Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Congratulations, You're Banned for Life!

You're out like a fat kid in dodgeball!  When I was a kid, we actually played games in which you could be eliminated.  I hear it doesn't happen that way anymore.  Me personally, I believe getting out or eliminated builds character.  Its good for you.  You can't always win!
If you're like me, you've been eliminated in a game of dodgeball.  You've struck out in baseball or softball.  You've been frozen in a game of tag.  You've accidentally crossed the line in bowling and set the little buzzer off. 
Most of us know what it feels like to be disqualified!  Its not a great feeling.  But when it comes to a game, its not the end of the world either.
In life, we often feel disqualified.  Our view of God can sometimes get skewed in a way in which we believe that one mistake will get us "banned for life".  Now, without Christ, this is actually true.  We can't enter the Kingdom or have relationship with a Holy God apart from Christ.  One mistake builds a canyon between us.
In the wake of recent moral failures....(take your pick from the headlines), I believe its important to realize that in Christ we still go on.  We don't go on sinning, but we go on with the mission.  An unbelieving world frequently sees itself as unworthy and disqualified to come to God.  One of the ways the enemy deceives new believers is by telling them that they have too much baggage to be effective for God's work.  And yes, we as Christians will disqualify ourselves too.  We allow a moral brain fart or slide keep us from getting back into the game.
Thankfully the Gospel points to us not being banned for life.  When Peter royally screwed up, he left the game for a while.  He thought he was out.  He thought he'd been hit with the dodgeball.  He thought it was time to sit out and let the game go on without him.  However, even after Peter denied Jesus, went back to his life of fishing, Jesus still sought him out and told him to get back on mission.  Jesus wasn't surprised.  He knew Peter was going to mess up.  He predicted it!  He told Peter it would happen.  But Jesus also knew that Peter was "the rock".  Peter wasn't banned for life or disqualified.  Peter would be the one who preached the gospel to thousands during the moments of Pentecost and see thousands be saved.  It wasn't over!
The great thing about dodgeball is that we generally get another chance.  You might get hit and sit out for a moment, but usually another game starts up.  In fact, if your teammate catches the ball, you automatically get back in the game.  In freeze tag, if someone touches you, you're unfrozen and back in the game.  Its not contingent upon what we do.  Its all about the performance of someone else.  Through Jesus' performance, we have grace.  Yes, we will mess up, but he covers us with grace, makes us right before a Holy God, and has sent us His Spirit of power.  With that, God chooses to use us and impact the world for His purposes.  We can't use the excuse that we are all out of chances or that we've messed up too bad.  There's still work to do.  Its time to get back on the horse and try again! 
In no way does this give us a license to indulge in moral failures or tolerate them.  If anything, when I'm given a second chance, I'm grateful and I want to move on from my mistake.  I don't step back into the batter's box after a strikeout to strikeout again.  I step back in to knock the cover off the ball.
Are you struggling?  Have you failed?
Welcome to the club.  Jesus is ready for you to get your head back into the game.  Lean on Him and do great things!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What Marriage Has Taught Me in 15 Years

Today I've been married to my wife Stephanie for 15 years.  This isn't something for which I deserve a pat on the back.  The accolades belong to God.  It seems that when couples are married for more than 10 years, people start to congratulate them with a sort of admiration for their incredible accomplishment.  It appears to be an accomplishment because there are so many who struggle to make a marriage work.
I haven't found a secret to complete and total marital ectasy.  I'm not claiming that I've always done things right.  What I will share is that God really does give us a perfect strategy for our marriage relationships.  Not only that, God has desire to use our marriage relationships.  And if we think that the end to the means is to make us happy and comfortable....we're naive.
What I've learned in 15 years of marriage is this.....
Women really are crazy.
Men are crazy too.  We just hide it more.
As much as we would like our wives to laugh at farts the same way we do, it never seems to grow on them.
My wife and the GPS often argue.  Now I have 2 women that backseat drive.
My wife is not amused that I can flick my underwear in the air with my feet and catch it with my hands.
Seeing your child born is a beautiful thing.  Staring at the placenta is not.
My wife can amazingly operate on 1 minute of sleep.  I can't operate on anything less than six hours.
Offering to do the dishes 4 times a year doesn't impress my wife.
Apparently only downloading 1 app on your phone is a perfectly justifiable reason for my wife to have an iPhone.
I can no longer open my mouth while I sleep, because if I do, I'll pull out at least six long, blonde hairs at some point in the middle of the night.
Women think being on time is a sickness.
The Bachelorette is the most disgustingly addicting show ever.
Pizza is not okay more than 2 times a week.
There is no other woman that could put up with me.
I married up.
I'm blessed.
My wife is freaking awesome.
In all seriousness, I've learned that God gave us such a great blueprint in Ephesians 5:21-33.  In this passage, wives are called to submit.  This doesn't mean to become enslaved to their husbands.  This doesn't give the husband the right to become an evil dictator.  This means that wives trust in their husbands to take care of them.  In turn, husbands are called to sacrifice and take care of their wives.  This picture communicates the gospel.  We trust in Christ to take care of our salvation which He sacrificially provided on the cross. 
In both roles, the call is to consider the other more important than oneself.  In this practice, husband and wife actively work to meet each other's needs.  I've learned that if you work towards meeting your spouses' needs, it makes every other area of marriage so much easier and pleasant.  Of course, I can only truly do this through God's help and wisdom.  Its amazing how God gives us strategy in the bible, and when we actually think about, it makes perfect sense!
I could not have made it 15 years without God's providence, help, and direction.  He has blessed me with a wonderful, Godly, woman.  I am blessed.  It's also her birthday today!  I'm getting older....she's getting foxier.  I pray that all who read this would experience the same fulfillment in their marriages.  Yes, marriage takes work.  It takes sacrifice.  Its not always easy.  Apply what you learn, and learn from your mistakes.  Most importantly, use God's strategy.  You'll find that He knows what He's doing.
Dare to be different.  Our culture confuses and dumps on marriage.  Its been watered down and not taken seriously.  Commit to having a marriage that shares the gospel!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Am Paralyzed

I would never make light of someone who is physically paralyzed.  In many cases, it is tragic.  The obstacles to overcome are tremendous.  I know Soldiers, men and women, who have been hurt, injured, and beat up from their time in military service.  Some are paralyzed.  Some have lost limbs.  Some are hurting.  Some are paralyzed by their own minds.
I am highly encouraged by those who have been dealt a tough hand and don't ask the world for a handout.  Instead of wallowing in self pity, they overcome.  Men and women who've lost limbs and particpate in triathlons, people who are confined to a wheelchair but are constantly active outdoors, and those who have been deeply wounded emotionally yet use their experiences to help others....all of these people are inspiring!  Whatever it is that has motivated them to defy the odds, it's evident that human weakness doesn't have to completely stop anyone from living a life of passion and fulfillment.
For most of us, fear is what paralyzes us.  We're held back by our own anxiousness, worry, doubt, and logic.  Fear can render us catatonic!  It can keep a dad from making up for lost time with his wife and kids.  It can stop a talented young lady from reaching her full potential.  It can keep an educated and mature man from advancing further in his career.  Spiritually speaking, it can keep us from reaching the heights God wants us to see.
God's call can be intimidating.  Some fear following God because of what they'll have to leave behind.  Some fear God because of all the wrong they've done.  Some fear God's call because it requires a change.  Some fear because God's call appears to go directly against human logic and understanding.  Some fear because of combinations of all of the above.
Whatever it is that drives fear to hold us back, we have to realize that is no way to live.  No matter what, I don't want to be held back by a human flaw or limitations.  In God, more than in anything else, the sky is not even the limit.  I can accomplish more than my mind can even conceive.  All it takes is laying aside fear and worry, and trusting in someone who provides the parachute, safety blanket, and cushion when we fall.  At the same time, He launches us into great heights and sets us off on a righteous explosive trail, doing things that we never would have imagined and bring Him the glory He deserves.
The first basic step is to acknowlegde your weakness, mistakes, fear, and ask God to forgive you and help you move forward from it.  After that, be ready to follow God into whatever path He is calling you to.  I love reading how the disciples dropped all they had to follow Jesus.  I love reading about Abraham's faithfulness, and how God used weak men like Moses and Jonah to do His work.
You've heard that it takes a child-like faith to follow God.  This doesn't mean that we're naive.  It just means we trust in God like we once trusted in our parents as little children.  We know and understand that God will take care of our needs and that He has a plan.  2 years ago today, I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter.  She was baptized because she has the faith that God is who He says He is, and she, with her child-like faith, decided to follow Him.  The leap of faith was no problem for her.  It is a huge problem for us.  We hold onto fear and cling comfortably to the edge.  Its time to let go.
Are you ready to take a leap of faith?  Is fear holding you back?  A life held back by fear is a miserable one.  No one should live that way.  Take the leap!  Leave fear at God's feet.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why I Deleted My Abortion Post

Abortion digusts me.  Politically, I feel its one of the primary issues.  If a leader doesn't value life the way God values life, then I don't want to vote them in to make decisions on everything concerning our livelihoods.
Earlier this week, in response to the blast of social media posts on the Planned Parenthood video, I decided to post out of frustration.  First of all, never post anything out of frustration on Facebook.  I said in my post something like this, "Not meaning to sound callous, but selling or throwing away isn't the issue.  Murdering the unborn is the biggest tragedy.  What are we really disgusted by?"
I posted this because it honestly bothered me that it took a hidden video disclosing that Planned Parenthood sold the aborted baby tissue to get people fired up about abortion again.  It bothered me because people seemed more fired up about Parenthood's Dr. Nucatola drinking wine and talky matter-of-factly about the company's tissue donation program.  A simple fact has not changed.....abortions are happening and have been happening this entire time!
I deleted the post because I didn't want to insinuate that all my fellow brother's and sister's posts were motivated by the wrong things.  I deleted it because I didn't want to communicate the wrong picture.  Abortion bothers me.  The fact that Planned Parenthood sells the tissue bothers me.  It bothers me to think of a baby being discarded in any fashion, whether it being thrown away or sold on a black market.
A road that I desperately want to avoid and want fellow Christ-followers to avoid is lashing out in hatred.  Honestly, I have to pray deeply that God would give me love and deep burden for those who choose to practice abortion and kill babies.   
I will always stand up boldly for life.  However, I've decided my primary response will be to respond in a way that celebrates the life that God gives.  I love being a parent.  Children are a beautiful gift of grace from God!  There are moments each day that remind me how awesome it is to be a parent.  There are moments that remind me how precious of a gift they are.  Instead of posting out of frustration about how others view life, I am going to post out of celebration of my own parenthood.  When you see a #parenthood post on my page, its a celebration of God's gift of life.  This is not me trying to be extra holy or better than everyone else who shares their opinions on the abortion issue.  You already know mine.  It disgusts me.  I believe it is wrong.  I believe it is murder.  I will do what I can to encourage others to see the way I believe God wants us to see.  And you better believe I'm going to do that by showing others how awesome life is!
God values life.  We should value life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pride Comes Before a Fall

If you're looking for a Christian post slamming the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, this isn't for you.  If you're looking for a Christian post to promptly troll on because of its bigotry, hate, or to hashtag "love wins", this isn't for you.  This isn't for you because I'm not here to talk about which side won, who is better, or how the world is going to end.
I stayed silent on this issue because frankly the response from people made me sick.  My Facebook newsfeed was a billboard for hateful posts, messages, comments, memes, and videos.  The hate was not one-sided.  The hate came from all angles and corners.  The better word to use is actually "pride"....not gay pride, but just plain old selfish human "pride".
To me, this issue has become much more than a moral and spiritual debate.  Its become a polarizing issue involving sides, winners, and losers.  Many Christians have become so infatuated with being right on the issue of marriage and homosexuality, that they've forgotten why they want to be right in the first place.  Its not about Jesus anymore.  Its about conforming everyone into the moralistic picture that's been created in their minds.  Its about it being "their ball" and now they're fed up, taking the ball, and going home.
Trust me, I believe the bible clearly defines homosexuality as sin, as it does many other forms of sexual immorality involving everything from heterosexual acts to beastiality.  I believe in the biblical definition of marriage.  However, what I don't believe in is pridefully choosing a side and positioning myself against someone because of the sin they choose.  If I practiced this, I'd be against everyone, including myself, because we're all sinful.
On the other side of the fence, you've got those who embrace same-sex marriage and celebrated the SCOTUS decision.  In an attempt to proudly displays the colors of the pride flag, the true colors of the "love wins" agenda was shown.  It wasn't about love winning.  It was about being on the right side.  Ironically, posts filled with #lovewins spewed hateful and prideful comments in the face of the opponents they supposedly beat.
Love did not win in this issue at all.  If anything, the SCOTUS decision exposed how divided we really are as a nation.  However, I'm not pessimist.  I still believe in God's healing power and love.  Yes, we can respond as Christians with the witted "yes, love did win...Jesus" posts or "heterosexual pride" posts, but is that really the answer?  This shouldn't be about getting the last word.  It should be about humbly submitting ourselves to Christ.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I must ask, have you humbly submitted yourself to Christ and the loving message and truth of the Gospel? 
Scripture gives us a proverbial warning that I believe is necessary to remember, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18
Pride leads to destruction.  The history of our world is filled with examples.  Great nations like the Roman empire could not even hold its reign in the face of an eventual collapse.  What happened before the collapse?  Pride. 
Pride is all about regard for yourself, your ideas, your opinions, and your way of life.  Its self-centered and focused.  Its competitive and about being the best and greatest.

Jesus said, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." Mark 9:35.  He said this after a pride fueled argument broke out among His disciples over which of them was the greatest. 

Life is not about being right.  Its about being right with God.

Does that make sense?  We aren't called to be correct.  One, we're all sinners.  All of us are imperfect screw-ups.  We cannot do enough to be "right".  We will eventually be wrong!  That's why we need Jesus.

We are called to be right with God!  Many people don't believe this.  Even the people that do believe are divided and come to different conclusions on what that means.  That's the facts.  I do believe there is only one way to God....that's through Jesus Christ.  I do believe God has clear cut expectations for us.  That's evident in his word.  However, we must constantly seek His word humbly in order to understand what it means to live for Him and be right with Him.

At the point in which you are determining what is right by your own standards, in competition, or because it effects your comfort zone, then you are dangerously leaving God out of the picture. 

Seeing the pride in this issue is scary.  Its scary because we're headed toward a fall.  That's the bigger issue here. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We Love the Bad Stuff

Many times it appears to be that we crave the bad stuff.  Proof is in all the news coverage that focuses on disaster, evil, controversy, and tragedy.  They give us what we want. 
But what if we didn't want it?  Why do we in fact, want it?
Its disheartening to see continued coverage about the South Carolina church slayings.  Why?  Because all the focus is on the killer.  Well, either that or placing the blame on a flag.  When I think about the Boston Marathon bombing, the Colorado movie theater shootings, or the Sandy Hook tragedy you know what I see?  Sadly, I see the killers.  I hear about gun control.  I don't see the victims.  And the victims are the ones who deserve to be remembered.
Its easy to complain that the news is negative and all we ever see is the bad stuff, but honestly I believe its because that's what people want to see.  Why do people want to see the bad stuff? 
Can I get spiritual with you for a second?
May I propose that we are attracted to the bad stuff because of depravity.  Its our wicked, fleshly hearts that crave the bad over what is good.  Think about it, why would someone who believes what Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner did is wrong and depraved continue to talk about it?  Even if they are speaking out against it, a focus and draw to this situation remains present.  Could it be that the very person speaking out against it, is actually attracted to it?
When you speak out against something by focusing on the negative, how many times is it done out of a genuine love for people and how many times is it done simply for the pride of being the one who is in the right?
I'm not a big fan of slamming everything we see in culture on social media.  One, I don't want to glorify what is evil/bad.  Two, I don't want pride to drive my communication.  Third, it never leads to anything good.
You might state that a Christian needs to be bold, vocal, and stand up.  You know what?  I completely agree.  We do need to be bold, vocal, and stand up!  Let's stand up for what is good, amazing, wonderful, great, and perfect.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).  By focusing on the negative, we focus on things that aren't of God.  By focusing on the good, we focus on God and all the standing up for what is right, good, and holy will follow.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Being a Dad is Awesome!

Moms get a lot of credit, and rightly so.  After all, they do most of the work!  However, there are some dads out there that make enormous sacrifices and work hard to care for their families.

I wish that characterized all fathers.  However, it seems that I've encountered more people who have absentee fathers or men who've provided poor examples.  I want to say that I don't understand it.  Being a dad is awesome!  I love this job that God has given me.  I would do anything to be better at doing it.  How come not every man can see the fun privilege and amazing honor it is to be a father?

Selfish pursuits pull us pretty strong.  For some men, those pursuits blind them to the fact that there are things much more important in this children.

I'm thankful I have a good father.  He's always been there, even when the Army pulled him apart from us at times.  I'm also glad I have a Heavenly Father who never lets me down.  He provides love for us all.  He fills the void of fatherhood in those who have no earthly dad or have a dad who falls short.

Being a dad requires men to be WILLING to take on responsibility.  Any dude can get a woman pregnant.  That's not impressive!  What's important is being willing to be a father.  Any dude can be forced into taking on responsibility.  Again, that's not impressive.  What's important is taking on this role with a desire to do it and do it well.  

A willing man will sacrifice, love, invest, shepherd, care for, and leave a legacy for his children.

Happy Father's Day to all you willing dads!

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