Finding the Common Ground

It is plainly evident that our country is not headed towards, but already engaged in Culture War. Many will use the words “Liberal vs. Conservative” or “Tolerant vs. Intolerant” and even “Loving vs. Hateful”…. But none of these are correct… Not really.

Can we just call it what it is?

Good vs. Evil? No …

Right vs. Wrong? No…

It’s Human vs.Human… Here is why.

With  the onslaught of so-called “Human Rights Issues” at the center of this war, one view or belief opposed to another  are the grounds for battle and words are the weapons of choice (for the time being anyway). One group believes one doctrine or philosophy, while the other believes differently and by and large the conflict, no matter how large an convoluted it has become really boils down to one single point of focus –

Conform to my way or you are  “_____________________”

Agree with me or you are “__________________”

If you believe “_________________” then it means “____________________”

You fill in these blanks with whatever misdefined words you’d like, they all fit – Bigot , Intolerant , Hateful or my personal all time fave is when you take the beginning of any word to indicate behavior of a person and then just add “phobic ” to the end of it to imply that in some way I am terrified of this person or the implications of what accepting this behavior would mean.

(I began to type “childish” next, but I don’t want to insult innocent children.)

Ridiculous. This term is more fitting. It is absolutely ridiculous that we reduce human beings down to a label by using a word  targeted to  affect them and essentially  provoke the reaction. A ridiculous part of that formula is that fact that in almost every case these words are used incorrectly when doing so!

Example – “Bigot”

big·ot
ˈbiɡət/
noun  –   a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions
So, if logic is applied  – wouldn’t a person labeling another this for having a different view or belief than his own also be guilty? 
 
Example – “Intolerant”
in·tol·er·ant
ˌinˈtäl(ə)rənt/
adjective  –   not tolerant of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.
So again, if logic is applied  – wouldn’t a person labeling another this for having a different view or belief than his own also be guilty?
One more..
Example – “_________phobic”
phobic – See phobia
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.
Again, apply logic…. Would one who vehemently names some as phobic not also be guilty of being phobic to the view of the other?
Surely, you see my point.
For every misuse of these misdefined words(and so many others not listed) , we perpetuate war that will ONLY PUSH US FARTHER from the “so-called ” goal that is touted by both sides in this-
UNITY will NEVER be reached.
PEACE will NEVER be attained.
HUMANITY will be LOST and NOT GAINED.
 
You see, we are failing to see the common-ground we all share, and prefer to use it for a battle-ground – We are all human.
Each of us are human and whether you are like me , a believer in God as creator and lover of the creation or a devout Atheist that believes the opposite  – the one thing neither of us can escape is the common ground we both possess – We are BOTH human and both valuable.
The point of this article is not to try to convert you to my beliefs. While that is what I will always do for someone who is searching  , I can also recognize that  many are NOT searching and no matter how much my heart may ache for you, I can not and should not force MY faith on YOU. Doing so negates free will and the very premise on which I act and believe.
However, believing something differently than me doesn’t require me to hate you.
 
No, truthfully  – If I really care like my beliefs teach that I should , hating you would be counter productive.
However  – not approving of your actions is completely acceptable and by fair contrast – also acceptable for you to not approve of mine! The mind-blowing part of it all, is that neither of us has to hate each other for it!
Whoa – what a concept!
The freedom that this country grants us in part is the freedom to believe what we choose. For me  – my standard is the Bible because I believe it is God’s word and therefore, I want to follow it through and through.
You may not.
So rather than label you, provoke you, or malign you  – I will recognize that you are human and prone to error – just as I am and maybe someday, some way – we can meet in the common ground of humanity and have an intelligent conversation about our differences and behave like … Well, HUMANs.
I’ll be praying for us all.2015-06-05-bigot6
Photo credit – Adam4d.com

 

 

 

Why I don’t preach

I get asked a lot of questions. I do my best to give answers … Appropriate, correct, to the best of my knowledge etc… The truth is, I don’t have ALL of the answers. Yet, the questions will continue to  come, and I will continue  do my best to answer.

I suppose if I could answer one question to the best of my ability and to the best of my knowledge, then I could answer any question the same way , albeit – sometimes that answer would be “I don’t know “.

You see, my job demands me to question everything, to look for the truth in every situation and to examine it to the ultimate standard of truth and then compare and share it as it is proper to.

This often gets me into trouble with people.

It gets me into trouble because many of the societal and cultural push for the acceptance of immorality have inherently a built-in  biblical truth that is completely opposed to it. When the answer is given to the best of my ability and from the standard of truth  I have used to arrive at this conclusion, it is most often not received with the warmest of welcomes. Following quickly behind my answer are responses that are usually sharp and often used as a weapon would be to insult me, deride and berate me and to ultimately hurt me.

Now a new line of questioning begins as a means to divert me away from the original topic and turn the focus on me and my motives. These questions are filled not only with spite and maliciousness, but they are also loaded  with suppositions and assumptions. The problem with  the suppositions and assumptions is that others incorrectly place motives about why I do what I do  , rather than work from an informed opinion or even better – to allow me to answer their question without jumping to conclusions.

“Why do you preach? – to steal people’s money? To spread your hatred for people who aren’t like you? Because you think you’re better than everyone else?

“No” is all I can usually get out before I’m cut off , but in fact there are many reasons, some more important that others, but all are deciding factors  that played out when I considered choosing this  life.

The first thought that comes to mind is “why would I choose a life that will bring me such hatred and uncomfortable moments  such as these if not for an incredibly good reason?  I mean, after all – where is the tolerance FOR me,  that everyone is demanding FROM me?

That being said, It might be easier to tell you why I don’t do what I do.

1. I don’t preach for money.

2.I don’t preach to be self-righteous.

3. I don’t preach because I want to prove others wrong.

4. I don’t preach because I hate anyone.

5. I don’t preach to make you feel bad about yourself.

6. I don’t preach to make you feel good about yourself.

7.I don’t preach pretending that I am a Psychologist.

8. I don’t preach for popularity.

9.I don’t preach for praise.

10. I don’t preach pretending to have all the answers.

il_340x270.735632362_ngu5

I preach because God is real. And just as he is real, so is his love, his grace, and his mercy – and ALL of these things have been extended to ALL people. This is completely visible in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, taking the death that we deserve, so we don’t have to…

It’s just that simple.

Because man chose to sin (Genesis 3) , he separated himself with God because God is Holy and cannot have fellowship with sin.It is completely contrary to everything he is. So  from the before the beginning of time, the part of God that is Jesus said, ” I’ll go, I’ll die, and I’ll make a connection possible again.

Why?

Love… True love. REAL love – not the selfish gratification of our desires we often attribute to love – but sacrificial love  as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

While his love knows no limits – his acceptance, however -DOES. This is probably the primary reason that I preach. I preach to share the love mercy and grace of God through his son, but not so we can continue on in sin – but so we can turn from it in repentance.

2 Corinthians 5:9-11 says “ So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.”

Knowing that the judgment day will come and that it is as real as today is, then knowing the Gospel of Christ and keeping it to myself is not an option. I MUST persuade others as Paul so eloquently states and to not do so will condemn me for being hateful.

Hateful? Yes… IF the Gospel of Christ is in fact  “The power of salvation to all who believe” (Romans 1:16) and to die without it means to be eternally lost – THEN HOW COULD IT NOT BE HATEFUL? 

How much do you have to hate someone, NOT to share the gospel with them?ITs not just the GOOD news – It is the BEST news , and like Jeremiah in Chapter 20 verse 9, he said If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,”there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” 

And I will not…

SO – that’s my answer. That is why I preach. And I fully realize that many men do, in fact, preach for the wrong reasons  – maybe even some of the ones I listed above – but I know many more that do it for the same reason as I do.

So , extend to us a little of that tolerance demanded from us , and maybe not be so quick to judge us as you are shouting “judge not”, no matter how poorly you are misusing  that passage. We are human too, we have families and we have feelings, and BOTH get hurt when we are not extended the same courtesies you expect from us.

We are not your enemy . We actually love you more than you know, but would love an opportunity to share with you the love that someone died to give you.

“I was naked and you clothed me…”

So many understand the Gospel, that is the Good News concerning Jesus the Christ and have been baptized into him. So many do not  understand and have not been. In either case, there is no excuse for people to walk by as a boy shivers in a plastic bag… Ever.

Basic human needs met with simple acts of kindness can have monumental results.

Neglecting those can also have dire consequences.

Which will you choose?

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

hand-reaching-out 

Lessons from My Son : “Thank You Daddy ” …The Love of a Father

WP_000463This will be the last entry in this series, although it wont be the last about my son or either of my kids. I started this series a couple of months ago for a couple of reasons . One reason is that my son truly has been and continues to be a teacher in my life … I preached many sermons inspired by him and blogged even more … He and his older sister have been the greatest gauge or thermometer as to how my wife and I are doing as parents. (I don’t blog much about my daughter because she is 14 and has asked me not to – my son however is just learning to read , so I have more leverage with him..) At any rate , the main reason simple – I love him. I love he and my daughter both with an indescribable love  ..A love too big for words or too vast for description. I believe that the love I have for my kids could never be captured by definition , or I did until recently .. Once again , life had thrown itself at my son and we were forced to deal with it head on , and by HIS example – I was the student  , and he the teacher.

A couple of weeks ago , my son fell out of the bed. This particular night I had fallen asleep on the couch and my son was in bed with my wife , so in true form I slept through the entire event . My wife , the quintessential care taker she is , handled the whole event and I was never awoken. Upon waking up the next morning  ,we realized that Kole was going to probably need stitches.He had hit the side of his face above his ear on the bed frame and it was laid open about a half an inch. It was too big to let heal on its own but we  , like always had some obstacles. It was Sunday morning – I had to preach and urgent care didn’t open until 1 P. M. Preaching doesn’t come with insurance (although, 3 weeks later I do now have it) but the emergency room was out of the question. It wasn’t an emergency ,but it was going to need attention. SO  – I went on to Worship , and Kelly and Kole stayed home.

After returning from worship , a quick bite to eat  and then on to get stitches for Kole. Needless to say , Kole was very concerned about where we were going and what they (the doctors) were going to do to him. I assured him that whatever it was , it would be right and it would be for the best and that NO MATTER WHAT – I would be there with him… No matter what.

Once inside the Urgent Care Center , the waiting game started to take its toll on Kole and his fear of what was to come and clung to me like bark clings to trees – Concern had become fear and fear had become dread   to an all seeking comfort and protection from whatever scenarios were playing out in his head. As much as I wanted to tell him that I could guarantee him no pain , I knew that would be a lie and couldn’t. I knew that to keep his trust ,  honesty was the only thing I could give him and then be there to comfort him and console him. Too many parents lie to their children in hopes of creating security by telling them”this wont hurt a bit” and then destroying the trust between them , because it DID in fact – hurt!  Truly loving your kids begins with honesty ,not deceit…

After what seemed like an eternity , it was finally time.

As he laid up on the table ,he shook all over… I squeezed his hand and told him to look at me , to stay focused on me and that soon it would be over. As the doctor cleaned the wound and applied anesthetic to numb the pain that was coming , his little body jerked with every poke and probe  and cries of pain filled the tiny room .”Just look at me Kole , just look at me , Focus on Me” I told him repeatedly  , trying to sooth and comfort him in his distress . Tears streamed from both of our eyes as the doctor stitched up his wound because he could still feel the prick of the needle each time it entered his skin and I , I could feel every stick of the needle right with along with him because I was there with him – not just physically , but in that pain and fear we were bonded together . Bonded because he was enduring it , and bonded because I wanted so badly to take it from him .. If it would have been possible to take his pain , I would have in a second…

That’s when it hit me.

In the book of Matthew  , we read in chapter 27 verse 46 that Jesus cried out “My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?” . It has been taught by me and others that God , for the first time ever in eternity  -turned his back on his son because he could couldn’t look at the sin of the world That had been “laid upon him”.. That he abandoned him and left him there to die on the cross to fulfill the sacrifice necessary for you and I to enter heaven though him ,by our confession of faith ,repentance and baptism into him then also dying to ourselves to rise agin in his resurrection… I still believe that , now more than ever – but I’m not convinced anymore that God left him. Another preacher and good friend pointed out to me that the concept of “laid our sins on Him” and “He became sin for us” was that Jesus was our sin offering and that the guilt of sin was laid on Him, since sins (transgressions) cannot be “laid” on anyone. He also pointed out that if Jesus was defiled with our sins, He would be a blemished sacrifice and unworthy of being offered. It made a lot of sense but especially the point that Jesus is the offering and is an unblemished lamb. So there was nothing for God to look away from. ALSO, I took the “God had to look away” without digging in. God looks upon the world every day and yet it is filled with sin. He had close relationships with the patriarchs who were imperfect men. In fact, the Holy Spirit filled people who committed sin (as in the High Priest who spoke by inspiration about killing Jesus).

The second thing was that if God abandoned Jesus in His point of greatest need while fulfilling the plan of God, what hope do I have ? You see , while Christ suffering and death was absolutely necessary for our salvation and his will to be accomplished and couldn’t be done any other way , I don’t believe that God left him there ,alone. I believe that while  Christ was enduring the unendurable ,his father was there , telling his son “Just look at me son , just look at me , Focus on Me” and that he felt every cut and probe that entered his sons skin , just like I did with mine. I could not stop my sons pain and he had to endure the suffering  – but I never abandoned him while he was going through the pain. Taking Matthew 27 and Psalm 22 together, I see such a relationship between the Father and His Beloved Son: He allowed Him to suffer but did not turn His face from Him.

The very  thought of God turning his back on His Son as He carried the sins of the world  is creates a chilling and moving scene in our minds eye ,Psalm 22  teaches clearly  that it did not happen. God was with His Son in as he bore the sins of the world and died on the cross , but because of his love  –  a fathers love  , he allowed him to go through it all because it was what was NECESSARY … and I don’t doubt for a second if our Father in heaven could have taken the pain away from HIS son , then he would have.. Just like I would have for MINE.

When it was all over, and the doctors left the room , I just held him.

After a few moments  ,my son whispered 3 words I didn’t expect from him that day – “Thank you Daddy”…

I wasn’t sure at first why he thanked me ,but I supposed it was for being there when he needed me. I suppose  , though scripture doesn’t  say this , that Jesus and his father may have had a similar moment once his ordeal was said and done ?  Thanking him when he needed HIM the most? I don’t know that for a fact and it is just an opinion , but I do know that true comfort from all suffering will be in the arms of our heavenly father one day  , and I cant wait to be there to tell him “Thank you “as well..

Until them I can thank him daily for many things and many blessing ,but none quite so much as my son Kole  who has helped me see the God that I serve in the Lessons he has taught  me though him..

And None at all like his son  ,Jesus who suffered and died so that I can also know  – A fathers love.

Lessons From My Son – “Value and Cost – I wanna be like you Daddy!”

Kole

I think it is probably safe to say that every boy at some point in his life has wanted to do what his dad does for a living. If you think about it , it’s almost expected –  the father son dynamic is such that the son’s main influence in his life , will be his father… Or at least it should be.  I pray that will always be the case with my son … It’s a sobering thought that continues to encourage me to give strict diligence to strive to be the man who my son “thinks”I  am… One day , he will figure out that I too am human ,not invincible ,bulletproof or immune to everything scary and dangerous ,but in fact  – a fragile vulnerable and flawed man – insecure about his image and struggles with his weight , scared at times and not nearly as cool as he thinks he is… Until that day comes however , I AM THE MAN… in my son’s eyes anyway…

That being said , the most important thing I can do for my son  – either for a living or other  – is to recognize the times when he needs me , and fulfill the need . Biblically speaking , we see this time and time again between Jesus and God  , but probably the most visible is in the Garden.. I have heard it said many times that Jesus was sorrowful the most- not because of the cross -but because of the fact that he would face it alone. – In the Garden where Jesus prayed he needed his father and wanted desperately to please him   – no matter the COST …Be cause God deemed us VALUABLE.(Matthew 26:36-42)

… Which finally will bring me to the lesson about “Cost” and “Value” that my son taught me..

I had grown to hate the Holidays… 2 years ago , I wasn’t preaching fulltime yet and had been out of work for several months. We managed to get by with what money I could make doing side work and odd jobs for cash for people. The winter was about to set in and I knew the slow season would be upon us. You see , not only does the work slow down for the winter in the construction industry – the people who do have money are not going to spend it on an out of work construction guy ,but rather family and friends for the Holidays… Unexpectedly , an opportunity to paint the inside of a woman’s home  came up. I hate to paint more than just about everything else ,but I couldn’t turn down the work – Remember , the Holidays were upon us and I needed to do my best to provide some sense of normalcy for my family – if not gifts , having the power on during the Holidays would be nice , and if possible – a gift or two for my kids…

The job was torture – it was a painters nightmare.

All of the furniture had to be moved around , covered  , protected etc.. To add insult to injury , the paint the homeowner selected was the worst quality ever and went on the walls with the consistency of water.To get done in a timely manner and to make sure that the job was profitable – I decided I would work long hours to shorten the amount of days…So ,long,long hours were worked. I was up and gone before either of my kids were awake and not home until well after they had gone to bed…But I kept focused ,telling myself that this was “for them”.. After 2 weeks of this , the inevitable happened – I being completely exhausted – overslept…

In my frantic hurry to get out the door , I nearly tripped over Kole as he excitedly came to greet me from his bedroom door ..”DADDY!” he exclaimed… “Hey bud“I sleepily responded as I was quickly headed to the living room to put on my shoes. Kole followed close behind and in usual form hitting me  with barrage of questions. As I tried to answer them the best I could  , it was clear that I was distracted  and only half way paying attention when he  then stop right in front of me and asked  of  me  this – “daddy, don’t go to work today“… Still tying my shoes I responded ” I have to bud..” .. “Why” he replied… becoming more frustrated with the situation I responded sharply with “ because I HAVE to  – we need money”... He then turned ,  and ran back to his room. I sat there wondering if I had responded rashly and hoped I hadn’t hurt his feelings … I hadn’t seen him at all in the better part of 2 weeks so I knew I needed to apologize.

As I got up from the couch and began to head down the hall ,he greeted me in the hallway , holding his piggy bank in his little hands and looking directly at me with his big brown eyes and smiling so proud. “Here daddy – you can have my money…Stay with me ?”

My knees buckled , and I hit the floor… I wrapped my arms around him and  held him , then began to cry.

My son taught me a most valuable lesson that late fall morning. He taught me that the most important things in this life are not what most of us think they are.  As I was working my self to death , I was neglecting my family for a job that only required that much of my time because  I deemed it necessary  …My son offered to buy  MY time with him because that’s what  he thought it “Cost”..In those two weeks and probably more preceding it , I taught him that – and I was wrong. My son needed me and sought to pay the price to have me , because to him – I was “Valuable” and in doing so exposed a part of myself that once I recognized ,needed to change.

Once again he was the teacher ,and I was the student. His Lions Heart ,in true form ,exposed me and ripped me to shreds… And I am thankful for that  , and him. He taught me the true meaning of “Value” and “Cost”…

Needless to say , I took that day off and gave myself fully to him.. We played  , we watched movies and of course – we took a much-needed nap  ,but we took it together 😉

Since then , Kole and I have had many conversations about my job and the differences between what I used to do , and what I am privileged to do now.. “SO you don’t , fix people’s houses anymore” ..”No Bud , I don’t” … “Do you still help people though?”…”I hope so , I certainly try! “… 

“Daddy , I want to do what you do when I grow up… I wanna be like you!”

… “Yea Bud ? , Well – I wanna be more like you KOLE …  😉 “

The value of the time with my son (and daughter) is most precious and God appointed by scripture – NO MATTER THE COST.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5, ESV)

What about YOU?

Confusion and uncertainty, not to mention anger and bitterness, filled media reports in the days after the death of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. It seemed that no one wanted to bury the slain terrorist. Every request for a burial plot was flatly rejected. Then a mental health counselor from Virginia decided to take matters into her own hands.

Martha Mullen said she was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.

“My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies,” she said.

Then she made an incredibly difficult and unpopular decision…

“I thought someone ought to do something about this – and I AM SOMEONE ,” Mullen said. …

Martha Mullen said she was motivated by her  faith ,her love and trust in Jesus Christ and his words recorded by Mathew in his Gospel account .

So what did she do? The WASHINGTON POST reports that Mullen took initiative to find a place that would accept Mr. Tsarnaev for burial. She was put in touch with Islāmic Funeral Services of Virginia, which runs the cemetery in Doswell, VA, and brokered an arrangement to have him buried there.

Some local residents and officials were angered by Mullen’s intervention on Tsarnaev’s behalf. While Mullen says the backlash has been unpleasant, she still has no regrets.

“I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned,” she told The Associated Press. “But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people who are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.”

Shocking? Unnerving ? … It shouldn’t be if you are one who claims to be “Of Christ”  –  Here is the Application…

How amazing that the whole world should be aware of this problem, but no one take decisive steps to resolve it. That is, no one except Martha Mullen, who was prompted to act in response to the words of Jesus.

When the rest of the world is paralyzed in HATRED and UNFORGIVENESS , that’s when the followers of Jesus are called upon to demonstrate a love and a forgiveness that is uniquely Christian. So, the next time you think to yourself, someone ought to do something,” remember, so far as Jesus is concerned, YOU ARE SOMEONE .

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

I know many will disagree with me ,but if you  claim to have the love of Christ –  how can you disagree with him?  1 Peter 3:18 says “For Christ also suffered once for sins, for ALL – the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”

Who exactly does ALL leave out ? ….Tamerlan Tsarnaev ???

Tsarnaev ,as far as I can tell died without Christ – but his lack of response can never diminish the power and reality that  Christ also died for him and IF he had come to Christ on CHRIST’s terms , he too could have been forgiven…but for him  , it’s too late.

What about YOU?love-fire

Do YOU love God enough , to also love your enemies and those who persecute YOU? I wanted so badly to “YES” quickly ,but it has taken me the better part of a month to finally say it since I first had the thought to write this… Though in good conscience as I write this , faced with the same situation as Martha Mullen  – could I do the same? Could I be the “someone” the Lord COMMANDS me ?

…I hope and pray…

Lessons from My Son … “Seeing though his Eyes”

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J. Oswald Sander was quoted saying “Eyes that look are common… Eyes that see are rare.” … Rare indeed , except through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy…

As I have before mentioned , since he was born, I have preached many sermons inspired by my son. His honesty and innocence have helped me to remember how to see the world that I have forgotten how to see and quite often , I am completely humbled by the most simple of gestures… This particular example involves Carlos. Carlos (pictured with both my kids on the infamous “Werewolf trip ) is  related to me by blood – the blood of Christ. A few months after being baptized into Christ and becoming a Christian after a teen even at our house in Atlanta  , he came to live with us ..It was about  a year and a half ago during a time when I wasn’t preaching full-time  ,but running a construction company.. He had previously lived with my sister-in-law and was friends with all my nephews so technically, he was already family… But Kole made that official .

One night as I was reading to Kole , he stopped me   – as he usually will  , to ask me the most random questions …  Most of the time it’s stuff like ” Daddy , what does lava feel like on your skin?” or “Daddy ,  how do other cats warn other cats that dogs are coming?… Because they can’t talk!…. or can they?” I don’t mind him stopping me to ask these questions , I actually look forward to it !… I love how his little mind is at work and usually leave the room pondering to myself ” Man…. what DOES lava feel like on your skin?“…At any rate , I try my best to answer his questions the best I can and then we move on… I asked him one night where he comes up with these questions..his reply was “I dunno , I just SEE this stuff “… This monumental statement was immediately followed by the question” Daddy – Can YOU see what I see?” …

After a pause I humbly whispered back through a tear ” I wish “..

But one night he asked me a question that changed  our relationship with Carlos – permanently .. As I was reading he stopped me with his usually “Daddy”… not knowing the next for sure what he was going to say , I eagerly awaited the randomness – “Yea Bud” I replied…After a few seconds of pondering he asked –

“Is Carlos my brother?”…

Many things begin to happen inside me , primarily my heart melting.. I ask my self why would he think that? He is old enough to remember when Carlos first came to stay with us , that he hasn’t been here his whole  life , why would he think that? …  After a few seconds of asking ” why” ,these petty questions are quickly squelched when what should have been the obvious answer finally presents itself – He asks me this question because he already looks to Carlos as a brother and loves him like one !–  Why?  – Because Carlos loves HIM that way! Since day one, Carlos has always given time to Kole  – to play with him ,talk to him , read to him and yes –   even answer 30 bazillion of Koles questions. Carlos was ALREADY living as his brother , so why wouldn’t Kole ask me that??

There will always be a place in this family for Carlos – Kole saw to that…  But that is a different blog for a different day.

My son , though he is only 6 ,continues to give me the perspective that I should have on most things. The blog entries that will follow this one will all deal with his observations that helped me realize, that I was seeing wrong… Jesus says plainly in Mathew 18 verse 3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I believe in part – this is why..

The morning ritual at our house is pretty simple – we all get up, slowly make our way to the kitchen where coffee can be administered to those who need it , breakfast can be served to those that eat it , and our day can begin with a little conversation(hopefully) from all the kids , yes even Carlos (though he is 23 😉  )…This morning as  Carlos came out for coffee , Kole  – who was diligently eating his cereal jumps down from he bar , runs over to him and threw  his arms around Carlos and said “I love you Carlos ,sometimes for NO REASON”…Carlos hadn’t been anywhere for Kole to miss him so much , so why all the excitement to see Carlos this morning? What reason would he have to excitedly proclaim his love for his brother?..

Then , like most things – the blatantly obvious hits me again..Once more , my son has been the teacher and I have been the student.. DO WE REALLY NEED A REASON TO LOVE EACH OTHER ?

1 John 4 :7-8 says” Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”…

There is no question – my son KNOWS God as he also KNOWS LOVE … And I have been joyfully reminded of how we ALL should be  – once more through the eyes of my son…

Thank you Lord for allowing me to have Kole and for him sharing his Lions heart with the world…. There is no doubt  , I am BLESSED.

I will always try to live so that I am the person my son sees …  😉

Read 1 John 3:11-24

Lessons from my son , “The Werewolf”

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If you know me , then you know it is no secret how much I love my family . I have a beautiful wife who glows inside and out with all that is good about a woman… she is Godly first and for reasons I still can’t see – she chose me , and I am thankful. She also gave two of the most precious gifts that can be given – My kids. My daughter is well on her way to becoming the same kind of woman that my wife is ,but even before now – her very life breathed purpose back into mine when I was but a shell of a man. Between the love of her and her mother , they helped me realize my need for God and gave me the drive necessary to seek him until that drive became my own… I have told her several times that she saved my life , and when she bats her lashes and says” I love you daddy”  – she still does…

My son was a game changer in my life. When we found out we were having a boy , I was terrified… I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to properly raise a boy and teach him to be a man… After all  , my only parenting experience was with a girl and not having much of a father figure growing up ,the word “inadequate” doesn’t even begin to describe my self-image at that time… But  , he was coming none the less and I was just going to just have to figure it out.

A good friend ,who has now passed but was the closest thing to a father to me gave me some great words for my uncertainty – he said “Have Faith , God will do the rest” ..

The rest of the story would go as you may imagine – he is born ,we adjust and begin figuring things out – life resumes.. But one thing is very different. My son , unbeknownst to him obviously ,begins to teach me.. For all the time that I am worrying about guiding him into manhood and teaching him vital lessons for life – he , with his own little life begins to teach me the simple yet powerful lessons that can’t be taught on paper , but shown through ones life – by their heart…

The next few entries in this blog will be about my son and the lessons he continues to teach me. I have Preached many sermons inspired by him , as he inspires me daily.. What I’m about to share with you just happened yesterday  – but began a years and a half ago..

It was the week before Thanksgiving  , and we had planned a family vacation to Gatlinburg Tennessee . On the drive up from Atlanta ,where we lived at the time  , we were discussing the current fad of “Vampires and Werewolves” and if they really existed , which one each of us would be due to the various powers each one possessed. My son Kole , chose to be a werewolf. He liked the idea of being a wolf and roaming about in the night howling at the moon etc..

Later in the drive , he confided in us all that  “He really was a Werewolf”. Intrigued we all replied with “Really?!!”.. You could see his little eyes light up as he could tell we were interested and excited about this. He went on to tell us with his creative little mind of all his adventures as he would climb out of his bedroom window at night and do ,as he put it -” Werewolf Stuff”. We all got a great kick out of the whole thing and it certainly made the ride go by a lot faster..

We spent the rest of the weekend playing into the idea of Kole being a werewolf as he converted all his cousins into his dark secret… other than the occasional mention over time though , the Werewolf bit ,like most childhood things seemed to fade into obscurity. I had all but forgotten about it..until yesterday.

After returning from the gym , I was greeted at my office door by Kole with a quick hug and a “Hey daddy”. I sat down at my desk and began to go through my stuff and I noticed him standing there with his hands clasped together . “Whats up bud”? I said.. He replied”Daddy , I need to tell you something”.. “Ok ,shoot” I replied.. after a second or two , he shook his head and hands and moaned “ugh , this is hard!” with a great  deal frustration and anxiety… Ok , now I’m all in –  this kind of reaction from him usually  only happens when he breaks something of MINE… , So I gently put my hands on his shoulders and quietly tell him “It’s ok son , just tell me” … He takes in a deep breath and then exhaled his confession….

“Daddy , I’m not really a Werewolf”…

Relieved  , he collapses into my arms…

At this moment , many things are going on in my head and heart. My first reaction was to bust out in laughter ,mainly because I had totally forgotten about him even making this claim of him even being one.. but I hold it back  – mainly because I don’t want to make light of what has actually happened here… My 6-year-old son has , in his own mind , felt the sting of CONSCIOUS  From his perspective , he has carried this burden for a year and a half and at some point realized that what he said wasn’t true , that he in fact was not a Werewolf! Although non of us ,his audience  took it for more than it was worth (a then 5-year-old little boy and his imagination) – he took it as he was being dishonest , and needed to come clean.

I just held him.

Now ,not only am I fighting back laughter ,but tears…

As I held him , I let him know that it was ok – that we all knew  he wasn’t really a Werewolf and that I was proud of him – not because he wasn’t a Werewolf ,but because he is well on his way to becoming  a MAN… A Godly MAN.. A man who realizes when he has error in life ,no matter how slight – and MAKES IT RIGHT. A man who teaches with his own life , through the actions of his heart…

The kind of man who I hoped I’d be able to teach him to be..The kind of man I am still trying to be… But today ,like many others before – My son was the teacher and I was the student…

Thank you Kole. Thank you for having the heart of a LION  , and not a Werewolf 😉

Our great and mighty God  shows us himself  often , if we are only willing to look. As I worried about being able to teach my son to be a good man , a friend told me to “Have faith  – God  will do the rest” … With that same faith , not only is my son going to be a good man ,but God has shown me that my son  is going to help me be one too.

Oh God , give us hearts like Lions – Strong to defend and protect ,but tender enough to be pricked by our conscious , knowing you are there with your hands on our shoulders  , whispering to us –  “Just tell me “…

We know you are faithful… Help US to be.

Hebrews 10:22

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

The Prodigal Son speaks….

Of the hundreds of people told of in the bible that I would love to talk to , to me  – one of the  most intriguing might be The Prodigal Son. His story is told in The Gospel of Luke 15:11-32 and although he isn’t named in the Bible , I’m sure that he would have had one – but  that’s kind of the point  , isn’t  it?

It’s not his name that  remember  ,but rather his story…

I imagine it might have gone something like this..

Question #1: Why did you leave your Father’s house in the first place?

It was all about the desire for freedom—the freedom to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I was ready to live it up—to have some fun, and in my case, that included a lot of time with harlots.

Question #2: What was it like out in the far country?

Not even close to what I thought it would be. I wanted to be free, but I ended up in the confines of a pig pen. I wanted to be free, but I became a slave—a slave to this so-called “free lifestyle,” a slave to those harlots who took all my money.

And I’ll tell you something else about the far country—it’s hard to find true friends in that place. When I was at my lowest point, at the point when I needed help the most, no one helped me; no one was there to give me what I needed the most. What I’m trying to tell you is that love, in its highest form, does not exist in the far country. You can find it in my Father’s house, but you won’t find it there.

Question #3: Why did you decide to go back to your Father’s house?

I finally came to my senses. I realized that the folks back in my Father’s house were a whole lot better off than me, that the life I once had was much, much better than I ever thought. I thought the far country had a lot to offer, but it was really just an illusion. There’s nothing real about it; it doesn’t last, and it leaves you feeling empty. If anyone understands the phrase, “the passing pleasures of sin,” it’s me!

People tell you, “If you really want to live, go to the far country.” That’s a lie. It’s more like, “If you really want to die, go to the far country.” Because that’s what happened to me—I died, not physically of course, but in all the ways that matter the most. My soul, the only part of me that will endure, was just as dead as it could be. I returned to my Father because I wanted to live again. I returned to my Father because I was lost and needed to be found—by someone who truly cared.

Question #4: What kind of reception did you get when you returned to your Father’s house?

Better than I deserved, I can tell you that. I squandered all my money—my Father’s money—on sinful living, yet when I went back and humbly confessed my sins, my Father received me with open arms. And let me just tell you, I’ve never seen such rejoicing in all my life. Now I know what true freedom feels like.

I too have experienced that kind of rejoicing… There is no comparison to anything this world offers …  The Joy of the Lord is perfect and complete….  –  If you haven’t , maybe it’s time you come home too.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a RIGHTEOUS person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Thanks to Bryan Gibson for the inspiration!

Running on Empty

It is staggering to think about , but it’s everywhere… The amount we ,  as a people  , consume on a daily basis. I’m not just relegating this to food ,although it certainly lends itself to that and Americas obesity issues – but just in general , we as a people can’t seem to find contentment until we are literally busting at the seams…and to our dismay – still unfulfilled.

My first reaction, like most would be , is disgust…this graduates to irritation and then the most common reaction – Apathy , the unwillingness to care…But with apathy also comes  silence , and in that silence I hear something else…however faint , I hear a cry for SOMETHING.. So my apathy changes to sympathy , and then to interest… This then graduates to caring and now I AM ALL IN..

So I listen harder…

In the feeding of our over active appetite to fill ourselves , we completely ignore that real problem – We just can’t seem to ever be really FULL – … But why ?… Why can’t we be filled by all this stuff? Why do we constantly crave and consume MORE and still wind up EMPTY?

Why?

…and THAT’S what I hear.. I silent cry of “why?”.. “Why do I have everything my heart desires and yet I am STILL so unhappy”..

Maybe , your heart is desiring the wrong things? Maybe , YOUR conscience is trying to tell you something that YOU don’t want to hear? Maybe , just maybe  … you KNOW what is right,but are not willing to do it because of what it will COST you????

Speaking from personal experience – NOTHING will cost you MORE in your life than SELFISHNESS.. I can’t think of ONE good thing that the sin of selfishness EVER brought me – not ONE thing…

Don’t allow another moment to be stolen from you – break the cycle…

Empty yourself of YOURSELF …and fill it with the ONLY thing that wont leave you EMPTY.. ,but still desiring MORE of it –
The LOVE of GOD..

Mathew 5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” …

Only in Christ will you ever be full…Only in Christ will you ever be satisfied… –  Because only in Christ can you be truly Justified  and Sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11)

The Lord beckons you all to come and be filled … won’t you?

If not , WHY NOT?

The invitation to study the bible is still open.. 😉

read Hebrews 13:1-19