Home

Pre-Plan for the Day of Battle

Leave a comment

Have you been in a battle of your will recently…struggling to flee evil and run toward God? Maybe you’re in that battle now?

I confess that in my weakest moments, I sometimes give in to the temptations of my flesh. I am human, after all. But all too often, I think we tend to use that as our “out”…an excuse to sin. At least I know I do anyway.

It’s as if the argument I have with the devil in my head seems to start like this, “you’re only human; what’s He expect of you? You can’t be perfect. Just give in this one time, and you can seek forgiveness afterward because He is always faithful to give it.

Then when I do fail and succumb to the tempting of the devil, he keeps going by shaming me with my guilt, “you’re not good enough for God. He’ll never accept you back, look what you just did!”

And when I give in to that conversation, I forget what follows one of my favorite verses, Galatians 2:20, in verse 21.

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Oh, how often I have treated the grace of God as “meaningless”. For you see, when we I return to our my sin like a dog to its own vomit, that is precisely what we I do. We I cheapen the grace…degrade the sacrifice…minimize the offering…undervalue and render worthless the gift that forgives and cleanses us me in His eyes.

As a dad, if I were to freely give my 6 year old son to die in the place of another person, I would expect the person he saved to live differently…not because he knew I expected it, but because he recognized the gift as meaningful…and as a natural outpouring of his appreciation for the love he was shown first.

Doesn’t God deserve the same from us me?!

A battle for our soul rages within us! We win the battle when we claim Galatians 2:20 as our own personal experience, crucifying our flesh and allowing Christ to live in us.

Speaking for myself here, I often…too often…fail Him in choosing poorly. When I fail to apply Phil 4:13 to my daily experiences during temptations, I take for granted and render meaningless the grace of God. I step off the path He has set out for me…even if only for a moment…and that first step is ALWAYS a slippery one.

When we take that first slippery step off the narrow path during a personal battle, we allow the flesh to succumb to temptation. It’s like we use Paul’s illustration of the battle against the sin within us (found in Romans 7:13-25) as an excuse to sin rather than applying it in claiming victory OVER sin through Christ in us.

Convicted of a recent failure of my own, this verse from Proverbs jumped leaped off the page at me:

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.” – Proverbs 16:6

Wait what?! How do an unfailing love and faithfulness atone for my sin, and more importantly, how do I achieve those two qualities in my character?

In having captured my attention, He hit me with this one five verses later:

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness.” – Proverbs 16:11

And then again five verses later with this:

The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.” – Proverbs 16:17

Which led to a bit of a word study that in summation looks like this

Confused? Yeah, me too. But bare with me for a few more thoughts, and we shall indeed be one blind beggar leading another to a morsel of nourishment.
Let’s dissect verse 6 word by word:

  • Unfailing – constant; everlasting; never-ending; inexhaustible. We see God’s unfailing love for His people defined throughout Scripture, particularly in Psalm 117:2 and Isaiah 55:3.
  • Love – love is so many different qualities that it is a book all its own really. Quickly defined for today’s purpose,
    • Love is obedience (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, 1 John 2:3-6).
    • It is NOT an emotion we feel or express; rather it is a choice me make (John 3:16).
    • Love is God…and God is love (1 John 4:7-8).
    • Because God is love, love is also confident and fearless (1 John 4:16-19).
  • Faithfulness
    • a steadfast loyalty (2 Thessalonians 3:3 and 2 Timothy 4:7)
    • a firm adherence to promises (John 14:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Timothy 2:13)
  • Atonementforgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing (Col 1:20 and 1 John 2:2)
  • Sin – an offense against God

Simply translated, verse 6 of Proverbs 16 says this…an obedience and steadfast loyalty in adhering to our commitment to sin no more cleanse us of our offenses against God and that people who fear the LORD will avoid evil.

Simple enough…until we question why we should fear the LORD.

Simply put, the answer comes five verses later in verse 11,

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness. – Proverbs 16:11

We should fear Him because He is a fair and just Judge…handing down discipline to those He loves for breaking His commands. His justness requires atonement for sin, and His standards are fair and balanced…we are all held to the same standard. When we are continually disobedient, we demonstrate that we don’t love Him.

My sin deserves a punishment. I cannot accept the gift of grace and forgiveness and continue in my sin. What just judge would allow that? My debt is paid, but it does not give me free reign to continue breaking the law.

Our hope can be found again five verses later in verse 17,

The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe. – Proverbs 16:17

  • Virtuousmorally excellent; righteous (Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:5-7)

But how do we “follow the path” when the temptations come?

When we turn from that which seeks to destroy us and instead seek Him, we keep our feet on the path. When we flee from Satan and draw near to God (in prayer and studying Scripture) Satan will flee us and God will draw near to us, filling us with His Spirit (see also 2 Timothy 2:20-22 about running from anything that stimulates youthful lusts, a study all its own but worthy of honorable mention here).

So the next natural question is, how do we do that…follow the path of the virtuous?

Success in this endeavor comes through proper pre-planning. God tells us to plan, then instructs us throughout the Proverbs that while we make our plans it is He who guides our steps and directs our path.

I’m a planner. I believe in planning for success…not just because God calls us to it, but because I’ve seen firsthand how planning well works in real-life applications.

In the fire service, we pre-plan everything.  I mean…EVERY. THING. In particular, we pre-plan what we call our “target hazards”, our high hazard incidents and locations. Our pre-planning process involves the following:

  • A Goal. What are our mission priorities? What’s the end game? The mission objective? The measure for success?
  • A Response Plan How will we respond? What route will we take to get there? What alternate routes are available if our primary one is not available? What resources will we deploy to assist us in mitigating the problem?
  • An Action Plan  What are the steps we will take to achieve success? What actions will we implement to achieve the goal? What is the back-up plan when the first plan isn’t successful?
  • Hazards. What dangers are out there waiting to entrap and entangle us? Where could we get side-tracked? Murphy says what CAN go wrong WILL go wrong, so how do we avoid those unnecessary dangers and pitfalls?

The saying rings true that “when we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”

Much like our efforts to pre-plan in the fire service pay off, God rewards us when we plan to avoid evil.

Which brings us full circle to find the answer in Proverbs 14:22:

If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

There are those two qualities again…unfailing love and faithfulness! And it bears repeating because those two words started me on this day-long study.

Proverbs 16:6 says,

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin…

and when we question how to achieve those two qualities, we come right back to Proverbs 14:22 for the answer,

…if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

In planning “to do good” we need to develop a plan that:

  • Identifies our goal.
  • Identities how we will respond when temptation comes and what resources we will deploy to assist us in achieving success.
  • Identifies our Action Plan…what steps we will take to achieve the goal.
  • Identifies what hazards Satan has lurking around the corner to ensnare an trip us up.

I encourage you to write your plan out.

Honestly, the entire process of typing this note out was as much for me as for anyone else. I followed the flow and bouncing back and forth of my hand written study because I wrote it out, but in taking the additional time to explain it to you, I better understand it myself. And in better understanding it, I can better apply it when I need it. I pray you can too.

Now, stop reading what I have to say about it and get to studying for yourself what God has to say about it.

Love,

Dad

Have you pre-planned your next response to temptation? I’d love to hear what practical steps you’ve put in place to ensure success in your faith journey.

Advertisements

A Post-It Note From God

1 Comment

As I rushed out of the house at 9:00pm last night on the way to the hospital, I didn’t think to take a Bible with me.  By the time it crossed my mind, it was too late to turn back for it.  How could I not grab my Bible!?  Ugh!

Stopping to fill the car with gas and grab a coffee for the long night, I sent a text to some brothers in the faith asking for prayer.  My phone almost dead and my access to a digital Bible thus limited, I had no written Word of God to take with me so I also asked for some Scripture to share.

Praying for the 45 minute drive downtown to comfort a friend in his hour of need, I asked God to reveal to me what to say.  I asked for SO much in that time.  I asked…and asked…and asked some more.  I praised, and I glorified.  I sought Him, and I sought His Word.  I sought to recall it, knowing I would have to rely on my weak memory alone to speak Truth into the lives of a family hurting in the dark hours of the night. 

Stepping out of the car at the hospital, I looked at my phone, on its last minutes of battery life, to see the texts from the brothers praying for the situation and the various Scripture references they pointed me toward.  And I prayed, “if only I had a Bible with me.” In that instant, it’s as if God whispered directly in my ear “look in the back seat.” Finding NE’s children’s Bible, I laughed and praised God for it…and then walked inside.
Isn’t it awesome how He provides exactly what we need when we need it!

Hours later, as midnight approached, I opened it and read through some Psalms.  In turning to find what I was searching for, I turned too far and landed right dab on Proverbs 15, and this.  
Proverbs 15 This.  A post-it note written by my son in his newfound faith, as he seeks to know his God better…seeks to know the Jesus that died for him in a deeper, more intimate way.  This was the calming voice I needed to remind me that I don’t have to have all the answers when life happens.  

Because I don’t.  And I never will.  But I know who does.  He’s the Jesus/God of the Bible.  And I love Him …and His Bible!  Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through my son.  And thank you, son, for being faithful in your quest for Him.  In your youth, you are witnessing to those around you (i.e. me) more than you know.

Love,

Dad

Lord, help me lead him and his brother in YOUR ways.  Help me to die to self so that I may live for you.  Guide me as I guide them.  Let them see you in me, and let them follow you, not me.

Amen

I Saw The Future

Leave a comment

I saw the face of God yesterday. And I cried like a baby for a full thirty minutes.

My precious SD, throughout the last 15 years I’ve sat through countless ballet and dance recitals, choir performances, award shows, graduations, and a plethora of other events you’ve been a part of. Yesterday, as I sat watching your high school Christmas Show, the first fifteen years of your life flashed before me. Dancing you to sleep late at night as an infant. Your first words. Your first steps. Losing your first tooth. Your first day of kindergarten. Countless hours spent helping you learn how to ride a bike, usually ending with us both frustrated. The night you came home and without any prompting picked that bike up and rode circles around our cul-de-sac on your own for the first time like you’d known how all along. The day we finalized your
adoption into our family. Anxiously waiting 6 hours in a hospital waiting room during your open heart surgery. Every doctor visit since. All of it, the good and the not-so-good, flooded my mind in those thirty minutes.

Like I was Ebenezer Scrooge taking a walk through Christmas’ past, present the and future, images of your future intermingled with memories from past, all in that moment. For the first time in fifteen years, I saw a glimpse of what your life holds in the next fifteen. And I could no longer contain the bittersweet joy in recognizing that my daughter is becoming a young woman. The same daughter who still needs help tying her shoes opened my eyes to the life of independence that is possible for you as an adult. You and your friends gave me hope yesterday.

On that stage this weekend, I didn’t see your disability; I saw your ability. I didn’t see what holds you back; I saw what keeps you going. I saw more genuine, authentic Christlike character traits in you and your friends yesterday than I see walking through the doors of church on Sunday morning. I simply have no words to express what I experienced in being a part of your world outside our home…watching you in your environment. Watching how you interact with your friends gave me hope. Hope for what your life will be after your mom and I have gone to be with God. A hope that you will be able to continue on without us. For fifteen years, I’ve not been able to see you as thriving without us. Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of who you will be as an adult, and I’m proud. Proud to know you. Proud to love you. Proud of who you are. Proud of you will become. Proud to have been chosen by God to be your daddy! Keep on being the beautiful girl you’ve always been, ladybug! I love you so stinkin’ much it hurts. I love you to tears and back.

Love,

Daddy

P.S. Happy 15th birthday, princess!

The Day I Lost My Vision

Leave a comment

Confession time. I lost it…I mean totally and unequivocally, lost it. Picture a 6’5″ grown man crying and sobbing like a five year child who just had his Christmas presents stolen on Christmas morning. Yes. That bad. L.O.S.T. Lost. It.

Another confession…it’s never been my vision. It’s God’s vision. I’m just the one who was allowed to see it.

Tonight, I’m relaxing and recovering after a STRONG push this past month in getting our Upward Basketball & Cheerleading season started. We’ve been busy drafting 612 (and growing) players to teams, screening and vetting 130 volunteers, training Cheer Coaches, planning for and conducting the annual Prayer Breakfast, managing team equipment for 72 teams, and ordering equipment for the season…all culminating this past week in a final push to prepare for, setup and conduct two training sessions for 100 basketball coaches and a cheerleading clinic, both held this weekend. This morning saw two of those events at the same time, both worthy of being called a major event on its own, a basketball coach training session in one half of the building and the Cheerleading Clinic in the other half. As this morning’s cheer clinic came to an end, I confess that’s when I lost it.

Flash back to last night. After a 14-hour day ended with the first of two 4-hour Coach Training Sessions, I was praying on my drive home. I told God that I felt like something wasn’t right. Something’s missing, but I don’t know what it is. It feels like I’ve been distracted and scatter-brained…more so than usual anyway. And as I stopped talking to Him long enough to actually listen, God revealed to me that I’d lost the vision. What?! I know the vision. I just shared it with 50 coaches hours earlier as I cast the vision for our season! I’m the leader of the ministry…knowing (and sharing) the vision is my job. How could that be? And then He reminded me that I was so wrapped up in preparing for what I was going to say after the video message from Caz ended that I didn’t hear Caz say it. “Loving people trumps everything.” If we’re so wrapped up in what we’re busy doing that we don’t take time for people when they need to engage us, then we’ve lost the vision. Because “loving people trumps everything.”

Unable to see the vision for the various tasks before me this past month, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve become so engrossed in the task over the last month that tunnel vision has been keeping me from seeing the vision that started me on this journey in the first place. That’s really, really hard to admit…that as the person who’s ultimately responsible for casting the vision for the team, I got caught up in the to-do list and lost focus. But it’s the cold hard truth. I lost the vision.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the to-do list, isn’t it. So easy to fall into the trap of being busy doing the *work* of God that we miss the *face* of God. Convicted of that, and then waking up this morning, still exhausted, to get back to the task of another Coach Training Session, I needed something to help me see the vision clearly again. As the coach training session ended, I was able to steal away for a few minutes to walk in for the closing moments of the Cheer Clinic on the other side of the building. I spent three minutes watching as dozens of young cheerleaders were reunited with their parents after having spent two fun-filled hours of exciting, energetic, high impact time with their new teammates and coaches.

Three minutes. That’s all it took to have me crying like a baby as God illuminated the vision for me again. For three minutes, the work was gone. The to-do list was gone. The details were gone. And the reason we’ve invested hundreds of hours already was right in front of me. For three minutes, I simply sat back and enjoyed watching the vision unfold before my eyes. I went from seeing the things right before me to seeing the bigger picture. And I lost it. Yep, cried like a baby.

I’ve got the vision back. And I’m ready to get back to work with a renewed passion. I walked away from that three minutes inspired…excited and on fire once again with the passion to continue in the work of seeing the vision fulfilled through accomplishing the mission of “Promoting the Discovery of Jesus Through Sports.” I’ve got the vision…and I’m ready to share it! Let’s do this.

Love,

Dad

Open Your Eyes and Be a Blessing

Leave a comment

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

There’s a Onesie in the Rescue Pack

Leave a comment

In September, 2001 I was just five months into my initiation to the fraternity called fatherhood.  Like millions of Americans, I watched live as the the second plane crashed into that tower, and I knew instantly…that our lives would never be the same.  In the months following the  attack on our country, being a father took on a completely new meaning for me.

For starters, I reevaluated my faith and my commitment to God.  I recommitted my life to Christ and vowed to raise my family in the shadow of His Word.  Quite literally, a life-altering turn for me that continues to have ripple effects as I see my children growing closer to Jesus as they navigate their own faith walk.

On a lighter note, I began preparing our family for survival during and after an emergency.  There’s a saying in the emergency services field, that really is sound advice with many life applications.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

This was back in the days when SD was still a toddler navigating preschool.  She was really into the cartoon “Go Diego Go”, and our favorite character was (and still is if you asked me today) “Rescue Pack”.

Diego Rescue Pack

Diego’s Rescue Pack

Able to change into anything Diego needed at any given moment…”a parasail or kayake…a zipline, a snowboard…whatever you need“, Rescue Pack had our back.  So it seemed logical explaining to a 4-year old toddler that the backpack I was setting up as our emergency “go-bag” was our “Rescue Pack”.  And so it’s been called ever since, even as it grows into multiple bags to accommodate a growing family.

I knew it’d been a while since I’d updated it, but I hadn’t realized it’d been this long…

boys, not babies anymore

Back when they fit in the palm of my hand

Yes…the last time I opened the bag packed with extra changes of clothing for every member of the family, you both apparently were able to fit in Onesies.  Arguably, I could hold you one-handed back then.  What a nostalgic afternoon last week held for your mother and me as we looked through that bag.

You’re both growing so fast that it’s all I can do to hold on to and embrace each moment as it comes.  Because one moment lends to another and another.  The moments in your lives are coming and going so fast.

There’s a duality to the mind of a parent that I pray you are able to experience one day.  In my mind, you will always be my little men, just learning to walk as you climb up onto my lap to rest your body on my chest for an afternoon nap.  At the very same time, I’m able to see you as the men you will become…boldly and courageously living out your faith as men of God with careers, wives, and children of your own.  It’s that duality that allows me to love you in the moment…while raising you to become the men God is calling you to be.  There will always be the dad in me who misses those days when I could hold you in the palm of my hand…and there will always be the dad in me who anxiously awaits the man you will become. The challenge is striving daily to recognize you for who you are now…young men navigating a world unlike the one I experienced at your age…and to not take one second for granted.

Really, this was just a fun opportunity to look back and write you to simply tell you that I love you…more and more every moment I am blessed to be in your lives.

Love,

Dad

My god was not my God

Leave a comment

I have come to realize I can’t go a day without it.  It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and while I haven’t touched it yet, I Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It.

Like, really can’t stop obsessing with how good it’d feel right now.  It’s over on the kitchen counter staring at me menacingly.  Calling me.  Beckoning me to come partake.  It knows I can’t function without it.  It knows!  It’s just sitting there…tempting me with the reality that the fog I’m in right now would go away almost instantly.  With just one cup.

Yes, I’ve come to realize it’s time for a change.  When I’ve become so reliant on something as small as a cup of coffee, I’ve become reliant on the wrong thing.  And I’ve been reliant on the wrong thing.  That’s not easy for me to admit, but there it is.

It’s the second Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” – Exodus 20:3, yet there it is staring me right in the face.  Coffee has become my god.  As I sat down to write this note, I honestly didn’t think I’ve put coffee before God.  I haven’t, have I?  Well, let’s see…

It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Before my Bible and before my time with God.  Really, the two go together so well in the morning… a cop of coffee and the Word.

coffee and the Word

a little coffee and a whole lot of Word

But the coffee…oh how the coffee gets me through it.  Wait!  It “gets me through it?”  WOW!  Yeah…it’s time for a change.

I’m thankful that my God is bigger than my coffee.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God.  It’s time to demolish this stronghold in my life.  With the Helmet of Salvation, I am claiming the mind of Christ as I thank Him that I am His child and praise Him for my eternal life.  I’ve affixed the Breastplate of Righteousness, asking God to search my heart and reveal the wickedness hidden within it.  I’ve confessed my sin and am claiming Christ’s righteousness to cover my sins.  With the Shield of Faith, I am claiming the victory and advancing in faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Mark 11:24).

I am claiming victory in this through Christ.  My coffee is my god no more.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Ironic that immediately after posting this, I place a link to this note on the Decaf Dad page.  God really is good all the time.

Older Entries