Thursday, November 15, 2018

Got any Distractions?

You’ve heard the story.

In Luke 14 Jesus told a parable of a guy who planned a really awesome banquet and invited many guests. Though we don’t know exactly who those guests were, I’m assuming he invited the people closest to him first.  Friends, family, coworkers.   And he probably invited some distinguished guests as well — people who were important and prominent in that community.

But one by one they turned down the invitation because of something they deemed as more important.  One of them had just bought some land.  Another some oxen.   Another one had just gotten married.   They all had things that were more important to them than the banquet.

So the man told his servants to go out and find people who had time for him and for the amazing things that he was offering.  The parable concludes with the man saying those folks that I initially invited will never get a taste of what I planned for them.

I’m sure that for decades theologians have been discussing what this Scripture means, but to me it seems pretty simple:   God has cool things planned for us.   He invites us to join Him at HIs table, where we can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  But too often we have distractions that keep us from showing up.    And these distractions cost us the privilege of enjoying all of what God has for us.

I have to share this song, simply because it always comes to mind when I hear this parable (and because I occasionally like to send videos that border on annoying just for fun:)


But this video is super powerful.  I’ve shared it last January, but if you haven’t watched it you should…  It gives me goose bumps.  It’s a great way of looking at the table we are invited to and the importance not only of coming to Jesus, but coming together with so many others to feast with HIm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Got any Strength?


Over the last several weeks I have found myself in a mess not of my own making that involves our youngest son.  In fact, it is a mess that I spent a couple years trying to prevent.   It is a mess that affects many aspects of our lives and has hurt many people.  It is a mess that has kept me off Facebook and a mess that will require me to continuously offer grace, mercy and forgiveness as I ask others to extend that to our son and to us.

For those of you who have been curious, this situation is why I left Facebook and stopped posting things about my fundraiser and my exercise.  I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter that I hadn’t earned and for weeks I couldn’t post anything online for fear it would be used against us.   

We have been through many situations in our journey where our children have made huge mistakes that have damaged them and messed up their lives.  There have been times when their decisions have tarnished our reputations slightly and there have been people who have been harmed as a result of their choices.

However, this is the first time that the mistake of one of our children has hit so close to home.  It has had an effect on nearly everyone that we know in the city in which we live.  We are heartbroken and grieving and yet because our son is the one who screwed up, we haven’t been able to say much.

I tell you this simply to encourage anyone in the middle of situations you did not create and finds themselves wondering if you’re strong enough to handle the fallout.  You need to know this:   in God’s strength you are.

Slowly but surely, God is giving us the strength to make it day by day, to forgive ourselves for things we could have or should have done to possibly prevent this, and to forgive, love, and extend grace and mercy to our son and anyone else who has contributed to our pain.

This morning as I was driving in to work I heard this song.  I have heard it multiple times but the first line caught me off guard.  It was as though I was speaking directly to God.

“You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

Well, forgive me
Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do”

I have had many thoughts the past two months that are similar to those.   Thoughts like, “We’ve been through a lot, God, but this one — this might be more than I can handle.”

But the song does not end there.  It says:

I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

The good news is that He has been.  His strength has been made perfect in my weakness (I Corinthians 12:9).  I’m definitely not sharing this to brag or to suggest that I am special.    I have had days where I have stared off into space, replaying this situation over and over in my brain, unable to do even move.  I have absolutely NOT been strong enough, on my own, to make it this time.

But God has.   And if He has done so for me, He will do this for you… no matter what mess you find yourself in. 

Monday, November 05, 2018

Got any Figs?

This parable in Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

This parable n Luke 13 jarred me as I listened to it the other day:

Once upon a time there was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He came to it looking for fruit, and didn’t find any. 

So he said to the gardener, “Look here! I’ve been coming to this fig tree for three years hoping to find some fruit, and I haven’t found any! Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘ “I tell you what, Master,” replied the gardener; “let it alone for just this one year more. I’ll dig all round it and put on some manure. Then, if it fruits next year, well and good; and if not, you can cut it down.” 

At first I asked myself if the point of the story is that if I didn’t shape up and start producing more, I was going to get dismissively “chopped down.”  That didn’t seem right to me…. Jesus seems to be much more about mercy than judgement.

But then I realized that the whole parable is about mercy.  It’s about second chances.  It’s about how even though the Master in this story wants the tree chopped down, the gardener said “wait — give me more time.”   

I also find it a bit humorous that the way that he plans to get the tree good enough to produce he has to cover it in crap.   Ever feel like that part of the story is accurate in your life?

If you look around your life and you’re not seeing any figs, please realize this:  there is a gardener who is on your side — who wants to work on you just a little bit more.   Take comfort in this today…. recognizing that a year from now, the fruit you are going to bear because of the crap you’re covered in today will be amazing.

How’s that for a unique twist on the parable?

https://youtu.be/m84URv4Sgxc

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Got any Lions?


I was rereading the story Daniel in the Lion’s Den this morning.   We look back at that as if Daniel was so brave heading into the den.  I’m not sure he felt that brave as he headed into the den.

Grant it, he was brave to obey God, knowing the consequences, when he chose to disobey the king, but I don’t know that, when it came right down to it, he headed into the lion’s den confident that God would protect Him.  Maybe he did, but the lions were still big, strong, and probably hungry…. and he may have been very nervous.

I wonder if he was scared the whole time, or if after the first few minutes her realized God was going to protect him.   I can see it both ways — he was in the den for five to ten minutes, and still alive, so maybe he relaxed and said, “God’s got this” and took a nap.   We don’t know for sure.

It could very well be that he stressed out all night long, pinning himself up against the wall of the den keeping an eye on each lion, waiting to see what was going to happen.  He could have been a nervous wreck all night.

So what are our lessons from this story?

1)  Even if we are facing extreme consequences, we need to be obedient.

2)  We have a choice when we are in the midst of a scary or uncertain time, where the enemy is close at hand.   We can relax and remember that God’s got us, or we can fret and pace and hold on with white knuckles waiting for the trial to be over.

The cool thing is that God isn’t going to stop being God if we stop being confident in him and stop having faith.  He’s just going to keep on doing what He does.  But the quality of life that we can have during that time is our choice.

So whatcha going to do the next time you’re thrown into the lions den?  Are you going to immediately recognize that God is protecting you and relax knowing that the trial will some day be over, or are you going be freaked out every single moment, stressing out and questioning whether or not God is going to continue to come through?

THAT is up to you.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Got Any Wants?


In Mark Chapter 10, Jesus and his disciples are walking in a huge crowd down the road when they hear a voice coming from the side of the road from a blind beggar.  Everyone kept telling him to shut up but he kept crying out, “Have mercy on me.”

So Jesus calls him over and says this very important words:

"What do you want me to do for you?

Bartimaeus responds, “I want to see” and Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him.  He gets up, and, interestingly, instead of running home to tell his family or friends, or going off to look at places or people he hasn’t seen in a long time (we don’t know how long) he follows Jesus.

If Jesus was standing in front of you today and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”  what would you say?

Maybe our lack of clarity in what we really want is what prohibits us from making the right request of Jesus.

Check out this song.  Maybe this is what we should be asking.   Brandon Heath basically says, “I want to see.



Friday, October 05, 2018

Got Any Laughter?

*Note:   Our family is going through some tough stuff which has made me drop off of social media.  But I thought I'd share this .... because it really has been a secret to us making it through the hard times and it's going to get us through this one as well.  Well, that and a lot of prayer, patience, grace and reliance on our big God.

Tonight I get to do “stand up” in front of a group of parents at our conference in Virginia Beach who are caring for kids from hard places.  I love to laugh — and I love to make people laugh — and we have survived the last 22 years by laughing.   A lot.  In fact, I share with folks that this has been the secret to our survival — being able to see the humor in so much of what we’ve been through.

In fact, even this past couple weeks we have been able to find ways to laugh in the midst of it all.

I shared the end of this Psalm with you a couple days ago.

Here’s how it begins:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Finding things to be thankful for and reasons to laugh and to recognize God’s goodness in the middle of the mess, whatever you’re going,  through is always an option.   

In fact, the very fact that God rescued us, changed us, redeemed us, saved us, forgave us, transformed us, …. that’s worthy of joy and laughter in and of itself.

So find something that makes you laugh today….

Maybe this will.  You don’t have to read it — but here’s a glimpse into what life was like when I wasn’t representing anyone but myself when I blogged.  This is one of the more appropriate entries I found when looking this morning and it was during the time when we had a bunch of teenagers who were not doing legal things.    It was a dark time, but we still found lots of things to laugh about.  Here are a few of them.   Enjoy the memories.  I sure did.




Monday, August 27, 2018

Got any Failures?


When was the last time you felt like a failure?  It could have been as long ago as ten years, or for me, less than 72 hours ago, but we all have times when we feel like failures.  And it’s definitely true that we all fail.  Because we are human, we miss the mark and don’t live up to our potential.   

Have you ever stopped to think about how many of the ten commandments King David broke?  Do the exercise.  It might surprise you…. but then it might encourage you, because after all of that, he was still called a “man after God’s own heart.”

They key to getting beyond our failures is to honestly repent and be willing to believe that God has forgiven us.  Check out some verses from Psalm 51 when David was calling out to God after Nathan confronted him following his sin with Bathsheba:

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.


If we have a broken and contrite heart, God sees that.  He knows our hearts and He is there, through Jesus, to forgive us, no matter how many times we fail.