Love, truthfully

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭

So here’s the thing, if I have responded to the gospel, learning to love others should become my daily motivation. Because I realize the depth of Christ’s glorious love for my own wretched soul, this Love, when coming from a deep place of honest transformation of my own heart, can change my world, my neighbors world. This is the gospel.

Here’s the rub: this Love is an honest love that must speak truth with the motivation of bringing healing. It’s not a love that is soft, ignorant or shy, for fear of bringing offense. God’s Love is offensive. (1 Cor. 1:23) It is such a radical, truthful love that when demonstrated by the motivation of His Spirit, and received by the heart, there is an awakening by the recipient of the depth and depravity of their self-centeredness. At that moment, the conscience, the “self” is offended by truth. That is the moment of decision.

Real love, mixed with truth and compassion offers the recipient a real opportunity for healing. Love that only offers agreement and condolence to the hurting, but no truth, is an incomplete and selfish love. Responding with truth brings us into the light. (John 3:21)

Love like this is a process, that should be getting easier the more I grow in Christ, yet will continually be my greatest challenge, for this is enemy territory; bringing people into His light of healing. Living in this kind of love takes courage, faith, motivated only by a desire to offer the recipient wholeness and healing. This is exactly what Jesus demonstrated for all of us. It’s that kind of love that causes one to lay down their own self-centered living so that others can be free. This is a demonstration of real Christianity. Its this kind of truth that sets us free. (John 8:32)

Abba Father, help me to allow you greater access to my heart, purify me by Your truth, and empower me with Your grace so that I can love others properly, to love like You do.

Peace friends.

Fathers

Well men, another Fathers Day has come and gone. I truly pray that it’s been everything you wanted it to be.

Often times this day of celebrating your father can bring to mind some fond memories, memories of the great example your father was to you growing up and, if your lucky enough, he continues to be that example for you today.

For others, the memories are not so fond. Some of them, in fact you wish you could forget forever. Maybe dad wasn’t so great. Maybe he took out his own personal pain upon you and your family. Maybe he wasn’t there at all. If that is the case for you, I pray that God would bring healing to your brokenness and lingering disappointment.

It’s not easy being a good father in today’s world. I’ve written before that anyone can have a child, but to actually parent a child in today’s world, and to parent with some kind of hunger for God and in honor of Him is a whole different story, and a whole lot of work.

My dad was a pretty good father out of the gate. But, his addictions got the best of him and he ended up giving up on our family after 18 years. Many years later, he would end up taking himself out permanently from this world. That left some scars.

Maybe you’ve been doing fatherhood for a while. Maybe you’re brand new at it. Maybe you’re just over it, flat out exhausted by it and are looking for a way out. I don’t know what is at hand for you today, but I do want to say this: if God has given you the amazing privilege of being a dad, you will never be more challenged, nor will you ever be more fulfilled. Being a dad is a call and if you are one, then you have been called by God Himself to lead them to Him in all you do. That is your ultimate responsibility in this life. It’s not to educate them, to teach them right from wrong, or to make sure that they are productive citizens when they grow up. You’re #1 job is that they know God almighty, know His love, His grace and His redemption, and that they are ultimately known by Him. (Matt. 7:23, Gal. 4:9)

I pray that you know God yourself. I pray that you are firm in your faith. I pray that your hope, joy and peace in this world flow from a vital and loving faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that you know in your inner man that as a believer in Jesus, you are loved, you are forgiven and you are clothed in His robe of righteousness. That your sins are forgiven and are cast as far as the east is from the west. That His love for you is not conditional and that His grace is sufficient to carry you through any and every circumstance. That He has provided a way of escape for those sins that so easily captivate you. That you know and believe that you are an heir of the Kingdom.

If you don’t believe those things first about yourself as a child of God, then you will never be able to fully lead your kids to a deep understanding of who God really is, and all that He has for them.

That’s my prayer for you today. Regardless of your circumstances, your past, or your present, I pray that you would know Him deeply, freely and that you would be know by Him, and that you would be enveloped in all the abundant grace that He has for you. Stand firm dear brothers, stay the course and keep fighting the fight. Our kids are so worth the battle, and the scars. Happy Fathers Day.

Peace.

Blindsided moments

kneeling

My wife Michelle and I are fans of the T.V. show Survivor. I think we probably started watching the show after its second season. 19 seasons so far, I think we’re hooked. The show has become a classic experiment on human interaction, while living under difficult circumstances, battling feelings of isolation, loneliness, severe weather conditions and extreme physical testing. If you’re a fan of the show, then you’re certainly aware of the term “#blindside” and how it applies on the show. For those of you that are not fans, it’s basically when a person is voted out of the game by the other players, but they had no clue that they were even being considered as a target to be voted off. They are blindsided by the other players through lies, unknown alliances being played out, or through a tribal council blowing up right in front of everybody. When the tribal council dust settles, their torch is snuffed out. #blindside. #gameover.

From the comfort of our couches, fans like us get to live vicariously through these reality T.V. stars as they compete with one another for the title of “Ultimate Survivor”, and a million bucks. Real life however, is not a game, and it can often be full of blindsides of its own. Physical infirmities, relational breakdowns, even betrayal can hit us from out of nowhere, at least that’s what it seems like at the time. None of us are ever quite ready for a stage-four cancer report from our Doctor, or to be told by a spouse that he or she suddenly wants out of the marriage. Or, when you’re told on a Friday afternoon that the company you work for is downsizing. Oh, and by the way, your position has been eliminated. Then there’s the occasional pastor/church leader having to suddenly resign due to some kind of compromising situation. You wake up one morning, expecting it to be a normal day. Then, you get this type of news and it feels like you just got hit by a 260 pound line backer, like this poor guy:  Hit this link!

It’s Nothing New

In Genesis 12, we read the account of God making his covenant with Abraham in Harran. God has spoken His promise, that through Abraham, He would bless all of the earth. Abraham has a new call from the creator of the universe. So, he leaves his homeland with his wife Sarah and their family. As they begin traveling down to Egypt with their caravan, Abraham gets the crazy idea that Sarah should tell Pharaoh’s officials that she is Abraham’s sister. Technically it was true, but Abraham was basically willing to give up his wife to the Pharaoh so he  himself could live. To make matters worse, he did it later again in Genesis 20. Talk a bout a #blindside to poor Sarah. Sadly, Abraham’s son Isaac would follow suit and do the same thing to his wife Rebecca  in Genesis 26. Like father, like son?

Speaking of sons, old Isaac’s son Jacob would later be blindsided when he was secretly given Leah to be his wife. The problem is, Jacob had worked seven years for her Father, but only in order to marry her sister Rachel! Jacob got blindsided. Then there’s King David. He was supposed to be out on the battlefield, but instead, he’s found staying home and staring out his window at a young Bathsheba off in the distance. Did I mention that she was bathing on the rooftop? So what does he do? He sends for her to come to his palace, then sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, sets up her husband to be killed while out on the battlefield, and then David marry’s the poor dead man’s wife. Bathsheba, #blindsided

You can’t talk about biblical blindsides without mentioning poor old Job. This man was “an upright man living in the land of Uz, who feared God and hated evil.” (Job 1:1) In a single day, and through a series of back to back circumstances, Job loses everything; his cattle, his servants, his children. Life as he knew it was dramatically changed in a matter of moments. To top it all off, his wife bails out on her faith telling Job, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  (Job 2:9)

Flash forward to the New testament. We read about Joseph and Mary. A young couple who were engaged to be married. Suddenly an angel appears and tells Mary she’s pregnant…with the Messiah, the Savior of the entire human race! That wasn’t the kind of news a young unmarried lady was prepared to hear back in the day, especially from an angel. #blindsided. I’m sure Joseph, her husband to be, wasn’t planing on being a father this way either. #blindsided. 30 years later, Jesus came on the scene and began His teaching and calling His disciples. They were leaving their jobs, homes, families to follow this Man, claiming to be the Son of God. James and John, the “sons of thunder” were sons to a fisherman and businessman. The two of them suddenly decided to leave their father and his fishing business. Dad is left alone to mend his own nets, as his boys walk off into the sunset with the Messiah. Dad, #blindsided.

Jesus Himself, the One who came to offer hope, salvation, peace and hope to every human being on the planet, ends up getting the brunt of some major blindsides. Yet, with Jesus, being God in the flesh, the events to come did not take Him by surprise. However, for those of us looking on, they are definitive examples of blindsides in the natural. In Luke 22, Jesus had just been “arrested” and taken away. While Peter is warming his hands by a fire, he’s asked three times about his relationship with Jesus. All three times Peter denies it, vehemently, while cursing his accusers! And then the rooster crows. #blindside. In Matthew 27, Pontius Pilate has the perfect opportunity to release Jesus to freedom. Instead, he releases a known criminal while Jesus goes off to trial. While there are many other examples of our Lord taking the hits, no other one stands out more than His crucifixion. A completely innocent man, God in human flesh, sent to redeem all of mankind, charged with unwarranted crimes, is sentenced to death by brutal scourging, public mocking, humiliation and finally, a barbaric crucifixion. #blindside.

Creatures Of Comfort

The question then becomes, “How do we, as believers in Jesus Christ, respond to the blindsides in our own lives?” How do we handle the unjustified accusations, the disappointment/failures of others, the seemingly unfairness of a shortened life due to some fatal disease? If you’re a normal human being, your first reaction is probably shock, then some sadness, with maybe a little anger mixed in. We’re surprised, taken off guard. We get angry and want to cry out, “How can this be happening!” In the natural, we effort to put the blame on someone, or something. Even the most devoted follower of Christ may lift their head to heaven in doubt. We struggle to somehow get our mind around the circumstance. We may even question God, asking “Why are You not acting on my behalf?”  Perhaps He actually is.

Unfortunately, we are creatures of comfort. We enjoy our leisure. Here in America, we struggle as followers of Christ to not buy into the lie of chasing hard after the American dream. We’re inconsistent in our practice of “…not conforming to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)  That inconsistency can lead to development of certain false expectations. Mix that with the errant gospel promising prosperity here on earth, and maybe even worse, a watered down gospel, and we become very vulnerable. We’re easily lured into a false belief that our Christian life should be easier that it was actually ever meant to be.

Reality Check: we will never find peace in the broken promises of this world. 

If we are informed believers of Jesus, and  if we have spent anytime reading and studying God’s word, then we should remember that our heavenly Father actually has prepared us for life’s blindsides. Do a simple word study on peace and you will see that in most cases when peace is promised by God, it is usually comes before or after a storm of some kind. The point is, there are lots of storms! In Psalm 8, David has been running from Saul. Davids life has been threatened. In his distress, he begins to realize that God is near to him as he writes, I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  David has a choice: wallow in the aftermath of the storm, or believe God and rest in His promise.

In the gospel of John, chapter 16, Jesus is preparing His disciples for their future without Him. He tells them “…I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” They will experience sorrow. We will experience sorrow. Later on in the same chapter, He says it this way, Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 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.” Not only does Jesus tell them that they are all going to scatter and run at a time when Jesus needs them the most, but that tribulation is coming for all of them, and all of us. Jesus isn’t referring to the Great Tribulation in Revelation, because the Church is not destined for that. He’s referring to the day-to-day tribulation that comes from choosing to follow Him

Living In The World = Tribulation. Living In Christ = Peace, in the midst of it.

God’s grace is a beautiful gift from God. It is equally beautiful to observe it operating in a person’s life. God’s grace brings in peace in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances. In Genesis 6:8 we read that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…” Noah was empowered to build a vessel never seen before by the human eye. He was called to endure a storm never experienced before. All this played out as he was mocked daily for his “delusions.” The grace of God empowered Noah.

Grace comes from, and through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) We are justified before God and redeemed by the grace of Jesus. (Romans 3:24) His grace is abundant. (Romans 5:17) His grace makes us rich in His heavenly kingdom. (2 Corinthians 8:9) His grace saves us. (Ephesians 2:5) His grace give us the power to overcome the world and all of its blindsides and infirmities. When we are at our seemingly weakest, His grace comes in and He strengthens us. He actually becomes our strength.

The Apostle Paul was a radical follower of Jesus. He also endured a lot of pain, torture and fatigue. Listen to what he says, “…I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12) 

Paul is saying to all of us, that when we are at our weakest, when we struggle for answers to life’s most difficult disappointments, when we don’t receive our healing, when we are in deep emotional pain, Jesus is our answer. His grace rushes in. It’s Him. He is with us. He is our healing, He is our restoration. He is our hope. When that doctor is telling you that you don’t have much time left here, Jesus is your healing. When you have been burned deeply by others, God is declaring He is your friend, and your blessed hope.

Remember the truth.

These are not easy situations to navigate through, in fact they are often the most difficult ones. I’m not going to pretend that if you just pray hard enough and believe God for a miracle, that you’ll be OK. No, this is the hard stuff we will face in this life. But, as a believer in Jesus, this is where our testimony can glorify God: “He makes all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God did not say, “Everything will be easy.” But, He did promise to work it out for good. Kingdom good. God has found you faithful, and has allowed _______ (fill in the blank) to touch you. It has passed through His hands, unto you, in order to glorify Him. That is, seeing Him and His purposes more clearly. When the blindside comes, remember this: God is good. He is not the author or evil, or temptation. He is love. He is very intentional toward you and me. He has promised to be with us until our very last breath, and there after for eternity. He is the author and finisher of our faith and He will complete His work in us. He alone is our sufficiency.

There is no greater testimony that when someone can stand with strength and dignity in the face of life’s difficulties, and yes, even tragedy and declare that “God is good.” A very dear Pastor/friend of ours once stated at the end of his long battle with cancer, that “God has done me no wrong.” When we can lift our hands up to Him with that bold declaration, we find our strength. We find Him, and He is honored. Remember we spoke about our friend Job earlier? Listen to what he declared in the midst of his blindside: “Then Job arose, tore his clothes in sorrow, shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, declaring, ” Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I will return: the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; but blessed be the name of the LordIn all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20)

Oh God, while many of us are in the midst of these blindside type circumstances, I pray that You would hold us, and that You be our strength. In our uttermost weakness, in our pain, be our healing as you douse us in Your grace. May we be honorable toward You, and may You be honored through us, as we wait to meet You face to face. May we truly find Your precious grace to be sufficient for us. In Your precious name, amen.

Peace friends. 

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Seeing Souls

The Lord is showing me that many times our frustration towards the moral climate in our country is often misdirected. I watched video recently of a Muslim father in court hugging and forgiving a young man who was convicted of murdering this father’s child. He told the young man who was heading to jail that he was not angry at him, but that he was angry at the devil for influencing his decision to kill. This was a powerful moment in both of their lives, definitely a mile marker. It made me think about how I view people who live, act and are just plain different than me, or who are directed by a different moral compass. I don’t know that I could have done what this father did in court that day, let alone forgive some of those who have hurt and disappointed me over the course of my life.

Let me just say that I am a firm believer that the world’s hope for healing and unity lies only within the redemptive blood of Jesus the Christ and His forgiveness. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. Yet, unfortunately “the church” (me included!) has so often misrepresented the name of God in our righteous indignation, that we have repelled more lives than we have embraced. Politics, social media and the news all play an influential role in shaping our world view. Yet, we can no longer use that as an excuse. As followers of Christ, we must hold ourselves personally accountable to God, His word and His Spirit in being our priority and our dominant influence.

As I put down my phone and it’s connectivity with the world and sit quietly with Him, He is revealing to me that I can be more effective for the kingdom of heaven by remembering that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

What does that mean practically? First, it means that when I personally come into contact with those who speak and carry themselves in a way that opposes God and His word, I gotta remember that there is a spiritually demonic influence behind them. I am called first to love and care for their souls, and second to intercede on their behalf.

Love. It has many meanings and is displayed in many ways. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

(I Corinthians 13:4-8)

The most accurate definition and display of love is Jesus Himself. He is the source, He is the manifestation and He is the example. Spend some time examining His conversations, His life. He was the master of exposing people’s sin without shaming them, and pointing them to redemption. He showed them that He was their Hope. He took all our shame to the cross. That’s real love. Speaking truth while offering hope, all motivated by caring for their soul. If we (I) could just work on that, the world would be a better place.

Prayer is powerful. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:4-5)

I’ve got to take these promises seriously and activate them by praying for, and over those who oppose God, who oppose His word, and may not even know they’re doing it. They may have been lied to, been hurt by a “religious” influence, or were victims of abuse of some kind. I may not be the one to lead them to healing, but I can certainly be a seed planter and move them closer to redemptive freedom by standing with them in prayer.

I want to change. I want to be less critical. I don’t want to be so jaded by the world that my “Christianity” appears oppressive, rather than freeing. As I encounter those on the street and in my realm of influence, may I open the door to their freedom, if by nothing else with a smile, maybe even a “Hello.” I think that operating that way may be more effective than an eye roll. That simple gesture could be the beginning of their road to redemption, to real freedom, to living the life God intended here on earth, and securing their soul in the kingdom of heaven forever.

Peace friends

The Back of the Desert

I’ve spent the last week with my beautiful bride Michelle listening to the memorial and funeral services for our old friend and spiritual father Pastor Jerry Hill. I don’t think I can describe to you all the emotions we’ve been experiencing (as Im sure his own family and congregation are as well) as we are grasping the reality that he has been ushered into the immediate presence of Christ our King. It’s amazing as you listen to those, if not all of those who attended his services, as they speak about Jerry’s steadfast faith, the way he loved people into the kingdom of heaven and how he stayed true to just preaching the gospel of Jesus.

I reflect back to 1986 when we were being discipled by Jerry and Grace. Their love was unconditional toward us. Jerry taught me the scriptures and how to study. I know that God used that man to stir up the love and the gift of teaching within my heart. Pastor Jerry was the vessel God chose to ignite a love for God’s word. I’ve been on my journey with the Lord ever since. I’ve had some highs and some lows. I’ve gone left when God told me go right. We’ve circled some of the same mountains as God was trying to reach our hearts. As I sat and listened to my Pastor friend speak the word, it hit me: I’ve laid down the mantle that was placed upon me to study and to give away the word of God.

It’s not as if I was in a backslidden state, but I was not owning the call upon my life. The Lord used Jerry to ignite that fire, but along the way, it seems like I may have allowed that blaze to dwindle. The beauty in all this is that as we sat in our living room and cried and laughed with the body of believers who were at Calvary Baptist Church of Carney’s Point, New Jersey celebrating Jerry’s homecoming, God was using these very sweet moments to reignite that fire. God is allowing my wife and I to process so much in the Spirit as we are sensing Him drawing us in, and calling us out. He’s drawing us into the more intimate places of his heart, and He’s calling us out of the back of the desert.

In the book of Exodus, Moses flees Egypt after he murders and Egyptian for beating a fellow Hebrew. He runs to Midian, finds a wife and begins raising a family. He’s basically laid down the mantle of his calling as the one who was to deliver Gods people. God positioned him in Egypt as the one with the favor of Pharaoh, and he kinda blew it and fled. So here he is some 40 years later hanging out with sheep out “in the back of the desert” (Ex. 1:3). It was in the back of the desert that God, the great I AM, appeared to him in fire of the burning bush and commissioned him to be the deliverer of His people. God was calling him out of his fear and inadequacy, and calling him into His will. Now, I’m not claiming to be anything near the man Moses was, nor that God is calling me to deliver a nation of people. What He is doing though, is He’s using this season in my life to peel me and my wife wide open, exposing some vulnerabilities, revealing some weaknesses and some areas that need shoring up. All the while, He’s showing us His amazing heart of love and His provision of grace for the season. Personally, He is calling me to pick up the mantle that I have laid aside. The mantle of speaking truth, teaching, edifying His people, being available and just being obedient to the things to which He has called me.

I would have never imagined that He would once again use our dear friend and spiritual father Jerry Hill to do that. Pastor Jerry lived in New Jersey and we’re in California. We haven’t talked in a couple of years. I had no idea he was battling for his natural life for the past year and a half. Not until I was promoted to call him on our spiritual birthday last week, that I found out  that He had passed into eternity.  He was now sitting with the very One that he introduced Michelle and I to 32 years ago. Even though I didn’t talk to him often, I valued him and loved him so much for how he effected our lives, literally for ever.

God, I miss him. Yet, even in his absence, he is still blessing us and compelling us to draw near to the heart of our Father. Bless you dear brother. Because of you, were moving out of the back of the desert, and into the light of His fire. Peace friends.

 

 

See you when I see you my friend

32 years ago, a young Pastor named Jerry Hill was going door to door inviting people from the neighborhood to visit his small church around the corner, Calvary Baptist Church in Tempe, Az. When he came to our front door, I didn’t know if he was a personal trainer selling gym memberships or a Jehovah’s Witness, and I hesitated opening the door! After we talked (through the screen), my wife Michelle and I accepted his invitation. When we arrived that Sunday morning, there was about twenty people sitting in the little church pews, most of them little old blue haired ladies and a few of their husbands. There was one guy who looked like he was homeless, (brother Bob) maybe one or two other people our age, in their early thirties. We listened to Jerry’s message, shook some hands and went on home. (I think they might of tried to rope us into staying for one of their pot lucks!)

Michelle and I had recently bought a brand new condo, we had a new car and we were both just getting started on our career paths. A relationship with God was really nowhere to be found in our lives. A couple of days later, Pastor Jerry was back in our condo complex, and he met me at the mailbox as I was coming home from work. He said that he’d like to come up for a few minutes to talk if we had the time. I agreed, and raced to get to the house before him in order to warn Michelle.


It was about five o’clock when Pastor Jerry stepped through our door that day on February 27, 1986 and for the next 3 hours, we talked, he shared the simple truth of the gospel. We asked a lot of questions, and debated a bit until he stopped me and asked: “Bob, let me just ask you this, if you died today, do you know for sure that you would be in heaven?” After all the dialogue, he simply brought me face to face with a decision, and I responded, “No I don’t know.” He replied back, “Well, you can know. “ I remember Michelle looked at me and said something to the effect of, “I think this is what we’ve been looking for.” So Pastor Jerry began to pray for us. There were tears, we confessed our need for Jesus and in that moment around 8:30 PM, we committed our hearts to Christ. I remember Pastor Jerry stood up and said, “Wow, I can’t believe this! This is beautiful! I’ve got to call my wife Grace! I could do backflips right now!” he proclaimed.

For the next two years, Jerry and and Grace displayed the love of Jesus to Michelle and me so personally. They poured their lives into ours, teaching us the word, how to study it and just practically loving us while including us in their lives. Jerry gave me my first expository dictionary and a concordance that I still have today. He taught me how to teach the word and let me lead a small study for Sunday school. They were there for us when we had our firstborn son Joshua Daniel that December, and then when our twins were born the next year. It was truly a beautiful display of discipleship, Jesus style.

Unfortunately, the course of life had taken us out of Arizona as we moved back to California. I remember Jerry being pretty devastated that we were moving away. For the next several years though, I would call him every Easter, the day he baptized Michelle and me. We would update each other on our families and what God had been showing us over the last year. Jerry and Grace would end up relocating their family back to New Jersey, as Jerry was offered a Pastor’s position in Carney’s Point. Those every year phone calls turned to every few years, and then it would be several years that would often pass between each one, but it was always as if we just talked yesterday.

Jerry loved his Philadelphia Eagles, and me my Raiders. So when his Eagles won the AFC Championship this year and were heading to the Super Bowl, I called him and left him a voice mail offering my congratulations and hoped that his Eagles would do me a favor and take out the Patriots…which they did! I didn’t hear back from him, but figured I would call back before Easter this year, or maybe on our re-birthday anniversary, which just happens to be today. On my way into work this morning, I called his church in Carneys Point and got his voice mail. I figured I try again later. I was scrolling Facebook and found their church web page. As I was scrolling through their church’s events page, I was shocked with what I would read: “Pastor Jerry Hill Funeral Service.”

My heart sank and I immediately dialed the church office and Jerry’s nephew Pastor Jeff picked up the phone. I told him who I was and what I just read and I just began to cry. Pastor Jeff would proceed to tell me of the year and a half struggle Pastor Jerry had with Myeloma, cancer in his blood. He was battling the chemo like a champ, but it was the stem cell transplant last August that would take a toll on his otherwise fit body. On February 8, 2018 at age 63, Jerry would go home to meet his Savior, whom he had faithfully served nearly his entire life.

Pastor Jeff and I shared stories, some laughter and some tears. He was truly blessed to hear how Jerry and Grace had so deeply affected our lives, and how God had blessed us and our family, and that we were still faithfully serving God after 32 years. Their love and care for us in those early years was still bearing fruit, even out here in southern California, and with our kids spread out in Texas and Oregon. Their love truly created a ripple effect that still bears kingdom fruit today.


I’m still processing the fact that I’m not going to have any more conversations with this sweet man, but I know for a fact that our conversation are only delayed, until we meet in glory. I am confronted with the harsh reality time here on earth is truly short, and I need to make mine count for the kingdom, like Jerry did. I love you brother, and I will truly miss you and our random phone calls. See you when I see you my friend. God is faithful, and so were you. Peace dear friend.

kairos moments

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I don’t know why we’re surprised. Over the last year we’ve witnessed Washington and our corrupt U.S political system be turned upside down. We’ve discovered that the  media culture is not honest with us about everything, or anything, but that they’ve been exposed for extreme bias, lies and divisiveness. We’ve watched as natural disasters pummel cities all over the US. We’ve stood in amazement as paid protesters took to the streets, while others from those same communities looted their own. We’ve experienced the horrors of insane shooters taking hundreds of innocent lives in our cities. We’ve watched the entertainment industry be peeled open, via the NFL and Hollywood’s predatory executives. Out of one side of our mouth were horrified that women are actually being treated  a certain way by men behind closed doors, yet we as a culture spend billions to be entertained by the same subject matter.  What’s in the hell is next?

Revival

That’s what we are seeing: just a little bit of the power of hell infiltrating our hearts and minds, slowly but surely. Our country needs an awakening, and the church needs to speak up and speak truth, and yes, actually live by what we already know to be true. We as the church has spent the last decade in America and abroad trying to figure out how to be relevant to our culture. We now look so much like the culture, that we’ve given those stuck in its grip no reason to want to escape it. You wanna be relevant, apply His truth to your own life and stop waiting for everything and everyone else to change. We know that real hope is found in Jesus. But there is a cost, and there’s the rub. We want God to fit into our world. We want to be accepted just as we are. Yes, we can encourage those hungry to “come as you are“, but be sure to come with a heart that is open to change. Humble yourself, and be lifted up. Lay down your burden, and pick up His grace. Seek forgiveness and be relieved of your guilt. Jesus heals; yes only Jesus heals.

 Kairos Moments

God, by His grace allows things to occur, so we can align our hearts and minds with the bigger picture. The foundations of what we’ve held onto for so many generations are being shaken. That’s a good thing. These events should be getting our attention, by realizing that life is bigger than all of us, and we are not in control of it. These are  “kairos moments, events allowed by God to rattle us and to help us realize how desperate we are for Him, for His grace and His forgiveness, for His love. We, as a broken race will ruin so many more lives, perhaps our own, if we just keep going on telling ourselves, “everything will work itself out”. I believe we may be quickly cresting a tipping point. 1 Peter 4:17,18 says it this way, “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. and if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate waits for those who do not know Him.”  Oh we will all be judged, so better to judge ourselves now, while we still can.

Work Ahead

I don’t think its going to get better. It’s beginning to unravel. It may pause for a season, but it will most likely get slowly worse. There is hope. The road to healing begins when we can look in the mirror and be honest about what we see. The cover up has to stop. We must be truthful, face the pain head on and make a change. When we recognize that what we really value (entertainment/leisure) is actually a sham, then we will have to make a choice.  If we can be honest with ourselves at that point of realization, then we give room for God to really move. Yet, if we being the church, can’t first take that first glimpse in the mirror, then we certainly can’t expect the world around us to do so. It starts right here, right now, with you and with me. Take a close hard look. What really needs to change within you. Stop. Breathe. Let Him in.

God help us as we choose the next step.

usa

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.

 

 

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. 

Losing Daylight…

red sky

What a circus. The 2016 presidential campaign will probably go down as one of the ugliest campaigns in U.S. history. As you look at the candidates, you get to choose from the following: an over-the-edge, self-admitted communist, a far-left-leaning socialist criminal, a billionaire bully, and a couple of well-polished and well-financed mainstream politicians. No wonder the American people are pissed off!

It’s obvious that Trump is moving large crowds of people to turnout at the caucuses and to show up at his rallies. He’s hit a nerve with “The People” and they are rallying behind him. Let me just say, that I don’t like how he presents himself. I don’t like how he talks to people. I don’t think he will make a great president. On the other hand, I don’t think he would do any worse that Barry Sotero, aka Obummer.

Trump has exposed the corruption of the political process by simply being Trump. By being himself, he displays for the American People what it looks like when a candidate isn’t being bought-off by other millionaires and lobbyists. Its just too bad that he’s so mean in the process, and may I say, a bit ignorant. Ignorance can be overcome once your in the Whitehouse because once your in, you can then surround yourself with a lot smarter people than your self. Even though it’s the bullying side of him that has helped him make his millions, thats the scary part of his personality that most likely will stick around.

This week Mitt Romney has come out as an effort by the Republican Party to warn the American people of the dire consequences of electing Trump. The Republicans prop up Romney as this beacon of integrity, while in the process, he exposes himself as a blatant hypocrite. Romney stated in his speech, “Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers.” How ironic since just a few years ago (2012) when Trump endorsed Romney for President, Romney stated while standing next to Trump, “…having the endorsement of Donald Trump is a delight. He has shown extraordinary capability of how an economy works. He knows how to create jobs…he’s one of the few that have stood up against China…” (You can watch it or yourselves here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmwzGMmGcJw) From extraordinary capeabilities to being a fraud. This is exactly why the American people are pissed off at politicians; they talk out of both sides of their mouth. At the very least, with The Donald, what you see is what you get.

One of the most disheartening aspects of this race is what some of the polls are reporting; that a lot of evangelicals (37%) are supporting Trump. A recent poll from Politico  stated that, “Among white evangelical Republican voters nationally, Trump earned the support of 37 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father is a pastor and has played a key role in recruiting faith leaders to support his son, is at 20 percent.” A recent op/ed appeared in the LA times which read, “America’s evangelicals have become secular, more interested in the pursuit of wealth and political influence than fidelity to the teachings of Jesus.” The point is, that if the polls are true and if a lot of evangelicals are in fact flocking to Trump, then it is an indictment against the current state of the church in America. We’re selling out because were too short sighted. We’ve lost our focus. We’ve forgotten who our real King is.

Back in the early days of Israel, only a couple of hundred years after being redeemed from the Egyptians through the Red-Sea-Exodus, the people of Israel became very restless. They fell back into their old ways and began grumbling against God. They became complacent and intermingled within their surrounding culture. They married pagan women, had babies and served foreign gods. They walked away from their redeemer. They were so immersed within their surrounding, to the point of being overtaken, that they failed to recognize their compromise and how far they had fallen from God. They lost their way. God, in His mercy raised up Judges who called out His people to repent, and thus began their cycle of sin, repentance, regression…repeat. After nearly 450 ears of repeating this cycle, they had grown tired of not operating like the other nations and cried out o God for a king to rule over them. 1 Samuel 8 says, ” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know that the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” They had no clue why they were asking for, and neither do the people today when rallying behind Mr. Trump.

The Republican establishment is freaking out. The Democrats are wringing their hands. The people today are crying out for a change. Evangelicals and the non-religious are fed up Americans hoping that maybe it will be someone outside the establishment that will shake things up….and we find that they’re settling for…Mr. Personality. They’re crying out for the wrong leader, and they just might get him. If Trump wins the nomination and ends up beating-the-snot out of Hillary, what in the world will the U.S. look like under his leadership? If Hillary wins, you can expect more of Obama’s socialistic and progressive take over of the US Constitution. If Bernie wins, you can kiss the U.S. as we know it a big good-bye. God help us.

The Circus is purely for entertainment. It is only an escape from reality. Real hope, real change, real deliverance only comes when the people realize their own broken desperation and their utter need for help; and that kind of help aint coming from anyone on this planet. Now is the time, more than ever before, for the Church, God’s people in this beautiful country of ours to repent, to wake up from their slumber, and start being the Body of Christ. Time is getting short, and we’re losing daylight. May the reckoning on the horizon, bring revival. Peace friends.

 

 

 

WARFARE

crushserpent

Spiritual Warfare is real. It started in the beginning, in the garden, (Gen. 3:1) as an all out war against mankind and has continued throughout history. The goal: to infiltrate every person on this planet. Evil presents itself in many forms: greed, lust, desire for power, murder, rape, lying, cheating, stealing, addictions. Satan, aka Lucifer, is the source of all evil and he doesn’t care if your rich or poor, black, brown or white, he is alive and well, he hates you and he wants to destroy you (1 Peter 5:8). He will seek a way to gain access into your life. He will hunt you down looking to expose your weaknesses. He will try to convince you that he is your friend with one arm around your shoulder, while the other one holds a gun to your head Gen. 3:4,5). He will use you for his purposes and he won’t give it a second thought about crushing you and your loved ones as well (Gen. 19:8). He will lie to you (John 8:44). He wants to sift you. He will deceive you into thinking that you are strong, that you can do anything that want to do without any accountability to anyone but yourself (Gen. 3) As soon as you think you’re strong, he will pull the rug out from under you, sneering at you as you fall, stomping on you while you’re down. And you try to get up, he’ll kick you again, telling you that there ain’t no use in tryin’ again because your life is meaningless. He’s a relentless accuser (Zech.3:1) and wont give up until you deny Christ and breathe your last breath, (Matt. 27:5) knowing that you will join him in hell, forever separated from love, joy, peace, hope…God.

If you’re doing life apart from God, then you are susceptible to his puppetry. You may think you’re free to do what you please maybe because of your money, influence, or maybe you’ve learned to manipulate people to get what you want. Or, because of some kind of evil that was done unto you, you have purposed in your heart to be accountable to no one. Please understand friend, you may think you’re free because you don’t follow God. Though you may not be an outright Satan worshipper, his strings are still attached and he will yank them when you’re most vulnerable. You may be thinking, “Yeah, whatever Bob. I’m doin’ just fine without needing any help from your God.” That’s exactly my point. He’s got you right where he wants you. Do not be unwise.

There is another way. Many are doing their best to walk with God in this life, who know that there is hope beyond this world, that God’s amazing love and grace fills their lives everyday. Yet the follower of Christ can also be harassed by the enemy. In fact, Satan generally will attack you harder after you have made some kind of declaration to follow God. Or if you take it a step further and decide to get involved in advancing the Kingdom of Heaven, then you can be certain he will come at you. Hey, if he came after Jesus thinking he had a shot at keeping Him from the cross, don’t think for a minute that he can’t and won’t come after you! (Gen. 3:15, Matt. 2:16, Mark 6:27,28, Luke 4:3-12, John 18, John 19)

So how do you combat such an evil enemy?

1. Understand that you’re in a war. Before you made some conscious effort to start living for God and not yourself, you were not a threat. You belonged to the enemy and you were directed by your own desires. (Josh. 24:15, James 4:4, 1Peter 4:3, Rom. 1) Yet now, as you seek to honor God and do His will over you own, you now battle against your own flesh, the direction and sway of the world, and against the influence of the Enemy. You crossed over to enemy territory when you chose God.

2. You must prepare for war and be ready to battle. If you wouldn’t stand on the front lines in a war without a weapon, or with a weapon that you didn’t know how to use, why would you choose to wake up each day and not prepare your heart and mind for the battle that lies in front of you? The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12) Its alive, active and its truth is your weapon against every lie that comes at you every day. Understand where you’re weak, and find your weapon of truth in His word. (Matt. 4, Luke 4)

3. You must learn to recognize the attack and know its source. Most arguments in a marriage boil down to selfishness. Often, one of the two usually won’t budge or forgive, breaking the bondage of anger. I can tell you that 100% of the time, when there is a division in the marriage, its source is from the pit of hell and its main occupant. If Satan can divide the marriage, he can break the family. Break the family and you seriously disrupt Gods will and harm His name. Repeat that process enough times, and it become the norm and God becomes insignificant. Satan is not a respecter of people. He comes after anyone and everyone. He pursues you like a roaring lion. (Job 1:6-8, 1Peter 5:8) When you are about to make a decision to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, do harm to yourself or someone else and you get the feeling in your gut and there’s that ever so slight pause…that’s the moment he whispers in your ear, “its OK…just do it!” Understand, that ain’t God talkin’.

4. Your gonna take some hits. Jesus tells us that the world isn’t going to treat us with kindness. (Luke 10:19, John 16:33, 1 John 2:13) We may get knocked down, but we have a great advocate, and He will lift us up and enable us to overcome anything…yes anything. (1 Cor. 4:8-10, Hebrews 11)

5. Remember who you are. I almost think that this is the most crucial to remember. If you are not walking with God, if He has not taken up residence within your heart, than that door is wide open for Satan to take residence there, or for one of his oppressors. You are so vulnerable to his influence and you have nothing to fight him off with except your worldly knowledge. The evil one has been around a long time, you’re not gonna fool him on your own.

For the follower of Christ, this is truth to stand upon: You are an heir unto God, you have ben chosen by Him. He is your advocate. He is your intercessor. He is your King, the King of all kings. Your life is hidden in Christ. Your weapons are not of this world, but are mighty for pulling down strongholds. You have the promise that He is with you everyday, always, until your last breath…and then you’re ushered into His presence. The words of God, His promises, The truth is sharper than any sword and can pierce down to the bone marrow. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in this world. You overcome everything in Him, through Him, because of Him. You have been made priests and kings in the kingdom of heaven. What He has started in you, He will complete it. You are not alone. You have been sealed with His Spirit and where there is Light, no darkness can dwell. Your soul is safe in him. I can lay out the references for all of these but it is my hope that you will grab a bible and look them up and own them for your soul.

Don’t think that just because things are ok today and that you’ve gotten this far without God on your side, you can make it the rest of the way. Satan is very patient. He will wait an entire human lifetime if that’s what it take to snag you. My father spent nearly twenty years indulging in pornography until it finally broke his family. He lost his marriage, his kids, his career, and eventually was incarcerated. He got a second chance after getting out of prison and created a thriving career in sales, eventually bringing home a six figure income. But for the next twenty-plus years, that old nemesis crept back into his life and with the porn, he brought an intense load of guilt and shame along with him. That unbearable cycle slowly ate away at my fathers soul. Satan’s goal is to get you to give up. He will tempt you, cause you to fall, shame you, and then tempt you again. He wants to lead you to the brink of utter despair and hopelessness. That hopelessness met my father in a lonely hotel room at the age of 62. He laid down on that hotel bed and put a Smith & Wesson revolver to his head and checked himself out.

It may not be porn for you, you may not have an addiction at all. But I guarantee you that evil beckons at your door. You may be doing great today and life may be pretty good for you. I hope it is. But I hope more that you’re enjoying this life walking with the One who loves you deeply, the one who can set you soul and your mind free. I pray that your life is covered by the blood of Jesus. That you are walking in the light of His presence and not wandering in the darkness. Stand firm my friends & remember who you are.

Peace.

RESOLUTE

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res·o·lute  ˈrezəˌlo͞ot: determined, purposeful, adamant, single-minded

God’s redemption plan for your soul was not random. Jesus revealed Himself to mankind as a little baby, and that was no accident. His life of service, love and passion was purposeful. His mission was to give Himself away for you and for me. He was intentional about our redemption. Hopefully over the last couple of weeks between the parties, the gift wrap and doing your best with not being annoyed with just about everyone who got in your way while shopping, you were able to take some time to celebrate Him.

We are closer than ever to seeing His promised return. It’s going to happen. So, what do you want to be found doing?  We’re into the first week of 2016 and many of us have already broken those New Years’ resolutions! Listen, I’m all about making an effort to rid myself of bad habits, trying to be more disciplined in certain areas of my life. But I’m believing that 2016 has so much more to bring to us than simply dropping a few pounds of fat, getting out of debt, quitting smoking and maybe volunteering time somewhere. (Those being some of the most common and quickly broken resolutions!)  Look, if your overweight, then yes, do your best to drop a few pounds. If you’re spending money recklessly, then get it under control man! But understand that He has even more for you! And if you’ve already compromised that goal, start over…right now! Listen, God is calling us, His anointed, gifted and called ones to dig deeper. Ephesians 5 says this: “…see then that you walk carefully, not foolishly, but wisely, redeeming the time that you have, because the days are evil. So be wise, and understand what the will of God is.

By the end of November, we will have a new  President. (Unless Obummer initiates martial law!) ISIS terrorists will continue butchering people all over this planet. Morality will continue to erode and the economy will flail up and down. Maybe you’ll make a few extra bucks this year. Maybe you’ll be able to buy a better car or a bigger TV. (A nice Visio 50″ currently hangs on my wall!) But that can’t be it! 2016 must be about redeeming the time, redeeming those who are right in front of us, and dare I say  real revival? How do we do that ? What has to happen inside of us to break the mold of the mundane? Change your mind! Change your thinking. Change your attitude! Change your heart! Even now you may be thinking, “Man I’ve tried this so many times before.” Well guess what, you have not even began to have exhausted Gods love, patience and especially His power to EMPOWER you to make a mind shift! “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph.4:1)

Get on your knees before Him and ask Him, plead with Him to give you fresh revelation for your life. If you have been redeemed than you have the potential to play a vital role in effecting the kingdom of heaven! Sit with Him. Open your heart and invite Him. Let Him come just a little closer. Give Him just a little bit more than you ever have before. Let Him stretch you! Yes, that is going to take some faith on your part! Duh! Listen to Him. Let Him fill you up. Let Him remind you of His amazing redemption story that is within you.  And let Him lead you to those who are desperate to hear of His love, of His power to heal, and of His hope for their tomorrow. “…God has raised us up with Christ,  seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, so that in our tomorrow’s He might reveal the incomparable riches of His grace and His kindness that He first showed to us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6) You belong to Him. He’s got you. He’s blessing you. His grace is overtaking you daily! And the cares of the world will grow dim in the light of His presence.

Guess what: in His word, He reveals His will. His word will reshape your heart. His word cleanses your soul. His word changes your mind. His word empowers your spirit. His word gives you hope. His word forgives you of each and every sin you repeated today and the ones you will tomorrow. His word brings peace to the frail mind. His word breaks bondages. His word delivers victory.  His word is your_____.  (Fill in your blank)

2016 must be about His Spirit filling us up over and over and over again, letting Him flow out onto all those around you. Stop settling. Change Your Mind. Chang Your Attitude. Change Your Heart. Change your Actions. Be all about Him. Our redemption draws nigh.

Peace friends.

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

BIBLE GUN

 If you have a heart at all, then you’ve probably been pretty angry at the recent massacre in San Bernardino, California. Radical Muslim terrorists once again decided to take the lives of innocent Americans, this time killing 14.  These mass shootings seem to be on the increase here in the United States, and God forbid they continue to escalate. While the Federal and Local authorities try to figure out the motives of this terrorist couple, the rest of us who are doing our best to follow Christ, look on and ask, “How do we respond?,  What are we to do? and How do we process our anger biblically?” It is difficult to process. It is difficult to manage our emotions when the most natural response is to seek revenge of some kind, yet knowing in our hearts that we are first and foremost called to represent Christ and His character to the world.

Honestly, that’s not my first reaction when I see these tragic acts of violence against humanity, especially here on our soil while being perpetrated by those who hate us so much. With the increase in these mass shootings, there has also been an increase in gun sales.  Background checks for gun sales spiked 11% in June compared to last year. In fact 1.53 million background checks were reported in June, and that was only for in-store purchases, not including gun show or private party purchases. I am a firm believer and supporter of the second amendment, the right to bear arms and to be able to protect ones self and his family.

That being said, there is this underlying fear/reality that the government is talking out of one side of its mouth saying that it is protecting them, and yet out of the other side they are posturing to take away our right to bear arms.  So what’s next?  “We the people” will be left with taking matters into their own hands, being pushed to respond in anger and haste while packing a firearm. An uprising, a new revolution of sorts could take place while at the same time terrorists continue to perpetrate their killing upon the shores of America.

As a believer in God Almighty, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, I have to take a step back and first ask the question, “Why is this happening, especially in America?”  Without sounding too simplistic, let me say that this country, not too long ago, honored God. We gave Him room in our lives. We blessed Him in song, lifted Him up in our courts, pledged our allegiance to Him in our class rooms. It used to be patriotic to be a believer in God, in having Him as your moral anchor. Yet, slowly and steadily we are removing Him from our culture. We now allow lawsuits and ruin the lives of those who stand for a different moral code than what has now become “acceptable” to our culture.

What’s worse, and perhaps the greater problem, the Church has lost it’s self and is becoming swallowed up by Babylon and its ever-present influence. Yep, we have all compromised ourselves  to the culture of the harlot. Music, TV, Netflix, HBO, social media and even the mainstream news have tirelessly hammered our conscience’s to mush, so that His Spirit has nearly nothing left to fashion. We don’t even recognize how deeply we’ve traversed. It has been reported that people from other countries have refused to allow American entertainment into their homes because of the debauchery, lewdness and plain immorality that Hollywood and the industry glamorizes. We’ve become the frog in the pot of slow boiling water.

Why would we listen to the Pastor on Sunday decry sexual immorality, killing in anger, lying to one another, adultery, covetousness and then engage in those very acts via the TV screen, the laptop or your wi-fi enabled mobile device?  If we would not walk into a room and watch someone having sex right in front of us, then why do we watch it on a screen? If we wouldn’t stand in the same room while someone is “cussing the chrome off a bumper” taking Gods name along with him, why do we do it through music, TV etc.? Why have we suddenly become accustomed to watching lesbians make out on prime time network TV, when just a few years ago Lucy & Ricky couldn’t even be shown in the same bed together? Why do we “give thanks” on Thursday then trample people on Black Friday just to save a buck. Babylon has invaded the culture and the church has been caught up in the groundswell.

We should not be giving radical terrorists any fuel to their view of America being the great satan. And yet we have. Of course in the natural and in the global sense, America is a road block for radical Islam taking over the world. Our aircraft carriers are stationed all over the world, our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and our support of Israel  are all major reasons they hate us as well. Thankfully, our military is still a force to be reckoned with. America is a friend of Israel and hopefully always will be. I’m a firm believer that the God of the Bible, YaHWeH is greater than any world power and, with a whisper, could wipe evil off the face of the earth. So again the question is, “Why is God allowing this to happen here on the shores of America?” The Church is too busy living in Laodicea.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:15-20)

 If we want Gods favor, if we want His blessing to continue to be upon us, the first thing is for His people, His church to do is repent. It begins in the house of the Lord:  “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land..” 2 Chron. 7:13,14)

Sit before Him. Take an inventory. Now is the time more than ever before. Look at your life and ask Him what needs to go. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world, no one thing, no experience, no possession that is not worth giving up in order to hear His voice again, to allow Him to move and to cause a revival like no other generation has seen. There is always hope n Him, but there is always a cost, and we, the believers must count that cost, and act. Or it may be that all we really have left is to buy some guns, load up on ammo and wait for it to break loose. Have mercy Lord.

Peace friends.

BE RECONCILED.

RECONCILED

Reconciliation is a beautiful thing. It is the core of who God is. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s heart for reconciliation is revealed. Christ left His place in heaven,  humbled Himself to the point of giving up His own life, unto a horrible death, for the sole purpose of man being reconciled back to His Father, while offering the vehicle to reconcile humanity with each other: Himself.

Though our spirits are dead, it is in Christ and all that He is, that we are made alive in Him. We are brought near to God. In Christ, we find our peace. In Christ we have access to His Spirit to overcome anything and everything that this world throws at us. Yes, everything. Peace can be found in any circumstance in Him. That’s the power! That’s Him! In Him, we become fellow citizens with all the saints all over this beautiful planet. (Eph. 2) We are reconciled, but just as we have to receive the gift of our salvation, we also have to take hold of the reconciliation.

The picture posted above is not just a picture of two friends. It is a testimony. A testimony of God’s work, His faithfulness, forgiveness and of His restoration. Five years ago, those two men could not stand in the same room together. There was a division in the body of Christ, a falling out and eventually a church community, broke up.  A perfect storm is described as, “a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors.” The storm was brewing, many missed the signs and the enemy seized the opportunity to divide and conquer.

But God! If we are humbled before the Lord, if we are willing to submit our emotions, our pain, our hurts unto God, He has this beautiful way of providing opportunity for healing and reconciliation. God in His amazing wisdom, has the ability to take something that humans have completely trashed, and turn it into a treasure, a vehicle to restore not only those involved, but also those who hear the story. I’m not going into details because who wants to re-live that! What I will say is this,  our Abba Father, according to His perfect timing and through His loving grace, uses  our scars to tell His beautiful story of forgiveness.

As I was working on completing my ordination, I was prompted to reach out to my former Pastor and friend, Eldon. (Picture with me above after 5 years) We were able to reconnect. We both dropped our guard, let Christ in, and His healing took place.  In fact, Eldon was one who eventually participated in validating my character, my gifting’s and my call from God. He is the signer of my ordination certificate that will forever hang on my wall as a reminder of God’s amazing grace, faithfulness and forgiveness unto me.

There is freedom in reconciliation. Life is restored. New life blooms. Healing happens. God is glorified.  That is my path, to strive to do my best to glorify Him, to offer hope and to bring healing. I am not a complete man by any means. I have made many mistakes and will most likely continue to make mistakes, until He comes to get me. But, like Nehemiah,  I am taking my spear in one hand and the trowel in the other and, just for today, I will do my best to rebuild that which was broken and fight for souls of the kingdom heaven.

Don’t let life sucking bitterness, hurt, or your own pride keep you from experiencing God’s amazing peace one more day. Sit before Him. Unload on Him. Let His forgiveness wash over you. Soak in Him. Let His love break open your calloused heart. Let His Spirit overwhelm you, empower you to begin taking those scary steps towards reconciliation. Rest in Him. If He moves your heart to take action, trust Him. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Faith rests in trusting in His ability to take care of everything else. Be Reconciled.

Peace friends.

IN THE CRASHING

crashing over

“It is often the disturbing intrusions of others into our lives that enables them to become Gods agents of troubling grace in our pilgrimage.”  R. Mulholland

There’s an old Peanuts comic strip that shows Snoopy sitting atop his doghouse with his pal Woodstock at his side. The caption below that read something like, “The world would be a great place, if it wasn’t for the people.” That’s certainly how many of us feel at one time or another. However, if you are a believer of God, than you know that He has built into us to learn,  understand and to express His love. The world is a hard place. We’re all pretty self-centered. A simple glance in the mirror brings that reality close to home. If you have walked with God for any amount of time, you don’t need any convincing that it’s not an easy thing to love people, that is, the way He loves you; graciously and unconditionally.  It’s often very difficult and sometimes  just downright painful.
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Like it or not, we are designed for human interaction. We are built to engage in all types of human relationships. It’s in that interaction that were are shaped, in the crashing together of those relationships,  that we are challenged, brought face to face with perhaps a different point of view other than our own.  And there’s the “rub”; when someone challenges your point of view. The most natural and often instant response is to defend yourself. You can choose to dig your heels in and not budge, and demand that your point be heard. Or, you can give way in the moment, take a step back, reflect and maybe learn something. The other alternative is to choose isolate ourselves, avoiding those relationships altogether, or at least any kind of conflict. The bummer there is that we can miss out on a potentially “God ordained” moment of impact,  a specific purpose which He desires to accomplish within you, which is stirred up during the moment of the “rub”.
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God has instilled within us all a deep need to “relate” to people, to engage.  Genesis gives us a first glimpse of this ‘need” within mankind.  Adam was given the purpose of naming the animal kingdom. I’m convinced that it was through process, even while in utter amazement of witnessing the entire  animal kingdom for the first time, Adam realized that He was “lonely.” He senses a disconnect from the animal kingdom, longing for something, someone like himself. It’s not as if God made a mistake in fashioning His most precious creation or was somehow neglecting him. On the contrary. In His perfect timing, and according to His will, Adam was allowed to feel this gap in his heart.  According also to His perfect timing, Adam would experience the amazing joy of God revealing his woman to him. “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23) You can almost get a sense of Adams excitement as he proclaims in essence, “Now that’s what I’m talking about Abba!”
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In John 17, Jesus was preparing His heart to accept the cup of giving Himself up on the cross.  He was praying to His Father saying, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in you. May they also be in Us.”  Jesus is interceding on behalf of the disciples, asking His Father that they would be so closely connected to each other, just as Jesus is connected to the Father, and that together, His people would be deeply connected to the both the Father and the Son.  This beautiful process manifests as we, His people, learn to abide together, through the difficulties, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, and yes, disagreeing with one another and yet exercising grace to one another, so that God would be glorified.
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Yes, there are times when agreeing together just isn’t going to happen. Our struggle with our own weaknesses are still present.  Even Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 had to separate due to a “sharp contention” that occurred between them. In their case however, the spreading of the gospel was not hindered, but in fact  actually increased due to their splitting up. Fortunately, in 1 Cor. 9:6, Paul mentions later his support and affection for Barnabas and his work for the gospel.Guess they worked out their stuff.
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There are other times when you just have to walk away, because there is no agreeing, at least not in the moment. The parties involved in the midst of the “rub” just aren’t seeing eye to eye. In fact it can get ugly. Offenses can be exchanged in the heat of the battle and long-term damage can often result. It takes a wise person to see this building, to see the warfare mounting from the enemy who, by the way, is always seeking to create dissent, and to divide people, households and churches. Sometimes disengaging is the best answer in attempting to salvaging the relationship.
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A few weeks back, I was scrolling through a social media page and I dropped a brief, six word, comment on a friends previous post. (I know, I just wrote about social media mishaps a couple of weeks ago!) It was regarding some form of “art” that he had posted. Wow! Did I strike a nerve.  I got blasted…by the whole family.  There was a brief exchange. (My mistake) Then, as I tried to follow-up in my defense or to further explain my comment, I was being interpreted through their grid of my apparent “hate and racism.”  I took the bait, got hooked and yanked into an argument. What a waste.
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It took a couple of days to process what had taken place.  I tried a couple of times to reach out, to offer an “open door” to actually talk about what ever offense they had perceived. About the time I was getting over them blocking my every effort, I received a scathing email from the dad. I was accused of being racists, a hypocrite, misrepresenting God, being one of those kind of “Christians” (?) and a host of other “sins”. I was cut off, unfriended,  blocked from e-mails and phone numbers. This wasn’t just one of those random Facebook friends, you know like one of your “500 closest”. I loved this man and his family, and I still do. We had not spoken for a several years due to life just simply taking us different directions. But what he laid on me was so far from who I am, it appears that he really doesn’t know me after all, or that his unjustified anger greatly clouded his perspective. I believe the latter.
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I know that I am an imperfect man. I check the mirror daily, so to speak. I’m a broken individual, doing my best to walk in the healing, redeeming grace-laced blood of Jesus on a daily basis. Yet, I also know that I am not what he accused me of being. The whole experience did cause me to pause, to take a step back. I asked God to show me where I went wrong. I asked Him to reveal to me if there was any truth to what was said about my character. I did not want this clashing to be for nothing. I know it was not about loosing a friend. I had to seize the opportunity to ask Him to show me something. I found conviction and peace in my Savior’s arms, and a little heavenly insight into my friend as well. I made every effort possible to reach out and restore what had been broken. I “laid down my offering at the altar and went to my brother to seek restoration”, but to no avail. I also realized that I didn’t have to chase after my friends approval or apology. I did my best to reach out and to restore it, but for now, it’s resting. Although I am sad for the loss, I am hopeful that it is temporary. As long as we have breath, God has opportunity.
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Some issues aren’t going to get resolved, at least maybe not right away. That’s ok as long as your heart has been open to God’s directing in “the crashing”. Quite often, time does heal. It enables us to reflect, to grow, to mature and to let go of the hurt and to invite Christ in, to be our healer. Heaven is coming for the those who yield themselves to Christ’s redemptive work. There’s going to be a lot of people there, some you may not have expected. Maybe my presence there will surprise my friend and his family. Hopefully by Gods grace we can find healing before we arrive.
Peace friends.