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Open Your Eyes and Be a Blessing

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This morning’s time with God was challenging.  As are most of the conversations we have in which I actually talk less and listen more.  From 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.  So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.  If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body?   If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear?  Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  How strange a body would be if it had only one part!  Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’  The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.  And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care.  So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,  while the more honorable parts do not require this special care.  So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”

As I read the last portion of that (the section I’ve highlighted) and allowed God to speak into my life this morning, He pricked my heart with more questions than answers:

  • “How well are you caring for the ‘less honorable‘ members of the body?”
  • “How caring are you toward those with ‘less dignity?'”
  • “How protective are you of the “weaker” members?”
  • “What are you doing to protect them?”
  • “How are you showing them honor?”
  • “How are you loving them?”
  • “How available and willing are you to humble yourself?”

What I’ve determined in this examination is that:

  •  There is no “less honorable“, “less dignified“, or “weaker” in His eyes.  These are our labels, as verse 22 so clearly demonstrates,

“In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”

  • I am too often consumed with serving God, wrapped up in the details of a to-do list, that I am focused on the wrong things.  Too often, the blinders come on, the tunnel vision sets in, and I see only what’s right in front of me…a to-do list.  I’m much too task-oriented when I should be relationship-oriented.

My prayer today, “Lord thank you for opening my eyes and heart to my shortcomings in this area of my walk with you.  Please forgive me these failures, Lord.  Continue speaking truth into my mind and life through the Spirit.  You created me with the ability to bring order out of chaos and to provide structure and organization where it otherwise wouldn’t be.  I believe you alone have the power to mold me into a person who is relationship-oriented who can also use his task-oriented gifts to your glory.  Claiming your promise in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you“, I pray according to your will that you open my eyes to those around me and allow me to be a blessing in someone’s life today.” Love, Dad

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My Kids and Oxen…Getting Dirty. Yes, I Went There.

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I almost missed it again this morning.  I’d skipped right through it and was two verses past it when I quite literally heard the Spirit of God whisper in my ear, “go back and read that again.”

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” – Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

I’ve read this particular verse in Proverbs probably a hundred times or more and missed it every time.  After a few minutes reflecting on that verse, I was left with more questions than answers:

“What am I doing to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom?  I mean what am I REALLY doing?  Am I living in a way that reflects Christ living in me to those around me?  How dirty am I willing to get to do the work God’s called me to do?”

Planting, sowing, tilling and harvesting a crop is dirty work.  And yet, we are called to it…put here on Earth to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom…to bring Him glory in everything we do…to point the lost to Him.

“‘Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.  It was I who created them.’” – Isaiah 43:7 (NLT)

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert!  The lost aren’t generally in the most pristine and cleanest of places (by our standard of clean anyway).

In actuality, our first priority in reaching the lost should be in our homes.

As parents, we’re on the front lines doing battle to win the hearts and souls of our precious little ones for God.  And make no mistake moms and dads…it IS a battle.  A battle that takes place both in the spiritual realm between God’s angels and the forces of evil…and a battle that takes place in the physical realm between us and the influences a fallen world has on our children.  As we seek to hold our children close long enough to instill in them Godly character and moral truths, Satan is working overtime through the world around us.  He is working to pull them farther from our reach into a cycle of sin that can only be broken when they truly realize and accept their brokenness and complete dependence on God.

Dads, as a father of three boys and a special needs girl, I can assure you that raising kids is messy work.  I get it, I know.  It’s emotionally cluttered and chaotic…littered with drama.  Drama we don’t like and would just assume avoid every chance we get.  I mean honestly guys, who among us wouldn’t “rather be fishing”?  Fatherhood is heavy-laden with emotional turmoil and baggage that wears us down…leaves us inpatient and unkind.  It’s scary and often times traumatic.  It’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching.  It’s late nights and early mornings…with sleepless nights in between.  And that’s just the emotional side.

It’s just as physically relentless and cluttered.  You show me a dad who’s never navigated the minefield of Legos and Hot Wheels, and I’ll show you ten more with the battle scars to prove otherwise.  For the mom reading this, when you look at the living room littered with toys, the couch covered in Cheerios, the syrup-covered dining room floor, the endless loads of laundry, the kitchen sink overflowing with the day’s dishes, the bathroom you wouldn’t let a stranger use, let alone a close friend who stops by unexpectedly, the ransacked-looking bedrooms and kids running around half-dressed with bubble gum stuck in their hair…have faith that “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

You WILL one day wake up to a clean house with no laundry to wash, no dishes to clean, no floor to mop, no bathroom to sterilize, no toys to pick up.  No giggles to enjoy.  No children to play.  For the dad reading this.  You wanna make an impact in your kids’ lives?  Don’t let mom be the one to do all the dirty work.  Let’s man up and get in the trenches with her in managing the homestead, eh?

Because like it or not, we are right where we are called to be…whether we’ve fully accepted the role or not.

“Children are a gift from the LORD;  they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!  He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127:3-5 (NLT)

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Do you see it?  To get an ox to plow the field and do the work that’s hard, it has to be trained.

“It’s easier to train oxen when you start when they’re babies.  In addition to being smaller and easier to handle, you gain their trust and respect from the beginning.  They’ll trust you and your judgment just as they would trust their mother.  If you are careful in how you handle them (never abusing them, but never letting them get away with anything) they respect your dominance and will not challenge your authority when they are older and much bigger”  (excerpt from “Training Oxen: Start with Calves” by Heather Smith Thomas via http://www.countrysidemag.com)

The ox doesn’t become strong after one planting season.  It takes many seasons to develop its strength.  It has to be trained, and then only after years of training is it strong enough to do the work well.  Much like an athlete who has spent years training for his sport, the ox is stronger for having endured the training.  Likewise, our kids are being trained.

The question we have to ask ourselves as their father is, “who’s training them?”

Are we training them for the work God will soon call them to?  Or is the world training them to resist Him?  Are we preparing and equipping them for success on the front lines for God?  Or is the world preparing them to rebel against Him?

As dads, we have to be on the front lines in the mud with them (mostly figuratively, though many times literally).  We lead from the front, not the back.  To win their hearts and minds, we have to be involved.  Engaged.  Committed.  Standing steadfast and consistent.  Intentional in our actions and words.  Every. Single. Day. Without fail.  There are no breaks in fatherhood.

It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen this week, this month, or even this year.  Through many years of training, though, they will grow stronger.  They will come out the other side stronger for having endured it.  Stronger spiritually.  Fully reliant on God.  Through our consistent love (which is more than affection…it includes discipline, but that’s a note for another day), we will have reaped a harvest in our children.  A harvest that will go forth and reap another harvest when it’s their time.  The question that remains is, “how messy are we willing to get?”

What we’re called to do isn’t easy, by any definition.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” – Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

We’re being asked to work in the mess without getting messy.  To work the field without getting any of the field on us.  To be in the dirt without getting dirty.  How is that possible, you ask?  Only by the power and grace of a God who loves us enough to get messy for us.  It’s by the blood we’re kept clean and holy.  Even when we fail.  It’s by the cross we are found pure in God’s eyes.  It’s by the Son we can do all things.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I’m gonna go jump in the dirt.  Who’s with me?

Love,

Dad

I May Be Old To a 4-Year Old, But Wait…

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Are you old? I know I am. Well, at least SI says I am. I guess to a 4 year old, 40 probably seems ancient. It seems that lately there hasn’t been a day pass without me having felt my age more so than ever.

Sore after doing routine tasks that shouldn’t leave me sore. Tired. Slow. Aching bones crying out for rest. Joints popping. Hearing loss. Trouble seeing clearly. Memory fading. Grey slipping in where it wasn’t there yesterday. The man of my youth is fast escaping me. I’m certainly not standing on death’s doorstep waiting for a final push into the grave, but there are definitely more and more days that I feel my age.

Satan sure is good at his job of pulling us away from our relationship with God isn’t he? Thoughts seem to invade my mind occasionally that challenge my desire to keep moving forward. Some days it’s all I can do to roll out of bed and face the day. I wonder sometimes what difference for God’s kingdom I’m making. And though I’m still a young 40, I’d be lying if I said that my age never played a role in those thoughts and questions. Because on occasion they do creep in there.

I imagine that’s even more true for someone in his 50’s. 60’s. 70’s. 80’s. 90’s. If we’re honest with ourselves, it can be overwhelming some days. Can’t it?

Don’t be overwhelmed. There’s encouragement in the Word.

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” – Psalm 92:12-15

Did you catch that? Even in old age, the child of God will:

1. Produce fruit.

John 15:5 says we can do NOTHING without Christ. When we abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we bear fruit. And this brings the Father glory, when we bear fruit (John 15:7). The fruit we bear for God comes in two forms: 1. Leading the lost to Christ; and 2. Living out and exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Regardless of your age, if you’re not bearing fruit maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with Christ. Are you abiding in Him and allowing Him to abide in you? Are you seeking Him with EVERYTHING you have? If you are, you’re producing fruit and are vital.

2. Remain vital.

Regardless of your age, as a child of God your assignment here is significant. You play a key role. Your life story is meaningful. You have a purpose that is important to God. You are critical to the mission. Crucial to the operation. Fundamental in achieving God’s purpose. Important to the team. Indispensable to God. An integral part of His plan. Don’t ever lose sight of that truth!

3. Remain green.

I recently heard a six-year old on NE’s baseball team say “I know everything there is to know about baseball because I’ve been playing for three years already.” Well, I suppose when you’ve been doing something for half your life, you should know a lot about it, right? Too funny. 🙂 The reality is…we’re never too old to learn something new. If you’re alive in Christ, you’re green. What’s that mean? When a plant is green, it’s growing. As a child of God, you’re green when you’re growing. Being nourished by the Word. Cultivating relationships. Thriving. Stretching beyond your comfort zone. Maturing in your understanding of wisdom and truth. Flourishing in your faith. Developing the attributes of Christ. If you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet. Go live. Better yet, go be alive in Christ!

4. Declare God’s glory.

Our God is faithful and just, is He not? Is He not worthy of our constant praise and adoration for that…and so much more? As a believer in the One true God, our strongest desire should be to declare His glory in ALL things.

“Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.” – Psalm 149:5

I might be old to a 4-year old, but I’m not on my death bed yet. You can rest assured that when I am I’ll be singing His praises and giving Him glory! For as long as I have breath, I’ll “sing praises to the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6) Will you? Even if you are on your death bed, if you still have breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, God has you here for a reason. Find it. Live it.

Love,

Dad

Gotta Get Outa The Way!

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Are you struggling to overcome something today? Are you tired and weary? Is it not working out for you like you’d hoped? Does it feel like you take a step forward one day, just to fall back three the next? You’re not alone.

The first three verses of Colossians 3 opens with,

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We died to this life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” (Gal 2:20). Believers, we’re dead. D.E.A.D. Dead. That’s pretty clear. If I’m dead, who’s walking around in this body of mine? Who’s writing this note? Who’s reading it? Who’s drinking this cup of coffee? Who’s going to work in 20 minutes?

Christ living in our body…In my life, and in yours. We are raised to walk a new life. A new life in Christ. Where we go, He goes. What we do, He does. What we say, He says. The people we interact with every day know who Christ is by our life…Our actions. Our inaction. Our attitudes. Our words. That’s a really big responsibility.

I’ve been struggling for years to put my old self aside, especially at work with my language and speech. That opening passage of Colossians 3 really jumped off the page right at me this morning. In prayer, this is what God whispered to me.

“You are called to, and for, a higher purpose. You are set apart. Live in such a way that reflects such, son. You cannot overcome your behavior challenges at work. But I can. And I will. As soon as you step aside. Get out of my way and let me.”

Yes, Lord.

You are struggling to overcome something too. Stop struggling. Step aside and let God do what only He can do! Will you join me in getting out of His way so He can change our lives? I’m praying for you this morning.

Love,

Dad

The If Changes Everything

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I’m reading through Exodus this month, and although I’m pretty familiar with the stories, something stuck out this morning that I had not known before now.

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I knew that God led the people of Israel through the wilderness rather than a more direct route out of Egypt. And I knew He took them that way so that His glory would be known through the parting of the Red Sea. But one word hit me like a rock this morning. Did you see it there in the picture above? No? look again.

And that one word changes everything.
Two little letters, “i” and “f”, when combined to form the word “if“, change everything. “If the people are faced with a battle…

This is the God of miracles!
The God of Abraham. The God who raises the dead and commands every living thing. The God who delivered Jonah via a whale! The God who breathed the world into existence and numbered the stars! Here, He’s brought His people out of Egypt and is directing their path with a pillar of cloud and fire! He’s getting ready to part the Red Sea for crying out loud! And here He says, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Really? I get that the Israelites were slaves for hundreds of years and not ready for battle, but you mean to tell me He can’t lead them through the wilderness while simultaneously clearing the wilderness of all potential enemies?

I don’t buy it.
There’s a reason for the “if”. I know He took them through the wilderness to bring them to the Red Sea and deliver them from Pharoah’s army by parting the waters…so that all the world would know He is God. Yeah, He could’ve taken them a more direct route and done things differently. But He didn’t so that His name would be glorified through the various miracles He would perform. I get all that. But the if

I’m stuck on it.
That’s the thing with God. He doesn’t want us to be stuck on the things we can’t understand. There are just some things we’ll never know. Reasons for Him leading us down a particular path that we’ll never understand on this side of eternity, if ever at all. Reasons unknown to us for putting a road block in our path that force us to change paths.

Do you dwell on the what if’s?
What if I’d gotten that job? What if my wife hadn’t left me? What if I’d been a more involved father when they were young? What if I’d turned left instead of right? What if…if only. Yeah, I struggle with that sometimes too. We’re human after all.

What if instead we recognize what we should be recognizing. That God is God, and we are not. Because knowing the reason for the “if” changes everything, and the knowledge that comes with that…I could not handle.

Love,

Dad

A Burning Bush Moment

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#1. “But Moses protested to God…” – Exodus 3:11(a)

#2. “But Moses protested…” – Exodus 3:13(a)

#3. “But Moses protested again…” – Exodus 4:1(a)

#4. “But Moses pleaded with the Lord…” – Exodus 4:10(a)

#5. “But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else.'”- Exodus 4:13

Here’s Moses, standing before a bush that’s on fire…but not being consumed by the fire…and it’s talking to him, no less!! Once he knows it’s God, he still doesn’t fully trust. Five times, Moses protested, finally pleading to God that He send someone else. Anyone.

We wouldn’t be that mistrusting would we? I mean really if a burning bush is talking to us claiming to be the one true God and calling us to do something, we’d jump right on it, right? Well, my question to you is this…what is God asking you to do? Have you pleaded that

1. what He’s asking of you is too big for you?
2. you’re not qualified?
3. you’re not worthy?
4. you’re too busy?
5. He send someone else?

Guess what? You’re right. To a point.

1. Out of our comfort zone is precisely where God wants us…because when we realize it’s bigger than our ability to do it alone, we have no choice but to call on Him for help…and to give Him the glory afterward.

2. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

3. You’re not worthy. None of us is. God doesn’t NEED us to do anything. He WANTS us to serve Him…because we want to, not because we have to.

4. & 5. If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Not everyone gets a “burning bush” call from God. And even if you did, would you really believe it was God anyway? Or would you stand there talking back to and arguing with a fiery bush? So stop waiting for it, because while God can certainly talk to us through a flaming bush if He wanted to, He sent us His Spirit after Christ’s death on the cross for us. And it’s the Holy Spirit – dwelling within us – that He uses to call to us. All we need do is turn off the distractions of this world and slow down so we can hear Him. And then trust Him to do His part in it all.

Love,

Dad

So…what is God calling you to do? Are you pleading your case or jumping on board? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Will you pray this prayer with me today?

Gracious and holy Lord, I pray that I can put the worries and distractions of this world aside every day so that I can come into closer fellowship with You. That I can hear the whisper of Your voice on my heart and know with certainty it’s You. I pray, oh God, that when I hear Your call, I would have the courage and passion to follow where You lead me without question. I long to know and follow hard after You. Dwell within my heart, soul and mind that I might always feel Your presence. I pray this in the blessed name of your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Crunchie for Christ

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I was eating Chick-fil-A (CFA) for lunch earlier this week (I know…I know…what can I say…I like CFA). As I finished the last of my chicken strips, I’m looking at an empty box (wishing I had more :))… at the scraps of fried chicken batter left over in the box. The crunchies. The only crunchies I love more than CFA’s are the ones at Long John Silvers. I love the crunchies!!! Perhaps as much as the chicken or fish itself. Do you eat the crunchies left over? Or do you discard them?

During Jesus’ ministry on Earth, he performed many miracles. One of the most well-known of them is the feeding of the five thousand with only two small fish and five loaves of bread. To us that seems amazing to comprehend. How often have we looked in the cupboard and thought “we have nothing to eat. How am I going to feed these kids with what little I have in here.” And here, Jesus takes what is barely enough to feed himself and his disciples…and multiplies it to feed thousands. He takes the meager (by the world’s definition) offering of a child (who gave all he had, by the way) and used it to reach so many more than could ever be reached without Christ. And as amazing as that is, it doesn’t end there. Not to be outdone (even by himself), Jesus takes it one step further. There’s something else within this miracle that is often overlooked.

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.‘ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” – John 6:12-13

It was miraculous in itself that Jesus fed thousands of people with so little. But then there were left overs!!! Thousands of people ate to their fill on just a couple fish and some chunks of bread! And as amazing as it is that there were twelve baskets of left overs, that’s not what I find truly awesome. How easy it would have been to discard the left overs. In the first place, he’s Jesus!!! The Son of God!!! He performed the miracle to feed that many people…don’t you think he could have fed them all with the exact amount of food needed to do so…without there being anything left over? Why did He choose to perform this miracle in a way that there were any left overs at all? I can’t answer that, because He is God…and I am not. But this I can say. He did…and then he took the time to gather the left overs. Why?

I’m not God, so I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps He did it for dramatic effect…the shock factor. Maybe as a child his mom and dad would say “clear your plate Jesus…you put it on your plate, you eat it.” Or…perhaps he thinks there’s some usefulness in the “least of these”. He doesn’t tell us why he gathered the left overs, or for what purpose they were used…but throughout the Bible we find examples of God using the “least of these”, so I’ve gotta believe the latter is most likely the reason (although I can totally picture Mary and Joseph telling him to clear his plate. “You may be the Almighty sent to save the world…but around here we don’t waste food…my house my rules.” 🙂 )

So what’s he see in the scraps? I don’t know. But he sees something worthy of taking the time to gather them. He knows they have a use…a purpose. He has a plan for them. He doesn’t reveal to us what that plan was, but we can assume he used them for something…otherwise he wouldn’t have taken the time to gather them. Most days I feel like scraps…like the left overs…like I’m not worthy of the main course. I often feel like I’m worthless, not capable of being used for His glorious plan. I see the sin in my life that others around me don’t see…the sin that only God and I know about, and I begin to doubt…to question how He could use someone so filthy and putrid.

And on many days I feel like all I give God is my leftovers. Worse than the child who gave everything he had…his five loaves of bread and two fish, I often only give God a portion of what He’s given to me…a smidgen of my time and effort. And yet, he takes it and uses it to reach more than I could ever imagine possible. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, because He can…because He is God…and I am not. What I do know is that I’ll never look at the left over crunchies the same again. Lord, use me as you will. May I be a crunchie for You! Amen.

Love,

Dad

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