Tag Archives: God

Glancing At God Through A Peephole

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I am a huge hockey fan, and I have played a little bit in a couple of beer-leagues, I mean, adult recreational leagues where only water or sports drinks are consumed, the last couple of years.  When my wife and I were dating she made me learn how to play for my own good. Why wouldn’t I? I love the sport, and have followed the NHL for a long time, learn to play it. She’s the doer; if left alone I would just dream about it forever.  So I got skates, pads, sticks, and signed up for a clinic. I wasn’t too bad, but I still can’t skate backwards and have “tripped” over the blue line on a breakaway, or two. I stopped playing in part because of kids, but it gave me a glimpse of what it was like to play the game I love so much, which is enough at this point in my life.

 

But it was only a glimpse, an impression.  I have no idea what it’s like to be a pro, ride the bus or charter plane, have a team trainer take care of all of my stuff, get slammed into the boards, or take a 90 mile per hour slap shot to the foot, ankle, or face.

 

That’s how some people experience God.  Maybe they went to church once. It may have been a good experience, but it didn’t change them, but they’re not rushing to go back anytime soon.  Maybe they even went to a Christian or Catholic school as a kid, but it was only because their parents made them. There are the unfortunate examples where they had a bad experience with someone who claimed to be a Christian, took advantage of the situation or their position, and it left them with scars of how God is.

 

Whatever the case may be, the picture they have of God may not be clear, and it is not because they have looked into it.  They just have that one glimpse or view and have decided that they understand God and He’s not for them. Unfortunately, you can only convey an idea so much before someone has to experience it for themselves.  They have to choose to investigate and look into the situation on their own, and they have to want to do it.

 

You may have heard of Jesus, but you don’t know Jesus until you experience Jesus, which is just like any relationship with anyone else you know.  You don’t know Jesus until you talk to Him, and you stop and actually try to listen to Him (it wouldn’t be much of a relationship if you were the only one talking).  You may have heard of how He works from other people, but you don’t know Him until He has moved in your life, until you have experienced His hand working out for the good in your life.

 

It is interesting, to say the least, when you hear a false claim about a topic you personally know about.  Maybe you don’t know a great deal about it, but you know enough that what you just heard was wrong. You can refute it the best you can, but the people spreading false information have to decide, willingly, that they are going to be open to a different point of view other than their own.

 

That’s not always easy, and the change doesn’t happen immediately.  Nor do people, typically, want to hear another point of view, because that would mean that they are wrong, or just that what they thought was the truth wasn’t.  And that always goes over well, right??

 

The easiest thing I can do is point to my life as evidence of what God is like.  I am certainly not perfect, which is why I am a good example. God’s work is progressive.  I am a work in progress and far from a masterpiece.

 

For a long time, I thought God was a vengeful God, just wanting to catch me in the wrong.  So I would sin, as we all do, and then ask for forgiveness, and try to repent. Then sin, ask for forgiveness, try to repent, and repeat.  Over and over again.

 

And get tired.  Because I was trying to do it on my own.  I was not resting in His power to take away my temptation to sin.

 

That would always make me pray and ask for salvation over and over again to make sure I could actually call myself a Christian.  I was worried I could lose my salvation.

 

But God isn’t keeping score.  He isn’t counting up all the wrongs I have done to use against me later.  Because of salvation, I am forgiven, my sins are forgotten, and I am made clean.  I will need to stand before God and account for my sins, but the blood of Jesus has washed away the consequence I would have faced.

 

The true picture of God is that He wants me to be free.  He wants the weight, the guilt, the shame, and the pain of sin to be taken away from me.  This way I am able to be free, free to do His work of serving others and sharing His word, free to share the story of the freedom I have been given.

 

To define God’s plan as salvation and forgiveness so that we can have eternal life with Him, “fire insurance”, is just so narrow of a view of God and His plan.  It is like looking at God through a peephole.

 

Now, I don’t love God because of what I get from God.  I love God for what He has already given me. And He wants to give me so much more.  He wants to give you so much more. He wants to give you life abundantly and eternally.

 

I cannot even give you a full view of God.  I am still learning about what He is like every day.  What I do know of God is His grace, peace, love, mercy, and abundant life.

 

I don’t know your circumstances, but there is abundant life waiting for you.  I know the world may not look like it is possible for you to have abundant life, but it is with God.  The promise of salvation and forgiveness of your sins is just the beginning.

 

There are days I still wrestle with my human self.  I see what is going on in the world, and I cannot understand how or why what is happening is allowed to happen.  So I pray. I had to stop working the other day and fall to my knees and pray. I had to surrender my anger to God and be reminded that He has a greater plan.  Then I felt His calm.

 

I still get angry, but I pray and ask for His peace.  Because I know there is a bigger view. There is a wider lens to see God through, and I know the lens I am using is not wide enough still.  It is getting wider, though, as I spend time reading about His power, His goodness, His purpose, and His plan for my life.

 

I just look forward, though, to when I can see Him face to face, without a filter.

 

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The Thing Bringing You Back to God

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It is easy to drift, wander, or day dream, when given the chance.  Even when I am focused, I might think to myself “Wow, look how focused I am right now!”  I might even think, depending on where I am, “Can everyone see how hard I am working? I must look so busy to everyone else.  Is my boss watching?? How much could I get done if I was like this more? If I played less video games? I haven’t played video games in awhile, will I remember how to play?  Should I play when I get home? For how long? I’ll set a timer. Which timer? The one on my phone? Or the one on Alexa?”

 

Yes, this is what I think at times.  No, my boss isn’t watching, so no brownie points were scored.

 

Eventually, at some time during my day dream I wander back to reality, to what I was supposed to be doing.  Eventually, I complete what I was doing, but not without a few distractions of checking Twitter first, then Instagram, then maybe Facebook if I’m really bored or not wanting to do whatever I am supposed to do.  But something always brings me back.

 

For better or worse, this happens to me and my relationship with God.  I will say, for better, because I cannot imagine my life would be better without God.  But there is always something that pulls me back to Him no matter how far I have drifted, and I am glad it happens.  Fortunately, also, I do not wander away from God for very long. At least not anymore.

 

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul recounts conversations He has with God, asking for a thorn to be removed.  But God says to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made in weakness.”

 

There are times I feel I am pretty proud of myself or confident in how things are going.  Then my kids start acting crazy, and I lose all my sanity. Then I need to try and take a breath, say a prayer, and ask God for His power to help me be a loving, peaceful father.

 

Paul had a thorn in his side to remember God’s grace by.

 

I have my own thorn.

 

My wife seems to have hers.  Separately, we both came to the real possibility she may deal with what she has been struggling with for the last year for a long time, if not the rest of her life.  She has noticed when she has had her thorn, she has had to give work over to God and her coworkers to handle instead of taking it all on herself.

 

Both of our thorns don’t seem to be going away, but neither is God.

 

The thorn keeps us closer to God, keeps reminding us that He is what we need to live free.  

 

The thorn leads me to surrender because I cannot do life without His power.  I keep falling and failing, trapped in my own sin if I don’t continually surrender and ask Him for relief from my thorn, to have it removed.

 

He doesn’t take it away, though. That would be too easy, but it also doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear me, or isn’t a good God, or that He doesn’t care, or that He is trying to torture me.  He just reminds me that His grace is sufficient. His power is what I need all the time, not just when I need Him because I am in trouble.

 

I always need His power and grace.

 

I have heard some sermons lately with one of the main points being God’s timing is not ours, and we may ask for an answer for “a long time”, but He’ll answer when it is His time.  And once I get an answer, looking back, I’ll be able to see all the steps along the way where God was there even when I didn’t think He was.

 

That is not always easy to do in the moment, in the moment when all you want is relief from the pain, the shame, and the guilt of the sin.  It can be difficult to choose to turn to God and admit you need help, but that is when He steps in with His power – in your weakness. And it is enough.

 

His power is always enough.

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Pillars

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This weekend was bittersweet.  A lot of long-time friends and I were in the same place at the same time.  However, the reason was for a memorial service for my friend’s dad, who was a teacher and administrator at the school I went to, and who was an elder and fellow congregant of the church I attended most of my life.  During the service, as due praise was being spoken, his legacy was being remembered, and it was significant because he was a servant.

 

He was a servant of Jesus Christ, and that led him to serve others around him, namely the students he taught in the classroom, the players he coached, and his own family at home.  He dedicated his life to service, and his impact was felt by those in the auditorium.

 

He was a pillar in the community.

 

As I sat there listening to memories and stories being told of this great man, I looked around the room and saw a number of my former teachers and coaches there to pay their respects.  None of them “took me under their wing,” or were full-blown mentors to me. They were just there in some way in my life as a positive influence, even when I may not have been the model student, player, or kid.  I just know and still know that if I run into them when I am in my old stomping grounds, or see them at mutual gatherings, I will receive a hug and a smile, and give them one in return.

 

This is about the pillars in my life, or some of them.  The men and women that said something to me once, that stuck, or spoke to me through years of action.  Whether it was once, whether it was a steady stream, it was significant to me, and I thank you all.

 

Thank you for taking the time.  Thank you for your life of service to role of being a teacher, or coach, or youth pastor.  Thank you for your life of love for a greater purpose. Thank you that I could be a result of your legacy (or I’m sorry because…you never know).

 

In no particular order, I’ll start with Dean Lagasse.  I met Mr. Lagasse when I was, maybe, in fourth grade. He was a summertime day camp counselor at my school, who later was my P.E. teacher, who later was my football coach, who later is just a great man I would call a friend.  I am happy to see him when I am in town and attend my home church. Mr. Lagasse, whether he meant to or not, showed me how to love by being a parent to his step kids, and, later, heaping adoration on his own daughter. He praised my athletic abilities, encouraging me to excel, and showed me that I have to work for my spot.  He did that by cutting me from the baseball team in seventh grade. There was no easy way in. You gotta work for it.

 

Mr. Lagasse, Dean, thank you for your love and service to the King.  Thank you for your sacrifice to teach students like me. Whether you knew it or not, your example made a great impact in my life.

 

Before I was in Tom Nare’s class, all of my teachers were women, which was noteworthy only because I had to wait until fifth grade to be have a male teacher.  I finally was able to be a student in his class, and he was legendary. Right now, I can’t even remember what was so noteworthy about looking forward to being in his class, but I know we all wondered and hoped to be a student in his classroom.

 

I was lucky enough to be in his math class that year.  He just had an aura of cool for a teacher. Relaxed but not a pushover.  Maybe he was cool because randomly every couple of weeks I would have random work in my folder, bring it up to him, and he would take it and give me credit.  I was supposed to turn it in, but didn’t for no particular reason. Or he would tell me to trash it. Maybe I thought he was cool because he let me get away with that.  Let’s not ask him.

 

One time, a few days after the first earthquake most of us kids had ever been in had happened, I was in class, and a fellow student was standing up against the window in the room with his back to the outside walkway.  Mr. Nare was walking the hallways and pounded on the glass as he passed by scaring the living daylights out of my classmate and most of the rest of us in class. I don’t think anyone stood up against the glass again.

 

Whatever it was about Mr. Nare, it was significant to me.  So much so that when I see him when I am in the old neighborhood and see him at church, I have to call him “Mr. Nare.”  I can’t call him “Tom”. To me, he was a pillar of cool.

 

I had mild reservations when this new guy from Minnesota showed up to lead youth ministries at my church (MY church) when I was in high school.  But I gave him a chance since he came from the church some of my friends had come from a year before when their dad was called by God to become the lead pastor of “my” church.  He seemed pretty funny, fun and knew how to connect with the kids. Tim Bolin was cool enough that I stuck around church and his mission to grow God’s kingdom until I was twenty-three.

 

Tim was fun, funny, and he made loving Jesus fun as well.  He didn’t make a joke out of church, but he wanted to rid the stereotype or idea that church was just another day at school, except God was the subject.

 

One thing he wanted to change was to kick the old people out of the front rows of service.  Our church started in the 1930’s, and, no offense, but a proportion of the congregation looked like they were there from the time they broke ground.  So Tim wanted us young kids to take over the front rows. Eventually, we did take over, and I think some of my friends still sit there now some 25 years later.  

 

Sadly, we are becoming the old people the kids will need to kick out soon.

 

I hated going to church, even though I had liked going to “Sunday School” for junior high service, because my friends were there.  In “Big Church” you had to sit, be quiet, listen – all the things junior high kids “love”. There was a short period of time when my friend Steve and I would ditch church to walk down to KFC and sneak back in until we got caught (Dad, the statute of limitations is up.  This was 30+ years ago. Please don’t get mad). When Tim showed up, he changed church into a place to be. I wanted to be there.

 

It’s a little funny now being a dad:  I am so in love with Jesus and want my kids to be too, but they don’t always want to go.  I’ll just keep praying for them and asking God to speak to them.

 

Before Tim was Randy Strickland, and he was a crack up.  I think if I didn’t know him, or know he loved God from head to toe, I would be really worried that he was actually nuts.  I can’t say I have a specific memory that makes a significant impact in my mind, but he was steady and consistent. I knew he loved God.  I knew he wanted me to love God, too, and that was his mission: to share the gospel.

 

As I am writing about Randy, there is one memory I do remember.  It was junior high winter retreat, and he was driving us in a van to a cabin in the local mountains.  There was a street that had a tree as a lane divider. He wasn’t going fast, but the streets had some snow dust so there was some risk, and he was heading right for the tree.  He got closer and closer saying, “Decisions…decisions…” until he eventually got to one side of the road.

 

I never told my parents about that, and I doubt my kids are going to tell me about their adventures when they’re in junior high, but I hope my kids have servants like Tim and Randy in their lives to help guide them through the mystery of Jesus.

 

When you’re in school, there are situations you just dread.  Getting called on to answer a question in class, to write on the board, act in a skit.  The usual kind of thing. Up until recently as an adult with a career, I was a scientist, and in school that was my focus.  So English class was not my jam. Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Crucible.  Kill me now.  

 

Then there are the days you walk into class and your teacher (in my case, Mrs. Fickett) says, “Hi class, it’s creative writing day!  We’re going to write a poem about your feelings.” Not exactly but the poem part was true. I had forty five minutes to write the perfect poem to avoid getting an F for the day.

 

It didn’t happen.  No poem under pressure.  I wrote a paragraph to Mrs. Fickett explaining that writing under pressure like that, to flip the switch and be creative, was not in my wheelhouse.  From what I could gather, she bought it and accepted what I submitted, because I didn’t fail 11th grade English.

 

Then, out of nowhere while I was in college, I started writing.  I started writing poems. None of them rhymed because that is too hard on my brain.  I don’t know if Mrs. Fickett would care, but I have always thought of sharing with her some of my work.  Not in a, “In your face!” kind of way. More of a, “Thanks for understanding” kind of way. Thanks for recognizing, very simply by saying, “Okay,” to what I turned in, that different people work differently in different environments.

 

But if you don’t like my writing, blame her. 🙂

 

Another legend that I had heard of before I was a student of his was Mr. Endacott.  The stories were that he was laid back, fun, and his class was cool. He lived up to the hype.  He even managed to keep his cool when he had a class full of seniors, made up mostly the “cool” kids who did not care about Human Anatomy – until the reproductive system was covered, of course.  And he maintained his cool even when he found out a friend and I were passing notes after, AFTER, we completed our AP Bio exam.

 

Endo was a big reason I became a scientist.  Science was fun, science was easy in Endo’s class.  He had an easy way to explain and help students understand biology.  He did his best to explain mitosis and meiosis, and I still can’t get the steps straight.  Endo had a picture of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics and doppleganger of Sting, up on the wall, one time mumble-sang a song by The Police, and said he listened to the same morning radio show a lot of us did.  That helped with his “cool cred” in my mind, not that he needed more or my acknowledgement. I just was glad to be a student in his class.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in the church, have a positive experience, and have positive Christian influences around me to help mold my thinking and idea of God.  A family that helped do that when I was in college, and even now to this day were the Swansons. Bob and Marilyn opened up their home to our college group Bible study to meet on Thursday nights for years.  Some weeks they would provide dinner for up to 40 of us, other weeks, it was potluck. Either way, “starving students” would come, eat, talk about God, His relationship with us, and our relationships with each other.  It was a chance to meet with friends, and gave me a midweek God-calibration.

 

Even though I grew up in the church, my relationship with Jesus was still superficial, or just on my terms if I needed Him.  Recently, it has grown, and I love Jesus more than ever, but if I didn’t have that foundation, I don’t think it would be as strong as it is now.  And I have Bob and Marilyn to thank for that, for helping build a pillar in my life.

 

I have been in a Men’s LIfe Group for a year and a half now.  We have met at my house a handful of times. I have to scramble to sweep, pick up the kids’ toys, and make the house mildly presentable for 4-8 middle-aged men (meaning they wouldn’t care).  The Swanson’s did that routine every week for at least 5 years. AND they got food for people without asking for anything in return. I will always remember the sacrifice they made to help plant seeds and grow the kingdom in a group of college-aged kids.

 

But their son is still a jerk, amirite?!  😉 Just kidding, he’s one of my friends I have known the longest and always can call on.

 

There are many more people that have impacted my life.  Gary Correll led my high school Life Group. He spoke on James once about faith and works, and I will never forget his words, “It’s faithworks.  Not faith AND works, or works AND faith. They go together.” Also in high school, Dan Wonser took time to meet with me and a couple of guys for breakfast once a week.  We would talk about high school life, and what’s more important in life. Kenny Murphy lead high school before Tim Bolin did, and he shared, among other things, how God used football and life to speak to him.  He also was an example of sacrifice running the high school ministry while managing and balancing his family and, I believe, a full-time job.

 

Talking about the pillars in my past makes me wonder what kind of pillar am I?  Who am I a pillar to? Do my kids see me as a pillar? A strong, positive pillar?  Or a crumbling one without a solid base?

 

In listening to sermons and podcasts, or watching the way NBC brings out the emotional stories of Olympic athletes, kids just need an influencer.  In hearing horror stories, there are negative influences that can lead to tragedy. But with an open heart and a positive role model, there is a way towards renewal and redemption.

 

I’ll make mistakes, but I hope to be a strong pillar as part of s solid foundation in Christ for my kids.

 

What kind of influence are you on your kids?  On your community? At work? What kind of foundation are you helping build in your kids?

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I Made It Home Safely

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I wrote this after events in Charlottesville.  The ideas still apply.  Please pray this world heals.  Please do something every day to love your neighbor, who is everyone.  Please pray for me, because I am praying for you.

 

There wasn’t much of a chance that I wouldn’t make it home safely.  It just isn’t promised to me.  I live in a good neighborhood; I seem to have good neighbors, even though I do not know many of them or know them well.  It is nice.

 

But I take it for granted.  It makes me comfortable, which is good and bad.  My wife and kids are safe-that is good.

 

There are people not as lucky as I am, though.  There are people that didn’t make it home safely this weekend.  There are many people who risked something of themselves to save others.  There are some who were victims of violence centered around particular beliefs.  They didn’t make it home safely.

 

I believe in God.  I am a Christian, which means I am an alien to this world.  I am called to be a light in the world while I am here.  There are good ways to do that.  There are bad ways to do that.

 

A bad way to do that, which would not make me a positive light in the world for God, is to rage.  I am so tempted to scream at people-friends, family, acquaintances.  I want to call them names.  I want to point fingers and place blame.  But I know that won’t help.  I know that will not change their minds.  More importantly, that is not what God would want me to do.

 

A good way is to stand in the gap for someone, someone without a voice.  Someone who needs help and needs to be shown God’s love.  

 

That is everyone.

 

God’s love is for everyone.  God’s love isn’t for me just because I’m an American.  God’s love isn’t just for people of a certain skin color.  God’s love isn’t just for the rich.  God’s love isn’t just for the poor.  God’s love isn’t just for the sick.  God’s love isn’t just for the healthy.

 

If you’re breathing, you need God’s love.  And He wants to give it to you.  All you have to do is ask.  And if you’re breathing, you’re to be giving love to others.  You’re to be loving your neighbors, who is everyone.

 

I need God’s love, because I need healing from anger.  I need God’s love, because I need to be reminded that we are all made in God’s image.  He loves everyone as much as He loves you and me.

 

My pastor believes we are nearing the end times.  He recently pointed out that one prophesy is nations will fight against nations.  A better translation of that is ethnic groups against ethnic groups.  I am not an expert, so I will defer to him, but, even without studying prophecy, I can’t deny the times we live in.  I don’t think anyone can deny the hatred seen on the news or social media.

 

Before writing this, I spent some time in my knees in prayer, asking that Jesus’ love rise above it all.  Trying times need thoughtful prayer as a place to start.  I hope you may spend some time in prayer, whether you pray for the state of our country, the state of our world, or simply the state of your heart.  Please pray.

 

God bless you, and get home safely.

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Drop of Grace

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But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

It is a battle everyday.  I fight to rest.  And wake up tired.  I call out and ask for relief.  Everyday.  It comes for a moment, until I turn my head to the side.  There is something I struggle with.  So I turn to the other side.  There is another.  I look ahead to try and stay focused.

 

You may have similar feelings even without getting into specifics with what your struggle is, your thorn in your side that you beg God to take away from you.  Or maybe you have no idea what I am talking about because you have excised your demons.  In fact, I assume that you are better than me, because I am the best sinner in the world.

 

If you’re still with me, just a reminder with the verse above:  God’s grace is sufficient for you; God’s grace is sufficient for me.  He makes my weakness my strength.  He does the same for you.

 

When you are challenged with a tough-parent-day (similar to a bad-hair-day), God’s grace is sufficient for you.  When you have made a mistake as a spouse, God’s grace is sufficient for you to apologize to your significant other first and swallow whatever pride you think you deserve.  When you are challenged with your everyday battle that you always face at work, at home, at karate class, at whatever place you find yourself, God’s grace is sufficient for you to rest in the power of Christ and let Him perfect you.

 

I know.  You look at me and see a perfect dad, a perfect husband, and a perfect friend.  Let me burst your bubble.  I am only two of those things.  I’ll let you decide which two.  I am kidding, of course.  I am only one of those things.  As you may also struggle, I struggle with trying to be a great dad, a great husband, and a decent human being.  Maybe you don’t struggle with any of this, as I mentioned earlier, but you can relate because you used to be imperfect and know the pain I feel.

 

Some days I seek complete rescue, but, maybe God doesn’t want to rescue us completely.  Maybe, like Paul, He wants us to have a reminder that I need His grace.  I need His power to lift me out of my weaknesses.  I need this to remember to call out to Him when I am not at my best, for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Fortunately, God doesn’t keep His grace from me.  Fortunately, I do not need much to be satisfied.  I just need a drop.  Just think:  if I only need a drop of grace to be perfected more and more, how quickly would I drown if He gave it all to me all at once?  As much as I want it, I don’t think I could handle it, so He gives me what I can handle.  Drop by drop.

 

Drop by drop there is a slow drip of grace to my soul to be satisfied.  Drop by drop God strengthens me.  Drop by drop He perfects me.  His power is perfect for what I need today and every day.

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God Is Not Santa Claus

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“He knows when you’re naughty or nice,” and he knows who to bring presents to because he has his list.  Parents usually spew this warning or threat to kids about Santa through the year or just around Christmas time to try and keep them in line.  It usually works for about an hour, and either the parents forget in a mad rush to do…whatever.  Or the kids just go on being kids and keep doing what they are doing because they are kids.  And people just keep on doing what they are doing because they are people.

 

For a long time I thought of God the same way I do Santa:  if I do something wrong, He will know and will count it against me.  Wait, the way I did think about Santa, because I no longer believe in Santa.  He’s not real…right?  I have to fight that now as an adult (not the Santa part), a little bit more mature in my faith than when I first accepted Christ, and learning more and more about grace.  True grace.  About mercy.  About peace.  About forgiveness.

 

This is something that is a work in progress.  We are all still human, after all, but it is possible to learn and understand.  

 

I make my best effort to be a loving father with open arms ready to accept my kids no matter what they do, but I fail.  I fail often.  After the third cup of milk of the morning spills, I lose it.  God doesn’t.  But no matter how many cups of milk are spilled, I am still for my kids and don’t condemn them for it.  It may be frustrating to keep cleaning it up, but I don’t love them less.  This may be contradictory to what my kids think.  They probably feel the way I did about Santa (did think, not anymore remember).  I can’t be perfect, but I can help them know that I am for them no matter what.

 

I would think of God as a prison warden or police officer who is just waiting for me to slip up to catch me in the act.  Along with that would be the mentality of thinking if I sinned that day, like a bad sin that I always get caught with like impure, bad boy-thoughts, or getting mad at the coworker I don’t like for breathing weird, or swearing at the driver who cut me off without using their turn signal, then nothing good could happen to me that day.  Or maybe since Jesus died and rose after three days, then three days after my bad sin something good could happen to me.  Or I just couldn’t face God for a period of time.  I had an action, there is a consequence, God has a judgement for me.  I tried to make it logical so that I could understand, so that I could try and understand and make sense of God.

 

But God is not logical.  God doesn’t make sense.  And that is good thing.

 

Romans 5:20

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.

 

Romans 11:6

And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their own good works.  For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved.

 

Ephesians 2:8-10

God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

If God was logical, or did things the way I would, or the way I would expect Him to, I would have used up all of my chances at redemption a long time ago.  Like the time I got caught stealing from a department store.  I mean, if you break one of the Ten Commandments, the defense of “I didn’t know that was a rule” doesn’t really work.  Instead, I have freedom.  Instead I have been given grace.  Instead I have been given mercy.  Instead I have been given forgiveness.  And not just forgiveness but forgetfulness to go along with the forgiveness.  God doesn’t remember my sins in an effort to hold them against me later, or to guilt me into obeying Him.  He just forgets and moves on, which means I need to forgive and forget, too.  I need to forgive others as I have been forgiven, and I need to forget as my sins have been forgiven.  I need to forgive and forget with others, and I need to forgive myself and not beat myself up forever.

 

I am not condemned.  I am not condemned because God is for me.

God is my heavenly father and he is for me.

 

The song that sparked this post is by Tenth Avenue North from their latest album, Cathedrals, and the song is No Man Is An Island.  There is one small, quick line in part of the chorus, but it is so important for me, for you, and for people who don’t think God wants good things for them because of the circumstances they are in, or the circumstances of the world seen on the news or right outside.  The line that caught my attention is “I am for you”.  Your circumstances may suck, but God is still for you and not a cop in heaven trying to catch you doing something wrong.

 

John 8 is the story of a woman caught in adultery, who was brought before Jesus by the religious leaders.  The religious leaders wanted Jesus to condemn this woman, but Jesus flipped it on them and said whoever is free from sin to cast the first stone.  The crowd realizes He won’t fall for their trap and they leave, which leaves Jesus there alone with the woman.  He points out to her no one is there to condemn her, so He says, “Neither do I.”

 

Growing up in church and attending a Christian school, I heard this story a lot, but it didn’t really impact me until I heard a sermon from Fellowship Monrovia.  What caught my attention was this quote from the sermon:

 

What comes at the end of an experience with Jesus Christ is freedom, absolute freedom.  The change came after her encounter with Jesus realizing she was never condemned in the first place and that gave her freedom.

 

You and I were never condemned in the first place, and we can have freedom.

 

In no way can I fully understand God or explain God to you, if you don’t believe in Him.  If you feel have been wronged by church, or God, or your circumstances suck for whatever reason and you blame God, I get it.  But whatever your reason, I hope you know God is for you.  God has given you the freedom to choose to believe in Him or not.  I pray you come to understand that freedom.

 

I am for you.  I am for you that you find your way to God, who is your heavenly father waiting for you to welcome Him into your life.

 

As you and I are children of God, God the heavenly Father is for us.  In the same way as a dad, I am for my kids.  I hope and pray they find their course in life and become doctors, or lawyers, or CEOs of major corporations, or lawyers that represent doctors that are advisors to major corporations, or just important people.  More importantly, I am for my kids finding the freedom and power of God making an impact in their lives, and in turn impacting the lives of others around them.  As much as I wish I could choose God for them, I cannot.  They have to make that decision on their own.

 

My dad was there for me, but maybe yours wasn’t and that is what your reason for not understanding and trusting God.  I understand.  God is still for you.  It may be hard to believe, but it is true.  He is for you and provides you with freedom, full and complete freedom.  That includes freedom from pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment against whatever it is that prevents you from surrendering to God’s power and will in your life.

 

There are times I chain myself down with my own sin, even though I have been given freedom.  I beat myself up for not being better or being weak-willed, but I don’t need to be.  I don’t need to condemn myself.  I am free.

 

You can be too, because He is for you.  God is not keeping a list of who is naughty or nice.  He may be watching you the same way the Elf on the Shelf, or Santa, watches you, but He is watching to see if you will choose Him so that He may freely give His gifts of grace and salvation and forgiveness and freedom and peace to you.

 

All for you.

 

Listen to the Tenth Avenue North song here  https://youtu.be/Zlw3jG2pE8w
The sermon from Fellowship Monrovia can be listened to here (Click here to download the sermon in iTunes)

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Ants Marching

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If you follow me on social media, you’re probably mildly aware that we have an ant problem in our house. They show up in my kitchen. They show up in my dining room area. There have been thousands strong (maybe exaggerating) crawling from the window, across the wall, and convening behind my couch. They have been in bathrooms. They have been surrounding the doorway of my daughter’s bedroom. They have been crawling out of a vent into my wife’s purse by the front door.

 

They are terribly annoying, but mildly fascinating. Ants seem to be working together in concert for the greater good, but they each have their own task. From what I understand, when they cross each other’s paths, they bump heads together as a way to communicate with one another and tell each other what they are doing. Don’t quote me on that. Do your research and ask Google. But it looks like they work together, overall. Kind of like how humans do, most of the time.

 

Unless you watch the news. Unless you listen to or watch a presidential debate. Unless you express an opinion on Facebook or Twitter. Unless you disagree with someone on social media and you can anonymously attempt to destroy them with words. Unless you’re standing in line at Starbucks and can’t get off the phone long enough to order your coffee and pay for it. Unless you cut me off in traffic.

 

Then you need to go ahead and die, because that is what you deserve. Death is what you deserve for having an opinion that is different than mine because you have a different world view based on different experiences. You don’t deserve to breathe because you made a mistake in your car.

 

I am not innocent of hurling insults at people, online, or in person, or just in my head when all you did was say hello to me. I am guilty of swearing at you for tailgating me as I tailgate the car in front of me, or if you forgot to use your turn signal when turning right and you made me slow down a little more than I would have preferred. I am guilty of thinking or calling people stupid for stating their political preference.

 

But you don’t deserve to die. Or if you do, so do I, because we all sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. We are all human. We are all the same. And we are all different. And we are all the same. We all want the same thing.

 

We want to live.

 

Or at least the chance at life. Some of us don’t get that chance for one reason or another, and that needs to change.

 

Again, I am guilty of making judgments about people based on a mistake, a quick glance at their appearance, or something said near me that I don’t have any context for. In fact, I had a brief argument with my wife the other day. The determination was made that I shouldn’t judge people. I said, “But I’m really good at it.” She said, “No you’re not because your judgment is usually wrong.” I said, “Yeah, but in a judgment made in only one second, I’m really good.” She said, “That’s what makes you bad!” I didn’t win the argument.

 

I’ve been catching myself lately, reminding myself that the person I have ill will towards, am judging based on zero facts or third-hand stories, or just looks or sounds different than I do, is a human. Just like I am a human. He or she is made in God’s image, just as I am made in God’s image, which makes both of us perfect in His eyes.

 

What if we lived with that at the forefront of our minds? What if I looked at people that way immediately, instead of after I took a breath because they made me mad? What if I loved people, people that are not my friends and not just like me which is why they are my friends, the way God loves them and the way God loves me? What if I lived like the people around me all have hopes and dreams just like I do? And that they are just trying to do what makes them happy.

 

I need to remind myself of this regarding my kids more often. They are not disobeying for the sake of it. They are just trying to do what makes them happy. I need to remember this when my coworker uses my desk. She is just trying to get her work done. It may be frustrating to me, but it isn’t personal. I don’t think it is, anyway.

 

I pray for God’s hand of peace upon the world. It seems futile. Not because He is not there or because He’s not listening. I know He listens, and I know He is there. But because I know the ending, and it is scary to think about. All I can do is prepare myself, my family, and my kids. Tragedy happens all too often these days. Controversy stirs up debates globally and locally and personally. I pray for the strength to not be deceived by misinformation that God is not enough for me, or for you. I pray that I have the strength to stand boldly in His name, even when it is not convenient, even when my life depends on it.

 

We’re all humans just trying to live out our dreams for ourselves. We’ll continue to bump heads, I’m sure. But I hope I remember to stay on task with God’s plan for my life and wish grace and peace and love to you as you continue with your task.

 

And I hope you do too.

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