30 December 2012

'til Debt Do Us Part


For the last month, unless you dwell under a rock, you've undoubtedly been hearing all about the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ we face as a nation and what terrible fate awaits for all mankind if our elected officials don’t come to the rescue and pass some sort of law to save us from going over the edge.  But, both sides of the political aisle have ‘dug in’ and the battle over our nation’s moneybags looks to be bloody.

But, no matter which side of this debate you’re on, we expect congress to act in a fiscally responsible way.  But, why should we expect our government to act differently than we do? We tell our elected officials we want fiscal responsibility. We tell them to balance the budget, reduce the deficit, and to use zero based budgeting.

This is like the pot calling the kettle black. Fiscal responsibility must begin at home first. As Americans, we spend on average $1.33 per $1.00 earned. Why are we in debt? Because we have allowed ourselves to accept debt as the ‘norm.’  We have become so comfortable with debt, that the government spends $1.58 for every $1.00 it takes in.

The bible talks a lot about money and Jesus talked a lot about money.   Why is debt talked about so much? Why did Jesus talk about money so much? Because debt traps you and it binds you.

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one in ten verses deal directly with money.  In all of scripture, over twenty-three hundred verses talk about money.  That is five times as many that talk about prayer.  That’s five times as many that talk about faith.  Managing wisely God’s resources IS a profoundly spiritual topic. Surprise!

Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”  The Hebrew word that is translated as servant is the word ebed, which very literally means a slave or bondage.  If you are in debt, you are a slave and in bondage.

The vast majority of Americans are in financial bondage.  We are slaves to our finances.  How do you know if you are in financial bondage?  If you have ever said something like this, “I would love to tithe, but I can’t.  Because I am so afraid there won’t be enough to pay the bills.”  That is bondage.  If you have ever felt like God was calling you to do something, but you don’t have the money for it:  bondage.

If you have ever had “it” break again, (I don’t know what your “it” is that always breaks) and you don’t have the money to fix it, that’s bondage.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

If we live in the most prosperous country on planet earth, and yet, we cannot live within our means, and we need more than what we earn, hoping and thinking that will make us happy, our treasure IS in this world.  If our treasure is here, our heart is here as well, and that is a problem if we call ourselves Christians.

We have been led to believe it is normal to have a student loan payment, credit card payments, car payments, or house payments.

I’m sick and tired of normal.  I am mad that the church of Jesus Christ hurts financially:  that we as believers can’t give generously, and we can’t make decisions with freedom because it’s all financially related.  I hope you get mad too because that will motivate you to do something about it.

I am sick and tired of seeing God’s people hurting, fighting, miserable, and buying more, thinking that will bring happiness. They are just cutting their throats even more with self-inflicted financial pressure.

Businesses for years have been very successfully marketing debt, and they have succeeded in convincing a generation of Americans to feel good about being in bondage.
“Got another credit card in the mail.  Praise God.”

God didn't send that credit card!

Imagine this:  No student loan payments, no payday loans, no car payment, no credit card payment at 21% kicking your butt daily, or even no house payment!

Right now you are saying to yourself this is impossible.

It’s not impossible.  If you apply a few years of discipline and hard work, financial peace is possible.  Not only is it possible, it is one of the most freeing things that you could ever imagine.

Do not aspire to be ‘normal.’  Normal is fighting, hurting, worrying, and feeling stress and panic.  Normal is a life immersed in materialism.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…” says Romans 12:2.  

How are we going to get there?

Hard stinking work, sacrifice, discipline, faithfulness, and consistency.  Well known author and radio personality Dave Ramsey calls this determined behavior ‘gazelle intensity.’  If you have ever seen a gazelle chased by a lion, what does the gazelle have?  Intensity.  The gazelle is running for his life.  You are fighting for yours.

Proverbs 6:5, “Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.”

As followers of Christ, we don’t keep our hearts in this world.  We will choose to not be a servant or a slave to anyone or anything except…Jesus Christ.

24 December 2012

What Child is This?

Many families participate in great Christmas traditions this time of year.  We have a couple ourselves.  One is a carryover from my wife’s upbringing. 

Growing up in her home, whenever the phone rang between Christmas Eve and Day, they would answer it, “Christmas Eve gift!” The purpose was to be the first to say it to another family member that was calling.  It was fun tradition before caller ID and cell phones. But as traditions go, this one isn't practiced very often now because everyone knows who’s calling before the phone is answered.  The fun was explaining “Christmas Eve gift” to an unsuspecting person on the other end of the line. 

Our own tradition as a family is to go to a local Christmas tree farm every year, ride the hay wagon out into the orchard, and pick out our tree together, which required cutting it down ourselves. While this sounds like a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s not. But that is a story for another day.

During this time of year, Christmas carols are played and sung everywhere.  One memorable song is “What Child Is This?” As we ask ourselves that very question, I would like to let the Word of God answer it: 

What child is this?

Behold Jesus, the baby.  Isaiah prophesied about Jesus before His birth in Isaiah 7:14:  “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.  Which means ‘God with us’” I imagine the listeners of this prophesy would be blown away to hear, 700 years before His actual birth, that the Savior they've been anticipating will be born of a virgin; a birth so historical, it split our calendar in half:  BC -before Christ and now AD - “anno Domini,” which is Latin for “in the year of our Lord.”

‘Behold Jesus, the Lamb of God!’  John the Baptist made this bold declaration recorded in John 1:29.  The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him.  He said, “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”  I envision everyone hearing this stopping dead in their tracks.

They would have known what John meant because they lived in a time where there was a sacrificial system.  They would have been annual observers of the Passover, remembering how God delivered Israel from bondage and said, “I’m going to send a death angel to pass over, and everyone who does not have their doors covered with the blood of the lamb will be destroyed.  But, if you have the blood of the lamb …” 

Practicing this in their day, the people would take an innocent lamb, slit its throat, and the blood would drain into a container.  They would take a sponge and paint the blood along the top of their doorpost.  This is an Old Testament picture of the blood of the cross of Jesus.  ‘…and those who were covered with His blood, the death angel would pass over and they would be spared.’ 

Revelation 5:12 says, “Worthy is the Lamb, Jesus, who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

Behold!  Jesus, the man.  John, chapter 19:5:  Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  And Pilate said to them, “Behold the man.”

Jesus, miraculously, was all God, and at the same time, all man.  He was God in human form.  He was God in the flesh.  However, He was not an ordinary man.  This man was God and was so full of God’s love that He overflowed with compassion.  The Greek word that is translated as compassion is the word ‘splagchnizomai.’  It means to ache from the deepest part within for people.  It is an inner yearning. 

And when He saw people, He would be moved with compassion. 

The very depths of this love Jesus had for mankind is exactly what took him to the cross:  the innocent Lamb of God paying the price for all of our sin…saving us from eternal separation from God.  ‘For God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17.  Behold, Jesus our savior!

Who else is Jesus? He is King, to be returning soon. Revelation 22:12 says, “And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with me to give to everyone according to his work. I am the Alpha and I am the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” 
When Jesus was born over two thousand years ago, He entered this world as a lowly servant inside of the manger.  When He returns, He will come as the King!

Who is this Child?  He is Christ, the Lord!

Merry Christmas and “Christmas Eve gift!”

16 December 2012

I... Must... Perform

Many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group practiced or performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary and enjoyed a comfortable living Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous. There wasn't enough time to learn the instrument. He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn't fooled. On the day of his performance, the impostor took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language: “He refused to face the music." When you're living a lie, eventually "your sins will find you out."

An increasingly common lie that way too many of us believe is that “we are what we do” – the ‘performance’ lie.  

When we buy into the notion of the performance lie, our identity comes from what we have accomplished, and wrongly so.  Last month, you may have been the top producer at your company, and now you feel valued. Or, maybe you didn't do well last month, and now you feel like a loser.  Perhaps you earned a raise which left you feeling good about yourself.  Or, on the other hand, the job you have doesn't pay as much as you think it should and you don’t feel very valuable.  This ideology gets really twisted when we start receiving our worth from what our children accomplish:  “My kid can do a round off, flip/flop, side-spring, and your kid can’t even do a cartwheel.”

When we believe the performance lie, we identify who we are by what we have.  We find ourselves dissatisfied, wishing, “If only…I had that car he drives.” This mentality can land us upside down in debt, a slave to payments for the next 72 months. But, at least you got the cool car you drive to define you instead of being able to give back to God what is His.

When we believe the performance lie, we also gain our identity wrongly from what people think about us.  Remember this, and never forget it:  You are not what you did.  You are not what you do, and you are not what you are going to do.  You are who God says you are.  You have to let that truth settle in your heart.  What people think about you is secondary to this.  And, if you believe this, you’ll lose concern for what people think about you.

As a Christian when asked who are you, how do you answer? You may say, “I’m a carpenter, or a banker, or a lawyer.”  The problem with that answer is that’s not who you are, it’s what you do.  You are this: “…a new creation in Christ.  The old is gone; the new has come.”  You are the beloved of God.  You are a joint heir with Christ.  You are seated in heavenly places.  You are a child of the king.

It’s important that we don’t mix up the ‘who’ and the ‘do.’  Let God define those.

If you are stuck in the performance lie right now, it is easy to find yourself over- committed, over-stressed, and even freaking out.  There’s so much going on, you may be wondering, “Can I keep it up?”

When you believe your worth comes from what you do, you expend too much energy  trying to prove yourself, and you are actually doing more than God wants you to do.  Hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Most people I know would say, “My yoke is hard, and my burden is heavy.”  You know why?  Because, “ I've got to make sure everything looks right so everybody will think we've got it all together!”

Jesus says if you’re yoked with Him and you are doing life with Him, the yoke is easy.  The burden is light.  He will empower you, it will be a joy-filled journey led by His spirit, and if there’s too much going on, perhaps you're doing something God doesn't want you to do.

09 December 2012

Are You an Asset or Liability to Christmas?

I hate Christmas. 

There, I said it. Why do I hate Christmas, you ask in horror? Well, here are a few of my reasons: 
  • Stores that begin their big Christmas sales in September. Seriously? Can’t we enjoy Halloween candy and Thanksgiving before we bring out the fat man?
  • Black Friday. Need I say more?
  • Snow. It brings out the worst in already bad drivers, and it is really, really cold.
  • Tacky Christmas decorations. If your house looks like this:
Your neighbors HATE you. Seriously, this has gone too far.
  • Frosty the Snowman. I like my snow inert and on the ground. 
  • Christmas music.  How many times on average in one day can you listen to tired carols done hip hop or in a country remix bleating over the PA system in every store and shopping mall on earth?
  • Fruit cake. If a cockroach or rat won't eat it I won't eat it. Besides, the taste and texture leaves so much to be desired that no amount of eggnog will wash away the lingering aftertaste.
  • Well meaning Facebook postings like this one:  “It’s Christmas! NOT X-mas!!! Don’t remove Christ from HIS birthday!!! Post this if you agree…Please don’t X out the Lord!!! (I want to see this on everyone’s wall!!!)….. If you agree please repost…”
If we insert reality, most people who write X-mas aren't trying to “X out the Lord.” 

And yes, I've heard (and used) the argument that the X stands for Christ in Greek. Doesn't that, then, make us sound like we over analyze the unimportant? 

How can we reach a dying world by being legalistic and beating people over the head with our pre-lit signs that say “Jesus is the reason…?

As Christians who take on this persona around December, we can easily ‘come across’ like a man who brags, “I don’t drink, cuss, watch TV or read the newspaper, and, if you want to be just like me, you can be a Christian, too.” 

I cannot imagine Jesus acting this way.  Do you recall stories of Him judging things and people as he strolled by? Have you ever read about Jesus reacting strongly toward people regarding forms and customs? He did, but not to the lost and dying world around him. He did chase the money-changers from the Temple, and He hassled the Pharisees whenever he could about being clean on the inside as well as the outside. 

Jesus reserved those words of correction for people who professed to be followers of God, but weren’t. You know, like the people who post the righteous stuff on their Facebook page right above their horoscope reading for the day or their photos of getting wasted at the game the night before.

This isn't a suggestion that it is okay to drive Christ out of Christmas. What I am saying is that truly showing the love of Jesus to people in a meaningful way is far more Christ-like and important than getting agitated if someone writes X-mas. We will win the world to Christ by being like Him:  loving, caring, sacrificial, and benevolent. Not by being snarky, critical, and legalistic.

So this year, post this on your Facebook page or Tweet it: “Filled with love for others this time of year. God bless you and keep you and your family safe.” Or “I am taking time to remember what a great gift God gave me at Christmas, his son Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

Try living like Jesus this Christmas.

02 December 2012

I'm Not Good Enough

We've all heard a lie or told a lie.  Some of the more common lies we are familiar with are:

  • The check is in the mail.
  • I'll start my diet tomorrow.
  • We service what we sell.
  • Give me your number and the doctor will call you right back.
  • This offer limited to the first 100 people who call in.
  • Your luggage isn't lost, it's only misplaced.
  • Leave your resume and we'll keep it on file.
  • This hurts me more than it hurts you.
  • I just need five minutes of your time.

But, a very common and destructive lie that Satan has plagued so many Christians with is “I’m simply not good enough.” If we were to be honest with ourselves, many of us have battled Satan’s lie or are even still harassed by it.

Moses is one of my heroes of the bible.  In Exodus 4, God Himself called on Moses to deliver His people from bondage. Moses felt the same way many of us feel when facing that kind of a moment: he felt ‘not good enough.’

Moses replied to the Lord in verse 10, “Oh, Lord, I’ve never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  In other words, he was telling God, “I am not good enough.”

Moses was battling with this lie just like many of us do.  In verses 11-13, God speaks truth to Moses, but, Moses’ own sense of inadequacy was speaking even louder.  God responded: “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

This is where we would expect Moses to relent, “Okay, that settles it.  God’s in on it.  God’s going to deliver…nothing to worry about!”  But, to the contrary, Moses mutters “please send someone else.”

Too many of us have bought into Satan’s crafty lie that has led us to some dangerous, and false, conclusions about our lives such as, “Since I’m not good enough, I can’t make a difference….Why even try? …I’m average, and I fail at everything I do.”

You are not the sum total of your past experiences.  You are not the opinions of others.  You are not what happened to you in the past.  You are WHO God says that you are.  So, whenever that lie creeps into your thoughts, replace it with truth.

The truth is what God says about you.

What does God say about you?

God says you are called by Christ.  I Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ.”

God also says you are complete in Christ.  II Peter 1:3 says that “His divine power has given us everything we need.”

Money, things, and people don’t complete you.  Christ does.

Are you missing something?  Find it in Christ.

Need peace?  In Christ, you find a peace that the world doesn't even know anything about.

Assurance?  He is your assurance.

Strength?  His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Blessings?  Blessings that are eternal far outweigh the things of this world.

Comfort?  He comforts like a mother comforts her child.

Whenever you see the word ‘complete’ used in the New Testament, most of the time it comes from a Greek word that refers to a ship. It means a ship that is fully manned.  In other words, the ship has everything that is needed to get to the next destination.  So, think of your life like that.  You’re the ship; Jesus is the captain.  He’ll make the wind blow your sails whenever necessary.  And, everything you need, He will provide.

You are complete in Christ.

24 November 2012

The Great Escape

When I was in the sixth grade, I would play football after school with several other guys in the neighborhood.  These were the days of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and the Cowboys were still America’s team.  Everyone in the world, as far as we knew, was in love with the sport, and we were no different. We played football almost every day after school regardless of the weather. But, more than the football, what I remember most was Scott’s dad Gary.  When Gary would get home from work each evening he would watch us as we played. After he was able to determine which team was losing, he would join that team.  We were always excited when his dad would show up because it was always a game changer for the team he joined.

2 Cor 10:3-4 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

The word ‘stronghold’ comes from the Greek word ‘ochurôma’ which literally means “a prisoner locked by deception.” Too many men that I know are prisoners of a lie.

Do you have strongholds in your life?  An area where your mind is locked onto the wrong thing? Strongholds you could be facing may include:

  • Financial strongholds.  You may think you will never be good with money.  
  • Relational strongholds.  You may think you can never have a good relationship.
  • Habitual strongholds.  You’re addicted to something, or you have a habit.  
  • Mental strongholds.  You may say “I just have a bad attitude.  That’s just the way that I am.  I see life from a negative perspective.  
  • Spiritual stronghold.  You’re on fire for God one day, and then I’m lukewarm the next.
  • Physical stronghold.  You don’t like the way you look.  Maybe you have hair on your back and not on your head.  

You believe this is just the way you are and you cannot change.  After believing the lies long enough, we come to a place where we may say, “God, even You can’t even change me…this is just the way I am.”  What kind of bigger insult could we ever give to the One who made us than to say, “You don’t have the power to change me.”

A lie believed as truth will affect you as if it were true.  And this is one of the most common lies that we as men believe, “This is just the way I am.  I can’t change.  I've tried it before and it didn't work out, and so that proves that I can never ever change in this area of my life.”

How can we break out of our strongholds and surrender ultimately to the power of God that can and will set us completely free?

Let God into the game.  In the same way Scott’s dad changed the game for us God can do the same thing for you.

Let’s capture wrong thoughts.  Any thought that is inconsistent with God’s word- we grab it, take it captive and we make it prisoner.  We make it obedient to Christ.  Once we capture those thoughts we must release ‘right words.’  Because the tongue has the power of life and death, and so many people speak words of death and defeat.

Once we do those two things then we attack and win.  Colossians 1:29 “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

When I see men struggling to break free from strongholds some of the most common mistakes I see are the attitudes of “I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to be better, I’ve got to work harder.  If I really was devoted, I’d overcome this.” While this sounds like a good approach, in reality it becomes ‘all about us.’

What happens so often is we forget to let God into the game.  It’s me doing my part, and it’s His strength doing what I don’t have the ability to do.

You may be saying “ I've tried and I've even prayed about it.”  There is a difference between trying and praying, and trying and surrendering.

Surrender to Him. Let God in the game and you will see what kind of a game changer He truly is.

17 November 2012

I've Got to Be Strong

“Who do you THINK you are?!!”

“I'm Hub McCann. I've fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I've seen the headwaters of the Nile, and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. I've won and lost a dozen fortunes, KILLED MANY MEN and loved only one woman with a passion a FLEA like you could never begin to understand. That's who I am!”

That is one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Second Hand Lions.” Walter, Garth, and Hub are sitting in a diner/grocery store eating lunch when a group of hooligans come in and start trouble.  One of the teenagers tries to take Hub’s lunch and Hub knocks his hand away. The surprised teen asks “who do you think you are?”  Hub puts him in his place physically and TELLS the teen WHO he is.

Satan uses many lies in attempt to rob us of our identity in Christ.  The most common lie that Satan wants us to believe is that we have to be strong. We have to hold it all together.  If it’s going to be, it’s going to be up to me. That we have got to pull ourselves up by our boot straps, that we have to work harder, that we have to perform and that we’ve got to produce.  

No matter how strong you are, your strength is limited.  Eventually, you will run out of steam.  If you could be completely honest, you might admit this is a predicament in which you currently find yourself.  You feel life is throwing more at you than you can handle.  The expectations are overwhelming. You’ve got too much going on.  And, you just don’t know how you’re going to accomplish it all.  

The TRUTH is YOU can’t get it all done because you are not created by God to have all the ability in your own strength.  Your strength is intentionally limited.  God’s strength is UN-limited and, that’s why God wants us not to depend on our own limited abilities, but to do life empowered by His unlimited spiritual power.  

Far too many of us are ‘doing life’ out of our own limited strength, and we end up frustrated, worn out, and simply unable to get anything done.  The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 40:30-31:  

Even youths grow tired and weary, 
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Scripture assures us we will soar like eagles! But, unfortunately, most men I know fly more like humming birds.  Watch a humming bird in flight.  The tiny creature flaps its wings 40-80 times per second while rushing from one flower to the next. We often resemble hummingbirds in our day to day lives:  Got to do this…(rush) got to pay the bills…(rush) Got to get the project done…(rush) got to study for my test…(rush) I can’t get it all done…(rush) You’re making me mad…(rush) I know I’ve got to be strong…(rush)

On the other hand, set your gaze on an eagle in flight. Watch it soar. Scripture says those who hope in the Lord ‘soar.’  There’s no anxiety-ridden effort and frustration in ‘soaring.’  The wind of the Spirit does the lifting.  

The lie is ‘we have to be strong.’  But the truth is, “You have to be weak, broken, vulnerable, and dependent.”  

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

You must embrace that you will NEVER get it all done.  God is able to do more through your weakness than he ever could through your strengths.

Who do you think you are?

11 November 2012

Believing in the Next Generation

We are at a crossroads. We are in an especially important time for the church and for future generations because so much of our focus to move the Kingdom forward consists of good intentions.   But, if we leave it simply at ‘good intentions’ and don't transfer those good intentions into actions, then we will- in so many ways- short circuit what God wants to do.

If we don't impart spiritual life into the next generation, we are on the road to losing them when it comes to having  faith in Christ.

Although Moses had the vision to go into the Promised Land, he never got to do it. But Moses, being the leader he was, still did some amazing things.  One of the best things he did was to mentor the next generation with a strong faith.  He raised up Joshua, and when he died, he handed off the leadership to Joshua in a seamless transition.

Joshua was able to fulfill what Moses had always desired; it was he who led Israel into the Promised Land. He became a phenomenal leader, but he had one tremendous downside.   Joshua did not ‘raise up’ the next generation.  Consequently, when his generation died, tragedy plagued  the next generation.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers” (that means they died) “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Since Joshua did not raise up spiritual leaders in the generation to come, the next generation did not know God intimately or experience His power.

What are we supposed to do now?

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good...” Titus 2:7

One of my goals in life is to be a godly example. If you hang out with me for about 30 seconds, you’ll quickly realize I’m not perfect. But with everything in me, I plan to love one woman and serve her faithfully for my entire life, loving her as Christ loved the church and I plan to live with financial integrity.   

I would be entirely stoked if someone younger would come along and say out loud, "You know what? I want to be a little bit like that!"  That would be one of my greatest honors.

How could we possibly settle for any less of a goal? …to be a great example, simply through the way we live our lives.

Are you thinking that you have nothing to teach the next generation? Have you ever…

  • been hurt by someone and you've overcome that hurt?
  • failed at something and you learned from that failure?
  • had a significant setback and you overcame the setback?
  • fought and survived cancer?
  • overcome an addiction to pornography or drugs or alcohol?
  • committed adultery, confessed it, and experienced God’s healing in your marriage?
If you have experienced anything close to these examples, God can use you to be in a mentoring relationship to someone else, like Paul was for Timothy.  But, don't insult God by telling him you don't have anything to offer the next generation.  This generation needs to hear from you. This generation needs to hear your God stories.

04 November 2012

God Believes in You

How would you define success in raising the next generation? Society says success is raising well-rounded, well-educated, happy kids. But, what our culture defines as success is based on circumstances, and circumstances always change. One of the most important things we can do as parents is impart spiritual life to the next generation.  If we only want them to have ‘more than we had,’ but don't foster a relationship with Christ, in the end, it doesn't amount to anything.

We are called to teach the significance of spiritual life to the next generation. There's a verse, I feel, that really captures the essence of this divine calling.  It is about David in the Old Testament, as he prays this prayer in Psalm 71:18:

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

The greatest calling that we can have is to impart spiritual life to the next generation. We are not called to raise well-rounded, well-educated, happy kids. To the contrary, we are called to unleash single-minded, Christ-centered, Biblically-anchored, world changers into the world for the glory of God. We are not called to protect and keep them under our safe arms.

This is a big challenge especially when every force in the world is working against you. Here's what I want you to understand; I absolutely and completely believe that you are called to this and that you can do this.  But, more than me believing in you, God believes in you.

God has given you everything that you need to do everything that He calls you to do. He will equip you to do one of the most important things that you can do on earth, and that is to impart spiritual life to the next generation. The next generation is not limited to just your sons and daughters.

There are families in our church, in our neighborhood, and those that we know at work that do not have an example of a Godly man in their lives.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses challenges the nation of Israel to speak into the lives of the next generation:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

An Old Testament family was much different than a family is today. A typical family would have included the parents, their adult siblings, their adult sibling's children and grandchildren, and their own children and grandchildren. If they had people who worked with them, they would be included in the family. It was not uncommon to have a family that would have as many as 80 or so people, like a tribe or a clan with God saying, 'Hey, (to the whole tribe, to the whole clan, to the whole nation), this is your calling. Together, speak into the lives of the next generation.'

You can see it all throughout the Bible.

Paul and Timothy are a phenomenal example of this. If you study Timothy, you’ll find he was in the emerging generation. He grew listening to his mom and grandmother speaking into his life, continually. However, what God did for him and his mom and grandmother was to bring into their family a supporting outside voice- in the person of the Apostle Paul.  Paul could say the same things that mom and grandma had said, but, he could say it from a man's perspective to a young man.

The supporting voice of Paul said, 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young! Don't let anyone do that! Be an example to all believers.' Paul also said to Timothy, 'God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' …that just sounded different than when Eunice said it. Way different. When Paul spoke, it was a man of God saying something.  Those words, spoken from Paul’s perspective into Timothy’s life served to build him up.

God believes in you!

27 October 2012

I Believe in You


A friend and I were working together the other day digging a ditch for some electrical lines we were installing.  This is not one of the most attractive parts of my job as an electrical contractor, but it is one I still enjoy.  There is something about men and hard work that brings about the most interesting conversations.

As we began digging this ditch, and, as men for some reason do, we took jabs at each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But, at some point along the way, the conversation changed.  He began to tell me about his relationship with his dad and how it is strained right now.  I listened as he listed his grievances and why he felt abandoned- even though he grew up in a two parent/Christian home.  He said he watched his dad, who is a pastor, spend time with people and speak into their lives words of affirmation. But, he said his dad barely had time for him as a young man, nor did he ever say to him “you have what it takes, you can do this, or I believe in you.”

In Mark 1 we learn of the beginning of the public ministry of God's Son, Jesus:   “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Verse 11, to me, is one of the most emotional verses in the entire Bible because it is God speaking to His Son in front of everybody gathered, publicly affirming him.

I cannot imagine how much this must have meant to Jesus, especially when we consider the trials to come, all of the pain, the sacrifice, and His obedience even to death on the cross.  I can only wonder how many times Jesus thought back to the moment when His Dad, His Father, said to everybody, 'Hey, check this out! That's my boy, you see Him?'

When God affirmed Jesus, it was not for making an A on His spelling test in fifth grade rabbi class, or when He scored His first soccer goal, or when He made His first million in business. It was when He was baptized, when He was obedient to scripture. God affirmed Him as He did something spiritual.

Basically, the Father said to the Son publicly, 'I believe in you!’

In Mark Chapter One, right after the Father's affirmation, we find Jesus going into the wilderness to fast and pray. Satan shows up, tempting Him three different times. Immediately following the emotionally exhausting trials in the wilderness, Jesus gathered around him 12 of the most unlikely, overlooked, uneducated people and said:

'If you'll leave what you thought was important, follow me, I will show you what is important. We'll do life together, I'll teach you everything that you need to know and you can totally change the world!'

And that's what they did. For three years, they didn't study a little booklet, or go through a formal class.  They just did life together. Jesus taught them as they went. They asked questions; He responded, and He invested in them. At the end of that three year period, one of the most emotional moments in history, Jesus looked at the 11 faithful (Judas had betrayed Him), after He had risen from the dead, and basically said:

‘I've got to go away now, but I am going to send you the Holy Spirit, which is even better than me, because you'll have God the Father in you, and here's your assignment; go into all of the world, baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…teaching them everything that I have taught you. You 11 can change the world! I believe in you!'

And here we are some 2000 years later, and those men DID change the world.

The words we speak give life and have power. Men, are we speaking these life giving words into our sons’ lives?

I believe in you.

20 October 2012

Partnering With the One

A young man sat down with his pastor, full of hatred toward his wife. "I do not only want to get rid of her, I want to get even. Before I divorce her, I want to hurt her as much as she’s hurt me."  It is said when you are dating, opposites attract. But, too often, after marriage, it seems opposites attack.

God uses opposites in the covenant of marriage to complete each other.  Yet, our spiritual enemy wants to use those opposites for us to compete.

Genesis 2:24 says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Hebrew word translated as One is the word “echad,” which means united, altogether, completely joined as one.  Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, one may be overpowered, but two can stand strong.  “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Imagine a husband and wife as a cord tied together, as if they are in a three-legged race.  The husband is still an individual, and she is still an individual, but they are joined by the cord of Christ.  And, if they will work together, run together, serve together at the same pace and rhythm, they can get something accomplished.

But, if the husband wants to go his way and she wants to go her way, there is no harmony, there is no unity, and there is no vision.  When there is no common direction, then there will be fighting or competing the whole time.

God wants to strengthen us; He wants to complete us; and Christ wants to be the cord that unites the two to become one. When we are united by Christ, this union is not going to be broken.

We need to recognize that marriage is a covenant, not a contract.  A contract is based on mutual distrust, and a covenant is based on mutual commitment.  In a covenant partnership, how can we take our differences and work together for godly results?  Through godly leadership and mutual submission.

Eph 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  We submit to one another out of reverence and in worship for the One who laid down his life so we could be forgiven.  This means we should not go into marriage saying, “I will do unto you as I hope you do unto me.”

Instead, we must say, “I will lay down my life to serve you.  I will submit to you as unto the Lord out of reverence for Christ so that we together can better serve him.”

Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Why do some women get so angry when they read this verse?  Because, they have been around distorted leadership, instead of godly leadership.

Typically, it is men who are abusive, dominant, controlling and manipulative.  Christian men can take God’s word and use it as a sword to cut and hurt.  They might also use God’s word to manipulate women, and that isn’t godly leadership.

Then, there’s another side of the distortion. That is the passive man.  This man has no backbone, no willingness to stand up and fight for anything. This man doesn’t make decisions, abdicates leadership to the woman, is content to sit back and play video games or act like a 12-year-old and watch sports all day long.  That is not godly leadership.

Men, you have the God ordained call to lead.  Many men will say “but that intimidates me, I’m not sure.  Does that mean I have to make all the decisions?”  No! Making all of the decisions is not leadership. That’s dictatorship.

1932:  in game three of the World Series, Babe Ruth stands up to bat- one of the most memorable moments in sports- and what does he do?  He points to center field.  Cocky!  Next pitch, the left-hander, tags it, homerun to center field.

Men, that is what you are to do. You point, you lead. It doesn't mean you come up with it yourself.  You sit down and say to your wife, “Hey babe, what has God put in us, what is important to us?”

Together you come up with a blueprint for your marriage.

You may argue back, “She won’t follow.” That is a sorry excuse. You haven’t led her.  You may say, “My wife does not honor and respect Me.” Then Give her something to honor and respect!

Be a man of God, stand up, lead strong, take out the sword of the spirit and don’t cut her with it, but fight away the enemy.  Be a man of prayer; be a man of integrity; be a man of purity. Serve her; lay down your life, and you will witness over time, she will respond beautifully to your leadership.  Together, united with the cord of Christ, you will walk in the direction of God’s perfect will.

Grab your wife’s hand and say, “Glorify the Lord with me.  Let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34: 3.

14 October 2012

Pursuing The One

I once read a story of a love struck young man who flew from Chicago to Connecticut to fix his girlfriend’s hot-water heater because he thought she was considering leaving him for another guy. It ended up not being true and now they are married.

So many of us make fools out of ourselves in the name of love.  It is because of our human nature, we tend to pursue what we don’t have.

Men, we have done all sorts of things to win our girl because we are hunters by nature.  We go after what we want.  When we were dating, we went to chick flicks and pretended we enjoyed it.  We talked on the phone for hours at a time.  We would even drive (or fly) hours to go somewhere to see the one we love, just to spend 15 minutes with them.

Why do we do this?  Because we are pursuing what we don’t have kind of like this:  one day-  we made the kill, we got married, popped out a couple of kids, two years go by, then seven years, you’ve bought a house, 12 years… 15 years… and one day you wake up and you ask yourself “what happened?”

We used to be so in love, and now we can barely talk.  Most of the time what happens is a husband and wife stop pursuing each other.  Show me a divorce, and I will show you a couple who have stopped pursuing each other.

Can you name any area of your life that you can neglect and see improvement?  For instance, your physical body: can you neglect it, eat anything you want?  Twinkies, donuts and ding dongs, never exercise, and expect to become more fit?

Can you neglect your business, can you not do market forecasts, can you not pay your bills, can you not plan, can you not hire the right people, and expect your business to thrive?  

Why is it, though, that so many people think they can neglect their marriage and it still become what God desires it to be?

Genesis 2:24 says this:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother be united to his wife and they will become one flesh”.

The Hebrew word translated as “united” is the word dabaq. This word means more than just a union or more than united.  It actually means to cling or adhere, to catch by pursuit, to pursue hard with affection and devotion.  It is not that we just pursue until we are married, but we continue to pursue, to cling, to pursue hard and to pursue with devotion.

A great example in scripture of a couple who continued to pursue is found in Genesis 29.  It is the account of Jacob who was crazy in love with Rachel.  She had a father named Laban who was very wise.

He said, “If you want to marry my daughter, must work for me for seven years.”  After seven years of working the father pulled a fast one, and he said, “Oh, I’m sorry you can’t have that daughter, I meant this one” and Jacob responded, “No, I want Rachel” and so the Dad said okay, you have to work seven more years..a total of 14 years.

Here is the beautiful part of the story; after the first seven years they actually got married and even after they were married, Jacob continued to work for Rachel. He continued to work for her even after he had her.

If you want something different, be it.

Don’t waste energy whining about what you don’t have and what she’s not, or whining about what she isn’t doing. If you want something you ‘bring’ it.

What do you bring?

You bring less of you, and you bring more of Christ.  The New Living version of the Bible translates Romans 12:2, and this should be so true in every area of life, especially in our marriages:   “Don’t copy the behavior and the customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Let God change you.

Men, here’s what you need know.  Women, they are multipliers.  Whatever you give them, they multiply.  You give them an ugly house, which is what I did to my wife; she makes it a beautiful home.  You give them money for food; they make it this fantastic meal.  You give them your love, they give you six kids.  You give them a hard time, they’ll give you Hell.  They multiply.

That’s why men, if you don’t like what you’re getting, take a look at what you’re giving.

To get something you’ve never had you must do what you’ve never done.

To get what you once had, you must do what you once did. And, what you once did was, you pursued.

Less of us and more of Christ.

06 October 2012

Priority Number “One”


If you were watching the news one evening, and they gave the forecast for bear attacks warning, “Tomorrow we are reporting a really bad bear attack day, we are forecasting there will be a 50% chance that your children will be mauled by a bear on the way to the bus stop.”

What do you think you are going to do the next day?

Will you simply kiss your children at the door at the door and say, “goodbye, love you, run fast, and good luck!”?

 Or

Will you drive them to school, personally, putting them in a suit of armor carrying your trusty Browning .30-06?

You would do something different because the odds are stacked against your children.  You would change your habits or behavior.

What if I revealed to you that those are the same statistics for marriages today?  Less than 50% of marriages will not make it to 15 years. Statistically, 70% of married men and 60% of married women have affairs.  Every 12 seconds another couple divorces.

Something is not working in what we are doing. Our accepted way of doing “marriage” is turning out to be more of a ‘Fail.’

We have been conditioned as men to search far and wide to find the “one.”  To really be fulfilled, to have everything you’re supposed to have, for all the planets to align perfectly, we have to find the “one”.

If you were to survey a number of marriages, you would likely discern that some chose precisely the wrong “one.” But, that’s another topic.

* * * * *

An expert in the law had a question for Jesus.

‘Jesus, of all the commandments, what is the most important one?’

Jesus answered in Matthew 22:37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like the first:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

So…..

Love God is first, love your neighbor is second.  But, when a guy meets a girl, typically, he’s overwhelmed with how good she smells or how she gives him tingles inside.  The guy asks himself,  “could SHE be the ONE? She could be the one.”
Nothing would be greater to me than to hear a man of Christ proclaim about a female, “This is so amazing! I have just met my number TWO!”

God should be the “One” and your spouse should be your “Two.”

To experience true fulfillment in life, set your sights first on your number one, and that is God, alone.  This is the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  

* * * * *

 Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…”

Throughout life, married or single, God should always be your “One.”

When you were growing up, your primary human relationship was your parents.  God was to be “One” and your parents were to be number two.

The progressive world doesn't really support living that way, but that is  the biblical order or ‘priority order’ of relationships.  As you grow up and take the big step of marriage,  God continues to be your “One,” but you “leave” your comfortable parental units who enjoyed the number two position, and your bride becomes your Number Two.

Imagine yourself on a trapeze hanging on to mom and dad, you, then let go of mom and dad and you cling to your new Number Two.  Your priority relationship shifts.  God is still your ‘One,’ you simply let go of mom and dad and you cleave to your new Number Two.  

If your marriage is not working as you know it should, take a hard look at the possibility that at least one or both of you have your priorities out of line:

Are your children in the number one priority slot? Do you have a child- centered marriage? Do you want to be so successful that your career is in the number one slot? Are you the first to the couch for the big game?  Or, maybe you’re the first in the deer stand.

These aren't BAD things, but, if not kept in check, before long, the fun stuff moves in front of God.   He ends up way down the list of priorities, and your marriage falls way down the list, too.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and then everything else will be added unto you.”

It’s as easy as One, Two, Three.

29 September 2012

I am Iron Man

Depending on your age, when you read the title of this devotional, one of two things probably went through your mind:

1. You just heard Tony Iommi’s heavy grunge guitar riff and Ozzy Ozbourne’s vocals from the Black Sabbath classic titled “Iron man” or…
2. You just envisioned Tony Stark suit up in his Iron Man armor.

I have been anxiously waiting for the release of The Avengers on blu-ray (which finally was released this week) and Iron Man 3 which, hopefully, will be released on the big screen in the near future. So I’ve been watching over and over again Iron Man parts one and two. I can’t help it and I admit it, I want an Iron man suit. What guy wouldn’t want the suit or to be Iron Man? Think about it- he’s smart, has unlimited money, is a natural ladies’ man, and fights injustice. 

Bringing the superheroes to life on the big screen with almost believable technology and current world events makes me want to fight crime.  It also fires me up for spiritual warfare. 

My favorite scene of the first movie is at the very end. Tony Stark has finally embraced his identity and proudly proclaims it to the world, “I am Iron Man.” No longer does he have to hide behind the mask like the majority of all other comic book characters. He outs himself, giving the world his unspoken commitment to fight evil on their behalf.

The scene that I enjoy the most from Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is fighting a seemingly-unending army of robot villains alongside his friend James Rhodes, a military officer who dons his own Iron man suit named ‘War Machine. 

They’re holding their own for a while, but small arms and shoulder-mounted rockets just aren’t cutting it. As the odds are beginning to look more and more grim, Tony turns to James and says, “GET DOWN!” He then powers-up one last time in an effort to destroy the enemy. Iron Man unleashes some sort of red beam that literally cuts through the drones like butter. After a brief surveying of the damage, War Machine simply looks at Stark and says, “You should have opened with that.”

How often do we engage the enemy ill-prepared, relying on our own strength and knowledge? God has given us authority over the “… spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12), yet we forget to use the weapons of our warfare.

The armor of God found in Ephesians 6, more impressive than any Iron Man suit- in my opinion, is at our disposal. It’s always powered up to 11 (max power plus), and ready to red beam the demonic forces into oblivion at the mere mention of Jesus and the power of His blood.

Stand firm and say to the world “I am a Christian man.”  Be ready to back it up with action and sacrifice. Before you head back into the world of air sirens and rocket blasts that may disorient you, …put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. (Eph 6:11).  

If Christ is the leader of all believing troops, then, spiritually speaking, we’re merely followers- all in the same platoon. It’s a pleasure going into battle with you, Gentlemen!



23 September 2012

The Courage to be a Christian

The barbarian’s life had changed drastically since he had forgiven his once sworn enemy.  He used to lay his head down at night, the only thoughts crossing his mind were of war, pain, death, blood, and revenge. But this night was different, very different.  As he closed his eyes, he felt a peace surrounding him that he had never experienced before in his rough barbaric existence.

He no longer ‘needed’ to awaken to the smell of burning wood and flesh.  No longer did he sleep with one eye open, sword in hand.   No longer did he fear what the dawn would bring.  Yes, he had fought many battles, killed many men, pillaged many villages.  He had failed in his last battle miserably.  The pain and tears of that day would not soon be forgotten. But the day he embraced his enemy and forgave him…that day was the day he became a true warrior.

A true warrior is courageous:  He fights when it is deemed necessary.  He accepts failure as a teacher from which he can learn.  He forgives the evils wrought against him. Now the barbarian could rest!  Every day did not have to be about bloodlust. He was a real man, and real men are not afraid to be who they are.

Whether the barbarian is at his new home living and loving among his new family…
Whether the barbarian is toiling alongside other villagers to raise a new home…
Whether the barbarian is making his presence known as guardian of the village…
Whether the barbarian is in the pub laughing with his friends…
Whether the barbarian is deep in the forest, alone…

He is still and always will be a barbarian.

Our journey comes to an end with the barbarian. It all began with us hearing the truth that we must give our all in our daily walk with Jesus; having the courage to serve, to fail, and to forgive.

Do you have the courage to be a Christian at HOME?

How much of Jesus does your family see in your attitudes and actions? Being a Christian is most difficult at home….and I must admit: it can be tough. Home is where we spend the biggest chunk of our down time, let our guard down. Who you are at home is who you really are.

Do you have the courage to be a Christian in your COMMUNITY?

What kind of impact are you having in Jenks? Tulsa? Glenpool? Sapulpa? Kellyville? What are you doing to be a positive force for Jesus here in your own neighborhood or town? I hope and pray that you will ask yourself this question over and over again until you tire of hearing your own voice ask, and it prompts you to ACTION!

Do you have the courage to be a Christian when you PLAY?

I believe a Christian should have more fun than anyone else on the planet.  We should laugh harder, love longer, and scream louder than anyone else. God designed us to enjoy life.

Are there any rules to what a Christian can or cannot do when it comes to entertainment? I mean are all movies evil? There was a time, early in my ministry, where I would have readily given you a long list of what was ok for you to do and what was wrong for you to do but I have learned there is an easier and more biblical way to handle the issue.

The next time you are trying to decide whether or not to participate in some form of “play” ask yourself, “If Jesus were physically with me right now, would I be comfortable having Him with me during this activity?”

By doing this, you bring your relationship with Jesus into focus and you let your love relationship with him decide the rules. Considering a movie? Jesus has already seen it! Would you feel comfortable watching it with Him and then discussing it with Him later? If the answer is yes, go! If the answer is no, then find something else for you and Jesus to do.

If you think that being a Christian is boring, you do not know my Jesus! Enjoy your life!

Do you have the courage to be a Christian when you’re ALONE?

Who are you when you are alone? Is the only time you live for Jesus when you are in the presence of watchful eyes? It has been said that if you want to know a person’s true character find out what they do behind closed doors when they’re alone. I want you all to be courageous believers, strong, fearless, and unstoppable! Listen well to the voice of God for this is how He wants us all to finish life:

“I have fought a good fight! I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful!!!” 2 Tim 4:7

16 September 2012

The Courage to Forgive

He has lost it all: his home, his fellow warriors, his family. The smoke still billows from the inferno that once was called “home.” From deep inside, a rage boils that he has never felt before- a rage so intense, it is as if it would totally consume him!

“Arrrrgggggghhhhh!!!”

The barbarian’s primal scream echoes throughout the war-torn valley. He turns, tearfully, to once again look upon his boyhood home before he begins his long trek across rugged terrain to reach the neighboring village, a place where he can rest, gain strength, and begin living again.

As the minutes soon turn into hours, the barbarian comes upon a small brook that he and his friends often used to cool down their horses and relax beneath the shade of the willows along the bank. As he approaches the water he notices a man kneeling at the brook’s edge drinking water from his cupped hand. His heart begins pounding deep within his chest for he recognizes the armor and weaponry of his enemy, the very scum that he had watched pierce his brother through with his spear.

With the stealth of a prowling wolf, the barbarian makes his move to attack his unsuspecting prey. Just as the barbarian is preparing to thrust his broadsword into the neck of the enemy warrior, the man turns and catches a glimpse of his attacker approaching! He twirls about, but instead of reaching for his weapon, he remains on his knees—blood is oozing from a deep wound in his stomach and he has not the strength to stand, much less fight the barbarian.

The barbarian raises his broadsword high above his head to strike the death blow his enemy so much deserves when suddenly the barbarian’s eyes meet his enemy’s eyes and he freezes. “Those eyes, I have seen them before, they are my eyes!”

It only takes a portion of a second for the barbarian’s mind to imagine this man, raised in a hostile warrior’s home, killing his first man at 13 years old, in battle at 14, celebrating in victory the demise of an invading horde, just like himself.

“Is this all there is to being a barbarian? Death, pain, sorrow?” He thought. And then his rage begins to fade, and in its place he feels compassion for this dying man on his knees before him.

The barbarian lowers his sword and then tosses it to the ground. His eyes still haven’t left the eyes of the man before him. He lowers himself to his knees, now face to face with his enemy. His eyes begin to fill with tears, and he reaches out, embracing his enemy, and says, “I forgive you…”
* * * * * *
When we hear the word courage it is most often associated with brave and daring feats of wonder or strength like a fireman rushing into a burning home to rescue a baby from raging flames. But to even picture a huge war-torn barbarian falling to his knees to forgive his enemy---NO WAY! That is not a picture of courage it is a picture of weakness isn’t it?

I want to take you to a new place, a place that few men ever dare to tread. I want us to visit a place called “Forgiveness.” This place requires the strongest of hearts and the most fearless of all men. To forgive takes more courage and more guts than to seek revenge, to fight, or to simmer with rage.

After being beaten, being flogged, being spit on, and then nailed to a cross Jesus says to his Father “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Luke 23:34

That is courage. He could have called down legions of angels to kick some serious Roman and Pharisee butt, yet he chose to forgive.

If anyone ever had any right to hold a grudge or to seek revenge, it was God, but He chose to give us life by offering us forgiveness. Since God forgave us, then it only ‘goes to say’ that we need to forgive ourselves.

Have you ever thought that failing to forgive yourself is the same thing as saying, “I am better than God!?”

Think about it. God looks at you with all your failures, your screw-ups, your anger, your perversions and CHOOSES to forgive you because he loves you and desires the best for you.

Then you come along and say, “Yeah God, thanks for forgiving me, but I’m not gonna forgive myself.”

Who do you think you are? If God can forgive you, you must learn to forgive yourself.

There is nothing God will not forgive you for. So forgive yourself. Do not live in your guilt and shame. Allow shame to do its godly work and bring you to the cross to seek God’s forgiveness and then He will take that shame and replace it with joy. Shame is meant to bring you to God.

After you have rested in God’s forgiveness and, in that, forgiven yourself, then you can begin forgiving others.

Forgiveness is not my strong point. If you hurt me, I want to hurt you. But forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt for the hurt I felt. Do I have the courage to accept such surrender? Do I have the passion to forgive in spite of my pain?

I think we lean more towards unforgiveness! When you read about a little child being molested or killed, I don’t particularly care to forgive! When I read about Christians being slaughtered simply because they love Jesus, it makes it hard to forgive. I would rather just condemn them all to Hell! But…..

Jesus tells me to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Eph 4:31-32

Forgiveness takes courage. Courage because it involves risk. You are placing your heart out there to be stomped on! But Jesus holds us to a very high standard. In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus said, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, I repent—forgive him!”

Have the courage to be a person of forgiveness. Be a barbarian, not a wimp!

09 September 2012

The Courage to Fail


The warrior looked around at the carnage that surrounded him.  The blood and bodies of enemies and friends, burning houses and barns. The stench of burning flesh invaded his nostrils and the black smoke burned his eyes. In his hand was his sword, the blade scarred and broken.  His shield was lying somewhere in the haze of the battlefield. Finding an old wooden crate, he sat down, exhausted, spent from battle. He turned his weary eyes to the home ablaze before him, his home, his eyes filled with tears.

He was a barbarian, a fierce warrior, yet this battle he had lost. His fellow warriors lay either severely wounded or dead on the ground around him. His village had been savagely ransacked by his enemy.  Most every home was in flames or crumpled to the ground. As he closed his eyes to finally rest from the battle, this thought repeated itself in his mind: “I may have lost my home, my friends, and this battle, but I am still a warrior! I will live to fight another day!”

We come to a place within the heart of a barbarian that is rarely discussed, the courage to FAIL.

Have any of you ever experienced failure big or small? Truth is, failure is a big part of every one of our lives. How did you respond to failure? There are really only two choices:

We can experience failure, call “Game over” and let that disappointment haunt us for the rest of our stinking miserable lives.
We can experience failure, call a “do-over” and let that failure motivate us to risk again!

I believe that too many times when we experience failure we tend to get down on ourselves and mope around like a pathetic little puppy. The warrior in the opening story could have done that, but he didn't, he looked ahead to the positive possibilities of tomorrow.

Let me share a truth with you that may free you to be a risk-taking barbarian who is fearless and powerful. YOU WILL FAIL. Not once, not twice, not three times, but over and over and over again. God never, not one time, tells us to never fail.

Failing does NOT make you a failure. If you grasp this truth, it will change the way you live: It turns your thinking from “I am a failure” to simply, “I have failed.” God is looking for some barbarian warriors that are not afraid to FAIL.

Let me be blunt honest with you. I have failed God miserably since I have been saved. There have been times where I can hardly believe what I did. But not once did God say, “We are through buddy! You have crossed the line this time!”

John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.’”

Peter had denied Jesus three times, he failed miserably, but Jesus did not hold that against him.  As Peter said, “You know I love you” for the third time, Jesus embraced him and whispered, “Follow me…”

We are just like Peter, we may fail, but thanks to the grace of God, we never need to be failures.

If you want to be the barbarian warrior God has called you to be, then you cannot let the fear of failure keep you from risking ‘all’ for God. We must reach deep within and  find and use a determination and willingness to keep risking our all for God over and over again, regardless of the results.

There was a little boy who was determined to be the best hitter the world of baseball had ever seen. Taking a ball and bat into his backyard, he stopped at his chosen spot and announced to himself and to all who could hear, “I am the greatest hitter in all the world!”

He tossed the ball high in the air and swung the bat with a fierce determination and he missed, “Strike one!” he carefully studied his bat because certainly there must be a flaw.

He tossed the ball again, and swung with a mighty swing-whoooosh! “strike two!”

The boy spit on his hands, rubbed them together, and once again declared, “I am the greatest hitter in the world!” He threw the ball into the air, and gave his bat a wicked slash! And missed again a third time.

“Strike three!” the boy muttered. Then suddenly he smiled, “Well, what do you know? I’m the greatest pitcher in the world.”

That is the attitude we need to carry with us when we take on a great risk for God. This is the attitude of a barbarian. Miss the target? Experienced failure? So what, God still chose you to do whatever task you are doing. Our job is to be faithful. Even in failure. God will use the failure to teach you great things or to point you in a new direction.

You go to the store and buy a bag of poop to fertilize your garden. Why? Because the poop has nutrients in it that help plants to grow.

So it is with failure. Failure stinks just like poop and if you sit around and mope in your failure you will stink too. But if you use your failures to grow then your failures will become very valuable to you.

01 September 2012

The Courage to Serve

Barbarian!  The word alone creates pictures in your mind of rough, strong, and powerful men with wild eyes, a ferocious look! Their arms are taut and ripped, muscles bulging, hair long and unkempt, clothing made from a slain animals' skin, a shield in one hand, and a sword in the other. 

This is the kind of man you want going into battle for you -not against you. If a job that is too threatening and perilous for an ordinary man pops up, then a barbarian is who you want to enlist for the task. If your enemy is taunting you, then a barbarian is who you want to call to your side.

A barbarian is known by his courage, his fearlessness, his ferocity in battle...his innate ability to wreak havoc on all those he encounters. Call him into battle and he willingly and eagerly agrees. Call him to a treacherous journey? Of course! To intimidate? YES!

To be a servant to others? What? Where did that come from? A barbarian is a servant to no man! How dare you even suggest such stupidity!

But here is where our barbaric journey takes us next:  servanthood. This idea seems foreign to the whole concept of being a barbarian doesn’t it? The word servanthood implies slavery doesn’t it? Barbarians are slaves to no one!

When we picture a servant we imagine a pathetic creature without any important purpose in life—bent over, crushed in spirit, lacking self-esteem, soiled, wrinkled, worn out, and weary; Just like a human mule, who just trudges along with a sigh and a tear.

Right about now, we may feel challenged to be barbarians, and now I am asking you to have the courage to be a servant? Yes, it takes guts and strength to be a servant more than you can possibly imagine.

Where does this idea come from anyway? I mean, what nut job came up with this completely stupid idea that being a barbarian requires being a servant?

God. 

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” Mark 10:45

This is what servant hood looked like in the days of Jesus:

Slavery was very common to the ancient people of Israel. There were several ways a person could become a slave, one of them being a way to pay off a debt. A man would find himself unable to pay what he owed and thus would promise to serve as a slave to the one he owed money to. By Jewish law, the man was bound to a 7 year term of service! At the end of the 7 years, the owner had to set his slave free and cancel the amount of money owed.

Here is where things get interesting.  After the 7 years, the slave could choose to remain with the master. They could actually refuse their freedom.

Slaves in Israel were usually treated very well. Do not compare this slavery with America’s dark and dirty history of slavery. The slaves of a Hebrew family were often treated as members of the family. After 7 years in a loving and healthy family, where food and clothing were provided, as well as a place to stay, a slave may not want to return to his free life of poverty. After all,  he may end up the slave to another master who would be cruel.

If a slave gave up his right to freedom, he would have his ear pierced by an awl on the doorpost of the master, therefore having a permanent mark upon his body that he willingly chose to remain in service to the good master. From that day on anyone who saw this servant would know that he loved his master so much that he chose to remain in his home!

As barbarians, do we love our Master that much? He has given us the freedom to do as we please, but do we choose to stay in service to Him alone?

You tell me what takes more guts, standing sword raised high and shield tucked against a raging army or washing the dirty feet of a traveler in your home? To go on a mission trip to darkest Africa to face disease and possible death or silently, every day bathing your bed-ridden spouse day after day, night after night without anyone ever knowing what you do?

Jesus said in Matthew 20, “whoever wishes to become great among you will be a servant”

Your choice as a believer is not whether you will serve or not, as a believer you are a servant whether you choose to serve faithfully or not. Your servant hood is not based upon what you do; it’s defined by who you are. This means that you are God’s servants all the time the question is whether you are faithful or disobedient, selfish and lazy.

If I were to pull you aside and ask you to serve a king, most would readily agree. Yet if we are asked to serve one another, we balk- we hesitate. Why? Because we feel important when we serve a king or someone of importance, but humble when we serve a nobody. The irony in all this is when we serve the nobody we ARE serving the KING!

Yes, I am calling you to a barbarian lifestyle.  One of passion, zeal, and danger.  But the pathway of our journey goes directly through servant hood. Without the courage to be a servant, we will never be the warrior God has called us to be.

25 August 2012

The Courage to Live

In January of 2000 Li de xian was ready when the police officers of the Chinese Republic came for him. This was the 8th time he had been detained in the last three months. He went quietly without a fuss and no resistance. He said good-bye to his wife and walked calmly out the door with the officers.

As Li walked, he began thinking about his last arrests by the Chinese Government…the time police beat him until he vomited blood because of the broken ribs he suffered at the guards’ hands. 

China believed that Li was a notorious criminal, a desperate outlaw. So what was Li’s crime? He was the pastor of a church in Yongming village in Canton China. He led Bible studies on Tuesday for about 600 people. This made him one of China’s most wanted criminals. Despite the brutal treatment at the hands of the government Li refused to give up or quit! He said, “I will preach the Gospel until I die!”

Can you imagine what would happen if Christians displayed that same kind of courageous passion in the way we approach life? What if, after studying the life of Jesus in church, we would go out and live with His passion the rest of the week? What if we made it our life-goal to really be like Him, our never-ending passion, our one target. Can you envision the amazing transformation that would occur in our homes, our communities, our churches?
True Christianity is NOT for wimps! We should put a sign up over our church door that says, “No Wimps Allowed!” Being a follower of Jesus is not for the faint-hearted, the lukewarm, the halfhearted, non-committal, occasional church-goer! Fulfilling Christianity is for the passionate.  The man who is not afraid to say, “Yes…I believe in Jesus and I will dedicate my every waking hour to His purpose—no matter what the cost!”

I am challenging you to step up, to grab life by the horns and hold on for dear life because this ride is going be wild!

I promise you that the Christianity I’m describing is, not nor will it ever, be safe! I want you to grow into the barbarian warrior Christ saved you to be. Why in the world would you want to play it safe when a world of your friends and family are dying and splitting hell wide open?  Christianity, as God planned it, is NOT safe.

Yes, in America we have more freedom than those Christians in China or Iraq, but we are blind if we don’t recognize that in our country people are becoming more and more hostile toward Christianity! In America, we are guaranteed freedom of expression by our Constitution, but Christian expression is looked down upon by most. (by even some Christians).

Am I trying to stir up a mighty army of militants to strike back at the injustices? NO! But we must all be aware that in our  lifetimes, the oppression will increase.

What is more difficult—to die for Christ or to live for Christ?

I hope that if I were faced with the option of dying for Jesus or denying Jesus that I would choose death, but the truth of the matter is this, we are faced with an even more vital decision every single day.  Every time we roll out of bed in the morning are we willing to LIVE for Jesus today? Or will I deny Him by my actions, attitudes, words?

I understand that living a life of passion is easier said than done.  I certainly have NOT arrived. It costs a lot more than we like to admit. Everything we are, everything we have, minute by minute, hour after hour, day by day. Choosing this life daily is DANGEROUS and DIFFICULT!

Mark 10: 21-22 “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The same demand Jesus made of the rich young ruler is the same demand He makes of you and I today! Do we have the courage to live for Him?

That means we give up ALL rights to anything we are or own and place it in His hands. We have the guts to live out our day to bring Him pleasure and say No to the world.  We give up our dreams to trust in His dreams for us. One of my favorite Christian artists, Jeff Johnson penned a song which epitomizes this point entitled, “Ruin My Life.” 

We need to take a long hard look at everything we call our own—whether it be something you can touch or our hopes and dreams. Then we must ask ourselves: “Are we willing to give these to God, regardless of the cost? Will we trust God’s plans for these things—even if it leads to dangerous territory?

Passionate Christianity is not for Wimps! It could cause your death—it definitely costs you your life.

Do you have what it takes? Do you have the guts to give your all to Jesus?

18 August 2012

What do You Want on Your Tombstone?


One morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred's brother that had died and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother. Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The "Dynamite King," the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred's life.

None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered.

As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament--an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later)--would be the expression of his life's ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. It is called today the "Nobel Peace Prize."

Matthew 16:26
"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Men, let's face it many of us are afraid of death.  It's one of the top 3 phobias in our world.  People have sought to extend their lives longer since the dawn of time.  People have searched for medicines that would prolong their lives.  Magellan (and hundreds more) searched for years for the famed Fountain of Youth.

Why are so many people afraid to die?  I think part of it has to do with a fear of the unknown - a fear of what's next.  As Christians, we know what's next.  But, I think this fear is also driven by a feeling of un-accomplishment.  We gauge success in America by accomplishment, and people feel a driving need to do something worth remembering.  We want to leave a legacy.

I was having lunch with a friend of mine who is an insurance agent.  I asked him which type of insurance had more claims, which one did they pay more money to? He stated "life insurance. It's the only policy that when written we know with 100% certainty will be paid." After thinking about that for a minute I realized he was right, everyone one of us will someday die.

So what will be written about you on your gravestone - one simple phrase - that sums up all your years?

HAD A VERY COOL CAR
LOOKED GREAT IN A BATHING SUIT
MADE A TON OF MONEY

Or would you prefer something more like this?

HIS LIFE TOUCHED MANY FOR GOOD
HE BROUGHT JOY TO ALL HE MET
WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT

I'd love to be remembered  the way God described David:  as a "man after God's own heart."  Or maybe the way people remembered John the Baptist: "He may not have performed any miracles, but he told the truth about Jesus."

The Bible tells us of another legacy:  Matthew 6:19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

What lasts?  Faith lasts. The following are a couple of lines from a poem written by a missionary named C.T. Studd titled “One Life to Live.”

"Only one life, 'twil soon be passed
Only what's done for Christ will last."

I think that's true.  So, if what counts is what's done for Christ, what have you done in your lives that will last?  Do you remember the story Jesus told about the Master who went away and left some of his servants in charge of his house (Matthew 25:14-30)?  When he came back, how did he act with the servants who took what he left them and used them to further the master's business?  They were praised: "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Think about that - that's what I want God to say to me when I meet him in heaven.  Notice he didn't say successful servant, or rich servant, or popular servant…faithful.  His tombstone would tell us that he might not have been brilliant or important, but he was faithful.  That is what God praises.

What about the servant who wasted what he was given?  He got kicked out of the house.  Look at your lives, men…with what God has given you, which servant would you be?  Have you made the most with what God has given you to further his business?  Or have you wasted it?

How will you be remembered?  As a man who chased after Jesus with his life, or a church-goer who showed up for the trips, the retreats, and the fun stuff?  A man who loved God and truly loved people, or someone who treated God like he was a dusty book he could pull off the shelf twice a week and then put it away when he wanted?

I want to be remembered for passion! For Faith!  As a hero to my family.  Our world doesn't need any more tycoons or snobs or success stories…we need heroes.  Not athletes or movie stars…this generation needs heroic men standing up for Christ.

But, to be remembered as a hero, we need to live as a hero.

How you are remembered has nothing to do with what you have or what you did, but what you were.  And it has nothing to do with lofty plans or future goals - we don't get to write our tombstone.  Those who really knew us…they get to decide what is chiseled into the granite.  How you live your life now will determine that, because your family will write what they remember.  Be a hero - be about your Master's business.

What do you want on your tombstone?

12 August 2012

I Have a Secret (I Like Porn)

Traditional Eskimos were savvy in their methods to kill wolves. The Eskimo would take a very sharp, two-edged blade, and dip the blade into the blood of smaller game.  Left out in the cold, the blood would freeze onto the blade becoming a blood popsicle. The Eskimo would re-dip and freeze the blade, repeating this process several times.  He would, then, carefully secure the blade into the ground; during the night hours a wolf would come, smell the blood, and lick it.

As the unsuspecting wolf would begin to lick the tasty frozen blood from the secured blade, his tongue would start to become numb.  The more he licked, the numbness increased.  The unsuspecting animal would lick away the outer layers of blood, eventually slicing its tongue on the razor-sharp blade.  The wolf's sliced tongue would go unnoticed because of the numbness, so he, also, would begin to bleed through his tongue onto the blade. The taste of warm blood would excite him, and he would lick faster and faster and faster and faster, until finally, his tongue was shredded and he would go off and bleed to death.

That is a very good picture of what pornography and lust will do to you.  It numbs you, and in the excitement, you continue to participate until it leaves you seriously wounded and bleeding, potentially leading even to death.

Matthew 5:27, 'Do not commit adultery.  'But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'

King David was walking around on his rooftop one evening. While he was walking and thinking on whatever kings think about during those late hours, scripture says "from the roof he saw a young woman bathing."  It was this seemingly innocent incident that would lead to so many ruined lives.  As we read in 2 Samuel, we know David sends Joab to learn who the woman was, and that Joab reports back that the woman is "Bathsheba, Uriah's wife."

That's the end of it right? Bathsheba is married so David would leave her alone. But he doesn't. Instead he sends for her, they have sex, she gets pregnant. David, then, sends for Uriah to provide the perfect opportunity for him to sleep with his wife Bathsheeba to hide David's sin, but, Uriah doesn't.  So David sends Uriah back to the battle with a note that says to put him on the front lines. With that note King David signs Uriah's death warrant. Now. David is not only an adulterer but also a liar and a murderer. All this... from what started as one quick glance. What could it hurt, right?

I don't know where you were when you were first exposed to an impurity, but I know if you think about it you will remember in detail.  You may have been at a friend's house and found his dad's stash of magazines. Maybe you've seen Cinemax late at night (Skinemax I think is a better name), or have viewed images while on the internet, but, at sometime, you have been exposed.

Here I am thirty-something years later, and, to this day, I can reach into my mind and pull up those exact images if I just simply try.  They've been burned onto the hard drive of my mind.

Once you have been exposed, your mind receives an injury in the same way a computer hard drive is damaged by a virus. The files are corrupted and the computer no longer functions as it once did. You no longer look at women the same way, and you begin to view them as objects to fulfill your sexual desires. While there is a rush of gratification, there are also feelings of guilt and shame which eventually lead to rationalizing and justifying your actions.

Right now you're asking "How do I break this cycle? How do I take control?" First, understand that you have received a mental injury and we need to protect that injury. And, like all injuries, if its not dealt with, it will become infected.  Using the same strategies you implement to protect your computer with antivirus and firewalls to prevent attacks, we need to do the same with our minds.

How do you break this cycle?
  • Retrain your eyes to look away from every impure thing.  You may be saying "what is wrong with looking?" Go back to King David... 
  • Capture every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). What does that look like? What might you have to do?  You may have to stop what you are doing and call a friend.  Say, “Hey, pray for me.  I’m having a thought again.”  You might pick up your Bible and start reading the Bible. You might turn off your TV or unplug it, or get up and go for a walk, or read a book, but you have to stop what you are doing and replace those sinful thoughts.
  • Whenever sexual temptation comes around, we are going to run for our lives.  King Solomon, speaking of the adulterous woman said, “Keep a path far from her.  Don’t even go near the door of her house.”
How do we control it?
  • Destroy your stash whatever that stash is. 
  • Insure accountability while traveling. You may need to call ahead and ask them to unprogram adult channels or even remove the TV from your room. 
  • Protect your internet usage.  Every click you make can be emailed to a friend, a pastor, or even your spouse; www.xxxchurch.com offers free software to you that will monitor your online usage.  I recommend it wholeheartedly. 
  • Avoid dangerous places. I don't know what this may be for you personally, but you know.
We are protecting the wounds, and as you protect the wound from further injury or infection, God will heal your mind.  Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  By the healing of your mind...  By the changing of your mind...

You are not changed by conforming in your own strength.  You are changed by the transforming power of God. 
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