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My god was not my God

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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.

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

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

A Journey Through The Dark

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Driving through the very southeast tip of Missouri last night, just north of the boot heel, we were traveling unfamiliar roads well after dark. Winding and curving our way through the hills on roads we’ve never driven, I made note of how isolated we seemed to be. The rare spotting of fellow drivers along this route seemed refreshing. Looking to either side of the road, I remarked to my wife that one could easily drive right off the road and down a steep, tree and brush-filled embankment that would easily mask our existence from passing motorists…that it’d be days before we were found, unless we were somehow able to crawl ourselves to safety.

One can’t help but feel slightly uneasy about being in such a situation. Anxiety can quickly set in…and completely take over if you let it. Even for the most laid-back, easy-going person out there, driving such unfamiliar roads after dark can be unsettling and bring out the more cautious driver inside.

Marriage problems. Loss of a loved one. Health issues. Loss of a job. Experiencing trials and hardships in our lives can be a lot like driving a winding mountain road in the dark. We can’t see around the next corner or over the next hill. There are gut-wrenching, fist-clinching, knuckle-biting ups and downs and twists and turns that just seem to go on forever. We can quickly become so confused and scared that we just want to pull over and stop to rest our weary bodies until morning.

And then it happens. Just as we thought we could go no further, we see it on the horizon. The sun peeks over the hills and offers a ray of hope, piercing through the darkness and showing us the way. The path straightens, and we can look back and see some good in the journey we’ve been on. We’ve come out on the other side and can rest…and enjoy the fruits on the other side all the more for having travelled through the hardship that is now behind us.

You see, even if it seems you’ve been “in the valley” for longer than you can bear, don’t lose hope. God has better things in store for you on the other side of your current situation. He can…and will…use what you’re facing today for your good tomorrow. Even if you can’t see it through the present darkness you see now. He’s there. Walking with you. Follow the Light and He will guide you through to the fruits that await you on the other side.

“Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light…'” – John 12:35-36a

Love,

Dad

Praying in Boldness

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20130331-204534.jpg

As I first saw this picture, it resonated with me. On the surface, it inspires and encourages us to be bold in our prayers…to claim the promise in Romans 8:31…“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

On further inspection of the picture, though, I see it differently than I first did. Take a closer look…do you see it? Do you see the thousand yard stare…the battle weary face…the depth of the scar on his eye? I believe the quote to be very true, that a praying man has no need to fear any demon in hell…because James 5:16 confirms it… “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Yet that battle-scarred face is evidence that just because we believe, pray and have our faith in God we will still face adversity and battles and be scarred. Paul warned Timothy of this…

“But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days….You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” – 2 Tim 3:1,10-13

Don’t be lulled into the false belief that as believers we are immune to the things of this world…things like attack, oppression, heartache, struggle, difficult times, hardship, persecution, affliction, loss, pain. But find your strength in knowing that He hears our prayers and is working all things in our life for our good. Even when we don’t see the endgame, God does.

You will be hurt in this life, and it’s in that hurt that God is refining you. As you experience that pain and are scarred as a result, wear your battle scars with boldness and confidence. Be bold in your faith…and be bold in your prayers…humble in all that we seek and in how we speak to Him, but bold and confident in the promise found in Phillippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Love,

Dad

Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.

Love,

Dad

I Wouldn’t Wish This On My Worst Enemy…or Would I?

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Have you ever put any thought into who that might be? I hadn’t, until now.

You know, I’ve said the first part of that title so many times over the years that it’s almost become a habit…something I say without giving it another thought.  I’ve been battling the flu since December 30th.  The coughing got worse the first week of January while I was dealing with my mother’s recent passing, but the cough was it…no other symptoms.  Until two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago it crept in and made its home in my body…and wiped me clean out.  This past month has really been a time to say “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”  And when I said that aloud the other day, my mind started thinking of who that might be.  Old bosses.  Former school classmates who tortured me.  Coworkers who just grate on my last nerve.  No, I wouldn’t consider any of them enemies.  An enemy…Satan is an enemy.  He’s my enemy:

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

So if Satan is my enemy, he’s got to be my worst one right?  I mean, I can’t imagine anyone being a worse enemy than Satan.  Can you?  He is, after all, the father of liars:

“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” – John 8:44

So if Satan is our enemy…indeed our worst enemy…would I be in the right to wish upon him this sickness that I just said I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy?  I mean, when I said it aloud, I was thinking more about my worst earthly enemy…not really a spiritual enemy.  Either way, we’re called to love our enemies, right?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

So as followers of Christ, we’re called to love our enemies.  I get that.  Easier said than done, but I get it.  I’m not the best at this, but I try.  I try to turn the other cheek…I’m human so I don’t always get this one right, but I try.  I’m a work in progress…as long as God is keeping breath in my lungs and life in my body, He has not finished making me into who He needs me to be in eternity.  So I’ll be honest…I’m not quite there on the whole “love your enemy” thing yet.

But I certainly don’t walk around wishing ill will on my enemies all day either…Mostly.  Yes…the occasional thought does cross my mind as someone cuts me off in traffic, or someone at work is making life difficult for no other reason than because they can.  I am human after all.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace and mercy found in Christ, I’m able to push it aside and move toward forgiveness…and love.  After all, we’re called to “hate the sin, not the sinner”, right?

“Love must be without hypocrisy.  Detest evil; cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9 (i.e. “hate the sin”)

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” – Romans 5:8 (i.e. “not the sinner”…because if Christ loved me in my sin enough to die for me anyway, who am I to not love someone else because of their sin?)

Which brings me right back to where I started…am I called to love Satan?  We’re taught in Isaiah 14:12-15 that Satan is one of God’s fallen angels.  So he’s an angel who sins.  But by the very nature of who he is, he’s not just an angel who sins…he IS sin (re: John 8:44 above).

So which is it…if we hate the sin but love the sinner, where does that leave us with our relationship with Satan?  Should I hate what he does (sin) and yet love him?  Or since he IS sin, is it okay to hate not only what he does (sin), but also hate him?  What do you think?  Is it okay to wish this illness on my worst enemy, or not?

Love,

Dad

When Your Father Comes Back

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As a child did you ever hear from your mom, “when your dad gets home…”? 5 little words, when composed just right can mean so much…and mean different things to different people.

As a child, I would dread those words when I knew I had done something wrong…knowing that when dad came home, the punishment for my poor choices was coming with him. In all my memories of youth, I can’t recall those words being a foreshadowing of anything good to come. They were used as a threat to forewarn of a punishment for my actions. What I’m wondering now is why those words have to instill fear? Why can’t they be used to provide hope and promise?

Like my dad was in my youth, I’m gone a lot. My job leaves your mom home with y’all much more than I prefer…and it forces her to be the disciplinarian more than I prefer. I’m wondering if your memories of “when your dad gets home…” will be like mine…or different. I pray those words are filled with the promise and hope of my return, and not used as a threat to instill fear.
More importantly, I pray that you will one day find the hope I have in a different phrasing of those words…instead of “when your dad gets home”, rather “when your Father comes back.”

For those who have not accepted Christ, I imagine death brings uncertainty, fear and anxiety. As a child of God, though, I long for the day my Savior returns. I am actually looking forward to the rapture…praying I’m still alive to experience it. What a ride that’s gonna be!! When Christ comes back to call His people home, He will be standing beside us as we face the Father at the judgement seat…with a front row seat to hear Him say, “your Father has returned, and the time has come that ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue profess I am God.'” – Romans 14:11

On that day, we will be judged according to what we have or have not believed. Like my poor choices resulted in my earthly father disciplining me when he got home, we will be disciplined for our choices by our Father in heaven before we pass into eternity. Those who have professed Christ as Lord will hear the Son say something like, “This child is with me. I took his place. His debt is paid.” Our discipline will have already been taken, paid forward by Christ Jesus on the cross, and we will reside with Him in eternity. If you’ve not professed Jesus as Lord, you alone will face the punishment for your sin, eternity apart from Him in hell.

We all will face the same judgement. The difference really comes down to perspective…how you look at the situation. Which do you feel when you hear “when your Father comes back…”? Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, question, doubt and concern? Or do you feel peace, joy, hope, promise, comfort and happiness?

Love,

Dad

P.S. Your mother would like to remind you that she has never said those 5 words to you in a negative light. I failed to make that clear when saying that she is forced into the disciplinarian role more than I prefer since my work keeps me away from home for extended periods. So, please know I have no real concern that when she says “when your dad gets home” it means anything other than when your sad gets home, you’re gonna have SO much fun! 🙂

An Open Letter to Satan

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Satan,

I see you’re doubling down on me today. You know I’ve stepped up my game, and you’re feeling the pressure, huh? You know I’ve called upon the name of the Lord to strengthen me through this darkness. You can feel the power of my prayer and the unity of my family and friends standing in prayer beside me, can’t you? I believe you’re afraid. You see, I know you had plans to win this battle, and now you’re starting to realize you won’t. So you do what you do when this happens…you double down your efforts, hoping that the constant barrage will be too much to handle. Today, you’re using worth.

Unworthy. Feelings and thoughts that I am unworthy to be a child of God. As I’m swimming through this ever-changing and never-ending sea of emotions, you’re telling me that if I were truly a child of God…if my faith was sincere…if my hope was alive…if my heart and soul completely and totally bought into the saving power of the cross…if I really believed what I say I believe…then I would not be filled with these feelings anger, rage, sorrow, sadness and solitude. So since I am right here in the midst of all those feelings, thoughts and emotions (and so many more), I am unworthy to be called a child of God. At least that’s what you’re trying to convince me of today.

You see, the mind tricks you’re trying are good. Logically, I know better. I know I am a child of God, filled with the Spirit and saved by the Son. I know my eternal home is in heaven with Him. Knowing that doesn’t change how powerful you can be in your efforts to convince me otherwise. So I commend you on your effort. Today, I am telling you Satan, you are right…to a point. But you should know something. I came prepared.

You see, I am unworthy. I have not earned God’s grace. I do not deserve God’s mercy. I am not worthy of the love poured out on the cross through Jesus for me. I am not qualified to accept the discernment of the Spirit. I have done nothing on my own to provide the hope that lives within me. The hope that is alive within me (albeit however deep it may currently be buried under the rubble of your attack) is alive because God is stronger and more powerful than you. So yes, I am unworthy. But I have been made worthy through Jesus. And I call upon His name again today…to strengthen me again today for whatever He has planned out in advance for me to endure. My hope is in the Lord.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” – Romans 8:18, 22-27

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

You see, Satan, you can double down on me all you want. I may not know what to pray today, but that’s okay, because I have the Spirit of God in my corner, and He is interceding on my behalf. It’s on days like today, when you are constantly reminding me of my mistakes and short-comings…trying to keep me down by throwing my sin-filled past right back in my face…filling me with thoughts of worthlessness…that I look beyond my past and beyond these temporary emotions and remind you of the future. I belong to Jesus!! I can’t win any battle alone, and I certainly won’t win every battle I face if I face it without God, but I’m on God’s team, not yours!! We win!

In Christ’s love,

Me

A Tank for Christ

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SI,

Let me first say that while I address this note specifically to SI, it is applicable to all of you, my children.  There are lessons in each of these letters that each of you can apply in your own life, regardless of who I am specifically addressing.  I chose to address SI for this one, simply because basketball is on my mind lately…

Yesterday was the final game day for the third season of Upward Basketball & Cheerleading at church.  Eight weeks of games, preceded by 3 weeks of practices and another 5 months of planning, preparation and work to lay the groundwork for a sports league that would minister to over 500 children and their families.  Eight months of basketball tends to mean that basketball is on my mind a lot, especially during the season.

SI, although you’re not yet two years old, I’m starting to see in you a God-given ability.  A talent.  A skill.  A gift.  I will sit here now and predict that you’ll be a natural athlete.  You’re built like a stud and have a strength like no other twenty-one month old child I’ve ever seen.  You’re all muscle and meat.  I’ve watched you pick up and move items that others almost twice your age struggle with.  You love to come underneath me while I’m standing and stick your head between my legs.  With your arms wrapped around my legs, your shoulders are in the back of my legs and you push.  You push with such strength and determination that you have knocked me off balance several times.  At 21 months of age, you’ve knocked a 37 year old man off balance, simply in your strength and determination to do so.  We walk around the house like that, you and I.  You pushing me like you’re giving ME a piggy-back ride around the house.  Sure, I could stand there and not walk with you, and you would only be leaning into me trying to push me.  But what fun is that?  Truth be told, I love it.  It’s our thing right now…you giving me piggy-back rides.  Tank.  Your newest nickname is now Tank.  Not sure if it will ever stick, but for now you are either Bubba or Tank.  I wonder if we’ll ever call you by your given name.

And it’s not just me.  Friends and family have commented on how well-built you are.  You’re heavy for your age…not overweight…heavy.  Like I said, all muscle.  If memory serves me correctly, your last checkup at the doctor was at the same time as NE.  He’s two years older than you, and you weighed only 6 pounds less than him.  I can’t tell you how many friends from church have told me how strong you are, and that your new nickname fits you well.  It was those friends who started confirming for me the athletic gift I started to see in you myself.

“Ball.”  If we put you in a room with two toys, a ball and any other toy in the world, you will almost always go straight to the ball.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a baseball, football, golf ball, soccer ball, basketball, tennis ball, or hackey sack.  Ninety nine percent of the time, you will go for the ball.  I love playing catch with you…unless we’re playing catch with a golf ball in the house…you’re dangerous at close quarters catch with a hard ball.  🙂

I haven’t personally seen this, but I’m told that in the nursery at church or at preschool, there is a shelf about six feet off the ground with bins of toys.  There are several Styrofoam balls from which to choose, and you generally walk in and go straight to that shelf and stand there pointing up at the toys saying, “Baw.  Baw.  Baw.” over and over again until someone comes over to get you the ball.  You then step back and start throwing.  And you keep throwing until you get the ball back into one of those bins, at which point you stand there pointing up saying, “Baw.  Baw.  Baw.”  over and over again until someone gets you the ball again.  And so the cycle repeats.  I’m told that there are days you spend hours doing this.  They say your arm motion and follow through is spot-on for the proper form for shooting a basketball.  I’ve seen it on occasion at the house, although we don’t really have anything set up at the house to help develop this skill.  That will soon change, and we will work to encourage you and help to develop this God-given gift.

While it is my prayer that I get to see you grow into a man and spend many years with you into your forties and beyond, when God takes me home is not up to me.  I started this series of letters to you all for a reason…with a purpose…that you would have some encouragement and wisdom from me should I be taken from this life before you’re ready…before I’ve imparted to you all the knowledge I would have you know to prepare you for adulthood and life outside the walls and security of our home, on your own.  Let me first remind you that regardless of whether or not you ever become an athlete, or are able to use this gift I see in you at this young age for God or not…I am proud of you, and I love you.  Not because of what  you do, but because of who you are.  There is nothing you could ever do to win or lose my love.  So, with that…

Michael Jordan.  By the time you’re old enough to read this and apply it, you’ll need to Google him to see who he is.  I’ve never cared much for basketball.  Never cared to watch it or follow it.  March Madness to me is just another month.  I can sleep to a basketball game on the tube as easily as if I were watching golf.  I’ll say this about Michael Jordan, though.  I liked watching him play.  He changed the sport.  He was unarguably among the best players of my generation and quite possibly among the best of all time.  He changed the game.  He made basketball look easy.

I saw a commercial today with Michael Jordan, and it’s what inspired me to write this to you today.  I want you to know that regardless of any natural ability or God-given gift you’ve been blessed with, to be the best at anything takes work.  No amount of natural ability alone will ever be enough to take you to the top of the class or the top of your career.  To be the best at what you do, regardless of what it is, takes work.  It takes practice…lots and lots of practice.  It takes sweat, pain, blood, tears, drive, commitment to work at it even when you don’t really want to.  It takes sacrifice.  Excellence always requires a sacrifice.  There will be days you want to play.  Days you want to sleep in.  Afternoons you’d rather nap.  Nights you’d rather eat junk food instead of healthy.  Days you would rather hang out with friends than practice.  Excellence requires sacrifice.

Excuses never lead to success.  Failure leads to success.  In your failures, you will learn.  In your failures, you will overcome.  It’s when you fail that you grow and improve.  You persevere through your failures.  Our mistakes help to shape our future.  I’ve been asked many times over the years, “if you could go back in time and change one thing…right one wrong…do one thing differently, what would it be?”  My answer has always been, “nothing.”  Who I am today, in all my good and bad is because of the mistakes I’ve made and the failures I’ve overcome.  Having the option to go back and change something takes away the life lesson and learning experience obtained through that failure.

I’m adding the video here so you can watch it.  Before you do, though, watch some of Michael Jordan’s highlights.  Research him and learn about him as a player and what he did to change the game.  See for yourself how he changed the game.  It’s only after  you do that that you’ll understand the purpose and meaning of this video…and the purpose of this note to you.

If you desire to be the best at what you do, prepare yourself for the sacrifice it will take.  And when you do, ground yourself in the Lord.  Stay close to His word and don’t forget that it’s not about you.  Use what you’ve been given for His glory…to reach others for the Kingdom of Christ.  Don’t forget who you are.  You’re a child of God.  Don’t forget what and who are important to you.  Don’t work so hard at something that you sacrifice the love of those closest to you.  Don’t make your passion to be the best your “idol.”  God always comes first, because God is still God, and God is still good.  He’s the Creator of the universe and the Giver of your life.  What He gives, He also takes away.  Don’t lose sight of the grace He showed others through His sacrifice on the cross.  Seek to show others that same grace…in all that you do.  And then, go for it!  Be the best you can be…in all that you do.  Be a Tank for Christ!

Love,

Dad