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

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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…

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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!

Johnathan

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. 


Real Men Don’t Go to Church…or do they?

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Real men don’t do church.

This sentiment seems to resonate throughout the hearts of men throughout time. History shows that women have always been the main attendees when it comes to the Christian faith. Why is that? Why do men not want to come?

First, you have to realize that men do come. If you’re reading this, and you are a faithful man of God, then way to go! You will know firsthand some of the things I’m talking about.

So, regarding the men that don’t come…why not? All I can do is tell you things that have gone through my mind or I’ve heard from others. Maybe this clicks with you too. If you know a man on the fence about coming to Jesus, please share this with him.

Church is Boring
Ok. Maybe it is. Or maybe you think it is. I’ve been a part of churches that were boring, but mostly it was because I wasn’t involved or even engaged in the service. Get involved. Participate in the work of the church – not just on Sunday mornings. Watch how your perception changes as you take part in what is going on there.

I’d rather be fishing
Me too. I worship God when I’m fishing, but I also need time when I’m encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are my family. They encourage me to stay connected to God. They pray for me and rejoice with me. This family bond is very real. I can’t neglect them for fishing any more than a dad can neglect his wife and kids for the same reason.

Churches are full of hypocrites.
Yep. They sure are. Well, kind of. Hear me out.
If I claim to be perfect and yet live a sinful life then I am a hypocrite. If I go to church and claim to be a Christian yet never tell anyone about my supposed faith then I’m a hypocrite. Yes, there are people like that in the church. Guess what. They’re human. I understand that. They’re forgiven just like I am and you can be.
There are also people like me. I’m a sinner. Don’t expect me to be perfect. I try daily, but my effort to do good pales in comparison to the grace and forgiveness I need to be righteous before God. So, does that make me a hypocrite? If I claim to be a person who is going to mess up even though I’m trying not to, then I’ve taken away your ability to call me a hypocrite. I’m not shy about my need for Jesus to make me whole.

Church is for sissy men
Churches are full of men who sing sappy love songs to a god they’ve never seen. They pray in ways that show their vulnerability. They don’t seem like the strong, manly type of men you want to be like – some even wear pastel colors!
This is probably the most important thing in this article
Church is NOT for sissies. It doesn’t take any effort to lose control and fly off the handle. It takes no self control to give in to any of the myriads of sins that will cripple your life. In fact, by its definition, it takes no effort to be selfish at all.
It takes a TON of strength to have self control. It takes courage to reveal your heart in prayer. It takes gratitude to praise God in song. It takes strength and a willing heart to stand before others and bear witness to what God is doing or has done through you. A fearful man cannot walk in the way of Jesus for he has called us to be willing to die for him. It is not a weak man who loves his wife and children and even his church family. It is no weak man who leads his family in following Christ. It is not weakness to do right.
These things are super hard, and all of us will fail at these some of the time. If you’re looking for the easy way through life, then don’t come to Jesus. Don’t give your life to Jesus. He will wreck you. Then He will show you just how great He has made you to be.

Church is not for weaklings. It is not for sissies. It is for the strong. It is for the dedicated. It is for the selfless people willing to lay down their lives for others. Which of these things are not manly?

Why do men not come to Jesus? I think it’s because they don’t realize the awesome adventure that a life following Him truly is.

Why do you think men don’t come to Jesus? How is being a follower of Jesus very manly? Let me know what you think!


Who am I to preach?

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I’m a sinner.

Every day I struggle with thoughts of anger and resentment. Sin is constantly trying to get me to fall into its greedy temptations, and many times I fall.

I’m not perfect.

People often expect the preacher to be better than everyone else, but I’m not. I struggle with grudges and addiction. I am not a man to be placed on a pedestal. I am a man who wants to walk with you not above you.

People think that the preacher must always have great faith, but, to be honest, sometimes I struggle. Yes, I do come back to a remembrance of all the glorious things that have happened in my life that can only be explained by God’s handiwork, but that doesn’t mean I’m strong every day.

I struggle with depression and stress and anxiety. I struggle with people who don’t see things my way.

I struggle with selfishness.

If you’re looking for the perfect preacher, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus as much or more so than anyone reading this.

But I am forgiven.

I have given my life to Jesus, and though not all of my life looks like that of Jesus it is no less offered to Him.

I have been saved by the grace of Jesus, and I get the chance to start anew each day through the gift of repentance and forgiveness.

That is why I preach. I preach because I know how badly I need a Savior, and I know how great my Savior truly is. I preach because despite my selfishness I still have genuine love for those around me and want to see them receive the same gift I have been given.

I preach because the blood of Jesus didn’t just cover my sins from yesterday, but it covers my sins today and tomorrow and forever. I preach because I want to live foreverin the warmth of the love that is the presence of God in heaven. I preach because I want you to be there with me celebrating that glorious rest.

I preach because there is nothing else in the world I could think of doing. It is like a fire shut up in my bones (Jeremiah 20:9)..

I preach because I understand that nothing good lives in me, but the Holy Spirit in me brings out whatever good there is. I preach because I know that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect – He just wants me to be willing.

I preach because I love being a part of the plan of God to bring you and others to the cross and the empty tomb. I preach because I am addicted to watching people’s sins be forgiven as they connect with Jesus’ death and resurrection through their baptism (Romans 6)

I hope you can accept a flawed preacher. I hope you will allow me to walk with you as we both strive to love God, love others, and become more like Jesus. I pray that you preach too (Philemon 6).


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