Tag Archives: Grace

Little Boy On The Corner

boybeirutcurb

Sitting on the curb, just a normal concrete ledge

Two anxious little feet dangling over the edge

 

His backpack rests beside him filled with all that he should need

A blanket and some snacks for his stuffed friend Mr B.

 

With a cautious stare he looks, down an empty city block

Just praying he will see his daddy’s big black truck.

 

Mommy stands real close smoking a nervous cigarette

His deep blue eyes look up to ask, “Is he here yet?”

 

She’s been standing on this curb for far too many days

Ever since those papers came that parted both their ways.

 

He said this and she said that trying just to hurt each other

But what got up in the middle now sits on this small corner.

 

Little feet don’t care about who gets stuff and money

All they want is one house with a mommy and a daddy

 

Things get tough, feelings change, and the grass looks greener

But even through the rough times its worth if for your junior

 

Our actions speak greater than the size of all our words

Cuz those actions are what he follows as his begins to grow.

 

If this little voice could speak and say something that you’d hear

He’d ask you this small thing that might take away the tears.

 

In the moments when you feel like there’s nothing left to give

Did you open up my bedroom door and watch me sleeping there?

 

And if you did come in I have a question for you my father

Would you rather see me there than sitting on this corner?

 

Please don’t leave for things that are new or fresh or fun

Choose what’s never going to leave the love of me, your son.

 

Teach me how to live this life even when it’s rough.

Show me how to love my wife even if it’s tough.

 

I don’t want a weekend dad I see on every Tuesday

I want to see my dad each day I think that’s his duty.

 

So out there waits a boy just trying to grow stronger.

Will daddy sit down beside him or is he right around the corner?

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 29 – Fear Failures

dtl_17_4_2014_9_41_56When I was little I was afraid of the dark.  This isn’t a huge revelation as most kids and even some adults are afraid of what happens when the lights go out.  Shadows get cast on the wall, GI-Joe action figures seems to look at you, the wind is just a little louder than you remember it, even your dog with sleep apnea can become a little creepy in the still of night you.  Sometimes all you can do is just tuck the covers over your head until the fear subsides or you pass out from lack of oxygen.

Fear is not just relegated to the time when your eyes switch from using cones to rods.  It is much less about physiology as it is with psychology.  Our eyes know that the FatHead sticker on the wall is just Andy Daulton from the Bengals.  But something inside us makes us question that fact and we start to think he may be a red haired, ginger, alien trying to attack us while we sleep.  It’s as if our mind is playing tricks on us and then convinces our heart it’s true so that we freak out…and possibly wet the bed.

Life can seem fearful too.

Difficult things happen to us on a daily basis.  From stressful bosses at work to bullies in the halls to difficult spouses in our homes our lives are in a constant state of adjustment based on what is happening.  Life will often throw you more curveballs than fastballs which always keeps you off balance.  I know so many people that live just waiting for the next bad thing to happen as if it was as inevitable as junk mail.  President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”   Well if that’s true then it is a miracle we see anyone on the streets at all!  Let’s face it, there are things to be fearful everywhere we turn.  We could easily succumb to these fears, stay in our house, watch The Bachelor, and wait for the police to come and reposes our house, but God didn’t design us that way.

Proverbs 29, although not completely about fear, does have underpinnings of the effects of it.  There are several examples such as dealing with spoiled people (v. 21), an angry person (v 22), fools with rage (v. 11), unfair government officials (v. 4-5), and even concerns about raising chidden (v. 15,17, 21).  Yet as Solomon nears the end of this piece we read these words:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Proverbs 29:25

This is the release our souls need.

You see fear is easily one of the “go to” techniques of Satan that keeps us from truly living.  Have you ever noticed that our fear is typically at it’s worst when we are considering doing something for God?  All of a sudden you become acutely aware of your past mistakes, weaknesses, empty bank account, meager abilities, lack of time, and all kinds of things that you normally don’t even think about.  He wants to bring those things up so that you become more focused on them and less about the promises of God.  Promises that tell you that you can do “all things through He who strengthens you”. (Phil. 4:13)  On top of all your shortcomings Satan will bring about fear of man issues too.  He will start to seed your spirit with ideas like, “No one will listen to you”, “They will turn on you if you do that”, or “I’m sure the boss will fire you if he finds out.”  Even though God is the creator of all things including man, we still place what other people say above what God says and we start to let fear choke us.  We start to let it squeeze the life out of us like a Boa Constrictor.  I call this Fear Failure.  This is losing before the game even begins.  We let fear get the best of us and slowly steal our life.

As Believers, we need to shake ourselves loose from this man made fear.  Solomon tells us that man’s fear will be a snare to us, but trusting in God will keep us safe.  That doesn’t mean that life will be easy or that we will never have fear sneak around the corner again.  It means that even if we do start to feel the butterflies rise up we have the reassurance that God is with us. His love for us will quickly smothers any fear flame from growing.  Since Jesus died for our sins and took the sting of eternal death we truly have nothing left to fear.  The rest of life becomes a roller coaster adventure complete with our hands up in the air and smile on our face trusting that God is in control.

There are too many people reading this that fear has taken over your life.  You are keeping yourself from following God’s lead and you are stifling the plan God has for you.  I want to encourage you to take your foot off the brake and let God put the pedal to the metal in your life.  Don’t let the voice of your past keep you from the future God has in store for you.  Dream big!  If God has placed it on your heart he wants you to transfer it to your hands.  Come to love the feeling of being almost out of control for the things of God and see where He takes you.

God has great things stored up in you so throw open the gates and let them rush out for His glory!  Don’t let Fear Failures keep you inside any longer.  Get out there and start living for Him!

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 28: Do You Turn Heads When You Walk In The Room?

dixonwonderbrarestaurantBaseball has been a huge part of my life.  If you’ve read anything of mine it’s most likely you’ve stumbled upon that fact once or twice.  It was such a important part of my life as it helped shape my character, drive, work ethic, integrity, sense of team, and focus.  On top of that God gifted me to play it well enough compete at high levels of competition.  This gift provided me many opportunities I would not have had without the game in my life.  

In 1996 my American Legion team from Rapid City, South Dakota made it all the way to the American Legion World Series.  It took over 100 games to get there and I even started college a couple days late just to play in it.  Although the tournament was amazing the keynote speaker they brought into speak to the teams was the best part.

Beyond just being a baseball fan I am a HUGE Cincinnati Reds fan.  Ever since I was a small boy my favorite player was Johnny Bench who was part of the Big Red Machine.  Granted this team was before my birth, but The Big Red Machine was arguably one of the greatest baseball teams of all time.  Between 1970 – 1976 they averaged 98 wins a season, captured 5 National League West Division titles, 4 National League Pennants, and 2 World Series rings.  The were hard nosed players with names such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey Sr., Tony Perez, and Dave Concepcion.  Although a great group of athletes they were managed by an even greater man.  Sparky Anderson.

Sparky was born in a small town in South Dakota called Bridgewater.  This is part of the reason he is so near to my heart.  He was a small town boy that made it big through hard work, dedication, but most importantly a faith in Christ.  He is legendary Hall of Fame manager, but is respected in the game as one of the greatest human beings to ever put on the uniform.  It was Sparky who was the keynote speaker at the World Series that year, but it was the group from South Dakota that he made a point to spend time with afterwards.  Here is my picture with Sparky.  I’m the one directly to his right with the good looking hair. :)

1996 Sparky Anderson Picture

Part of what amazed me about Sparky was that when he walked into a room (or a dugout) people stopped what they were doing and paid attention.  It wasn’t that he was a loud with a harsh tone because in fact he was the exact opposite.  He was a quiet, mild mannered man, but oozed respect causing you to hang on every word he said.  Whether it was telling stories of the Big Red Machine or talking about baseball as a metaphor for life, every obnoxious, arrogant teenager there sobered up and had the utmost respect.  Sparky was a man whose life and resume spoke for itself, but it was how that life was lived out that spoke the loudest.

I have to imagine that Solomon was that type of man when he entered a room.  Through God’s gifting of wisdom, I would tend to think that people leaned in when he spoke.  His wealth and power were one thing, but his wisdom was worth much more.  Wealth and possessions have a limited shelf life, but wisdom is priceless.  A God fearing, God honoring, God seeking leader will be infectious to those they lead.  The effects of that type of leadership are obvious in Proverbs 28.

  • A Godly leader can stand tall on their decisions because they are rooted in Christ. (v. 1)
  • A Godly leader finds it easy to resist the temptation of the unGodly wicked. (v. 4)
  • A Godly leader knows his definition is not defined by his bank account but by his integrity. (v. 6, 11)
  • A Godly leader will be celebrated with pure joy by those that they lead for leading well. (v. 12, 28)
  • A Godly leader will own up to their mistakes instead of hiding them. (v. 13)
  • A Godly leader will find blessing as they follow God’s will and keep peace. (v. 20, 25)
  • A Godly leader will trust God far more than they trust themselves when making decisions. (v. 26)

I believe that when a Godly leader walks into the room there is a difference.  There is a calmness, peace, and focus that they possess which people who follow their own desires lack.  When your goal in life is to get rich, successful, and popular regardless of the cost there is a glaring weakness to your character.  Just as people recognize the difference of a Godly leader they also recognize the stench of a swindler.  A selfish leader enjoys the scent of their own musk and prefers to wallow in the glistening facade of their “greatness” rather than pursue the peace found in Christ.

Don’t be get sucked into the lies of individualism and success.  Be overwhelmed with the wisdom found in following God’s way for your life.  You may be surprised.  Earthly success may still come to you, but it will pale in the comparison to the reward awaiting you in eternity.   Strive to be the person, father, mother, sister, brother, student, business person, waiter, husband, wife, person that when you walk in the room people see a difference.  A difference that is clearly the light of Christ pouring out of you in every aspect of your life.  Make your goal to be a head turner for Christ.

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Now What? – The Monday After Easter

day-after-easterSo what now?

What are we supposed to do the day after Easter?

Sure we hit snooze one more time than normal to try and shake off the Cadbury Egg induced coma we are in.  Yes, we will probably step on plastic eggs that the kids left out all over the living room floor as if to catch a would be candy bugler.  Without question your eyes will be a little blurry from all the pastel you had to look at the day before, but what about the bigger stuff?

What are we supposed to do now that we have celebrated that Jesus is alive?  What do we do with this hope that Jesus’ love for us has no limits and because of that our eternity is secure?

I don’t know about you, but when I have questions like these I look to see what Jesus did.  No, this isn’t a plug for the WWJD bracelets, but a plug to seek Scripture to see what Jesus did after His resurrection so that we can know what we should do.

After Jesus appeared to His disciples and encouraged them, the gospel writers give us interesting glimpses into what Jesus did next.

Matthew (written to a primarily a Jewish audience) indicates that Jesus took HIs disciples away commissioning them to the ministry by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Mark (a possible scribe for the words of Peter) notes that Jesus also places a challenge and urgency to the work lying ahead of the disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Luke (a theologian/physician and detailed gospel writer) describes Jesus speaking with is disciples prior to His ascension as well.  Luke writes, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)  However, we also see in the book of Acts (written by Luke also) that Jesus taught “until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:2) and over the course of some forty days did “many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3)

John (the disciple closest to Jesus and entrusted with caring for His mother) describes one of Jesus’ miraculous signs when He went fishing with Peter.  After a long night of unsuccessful fishing, Peter and his men were coming in from sea, but Jesus was on the shore.  He shouted to them and told them to try throwing their nets on the other side of the boat.  When they did, they caught such a large catch “they were unable to haut the net because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)  After tying up the boats and sitting down to eat with Jesus, it is then that Jesus reinstates Peter to ministry from his earlier denial.  Peter’s three headed denial of Christ was covered by an equally powerful three headed command from Jesus to “take care of my sheep” which acted as a commissioning of Peter to his ministry. (John 21:16)

To me the answer to “what do we do now that Easter is over?” is clear.

We get up and start living our lives as Jesus called us to live.

There was an urgency and intentionality with what Jesus did with His time after the resurrection.  He taught, encouraged, ate meals, performed miracles, and made Himself available to hundreds of people so that they might see and believe.  His goal for this was not a farewell tour and “I told you so” type of attitude.  Rather, His reason was so that those He interacted with might go and tell others about what they saw.  That in fact what Jesus had been saying WAS true and that the Kingdom of God was coming.

Our jobs now is to take what we know and do something with it.  In our jobs, homes, hobbies, churches, wherever God has you take the Resurrection message with you and live your life accordingly.  Be the light in the darkness of this world by sharing the love of Jesus Christ and not just wait around until Jesus “beams us up” to heaven.  Take every moment that we have and leverage it for God’s glory sharing the love of Jesus with whomever and however we can.

Oh, and I’d act today if I were you because that chocolate bunny rush you have wears off pretty fast. :)

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 26: Are You An Idiot?


idiot

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:4

 

 

 

 

I recently read “Hidden Worldviews” by Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford. In one of the chapters they were describing the worldview known as individualism.  Individualism is the thought that the center of the universe, both yours and those surrounding you, revolves around your needs and desires.  In other words, for an individualist the entire goal of life is to live your life in such a way that you bring yourself the most joy, comfort, and success regardless of the cost.  They did a terrific job outlining this point of view and in many cases, sadly, I could personally relate to what they were saying.

I thought this particular section was very interesting and fitting for Proverbs 26 so I’d like to share it with you.

“The Greek city-state had an interesting way of calling citizens together when a vote for some type of action was needed.  If, for example, another city-state was marching against them to do battle, a person would walk the streets blowing a horn, announcing that all should gather in the amphitheater just outside of town.  When the citizens of the city heard this, they would close up their shops, head to the amphitheater to get the news and fulfill their civic duty by voicing their response.  However, some shop-owners refused to shut down, hoping to do extra business while the competitors’ businesses were closed.  The Greeks referred to such persons as idiots, which means someone is closed up in their own world who, concerned only with personal goals, ignores the greater good. (Wilkens and Sanford, p 30)

For so many, this ideology is exactly what we do daily to varying degrees.  In some cases this individualism may be seen in shady business dealings like described above, but in most cases they are of a much more subtle nature.  We may not notice them all the time, but as Solomon points out in chapter 26, these fools, dare I say idiots, are all around us masquerading as being wise, but in reality they are the farthest from it.

Now, I’m the chief of idiots sometimes so I in no way am claiming to be perfect, but Solomon’s words strikes at the heart of a lot of areas of our idiotic lives.

  • Idiots like to curse people out by throwing daggers and then hiding to protect themselves. (vv. 2,10)
  • Idiots will try to provoke you with meaningless things and bait you into arguments. (v. 4)
  • Idiots will take something you’ve said and distort it to make you look bad or make them look good. (v. 6)
  • Wisdom is wasted on an idiot because they will use it improperly and it will only be dead weight to them. (vv. 7,9)
  • An idiot repeats the same mistake over and over and over without ever learning. (v. 11)
  • An idiot thinks he is God’s gift to everyone and everything.  Nothing he says is wrong and everything he says you should listen to. (vv. 12,16,25)
  • Idiots are lazy and do as little as possible regardless of who it may hurt or help (vv. 13-15)
  • Idiots look at gossip about others as vital information for everyone to know when in reality all it is is a distraction from you looking at their foolish life. (vv. 20, 22)
  • Idiots are great at deceiving themselves and others, but in time they are always found out for who they really are. (v. 26)

One would hope that we all would wake up and smell the roses to our mistakes and screw-ups, but we all know that doesn’t always happen.  In most cases if we did decided to take a whiff, we’d just wake up with a nose full of thorns because we sniffed the wrong end!  In fact, Solomon is also very clear about what will naturally happen to an idiot if he keeps doing what he’s doing.

“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.(v. 27)

What is so frustrating is that so many people, me included, fall into the traps of foolish, idiotic people.  We get sucked in, beat up, and spit out. This only feeds the individualistic cravings of self-worth, which is all at the expense of you and me.   A fool will eventually fall into his own trap, pit, mess, vomit (whatever you want to say) if we just let him be.  But what we often do is fall into the pit with them and end up covered in the same mess they are!  We can try to blame them, but that is truly on us for our foolish decisions.

The relief for all of us idiots (and we all are from time to time) is that God loves us and despite our idiotic ways His grace still covers us, but for our sake God is hoping we choose something different.  Wisdom rooted in God tells us that we should not follow folly but our Father.  His wisdom will leave us feeling strong, not in our ability to make ourselves happy, but be strong in that God has a better plan than we could ever try to manipulate in our favor.  His wisdom will never fail and will never leave us with egg on our face.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 24: Balsa Wood Is For Sissies

IMG_5603bridgeblog2My best friend Robb and I have known each other since we were practically embryos.  I would literally take a bullet for him and he for me. Now a days people talk all about having “besties” and multiple “best friends”, but I don’t get it.  It’s like the bride that has 16 bridesmaids because she doesn’t want to identify any of them as the maid of honor so no one will be mad at her.  Inevitably all of them think they are the maid of honor and an all out brawl is on the verge of ensuing.

Someone has to be closer than the others and for me that is Robb.   Yet, through all of our years growing up together we rarely had any classes together which drove us nuts.  The only exception to this was band and a physics class our junior year.  Now band was always great because…well…we didn’t take it seriously, we were still really good, and had fun doing it.

This will come in handy in just a second.

Now, in physics class we were assigned to build a tower out of wood that would hold the most weight possible while falling within the size parameters.  Robb and I knew that we would kill this project so we got home and Robb’s dad, Dave, helped us out.  We cut and glued a tower that was epic before the word “epic” was cool to say.  We knew that we had a good one but wanted to test it.  So we decided to take the leg off the riser in band class one day and replace it with our tower.  It totally held up the whole section!  Boom this is an “A” for sure…we thought.

It wasn’t until we got to class that we realized we had failed to read a key element of the assignment.  Not only were there size dimensions, but there were weight dimensions too.  So when everyone came in with their balsa wood structures that could have been blown down by a really good sneeze, we knew we were toast.  You see ours was not made out of balsa, but of solid oak.  Balsa is for sissies if you ask me.  Needless to say, neither Robb or I are physicists and we got…well…less than an A on that assignment.

Let me ask you a question, what is your house built on?

I don’t mean you actually physical house but your personal house.  Your family.  Your life.

What is it built on?

Solomon was a man of great wealth, but it failed him.  He was a man with massive power, but it didn’t sustain him.  He was a man with many, many, many wives, but it didn’t satisfy him.  He had many, many, many girlfriends, but the chase was never intense enough.  Solomon had anything and everything a man could want, but he was as empty as any other person on the street.  However, the saddest thing about Solomon’s life was that he had the answer within his grasp, but he never wrapped his hands around it.  Here’s what he says about what was missing,

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;

through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” 

Proverbs 24:3-4

Solomon’s own words of reflection answer the question for what establishes a solid foundation.  Wisdom.  God centered, God focused, God produced wisdom.  He goes on to say that “wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you.” (v 14)  This future hope is beyond what the world says you need to be satisfied.

  • The world says to applaud when your enemy falls.  Wisdom says “do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”(v 17)
  • The world says to watch your back or someone will cut in on you in life.  Wisdom says, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked.” (v 19)
  • The world says the only time to work with someone is if it benefits you more.  Wisdom says, “do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them.” (v 21)
  • The world says that payback is the only way to get even.  Wisdom says, “do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me, I’ll pay that man back for what he did.” (v 29)

Following the world’s ways will leave you with burned bridges, a bloody reputation, and a hardened heart because of the callus that forms from being jaded.  Wisdom creates a far different picture in your life.  In fact Solomon says that “a wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength.” (v 5)  He goes so far as to say that when you follow God’s ways and speak wisdom what you say will be far better received because “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (v 26)

We must make the daily choice to not give in to the easy temptations of the world that are always a bait and switch.  Never once has what the world sold you been anywhere near reality when you take the step into the river of sin.  Foolishness is thinking that you will be the exception to the rule.  Please don’t kid yourself because sin will ruin your life too.  Don’t think your balsa wood life will withstand the rigors of this world, but rather believe that you need a strong foundation in God to not only survive but to thrive.

You may end up failing the world’s test, but you will pass with the flying colors on God’s.

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


rich_poor

“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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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: Sometimes You Just Have To Ride In The Cart

Speedy BabyMy son and I went to Target the other day (shocking I know) to get a few things.  It was a typical Thursday outing for us with Aniston at school and 2 hours of times to kill in the wintery Chicago weather.  Normally, we would have gone outside, but since hypothermia didn’t seem to be an attractive option we stayed inside.  Lil’ E was being so good that he didn’t even try to arm rake any of the glass spaghetti jars off the shelves for once!

Let me tell you that is a huge deal.

We had just finished shopping and it was time for check out.  This is a good thing because Easton knows it means we are almost out the door and that he gets to “help me” put the things on the conveyor belt.

Side Note: Doesn’t it always seems when you put things on that belt that they multiply in your cart.  I feel like Mary Poppins pulling stuff out of her bag as I unload.  It just keeps coming!

Anyway, this day we got in line and wouldn’t you know it we got stuck behind Coupony Couperson and her 35 boxes of mac and cheese to go with her 17 cases of Tic Tacs.  We were in for a long haul since Target only opens up 1.5 lanes out of their possibly 71 in the morning.  We were stuck.  It didn’t take long for Easton to be “done” with sitting in cart and started to fuss.  Before it got out of hand I decided to try something.

The fine folks at Target now have front facing, double seated carts for the kids.  Granted it makes you feel like you are pushing a “67 El Camino around the store, but they do drive like butter and the kids love it.  So when Easton started to get antsy I just decided to grab a seat right by him.  Yep, I popped a squat in the little toddler sized booty holder and we chatted.

You should have seen his face…he LOVED it!  He instantly went from fussing to talking about everything on his mind that no one understood but him.  His hands started making signs that made more sense than that weird dude at the Nelson Mandela funeral.  But what was so cool was that he totally relaxed!  We had a great daddy moment while the woman ahead of us checked out the last of her items so she could scurry back home to her Apocalypse bomb shelter and put away her rations.

This spoke to me on a couple different levels and no I’m not becoming a couponer.

First, it showed me how important it is to be present with your kids.  We all see parents that will ignore their kids while they text their girlfriends important things like their high score on Candy Crush.  Some parents will just simply endure their time with their kids until they can get home and turn on the Disney Channel.  Still others will look at their kids as if they are a nuisance and hindrance to their entire existence…as if they were the ones that chose to be born and now have inconvenienced them.

Our kids need us to engage with them and constantly reiterate that they matter.  This doesn’t mean that letting them watch a show from time to time is bad or that communicating with your friends is sinful, but when your kids have to beg for your attention something is wrong.  I have heard it said time and time again by older parents that they ”wish they would have soaked up the earlier years more because now that they are all grown up it’s different.”  I simply don’t want to be that regretful parent.  To do this we must realize it takes time, energy, and patience, but I believe it will make a world of difference in our kids futures.  The call can wait, but a moment with your kids will fly by never to be had again.

The other thing that this cart conversation did for me was remind me that this is exactly what Jesus did.  No, he didn’t conquer the Target challenge and spend less than $100 dollars, although that may have been a cool miracle to see happen!  It was much more powerful than even that.

Even though He was God Jesus often would get down on the level of the people he was ministering to so that He could relate.  Even beyond being the obvious incarnate God-Man, Jesus,  who become man to live amongst His creation, He went further time and time again to know us.  We see this in places such as when He hung out with kids, dined with sinners, stooped down to help the adulterous women, but one that stands out to me is when He chose his disciples.

One day Jesus ascends a mountain to pray about who He was going to choose to join Him in his close circle of disciples.   After finishing, He calls the 12 together together and then descends the mountain.  It’s here in Luke 6:17 where the good stuff happens as Luke says“He went down with them and stood on a level place.”  Jesus chose not to preach, teach, and minister from a platform, but from the bottom floor.  He chose to see them eyeball to eyeball instead of over the bridge of his elevated nose.  Jesus got on their level so He could know their level and He still does that today.

Our kids need this too.

They need us to hangout with them in the cart and they need us to tell them about God in a way they can understand.  Heck, they need us to tell them about God period!  After all, what good will it do if they know their math facts by they time the reach 4 years old by playing a Fisher Price game on the iPad if they don’t know who the Son of God is!?  Our kids need to see that God is important to us and worth our time to tell them about Him.  We can’t expect the Sunday school teachers or the pastors to do it all.  We are the most influential people in our kid’s lives so  we need to use that influence to tell them about who God is and what He’s done for us.

On their level…eye to eye…life to life.

So give yourself permission to sit in the cart from time to time.  Your kids will love the time with you and it will give you chance to be on their level.  Who knows what you might see and what opportunities God may give you to tell them about Him.

Don’t be afraid of hanging out with your kids…be afraid of the coupon lady that just bought the last case of bottled water.

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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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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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