Hope

Hope

I don’t normally post the same thing on two different blogs, but I had more to say on this than I originally thought.

I know that I’m going to come back to this topic later on, but I want to spend just a few sentences this morning addressing Charlottesville. The topic that I want to focus on is hope. As in, even in the midst of this crisis of perspective, there is hope.

When I first saw the news coverage as the protesting by white “nationalists” had just begun, I didn’t pay it much attention. It disgusted me, so I didn’t want to give my energy and attention to it. As thing began to escalate however, I couldn’t resist looking to read the horrors and view the pictures. I began reading articles posted by Shaun King, an activist that I really reading. I looked at social media posts from many of my FB friends who are very active in the struggle for equality. I looked at the reprehensible pictures. All of these things informed me, but none more than what I looked around and saw with my own eyes. I saw people, white people, standing up and saying, “This isn’t who we are. This isn’t right!” I dear friend of mine who adopted a child of color made multiple posts on the responsibility of other cultures to stand up for people of color in this fight. I could hear the distaste in the mouths of people that I know, people who would fight for our family if we ever found ourselves in a situation like this.

See, I live in Missouri, the same state that the NAACP issued a travel advisory for. Missouri has it’s issues, but to be painted with such a wide brush is disheartening to me. When we first moved here, the family that introduced themselves to us were white. They made us comfortable. The first church that I visited, Destiny Church, a Hispanic pastor shook my hands and welcomed me. Multiple white people hugged me and made me feel at home. They have loved our family! They have helped us grow. We worship together and pray together. I work in a district that is predominantly white among faculty and staff. Have I ever felt singled out? Not at all. I have only felt welcomed.

So to see so much rhetoric about “white people this” and “black people this” makes me think that we are missing the point of this entire thing. God didn’t create the spectrum of colors and cultures so that one could feel superior to any other. He expressed His love and creativity through the colors on our skin, hoping that we would see beyond any of that into what binds us all together. Our humanity and His Spirit.

Racism is a spirit. It is demonic. It is afflictive. It is still very rampant. The conversations cannot stop about this. We have to speak up! It doesn’t matter what we look like…the human race is threatened so long as we continue to allow ourselves to be divided.

But there is hope. I have hope when I have a discussion with my friend about what it will be like to have a black son in this world. It frightens him as much as it sometimes frightens me. I have hope when I have students who look at me as just another person and not their “Black Teacher”. I have hope when I can laugh and joke with my best friend, who happens to be a white male. I have hope when I know the hearts of those who love our own children and know that they would give their lives for them if necessary.

See, all of this “alt-right” nonsense is designed to get our eyes off of the prize. What is that prize? It is the glorious calling of Jesus Christ! In Him, there is no black, white or Hispanic. There is no Gentile or Jew. He looks through the eyes of love at each one of us and loves us with an unfailing love. That is my hope. Some might say that I’m taking the easy way out by relying on faith. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still speaking out. I will fight as God shows me. But my hope is in none of these things.

Ultimate Hope.

I won’t take my cues from what a President says or does not say. I never have. I won’t start now. I won’t take my cues from liberals or conservatives. I won’t take my cues from Fox News or CNN.

I will take my cues from what I see around me every day, and what my Bible tells me is the truth. I won’t trust in facts because sometimes facts aren’t the truth. The world around me tells me that everything is going to hell.

But I have HOPE.

Dear Peanut

Dear Peanut

Dear Peanut,

No, this won’t be your nickname. All of your siblings were called the same thing before we knew whether they were boys or girls. Seeing as though you’re now only 14 weeks into your development, we have plenty of time to come up with a proper name and nickname for you. Then again, Peanut could stick! Be prepared either way.

Today was an interesting day. I spent over 7 hours in an Emergency Room in Mercy Hospital, where you will eventually be born. The first trip was with your oldest brother, Caleb. I had to take him at 1:00 a.m. because he is having stomach issues. We finally got home at around 4 this morning, and I was fortunate to sleep until 10. However, and thus the focus of this letter to you, I returned with your mother at 12:45, because you gave us a scare. And so we sat at the hospital until 5:30 this evening waiting for confirmation that you were still healthy inside of Mommy. You can’t imagine the relief that we felt. The tears that almost came to our eyes. We thought that we might lose you, so try to imagine the prayer of thanks that we sent to God.

See, I’m going to tell you the truth because my mind traveled back to the moment your Mom told me that we were having you. She was afraid that I would be angry with her. Was I happy that we were having another child? No. Out of all of the emotions that I felt, happiness was not high on the list. There was concern that we wouldn’t be able to care for you. We worried that it was already hard enough to care for your 4 siblings and ourselves. We worried that people would mock us, and have all manner of things to say about us. We worried, honestly, that maybe our only contribution to the world would be kids. Now as silly as that sounds, and as noble a calling as parenting is, we didn’t think that we could properly accomplish anything else. So we questioned God. Maybe we were just called to make babies! Deep inside we knew that was not the case, but we couldn’t really see how this fit with the plan. it didn’t fit with our plan. We despaired. We cried.

Today as we sat and waited, I reflected on those early days. They felt foreign to me now. This summer we have met so many people with 4 and 5 children. They were still working for the Kingdom of God. Their lives were hectic, but they had joy. They had peace. They were happy. All of this only served to underscore the fact that inside of our hearts, enthusiasm had been born.

And suddenly it didn’t matter what anybody else thought of our loud and craziness. Going out to eat will still be a challenge. So will movies. But anyone with a bad word to say can just kick rocks! This is our family, and God is pleased with it. So are we!

I have to be honest about another thing too, Peanut. You are coming into a very busy, uncertain season for us. I’m going back to school with the goal of becoming a Principal one day. Mommy is taking classes to get a very important certification. We are Children’s Pastors who are trying to engage children’s hearts for Christ. Caleb is playing football. Kaila and Zyla will take dance. Canaan? We haven’t figured out an activity for him as of right now. You’ll learn quickly though. Canaan is Canaan. We have also started a business. That is the biggest uncertainty, beause it is so far outside of our wheelhouse, but we are determined that it will work.

Yet even as we look out on the horizon of all of this, there is an excitement that begins with an enthusiasm and joy for your coming. And sitting inside of a hospital room, the same one that I had been in earlier with your brother…the EXACT same room, the point was driven home into our hearts that we were so stupid! Of course, we are excited! We thought that our lives were complete with four, but now faced with the uncertainty of losing you, we realized that you will complete our not-so-little family.

I realized how much I loved you already. And so I want you to know that. Today we were afraid. And then we rejoiced. You are healthy and growing inside of Mommy. Right where you should be. God has blessed us, and you are the capstone to a wonderful story of faith.

You are coming into a family of diverse personalities. Kaila, your oldest sister, will be a wonderful model for you. She has such a gentle spirit and tries her hardest to be a help. She can sometimes be bossy, but we need her to step in many times for us when we are occupied with other things. Caleb is 9. He is trying his best to mature. You will learn that is not an easy process, especially for some boys. He is a gentle soul, and we are trying to help him find his way. His athleticism is off the charts. We just want him to see that his brilliance is as well. Canaan is dynamite, but he is also quick to cuddle. He is still trying to make his place, and sometimes that leads him to lash out. He is very smart as well, and he brings so much joy to our house….and so many explosions! Zyla is just Zyla. We think that she and Canaan were going to be twins, but God had mercy on us and split them up. They are the dynamic duo. Look out! They are sure to take you under their wings and teach you a few things!

Your Mommy? She is one of the most special people that I know. Her insight and work ethic inspires me. Her love for everyone is something to behold. She doesn’t truly realize just how magical she is, but I try my best to tell her every moment that I can. You’re going to see me kissing and hugging on her. That is the example that I want you to see of love because the way you see me love your Mom is the way that I’m going to love on you as well. Totally. Completely.

And me? I’m a mess. I try and fail many times, but all that I do is so that my family can have the best. And be the best. I get frustrated with myself, and I often lack the confidence that I probably should have, but this family is always there to lift me up. That’s what we do.

That is who we are.

Peanut, we don’t have it all together. We might not have everything that we need when you come. Things might not be the way that we want them to be when you get here, but no matter the stakes and what might be lacking, you will NEVER lack love. You will have it in spades. From us and the crazy people in our circle who have been asking for you since Zyla was born.

Did I mention they were crazy?

So, I wanted to chronicle this day. When you read this one day, you will know. Above all else, whether you are a girl or boy, our love for you will be fierce, yet only a shadow of what God’s love for you will be. And there is no better way to have it.

Rest. Grow. Eat. Wiggle.

We can’t wait to meet you, but we can wait to meet you.

See you in January, Peanut! I love you so much!

Love Always and Forever,

Dad

Christian- Christ= Pharisee

Christian- Christ= Pharisee

I think this topic has been percolating inside of me for quite a while. It’s a bothersome topic, I must admit. It buzzes around inside of my head like a hungry mosquito, so I figure that I need to do what I know I need to do.

When did Christians become so Pharisee-like? It’s so sad to me to see religion on full display. So many times, we walk around bound in the chains of a legalistic view of God. We wear our “Sunday Best”, sing our hymns, and nod our heads in the “Holy” way. We regard others with only middling interest at best. We take in the world, and see Christ through eyes that are trained only on what we regard are the rules, and pathway for getting into heaven. The “reward” of heaven is our ultimate goal. This makes me think so much about the Pharisees, and it has been irking me all week. Why can’t we just get out of our own way and make Christianity the heart issue that Jesus meant for it to be?

We can’t serve God with our brains. We think too much about the wrong things. We can’t serve God with our emotions. They are all over the place, and are not to be trusted when it comes to the things of God. Our intellect? It can’t truly perceive God because our knowledge is imperfect. The only way that we can really, and I mean REALLY know God is through our hearts and minds being transformed by the knowledge of the truth. This is knowledge that supersedes everything that we think we know, and every thing that we think that we are. It is a transformation from sinful to righteous that does not make sense, that we are not worthy of, and that we do not have to understand in order to walk in it.

The Pharisees, the Sanhedrin, and those guys were pieces of work.  They were the guys who prayed out loud in the square. They were the bible thumpers. They were the soapbox preachers. They were the judges, juries, and executioners of all things “godly”. At every turn, Jesus was slapping these guys around with a truth that they could not connect with. Even Paul, in Galatians 1, said that he spent 3 years in the desert. He had been so indoctrinated with the poison of religion that God literally had to isolate him and give him one on one tutorial in Kingdom Knowledge 101, before releasing him into the ministry that had been prepared for Him via the Holy Spirit. Yet, we do the same things. We worship a formless God with tightened lips and stiff hands, not realizing that the chains around our hands ad feet are real. We think that there is safety in being bound to the rules, that knowing the 10 Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer are good signs of living a good Christian life. I would submit to you all this morning that we have it all wrong.

Most of you know this. I know that there are so many churches out there who teach that relationship outweighs religion in the eyes of God. so, most of you out there get this, but it’s the ones who have not been liberated that I worry about. Often times, it is these brothers and sisters in Christ who others see and equate Christianity with. Who wants to be a Christian after observing these ways of life? It’s our job to show them our God in all of His beauty, honor, and love. By living legalistic lives, and lives that use rules and chains to define who God is, we instead give them over to all of the reasons why we should not even try to approach God, because we are not worthy in our own right. This is wrong.

Christ came to establish a Kingdom of Love. Love is His very nature. By this Love, we are known as Christians. By this Love, we can relate to Christ. This Love pushes us to become uncomfortable around others, to welcome those who may not “have it all together”. This love arrests us and forces us to live lives of vulnerability, to take chances and risks designed to mature us, and welcome others into the fold. I am convinced that our ultimate goal as Christians is not to make it to heaven. Heaven is just the cream and cherry on top of an uber tasty sundae. Our ultimate reward is witnessing the transformation of lives who have been changed by God’s love, just as ours are.

I could get off into other tangents, but that would not be the point. We simply must remember that without Christ, our “Christianity” is merely a form of godliness without the power thereof. We are no better than the Pharisees is we refuse to live lives of love, and walk free from the chains of rules. Christ’s love calls us to a way of life that is even higher than the rules we support and believe in. His righteousness is a higher definition of living. We can’t forget Christ. We can’t forget love. We can’t become Pharisees. People don’ t need those people. People need Jesus.

until next time, be blessed.

So Will I

So Will I

Late last night I was listening to some music after getting home from campus sweeps. When this song came on, I felt my heart leap. I didn’t give it its due listen at right away, but looking at the words is arresting my heart all over again. I wanted to share with you!

God of creation
There at the start

Before the beginning of time

With no point of reference

You spoke to the dark

And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak

A hundred billion galaxies are born

In the vapor of Your breath the planets form

If the stars were made to worship so will I

I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made

Every burning star

A signal fire of grace

If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise

You don’t speak in vain

No syllable empty or void

For once You have spoken

All nature and science

Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak

A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath

Evolving in pursuit of what You said

If it all reveals Your nature so will I

I can see Your heart in everything You say

Every painted sky

A canvas of Your grace

If creation still obeys You so will I

So will I

So will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I

If the rocks cry out in silence so will I

If the sum of all our praises still falls shy

Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation

You chased down my heart

Through all of my failure and pride

On a hill You created

The light of the world

Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak

A hundred billion failures disappear

Where You lost Your life so I could find it here

If You left the grave behind You so will I

I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done

Every part designed in a work of art called love

If You gladly chose surrender so will I

I can see Your heart

Eight billion different ways

Every precious one

A child You died to save

If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times

But what measure could amount to Your desire

You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

The Most Beautiful Thing

The Most Beautiful Thing

I’m presently sitting outside on a bench just taking in another beautiful day in Holland, Michigan. It is no irony that I’m here. Every morning and evening, I have an opportunity to listen to messages that scrape away the calloused places of my heart. I get to watch worship from youngsters that force me to confront just how sincere my own worship is. I walk 20k steps per day to serve wherever I am needed, and I laugh so much that my stomach hurts. I walk the campus at night to make sure students are where they should be, but it’s so cool, because I also get to minister to students. 

God had to have me away from what was familiar into what is foreign, to give me a reboot. It’s funny that I have fought Him, but His relentless pursuit of our hearts, of my heart, has astounded me. He has made me  pay attention. I have wanted to collapse into tears so many times this week as He has told me who I am to Him, and what my place in Him is. I have made connections that don’t have to be regular, yet mean so much in this season of life. The more God has loved on me, the more I have loved my wife and kids, even in the sparse moments that I get to spend with them. 

I see my  imperfections. I see my failures. I see my trust issues. I see my feelings of  inadequacy.

But I also see His grace. I see His love. I hear Him calling me, like Peter, to feed His sheep. He never asked me to be perfect. He has only asked me to be willing to step out into the adventure of His will. 

And it’s the most beautiful thing, because see, like Peter, I have failed Him. I do fail Him, yet He never focuses on my failure, and points me continually toward faithfulness in who He is, and how He loves me. 

So yeah. It’s beautiful. 

I Will See Your Goodness Again!

I Will See Your Goodness Again!

 

I find myself this morning feeling anxious. My stomach is a little topsy turvy. I’m not eating breakfast. It feels like things are happening around me, but I’m strangely detached. The feelings started last night, and I know why I’m feeling them. Yet, I don’t know why. Something God has brought us through countless times is now causing some fear in my life. Wonder about outcomes.

“Will God still be God?”

“Will He provide what we need? Because we need a LOT!”

“I want to vomit, does God care?”

How many of you can relate this morning? How many of you have ever found yourselves in a situation where you are faced with something that God has helped you overcome in the past, only to be presented with the same thing in a different package in a different season? The worry is the first thing to come back.

But what should happen when we are confronted by these things is that we should revisit the altars that we have placed at those points in our past where God has shown Himself mighty. We should go back in order to go forward.

We have to remember His faithfulness. We have to remember His unfailing nature. We have to remember that He alone is powerful.

Throughout the time in which we discovered that we were being put through another familiar, frightening season, these words from Elevation Church have come to us over and over again.

“I’ve seen You move, You’ve moved the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see you do it again”

See, the operative words there are “I’ll see you do it again!”. There is power in making that confession. Even when my heart is troubled and my stomach is in anxious knots, I can say these words and my spirit latches on to them.

We used to sing a song in church that was a musical restatement of Psalm 27 which says,

“I will remain confident in this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

This will not defeat us. This will not cause our demise! What this will do is strengthen out faith as we remind ourselves that God is good in every season, no matter what may come.

In the same way, your mountain will not defeat you. God has given us the means, by faith, to speak to our mountains and have them cast into the sea. That is our birthright. That is our power because of His power.

Besides, fear is a lie. Anxiety is as well. They want us to believe that God runs contrary to His word. Why would God tell us 365 times in the Bible to not fear and then allow us to live in it? No. The truth, regardless of how I feel, regardless of my stomach flipping and the knots, regardless of what I can’t see in front of me, is that God never fails!

This is the truth that we must speak over our hearts. And then the peace of God, which the world can not understand, will flood our hearts because when we belong to Christ, we not only know His voice, but we recognize his truth, and we receive His love!

So, let’s have a few moments of faith-building worship. Take a moment and listen tot his song with me, and let’s pray for each other and believe that no matter what we face today, we will see God be God again!

 

God Heals Me Through My Wife

God Heals Me Through My Wife

Last night, I was having problems deciphering something that God was doing deep inside of my heart. My wife picked up on that and proceeded to describe to me in very accurate detail what the issue was, and how to fix it. I immediately recognized this as truth from God and received it. It was tough love, but it was also needed for my own personal and spiritual growth. God took a broken place that I revealed to my wife, and He spoke such power and love into me that I can’t help but praise Him. As I think about that now, and the many times this has happened over the course of my life, I become ever more thankful for my wife. And so my teachable moment for this week is simple:

Men, trust what God has placed inside of your wife.

We will celebrate 14 years of marriage on tomorrow. Over the 16 years of a relationship that we have built, there have been so many moments when God has used her to pierce parts of me that were closed off to Him. Parts that I had no idea were closed. Walls that I didn’t even recognize had been built. God has used my wife’s spiritual discernment to diagnose me when I never knew that I was sick. Not only has He diagnosed broken places through her, but He has dispatched healing through her so many times. And so what I have learned is simply that God placed her with me, because He knew that she could speak to me in ways that would have to be pried open in order for Him to reach me. I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

Husbands, your wife must be your chief consultant. Besides the Holy Spirit, that is. But what I have found is that sometimes they are one in the same, especially as the Holy Spirit inhabits my wife, God will speak through her to the heart of my problems. Sometimes I hate what she has to say, but I humble myself and receive it from her because I know that she only speaks with the Father’s love for me.

I trust that she works with God so that I can be the best that I can be. I believe that her intentions for me are God’s dreams for me.

That’s big! How many of you husbands out there can honestly say that?

We have to trust our wives enough to let our guard down. Be sensitive. Emotional. Allow our wives to see the ugliness inside of us. God can use those moments of transparency to heal us and help us become better for our wives and our families. This is one of the greatest keys to health in a marriage relationship.

And it is why I celebrate my wife. She is my gift from God.

And I will have loved her as such for 14 years tomorrow. Actually 16…cause I loved her as soon as I met her. And I trust her with my tears, my frustrations, my hopelessness, my weakness, and dreams. Through her strength, God strengthens me so many times. Through her love, God heals me. This is what marriage should be.

Be blessed today!