Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Much Do You REALLY Love Her??

Real men love to be macho. Hence the popularity of the Lord of the Rings movies, the Expendables series, and the umpteen super hero movies that came out this year. We love to envision ourselves as President Marshall fighting off terrorists to protect our families on Air Force One. Our pulse quickens when we watch a movie like Taken, where a father seeks to save his daughter no matter what the personal cost.

But do we love the idea of loving our wives that much more than we actually love our wives? I know that it's frequently true for me. Just like I like the idea of being the next Geddy Lee more than I like the hours of finger wrenching torturous practice that would be required for me to even be considered a competent bass guitar player.

While I'm normally not a big proponent of New Year's resolutions, I'm tossing out a challenge (since we seem to be all about THOSE lately).



THE HUSBAND CHALLENGE

1. Read the Book of Proverbs daily. Whatever day it is, read that chapter. Read it out loud, don't just scan it. It will only take a few minutes, and it's best to do this at the beginning of the day, before chaos erupts and distracts you. If you miss a day, pick back up the following day.

2. During the months of January through March, read the book "The 5 Love Languages: Men's Edition" by Gary Chapman. That's 90 days to read 208 pages (paperback count). 

3. During the months of April through July, read the book "His Needs, Her Needs" by William F. Harley, Jr. This one is 120 days to read 240 pages (hardback count).

4. During the months of August through December, read the book "Love And Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs. This gives you 150 days to read 324 pages (hardback count).

Obviously, if you're a fast reader, you can rip through all three of the books in a few weeks. I'm encouraging you to NOT do that. Read them slowly. Think about what the author's saying. Highlight what hits you hardest. Go back and re-read the chapter when you're done. The goal here is not to check off that you've scanned the pages, but to actually be confronted with how you can love your bride better, and in a way that's more Christ-like. If you're looking for a challenge, loving your wife as much as Jesus loves you is one worthy of taking up. 

PLUS, if you actually learn this stuff and sincerely do it, I promise you that you'll see a change in your marriage. At the very least, I promise you that the Holy Spirit will change how you SEE your marriage, and will change your heart about your bride. I've seen it myself. IN myself, and in other men who have applied these four books to their lives.

PS: If you've already read some or all of these books, read them again. It won't kill ya, I promise. 😏

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Let This Appointment Pass From Me

As I write this, my heart is heavy and my mind is dreading the new day’s coming. Because at 11:00 tomorrow, I will sit down in a dentist’s chair and he will rip four teeth out of my mouth. That’s right. Four of my little toofies. OUCH!.

You see, for years, I didn’t do what I should have done. I used dip and chew for years. I smoked cigarettes, pipes and cigars for years. The amount of cola that I’ve consumed over the years could float a nuclear carrier. I didn't brush. I didn't floss. I’ve been hard on my teeth, and little by little, they’ve broken or rotted away. My fault, my fault entirely. The last one to break was one of my front crowns, and now I look like a redneck vampire when I close my mouth.

Therefore, in the morning, the dentist will pull out the remaining four teeth on top and I’ll just get a full plate. Sounds easy, right? When YOU’RE the one facing it, it certainly doesn’t sound easy. A few hours of the dentist prying, cutting, splitting and yanking teeth out of my jaw. My dentists in the past have joked that my roots run down to my toes, and my last extraction had pieces of my jawbone attached when he (finally) got it out. The prospect of going through that is making me a little anxious; it’s NOT a good night to be me.

BUT, I’ll be in a sterile environment, under local anesthesia, and the surgery will be done by an individual who has absolutely no desire to hurt me. Actually, he will do everything in his power to ensure that I’m not in any pain.

Compare that to the dread that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane…no anesthesia, no kindness, and knowing that there would be actual torture, with no other goal than to humiliate, punish and kill Him.

Yes, He wept tears of blood.

Yes, He cried out for another way if possible.

BUT, He went willingly into the hands of those who would torture and kill Him.

He went for me.

He went for you.

Just as I’m going to endure pain tomorrow because I know that it will be better after, He went to the cross because He knew that He would be the sacrifice paid for the sins of Mankind and offer salvation to Man.

For the sins of everyone who calls upon His name, He paid the price. He’ll take your sins. He took the blows that allow Him to pay for your rotten fleshly failures and offer you forgiveness, redemption and restoration to Him. He paid for the policy, made the appointment and even paid your copay.

What a great offer! The best healthcare (soulcare) in the universe!!!

Confess Him as LORD (agree with heaven about what is true)

Repent of your sins (allow Him to change the way you view your actions in accordance to His word)


Follow Him (seek to imitate Him in your thoughts, desires and actions, using the Bible as your manual and the Holy Spirit as your instructor and guide)


8But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOUIN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
Romans 10:8-11

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Don't Put Me In, Coach!!!

It is safe to say that sports is one of the most important things in America. Friends and co-workers have office pools for March Madness where everyone tries to properly guess how the games will be won and lost. In the fall, they create imaginary football teams and compete against other imaginary teams. Over the summer and into the fall, millions of hours are spent watching baseball games and predicting who will wind up in the World Series. We focus on sports, and more importantly, we focus on athletes, almost to the point of worship.

If you were asked to list the 25 or 50 most famous people in America, there would likely wind up being three types on that list: politicians, actors, and athletes. Even non sports fans like me recognize these names: Manny Pacquaio, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Alexander Rodriguez, Phil Mickelson, Venus & Serena Williams.

We look up to these individuals for their skills and abilities. I suspect many imagine what it is like to make that last-second three pointer, to blast a game winning home run, or to make the final touchdown needed to win the Super Bowl.

Multiple companies offer to sell us their wares so that we can be more like those athletes. For only $400, we can wear the same shoes as Kobe or for only $300, we can own the same driver as Tiger or Phil. For a nominal price, we can even buy a copy of their jersey! We can deck ourselves out and imagine sitting on the bench next to them at the big game!

But we often overlook the fact that serious athletes spend hour upon hour upon hour practicing their skills. They have dedicated coaches to point out the flaws in their techniques and to push them to improve. Dedicated athletes change their entire lives because of their sport. They change their diets and their sleep patterns, and frequently do not have time to play around or entertain themselves as the average Joe. They spend almost every day during their season practicing for their next game, and almost every day in their off-season preparing for their next season. In short, their lives are dedicated to becoming the best player that they can, and having the most time possible in the game.

Now, compare that with the average church member. If we show up for church (practice) twice a month, we think we've done a huge thing. If we write down all the points from our pastor (coach) we think that it will make a difference somehow. But in all seriousness, we typically have zero interest in changing anything about ourselves in order to be better Christians (athletes). We're not about to change our diet of what we take in with regards to spending less time watching TV or movies and instead reading Scripture. There's no WAY that we're going to get up 30 minutes early to pray before we dash off to work. Above all, should ANYONE point out something that we're doing wrong or incorrectly, we're not going to thank them, we'll probably just scream "DON'T JUDGE ME!!"

The average Christian loves the IDEA of wearing the team jersey and sitting on the bench. Oh, and don't forget my Participation Trophy, please! But in all honesty, we not only aren't even actually interested in any playing time on the field, if our coach suggests it, we're liable to not even come back to practice for a while...

Consider what the author of Hebrews tells us in Chapter 12, Verse 1: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,"

Show up for practice. Change your diet. Listen to your coach and change your actions. Realize that when a team mate points out something you're doing wrong, they almost certainly are tying to help you play better. Above all, be ready to hop off the bench when your name is called. Beg for opportunities to get in the game!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Hypocrites on the Right

I have a great number of friends that are professional law enforcement officers. One is a friend that I met my freshman year of high school over 30 years ago and is among my dearest friends. Another, I met my freshman year of high school over 25 years ago, and is again, one of my dearest friends. Two of the men in my cove are local officers. One of the men in my Sunday School class is an officer, as is another good friend at my church. Yet another officer is a friend that I listened to and counselled through his divorce several years ago. On top of all of these law enforcement professionals, I know many others personally and through social media.

My heart breaks every time that an officer's End Of Watch date is posted, which has been happening all to frequently lately. Several of the losses have been associated with the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, which conservatives have countered with #BlueLivesMatter or better yet, #AllLivesMatter. The profile picture on my Facebook profile has been a badge with a black stripe all to often. Every officer that dies in the line of duty is someone's son or daughter, and likely someone's mother or father. My prayer is that every officer goes home to his family at the end of every shift. To ensure that, should anyone be foolish enough to attack an officer in my presence, they will receive return fire from me as well.

Switching gears a bit, there are only a few members of the Senate of these United States to which I pay any favorable attention, and to which I look fondly. One of those rarities is Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Today, I saw a post on Senator Session's Facebook page today that made me very sad, and I was disappointed to see how many people were posting favorably on the post.

The topic of the post? Senator Sessions and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduced a bill today that would make it a specific condition in favor of the death penalty to attack a law enforcement, first responder or prosecutor.

I have two massive issues with this bill, and I am honestly unsure which one bothers me more.

Firstly, these United States are a classless society. We don't have serfs, lords or royalty. We don't treat people legally in accordance to their income level, social status, or career. The murder of a homeless junkie should receive the same attention and commitment to justice as a child from the suburbs. This bill would create yet another "protected class" of people. This feeds straight into the same propaganda that has brought us to "hate crimes", where we treat a murderer differently because one guy killed someone for a quarter, and another guy killed someone for his skin color. Both victims are dead, and both are deserving of equal justice. What that means is that one victim is not deserving of MORE justice than another victim. If conservatives believe that #AllLivesMatter, then we better act like we believe it.

Secondly, conservatives were handed a defeat a few weeks ago by judicial fiat, when the Supreme Court of these United States ruled that States didn't have sovereignty over the definition of marriage. This was done in blatant disregard to the Tenth Amendment and the fact that marriage is not mentioned at all in the Constitution, nor is defining or regulating marriage listed as one of the enumerated powers granted to any branch of the federal government. Rightly so, conservatives howled bloody murder over this abuse of our Constitution. The federal government has no business being involved in marriage at all. Just as they have absolutely no business being involved in defining, enforcing or punishing local crimes.

There are very few crimes that are actually under the purview of the federal government. These include treason, abuse of federal office, and a few crimes that are truly inter-state offenses. Killing a law enforcement officer is not on that list. The Congress has absolutely no business getting involved in and demanding MORE justice for this murder than for that murder. It's morally wrong. It's Constitutionally wrong. It's unAmerican. It is hypocritical of conservatives to cheer for this violation of the Constitution while objecting to the ones that favor liberals.






Saturday, July 18, 2015

Recalculating....Recalculating...

Several years ago, I took a group from our church in Olive Branch, Mississippi to a men's conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. One of the men going was a OTR trucker, and claimed to know the route well, so we nominated him to drive the van for us.

On the day we left, he showed up cradling his prized possession, a GPS device. He plugged it into the van, set the coordinates for the hotel in Alabama, and away we went. The device dutifully told him how to proceed to the interstate and gave him reminders before each turn was required.

A few hours into the trip, however, the fun began. The GPS told our driver to prepare to exit the highway we were on, and to get on a different highway. Since he drove the area frequently, he told us that we weren't going to take that route, as there was a lot of construction going on and it would cause us significant delays. As his experience was the very reason that we selected him to drive, no one gave it another thought and we resumed our conversations.

The GPS, however, did NOT approve of us disobeying, nor was it aware of our change of plans. About a mile before the exit, we heard the normal reminder. About a 100 yards before the exit, we heard the instructions to exit. But about 10 feet after the exit ramp, we heard a new command. Make a legal U-turn, and then exit at this interchange. When we continued on, the system hesitated and then proclaimed...."RECALCULATING...RECALCULATING..." Proceed 6 miles to interchange number blah, blah, exit and turn left...

We ignored these instructions too...so the system told us to do a U-Turn, then we heard the "RECALCULATING...RECALCULATING..." For about the next six exits, the system continued to try to get us back to the path that it had laid out for us. It got to be a running joke, we would try to speak the instructions at the instant that the GPS said them, as they became not only repetitive, but quite annoying.

Eventually, some internal switch flipped and it gave up, having recalculated that the fastest route for us to take was now the one that we were taking. A little while later, we arrived at out destination and had a great weekend.

Verse 11 of Jeremiah 29 also tells us "‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." This tells us clearly that God has a plan for each individual person, and a desire to give us a future through Jesus Christ.

Now, if you were to ask 10,000 Christians "What is the part of the Christian life that you struggle most with?", I suspect that if not a majority, a significant percentage would answer "I struggle with determining God's will for my life." I know for a fact that this is something that I wrestle with as I make individual decisions.

We correctly have the idea that God has laid out a perfect plan for our life. However, that right belief can also lead to wrong attitudes and actions. I have heard people say "Well, God called me to preach when I was a teen, but I didn't obey...it's too late for that now." Realizing that we made a wrong turn in our past should NOT leave us sitting on the side of the road in dismay. Instead, we should repent of the disobedience, and while the Holy Spirit doesn't need to "recalculate" our NEXT best path, we should be listening for Him to reveal it to us.

As for determining God's will for day to day situations, I offer this for consideration. The Westminster Catechism begins with this question and answer:
What is the chief and highest end of man?
Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.

So when faced with choices, always ask yourself if one or more of the options do NOT glorify God or allow you to enjoy fellowship with Him. If so, you can toss those right out, you don't need a GPS to know that you shouldn't drive off a cliff...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Can We Talk?

I need to vent for a moment...

I keep hearing about Shannon Watts and her group pushing for more gun control. I keep hearing about this Democrat Senator or that Democrat Representative pushing for more gun control. They keep repeating the same old tired language about "common sense" gun control. They want background checks for every purchase. They want limits on the number of cartridges that can be held in a magazine. They want firearms with this feature or that feature banned.

But as Joan Rivers would say..."can we talk?" Seriously. Let's try a little common sense, shall we? I worked for years as a machinist, on both manual and CNC equipment. I know how to weld, I know how to use a torch, and I know how to bend and break sheet metal.

If I want any type of firearm, I can easily make it myself.
If I want a magazine that holds 50 cartridges, I can easily make it myself.
If I want a sound suppressor, I can easily make it myself.
If I want a fully automatic pistol or rifle, I can easily make it myself.

And there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of men and women just like me across this nation. Much less the world. We can't keep drugs out of this country, what makes you think that guns aren't being smuggled in? (They are, BTW, and being smuggled in by Democrat Senators from the State of California...Google "Leland Yee" if you doubt me)

Watch "Sons of Guns" sometime. Yes, they're experts at what they do, and I'm not taking anything away from them or highly skilled gunsmiths. But folks have been making semi-automatic rifles since 1885 and semi-automatic pistols since 1893. It's truly not rocket science.

Evil men will always be able to obtain the means to do harm. Only an armed man ready to defend himself and others can stop an evil man intent on doing harm to the innocent.

No amount of laws can make society safe. Only a society fully inhabited by disciples of Jesus Christ and fully and constantly obedient to the Holy Spirit would be so. But even that society would be threatened by a neighboring society bent on doing harm.

Read Genesis 3:24, and you'll see that mankind didn't invent weapons, God did. And if there's anything besides Almighty God that doesn't "need" a weapon, it's an angel.

Monday, January 26, 2015

What IS the Gospel??

John the Baptist preached it. Jesus preached it. John, James, Peter, Paul, Silas and many others preached it during the time of the Apostles. But what IS it?

Baptists teach "x". Methodists teach "y". Presbyterians preach "z". Catholics preach "xy+w".

We argue & debate over whether or not Jesus COULD have sinned. Over whether or not you can choose to forfeit your salvation. Over whether or not speaking in tongues is still an active spiritual gift. Over having deacons as servants, or having elders as church rulers. Over associations or synods. Over what wording should be in a "sinners prayer". Over sprinkling or full immersion. Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib. Pre-Millennialism, Post-Millennialism, A-millennialism. So many ways that the different denominations of THE Church choose to dis-unify, in resistance to our Lord's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I've come to the point that I want to act in accordance with Psalm 119:63, "I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts". I believe that the name on the outside of the church doesn't matter, it's the name of the One that's worshiped on the inside that matters. We spend a LOT of time arguing over differences that honestly don't matter, time that we should be using to preach to the LOST, not our brothers. Are we straining out gnats while the camels march happily to hell?

To that end, I ask this: what is the CORE of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it:

1. Everything was created by God, who reveals Himself to us in three aspects of His being: Father, Son & Spirit.

2. The first man, Adam, chose to rebel against God. Because of that, sin entered his line and every person from birth is an enemy of God. Everything we do is tainted with sin and therefore filthy in God's sight. We CANNOT please Him with our deeds & service.

3. Knowing that we could never earn restoration, God sent His Son to us.

4. He spent 33 years walking among us, but NEVER sinned in thought, word or action.

5. Being a perfect and spotless man, He offered Himself as a sacrifice, offering His righteousness as a gift in exchange for our filthy rags. He died, was buried, and rose again on the third day in defeat of sin and death.

6. Anyone who acknowledges their sin, accepts His sacrifice and makes Him their LORD will be given forgiveness and resurrection.

7. At the end of history, everyone will be judged. Those who have forgiveness through Jesus will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Those who have never been forgiven of their sins will spend eternity in hell, being rightly punished for rebelling against the God of the universe.

How much of this did the thief on the cross know?

What about in Luke 18:13, where the publican prays "God, be merciful to me, the sinner"? Jesus said that he went home JUSTIFIED.

Just for clarification, I'm talking about Christians. Jehovah's Witnesses believe in a different god, a different resurrection, and a different eternity. Mormons believe in a different god, a different Jesus, and a different eternity. Again, salvation is from faith alone, not of works, lest any man should boast. Any church or denomination that claims that membership, rituals or baptism is required for salvation is in clear opposition to the Bible.

I DON'T want to start WW3, just a LOVING, RESPECTFUL discussion of where the line in the sand should be drawn on who we should accept as brother and ally, and who is in need of salvation.