No Longer I

no longer i

Selfishness isn’t working.

We live in a country where there is this ideal called “The American Dream.” What is it?  It is the idea that if we work hard and do the right things we can amass great hordes of wealth and power and prestige – the pursuit of life, liberty and property (or happiness depending on which version of this phrase you prefer). The goal of life according to the American dream is for me to be more, well, me! It’s all about me.

From the time we are infants our world has shown us that it is all about us.  Many people, even those considered “poor” fill their children’s rooms with toys and stuff to show them they are important.  We congratulate them for successes they achieve.  We encourage them in sports to see who is harder, faster, stronger, better.

All this does is convince them that the world should cater to them.  It breeds selfishness.

But how is that working for us?  We have a generation of kids who are known as the “entitled generation.” We have marriages that are failing.  We can’t hold a job. We retreat to social media to make our lives look better than they are.

Selfishness isn’t working.

Jesus came asking us to do the opposite of the American dream.  He came asking us to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness.  He came asking us to die to self.  He came asking us to consider the person next to us as greater that we.

But we don’t do that very well.  Perhaps we don’t understand the value of what Jesus is offering.  He is offering us identity as children of the Father – the Most High God.

We are trying to live good Christian lives while also pursuing the trappings of this world.  We want stuff and power and wealth and prestige and grace and forgiveness.  This is contradictory in nature.

When you pursue the presence of the Father in you – when you see yourself and those around you as children of the King, then you don’t matter as much.  The only one that truly matters is Abba, Father.

When you became a Christian you “died to self”.  You made Jesus the “Lord of your life”. How can you do either of these things when YOU still sit on the throne in your heart? You can’t. Selfishness isn’t working.

Yet, when you surrender and abandon self, Jesus sends his Spirit to live in you and see through you and work through you.  You cease to be you and become an embodiment of Jesus, the selfless one.  You begin to see others with His eyes of compassion.  You begin to treat others with His way of servitude.  You have died to self, so the arguments don’t matter anymore, and humility grows within you.  You begin to look like Jesus.  It is no longer you who lives, but it is Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2:20).

If you want to truly find peace, success, joy, greatness in this life you must die to self and passionately pursue the presence of God in you.  Then you will see that blessing others is so much more fulfilling than seeking self.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” -Jesus (Matthew 5:3)

Asleep in the Boat

Jesus sleepingIt was a dark and stormy night…

Sounds like Snoopy is writing again, eh?

Seriously, the Apostles are in the boat and the wind and waves have picked up because of the storm.  Where is Jesus? Asleep in the bottom of the boat.  HOW CAN HE SLEEP DURING THIS STORM?!

There is much fear on the boat tonight.  They can’t make any headway, and the boat is in danger of capsizing. It seems perfectly logical to be afraid during such a storm in quite a small boat.

Once, when I was a boy, I was fishing on Bull Shoals Lake in North Arkansas with my grandparents.  All of a sudden a huge storm came over the lake.  Waves were crashing over the sides of the bass boat.  Rain was coming down in sheets stinging our faces.  The closest land was an island with rocks on the shoreline – no sand.  We pulled close to shore, and Grandpa put us on the bank while we rode the storm out.  We could see the boat dock but couldn’t make it there because of the ferocity of the storm on the water.

I remember being scared, but only a little, because I trusted my Grandpa.

Jesus is still sleeping.  How can he have such peace during this storm?

The disciples wake Jesus with a jolt.  “Don’t you care if we drown?” They were in the boat with the Creator of the universe, but they didn’t understand. The didn’t yet know the true identity of the One who could sleep during a fierce storm.

Jesus got up and said, “Peace. Be still.”

That’s what I want in me – peace.  Don’t you?

The apostles were afraid because all they could see was the power of the storm they were in at the moment.  They had more trust in the storm than in the One sleeping in the bottom of the boat.  It shocked them that Jesus was able to take charge of the storm the way He did.  Then Jesus scolded them. “Oh you of little faith.  Why are you so afraid?”

Why are you so afraid?

We are afraid because in the storms of life, even though we claim allegiance to the Father, we still struggle for control and therefore put our trust more in the storms than in the One who is bigger than the storm. We put more trust in the chaos than the Creator.  We put more faith in what we see than our Father who loves us and has promised “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

When we find our identity as children of God, of the Father, of Abba (daddy), then what can stir our peace?

Think of the baby sleeping in his or her father’s arms.  Isn’t that peace?

Jesus said that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are little children when we put our trust in our Father instead of the storm.  He’s bigger than any storm you can experience.  He may not take you out of the storm, but He promises to bring you peace and comfort through it as you trust in Him and listen to the Spirit living within you.

The more I surrender my selfishness to a life filled with the presence of the Father the more I find peace.  If you want that peace, you can find it too.  If you want to discuss this more feel free to let me know.  I’m always interested in helping others along this path we walk together.  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near…and life in the Kingdom is so much more fulfilling.

Have You Ever Stepped on a Bindii?

My front yard doesn’t have any grass.  Well, there’s no grass that we have planted.  It is mostly dirt, and I like it that way because it is pretty maintenance free.  In my front yard I have planted some raised beds with fruits and vegetables.  Our family also has some flowers and shrubs and vines. It’s not much, but watering everything in this desert is time spent relaxing each day.

As I water, though, other things tend to sprout in our yard.  We get some grasses and dandelions.  We get some tumbleweeds.  We get some bindii.

Maybe you’ve never heard of bindii.  It’s also know by several other names: bullhead, cat’s head, devil’s eyelashes, devil’s thorn, devil’s weed, and goathead.

People that complain about stepping on legos have never stepped on a goathead.  These plants, once they have formed the thorny seeds, can poke through a flip-flop.  When you step on one barefoot you have to manually remove it from your foot.  They are excruciatingly painful.

goathead lego

The problem with goatheads is that they pop up randomly throughout the summer – all over the place – and they spread rapidly.  When the plants first appear they seem harmless enough, but by the time they have begun to produce pretty yellow flowers they are already thorny.

I have to admit I’m pretty lax in pulling weeds.  Every day I water the plants and see the goatheads.  Every day I think about how I need to pull them when I’m done.  I think about how easy it is to pull those new plants before they get painful and produce the devilish seeds, but i don’t.

This is what is happening in our churches. It is what is happening in Christianity all across our nation.  We have weeds of sin that sprout up in our lives and in the lives of those we love who share our faith in Jesus, but because of grace we sit back and ignore the consequences of leaving those sins not dealt with.

We are reaping the consequences now as we watch our nation of churches become more and more identical to the world around us.  We revel in our tolerance though we claim outrage when the world continues to spiral toward condemnation.

I believe in grace.  It is the single thing that I have been given that causes me joy beyond joy, but I understand that grace is not meant to be cheapened by my lackadaisical approach to sin in my life or in the lives of those around me.

Paul says, in Romans 6, that sinning because you expect grace is ridiculous and contrary to the nature of the commitment you made when you were baptized into Christ.  “We died to sin.  How can we live in it any longer?”

I am watching as our nation makes decisions that go against the foundation upon which it was established.  I truly am not surprised that a bunch of humanists would make those kinds of decisions.  What I am surprised at is how many faith-professing Christians are endorsing these decisions.  I am surprised at the boldness of Christians to live with blatant sins seemingly without conscience on those matters.  I am surprised that the church is not taking a stronger stand against the invasion of the world into the church.  I am surprised that public repentance is nearly non-existent in most churches.

There is a place and time to be culturally relevant, but a Christian and a church must not compromise morality (emulating Jesus) in order to do so.  We are not even able to condone the lifestyles of those outside the church that contradict the plan and natural order set up by God Most High (Romans 1:32).

The church is supposed to be a place where people can come from every lifestyle and find God, but it is not supposed to be a place that excuses a continuation of sinful behavior in the name of grace.  If you want life change through forgiveness come to Jesus.  If you want your conscience eased while you continue in your sinful ways look elsewhere.

We have watched as weeds of sinfulness have crept into our churches, and we have sat idly by as those weeds became thorns and seeded new growth.  It’s time to call it what it is: sin.  It is time for the church to repent.  It is time to come back to an understanding of the severity of sin and run from it like Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife.   It is time to get real with one another in love as we help each other be rid of the sins that imprison us.

It is time for the church to stop focusing on the nation coming back to its heritage and come back to our own heritage of emulating the One who lived a sinless life.  We will not achieve sinless perfection in this life, but that should not cause us to stop trying and make excuses for what we do.  Grace is not given where sin is not repented of (Hebrews 10:26).

Wake up church. Quit stepping on the bindii. Repent, so that God can pull the weeds from your life and you can walk fresh in Him again. Forgiveness is available, and grace is given, but repentance is required.

A Biblical Memorial Day


This coming Monday is Memorial Day, a day in which we, as a nation, stop to remember those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have in this country. It is an honorable day whether or not you believe in what the government is fighting for.

Did you know that the Bible actually recommends that every day be memorial day in our lives as Christians? Look at Hebrews 11. This chapter is full of names of people and examples of how they lived and died to bring about examples of righteous living and spiritual success. Towards the end of the chapter, it even talks of those who have died as examples to us that we should learn from their dedication to the gospel of Christ.

The greatest memorial is mentioned in chapter 12, however, as the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus. It is because Jesus died that we have freedom. Jesus serves as a reminder that we have not yet resisted temptation or persecution to the point of shedding our blood for the gospel.

I cannot help but think on this week about Christ, though. He lived his life perfectly and was killed anyway. He died a cruel and unjust death after an illegal trial. Then he rose from the dead on the third day. All of this, he says, is to bring us forgiveness and real life here and in heaven beyond. But most of all, it says he did this to set us free.

Galatians 3:22 declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin. If you’ve sinned (and you have) then you are in bondage to the consequences and continuation of a life in bondage where the warden is the evil one. Romans 6:23 says that once you sinned, you deserved death. Such a life is no life at all.

But then, the passage in Romans says that through Jesus, we can have eternal life. This picture is not a life in bondage, but a life of joy and freedom in Christ. So many people think that Christianity is a religion that restricts its adherents from being able to have fun and live life to the fullest. On the contrary, Jesus said that he had come so that we might have life to the fullest..abundant life. In fact, in Galatians 5:1, we are encouraged with these words:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

When I understand the extent to which God sacrificed his love and very self for me, then I want to give my life in return to him. I do not live in bondage in Christ, I am free. There are actually only two laws in Christianity: Love God with everything you are and have, and love your neighbor as yourself. By the way, that is WAY fewer laws than we have here in the US.

If you truly want to have a life of freedom, it should be found in Christ as you see what true freedom really is.

So remember all the soldiers who have died…we all know so many personally and honor their lives and deaths this week. But don’t forget the One who gave you the truest freedom: Christ. And remember that you truly are free to live life to the fullest in Him.

If you don’t have that life of freedom from sin yet, then please contact me. I would love to tell you more about how you can be rid of the sin that holds you captive and separated from God.

Thank God for the Rain

  So much of the outcome of our daily lives is determined by our perspective. 

When Jody and I were getting married we had a beautiful service planned. We had picked out a great spot in a park with a huge gazebo.  We got chairs and decorations for everyone to sit on the grass out front while Jody and I, the minister, and the bridal party stood in the gazebo. This set up would allow for us to have a sound system so that I could sing while Jody was being escorted down the aisle. It was a picture-perfect plan. 

Then it rained. 

It didn’t just rain a little. We had been in a drought that year, and it was like God was saving all the rain for our wedding day. I kept thinking about that line in an Alanis Morissette song, “it’s like raaaain on your wedding day”.

We were going to take pictures before the wedding after a private moment between Jody and me, but instead of taking our pictures on a sunny day in a beautiful park with a gorgeous gazebo, we took pictures in the hotel lobby. Jody and I were already planning on being barefoot, but now the whole female side of the wedding party was going to have to go shoeless. I drove to every store I could think of to find umbrellas for the wedding party that would match the girls’ dresses (which I miraculously found). 

When the time came for the wedding the guests had to stand in the gazebo. With us. Crowded together in an intimate ceremony. Instead of singing while Jody was escorted down the aisle, I had to wait until we were face to face and sing.  The bridal party even had to jump a small, newly formed creek just to get to the gazebo. 

When the minister began to speak he said something I’ll never forget. “In Africa, rain is always a blessing.” 

Jody and I still think it was the most beautiful wedding we could have had. We love the rain. 

Lately it’s been raining. A lot. Since we live in the desert we are overjoyed at the rain, but it doesn’t bring joy for all people. Some people can’t stand the rain. Some people get depressed when it rains. Some people get frustrated that their plans have to change when it rains. 

It’s all a matter of perspective. 

In Jesus we are called to have a perspective shift. When the storms of life rage around us we have the Holy Spirit living inside us as a guide through the storm. When we’ve created the storm we have a God who loves us and has promised to turn everything for our good because we love Him. 

He has not promised to take away the storms, but He wants to help us have a more positive perspective within them. Remember, God invented rainbows, but you don’t get those without first enduring the rain. 

Mom, I Didn’t Get You a Card on Purpose…


Dear Mom,

I didn’t get you a card on purpose.  It’s hard to find you the right card that would be sent across the country for you to glimpse and take only a moment to read.  Those cards usually say wonderful things but only scratch the surface of what I want to say.

I want to tell you a little about yourself.  There is so much that I appreciate about the woman you are and have been.  I want to tell you that I remember that you always got up early and went to sleep late.  I want you to know that I noticed that you were a person that others relied on because of your trustworthiness and passion to do your best at everything you do.  I want you to know I was always touched that you lifted dad on a pedestal even though he was humble and quiet and you didn’t have to.  You helped make dad a giant in my eyes.

I want to thank you for being a safe person for my friends.  I want to thank you for continuing to be that safe person for many others.  I see how you have been and continue to be a mother to so many more than just me and Debra and Matt.

I want to thank you for your dedication to us kids.  You worked at our school so that we could afford to go there.  You got involved to make sure we had the best opportunities.  You attended everything we did, and you continue to attend all your grandchildren’s events.

I want to thank you for your discipline.  I didn’t like it at the time, but I always knew what was right and wrong.  I always knew that somewhere mom had eyes watching.  I knew that what I did would either honor or disappoint you and dad.  I have always known why you played devil’s advocate when I was upset about something.

I want to thank you for making sure that I knew your parents.  I miss them.  I can’t wait to see grandpa this month.  I am a better man because I was sent to their house during the summer.

I want to thank you for looking the other way when you were nervous about something I was doing that was dangerous.  You knew I needed the experience in order to grow – like when dad and I climbed the cliff above Little Missouri Falls.

I want to thank you for loving dad in a way that all of us could and still see it. I want to thank you for showing us an example of dedication in marriage.

I want you to know that I still remember that you got up super early in the morning to spend time with God before you ever woke us up from school.  I never had any doubt that you were in constant prayer for me. I need your prayers more than ever.

It is wonderful to see my mom as an example of a godly woman who influences more than just her three kids.  You have raised many others.  You continue to reach out and inspire those younger than you (and sometimes older). I think it is awesome that you’ve continued to be a heart mom.

Thank you for studying the scripture. Thank you for your courage to grow beyond whatever congregation you were in, and thank you for your example of grace and long suffering when we were in congregations that didn’t understand God’s love like you do.

There are so many other things I want to write, but I guess you’ll just have to settle for a hug when I get to see you in a couple weeks.

I love you, Mom.  I always will.  You remind me of your mom, and I still love her too.

I am proud to be your son.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


p.s. I hope you didn’t read this before you had to sing at church.

Wearing a T-shirt to a Black Tie Affair

Respect is an idea that is becoming more uncommon in our world. As parents behave like teenagers and raise their children to be even less mature it is a struggle to teach kids basic manners of respecting their elders or even respecting the atmosphere to which they have been invited. 

What would happen if you were invited to have dinner with the governor? Imagine you showed up to this formal event wearing your most comfortable shorts and t-shirt. Would that not give an air of disrespect to the sanctity of the event? Then, when greeted by the governor you refused to shake his or her hand or even acknowledge his or her presence. How long would you expect to be allowed to remain at that dinner?

This concept is not hard.  It is not a foreign concept that has to be militaristicly taught to the upcoming generations. It merely needs to be modeled and then expected. 

Within our churches many have created a much more relaxed atmosphere. God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance.  I believe this is good and creates the inviting atmosphere needed for people to feel comfortable coming and learning about and experiencing Jesus. 

One of the concepts that we trend toward losing in our desire to be colloquial is that of reverence and honor before the Lord. 

When we sing, we are singing to Jehovah, the Creator, in His presence. When we study, we are studying the very words of God. When we see our brothers and sisters, we are encountering those who have been clothed with Christ and in whom lives the Spirit. When we partake of communion, we are partaking of the body and blood that was shed for our sins by the One who Created us. 

Malachi 1:6 says this:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)

When we come together we should be showing our children what reverence looks like. If they do not understand it, then we should be instructing them in the ways of honoring the Lord. 

God accepts us where we are, but He doesn’t leave us there. He wants us to grow in our understanding. He wants us to grow into the image of His Son. “Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10 ESV).”

Next time you’re in worship with your brothers and sisters pour out your heart. Worship the Lord with all of your might. Remember what He  has done and is doing for you every day, and show your children what it means to honor the Lord. God isn’t looking for your suit and tie, but He is looking for your heart of reverence toward Him, and He’s looking to us to instill that mindset and heart of reverence in our children as well. 


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