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Monday, January 31, 2011

Chick-fil-a

Okay. This will be a quick one and maybe it won't be so popular. But I have to vent just a little before I hit the road this afternoon.

I was watching the news last night when I heard this report. Chick-fil-a is catching grief because they supplied food to a pro-family group in Pennsylvania for a conference they were having. Pro-homosexual groups are furious and calling for Chick-fil-a (CFA) to change their policies.

How intolerant can the pro-homosexual groups get and how long will we stand by and allow them to be this way?

If CFA was donating food to the "Witches of Eastwick" you'd hear nothing but crickets from these groups. If they were donating food to feed dogs on the street, no one would care. But you allow an organization to support something that doesn't line up with the pro-homosexual policies and suddenly CFA is the target of all their wrath.

This isn't about what I believe (most of you probably know that any way). This is about this whole "tolerance" movement that wants to silence everybody but the people who support them. CFA is a privately held corporation. They do not discriminate in their hiring nor in who they serve at their restaurants. They do, however, just like any other organization, have a right to support whatever and whomever they choose without getting a black-eye from the media and pro-homosexual groups.

After all, isn't that what tolerance is all about?

I submit to you that tolerance is not what these organizations desire...it's control. They want to control what others think, what they do and who they do it for. Last time I checked, that's as intolerant (and two-faced) as any one can get.

But it's just another reason for me to find a CFA today and encourage you to do the same. It's the tolerant thing to do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Transforming me

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5 NIV

I was giving some thought to this verse this morning. Like many of you, I have read this verse many times. I've heard sermons and Bible studies on the meaning of these words. Heck, I've even preached a few of those messages. On the surface, it seems like a pretty obvious statement. The Bible is clear that, once we choose to follow Jesus, our hearts and minds are in this process of transformation. God wants us to be like Jesus.

This morning, I had to ask myself this question. Do I really understand what such a transformation can and will do for me?

I like to believe that God is doing something cool in me. I like to believe that I am further in this journey than I was ten years ago...or even last week. But closer inspection causes me to understand what having the mind of Christ really means...and what it would look like if I were even close.

Jesus was unselfish. I tend to fail on that one. Jesus was able to control his emotions and channel those emotions into productive forms. Five minutes of the UGA basketball game last night would have let you know there is still work to be done in this category. Jesus loved His Father and was obedient to death. I'm trying. I really am. But I'm still lacking in this category as well. Jesus talked of loving his enemies and praying for them. Sometimes my prayers for my enemies leave much to be desired. Jesus loved the whole world--all of us--without thought of convenience or comfort or...his own life. I catch myself forgetting that there is even 7 billion other people on this planet.

This, if for no other reason, is why reading the Bible is so important (at least for me). It is that constant reminder that my life is a work in process. I'm moving in the right direction but I haven't arrived. It's a journey. And this journey is pretty much a life-long deal. God's Word encourages me to embrace the changes and to allow Him to do what He does best.

No, I don't have the mind of Christ. Not yet. Not completely. But one of the sweetest promises of Scripture comes from this same letter by Paul.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. Philippians 1:6 Message

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Living through Saturdays...

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

After the wreck, I was forced to the realization that while Sarah and Josh's lives had ended prematurely...mine had not. Nor could I let it. On April 8th, the day before the wreck, Sarah and I had been thrilled to find out that our former church was inviting us back to Franklin, TN to plant our next church. Sarah had always loved middle Tennessee and, for both of us, we saw it as a chance to go home and continue God's work. Just a few days later, our friend and former pastor from the church would call to ask if I was still up to the move with all that had happened. I knew what my answer had to be. My life was still yet to be lived. There were still chapters to be written and pages to be turned. My kids needed their dad. God still had a plan. And no matter how violently my life had been shaken on that Good Friday, the wreck had not knocked God off of His thrown.

Jesus died on Friday. You and I can hardly understand the depth of emotion the disciples must have felt on that Saturday. Maybe that's why the Bible doesn't talk about it much. Surely there were questions. How could they give three years of their lives only to wind up huddled in a room? There were fears. Could it be that everything Jesus said about himself was wrong? I am sure there was anger and confusion and, maybe, there was talk of quitting.

Don't you imagine that at least a couple of the disciples that Saturday were thinking about going back to their previous lives? Fishermen, a doctor, a tax collector. There may have been a few who even thought of following Judas' lead. Let's face it. This was no ordinary death. The man who had led them for the last three years was gone. They were not living just any old Saturday.

But if they had quit--if they had decided to turn their back and walk away--they would have missed out on Sunday. They would have missed the most significant event in all of human history. They would have missed the chance to have their fears erased, questions answered, and doubts wiped away...all because they decided to quit.

I was facing that same choice. My wife died on Friday. My world was shaken to its core. I won't lie. I can't. There were days that I just wanted to withdraw or quit. It was so tempting to let life happen to me as it chose rather than choosing to intentionally make my life happen. But look at all I would have missed.

I would have missed out on pastoring this amazing church. I would have never had the privilege of watching my kids grow up to fulfill God's plan for their lives. I would have never known the blessing of two new daughters in Landon and Morgan. I would have never met Lisa, would have never known love again, would have never seen God use our marriage the way He has.

Some of you who read this have shared your stories with me. You've had your share of "Fridays"--the tragedies and trials and struggles that touch all of us. Right now, you are in the midst of your Saturday--questioning whether or not your life is worth the struggle and facing the fears that confront you. Let me assure you, know matter what Friday was like or what you are facing on Saturday...Sunday is worth the wait. It was for me. It was for those first disciples.

God has been in the business of turning trial into triumph. He loves to make winners out of those the world considers losers. Just keep holding on, believing that everything you face will be used by God for His glory. Sunday is just around the corner...

Monday, January 24, 2011

The fine art of marriage

I'm about to get very transparent here. Maybe uncomfortably so (I'll let you know when I'm done). But I think transparency is one of those weapons we have been given to battle Satan that we don't use often enough.

Marriage is hard. Entertainer Roberta Flack once said, "Getting married is easy. Staying married is difficult. Staying happily married for a lifetime should rank among the fine arts."

I didn't feel like much of an artist this weekend. I (I think it's safe to speak for Lisa and say "we") were in one of those situations where the "hardness" of marriage showed itself. We weren't on the same page. Everything we said to each other came out wrong. My pride was acting in full force. My temper was rearing its ugly head. I'll say it again...I wasn't in my best form.

Reflecting back on the disagreements of the weekend, there is much for this hard-headed fool to learn. I hope the lessons are ones that you will take to heart. (It might save you from an "animated" conversation or two).

1. There is no room for pride in your marriage if you hope to stay married. Humility makes for a great relationship.
2. Sometimes its better to step away from the conversation for a little while before you go any further. It gives God time to knock you upside the head and prevent you from saying stupid things.
3. Marriage is a lot of work. If you believe anything else, you are setting yourself up for failure. "Happily ever after" doesn't belong in your marriage. It belongs in the book of Revelation where Christ will come and make everything right. Everywhere else in (real) life it's just a fantasy.
4. I am a lucky man. No matter how stupid I get or how hard my head is or how crazy life gets out of control, I have been blessed with an amazing woman who has promised to face ALL of life with me---even the stinky times.
5. I'm in love. Not because I always "feel" like it (nor does she) but because I know with all my heart that God has given me a very good thing. And as long as I'm willing to follow Him, I'll get to be blessed by her.

Look, I'm human. Sometimes I feel like I should be on one of those shows with the "stupid human tricks." Thankfully, no one has a camera around when I start to get foolish or selfish. To me there is no more beautiful picture than when a couple--bearing all the scars of their time together--are able to talk about a shared life that goes the distance. That's what I dream about for Lisa and me.

We have a long way to go. We've just begun our life together. But I can't wait to see what God is going to do through this partnership He has given us. My prayer for my married friends (and those who have not yet taken that step) is that you would treasure the precious gift of marriage...and prepare yourself for the battles that make it worthwhile.

Lisa and I survived our weekend. After the dust had settled and we (mainly me) got to be more reasonable, we saw it for what it was. It wasn't my fault...and it wasn't hers. It was just another attempt by the enemy. Those attempts are best thwarted with grace, prayer, understanding, love and commitment. Thankfully, I have found all five in Lisa.

There, that transparency thing wasn't so bad, was it?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Choices

The world is filled with too many choices. Paper or plastic? Vanilla or chocolate? Mac or PC? Eat in or dine out? Just when I think I'm starting to get a grasp on things, someone offers a new one. It's the new and improved version of...you fill in the blank. I think there is a conspiracy to overwhelm us with choices. Why else would we be given some of the choices we have? Seriously, how many different ways do we need to sweeten our tea...blue, pink, yellow or white? (of course, we all know the only way to sweeten tea is by pouring one cup of pure granulated sugar into the bottom of a gallon jug. No other "sweet" tea will suffice).

To verify that choices can be a problem, just ride along with Lisa and I when we are deciding where to go to eat. The conversation typically goes something like this:

Me: "So, what are you wanting for dinner tonight?"
Lisa: "I don't know. What do you want?"
Me: "I don't know. I don't have a taste for anything in particular (translated: "have you ever known me not to eat something?")
Lisa: "Neither do I. Why don't you pick?"
Me: (slightly frustrated) "Because I really don't have a preference. I'll eat whatever you want to eat."
Lisa: (slightly more frustrated) "I don't care. How come you never tell me where you want to eat?"

We usually take longer to ride around and decide than we do to sit down and eat.

The reason for our dilemma? There are too many choices. Dine in or dine out? Fast food or live longer? American or International? Recognizable food or fancy dish with stupid name? When we finally make a decision, pull into the restaurant and get through the front door, you know what we are greeted with..."Would you like a table or a booth?"

Now, take the conversation above and add 4 kids to it. Or apply it to trying to decide what show to watch on TV or what movie to see or where we're going for vacation or what meat you want with your salad tonight. It's enough to make a man become a vegetarian (okay, I exaggerate. Nothing could make me do that!)

Thankfully, when it comes to the most important choice there is, God gave us one option. God...or no God. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less. There is no room for a "God-lite." There is no option "C--all of the above." We don't get to add choices like the ones the tolerance crowd want to throw in--"same God, just a different version."

The choice is really plain and simple. The choice is yours. You either believe and surrender or you choose your way. Make no mistake about it. It's all or nothing. You can't be mostly on God's side. The choice is truly yours...and no choice is not an option.

Now, if I could just decide...plain or peanut?

"If you decide that it's a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you'd rather serve—and do it today....As for me and my family, we'll worship God." Joshua 24:15 Msg

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Discouragement

Discouragement can be a part of life. Let's face it. Life on this planet has always been difficult and there are no promises that it will ever get better this side of heaven. Life can be unfair, challenging, frustrating, overwhelming, too fast-paced...feeling encouraged yet?

One of the biggest reasons we get discouraged is due to something that is completely under our control. It's perspective. A temporary loss of perspective can throw our lives out of kilter. I thought about that as I re-read this part of the story of the Hebrew people in Numbers 11:

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. but now, we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna. Numbers 11:4-5 NIV

I shake my head in disbelief every time I read this passage. Talk about a loss of perspective. "Fish at no cost?" Are you kidding me? You guys were slaves...lower than the animals in the eyes of your masters. The Israelites had gotten their perspective so out of whack that they forgot God's provisions--deliverance from slavery, parted seas, water from rocks, manna in the middle of a desert.

But you and I can get the same attitude about our lives. Sometimes I'll start to feel sorry about my "sad lot in life" then God sends someone or something to jerk me back into line. I have plenty to eat, clothes on my back, relatively good health for a 43 year old, an amazing wife, very good kids...I could go on and on. How can I get discouraged about my life when I read of those who go to bed hungry at night or the ones who wake up day-after-day to face the same terminal illness that has plagued them for months?

It may seem old-fashioned but the best remedy for discouragement is the regular practice of--wait for it--thankfulness. That's right. Just simply acknowledging all you have been blessed with by God can take the gloomies and turn them into a right attitude. Your heart becomes full of the right thoughts and, unlike our Hebrew friends above, you develop an appetite for God. Otherwise, our cravings turn to things in this world that bring nothing but more frustration, more discouragement. And, if we aren't careful, we find ourselves longing for enslavement yet again. Now, who in the world would want that?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dandelions

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

Walter Wink, professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, once said, "Killing Jesus was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it." Obviously, Dr. Wink was saying that Jesus' death played right into the hands of God's plan, spreading the Gospel message far and wide. Jesus' resurrection did more to spur the teachings of God than any single event before or since. Why? Because the power that Christ displayed over death that fateful day changed the lives of His followers in radical ways. Guys who had denied Him just a few days before were encouraged to stand boldly in the streets of Jerusalem and proclaim that He was the Son of God. Men who had fled from the fear of being arrested would later face death by stoning, the sword or crucifixion because they understood the "power that raised Christ from the dead."

It was my belief in that same power that gave me strength in the days after the wreck. When I was asked by my church's leadership who would preach on Easter Sunday (two days after the wreck) I told them I would. I honestly wasn't sure if I could do it. Nor was I completely sure that I wanted to. Something inside just told me that, if I couldn't stand and preach on the resurrection after what my family had been through, no one else could.

Without the resurrection, Christ-followers are the most pitiful of all subjects. We waste our lives in worship of an impotent God if Jesus wasn't raised from the dead. While doubt and fear would enter my mind over the next several months, I would come back time-and-time again to this one, life-changing truth: the tomb is empty. Always has been!

Just as in the first century, Jesus' death was still empowering believers to lead others to the truth. I was afraid. No doubt. I was mourning the loss of my best friend that Easter Sunday morning (Josh would die three days later). But the promise that Sarah was in Heaven, the hope that I would some day see her again, compelled me to preach...continues to this day to compel me again and again.

"For His returning we watch and we pray
We will be ready the dawn of that day
We'll join in singing with all the redeemed
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King."

I get asked a lot about how I was able to carry on in the aftermath of April 9, 2004. Here is the answer that Paul gave...that I give:
18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms... Ephesians 1:18-20 NLT

Monday, January 17, 2011

I have a dream...

You mention the word "vision" in most settings and you won't get much of a reaction. In fact, the word carries a positive feel. Everyone loves to follow a leader who has vision. We love to read or hear the stories of visionary leaders from history who changed the status quo by their willingness to share a vision. But you mention the word "vision" in a lot of church settings and you get an uncomfortable look from most. It's most often associated with fringe churches or over the top leaders (most of which follow the word "vision" with the phrase "pull out your checkbook").

But vision is very much a part of who we are to be in Christ. The Scriptures talk about the importance of vision.
Where there is no revelation (vision), the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 NIV

It's important, as Christ followers, that we have visions or dreams. They can range from individual achievement (a vision for how you want to live your life) to your family (how you want to raise your children); from your career (where you want to be five years from now) to your country (Martin Luther King had a dream that has left an awesome impact on our nation). Dreams and visions are essential to who we are. But here is the catch: a dream that doesn't line up with God's purpose leads to chaos. In fact, it's a practice in frustration. Your dreams for your life and those of your family rest in the hands of an all-knowing and infinitely compassionate God. He alone knows what is best for you. So it's always best when our dreams for our lives are aligned with His.

No one can doubt the power of what Dr. King "dreamed" that day on the mall in Washington, D.C. The dream of white children and black children standing together regardless of the color of their skin. It was a dream birthed in the heart of God and lived out through one, very powerful life.

Your dreams and visions can be equally powerful. But they must be first found in the heart of God. To find what's in the heart of God, you and I must seek to know the heart of God. That begins with searching His Word and talking with Him daily (dare I say minute-by-minute?)

Our society is in desperate need of more people to stand before the world and say, "I have a dream..."

Here's to seeking the heart of God...and being willing to dream the God-sized dreams He has for all of us.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Justice

"It's not fair!"

If you've got kids of your own, you've heard these words on many occasions. In fact, if you're capable of remembering back to your own childhood, you probably mumbled them yourself a time or two. I know that might kids have become quite proficient in declaring injustice, able to do it in at least four different languages (with or without eye rolling).

Let's face it, none of us likes injustice. We believe that good should conquer evil. It is right for the good guy to win. There are some things that just should not happen or it's considered "unfair."

But justice is not limited to childhood fantasies. As adults, we all have had times when we wanted to scream "unfair" at the world we live in. When the younger guy gets the raise you had been promised, it's unfair. When the dishonest neighbor always seems to get away with everything, it's unfair. When a politician cheats his constituents and betrays their trust, it's unfair (fairly common these days but still...unfair).

A word of caution. As we scream injustice at a world run amok with unfair events, let me remind you that justice isn't always what we're seeking. Sometimes, it's our special interests we're really looking out for. But while we are screaming for justice from everyone else, we must remember that God desires justice too...from us.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV

However, living justly and demanding justice from others should always be coupled with mercy. Don't agree? Then wait for the day you have to stand before God and say, "God, give me what I deserve. I want you to be fair."

No, fairness isn't what we seek. It's mercy. And if we seek it for ourselves we should be willing to offer it to others. To do that, you and I must learn to walk humbly with God. Justice is good. Always will be. But, as believers, we must learn to offer mercy to those who have experienced the unfair nature of the world we live in...even if they are the cause.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Being "The man"

I was reading this passage a few days ago from the Old Testament story of Abraham:

For Abraham will become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord and do what is right and just. Then I will do for him all that I have promised. Genesis 18:18-19 NLT

Read it again...carefully, especially the bold parts. God had singled Abraham out to be a leader. He was going to be the father of many nations...the grand patriarch of Israel...the one through which the whole world would be blessed. In that process, Abraham would become wealthy, prosperous, widely known in the Middle East and respected by royalty. In modern terms, he would be "the man."

But notice where his responsibility began, where it all hinged. The great leader of nations must first become a leader for his family...and their families as well. Then--and only then--would God carry out His promise to bless Abraham and make him a man among men.

God was setting a precedent of expectation for all men, from that day to this. He was saying "your first and greatest priority in your life is your family." It is your role as the leader of your family to teach them justice, demonstrate love, grant mercy and lead them into righteous acts. And this is best done, not by telling them how to do it, but by showing them with your own life.

No wonder so many of our homes are in a mess. Most dads--if they are even in the home at all--have abdicated the role that God deemed most significant.

Hear me, men. If you want to know the full promises of God as reality in your life, you better start making a priority out of the things God says are important. Your career doesn't matter. Your hobbies are way down the totem pole. Your popularity is irrelevant. What God cares most about is the legacy you are building with your wife and kids. Mess that all up and you've blown the whole deal.

Make time to love your wife and kids the way they deserve and God demands. I guarantee you that all other things fall into place when you put God's plan first in your life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

what might have been

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

Harrison turned 16 this past Sunday. Hard to believe that he is that old. From time-to-time, like so many parents, I like to look back at old photos and see how much he has changed and how far he has come. Last week, in the final days before his birthday, I found myself thinking about those changes, especially over the last 6 -1/2 years since the accident.

I know this next statement may sound a little crazy but, hey, I'm just being honest. I wonder often what Sarah thinks about the way I'm raising the kids. I'm sure there were many times, during the three years I was a single dad, that she was up in heaven just moaning at some of the boneheaded things I did. Now, with Lisa's help, I watch Harrison grow into a young man and Abby develop into the young lady we had prayed for since the beginning. But I still catch myself second-guessing things I did and, occasionally, patting myself on the back because I handled something well.

Both of my kids were extremely close to their mother. I think the hardest prayer I prayed in the post-accident days (maybe the hardest I ever prayed for anything) was that God would help navigate my kids through their loss and make them into what Sarah and I had prayed for. I'd like to think we're close. I'd like to think that my stubbornness or busyness or hard-headed attitude or anger...that they haven't interfered with what God intended from the beginning with those two.

I guess any parent wonders. Wonders how certain choices may impact their kids' future--the divorce or the career change or the relocation or the loss of a loved one. I know Lisa and I have talked about that with all of our kids. We all try to imagine the "what-ifs" surrounding those life changing decisions. But there's really no use in giving in to the temptation to ask...we just can't go back again. In fact, it's much wiser to leave that concern in the hands of the only One who will ever really know anyway.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Flicker

Back a few weeks ago, I walked into the house from work to catch one of my kids standing in the pantry. Now, that's not an unfamiliar place for them after school, so I didn't think much about it. As I made my way through the den toward the bedroom, Abby caught me out of the corner of her eye. "Dad, you've got to do something about this light bulb." Before she could finish, Harrison chimed in from upstairs on the computer, "Oh my word, yes! That thing drives me crazy."

I knew instantly what they were talking about. Lisa had mentioned it to me a couple of days before. The fluorescent light at the top of the pantry was flickering, a sure sign the bulb was going bad and about to go out. In the mean time, all it did was flicker--annoyingly. So, as you stood there trying to examine the shelves for what you were looking for, you were going crazy with the inconsistent flickering of a light gone bad.

That story came to my mind a few minutes ago as I looked at a verse sitting on my desk:
You are the light of the world....let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14, 16 NIV

Rather than resolutions this time of year, maybe what we should ask ourselves is "Who do I really want to be? What is it that really matters most to me? What kind of relationships do I want? What behaviors do I desire in my life? What do I want to be known for at the end of my life? How can I live with no regrets?" These are the kinds of questions that lead us to real, permanent change. The kind of change that allows your light to be more permanent, displaying God's grace consistently. Not a flickering annoyance to a world that is watching. I want to close with some words from Billy Graham that a friend shared with me this morning.

“With the New Year before us let us prepare ourselves for spiritual battle. Let Christ be more than mere sentiment. Away with pretense and half-heartedness. Away with compromises and defections. Away with faith that awakens only on holidays. Away with faith that is as flimsy and as seasonable as tinsel. These are days of emergency. The trumpet call is sounding. He that puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. Let’s put our lives on the line for Jesus Christ. Nothing short of this will do.”

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

This one's for the men...

...and for the wives who choose to read it.

There's an old Spanish proverb that says, "He who does not honor his wife dishonors himself." God chose to put it this way in Ephesians: No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church.

Here is my challenge guys. While you are thinking about new year's resolutions like eating right and exercising more, how about adding in another one that is far more important...treat your wives with respect.

Now, before you back off and think I am preaching, I'm not. Did you hear me? I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to us. One of the things I'm learning about myself is that I can start to take this gift from God (Lisa) for granted. I forget that she has needs, that she's different from me, that she deserves my very best. It's easy to turn the focus on myself and even fall into the trap of a "pity-party" because I don't think she is treating me fairly.

The relationship that God designed for men and women is one of mutual respect and submission. Yes, I believe that God desires for men to lead their families. But I don't believe that means you have any extra rights or special privileges. Rather, it means you have added responsibilities as the leader of your wife and children.

I've heard for years how Christianity is a male-dominated faith and that it keeps women suppressed. NOTHING could be further from the truth. From the moment Jesus' ministry began, He started the long process of elevating women to a place of honor and respect. He battled the cultural norms of his day to establish women as something of major worth in the eyes of their Creator.

What that means for us guys is this...if we are going to follow Christ, we must do the same. Your wife is not a "ball-and-chain," she's your partner, your mate and friend. Women are not objects to be desired, subjects to be controlled or servants to take care of your needs. They are--as all people are--precious people created in the image of God.

As a dad in the 21st century, I have to work hard to monitor my attitude towards Lisa and all women. I have to be careful what I teach my son and challenge him to be Christ-like in his treatment of women. Let me tell you, it's not an easy battle. But it's the right thing to do if I am going to be found as a true Christ follower and ask him to do the same.

Ask yourself today, how can I better focus on my wife and her needs? How can I give her the respect that she deserves and God desires? This is a resolution you will not regret.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Grace-healed eyes

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

I've said before that compassion was not my strong suit before the accident. I used to jokingly tell people that God gave me Sarah to be my soft, compassionate side because I had very little to spare. It's not that I was ever mean or cold. I just tended to see things in a very black and white way with little room for grace. As much as it pains me to say this, I was better talking about the love of Christ for hurting people than I was at living it.

April 9th, 2004 changed that. My own personal journey from that day forward took me to depths of sorrow and heights of anger that I never knew existed in me. I experienced ranges of emotions that were far beyond anything I had known before that day. And God used the accident to do something new in me.

My eyes were slowly opened to the Jesus of Scripture. Isaiah described Him as a "man of sorrows" and a suffering servant. The Gospels showed Him to be friendly with sinners and those in need. In all of Jesus' life, the grace of God was on display as He walked the hillsides of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem.

The events of my life have taught me that God desires we display His grace in the same way.

Philip Yancey puts it this way. "Because God loves the poor, the suffering, the persecuted, so should we. Because God sees no undesirables, neither should we. By his own example, Jesus challenged us to look at the world through...'grace-healed eyes.'"

God is teaching me--patiently, I might add--to do that very thing. I can understand pain now in a way I never had before. I know what it means to question God, to doubt your faith and to wonder about everything your parents ever taught you. In the weeks after the accident, I yelled at God, screamed "unfair" and debated him much like David and Job. What happened in the process was that God softened my heart to see others through those "grace-healed eyes."

I believe Yancey's on to something. Lack of compassion may be one of the top reasons why the world runs when they see the church coming "to the rescue." It may be the very reason that the hooker, the single mom, the harried businessman and the doubting teens of our world are looking everywhere but the church for answers. The question "does God really care" should be answered with a resounding "YES" by the hearts of those who are willing to show their own scars and reveal their own stories of healing.

You have them too, you know. The sins forgiven. The burdens lifted. The fears washed away. The doubts silenced. The conflicts that have been given peace. Each one bears testimony to a God who not only cares...but cares very deeply. Show the world your scars...and let them know your Healer.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Goals

Welcome to 2011! If you are like most Americans, you've been thinking a great deal about this new year over the last several days. Whether you call them goals or resolutions or just reflections, there is something to be said for taking the time to look ahead and think about what the new year may hold for you. For me--and maybe for you--the great challenge is diminishing the gap between my goals for 2011 and God's plans for me. A lot of times, I feel like I'm right on target with what God has for me when He will says, "Surprise! Guess what? I've got more in store for you than you thought?" Isn't it funny how much we underestimate God's desires for us and His ability to pull them off? So, I thought I'd share a few of God's promises for you based on what Scripture says. Maybe it will help you to raise the bar in your planning and dreaming for 2011:

  • Speak boldly to others about your faith this year. God's promise (Isaiah 55:11) is that His word will not return empty but will accomplish exactly what He desires in His time.
  • Stand firmly against the trials that will come into your life this year. If you stand in God's power, He has promised that nothing can overcome you (Isaiah 54:17 and 1 John 4:4)
  • God is still at work in your life no matter where you are or what you are up against. If you are trusting in Him and following after Him, He has promised to bring your life to perfection (Philippians 1:6). That's right...perfection!
  • Trust God with your plans...big and small. Know that He rewards those who seek after Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
  • God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). He always has. But you have to believe that His plan is better and bigger than the ones you have for yourself (Ephesians 3:20).
  • Let God's word guide you as you dream about the future. His Word will never steer you into wasted agendas or pointless daydreaming (Psalm 119:1-8...actually the whole chapter).
Let me just encourage you with some final words. Live passionately. Love deeply. Seek knowledge. Serve others. And believe with all your heart that God has something big for you in 2011. No matter how it started, the next 362 days can be the best you have ever experienced.