Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 21 – Look Up and Work Hard

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“The horse is made ready

for the day of battle,

but the victory rests with the Lord.” 

– Proverbs 21:31 –

 

If you haven’t noticed, our world is quick to take the credit and slow to take the blame.

Perhaps deferring to Michael Scott of The Office at this point makes sense.  In an episode Michael was caught in a “golden ticket” mistake that cost the fine folks of Dunder Mifflen hundred of thousands of dollars. When asked by his boss, David Wallace, what he though he should do about the situation.  Michael says, “Well David I will be honest with you. I do want the credit without any of the blame.”

That’s us!

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we would always prefer to receive the highest reward possible with the most minimal amount of work.  I mean if there was a way that we could somehow sleep until noon, sit on the couch in our underwear, eat Golden Oreos, while watching reruns of 24 and be rich…we’d do it.  However, that isn’t real life…atleast not one that isn’t the target of a TLC special after your weight balloons to 750 pounds and you have to be cut out of your house.

This life involves effort, hard work, and determination.  Yet somehow our society has become more concerned with getting the high score on Halo and living in our parent’s basement than working hard to make a living and becoming a productive member of society. (v 25)  The very fabric of our world is coming undone with every passing braincell wasted on mindless activities.

God designed us to live differently than that.  He desires us to have integrity in what we do and work hard so that in everything we bring Him glory.  A wise person realizes that life is not handed to them.   Instead a wise person sets out to use the gifts God has given them to the highest possible degree knowing that God will honor and bless those efforts.   Granted, this does not mean that every hard working person is a millionaire or the CEO of  Fortune 500 company.  What it does mean is that when we define our success as  giving glory to God through our efforts no matter who is watching or what the circumstance that is a life worth God’s blessing.

Solomon would say it this way, “he who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (v 21) This prosperity and honor may not be in the form of BMWs or a body that never gets sick, but it is assured that God is pleased in our obedience and our eternal reward will be great.

Here are some practical applications of this found in Proverbs 21:

  • It’s the wife that isn’t constantly nagging her husband, but patient and loving in her words. (v 9, 19)
  • It’s the husband that keeps his eyes pure and only for his wife. (v 6)
  • It’s the student whose motives follow what God says and not what their heart tells them. (v 2)
  • It’s the employee who strives for the truth even when it may not be the most popular choice. (v 28)

Life is short and has an expiration date known only to God.  We can’t assume that we have forever because our very next breath is not promised.  Don’t waste your life pursuing mindless activities with now purpose and putting little to no effort toward what you do.  Refocus your life’s goal to bringing God glory in all that you do so that wherever you are and whatever you do the focus stays the same.  Doing that will give us renewed determination in all areas of our life and cause our spirit to come alive.

As Christians we are to squeeze every ounce of God given opportunity out of this life. When we come to realize that, we start to see that true wisdom seeks God’s glory first and our needs second.  Anything other than that will always lead to temporary happiness and an unsettled soul longing for more.

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4 Things The Flu Taught Me About Sin

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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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Daddy Confessions: I Dropped My Son Off At School 1 Year Early

The-One-Big-Mistake-Every-Consumer-MakesI have the awesome privilege of dropping my daughter, Aniston, off at school three days a week.  Usually I will first drop my son Easton off at the house of our amazing family friends who watch him before school though.  The only exception to that rhythm is on Thursday which is my day off during the week and apply known as “daddy day.”

Well this last Thursday I dropped Aniston off and got distracted by Christmas Card delivering, hellos to fellow parents, quick thank you’s to the teachers, and a kiss goodbye to Aniston.  I started down the hall to leave and nearly got to the exit doors when I realized something.

I forgot my son.

Yep, sure enough I totally walked out of the classroom and left my little  11/2 year old boy behind.

I sheepishly slinked back in the room to find him completely fine and playing at the toy makeup station.  Clearly, the therapy needed later will swell beyond just abandonment issues based on the toy selection just mentioned, but that’s for another blog.  Anyway, I scooped him up, ate some crow from the teachers and headed out the door.

Not that it’s ever a good idea for you to leave your child, but it’s especially frowned upon when you are a pastor at the church you just left your child at.  Talk about feeling like a dingy and the most under qualified human being in the world!  Just know I will joke that I simply dropped him off at school a year early or something like that if you ask me later.

As parents, we all feel like we are doing a poor job at this whole parenting thing.  We worry that our kids will grow up to hate us, we won’t teach them the right stuff and they’ll flunk out of school, they will marry a career felon and end up selling drugs, or they will become a famous comedian whose entire body of work centers around the mistakes you made raising them.

Wait…

Ok…

Maybe that is just my wife and mine’s fears?

Regardless, you have your own concerns too, but I’m here to tell you to hang in there.  You are not alone and in fact Jesus’ parents would tell you the same thing.  After all they may have had the Son of God under their roof, but that didn’t make them immune to mistakes in parenting.

Luke captures one of these famous parenting flubs in Luke 2.  We pick up the story after Mary and Joseph had made their way to Jerusalem with a now 12 year old Jesus.  They finished their time at the temple and decided to head home.  As they head home we read this.

“After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.” Luke 2:43-45

Yes, you read that right.  Mary and Joseph LOST Jesus and didn’t know until they had travelled for an E-N-T-I-R-E day!  I’m feeling better already about myself since I only made it 50 yards before I remember Easton was gone.  Check out what happens next.

“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”Luke 2:46-49

I hope you didn’t blow past it, but It took them THREE DAYS to find him!!!  Are you kidding me?

I know that I almost lost a future Cincinnati Red’s Second Baseman and inevitable Hall of Fame inductee, my son Easton, but at least I didn’t lose GOD the King of the Universe!

Come on people!

One job:  Don’t lose the Son of God.

Yet, through my sarcasm there is a message that goes beyond making us feel better about not being the best parents all the time.  The message is deeper and speaks to the priorities we have for our kids.  Jesus said that He “had to be in (His) Father’s house” because that is where he was the most alive.  In the times of Jesus, the temple was where the presence of God literally resided so why would the Son not want to be by his Dad?  Mary and Joseph may have lost him, but he was truly never more found than at the moment.

The reality is that we will lose our kids someday.

They will move away, go to college, get married, and start their own lives apart from us.  We want that.  They want that.  God wants that!  But what is most important is HOW they are leaving.

  • Are our kids leaving brought up in the ways of the Lord or have we left them to “figure it out on their own” because we didn’t’ want to “push anything on them”?
  • Will our kids know who God is because they were around Christian men and women, in church each week to hear God’s message, and living out their faith with you as the example?
  • Will our kids grow up to be the God fearing men and women of faith we want them to be or will they float in the sea of religion with us hoping they will land on the shores of Christianity?

Yes parenting is hard and we all fail, but I would much rather fail while striving to make Jesus the center of our homes than passively parenting hoping they turn out ok.  I would rather have them stumble and fall in life (which they will), but have God as the center of the world so they are not crushed.  I pray that our kids would want to come to church so they could be “in their Father’s house” and connect with Him not in a sterile religious way, but in a vibrant relationship.  That’s the true definition of success!  It’s not in trophies won, ribbons pinned, scholarships awarded, or millions earned.  It’s in whether or not your kids know Christ or are lost.

We have to realize that we will lose our kids inevitably, but while we have the chance we can let them know the name of Jesus as Lord.  We have to make every effort to have them be found by Christ so they won’t be lost for eternity.

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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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4 Reasons Satan Wants You To Get A Christmas Divorce

image4 copyMy heart has been troubled recently by the number of marriages that are in crisis.  Some are small blips on the radar were one person says something they wish they hadn’t and in 3 days – 1 month they will be fine.  However, there are others that seem to be at a breaking point and near the cliff of divorce.  These are great people who know what is right and are fighters by nature, but yet it seems that the will to keep going has been zapped from them.  

In my quieter moments of prayer, I felt God reminding me to check the calendar.  It’s Christmas.   The happiest time of the year for Christians as we remember the birth of Emmanuel, God with us.  We celebrate, sing songs, watch goofy cartoons on TV, and hoards of people will flock into churches all over the world even if it is just for their yearly pilgrimage.  Yet as the holiday cheer is flowing in the worlds of the Believers it is a painful and tortuous reminder to someone else.  Satan and his minions of evil.

You see this Christmas is the ultimate reminder of when their battle was lost forever.  It reminds them they are doomed for eternity in hell.  It reminds the darkness of the world that they will never be able to defeat Light.  But unlike some of us, Satan will not go down without a fight.  Before Jesus closes the books on Evil for good, Satan is determined to bring as many people as he can down with him.

I believe his greatest and most focused target is marriages and what better time to turn up the heat then around Christmas.

Here are 4 Reasons why I believe Satan wants you to get a divorce this Christmas.

#1 – A Christmas Divorce Will Ruin Future Christmases

If you want a bad, sure fire way to remember a college spring break then get a bad tattoo.  If you want a sure fire way to have pain in your future Christmases, then get a Christmas Divorce.  Divorce is usually a long term solution to a short term problem.  Your future may look bleak right now, but believe me that Satan is lying when he says it will be better if you were divorced.  Don’t let Satan fool you, you can make it through!

#2 – A  Christmas Divorce Will Destroy Your Kids

One of the saddest things I see is a family torn apart at the holidays.  Sure kids of divorced families rake in extra presents at Christmas.  Usually it’s because each parent tries to compensate for the lack of quality time they spend with their kids at these times.  I’ve yet to hear of a child cry themselves to sleep at night for more Fisher Price stuff, but I do know of kids that would give anything to have their parents back together.  Satan wants you to believe that the best gift you can give your kids is for your to be happy.  Don’t believe it.  Happiness is fleeting but joy comes in the morning for those that trust in God to get them through.

#3 – A Christmas Divorce Fills You With Bitterness and Unforgiveness

A Christmas Divorce will also give you a lump of coal in your spiritual stocking called Bitterness and one of those disgusting green and white candy canes called Unforgiveness.  Satan wants you to be as miserable, lonely, depressed, and hopeless as you possible can.  Believing that ending your marriage will solve your problems will play right into his hand.  Don’t believe his lies!  Keep fighting and know that God wants you to work together to get over this hump and you CAN!

#4 – A Christmas Divorce Takes The Focus Off Jesus and Onto You

As I said, before Satan hates Christmas because it is all about Jesus, God’s Son, The Savior of the World, Emmanuel.  The entire world seems to turn their attention towards Him this time of year even if just for a moment.  Satan hates that.  The damage caused within a family from divorce is visible and heart breaking.  The damage caused by divorce in your spirit is soul breaking.  A Christmas Divorce is allowing Satan to turn your head away from Jesus and onto yourself.  It becomes about my needs, my happiness, my future, my satisfaction, and my desires.  Christmas is about God giving up His desires for eternal perfection and instead taking on human destruction.  What we need to do at Christmas is not throw in the towel, but rather put the towel over our arm an ask “How may I serve you out of love?”

Please know my heart.  If you are being abused or are being cheated on I believe God would want you to get you and your kids out of the environment.  However that is only 5% of the people in the world I believe.  For the other 95% please keep fighting for your marriage.  Getting help is not giving up.  Getting help is showing true strength by reaching out for counseling, a pastor, a friend to come along side you so you can beat Satan in the face for good.  God wants to see your marriage survive and thrive.  Let Him in so you can do that.

So keep Christ in Christmas yes, but more importantly keep Christ in your marriage and fight through any struggle you may have knowing that Emmanuel is with you.

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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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Spiritual Procrastination

beat_procrastinationAs a rule, I’m a pretty proactive person, but there are times that I procrastinate.

My nature is to get things done and move on, but from time to time things will sit unfinished or even unstarted.  I look at these things day after day and beat myself up inside saying “Why are you not just taking care of that? It’s right in front of but you still walk by it!”  There are a great number of things I dislike about myself, but this is near the top of the list right next to my lack of patience.

Yet when I do get my head out of my procrastination and get things done I feel better.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  I feel like my world is back in rhythm.  Now regardless of what kind of organizational mess you are, all of us can agree that the feeling of getting a task done is great.  No one ever walks away from doing something they were supposed to do in the first place and say “wow, I should have just ignored that longer.  Having that done just makes me feel worse about myself.”

That’d be crazy!

Now, a huge part of me wants to run home and start knocking out all the projects in the house I’ve been sitting on just so I can get a rush of “atta boy” in my system, but sadly I can’t do that now.  After all there’s always later.  🙂

One area of life we really push to the “maybe later” category is our relationship with God.  There is a spiritual procrastination within us all that will deprioritize God so low that He sometimes falls off the To Do List all together.  The reasons for this vary and often looks like one of these:

  • Sometimes we feel like we’ve neglected Him so long that there is no salvaging the relationship.
  • Other times we see that our relationship with God isn’t that bad compared to other people so we figure it can hold up a little longer until we get some “free time”.
  • Others will go so far as to say that God is an unnecessary waste of time and energy because He may not even really exist so why bother?

All of these thoughts are simply different degrees of spiritual procrastination and all find their root in the Evil one.  Satan usually doesn’t have to work to hard to keep us normal people away from God.  All he needs is to make us feel a little more tired, a little more stressed, or plant a simple thought in our mind and we are sprinting away from God justifying our retreat all the way.

However, Jesus talks with much more urgency about our spiritual life.  In fact he may even come across as down right pushy if you don’t know His heart.  Listen to what He has to say in the Book of Revelation.

“Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7

“Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:12-13

“Yes, I am coming soon.” – Revelation 22:20

I have this little rule of thumb when it comes to reading the Bible.  When I see an exclamation point I stop and read it again because it must mean something important.  When I see Jesus using exclamation points I stop and read it twice because He doesn’t use them often so it must be really important.  That’s why when Jesus says I am coming!” I realize that His urgency is pointed towards me and I need to do something with what He said.

Now I could always follow my natural human nature and just wait to act because after all it’s been 2000 years since He died and He hasn’t come back yet so chances are I’ve go time.   Or I could stop dancing in the fire and decide I need to believe His return is real and be prepared.  In other wrods I need to consider my eternal reality and make sure my life is matching up with the God I claim to know and love.

We all must realize that our current life is only the opening act for our eternal life, but it’s this life that will dictate what our life on the other side looks like.   I pray we all feel the urgency of what Christ says and realize He IS coming…soon!  If we believe that, then  getting our spiritual affairs in order becomes much more important that cleaning out the garage so our golf clubs are off the ground.  Don’t allow spiritual procrastination to hold you back from the love and grace Jesus is offering and begin living in His truth now!

Trust me the feeling of getting this taken care of will be the greatest sense of accomplishment you’ve ever felt!

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