Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

Big Week For Baby A

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So last week our foster daughter and Sarabeth went to Florida to visit her family. According to Sarabeth, our little girl did wonderful on the airplane, so if you’re stuck on a plane with a crying baby and an overwhelmed mother, you can bet it’s not my wife or daughter.

Well, Baby A did two things this week which I’m thankful she didn’t do in Florida while I was at home here in Kentucky.

Two days ago, Sarabeth was holding Baby A and the dachshunds began licking her feet and Baby A just laughed, and laughed. Part of me thinks she began laughing so hard because she figured out that she could laugh! Probably one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.

And this morning, just moments ago, Baby A rolled over. First onto her belly then onto her back.

Needless to say, Sarabeth and I are very proud. In fact, after I write this post, I’m going to probably start drafting up her college resume.

Baby A, proficient at giggling and rolling over. My aspirations include being an attentive audience member at local comedy clubs and teaching fire drills (“stop, drop, and rooollllll”).

On the grand scheme of things, I’m sure these aren’t really big happenings. I’m sure back in colonial times it was like, “Look Pa, Junior just took his first step.”

“‘Bout dog-gone time. Hand him that there pile of wood and he can take it out back and chop it for the fire.”

But then, is it such a big deal when we do the things we do? Like, get a job, or pass an important exam, or earn one of those Fortune 500 Company jackets? To us, those are pretty significant deals.

But I wonder what God thinks. After all, have you ever created an entire cosmos? Have you ever begotten a living creature (or made one out of the dust)? Have you ever walked on water unassisted, or calmed a storm, or healed a blind man with mud?

Yet, God is pleased with us. Just like Sarabeth and I are pleased with our daughter for the littlest of things (but mostly for going to sleep!) – things that we’ve been doing ourselves for 30-plus years. Things that human beings all over the globe, all across the span of time have been mastering since the Garden.

All of Heaven rejoices when we enter into adoption by God as His child. A great cloud of witnesses hangs over the mist to marvel at our spiritual accomplishments and cheer us on to further endeavors, challenges those ghosts have likely bested while they were like us.

So, yeah. I’m pretty proud of my little girl. But then again, I’d be just as proud if she never rolled over.

3 Words, 7 Letters, One Cosmic Offense

vomitingBeing a father has caused me to be extra careful with the words that I use in the house. There’s no need for my foster daughter to hear certain words, and there’s certainly less need for me to use them.

There is a phrase that you might use today that is the most deplorable phrase to God’s ears – worse than all the obscenities that might raise the MPAA rating for a movie.

A phrase that is frequently used on television that is acceptable viewing for children.

Your friends might go along with it, your family members might not notice it, and your pastors might not call you out on it, yet it’s the most vile exclamation that can come out of your mouth.

It might as well be vomit.

We are so used to the stench of this phrase we go about our lives hardly noticing it.

Using this phrase is the same as urinating on the cross of Jesus, and spitting on the face of God.

While the children of God are going to church, tithing, and praying for the lost, they are defecating in God’s holy temple by saying these three disgusting words.

You don’t have to read very far in the Bible before getting to it. It’s found on page 62 in my Bible.

James, towards the end of the Bible, implores us to watch our tongues, but this one phrase is forbidden in the ten commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Brothers and sisters, we are to be set apart from the world, even if it means refraining from “cute” little phrases we acronymically type into our phones and ipads as friendly texts.

When I hear someone confess to be a Christian and then defile the Lord’s name, I automatically can’t help but question their salvation. After all, if they can’t refrain from using such a simple seven-letter term in their best moments, then what other sins are they giving into in their worst moments?

(On the flip side, when I hear someone say, “Oh my gosh” – a very deliberate and countercultural phrase, it gives me pause to look for further fruit in their lives.)

We must treat the name of God as reverent and holy. The very thought of Him ought to bring us to our knees in awe, not curse in jest.

If God means so little to you that you’re willing to just throw His name around like a deflated beach ball – which lacks value of any kind – ask the Lord to change your heart toward something you have viewed as being so trivial and inconsequential.

Ask Him to help you realize that the world has influenced you for the worse, and that using His name in vain is offensive to Him.

He will forgive you, if you are His child and you ask Him to, and He will never remember it if you repent of it, as He does with all sins. That is an absolute promise.

But if you want to go around continuing to use the Lord’s name as a curse word, just remember the next time you yell, “Jesus Christ,” out of pain or anger, you will someday finish that sentence with “…is Lord,” and He will reconcile His namesake.

That is another promise.

Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

switchfoot_pic-thumb-2574x2574-29801I absolutely love this article. I’ve never really been a fan of “Christian” music nor shied away from “secular” music, because I don’t think there needs to be a chasm between the two.

Let’s be honest – Christian music is just preaching to the choir. Not that the choir doesn’t often need preached to, but I think a lot of Christian artists, authors, singers, etc., fool themselves by thinking they’re reaching the world with their Christian labels.

Take a look at this article.

Singer Jon Foreman was asked if Switchfoot is a “Christian” band, and his response is definitely something worth reading. This is such an incredible story! I love seeing “faith” driven bands step outside of their comfort zones for the sake of reaching more people.

Read the full article here.

What are your thoughts on his response? How do you go about your work so that it crosses the line from “Christian” to “secular”?

A World at War, Good Friday, and Frodo

wwiOn April 6, 97 years ago, America formally declared war on Germany, entering World War I.

It is Good Friday, the day Christ invaded our enemies and our sins.

Both were major events. Both would see devastating setbacks (so it would seem), but Americans and Christ came out victorious in the end.

I’ve heard it asked, “Why is it called Good Friday?”

If you’re not familiar with the whole passion_of_the_christChristian picture, it may seem rather odd that we celebrate the day our Saviour was beaten and crucified.

But like many wars, it was necessary for Christ to enter into battle in order to declare victory in the end.

You can’t be an official opponent if you don’t enter into a war. You can’t claim victory over that war unless you enter into battle, on the winning side. And you can’t fight the battle effectively unless you believe in the cause you’re fighting for.

Jesus knew the cause of His fight, He entered into the battle, and eventually declared victory three days later by stepping out of that tomb. Though our culture downplays it, there are many things worth fighting for, and Jesus seemed to think that your very soul was worth the fight.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you better believe that when He took those punches to the nose, He was thinking of you.

When the soldiers shoved the crown of thorns on His head, He endured it for you.

When the Father looked down on His Son savagely being nailed to the cross, He knew full well that in the end, you would be able to declare victory next to His Son and stand innocent before Him on the day of Judgement.

It is Good Friday because it is a prelude to the real celebration that is to take place this coming Sunday.

frodo_cryingLike every normal person, my wife and I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although we marvel at the brilliant filmmaking, we don’t necessarily enjoy all the hurt and anguish Frodo is put through.

But we know it’s part of the story. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we really only love the movies because of the last half hour of the last movie which is saturated in victory and redemption.

But those final scenes mean nothing without the 9+ hours of war and anguish preceeding them.

In the same way, you can’t appreciate the miracle of Easter unless you understand the goodness of Christ’s crucifixion.

One step further: You can’t fully celebrate the miracle of Easter unless you recognize the goodness of you yourself being crucified with Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Have a very Good Friday and declare war on your sins.

The Ultimate Man’s Man

I don’t know where they originated from or who had the idea to start them, but I love those Chuck Norris jokes. Here’s a few of my favorites for your enjoyment:chuck 1

Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded.

When Chuck Norris crosses the steet the cars have to look both ways.

Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.

When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom home from the hospital.

Chuck Norris was once on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and was the first to spin. The next 29 minutes of the show consisted of everyone standing around awkwardly, waiting for the wheel to stop.

We all have a different idea of what the ultimate man’s man is like, or should be like. Some equate it with Chuck Norris, and some link modern manhood to Homer Simpson, doing away with the Spartacus persona altogether.

Leadership, fatherhood and husbandry ought to be as simple and straightforward  as it’s laid out in the second part of the creation account in Genesis 2. This is the world God intended history to build itself upon. A world where God is worshiped as Lord over all, and His children exercise sinless dominion over the earth and submit to the prospective roles God has given them as men and women, husbands and wives.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve were more prone to sin because they didn’t have life lessons to learn from. What is left out of that assumption is that Adam had direct and intimate communication with the Father of heavenly lights. One has to assume that a conversation with the Lord, without the existence of sin, had to result in the deepest form of spiritual, physical, and emotional satisfaction that could possibly be attained. True, Adam didn’t have support groups to meet with once a week, but he took nightly and daily strolls with the keeper of all wisdom and truth. The Word (whether in flesh or in spirit) picked berries with Adam and lead him beside streams of flowing water, and no doubt taught him about life and all that the earth had to offer him. No careful reader of the Genesis account can come to the conclusion that Adam’s sin (and Eve’s for that matter) was committed as a result of pure naivety. Even in the brief second chapter of Genesis, Moses makes very clear to us that God lays the example of true manhood for Adam in plain sight. As is stated in A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas, manhood is summarized as such: Leadership, provision, protection.

The Lord, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge of what His beloved creatures needed most, lead Adam to the garden (v. 15a), employed him there (v.15b), thus providing for his basic needs, and protected him from death by instructing him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v.17). These are just a few examples among many where God lead by example.

But God knew that even in his sinless state, Adam wasn’t able to follow perfectly in His steps, so He created a helper, Eve, suitable to propel him to exhaust his leadership over the garden. This is why we are to heed the advise of our wives as long as it is based off of Scripture, because we cannot follow God alone, so unreachable are His ways. Still, we are to look to Him as our sole example. We can and should look to others who are further along in bringing God glory through spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness, but we must not let those people replace the One we are to strive to be like. That is why God came down in the form of a man so that there would be a tangible, living, breathing example of how we could go about striving to be like God.

In what other ways do you see God demonstrating the role of biblical manhood throughout the Scriptures? (And, list your favorite Chuck Norris quotes.)

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