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What Do You See?

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What do you see when he passes you, red lights flashing and siren blaring as he clears a path to his destination? Do you see the pain and suffering he will see when he gets there? Do you see it? No? Open your eyes…it’s there.

It’s a darkness that swallows him, pouring over his soul like a raging sea.

It tosses him back and forth, churning him up in a blender that’s mixed with all the pain and sorrow he bears witness to.

He tries to escape the fury of its wrath,
but its grip on him is unrelenting. It crushes his soul and takes away his breath.

He’s sinking into the pits of a darkness that won’t let him go. The raging fire that engulfs his once vibrant, green and thriving soul leaves in its wake the charred remains of destruction and death…each memory of the terrors that haunt him as fresh today as the day they first burned him.

Oh, how the memories that haunt him are more than he can bear. At night they startle him from his sleep in a cold sweat that finds him grasping for breath and fighting to break free from the chains that bind him. At dawn, there is no reprieve as they follow him throughout his day, lurking around every corner and down every path…a constant reminder that they will follow him all the days of his life. His heart grows callous to protect him from the pain of it.

He had no warning, no friend to say “wait!” No idea that what he once loved would become something to hate.

Every day, people pass him by and utter under their breath, “he’s got it made. His job is easy. He’s well paid.”

If only they’d stop and explore his eyes…it wouldn’t take long at all for them to realize

He’s begging for mercy, crying out from the pits of his own hell, “Someone help! Throw me a rope. Where is my hope?”

Is there no reprieve for this man? No light at the end of his present darkness? No one to offer him hope? Will no one come to his side and offer to save him from this misery? Who is able?

I claim Your promise in Psalm 121 today, Lord. I lift my eyes up. My help comes from you LORD. I reach for Your outstretched arm and grasp it with what little life I have left in me. Pull me from these depths LORD. I long so deeply to embrace You and rest my weary head on Your shoulder. What is seen and felt now is temporary. Come now and bring me home.

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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. đŸ™‚ 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

God…Knocking Your Socks Off. With Socks!

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It was Crazy Sock Day at our Upward game today. My week leading up to today was CrAy. Zee. To say the least. So I woke up this morning unprepared, having forgotten about Crazy Sock Day, until now.

After twenty minutes searching the house, the only thing I could find was my 4year old’s mismatched soccer socks. Thinking to myself, “there’s no way I can show up without some kinda crazy sock”, I throw them on and head out the door.

Let me just say…socks designed for a 4-year old’s foot do NOT bode well with this 40 year old large man’s body. đŸ™‚ Twenty minutes in, I can’t feel my toes. No, literally! I can’t feel my toes! I’m driving down the interstate, and my toes are completely numb. Obviously, I’m not going to make it ten hours in these, so I’m praying…asking God for an answer. I stop by the church office on my way to the gym to pick up some supplies. Now twenty minutes late for having spent my morning looking for socks that are soon going to amputate my toes, I’m hurriedly walking down the hall past the office when God says something to me…and when I say He said it, I mean He actually grabbed my ear and whispered directly at me. “Slow down. Just. Slow. Down.”

So I stop, dead in my tracks, at the office door. Standing in the hall now, I remember the secretary emailing me earlier in the week to tell me I had a package delivered. Not expecting anything, I pushed it aside thinking I’ll get to it next week. So now, I walk in and open the package. To find this pair of socks from South Carolina! Meant as a marketing technique from Upward Sports with the intent to “knock my socks off” at this summer’s leadership training, I’m literally standing in the office laughing at how funny and amazing God really is. God reached into the life of someone thousands of miles away this week and said, “send that man some socks.” Amazing doesn’t begin to cover it.

Not the craziest pair of socks I’ve worn to Crazy Sock Day, but by far the craziest story I’ve shared about how God answers prayer in the smallest, yet biggest, ways. Can I just say? My God is an awesome God! Always there to meet my need, no matter how big or small. He’s there for you to. If you’ll trust Him.

God…sending socks in the mail so my toes wouldn’t fall off after ten hours in my 4-year old SI’s socks. God is funny! Keep your eyes open for those God Moments. They’re all around us. Keep your sense of awe and wonder and be ready! He may just knock your socks off. With socks!

Love,

Dad!

My Son is My Brother

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I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. I’ve been praying for you for some time now. In more ways than I could ever share in just this note. You’ve had a handful of other Godly men praying for you for over a month now. An army of believers has prayed for you…and today I write this and etch into history the account of how those prayers have been answered.

A SINGLE PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING…

It was just over a month ago that we were sitting in church listening to the message when out of the corner of my eye I saw you clasp your hands, close your eyes and subtly move your lips as if whispering. Fifteen seconds later, you opened your eyes smiled like only you smile and whispered in your mom’s ear. As she smiled and whispered something back, motioning my direction, you leaned over and whispered,

“Guess what I just did?”
“What?”
“I ‘axeded’ Jesus into my heart.”
Heart knowledge…you first received it that day over a month ago.

FROM HEART TO HEAD…

As I mentioned earlier, I’d been praying for your faith to grow to the point of understanding and acceptance of the free gift of salvation through Christ for long before this moment. Now, as your heart became filled with the Spirit of God, it became time to begin praying for the understanding of what that means for your life and how to apply it. Over the course of a month of more in depth conversations…lots of questions. You’re so analytical and inquisitive. Finding ways to explain it in ways you can understand was a fun challenge. And then it finally sunk in.

FROM HEAD BACK TO HEART…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. God’s timing then to arrive at church this morning and have you tell me you were ready. Who am I to stop the Spirit from moving a person to action? đŸ™‚

A NEW BROTHER…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And I read it again this afternoon. In a whole new light. The light of the joy found in having a new brother in Christ. And I share a part of it here now as my prayer over your new walk of faith (with emphasis and underlining added by me for effect.)

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bod(y) by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:1-17 (NLT, NIV)

SECURE FOR ETERNITY…

God answers prayers son. You are evidence of that truth. You are, now, not only my son, but now also my brother! My brother in Christ. My fellow co-heir to God’s glory! We have a date with eternity, you and I, that can never be snatched from us.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

I’m going to “carry my cross” (Luke 9:23) and embrace my responsibility to live my life raising you as my son, and I’ll see you in heaven brother!

Love,

Dad, and fellow co-heir

Ultimately Accountable Accounting

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Why is it that when we’re accountable to another person, we’re more apt to follow through on a promise or commitment? Why are we more likely to succeed when we share our struggles with another person and then walk through those struggles together than when we try it alone? Why are we less likely to give into temptation when we’re with someone else than when we try it solo?

I don’t know about you, but I imagine many are like me in that I don’t want to let the other person down. Years ago, I spent twelve weeks eating right and working out six days a week with a goal to lose weight and improve my health. I was successful in losing 65 pounds largely in part because I did it with a partner. I woke up early and met him at the gym several times a week. We worked out together more times a week than we did alone, so I knew he would be able to see if I’d been faithful to stick to the plan on my own when we couldn’t get together for a few days. I knew he would be at the gym at 5:00am, and I wasn’t about to give him opportunity to rib me for making an excuse to not be there on time, ready to go. The desire to not let him down motivated me to follow through on my commitment, even though it required a big sacrifice on my part. And I know from conversations with him that he felt likewise about his commitment to me…he didn’t want to let me down by not being there.

Likewise, when I recently joined a discipleship group with seven other men, I knew that we would meet once a week to review what we’d learned that week in our personal study time. And I knew that I would be asked questions that required my having completed the daily workbook assignments for the week. I am accountable to the group for committing to them that I want to grow in Christ and having expressed that I’m willing to take the necessary steps to become a true disciple of Christ. I don’t want to let the group down by not following through on my promise. That desire to not let the group down motivates me to sacrifice daily to meet the objectives of the study. And I know from conversations with at least one of them that he feels likewise about his commitment to the group…that it’s easier to make the sacrifice when he knows he’s accountable for his actions during the weekly gathering of us all.

Talking accountability with my accountability partner and good friend this morning really has me asking the question…”to whom am I really accountable?” In my head, I know the answer is God. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” I’m accountable to God for how I live this life He’s given me. I’m accountable to Him for whom I share the news of Jesus with. I’m accountable to God for my choices and my actions. I’m accountable to God for fulfilling His command to go out and make disciples…to love Him and love people. (John 13:34-35) I know this as head knowledge, but have I made it heart knowledge? Am I living this knowledge out? To whom am I really living my life accountable to?

Why do I find it easier to resist temptation and stay the course when I have a human accountability partner than when I don’t? When the alarm went off to wake me for my morning workout alone, why was it easier to hit the snooze button and roll over when I already knew I’d be working out alone because my training partner couldn’t make it due to his work schedule? And now as my discipleship group takes a brief break in weekly meetings, when the alarm goes off at 4:50am to wake me for my daily quiet time, why is it easier to roll over and hit the snooze button when I know I’m not immediately accountable to a friend for having spent time with God daily?

Really, when I do that haven’t I just told God “I’M too tired to meet you right now…I’ll make time for you later…around MY schedule…I’ll come to you when I’M ready.”

Why is it easier to make excuses when we (I) don’t have someone in our (my) face pushing us (me)? Are we (Am I) really that unbelieving and unfaithful that we (I) need visual confirmation of that which we (I) say we (I) believe? Isn’t Jesus enough? Isn’t the thought of letting HIM down enough to motivate us (me) to resist temptation and get out of bed to meet Him daily? Do we (I) really need a human accountability partner when we (I) have Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Isn’t Jesus THE ultimate accountability partner?

I pray daily He is…that He continues to grow inside me so much so that my desire to not let HIM down outweighs my desire to not let man down. Because in the end, you and I are not standing before man to be judged. We’re standing before a God that is holy. Righteous. Just. Faithful. A God that knows no sin. THE God whose Son took our place in death so that we may see life. And when He stands to defend me, I want to know Him so well that I can say “YOU!! You, Lord Jesus, are my accountability partner, and I claim YOU as my Lord and Savior.”

I pray this for you too…is He your accountability partner?

Love,

Dad

P.S. After reading this again, it seems that I’ve asked more questions here than provided answers. I think maybe that’s okay…because I’m okay accepting the reality that I don’t have all the answers. This I can say with certainty. Don’t mistake your making Jesus your ultimate accountability partner with forsaking your finding of an accountability partner here in this life. While we are accountable to God first and foremost and long to live a life that reflects that, we need people…other believers…in our life to challenge us to be better. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”Ecclesiastes 4:12

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

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