be proud of whatever marks me forever.

So I write this just days before Christmas here in Chicago.  I’m preparing Christmas services at church, putting finishing touches on gifts for the kids, and mentally preparing to fly to Utah to see family the week after Christmas.  I’m in a bit of autopilot mode because it seems to be the same thing year after year.  Yet, I can’t help but stop and ask myself “What should I be getting out of Christmas?”  “How am I being marked this year by Jesus even after all these years of celebrating?”

Sure, I could just roll through the season checking off the list of things I have to do and get to do, but I feel like there is more.  I feel like I’m supposed to be changed by what we are celebrating.  After all, Christmas is meant to remember God sending his only Son to the earth to save mankind from their sin.  It’s not just an excuse to go into deeper Credit Card debt once a year believe it or not.  There is so much power in what we are celebrating that I want more than just holiday cheer.

Then it hit me as I was studying in Deuteronomy.  While Moses was addressing the Nation of Israel on the cusp of entering the Promised Land he encourages them to not just go through the motions but stop and have this moment change them.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19

It wasn’t enough for the people just to walk into this new land, it had to mark them.  It had to change them.  It had to influence their lives, souls, and beings.  It was more than a new address it was a fulfillment of the promise of God started years prior with Abraham.  God wanted them to tattoo this moment on them forever so they would not forget.

God wants that for me and for you this Christmas too.  He wants us to tattoo the meaning and the hope of this season on our heart, mind, and soul.  He wants us to impress the reason we celebrate on our children early and often in their lives.  God is asking us to stop and mark this moment so permanently on our lives that every day we wake up, take a step, or lie our head down we remember Jesus and his love.

Don’t let this season passively go by with it only making an impact on your wallet.  Dig deeper into the reason we celebrate and allow Jesus to mark you permanently in the way you parent, love, serve your spouse, give, use your time, and forgive.  A Christmas Tattoo could be the best gift you ever give yourself and it will be a visible reminder to your soul that Jesus is more than a Season, but He is our Savior!

 

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The Guy In The Handicap Spot

handicap logoBefore the “lovely” Chicago weather changed and it became unsafe for human life to be outside for more than the length of a Bear’s timeout, I was having coffee while, reading outside a restaurant.  As I read I noticed that a very sporty black Mustang with back rims and black windows roared up and parked in the parking spot upfront.  Out popped a woman who clearly had the coffee order in her hand for her and the driver.  She ran in for what was clearly an in-and-out stop before they continued on their way.

Out of the corner of my eye I then noticed a couple in their 80’s making their way towards the restaurant too.  The wife had a little quicker gate so she made it to the door first, but her husband needed some time and I would say after nearly 5 minutes he made it to her.  I then overhead her say that “I can’t believe this guy parked in the handicap parking spot!” to her out of breath husband.

They were right, the hare had taken the parking spot from the tortoise, but in this case the tortoise was handicapped, aged, and would never win a foot race again.  However, what blew me away was what happened next.

The gentleman in the Mustang leans his head out and starts swearing and yelling at the elderly couple as if it was their fault!  I couldn’t believe it.  The old woman couldn’t either and, rightfully so, she called the man a “selfish jerk” as she held the door for her husband to gingerly shuffle through.  The other woman came out about that time and got back in the Mustang, drinks in hand, and the black shadowy car sped off.  Instead of admitting he was a tool, apologizing, moving his car, and maybe buying the couple’s coffee, Mustang-Man decided to stand his ground and yell at the people he offended.

Now before we start driving around the south suburbs looking for this mysterious black Mustang to let the air our of his tires, we need to realize in a lot of cases we are just like him.  Just as he justified his position for parking in the handicap spot, so do we justify things we do in our life.  In an effort to make ourselves not look foolish, ignorant, or wrong we will try to ice over our offense with all kinds of sugary excuses.  Here are few examples:

  • It’s the husband that cheats on his wife then blames her for it because she was not “meeting his needs”.
  • It’s the employee that fudges their expense report numbers because after all “they don’t pay me enough as it” is so they deserve it.
  • It’s the gambling addict that has lost everything but blames his father because that is “all he ever knew.”

Proverbs 16:2 sums this craziness up well.  It says “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighted by the Lord.”  That is exactly what all of us find when we try to sugar coat our sin instead of dealing with it and asking for forgiveness. When we think that our ways is better than God’s we are required to justify ourselves because, after all, we need to establish our “rightness” and “innocence” to our self to keep going forward.  However, God knows the true motive of our heart and can see the damage being done by our sin and it grieves Him.

The proper way to handle these areas of sin in our life would be to follow the wisdom from Proverbs 16:6 where it says, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.”  We find forgiveness and love through God by confessing our sins and not hiding them, and by having reverence for God and His plan we avoid future pitfalls.  This is where we find peace in life and not in the rabbit trails of sin justification.

So watch where you park your life, and if you find yourself in the wrong spot don’t start yelling at God.  Rather, sit down, buy Him a cup of coffee, and repent so you can begin to heal.

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A Challenge For Dads: You Are Not A Babysitter

Dad LogoI never used to pay very close attention to it until I started wanting kids, but some dads are jerks when they talk about their children.  I wish I could say it differently, but I can’t put in any other terms.  Some dads are absolute jerks.

Now as harsh as that sounds, I also believe that most men don’t want to be this way.  I truly believe in my heart of hearts that nearly every dad wants to be a good one, but they are stuck in old patterns they saw growing up or entrenched in bad habits they have created along the way.  As men we sometimes need to have things pointed out to us straight and clear.  My intention in this piece is to do that and hopefully challenge, encourage, and stir up a Godly desire to reengage with your family.

Here are a few of the biggest issues I see with dads today that need to be dealt with:

Dads That Refer To Their Child As “The Kid”

  • Example:  “Sorry boys I can’t play cards tonight, I gotta go pick up the kid now.”

First and foremost your child is a not a thing, an “it”, or a “the”.  They are your flesh and blood and who you love.  I know every man reading this would take a bullet for their child, but some dads aren’t around enough to even be in the line of fire if was needed!  All of us should know this, but as Christian men we should be keenly aware of the truth that God sees Himself as a Father.  Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  If we are viewed by the Creator of all as a son and daughter in His family then we should see our children not as “the kid”, but as our son or daughter that we love and cherish.  Words are powerful so choose them wisely when referring to your family.

Dads That Won’t Change Diapers, Wipe Butts, Clean Up Puke, Or Get Dirty 

  • Example:  “Oh, I don’t do diapers.  That’s a mom’s job.”

Can I let you in on a little secret dads?  Your wife doesn’t get all geeked out about doing these things either.  She’s not secretly dreaming about being wrist deep in a huge naval to neck blowout poop from sweet potato baby food.  That isn’t on the “boy, I can’t wait until I have kids list”.  Here’s a hint, if you can gut a fish you can change a diaper.  If you can use a Port-O-Potty at an outdoor concert you can clean up poop.  If you can smear synthetic urine on your clothes and hide in a tree for for 4 hours to shoot a deer you’ve lured in you can clean up puke from the carpet.  Your wife needs you men and not just to open tight jar lids.  They need you in the middle of the battle with them.  Don’t be surprised if your wife isn’t all over you at night if you are no where to be seen during the day. Being a dad means getting dirty and being there for your kids.  They need to see a dad that is there in their worst and most vulnerable times, not just when they are getting the game ball after the t-ball game.

Dad’s Who Don’t Change Their Personal Schedule After They Have Children

  • Example:  “Honey, I’m sorry I can’t get home again tonight, I’ve got another Fantasy Football Draft.”

Men, if we want to be effective dads our schedules have to change.  That means we forfeit things that we used to do so that we can engage in things our kids need us to do.  I’m not saying don’t play softball anymore, I’m just saying don’t play on 10 softball teams anymore and travel to Texas every weekend for the “I Just Can’t Give Up The Glory Days Invitational”.  Your handicap in golf will go up, your bowling average will go down, your ability to read a bluff in poker will suffer, and your car will be less waxed, buffed, and shined, but your kids will know you love them and you will know your kids!  Equally as important is that your wife will see this sacrifice as well.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thrilled about getting stretch marks, gaining 50 pounds, and having her body chemistry go out of whack so clearly she’s personally sacrificed for the family and we should too.

Dads That Won’t Get Up

  • Example:  “Babe, I gotta work in the morning so I need my sleep.  You understand right?”

Being a parent doesn’t end when your head hits the pillow.  Especially if you have super little ones that get up in the night or even big ones that sometimes get up in the night.  Having a “The Office Is Closed” sign on your bedroom door just won’t cut it.  Our kids need us all the time.  Men we need to be the ones serving our families by taking our turns getting up at night.  Don’t let your wife be the one that has to figure out how to function on 2 hours of sleep every day.  Take the initiative and get up.  This also means that if you really liked to be a night owl before you had kids that’s going to have to change.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but our kids are awake during the day and need you during the day too.  So either get less sleep or get on normal human being sleep cycles to be there for your wife and children.

Dads That Say They Have To “Babysit Their Children”

  • Example:  “Yeah, I have to babysit the kids tonight so the wife can go out.”

The final one may irk me the most.  I hear dads all the time that say they have to “babysit their kids” when they get home.  Listen, a babysitter is a high school girl that you leave with your kids while you and your wife go on a date.  You tell them to eat whatever’s in the fridge, don’t invite boys over to make out with, and keep your kids safe.  You certainly don’t ask them to parent your kids or instill in them the values of life.  That’s OUR job to do that.  Yet, I know men that when they get home they might as well be a babysitter.  Inattentive, uninvolved, and unmotivated to be there with their kids.  Men, we are not babysitters we are fathers.  We need to step up and start raising our kids too.  We can’t put the parenting weight on the shoulders of our wives and then berate them later when our kids don’t respect us.  We need to be the men that are shoulder-to-shoulder with our wives teaching, loving, correcting, and raising Godly men and women.  It’s no wonder so many professional athletes thank their mom after the big play!

Please know that I am a jerk sometimes too.  As a dad, I screw up all the time.  I’ve recently been seeking God to help me become more patient, so clearly I’ve got my junk to deal with too.  What I can guarantee is that I am 100% in the fight with my family.  I realize we have only one chance at our kids being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on.  I don’t want to ever look back and wish I would have been there to experience those times.

Men it’s time to get in the game and start leading our families. Take your kids on dates with just you.  Drive them to school and be late for work once and awhile.  Tuck them in bed and don’t worry if it takes a long time.  Honor their mom well and above all, tell them that you love them often.

Don’t just be a babysitter in their lives..be their dad.

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The Church According To Voltron

voltron-1Growing up I used to watch this cartoon called Voltron.  It was kind of a hybrid of Transformers and Battle Cats, but in the show these space explorer guys would fight intergalactic battles by taking there tiger looking robots and combining them together to make one giant butt kicking robot.  One robot would be the foot, one robot the arm, another would make up the body and so on, but the power of Voltron was found when all of them worked together to make this unstoppable robot stud.  On top of that, the huge robot had this gigantic sword, which pretty much would dominate anything that came into it’s path so this dude was really rad to say the least.

Yep, I just said “rad”!

Now how in the world does this have to do with anything spiritual?

Glad you asked…keep reading and no I’m not starting a new cult or something.

As I was reading the other day I think that Paul was a Voltron fan before it even was a show.  Check this out and see if you see it too.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 4-8

Paul is reminding us that the church should actually look like Voltron!  You see each of us has certain abilities that when used together with the abilities of others create the most powerful church possible.  The body of Christ is the healthiest and most effective when it has it’s parts working together for one common purpose not when individuals do their own thing with their own power.

Ok, let’s get passed the retro-cartoons and cut to the real message here.

All of us have been given abilities by God not just to differentiate ourselves from one another, but also to compliment and strengthen one another.  We believe this in college group projects, team sports, and even in our marriages, but somehow we fail to think that the church could be wired that way too.  It’s our default to think that somehow the pastor or the people working at the church are the ones that make up the church of Voltron, but in reality we are simply parts of the bigger body too!

As the pastor of a church you need to hear me loud and clear.

THE CHURCH NEEDS YOU!

Now I don’t mean that in a begging way that makes the church look desperate and you look like Super Volunteer with a cape swooping in to save the day.  I say that because the church needs all of us working together regardless of our God given talent to have the biggest impact on the world.  That means that if you are a plumber by trade the church needs you.  That means if you are single mom the church needs you.  That means if you are a tech geek the church needs you.  That means if you are a coach of a co-ed, golden retriever, juggling team the church needs you.

I agree that not all of us have been called to teach and preach.  I wasn’t called to do a lot of things like male modeling for example and I’m ok with it…now.  Never feel like your ability or your gifting isn’t “good enough” to be used by God.  For crying out loud God used fishermen and tax collectors to be his first disciples and start his church so clearly the bar started low!

Here are my 3 key takeaways from this idea of the Church of Voltron:

  1. Join a church because God desires it for you.
  2. Get involved and get connected.
  3. Jump into an area and if it doesn’t work keep diving in until you find a fit.

Listen, I know that being in a church can be draining and, depending on where you are at,  overwhelming.  However, what I do know is that it’s the best headache you’ll ever be a part of in your life.  Yes you are working with people that have attitudes, brokenness, and pride issues which may drive you nuts, but think about what God deals with on a daily basis with us and realize we aren’t always a treat to deal with either.  Keep in mind that the reason the Church of Voltron works is so the biggest impact can be made for the Kingdom of God not the kingdom of me.  God is most pleased when his children work together for His glory and His church works together to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being a part of that is a powerful thing and the most rewarding thing you will ever be a part of.

Remember: You are always more effective working together than by yourself.

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Jesus’ Says To Be Born Again – “Ain’t Nobody’s Body Be Able To Do That!”

bornagainMy wife has an amazing memory.  She remembers oodles of medical information regarding anesthesia, drug calculations, patient diagnosis, and how to put a Disney Princess Band-Aid in just the right spot to heal a “wound” on Aniston’s knee…or was it elbow…or finger…I can’t remember now and neither can she. But in addition to this real-time, real-world memory she also has an uncanny ability to remember crazy things from her childhood.

She can remember the color of car seats in her parent’s car when she was like 2 years old.  Family vacations when she was 3 or 4 are described in great detail.  I’m pretty sure she could tell you the type of baby food she had for her first meal if she really sat down and thought about it.  However, for me I can barely remember what I ate last night even if I cooked it myself!  My wife is awesome.

Yet, even in her memory majesty I don’t think even she can remember this one thing about her childhood.  Her actual birth.  Yep, I always have that one to hold over her head.  Let’s face it I don’t’ have a lot of ammunition when it comes to my wife so I gotta use what I can.

There are some things that I believe God helps us forget in our life and that is most likely a recollection we don’t need to refer back to.  However, we can all attest (since we are either reading or typing this right now) that it did happen!  We all were born.

This is why, when a high-ranking Jewish official came to Jesus one day, the answer he received from Christ was so confusing.  His name is Nicodemus and he comes to Jesus at night, which shows us he didn’t want his other high-ranking Jewish buddies to know he had come to see Him.

We pick up John 2:2

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.  For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Seems like an honest and logical question for someone to ask when they are searching for answers right?  Well, this is where the logic train derails for poor Nicodemus (Nic).  Check out what Jesus says.

“I tell you the truth no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” – John 2:3

For Nic this did not turn out the way he thought it should go.  You see, for a Jew, the typical answer for connecting further with God is through doing more.  They were professional rule keepers and rule makers.  They were very literal people and the abstract was…well…just that, abstract.  This makes his reaction make more sense.

“How can a man be born when he old?  Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.” – John 2:4

For someone that follows the letter of the law, this does not make sense in any way, especially physically!  I’m pretty sure if we went to Nic’s mother and ran this plan by her she’d most likely say “Ain’t no body got time for that!” or perhaps more accurately “Ain’t nobody’s body be able to do that!”  But Jesus, in his kindness, explains further what He means.

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” - John 2:5-6a

What Jesus is saying to Nic is “you are great at following the letter of law but you are terrible at applying it to your life.  In order for the law to transform you it has to be reborn in you.”

Jesus was telling Nic and also telling us that in order for us to inherit the Kingdom of God and receive what God has designed for us to have, we need to start our life over with Jesus at the lead.  In short, if we want a different life we need to live differently.  This comes from a rebirth in Jesus Christ.

Now, although we all love the idea of new, fresh, and clean future, we can’t forget that this comes at a price.  A new beginning always means the end to something.   Being born again means killing our old life and suffocating it so that a new life may be born.  This is how we are able to truly grasp what Jesus did for us and the sacrifice He made through His life for ours.  Jesus died for our old life so our new life can be a fresh start with Him.

Don’t take this for granted.  Make sure you know the day you were truly born.  Know without a shadow of a doubt who Jesus is, what He did for you, and accept Him as your Lord and Savior.  By doing that you have broken free from your old life and are reborn into the life God has always wanted you to have.  This is not a life free of challenge, pain, and frustration, but it is a life free of sin and its eternal effects when this life is over.

If you never have, take this moment to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life and be born into the Family of God forever.  Congratulations!  You now have a new birth certificate!

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Do We Take Jesus For Granted?

M_Id_77778_jesusWe have a real tendency in our world to take things for granted.

Ok, maybe I should focus the microscope a little tighter with that statement.

In the United States we take things for granted.

I can see it nearly every day as I talk with people, read the news, or simply listen to a person at the booth next to me at a restaurant.  There just seems to be an underlying sense of discontent and angst that permeates the human spirit.  We are never satisfied and rarely are we genuinely grateful for what we have.

Listen, I’m not immune to this.  Believe me I have my moments of house envy or guitar playing jealousy, or hairstyle lusting (that is only funny if you remember I’m bald :)  ).  My spirit churns with discontent too and when it does I’ve found myself losing sight of the blessings all around me.

I love the Psalms because this guy named David writes a vast majority of them.   David was clearly set apart by God from the very beginning to do great things, but he still had his issues.  He dealt with women issues, parenting issues, murder issues, attempted murder issues, giant issues, and on and on the list goes.  However, what I love about his writings is that even when he appears to be griping or complaining and the beginning he always ends up refocused back to God and confident in what He has done, is doing, or will do.  On top of that when he is in a good vein of praising God for who He is and what He’s done there may be none better at describing the majesty of our God.

For just a moment I want you to read Psalm 8 and let these words of David soak into your spirit.

“Lord, our Lord,    

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
   

 in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants
    

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    

to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

 which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You made them rulers

over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,
    

and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,
    

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    

how majestic is your name in all the earth.”

Within these words lies the secret to contentment and David uses them as a spiritual bookend to his thoughts.  “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” is not just a great lyric for worship songs, but it should be the lyric that our soul sings unceasingly.  Within in it lies a personal invitation with our God, the awe and majesty found in Him, a dismissal of any other name other than His, the uncontainable size, power, and wonder only He can reveal, and a overarching peace reached by realizing the truth found within the entirety of the statement.

The way that we can avoid discontent in our life is to focus our spirits back to God.  If we dwell on Him and the things that He has done for us that we see and don’t see, our souls will find rest.  They can find contentment in the realization that God has us in this place, at this time, with this income, with this job status, with this marriage, with this challenge for a reason.  And that reason is to bring Him glory through our obedience, confidence, faith, and contentment in Him.

May we never take what God has given us for granted especially the cross of Christ.  For on the cross we received the gift of grace we never deserved and avoided the sting of death we all deserved.  Thank you Jesus that You did not take us as Your creation for granted, but rather granted us your love and mercy through Your blood.

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