Monday, October 31, 2011

Nathan Dale and Bottle Rockets

It is Halloween morning and I’m sitting in Panera Bread having a cup of Joe and a bagel – Cinnamon Crunch bagel to be exact. It tastes good but I’ve allowed it to cool down from the toasting it received about 10 minutes earlier.
In all the preparations for the holiday (of which I have really done zero this year) I am reminded of one particular Halloween when my old buddy, Nathan, stopped by the house. I think his intention was only to stop by and say hi but as good of a friend as he is and him knowing how much joy he brings to our family when he comes in the door, he graced us with his presence for a few hours.
The highlight of our time with him that Halloween was the time we spent handing out candy. Now, for those of you who know which Nathan I’m talking about, you know that when this guy comes into a room you best be ready for the party to begin. The joy of the Lord is on this guy like very few people I know. I’m serious when I say that his smile immediately disarms the tensest moment. His laughter is contagious. His attitude is something I aspire to have in my own life.
Anyway … on this particular night, kids were in our neighborhood in droves. Amanda and I believed that we had gotten enough candy to make it through the night. I believe that Nathan recognized rather quickly that we were kidding ourselves. He had grown up in the “Hidden Valley.” It’s where everyone in the county came to do their Trick or Treating.
Nathan took decisive action. He went home – which was at the end of our street – and returned with the Fourth of July’s leftover Bottle Rockets! It was awesome! The excitement that must have surged through the Valley was evident by the amount of kids who rushed our house. Once they knew we were giving away fireworks – explosives – we were the target house. We ended up having more fun handing out those Bottle Rockets to kids and their Dads than we would have ever had if we had simply handed out candy. It was awesome!
Now we’re in 2011. Angus is two and Sophia is 3 ½ . We went to a friend’s birthday party the other night with the whole family dressed as the characters from the show, “Yo Gabba Gabba!” At church, we’ve been hearing about the spiritual world: angels and demons and the reality of fighting the spiritual battle against powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). When I was younger, I was drawn to the darkness. I remember one teacher, while I was in high school, who actually asked me if I was a devil worshipper! How far off track can somebody be? Me! Not her.
I still enjoy Halloween but not for the reasons that I used to enjoy it. I have no problem dressing up (or down) and have no problem with allowing my own kids to go Trick or Treating. But I agree with Pastor Bobby … I can’t allow myself to submit to or become enamored by the darkness (again). It really is too dangerous. It’s toxic. But …
God is bigger than the darkness. I simply don’t need to give it any sort of foothold. I am assured that God not only has my back but my life in his hands. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).

“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who Dares Wins

This is one of my all-time, favorite quotes ... "Who Dares Wins." The first time I saw it was on a poster I had hanging on my bedroom wall of the 80's Metal band, W.A.S.P. Though i didn't realize it's origins for many more years, I can still remember thinking that quote had "stones" about it.

The actual quote is the motto for the British S.A.S. If you're not familiar with who they are then I suggest you dig a little deeper! :)

A year or so ago I ran across another quote - but can't remember where I got it - and assimilated the two:

"If you think you are beaten, you are. If you think you dare not, you don't. If you'd like to win but think you can't, it's almost certain you won't. Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can ... Who Dares Wins!"

That's how God calls us to live! I hate beat down Christian attitude. God never intended for any of us to live defeated ... Particularly not Christians! I think that's why so many non-believers don't "buy into the whole Jesus thing." They don't see it's worth in the "Christians" living beside them.

Here's the reality saints: life is tough. Life is gonna kick you square in the stones and you're the one who has to decide if you're gonna take it lying down or if you're gonna turn around and kick it right back. God calls us to think on the good things and He also calls is to live life abundantly. Why else we He offer to take your yoke and give you his?

"But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." - 1 Timothy 6:11

Fight the good fight!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Have you ever questioned God’s plan or purpose? You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Let’s say that you have a son who comes to you with tears in his eyes and is confessing to you that he’s been struggling with masturbation. Your son is top-notch in regards to his faith but he struggles with this one issue. What do you say to your teenager? He wants to do God’s will in all his life. He doesn’t want to feel dirty or guilty but the reality is that men – from the dawn of time – deal with this. Now, as his Daddy, how do you advise him?
Do you encourage him like Eliphaz did when Job was afflicted? Imagine your 15 year old son hearing these words come out of your mouth. “Can any human being be really pure? Can anyone be right with God? Why, God does not trust even his angels; even they are not pure in his sight. And we drink evil as if it were water; yes, we are corrupt; we are worthless.” – Job 15:14-16.
Can you imagine saying that to your kid? How devastating would that be to a young man’s self-esteem? How devastating would that be to his walk? You say, “But what about the truth of us never measuring up to God’s expectations of us?” Well, we never will and God knows that but another has – Jesus. We are called to give ourselves wholly to him. He is our deliverer.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

            “But Chaplain,” you say. “My son walks with the Lord. He has given his life to the Lord. He seeks the Lord. Why does this weight still burden him?” I can’t answer that other than to say that masturbation is a struggle that all men endure. We take our thoughts captive. We pray that God will help us overcome our lusts – our thought lives. We press forward and don’t allow Satan to overcome us with guilt or shame. Shedding light on the subject – professing victory over our flesh – will bring us that much closer to the victory we desire.
            The true joy in all of this is that God always favors a repentant heart. King David was like that; he was a man after God’s own heart. He fell. He failed. But he always repented. That’s what kept him close to God.

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit – with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011

October 23, 2011

            Today is the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final. The New Zealand All Blacks play France for the coveted Webb Ellis Cup. I’m excited. I haven’t written in a few days and the anticipation of watching the match is almost too much for writing about what’s been going on over the last few days.
            NBC coverage has been very limited of one of the World’s premier sporting events. Fortunately, they are covering today’s match. I didn’t have all my ducks in a row because I’m watching the pre-game coverage. I believed that kickoff was at 2pm; scratch that one!
            I’ve often wondered what it would be like to play at that level of competition. The world stage must be surreal to some degree. I can only imagine all those eyes staring at you, all those expectations knowingly placed on your shoulders, all those dreams and desires lived vicariously through you … intense to say the least.
National Anthems are being sung. France looks intense. New Zealand challenges. Posturing with the Haka, the Maori war chant has become an international phenomenon. The challenge has become an expected part of the All Black game … and I love it!!!
The first score – by the All Blacks – belongs to Tony Woodcock, the Loose Head Prop.  Traditionally, the props are the big boys. Only the Second Rows might be bigger and that’s simply because of height. Props and Second Rows aren’t the glamour boys. Like American football linemen, they make things happen so that all the other guys can get the headlines.
Halftime and the score is All Blacks 5 France 0. It has been a good game but things just haven’t completely clicked for either team. New Zealand has the advantage in my mind at this point. We’ll see what happens in the next 40 minutes.
Speaking of making things click, I was moved to consider this thought today while I was at church: what could God do through us if we didn’t argue with one another? Granted, I was thinking about Amanda and me but it could translate to everyone else out there – even to a global extent.
What I’m talking about are the little things … the things that keep us from “clicking.” You know the ones: I say the sky is blue and you might say, “Yeah but there are clouds in the sky.” Or maybe your wife says, “Does my hair look like I slept in it?” And you’re stupid enough to say, “Baby. You did sleep in it.” Those are the little things that when they are said nonchalantly they become the movement big enough to start an avalanche.
What if we watched what we said? What if we worked harder to click more often? What if we got our heads in the game, kept our heads in the game, and allowed God to speak through us in a way that builds others up so that we played the game more effectively? Imagine how we could change the world if we didn’t argue? Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff, right?
Go All Blacks!!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Claw of Death!!

            I went to Wal-Mart this morning. It was dreary outside. Angus had been sick for the last few days and last night was the night the threshold was breached. I knew Amanda was at the point of exhaustion as she called to say that she was about to enter the “Terror Dome” of the shopping experience in our town. The only thing I have against Wal-Mart, mind you, is that for reasons that only Sam Walton’s Think Tank Experts know, we can only have three live cashiers amidst twenty checkout lanes.
What happened to exceptional customer service? I guess when things went automated the “disconnect” that so many of us already feel simply bled over into “Self-checkout Lanes.” Why help someone move through the store quickly when you can have them stay a little bit longer and spend a little bit more, all the while, giving them very little interaction … except on the way in and the way out by a semi-retired person who probably needs to work there more than they want to work there.
But that’s not what really hit me about Wal-Mart today. What really hit me was the “Claw” game. You know the one. You give the game a dollar (most of the time that’s how it starts out). The claw springs into action. You manipulate where you want it to stop on its track. You poise it above some predetermined, coveted prize below. You push the red button and SHAZAM! The open claw drops onto the masses of unsuspecting prizes. Adrenalin is pumping … almost like the adrenalin surge I get during the opening video of “Rock Band” with Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” blaring through the desert as the band surfs on the back of the car! “Nobody gonna take my car, I’m gonna race it to the ground. Nobody gonna beat my car, I’m gonna break the speed of sound.”
But what happens next? You know it and I know it. Angus found out this morning. The genius of this game is that – like Vegas – the house always wins. I don’t know what the actual odds are but I bet they’re right up there in the mid-90’s as far as the odds of you losing. You can bet on it. Angus pushed the red button today. He lost today. Fortunately, he didn’t really care. God did. God brought it home to me.
Life is a lot like that game. The life of sin is absolutely appealing, more specifically, a life apart from God. It looks great from the outside. In fact, it’s marketed so well to us that we continue to try to win at it despite knowing the odds are completely stacked against us. If you really want to break it down then just look at how many people stay away from the Word, much less, the Church.
The wages of sin are death … every time! The gift of God is everlasting life through Jesus Christ … every time. Yet we try and try to win at that life apart from God. We can grasp with that “claw” at all the things we think we’ll get out of it: a good time, acceptance, inclusion, and adulation … whatever gets your rocks off. But every time we move the “claw” over and hit the red button our “claws” – our lives – come up empty handed.
The saddest part of the whole thing is that we will continue to play over and over and over again. Break the cycle. It’s all a lie anyway. If you play the house then you’ll never beat it. The house always wins. If you try to dance with the devil then you’ll always get burned. “The wages of sin are death but the gift of God is everlasting life through Jesus Christ.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ryan Long ... Cry for Angus

I have a friend, Ryan Long, who's an Indie Christian Singer/Songwriter. I've loved both he and his music for over a decade now. He has an uncanny but God-given talent in writing music.

I remember the first time I saw Ryan. We were at Sharp Top Cove, a Young Life camp nestled in the mountains of Northern Georgia near the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. I was there as part of a volunteer leader weekend retreat and he was the "special music."

I can remember a couple of specific things about that first encounter with Ryan. First, everyone else there seemed to already be in some kind of "deep" relationship with RL (that's what I call him now). Most of them probably didn't know him any more personally than I did but his music had connected with them on some core level. Over the years i have found that to be true about so many people who have listened to his music.

Second, he was easy to listen to from the audience despite how crowded it was in the "club room." For those unfamiliar with club rooms, in general, and Sharp Top's old one, more specifically, it simply is a room where Young Life leaders engage their audience - could be other leaders, adults, families but most often it's kids - and the greatest story ever told is interwoven into songs, skits, and games. That particular weekend I remember as being packed to capacity with energized volunteer leaders of all ages and there, standing on a little platform not much wider than the length of his feet, was RL with his guitar.

I don't remember the set list but I do remember buying "Cry for Me." I don't how many times I've listened to that entire album since but it must be in the thousands by now. I don't remember every story he used to introduce his songs but I do remember the story of the "Spindle Tree." I also remember being touched by God through the talents of one of His children.

The title track of "Cry for Me" conveys the story of little Ellie Marie and her Daddy, David, and his inability to calm her during one of her crying fits. I'm reminded of that song right now because my own son, Angus, has been awake since 11:45 PM. Despite my attempts to console him, he continues to cry for Mommy. He has been sick for the last few days and Sophia, his older sister, was sick a few days prior. Mommy has been stretched thin on sleep, energy, and tolerance for children who never seem to get sick (just kidding on that one).

But wait ... It's 1:25 AM and all's quiet on the Western Front! Finally! God, thanks for reminding me of my friend RL and I ask that you continue to bless his ministry to hopeless and hurting kids. I pray for Amanda and Angus too. Please heal the little man and give them both rest; renew their strength.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All Blacks and the Word of God

I’m watching the replay of New Zealand and Argentina’s World Cup Quarterfinal match at Eden Park, New Zealand. The first half and half-time just finished. Argentina’s taking the field. The All Blacks have already been on the pitch for a minute. The kickoff is about to happen. Sixty thousand plus fans anticipate the whistle. What they don’t know – because at the time they were watching it the game was live – is what the outcome is. I do. I know New Zealand wins it.
That’s the beauty of watching a match like this. This round of match play had the top eight teams in the world competing for the opportunity to make history in the final four of a twenty team tournament. This particular match would decide who moved forward – All Blacks or Pumas – for a chance to compete for the Ellis Cup – the coveted World Cup Trophy – and international bragging rights for the next four years.
The game has been played for almost 60 minutes and the All Blacks’ only points have come from six penalty kicks … yet they lead the match. They’ve led the entire game except for a few minutes midway through the first half. The Pumas have played an incredible defensive game. They have not allowed the home team to bust through their line and score any tries.
As I’ve been watching this, I’ve been thinking a lot about how God’s Word and this rugby match are very similar: it’s a battle between two sides, people are on both sides, people in the game are giving everything they’ve got to win the game. But the main similarity is that like God’s Word, in this match I already know who wins! I knew the score before I watched the match. I knew that Argentina would give everything they had within them to prevent the All Blacks’ pursuit of the win. I knew … yet I still watched the match, I still enjoyed watching the underdog Puma’s play a great match, and I still savored the legendary All Blacks win! (By the way, the All Blacks scored their first try of the match at 66:19 by Kieran Read).
At the 79:00 mark – All Black’s Brad Thorn has just scored New Zealand’s second try of the match – the announcers start talking about the score differential: Argentina 10 and All Blacks 33. Like the rest of us who have watched the match understand, the match was much closer than the score indicates. Again, isn’t that true of God’s Word. It always seems like that despite what God does; Satan’s always getting in the mix and jacking things up. Despite God’s efforts to reconcile his creation to himself, Satan’s defense is strong. Yet, God’s offense is better than any defense Satan puts on the field. In this match, ultimately, the All Blacks conditioning, steady drive, and resiliency carried them beyond the defense of the Pumas.
God’s Word is clear: Satan is defeated, death is defeated, and we have overcome the world because He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Read his Word and then go out and live the life He’s already won for you – the victorious life!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


October 13, 2011

            It’s raining this morning. I’m doing my “catch up” paperwork in McDonalds. I forget how different people are sometimes in the “regular” world. I’m in uniform; they’re not. Some of them have served this country. How do I know? These older gentlemen have to speak loud so they can hear one another. I go in and out of their conversations. Most of them talk about their aging and what the VA is doing or not doing for them.
            I had the good fortune of meeting a Vietnam Vet already this morning. He seemed liked a good guy. He was a helicopter pilot and is now in the oil industry. He, like most of us, is concerned about the route that America is headed. He questions the integrity of the government which he once served, making mention of organizations such as Oath Keepers and Veteran Defenders. His concern for the Oath he once took to “uphold and defend the Constitution” is inspiring.
            There are times when I question the intention of our government and it is easy to point fingers and condemn the “poster child” of our government – the President – but I think this Vet was correct in his statement: the President is only evidence of the symptoms. The heart of the issue goes much deeper than any figure head.
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” – Romans 13:1-7.

            The key to this is that all authority comes from God. Remember when Jesus was before Pilate? Pilate was not fully aware of the authority of which Jesus spoke.

“He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”” – John 19:9-11.

            Under whose authority are you operating? Do you know whose you are?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Walk by Faith

October 11, 2011

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” – Psalm 50:15

Right now my little girl, Sophia, has had a fever of 103+ since Friday. It’s Tuesday. We’ve done the routine treatments: Tylenol, Motrin, submerged in the bath, doctor’s visits – nothing is beating back what’s going on inside that little three year old. When I’ve prayed against sickness I always wrestle with the dichotomy between the facts that God is the great physician and that Jesus prayed, “Not my will but yours.”
How many times have you been asked to pray for someone who is sick or dying? I’ve had that request made hundreds of times. Within the last few years I have taken the opportunity to pray at the time the person asks for prayer as opposed to saying, “Sure. I’ll be happy to pray for you” and then going off to pray on my own for that person or not even praying at all. (Side note: there’s a huge benefit to praying immediately with someone who asks for prayer. I know that sometimes it does put people on the spot but in most cases I have found that they really appreciate the attention).
Unfortunately – lately – I have found that although I am willing to pray for someone’s sick relative, in the back of my mind I am wrestling with the question of is it God’s will to heal that person? For instance, my Dad, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, needs prayer. There’s not a doubt in my mind (1) that he needs prayer, (2) he has a hope that God will heal him, (3) and God is the great physician and can heal him. The question then becomes: is that God’s will? Is the real issue my Dad’s recovery/healing or is the issue where we put our faith? Regardless of what we see, will be still “walk by faith and not by sight?”
            This Saturday night I got to see Jeremy Camp in concert. His songs, “Walk by Faith” and “I Still Believe” have always humbled me because they speak to the depths of who I need to be as a follower of Christ. “I WILL walk by faith even when I cannot see.” “I still believe in your faithfulness. I still believe in your truth. I still believe in your Holy Word. Even when I cannot see, I still believe.” I know that God’s will – his plans and thoughts – are bigger and higher than anything that I can imagine. So besides praying for healing – in my Dad and others – I pray for the grace to live out his will. Having faith is always a test.