What if…?

I really don’t  like anything that disrupts my agenda, whether it be for a particular day,  a task or chasing after a goal. A disruption is defined this way: “a disturbance or problem(s) that interrupt an event, activity, or process.” In fact, as I initially completed this blog entry,  I wanted to save it, clicked the wrong button and lost the entire entry. (Talk about learning to practice what you preach…even before you preached it!) Nobody I know likes being disrupted, especially when you’ve found a particular rhythm for your life.

In the Bible, the writer of the book of James speaks to these disruptions when he wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…” (James 1:2,4, NLT) Jesus himself spoke to experiencing trouble in the world when He spoke to the disciples in John 16:33 saying;These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Finally in 1 John 4:4, it says:He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Quite honestly, our American culture has conditioned us to chase after a  life of convenience, success, instant gratification and quick results. Inevitably, when something disrupts our pursuit of that particular rhythm, the natural tendency is to try to quickly get around it, ignore it, or just get your way through it as quickly as possible. Yet, as a believer in Jesus Christ, we are compelled by Him to actually embrace the trial. In the natural, that is not an easy thing to do. Even as Spirit led individuals, allowing the disruption to complete it’s purpose in our lives, let alone trying to understand it, is not an easy task. It is possible though, and it may be exactly what God has ordered  for that season of your life. That reality is sometimes difficult to accept. If we truly believe the scriptures mentioned above, and we effort to embrace them for our lives, then we are compelled to absorb the following truths: 1) God knows I am going to experience trials. 2) I can overcome the trial because Christ is greater than anything or anyone I will face in this world. 3) The trials are an opportunity to choose joy for my life. Notice that I said choose. Happiness is an emotion based on our circumstances, while joy is a choice. I choose to be joyful even when Im not happy. My joy is found in Jesus. He is my joy. I choose Him even in the absence of  happiness.

Several months ago, I received a phone call from my brother. He had shared with my wife and I that his wife Janet had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The surgeons would remove the mass, only to discover that it was a cancerous Glioblastoma.  Even with aggressive treatment, the prognosis was a few months to a year or so. Needless to say, my wife and I were pretty  much speechless, as we allowed the news to soak in. I’ve been a man in pursuit of Jesus for over 30 years. My wife and I have had our share of trials, including those experiences in raising children and battling our own physical, relational and financial issues. Yet, this was a whole new arena. This was a whole new level of our faith being tested. Something my brother said in that initial conversation stuck in my head.  He told us, “God is good and we’re trusting His will for our lives.” It’s one thing to speak truth like that, but it’s a whole different ball game to walk it out as you go through seven months of chemo and radiation therapy, only to discover that those efforts did little to better your quality of life. In fact, the reality was, that the prognosis had changed dramatically and suddenly, allowing Janet only a few weeks to enjoy her family here on earth. At age 54, she would go home to be with our Lord.

I have questions for God. I don’t understand why He allows some of the things that He does. I don’t know why my brother had to lose his best friend at such a young age. I don’t know why their kids had to lose their momma and their Grandbeauties had to lose their Gramma. “Why?” may not be the best question, but “What now God?” What if there was actually a real purpose for theses disruptions that come our way? What if God was allowing those disruptions to accomplish something deep in our souls? I am discovering that He does have purpose in everything. Yes, everything. You name it: addictions, deformity, death, identity issues, pain, suffering and crisis’ of any kind all have purpose. That purpose, I am convinced is to know God more intimately, and to glorify Him in the process, until we take our last breath. It’s not an easy process, but if you are a child of God, there is always a measure of grace provided to us with the disruption.

There is a promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  That’s the goal. That the power of Christ may rest upon us, and in that “resting,” others take notice of that grace, and are moved by it. They will be moved, wanting to know why you’re able to walk through your particular circumstances with grace and dignity, and not be shaking your fist at God, but rather lifting your hands up to Him in honor and glorifying His name. I remember standing next to my dads casket at his funeral, after he had taken his own life at age 62. It was not a happy experience, yet I had a joy within me because I knew Christ was with me. He was very near to me and He was glorified at that funeral. Many were moved during the service and spoke to me afterward sharing things like, ” I’ve never been to a funeral like that.” One person said, “You’ve F*#@ed up my life and given me a lot to think about.” A measure of grace was given to me for those moments, and these “worldly people” were meeting a divine presence, perhaps for the first time.

Joy. Dignity. Glorifying God. My brother and his family are modeling it. God’s grace is resting upon them as they grieve their loss. Conversations about their faith are taking place. Brothers and sisters in Christ are being encouraged as we watch this family navigate these difficult circumstances, and we are all being strengthened. How do we “count it all joy” as James talked about? It’s when we find God in our most utter moments of weakness and frailty. He becomes our joy. When we get stripped down, and we feel great loss, He steps in and becomes our gain. It’s Him whom we discover more of. He is our joy. He is our overcomer. He is greater than anything we will ever face. His presence and His comfort is precious. He becomes our everything.

A long time ago, Janet mentioned to my wife and I that we had influenced her and my brother to draw closer to God, into a more personal relationship with Him. I was blessed by that. But I can tell you, that watching my brother and his wife, and their faith in action has moved many,  encouraging us to draw closer to God’s heart and grabbing hold of more of His grace. He is becoming more precious. What if that is all that He has purposed? Then I say, “Amen”. Bless you Janet. See you soon sister.

 

 

Advertisements

As it should be.

Saturday morning. Sitting in Starbucks, waiting on an overdue oil change. Inside there’s a gay man, a Hispanic woman, a black man, looks like a Polynesian family a few white folks and a Japanese mom, daughter and grand daughter. No riots, no hate, just people smiling at each other and enjoying their coffee on a beautiful Southern California morning. As it should be, and perhaps as it actually is. #stayoffthehatetrain #fakenewssucks #godspeople #loveall #getoveryourself #turnoffthenews 

Be that man.

Getting ready for a garage sale, I was  cleaning out some old items from my closet and I came across some papers that had been stuffed in my old bible cover. Most of them were old messages that I had given at one time or another. A couple of them were from funerals I had presided over; one from my aunt’s and one from my dad. As I went through the folded up papers, I read a note that I had kept tucked in my bible. It said, “Remember His awe, and be that man.”

I had written this note after a Sunday morning spent encouraging and praying with some brothers in Christ. I had a moment with the Lord that morning, an awakening of sorts. I had spent most of my adult life looking for a spiritual mentor, a father figure to lean upon and learn from as I learned to walk with God on my own. My dad had been somewhat absent for most of my adolescence and teen years. He didn’t have a walk with the Lord, so I couldn’t really go to him for any type of biblical counsel on fatherhood, being a husband, etc.  I looked to Pastors, counselors to lead me, to help me define my boundaries, spiritually,  so to speak. It’s not a bad thing to have mentors or to seek biblical guidance for life’s issues. In fact God tells us that there is “wisdom in a multitude of counselors.”

I think my tendency was to seek validation from those mentors, validation as a man, as a child of God. I was afraid to take steps on my own. I needed the opinions of other men, and at times, what I really wanted was for them to tell me what to do. I was pretty weak in my identity as a man of God, and as  I sat there that Sunday morning listening to my brothers, I heard the Lord clearly tell me, “Bob, stop looking for that man, and be that man.” I was stunned. What do you mean be that man, how do I do that?” I questioned! I had a hard time just making simple decisions, and now You’re charging me to suddenly “be that man”? So I wrote down what He said, “Be that man.”

It wasn’t long after that one of my brothers at church asked me to be a part of the leadership team for the men’s group. We had about 100+ men showing up on a Sunday morning worshiping , learning and encouraging each other in the Lord. It was an honor to speak life into this group of guys who were showing up for a cup of coffee, a doughnut and some encouragement. Now, I was given the opportunity to help lead them. Holy smokes!

man

What I learned in that little moment of personal revelation is that God thinks more of us than we often think of ourselves. He believes in us more than we believe in us. We see our own problems, He sees potential. We think the situation is critical, He says, “I’m building your character.” He call us to “do” beyond what we think we can do, and he does that for a couple of reasons. First, the task is often times much bigger than us so, we are forced to n to listen to Him. We need to be close to Him, talking to Him so we can navigate with Him through our circumstances and situations. Second, the task is often bigger than us, bigger than our own talents, skills or capabilities. They are divinely designed, so that any success or fruit that comes from it is obviously attributed to His working in and through us. He gets the glory.

I’m finding that I’m at a new crossroads in my heart and in my walk with God. I’m teetering on 55 years here on earth, reflecting and looking ahead.  I feel as though I’ve been floundering a bit. (Even my last blog was over eight months ago!) I want to finish strong, this race that is set before me, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that I found that paper with those words, “Be that man” written upon it. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that today marks the day 31 years ago that my wife an I gave our hearts to Christ in our living room in Tempe, Az. He’s awakening me, again. He’s calling me to move, He’s reminding me to be that man. How about you?

Remembering Dad.

FullSizeRender  Nearly a single day doesn’t go by without thinking of my dad. Each morning, as part of my routine, I put on this bracelet. It was the only spontaneous gift I ever remember my dad ever giving to me. One day back in the late 70’s, I showed up at this car dealership to meet him for lunch. Dad was sporting his usual business suit attire. His 6’2″  frame always looked good in a suit, regardless if it was all black, if he had some flashy shirt/tie combo or if he decided to wear his fire engine red slacks that day, some how he always pulled it off. Anyway, I noticed his bracelet dangling off his wrist and I told him, “That is a rad bracelet dad.” He said, ” you like that son?”, and he took it off and put it on my wrist. I was pretty stoked. I misplaced it for many years and when I found it, I started wearing it everyday. It keeps me connected to him.

Dad was a hard worker. He was driven to be successful. He had something to prove to his own father, I believe. In fact, I think most men want to make their dads proud; proud in their work, with their families as husbands and fathers.  For my sister, brother and myself, I’d say we had a pretty normal upbringing as a white-collar family. Dad managed a Sav-On Drug store and mom was “stay at home” taking care of us kids and managing the family. We found our recreation and escape at the Colorado river with the boats, dune buggies, dirt bikes and all. I didn’t realize until later in life how much my dad needed those weekend river trips to download and to escape the turmoil that was going on inside of him.

I think it was somewhere in 74′ my mom sat me down on the couch and told me that they were going to be separating. Like all the other “river-rat” families that we hung out with, whose marriages fell like dominoes and their families broke up, ours would now follow. Dad would be leaving us. Twelve years old and I cried like a baby. Before I knew it, he was out of the house and living in a small apartment. The kitchen didn’t even have a stove. He had a single burner hot plate. I remember him joking about it, but I know that on the inside, it was killing him that he had put us all in this situation. Dad had an addiction that destroyed his family. And though you would never know it, the pornography had taken it’s toll on his marriage, and cost him his family.

Dad didn’t handle the divorce well. Who does really; eighteen years of marriage down the toilet because of a sexual addition. He took some Valium one night an did a little “bodywork” on his ’69 Cadillac with a sledgehammer. Then he came back and begged my mom to take him back. She declined. The pattern had been established. It was over for them both, and us kids. I was sad and angry. This wasn’t supposed to happen to our family. We laughed together, ate dinners together and played together on the weekends. Even a brief stint in the Mormon church couldn’t keep us together. Dad seemed to spiral after that. He remarried a “river-rat” lady whom he thought would bring some satisfaction to his addiction. Their relationship seemed to be all sexual. (Her string bikinis could not contain her assets.) Theirs became a very toxic relationship. Sex became her weapon and she wielded it against him often. After twenty plus years of a dysfunctional marriage, dad couldn’t go home to her anymore. His addiction had blinded him, gripped him, and was now it was preparing to destroy him.

Flash forward to December ’98. Our family had just spent Christmas with dad and his wife. He didn’t seem to be himself. Dad could fill room with his personality and his laugh. He loved his kids. He loved his grandkids, but that Christmas he was very somber. I didn’t know it at the time, but dad was severely depressed. He was not doing well in the car business. The young up and coming salesman were beating up the sixty-two year old veteran of the automobile industry and he was tired, tired of the fight to make a buck, tired of his broken second marriage and exhausted from his addiciton.

I drove up the driveway on January 3rd, 1999 and something kinda settled on me as I got out of the car. Looking back, I believe it was the Lord preparing me for what I was about to hear. I walked in the door of my house and my wife was waiting for me, but not with the usual smile and a kiss. I could hear my twelve year old son crying in the back bedroom. Michelle told me to sit down. She just got off the phone with my stepmom; dad had died yesterday. I dropped my head and began to cry. I asked her after a moment, “How did it happen?” “He took his own life.” My knees gave out and I dropped to the floor and cried so hard I could not contain myself. I was angry and sad at the same time. I could here the rest of my kids crying, scared of seeing daddy like this. My mind flashed back to that morning in ’74 when mom told me dad was leaving us, and now he had left us again.

Theres so much more to the story that this blog won’t allow for, and a lot has happened in the last seventeen years since dad’s death. But I will tell you this, I forgive my dad for leaving us, both times. Because of my trust in Christ, because of my hope in God’s redemptive work though the cross of Christ I am able to keep living. I’m able to keep the pursuit of being a godly husband, of being a father to my kids and to keep pointing them back to Christ. I’m able to process my sadness when I miss him so deeply. His mistakes are a lesson to me on what not to do, and how not to live. I thank God for my dad. There are so many life events that he has missed out upon; watching all his kids become God fearing adults, his grandkids growing up and learning to chase after the heart of God, and missing the joy of his great grands.

It is my hope for you fathers reading this that your Father’s day was blessed. But more importantly, I hope that you have found your purpose, your healing and your salvation in Christ. There is a great worship album that I have been soaking upon, “here as in Heaven by elevation Worship. Here’s  one of the life-giving songs for you to soak upon: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA

I can tell you that whatever good you may see in me, any success that I may have in my family, is only because I have had to spend many a moment over the last 30 plus years at the altar of Jesus. In Him, I have found healing to my broken heart. In Him, I have found the strength to take on a new day when my heart is just not in it. In Him I have found courage to face my fears: fears of failing as a husband, a father,  a man after His heart, that He won’t forgive me of my repeated sins. My dads errors, his failings have pushed me closer to the cross.  I fail daily. In my heart and my mind I fall short of Him and His will for me…but I also swim in the ocean of His grace and forgiveness.

The word of God is filled with a history of broken men who have been used to accomplish His purpose, and His purpose continues today. Are you men, part of His purpose, or are you hamstrung by some sin that the enemy has convinced you to live with? My God tells us to throw it aside and run! “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12.

I love my dad. I hope and pray that somehow, he found Jesus before he took his last breath in that lonely hotel room. I trust my sovereign Father in heaven to make that call. For you and me, who are still breathing, we need to keep running. Run my brothers. Run to Jesus. Run to your victory. Run to your healing. Run to your Savior and settle for nothing less, than all of Him. Peace friends.

 

A New Genderation.

truth

Today, if you being a man, identify more as a woman, or visa versa, you can now use any restroom that’s available to you. If you really desire to live to the fullness of your new found identity, you can have a procedure done known as gender reassignment surgery. We’ve all watched Chastity become Chaz and Bruce become Caitlyn, all the while they are embraced with open arms by the surrounding culture.  They are tossed a badge of “bravery” and labeled a  “hero.”  Target Corporation has now taken a public stand while embracing the transgender community and their use of any bathroom of their choice. In fact, even after a million plus petition signing/boycott campaign, Target came out with a second statement basically saying that they will “continue to stand for equality of all their customers.” And now Barry Soetoro (POTUS Obama changed his name when he converted to Islam) has decide to make law again and force all public schools to allow transgender kids to select any bathroom/locker room they chose while at school. The real question is how do you as and I, as God fearing people, respond to this push against all that is holy?

First, we must look at truth. Truth is the dividing line. Not my truth, not your truth, or what today’s culture deems to be true, but the only One who has authority to speak truth because He is truth, God. Truth says that God created mankind. He created male and female, not male, female and figure- it-out-as-you-go. Truth says that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion is a tool of satan uses to move you away from God. Truth never changes, it is the same yesterday, today and forever. Little boys growing up liking the color pink doesn’t mean they have a gender identity issue. Little girls who want to play army men and have cut their hair short doesn’t mean that they were born with the wrong anatomy. (I would encourage you to read a fellow bloggers page here regarding a male identifying girl who didn’t transition) Growing up in today’s world is hard enough without having your own parents or some other adult speaking into your ear that, “maybe your just not like other children.” Truth says that homosexuality is sin. Period. Those who practice it, are in danger of being separated from their creator. “…or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6.

Second, in this instance we have to ask the question, is homosexuality different than other sins? On one hand, it’s not. Sin is sin. It’s definitely highlighted by God in the passage above and several others. In fact God wiped out a lot of people because of their progressive behavior years ago in a town called Sodom & Gomorra. On the other hand, homosexuality has been catapulted into the forefront of our culture, and it garners attention all over the world, though less than 4% of the U.S. population practice the lifestyle. So whats the big deal anyway? Why can’t we just get over all this gender bending, LGBT, IGYLO, GATE, GRIN, GLISA “stealing the rainbow” crap? Because God isn’t ok with it. Jonathan Parnell wrote in his article, Why homosexuality is different than other sins,homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.” He goes on to say, ” We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be.” 

The push for gender identification is a giant illusion and it’s a tool being used by the enemy to do several things: to degrade marriage being between one man and one woman being the standard, to get the church arguing against each other and to push God further and further away from any kind of influence in our modern world. Many Christians just throw up their hands and say, “What will be will be. God will take care of it.” That’s partially true. He will take care of it. But if you’re a follower of Christ, then He has gifted you…gifted you for His purpose, to be an influence in your culture and to bring Hm glory. By not standing up and speaking truth in love over our sinful culture, then you’re just laying down and giving the enemy more ground. In your quest for being accepted and “non judgmental”, you’ve become irrelevant. So what if someones offended! When has offending someone become a criminal act anyway? I can’t remember a more desperate time that the church needs to be the church. With POTUS’s new mandate for gender bending in the public schools, he’s just declared war on your kids and your home. Its time to speak truth. Tell them “Look, you’re loved, but you’re wrong.”

Some people are born with a bent toward homosexuality, some are bent toward alcohol abuse, some have a bent toward lying, some are born deformed or with special needs of some kind. Fill in your blank. It’s not because God is playing some kind of joke on those people and their families. If God created you, and you’re given breath to live, what ever your situation, circumstance or bent is, He desires to shine through you. It’s His desire to use the frailty and brokenness in mankind, and to empower them to achieve their best in Him, to live above the expectation and limitations of your circumstance. He will reveal Himself to you, empowered you to NOT GIVE INTO YOUR WEAKNESS, BUT TO OVERCOME IT! That is the point! That is the story, and yet that is what’s being perverted into a progressive shift of acceptance of modern-day sinful choices. In no way am I saying that the battle isn’t real for so many. Our family has been directly effected by many of those situations and others. Some have succumbed to them to the point of taking their own lives; some have overcome them while giving glory to God. If God has allowed it, it’s only to show the world that He is good, and with Him, sin, sinful choices and brokenness can be overcome.

Third, we have to remember that we’re all sinners. we’re all battling something in this broken world. But we’re also loved, while in the midst of our sin. He gave up His life to redeem you and your sinfulness, to give you a future and hope…to be an overcomer. That’s the message and the church better start speaking it and living that message out loud. Just because medical advancements or society says we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. “All things may be lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful…and I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12)  God will be glorified, and He’s called you, follower of Christ to show them the truth. Yes, they are loved, but they are also wrong, and there is hope. Peace friends.

 

Has He really risen?

  Seriously, you have to ask the question. But not in the way that you think. I’m not suggesting some heretical view that Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead. On the contrary. He did, and they’ve been digging in the dirt for years trying to find a body to claim that it belongs to Jesus. That’s the great news, that they never will. 
No, this question is personal and it’s directed to you: Has Jesus risen, that is, within your own heart? There are life changing consequences no matter which way you answer. It’s the question everyone must answer at some time in their life. Yes, everyone. Simply avoiding it doesn’t make it go away, nor does it make it any less important. In fact, the longer its avoided, often the more difficult it becomes to respond in the affirmative. Time is of the essence like never before.

There are lots of reasons as to why it’s avoided. We can be very creative with coming up with excuses. Relax. You’re not gonna stump Him. He’s heard ’em all. You may have been hurt. That hurt has calloused your heart. You blame God for it. That’s ok. He can make your heart whole. You may think it’s foolishness to believe some ancient story. That’s ok. He can illuminate your ignorance. You may be afraid of the unknown. At least your life as you know it is predictable. That’s ok. He can restore your hope. Maybe your just stubborn. That’s ok too. He’s very good with exposing pride and washing it with His grace.

So, take a deep breath. No really. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Now listen: Nowhere, nor in anyone else will you find real, deep and lasting love. Nowhere, nor in anyone else will you find a greater understanding of life and it’s purpose, and nowhere nor in anyone else with you find freedom; freedom from yourself, from the expectations of others and real freedom from anything and everything that robs you from your sleep.

Jesus. He’s not a curse word. He is your only real hope for today and for your every tomorrow. There is no other name under heaven by which you can, and must be saved. Yes, even you. Jesus. He’s your lover and He’s your friend, and yet He’s the King of kings. You can know Him intimately, and yet never completely. Jesus. His love and the freedom He offers for your soul, is absolutely free; yet it cost Him his life. Jesus. He’s right here, right now, and He beckons your answer. Peace friends.