Saturday, December 20, 2008

Woman, I Feel Like A Man!

One of my all time favorite movies is Cinderella Man. The best scene in the movie is where James Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) overhears his daughter asking for more dinner. His wife tells her that they need to save some for the boys. Braddock then sits down and tells his family that he dreamed of eating a big juicy steak the night before, and he is stuffed. He then gives his slice of bologna to his daughter, and leaves to find work. There isn't a real man on earth who wouldn't feel moved during that scene. That scene is the essence of what it is to be male. John Eldridge said it best: every man needs "A battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, and an adventure to live."

For the last couple of weeks, I have had the honor of assuming all three. I took a second job so that I could pay off some bills, save, and buy an outdoor play set for my kids. It has been rough working 80 hours a week. But despite being tired, I've never felt more alive. I feel alive because I'm working for a reason, and a self-respecting noble one at that. I have decided that I would BE THE MAN, and not let Visa or MasterCard be it for me. I decided to be James Braddock. It was time for me to give up my bologna and sleep, and head to the battlefield. This has become one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.

Work, in itself, is NOT fulfilling. Work is like money. It is a means to something. It can be used to FIGHT a battle, or it can be used to ESCAPE one. Men like to be where they are respected. If we receive more respect from our co-workers than our wives, we don't mind stretching out our work day. :) We can spend extra time at work, to avoid battles at home. But we can also spend more time at home, to avoid financial ones. Men who spend their time avoiding battles are not fulfilled, and any work they do is just a narcotic to lesson the real pain. The pain of NOT acting male. We are not built to run, we are built to fight.

Real men go to battle, not avoid it by making minimum monthly payments. Not all "money" problems are caused by the lack of money. It could be "male" problems caused by the lack of being male. A real man takes on the "full" responsibility of the task set before him. Real men don't "outsource" their duties. Even if my wife had a degree in finance, she would NOT be allowed to pay the bills or handle the finances. If our roles were reversed and she worked, she still would not handle the finances. It has nothing to do with control, or who has the better math skills. It's all about me needing to be accountable for the things I'm responsible for. Would a soldier reload, carry, and clean his weapon, but then let someone else fire it? Not only does it make NO sense, but it is NOT efficient and can be dangerous. By being responsible for making the money AND budgeting for expenses, I am the first one to know when I don't have enough. And that burden and stress will be on ME and not on someone else. Would James Braddock ask his wife to shift some money around and make it work? NO, James Braddock would shift his ass into gear and get to fighting. Real men wield their own weapons.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama's Coin

From the start of his campaign, Barack Obama promised change for America. During the first few months, no one could really say what the change was. One could argue that the change he was referring to, was nothing more than skin color. But keep that to yourself. Pointing out that Barack Obama has done nothing (but write two books and vote in the Senate) could get you labeled as a racist.

It is hard for me to imagine a junior "white" senator with NO executive experience ever getting a nod for the highest executive job in the country. (Even JFK had 13 years of congressional and senatorial experience before taking office.) Barack Obama is a very intelligent, articulate, and charismatic guy. Though I don't agree with everything he SAYS, I do enjoy hearing HOW he says it. But like the poetic, captivating, and sometimes hypnotic words of the Mad Hatter, the logic can leave you wanting.

Over the past few weeks, Obama's economic plan for America has come into focus, courtesy of "Joe the Plumber". Obama's plan is not to FIX the economy, but to CHANGE it. He'll start by giving a tax rebate to 95% of Americans. The obvious problem is that only 53% of Americans pay taxes. If Best Buy installed Obama's plan, it would look like this.

Suppose you run out and buy a $1200 television set, that came with a $200 mail-in rebate. What would happen is that Best Buy would send you $100 and send the other $100 to someone else. So under Obama, the people buying TVs would pay more so that the folks NOT buying TVs would also get rebates. Sounds fair, right? Obama would basically stamp a "No Purchase Necessary" on the income tax code. So why I am NOT worried? Because Jesus said so.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were notorious for asking Him political, and tricky questions. On one occasion, they wanted to get his take on the extremely high taxation of Caesar. When asked, Jesus responded by asking his own question.
Jesus said, "Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a coin. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matt. 22:19-21
It is my vote, prayer, and hope that America doesn't CHANGE into the socialist country Obama and his cronies desire. However, If Caesar wants to "redistribute" his money, Jesus said it isn't His, OR mine to argue over. A nation's currency belongs to its government. The Earth is the Lords. God didn't create the numerous monetary systems throughout its history. It is worth noting that the Jews were prohibited from using currency (gold/silver coins) to pay the the tithe. God didn't want a tithe of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, or Caesar's money. He wanted a tithe of His own creation. The Bible says that God provides all my needs, and He is the keeper and sustainer of my life. God is not bound by the economic health of America. I have faith that if Obama wants more of his money, then God will provide.
Jesus said, "Go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” Matt.17:27
I don't think Obama will win. But IF I am wrong, we are in for some tough financial times. (Google Herbert Hoover and the Revenue Act of 1932) With that being said, It's not my money to worry about. All I can do is vote, pray, and bait my fishing pole.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


There is a popular “question” among atheist that goes like this; “If God is good, then why does evil exists?” I have to admit. This is a very good question, but we are not allowed to answer ALL questions.
Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation. Proverbs 26:4-5
There you have it. Clear as mud.

Have you ever had someone ask you a question, but they asked in such a way that it was clear they were looking for an argument, NOT an answer? I have taken that bait many times, and those are hours of my life I can never get back. I have flushed time (and brain cells) down the toilet dealing with people like this. Jesus knew how to deal with them. He perceived their motive, and would just offend them. I was asked this question recently. The person WAS looking an answer, so let’s take a stab.

How can a God, who contains no evil, create a world that seems to have so much of it? Even the Bible records this paradox.
There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don’t understand: How an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman. Proverbs 30:18-19
Using this metaphor, the Bible asks the same question. How do you reconcile evil (snake) operating so freely in God’s created world (rock)?

To help answer this question, we have to define evil. What is evil? Did God create it? Let’s say I gave you a delicate and beautiful piece of glass. After taking it, you accidentally drop it. It is now hundreds of sharp jagged pieces. Did I create that? No, YOU did. Understanding evil requires you to understand free will.

As a child, I remember receiving a Lego set for Christmas. Immediately after opening it, my dad began building his masterpiece. After consuming all the pieces, the spaceship was complete. He was so proud of his creation, that he set it on top the television for 2 days. And for those 2 days, I was banned from playing with my Lego set. You see, though the Lego set was mine, I could not be trusted with it. I received my Lego set on Dec. 25Th. I received the freedom to play with it (destroy his ship, to create my own) on Dec. 28Th.

God created this world, and it WAS good. It was good, because He created it that way. But that all changed shortly after signing it over to us. Adam and Eve dropped it, and it hasn’t been the same since. God didn’t create evil, we did. God created a delicate, beautiful, but fragile world. And we broke it. When we try to pick up the pieces, we are in essence, doing GOOD. It is a GOOD thing to feed the hungry and give to the poor. By doing those things, we are repairing this ALREADY broken world.

Evil is an illusion in the since that, it doesn’t exist. Evil is just a word we use to describe a place where there is NO GOOD. Darkness doesn’t exist either. You can’t measure darkness. Darkness is term we use to explain the absence of light. Cold also doesn’t exist. We determine how cold it is by measuring how much HEAT is present. Cold is a word we use to explain how little heat there is. At -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, there is absolutely NO heat. You can’t get colder than that. They call this Absolute Zero.

In Exodus 4, God gave Moses a powerful lesson about evil. God tells Moses to go into Egypt and lead His people of out of the hands of Pharaoh. Moses protested and told God that they would never believe him. God told him to immediately throw down his staff. As soon as the staff was thrown down, it became a snake. The Lord then instructs Moses to grab it by the tail. When Moses reached out and grabbed the tail, it became a staff again.

When God created the world, he created it perfect, good, and straight. It wasn’t until man dropped it, that it became broken and bent. God didn’t create evil. Evil is the result of God giving us a world and us throwing it to the ground. All it takes is someone with the courage to pick it up by the tail. We are here to fix the world. We are here to repair it. We are here to restore it. EVIL is an effect resulted by GOOD not having an affect.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Why do we allow snakes to slither on rocks? Obviously, we’re afraid we might get bit.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rock The Vote

This game is called, "Who Should I Vote For?" It is very simple. I'll give you my top 3 election issues, and where I stand on each of them. Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find a presidential candidate who fits my bill. I'm counting on you.


I believe life begins in the womb. To be exact, I believe it begins 18-21 days after conception. This is when the heart begins to beat. And when you have a beating heart, you have blood.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood. Lev 17:11
For it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Lev 17:14
So I want a candidate who chooses life.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deut. 30:19
I also want a candidate who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Because most abortions are in the name of convenience, they are flat out murder.
Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by humans his blood will be shed, because in the image of God, God made humans. Gen 9:6
All scripture is inspired by God. However, the punctuations are NOT. In the original Hebrew texts, there are no punctuations. In fact, in certain passages, there are NO spaces. The punctuations were added later, because they were necessary for translation. Though the English language is conceptually rich, it is not spiritually rich.

There is an axiom in Hebrew study, that if you can punctuate a verse in scripture in more than one way, then all of those ways are valid. So if a punctuation can change the meaning, then it is accepted that all meanings are applicable and intended. This is what makes the Hebrew language spiritually rich. It allows for the coding and compression of information into a finite text.

There are two ways to punctuate Genesis 9:6, in Hebrew. And by changing the punctuation, you get the following English translation.
Whoever sheds the blood of a human inside of a human, his blood will be shed, because in the image of God, God made humans. Gen 9:6

I believe a family starts with a man and a woman.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen. 1:27
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it. Gen. 9:7
Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. Lev 18:22
I want a President who supports the family and will hold the public school system accountable for Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. I don't need a diversity curriculum that attempts to bring balance to my Christian parenting. If I think it's important for my kid to know why "Heather Has Two Mommies", I'll run point on that one.


I believe Jesus IS the only way to God. I'm not the only one who believes it. In fact, let me quote the bigoted author myself.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6
I want a President who supports free speech. I want someone who will uphold my right to quote Jesus ANYTIME I want. I have a mandate from God, and I want to do my part, without being labeled a hater.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
I support free speech, not fair speech. I want a President who opposes the "Fairness Doctrine". When you "force" fairness, you forfeit freedom. And you insult my intelligence by concluding I'm too stupid to change the radio station.

If you don't agree with the Bible, then "man up" and stand by your decision. Don't take an offense, where one wasn't given.

I know what you're thinking. There are dozens of important issues, and THESE are your top 3? Yes, they are my top 3 because I believe they are elementary. Something tells me, George Washington didn't have to go on the record for these.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


As a teen, I had a friend who seemed like he had it made. He could buy what he wanted, go where he wanted, and say what he wanted. He had a bigger allowance, a later curfew (if any), and cooler parents. There was no pressure to make good grades, so he was able to have more "fun" in class. Life seemed so easy for him. No expectations. No rules. No problems. It didn't take long for me to find out the secret to his success.

It was at my first sleep over, that I saw the light. If I could just get rid of my parents, I could be my own boss. Well not remove them completely, just lessen their involvement. My friend's father didn't live with him, and wasn't involved his life. His mother, whom he lived with, wasn't any different. He didn't have anyone telling him what to do, when to go to bed, and what NOT to watch on television. He was my hero. I wanted his life.

Though I've matured, I would be lying if I said I have stopped comparing my life with others. If God wasn't involved in my finances, I'd have more money to spend on me. If God wasn't involved in my time, I wouldn't be at church on Sunday morning. I would be in my underwear, drinking coffee, and reading the newspaper. If God wasn't involved in my life, I could do whatever I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. When I was a teenager, I used to think my parent's were holding me back. And now that I'm an adult, I sometimes find myself thinking the same thing. Is God holding me back from the life others get to live?

The problem with comparing your life with others, is that you can't see everything. What you DO see is always the result of what you DON'T see. As a teen, It was easy to be distracted by the greener grass of No Rules and No Expectations. But his greener grass was the result of a broken septic tank. What seemed "greener" on the outside was a result of something broken on the inside. My friend could do anything he wanted, because he had broken relationships. The people in his life had no opinion about who he was or what he did. He had no peace and joy, and he was lonely inside.

I am comforted in the fact that I belong to somebody. Yes, I may not always be the most "fun" at some parties. But that is because I am NOT my own. I am a child of God, and He expects me to act like one. He is my father, and he knows me more than I know myself. Now that I am older, the temptation to compare myself with those "outside" of my family isn't that strong. (Even though it would be cool to have a reality TV show and find my true B.F.F.) Less than obvious, is the temptation is to compare my life to my brothers and sisters.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story about a father and his two sons. The younger son demands his share of the inheritance, and his father gives it to him. He then packs up and leaves the country. While he is away, he spends everything he has, living the "good" life. Not long after wasting everything away, a severe famine strikes the land, and the son is left broke and busted. He takes a job feeding pigs and then realizes the error of his ways.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant. Luke 15:17-19
After reuniting with his son, the father decides to celebrate.
But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Luke 15:22-24
Everyone was ready to party except for ONE person.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ Luke 15:25-27
The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I've slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ Luke 15:28-30
How easy it is, for me to spot the weakness and failures of others. What is NOT so easy is to spot the envy and covetousness in my own life. Jesus knew who His audience. He was speaking to a bunch of religious Jews. Jesus wasn't making a point of celebrating the return of the lost. He was mocking THEM for being lost and out of touch with their father. And they never left the house.
His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ Luke 15:31-32
Comparing yourself to others will cause you to become lost in envy and covetousness. I am notorious for losing my way and veering off course. The sad thing is, it happens while I'm still in the house.

Monday, September 29, 2008


In Paradox of Prayer, I opined that being a parent enhances your understanding of scripture. As a parent, I am amazed at how, even the most familiar of passages, read like brand new.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26

One of my greatest fears is that my children be without food, shelter, or protection. Simply put, if my family needs food, then I'm already dead. As a father, I cannot comprehend any of my children worrying about such things. Michael and Anna go about their day oblivious to the labor involved with securing their food and shelter. They have no idea that a bank owns the house we live in. When I leave for work in the morning, they just know I'm "going to make nickels". They don't even know what a nickel is. For them, they are ignorant of what happens "under the hood" of life. And for them, ignorance is truly bliss.

I take my duties as a father pretty serious. If my wife and kids wanted to offend me, they need not ask me if I've put on a few pounds. Just ask if If I plan on feeding them that day. I have a good sense of humor and can take a joke, but that's one thing you don't joke about. If I knew they even worried for a second about such a thing, I would shrink into a puddle of snot.

So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30

As a father, I understand the foolishness of my children worrying about their needs. It would break my heart to find out they were concerned about their future and welfare. So, I have no doubt it breaks the heart of God when I do the same thing. When I worry about the economy, gas prices, the next president, or terrorist, is it just as foolish? When I realize that God IS a father, I'm not concerned with how foolish it sounds, I'm nervous it is borderline insulting.

He is the God who provides, regardless of how well the stock market is doing. If I'm alive tomorrow, it is because He decided, not Al-Qaeda. If gas becomes $10 a gallon and God wants me to go somewhere, then He has to get creative, not me. God doesn't hope for the best, but plan for the worst. That's what I do. I am notorious for worrying FIRST, and praying LAST. If my family did this to me, I would be offended.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I have a playlist on my ipod called "goosebumps". On Friday, I added a new song to that list and I CAN'T stop listening to it. Not only does it give me goosebumps, but it gives my goosebumps, goosebumps. The song is called "Healer" and it written by Michael Guglielmucci. After hearing it a dozen times, I decided to go online and find the story behind this powerful song. What I found, was NOT what I was looking for.

The author of my new favorite song, had been living a lie, for the past 2 years. Guglielmucci said he had written the song after being diagnosed with "an aggressive form of cancer."

"I just went home. I knew I had to go home and needed to get alone with God. I walked into my studio at home and for some reason I sat at a piano and began to worship. I sang that song from start to finish. I was crying. I just realised that God had given me an incredible gift and I realize that song was going to be my strength."

The truth is, not only did he not have cancer, but he had never seen a doctor. He confessed that he created the fake story to cover up his addiction to pornography. He was so entrenched in this struggle, that he began to show signs of depression. Though it was impossible to hide from the symptoms, he decided to hide from the cause. And he hid for 2 years.

For a few minutes, I had no idea how to process the news. Should I still listen to the song? Should I be outraged? Should I feel betrayed? And if so, why? I admit, the LAST thing I decided to do, was pray for Michael. Because the writer failed, did the song also fail? Because the messenger made a mistake, was the message now a mistake? Since the songwriter lived a lie, was the song a lie? What was I to do with all of the emotions of joy and peace that I had experienced listening to the song. Life is full of disappointments, and for a few moments, I was disappointed.

On Sunday, my Pastor preached a great sermon on Elijah. He recalled the time Elijah was told by God to go up to the mountain. As Elijah stood on the mountain, a great wind passed and moved the rocks. But God was NOT in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake shook the mountain. But God was NOT in the earthquake. After the earthquake, a fire burned. But God was NOT in the fire. After the wind, earthquake, and fire, a still small voice came to Elijah, and God WAS in the voice. As I sat in church, I was reminded of something very important. Not everything that moves and shakes is God. The wind and earthquake precluded God, but it wasn't God. God was NOT in the song, but he was in the still small voice that spoke, challenged, and changed me after hearing the song.

There are great songs, sermons, and even blogs. But God is not in any of them. We can only hope that they POINT you to the one true God, and the one true voice. I love music. I love how it makes me feel. But if it doesn't lead me to God, then what's the point? If the experience leads me to God, then the experience did it's job. Don't put your trust in the moving, shaking, or feeling. Put your trust in the one who really DOES hold the world in His hands. The song is called "Healer", and it STILL is in my ipod.........under "goosebumps".

Saturday, August 16, 2008


The Bible describes Heaven as the place where God dwells. It was from Heaven, that Jesus came and offered Himself as sacrifice for the whole world.
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Whether you believe it, accept it, or embrace it, it happened. It is a done deal. No one can earn it. No one can pay Him back. There is no program, course, or certification you need from your Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi to get the salvation purchased by Jesus. It is a gift that needs to be accepted or rejected. There is no third choice. The thief, hanging next to Jesus, did not have time to get baptized, go to confession, knock on doors, or give any money. He simply accepted a gift, and received heaven. One minute, he was a sinner going to hell. The next minute, he was a sinner going to heaven. "

Then he (thief) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

In the Old Testament, the Jews also received a gift of salvation. But their salvation was not from the bondage of sin. Their salvation was from the bondage of the Egyptians. The Jewish people had absolutely nothing to do with there deliverance from the hands of Pharaoh. In fact, most of them didn't even believe it could happen. Their deliverance was orchestrated by God through miracles and plagues. One minute, the Jews where making bricks. The next minute, they were packing the U-Haul. Once Pharaoh yielded, it was up to them to stay in slavery or leave town. It was God, through Moses, that brought upon the deliverance of the Jews, and it was God, through Jesus, that brought upon the deliverance of the world. After being delivered from slavery, God tells the Jews that He is taking them to a new land. A land that is plentiful. A land of no traffic, low gas prices, and a Super Wal-Mart, etc, etc. It is a land where they can live and raise their families forever. God gives them a verbal deed to the land and instructs them to go inspect their new property.

The Lord, now said to Moses, “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.” So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp in the wilderness of Paran. Numbers 13:1-3

When the twelve men returned from surveying the land, they gave the following report.

We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! Numbers 13:27-28

The deliverance from Egypt was the work of God and Him alone. The whole escape was gift wrapped in a neat little package. Not only did they not have to fight their way out, God cleared a path for them. You can't get more "full service" than God parting water so you don't have to walk around. The possession of the land, however, was NOT "full service". It was "self-service". God had already promised them the land. It was theirs for the taking. But there were no takers. Even though they witnessed God perform miracles on their behalf, their unbelief allowed themselves to be intimidated by the current residents. Instead of possessing the land, they stayed in the desert for forty years.

An entire generation lived and died in the desert. Though they walked out of Egypt, they never entered into their full potential. During the forty years they wandered, God miraculously fed them and provided for their every need. Everywhere the Jews went, God hovered over them as a cloud by day, and a cloud of fire by night. Every morning, God cooked them breakfast and there was enough food to last the entire day. This went on everyday. It was routine. It was their reality.

The desert is the place between deliverance and destiny. God's intention was not to rescue them out of Egypt so that they could stay in the desert. Staying in the desert is a choice. Salvation through Christ is similar in the sense that our deliverance is FREE, but our destiny still lies in our own hands. Jesus' intention was not to rescue you from your sin, so that you could stay broke, busted, and disgusted. Remember, you go to Heaven because of what Jesus did, plus nothing. But you live in the kingdom based on your obedience and the choices you make. And living in the kingdom, is the destiny God has called each and every one of us to.

So what is the kingdom and how do I live in it?

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. Luke 17:20-21
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:26-32

The kingdom is a land of plenty. It is a land where a little seed produces a large fruit. It is a land so fertile that a farmer will be able to plant and NOTHING will be able to stop it from growing. It is a place where others can come and find rest and provision. It is a land of unlimited potential and blessing. But the kingdom does have a show-stopper.

And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.
Matthew 11:12

The kingdom is also a land of warfare. If you want to live in the kingdom, it first has to be taken. And because this kingdom is spiritual, we know that the current residents are also spiritual. And their job is to keep you out. The Apostle Paul knew very well about this spiritual battle.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12

It is said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. Many Christians live and die in the desert, completely ignorant of the devil and specifically what he is guarding you from, The Kingdom. The kingdom, not heaven, is what Jesus died for.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

To put it another way, your eligibility for heaven was decided by Christ. Your eligibility for the kingdom will be decided by YOU on the battlefield. If Satan can convince a Christian that their salvation is up in the air, then he knows they are no threat to kingdom living. Doubting your salvation is the equivalent to a head-shot in war. If he can make you doubt your salvation, then it's over. You will remain in the desert. Enjoy your mana. It's no mystery why Paul called it the "Helmet of Salvation".

The Bible says that many are called, but few are chosen. Many have accepted the free gift of salvation, but very few have chosen to live in the kingdom. They choose not to fight. They choose not to change. They choose not to see an enemy pulling the strings. For Satan, the game is over. He can't keep you from Heaven. That battle is lost. His only option is to keep you wounded. He wants you benched and off the battlefield. His strategy is to steal, kill, and destroy your potential, relationships, and finances. If he succeeds, then you have no light. You have no salt. You have no influence.

Kingdom life is a life where no goal is out of reach. You are the head, and not the tail. You live above, and not below. You are the victor, and not the victim. Your life doesn't fluctuate with gas prices, the economy, or Britney Spears. You don't have to be broke. You CAN go to school. You CAN be healed. You CAN be successful. In the kingdom, you control your destiny. You have the authority. You have the mandate. Go get it. Don't settle for the desert. Don't settle for your daily mana rations. Go get your destiny. Go get everything Jesus bled and died for. You can't lose.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lesson From The Dishwasher

So I'm standing next to the kitchen sink, washing dishes. It was relaxing. It was therapeutic. It was making my hands silky smooth. My wife walks in the kitchen, rolls her eyes, and points to the dishwasher. "Why do spend the time washing dishes, when we have a dishwasher? I just think that's silly", she opined. After getting home from a stressful 10 hour day at work, I gave an answer that would make any time management expert cringe. "I'm washing the dishes for the same reason I take long showers. If there's a chore to be done, I might as well enjoy it."

I grew up washing dishes. I did it everyday. I have many great memories doing it with my brothers. I can remember washing a dish and passing it to my left. My younger brother would then rinse it and pass it to our youngest brother, who would be ready to dry and store. We had a system. However the system had nothing to do with efficiency. Like typical boys having to do chores, we're were gonna make it fun, and always dangerous. I loved filling the sink with water and lots of soap. If it was my brother's turn to wash, then he had better be careful. Hidden under the soapy veil would be an entire set of steak knives, positioned for unsuspecting hands. Often times I would boil water on the stove, just to put in the dishwater. Nothing made washing dishes more fun, than the sight of bleeding 2nd degree burns. Eventually washing the dishes was something we looked forward to. Well I did.

I completely understood where my wife was coming from when she offered the use of our dishwasher. In her mind, there were many other things that I could have been doing, had I loaded the dishwasher. Had I worked quickly, I could have moved to the next item on the list, and then the next. But do the lists ever end? What guarantee do we have that after we are done, life will let us enjoy our evening, weekend, or vacation? We only have control of now. We have no guarantee of our next year, week, day, or even hour. The truth is, we will only be as happy as we want to be RIGHT NOW. Life isn't about who can do the most, but who can enjoy it more.

There will always be folks who have more money, friends, and talents than I do. I can't change that. But I can change what I have. Is it better to have 500 myspace friends or 3 close friends that you can share your life with? Well, I confess that I don't have either. But that's a blog for another day. Will I embrace a life of quantity, or a life of quality? King Solomon answered this question in the book of Ecclesiastes.

"There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us." Ecc 5:13
"There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy." Ecc 6:1

I don't remember who said it, but I will always remember this quote. "I have never prayed for an entire hour. However, I have never gone an entire hour without praying" Please give yourselves permission to enjoy every minute of your life. Make a conscience decision to start squeezing every drop of purpose out of your money, relationships, and talents. Don't forget to squeeze some fun out of it too. Even if it puts the dishwasher out of work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Mad Fear Party

One of the fundamentals of journalism is the concept of the six Ws. OK, there's only 5, but they are Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. When I was in school, I was graded on whether or not, I answered all of these questions. It wasn't enough for me to just get 5 out of the 6. I had to get them all. And If I didn't answer them ALL, then I didn't have a complete story. That is the assumption most of us have when we listen to the news. We assume they did their homework and answered all of the questions truthfully. All we need to do is open our mouth and let mother bird feed us, and hope we don't get food poisoning.

There's a saying in the news business, if it bleeds, it leads. The media has learned that violence begets ratings, and more violence begets more ratings. In fact, the top stories usually revolve around someone dead, dying, or going to die. The goal is to not only bring you the news, but to make you a part of it. And if you're a part of it, then you'll "keep it here, because we're America's number one source for blah..blah..blah...whatever."

If the media was an economy, then its currency would be fear. And in this economy, inflation rates are at an all time high. It is a challenge to watch the news and find anything worth redeeming. I feel as if the goal is to make me as fearful as possible. It's as if America is in perpetual surgery and I'm doomed to live out the rest of my life in the waiting room. The doctor's updates seem to be more like cliffhangers. And their tone often suggests I'm the reason she was sent to the hospital, in the first place. Well sir, she's not doing so well. We're still trying to stabilize her oil prices, but it's just not dropping fast enough. Are you sure you're doing everything you can to decrease her need for foreign oil? We are also trying to control her temperature. We have a full team of experts trying to find out the cause of the fluctuation. She hasn't been near any SUVs lately, has she?

Watch out friends! There are fear vendors on every channel, newspaper, and radio station. The answers are there, but you'll just have to find them yourself. Gas is high, but it's nothing like it was in the late 70's. If you were to tell my father we are in a recession, he would laugh in your face. Yes, it is warmer than it was 230 years ago. No one has crossed the frozen Delaware since George Washington. But It's nothing like it was during the 10 century. The Vikings gave Greenland that name for a reason. And what SUV thawed out the first Ice Age? Oh, so many questions, but NO answers. Up is down, down is up, and the Mad Hatter is running for President. Like Alice, I get so tired of listening to endless riddles with NO answers. At least there's the Food Network. I like me some Food Network.

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” -- Mad Hatter, Alice In Wonderland

"Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." -- God, Isaiah 41:10

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." -- Jesus, John 8:32

Thursday, July 10, 2008

For God's Sake

St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a monk who lived between the 11th and 12th century. In one of St. Bernard's books, "De amore Dei" (Of the love of God), he writes that loving God is to love Him without measure and gives the four degrees of this love.

The first degree of love is to love self for self's sake. Also known as the law of self-preservation, this is the basic form of love that comes equipped on every make and model child born on the planet. It is at this level that we channel our survival instincts. This basic form of love is essential for life. When one commits suicide, it is almost always because they have never progressed past this level of love. And by not moving to another level, they had nowhere to go when the circumstances of this life knocked them back a notch. This level is located in the lobby of your heart. There's nothing below this. And without this degree, life cannot exist.

The second degree of love is to love God for self's sake. This is the "You scratch my back, I scratch your back" level of love. We love ourselves so much, that we can't stand for others not to. This level gives birth to all forms of relationships. Where the first degree takes care of our survival as an individual, this level seeks survival as a species. We realize there is strength in numbers and the sense of community makes life easier for us. Our relationships tend to be shallow from the start, but we are OK with that. How many times have you given love to someone, for the sole purpose of receiving love from them? Try this exercise. Count the number of broke, needy, and hurting friends you have and compare it with the rich, stable, and healthy ones. Sure, we may know people who suck the life out of us, but we sure as hell don't go to the movies with them. Why would we? They already owe us $20.

It is in the second degree that most religions Christians call home. Because this stage is still self-serving, it is not uncommon for them to simply warm the pew, give a few bucks, and go home. Their goal may not necessarily be to seek God, but to receive answers. We want to be relevant in this universe, and we want to have purpose. In our search for these answers, we become open to all people, and all gods. This is the main reason we see NO contradiction in the various religions. All religions claim exclusivity to God. Any person claiming there are many ways to God are either ignorant, or lying as to NOT offend in hopes of keeping multiple citizenship. (think politicians) The goal is not ultimate truth, but ultimate comfort. And if your religion gives me a warm fuzzy, we'll continue to give you the nod, but don't expect more than that.

The third degree of love is to love God for His sake. It is at this level that we show our maturity. We have a deeper love for God and one another. Our own best interests are usually an afterthought. We actually enjoy loving others and are genuinely interested in them. We are less likely to choose where we're going to eat, because it's not important. The point isn't to eat. The point is to further our relationship. Marriages have matured from having someone spend THEIR life "on" me, to spending MY life "with" them.

As selfish as they are, no one gets to the third stage unless they go through the pain of the first two. At this level, you realize, it truly IS better to give than to receive. You are no longer scratching backs and trading services. You are creating happiness. It is here that we begin to loosen the grip on our wallets, schedules, and reputation. People here see past the 3 dimensional view of their world. They see people as eternal beings created in God's image.

The fourth degree of love is to love self for God's sake. These people are rare, but easy to spot. They are not always in monasteries, convents, or pulpits. You'll see them at the gym, but not posing in the mirror. You'll see them at restaurants, but not eating too much. You'll see them drinking, but never drunk. These are the ones who have reached a level that allows them to love themselves, life, and others to the fullest. They realized that if Christ died for them, they must be really important. And if Christ died for the whole world, then the whole world is just as important. These people have found the balance between heavenly minded and earthly good. For them, it's not about just breathing as long as you can, but getting the most out of every breath. They take care of themselves, not because of vanity, but because they know there body is a gift, and they are grateful. They cherish life and the Giver of life. They never judge you, because they are too busy being grateful for their own pardon. They are masters at separating the sin from the sinner. Knowing how precious their life really is, they still believe yours is slightly more valuable.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wrong. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. - 1Corinthians 13:4-7

May all of us experience love, for God's sake.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's Not About You

I recall a story of a guy walking towards a building. As he approached the entrance, he noticed a woman behind him. He slowly opened the door and held it in place, waiting for the woman to pass. The woman stopped at the threshold, put her hands on her hips and barked, "Please don't hold the door for me just because I'm a lady. I can do it myself, Thank you very much!" The man, calmly replied, "Ma'am, I didn't hold the door open because you are a lady. I held the door open because I'm a gentleman."

As I reflected, I was reminded of how segregated my life has become. It's as if I role play depending on my location and audience. Depending on where and whom I'm with, I can be very gentle, or a jerk. I can be forgiving, or get angry very easily. I can be relational, or look extremely busy and avoid you. Believe me, my life is filled with numerous trap doors, escape pods, and excuses to remove myself from any responsibility, challenge, or conversation.

To whom it may concern: God is calling me out of this confusing mess. I am tired of playing the "Guess Who I Am Today" game. I no longer want to live under the circumstances. My wife, my children, my co-workers, and my friends need me to be ME. God created me perfect for HIS purpose. I no longer want to forfeit His purpose by allowing a person, place, or thing to keep me from it. So starting today, I serve notice to all nouns. I am going to be me regardless of who is watching. No doubt I will lose ground in some arenas, but I will also gain ground in some. At least the ground will be occupied by the real deal.

The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is reassuring to know that there is no sin capable of making a sonic boom strong enough to knock God off His throne. When I royally screw up, He is always there with an arm to grab. God puts food on my table even though we forget to thank Him for it. God doesn't get offended like me. God's mood does NOT change with the price of oil, even though mine does. God is always on time, on point, and on deck. And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with me. It has everything to do with Him being a God who keeps his promises.

John 13 describes an event where Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. What's interesting is that Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him. Even though Judas decided to betray Him, Jesus washed his feet along with the others. What's even more amazing is that Jesus gave him the highest honor at the meal. Now I have to admit. This is NOT how I would have handled it. First off, I would have only sent out 11 dinner invitations. If that didn't stop him, upon washing his feet, I would accidentally on purpose broke his pinky toe. And then I would have poisoned his food. But hey, that's how I roll.

Jesus displayed remarkable grace, compassion, and genuineness in spite of having full knowledge of the circumstances. Jesus didn't give Judas the cold shoulder, not return his emails, or embarrass him. Jesus never allowed Himself to be watered down by anyone. And neither will I, so help me God. Jesus didn't offer Judas grace and mercy, because he deserved it. Jesus offered it because He is gracious and merciful.

"Ma'am, I didn't hold the door open because you are a lady. I held the door open because I'm a gentleman."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Paradox Of Prayer

If you want to read the Bible, great. But if you want to read it in high definition blue-ray, then become a parent. I have studied the Bible for years, but never knew how shallow my understanding was until I had children. How can one truly understand verses about "Father God" unless you ARE a father? For years, I studied the Bible in "black and white", but it wasn't until I had children, that I saw it in color.

As a father, there is nothing good that I will withhold from my children, if it is in my power to give it. Asking for it is optional. If my child needs medicine, food, shelter, encouragement, ect., I'm on it! On the flip side, if my child wants something bad for them, it doesn't matter how much they ask. They're NOT getting it. This isn't deep. This is common sense, and elementary for any good parent.

So if God is a good father, why do we pray? If we believe that God will give us what is good, and withold what is bad, then what would be the logic behind prayer? On the surface, it seems like I'm wasting my time. I never asked this question until after I became a father. I want my child to be happy. I not only want to give him what he needs, but I want to give him what he wants.

I feel an example is needed. Let's pretend my son is sitting at the table eating his food. He looks up and asks, "Dad, may I have a brownie?" Because I'm a good father, my answer is no. I proceed to tell him that he needs to finish his dinner. After he finishes his dinner, he asks again. Because I'm a good father, my answer is now yes. What just happened?  He asked twice and received two different answers. What changed?  Am I schizophrenic   Is God?

The purpose of prayer isn't to ask God to do something He is already going to do. The purpose of prayer isn't to ask God for something He isn't going to give. (You can't change God!) The purpose of prayer is to offer ourselves up to God so that WE can change. It was in my son's asking (prayer) that my answer (will) was known to him.

He could have responded in two ways. He could have expressed that my answer was not to his satisfaction, (whined) or he could have accepted my current answer and proceeded to do something about changing himself (finish his dinner). By changing himself, he would have gotten the answer he wanted to begin with. I am not a mean father, and neither is God. I don't like saying NO, and neither does God. All you good fathers know what I'm talking about. A father's joy is giving your family everything they want, not repeating "no" because you can. If I say "no" and don't explain my answer on their level, then I'm not being a good father, I'm either power-tripping or being lazy.

Now that I am a father, I pray different. No longer do I come to God with my daily Christmas list. I first come alone. I come to offer myself. And how do I offer myself? Well as funny as it sounds, I still bring my list. Again, it's in our asking that we reveal who WE are. If you really want to know someone. I mean really know. Ask them what they want. You are what you want. If you don't believe me, why is it so difficult to pray with your spouse, or with others? Prayer (bring your requests before God) is one of the most vulnerable things you can do. Have you ever prayed out loud? Have you ever listened to yourself pray? Did you sound selfish and pitiful? Let's be honest. When you pray, who is the servant and who is the master?!

Prayer is meant to be a daily, life changing event. Your requests reveal who you are, and God's answer reveal who He wants you to be. It is true that you cannot change God. The Bible says so. Because I'm a father, I understand the paradox. It's not that my mind changes, it's that my children do. When the child's attitude, maturity, motives, etc. change, so does the answer. Remember, my desire is to give them ALL that they want. There only job is to allow me to do it.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." John 15:7