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!

Monday, May 25, 2015

What's Your WOD Look Like?

Its not quite #themurph, but today I knocked out a 7 mile run in under an hour, 200 pushups, 100 pullups, 75 dips, and 300 air squats.  This is part of my own personal agenda of pushing myself to be a better Soldier in honor of those guys who literally gave everything.  I think its important as a Chaplain to push myself physically, always striving to give my best and be my best.  At the same time, communicating the importance of taking care of the body God has loaned me.

Shifting gears, its obviously common to see people share their physical workout accomplishments.  Newsfeeds seem to always be filled with WODs, gym pictures, race pictures, and run maps.  I'm one of the weird ones who loves seeing those stories and statuses!  While I encourage all the efforts of folks trying to better themselves physically, I've always wondered what it would look like if we shared our Spiritual WODs. (workout of the day)

As Christians, we'd probably be quick to point out the heresy or hypocrisy of this.  After all, Christ himself warns of those who preach loudly in the synagogues and pray extravagant, showy prayers.  Christ isn't interested in us bragging on our spiritual accomplishments.  However, He is interested in us pushing ourselves to the spiritual limits, much like many do physically.

As a man of God and Army Chaplain, I want to push myself spiritually.  I encourage others to push themselves spiritually.  However, I wonder how often I would be embarrassed if my spiritual WOD popped up on my newsfeed.  Some days it would be 15 minutes of prayer and bible reading.  While that might seem like alot to some, it really isn't much for me.  That would be like me, as an avid runner, who runs 25+ miles a week, does 500+ pushups, 250+ pullups, and 250+ dips a week posting my accomplishment of running a half mile and doing 3 pushups.  That's not much!  Maybe it is to some folks who haven't begun a physical training regiment, but to me its nothing.  Its not really helping at all.

This isn't me being legalistic with myself.  This is simply me saying that I need to push my spiritual limits.  And what's awesome about this is that there isn't really any spiritual limits.  I can keep pushing, and God will continue filling me with Himself.

"for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."  1 Timothy 4:8

What's your Spiritual WOD look like?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why is Jesus so Great?

There's a movement among young Christians to label Jesus as being greater than religion.  No doubt, Jesus is greater than religion.  More than that, the movement aims to remind believers and educate unbelievers that religion can often cloud the truth of the Gospel, God's grace, due to the traditionalism and sometimes poor judgment of those deemed to be involved in religion.

One of my dear friends is a part of a movement to encourage people to post pictures on social media that read Jesus>Religion.  I concur this is a creative way to encourage the great truth that Jesus is ready to wrap us in God's grace.  At the same time, I can't help but wonder why this simple math formula isn't often highlighted with other things that Jesus is greater than.  Truthfully, Jesus is greater than more than just "religion".  He's greater than everything.  While Christians will read this and all agree, I raise my hand first to say that I am guilty of saying I believe this but don't always communicate it well with my life.

All Christians have heard the messages about "putting Christ first" and "not having any idols".  These are biblical truths/concepts.  It's sorta in those 10 Commandments.  However, I'm certain that I often look for greatness is lesser things and miss opportunities to see God's awesomeness and tell people about it.  One, I miss it because I look for joy and contentment in lesser things.  I also miss it when I get wrapped up in communicating what I'm against rather than what I'm for.  I think the latter is at the heart of the Jesus>Religion movement.  Most would agree that Christians can focus too much on a list of "to-dos" and "don't-dos" and not enough on God's grace and Christ's love.  This is not to say that we join a movement that tiptoes around hard truths and God's expectations as outlined in scripture.  However, I believe it's crucial to truly recognize the amazing, jaw-dropping truth of the Gospel and look to communicate that above all.

I enjoy baseball.  When I want to encourage someone and tell them how awesome the sport of baseball is, I'm gonna tell them the good stuff.  I'm going to talk about exciting finishes, thrilling World Series games, powerful home runs, the best pitchers in the game, the rich American history of the sport, the beautiful smell of the ballpark, and the roar of the crowd.  I'm not going to focus on the fact that you can't throw a touchdown or drive a motorcycle on the field during a baseball game.  However, both those statements are true and will be understood by anyone that follows baseball.  After watching and playing baseball you learn fundamentals, strategy, concepts, and rules.  It helps you know the game more fully and enjoy it more fully.

When I watch an awesome movie, I talk about the awesomeness of the movie.  I don't focus solely on the one slow scene at the beginning.

Yes, Christians should be bold and stand up against sin.  At the same time, we should truly believe that Christ is sufficient, greater than anything, and that nothing else in this world can even compare.  Do we communicate that with our lives?

I know I don't always.  Truthfully, there are things that I pursue over Christ all the time.  I need to remind myself that Christ is greater.  Yes, He's greater than religion, rules, and tradition. He's also greater than everything else I hold dear.  Maybe some of my idols are similar to yours.

Jesus>My Family

This is one is difficult for me to say and type.  I love my family.  They mean the world to me.  However, Jesus is still greater.  When God called me to be a Chaplain, serve Soldiers, and be an agent of His love and Gospel in a dark place, I agreed to go.  I went knowing it might cause me to deploy and be away from my family.  When It came time for me to go, I begged God to get me out of it because I wanted to stay and take care of my family.  That's when God answered back, "I'll be taking care of your family".  God wanted my obedience, not my excuses.  God wanted to remind me that He is great and worthy of pursuit above all.  Jesus says some challenging statements about family when it comes to following him in Luke 14:25-27.  Its not that Christ wants us to disown our families, but He wants us to understand how much greater He is than even the best gifts on earth.

Jesus>My Image

How challenging is this?  Its so easy to be all about myself and caring for the image I project to others.  I'm guessing I'm not the only one.  I know a lot of bearded, coffee drinking, Toms and cardigan-wearing, Mumford and Sons listening pastors out there.  They're are probably all vying to be a hipster Christian.  In reality, they're all working hard to look the same and live up to a certain image.  No matter the description that fits the image you project, chances are you work as hard as I do to project it.  Not saying it's wrong to have a style that fits your personality, but in no way is that image greater than Christ.  Many times we worry more about the coffee we drink, music we listen to, clothes we wear, and technology we carry than we do about the Christ who gave His life up for us.

Jesus>SEC Football

Yep, you read that right.  As good and successful as SEC football might be, it doesn't compare to an inkling of Christ's greatness.  SEC Football is the specific entity I'm picking on from the sports world, but truthfully this formula can include any, football, golf, etc.

If only we showed the same passion and excitement for Christ that we often show for our sports teams.  Many times, we live and die with our teams. If they lose, we lose.  Life sucks!  If they win, we win. Life is grand.....for about 5 seconds.

Jesus>My Entertainment

I love movies and music.  I love my, sports, playing guitar, and video editing.  None of those things is greater than Christ.  None of those things is worth talking about more than Christ.  Yet, so many hours are spent revolved around those things.  Truthfully, my earthly entertainment is a waste to pursue, when I have an eternity of worshipping Christ in a place where I will be completely satisfied on the horizon.  I should be anticipating that!

The simple fact is.....Jesus is greater!  Let's act like it.  It's time the world experienced the good stuff.  It gets old dining on the cheap appetizer.  Pursue something better!

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Wanna Be a Hero

I'm convinced that if someone tells you something about yourself, often enough for a lengthy period of time, you're going  to eventually believe what they say is true.

This can be good or bad.  It's great if someone encourages you, helping you develop your God-given strengths.  It's devastating if someone crushes you and rips your confidence out from underneath you like a table cloth under a prepared fancy dinner.  And sadly, they can do this by feeding you lies.

Kids are especially impressionable.  If a parent tells their child that they're smart with reasonable expectations that they display these smarts, the child will grow up to believe they are smart.  If a parent tells their child that they're dumb and holds low expectations for them, the child may grow up to believe that they are dumb.  This can be tragic. People with amazing potential may never come to realize it all because a parent did a poor job of making them believe a lie about themselves.

When you make someone believe they're something great, it can be powerful.  This is played out healthy when what you tell someone is based upon their true potential even if they aren't there yet.  Don't lie to the individual. (For example: if someone cannot sing and does not show potential, don't tell them to pursue a career in singing).  However, encourage the potential found in people!

My kids believe I'm a hero. I don't feel like a hero.  A hero does amazing things, is selfless, and displays great strength and power.  I don't feel like I possess any of those qualities.  However, my kids do.  They see my potential!  The great thing about having people tell you things and believing things about you is that it encourages you to live up to what they see.

I want desperately to be the hero that my kids see in me!

So, in a sense, their belief empowers me and encourages me to pursue the attributes of a hero!

People will believe what you see in them. This is a powerful concept for Christians. So often, we do believers and unbelievers a disservice by only focusing on the sin, evil, and checkered pasts.  We tell people how bad they've been, rather than empowering people with what they are in Christ or what they can be in Christ.  In fact, we often even harm ourselves by telling ourselves how horrible of a person we are, instead of seeing the beautiful creation that Christ has made us before God.

Through Christ, we are spotless....perfection made before God.  We are co-heirs to the Kingdom with Christ!  In Christ, we have power, potential, and walk free from the bondage of sin.  If we tell ourselves that "we're sinners", we'll continue to live up to that potential and sin.  If we are told that we are something more, then we become something more!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Afghan Missions End

I'm coming to the end of my mission trip to Afghanistan.  Once again, I'm so thankful for the prayers from friends and family. Of course it was difficult keeping in touch with everyone. Being on the other side of the globe doesn't leave much room for texts and calls.  However, I was so appreciative of those who regularly sent me messages, checking in on me and asking how they could pray for me.

I'm thankful to be going home. I miss my family like crazy! I cannot stand being away and missing out on the moments happening in the lives of those 3 people I love so dear.

With that said, God rained down blessings during my time in Afghanistan. I saw people saved, ministered to Soldiers as well as people across the globe, and even found it sad to preach my last sermon at the chapel I ran for the last several months.

I trust God started and refined some work that He is doing in that small corner of the world.  I also trust that God is stirring in the lives of all the Soldiers coming back with me.  I know He's done some work in me.

I feel undeserving to be as blessed as I am. I really discovered how selfish of a person I am during this time and God really worked at having me face that and change it.  I was also reminded at how distrusting I can be, not only of God but of other people.  God really worked to give me a more positive and optimistic mind with others.  I hope that I can continue to improve myself in order to truly be worthy of awards and accolades that God has blessed me with anyways.  I still feel I have a long way to go as a person and a Chaplain.  That's why I'll be focusing on continually growing, even as a seasoned Christian and minister of the gospel.

Thank you to all who read this and have prayed, supported us, and watched over my family during the last nine months. God has used you in a miraculous way!  I look forward to sharing stories of His work from this time for years to come.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Just Do It

What if Nike’s slogan was more than just a call to be an incredible athlete, but a call to ultimate victory? After all, the word “nike” is Greek meaning “victory”.

The following are notes from a sermon I preached today in southern Afghanistan. I find the story of the first marathon interesting. You will too!  Especially since had everything to do with Nike.  Check it out....
As Christians, we know that we are called to run the Christian race with endurance.  We are to keep our eyes on the prize and finish strong!  However, in order to do that it’s helpful to be reminded of what our motivation is and what it takes to get there and finish strong.
We could very simply say, “JUST DO IT”.  However, why would we just do it and what would we just do?
As Paul testifies to in 1 Corinthians 9, the heart of a believer should be to “just do it” for the sake of the gospel.

"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

1 Corinthians 9:23-27

So why should the gospel be our motivation?
Think about what the gospel is:
-It is Good News
      - It is Life Changing
       -It is Powerful
       -It Brings Peace
       -It Brings Joy
       -It is the Most Important Fact of Life 
       -It is Eternal Blessings
Our love for others, should be motivation to not sleep on getting the word of the Gospel out!!  Paul is saying that he will JUST DO IT (everything) to get the news of the gospel blasted out…everywhere.
Well, how does he “just do it”?  I believe this passage in 1 Corinthians shows us how.  First of all, Paul says to run in such a way to receive the prize.  Don’t lay down on the race.  A successful athlete gives 100 percent….all the time.
Secondly, we exercise self-control.  We do this by training ourselves spiritually through prayer, time in the Word, and time with other believers in corporate worship.
We also must stay focused and energized.  Paul asked why in the world would someone fight if they are just going to swing at the air? What is the point of shadow boxing if you are never going to fight?  We have to focus on the big picture.  What are we running towards?  As Christians, we’re running toward eternity in paradise.
Lastly, we must maintain discipline.  Without discipline, one is sure to fail. An athlete’s strength comes from discipline.  Please continue reading as I share this story about the strength of the first marathon runners, which is where the NIKE company gets is name.

The battle of Marathon was fought around 490 B.C. when King Darius launched an attack on Athens. Since the surrounding city-states would offer little support to the Athenians, the Athenians were outnumbered by the Persians. 
Although the Athenians were outnumbered, they caught the Persians by surprise by running the full length of the plain and catching the Persians unorganized. 

The Athenians were able to defeat the Persians by not only striking from the front, but they also flanked the Persian army from the sides. 

Because of this sudden attack the Persian troops broke ranks and fled back to their ships. 

Since the Athenians won they wanted to send word back to Athens to tell of victory so the city could prepare for the Persian fleet attack from the sea. 

So Miltiades sent his best runner Pheidippides to take word to Athens. He ran the whole distance, about 26 miles, and when he arrived he was able to say one word . . . and then he died. 

What was the one word that Pheidippides was able to say before he died? It was “Nike!” He cried “victory!”
The Athenians ran the whole distance of the plain of Marathon, which is some 26 miles. This could not have been accomplished without hard training and discipline.
The simple truth is, we can cry victory as Christians.  We have victory through Christ.  We are running toward a legit prize.  The gospel is too good to sleep on.  Instead it requires our full enthusiasm and endurance.

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