I don’t post a lot about current events or political things. Today, as I have thought, and prayed, and talked with some, I come to the following conclusions…
1) The tragic death of George Floyd is not a current event. The way people of any Ethnicity other than white, have long been handled in a manner that is anything but at the very least decent. And this has been happening since the days of Bible, and it has to stop!
2) This is not political, social justice, police or any grouping of people issue. This is a heart issue!
Simply stated the founding principle of our great land is this, “All men are created equal!” Jesus loved this way, so should we! If it weren’t for a police officer, a gun, a racial divide, drugs, or crime, or any other thing that steals the center stage – we would all see the heart of mankind is growing increasingly more evil. Folks this is Bible. The hearts of man are in the balance and people that do not deserve to die are dying.
3) There is simply only one hope – The GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
The fact that we are called to love like Jesus loved, but don’t. The fact that Jesus came to give new life, but live our life without that hope. This completely robs the connection, the dash, it robs you and I, of not just civility and equality – but of true relationship between men and women that don’t look like each other, but can truly love each other!
4) Please know this…
It is long past time that the church of Jesus Christ stand for not just evangelicalism, but for LOVE of ALL MANKIND! REGARDLESS!!!!!
It is time for us to link arms with each other and LOVE like we have never loved before. Even as the example of Christ, “no greater LOVE than man would lay down his life for a friends!”
It is time to STAND AGAINST THE PLAGUE! Please hear me out. There is a plague that is far more painful than Covid-19. That plague is racism. It has been a plague that has killed more through the centuries and has never been given the complete eradication from our planet, simply because men and women will not agree to the root and the symptoms. Let us remember the words of scripture found in Numbs. 16:48, “There he STOOD, between the living and the dead, and the plague STOPPED!”
So will you STAND? Standing is the answer! Standing with and for each other. We don’t have to condone the actions, but we HAVE to love selflessly!
Will you stand with a brother or sister that doesn’t look like you, come from the same place you come from, have the same upbringing you had, or doesn’t value all the things you value? Will you stand in love? Will you stand so that these last words of George Floyd, will not be uttered in vain?
Today I stand with the family of George Floyd! I stand with our police, there are far more moral and upright than crooked and evil. I stand with my brothers and sister that are not like I am. I stand on the LOVE OF ALL MANKIND, THAT TOOK JESUS TONTHE CROSS FOR US – ALL!!!
Jesus is the cure to the heart condition of mankind, and He wants to take ALL THAT PAIN AWAY!!!! And HE WILL if we give Him the chance!
When you were brokenhearted at life’s hard knocks.
When you said good bye to the special somebody.
When you feel as though you are a failure.
When you are at your whit’s end.
You Are Not Alone!
Spring has sprung and summer is coming soon. That means a couple of things: school will be done and enjoy the opening volleys of warmer weather, and we will soon transition to shorts and flip flops.
There will be less travel this summer, at least in its opening, but will no longer be tired of the cold arctic air! We will be creating our own island paradise in our back yards, perhaps even remembering a trip to a tropical island in our past. Many desiring to be back in the island trip from February before the world shut down.
Through all of this, there is an island that I would not want to live on, travel to, visit, or even visit––the island of isolation!
Isolation is a place void of any meaningful human contact, relationships, love, or any emotion crucial to producing healthy relationships! Isolation causes people to put up walls that keep us from being the person we know God made us to be. Isolation causes people to shut out the people that love us and are there for us. Isolation can cause us to become inward focused and dependent on nothing but the feelings of loneliness! Isolation can drive us to despair.
We see isolation in so many places in our culture today. Attached garages enclosed by a “privacy” fence surrounds many homes. Cars have tinted windows, providing the cover by which no one can see inside the vehicle. We see increased wearing of hats and sunglasses inside of buildings, keeping people from looking at each other face to face. And now virus called Covid 19, causes us all to actually cover the “Image of God” that He intended of us all. We see it in a continued state of technology, but we would rather look down at the screen than across the room at the family we live with, the people we work with, or the potential friend on the bus. Between masks and phones, we no longer keep our chins up and eyes peering to the lives of others. I could go on, hence take my word for it ––ISOLATION is everywhere in our culture!
The Bible clearly talks about the person in isolation. Proverbs 18 is a powerful chapter of the folly of isolation. Look at the very first verse of this chapter,
Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV), “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.”
A person who has become isolated often deals with these 4 emotions: sadness, anger, despair, and reduced self-esteem. As you look at Proverbs 18:1, anyone can see that when you seek your own desire, you will reap these emotions––because your desire––RUNS OUT! You can also see that when you go against wise judgment those 4 emotions come into play, simply due to the fact that often we find failure instead of success.
One of the greatest ways to fight isolation is to be a friend, make friends, and help others build friendships. This can be hard, but it is a vital key to keeping yourself and people you know out of isolation. I do not think that it is coincidental that the closing verse of Proverbs 18…
Prov. 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Did you catch that, the closing of verse 24, “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Guess who that is? JESUS!
John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Through His dying on the cross for us, protecting us, providing for us, forgiving us, teaching us, encouraging us, giving us His strength, taking our burdens upon Himself and much, much more.
Jesus is ultimately a key to stepping out of isolation! He loves, He accepts, He cares, He provides, He is your Friend!
John 15:15, “I no longer call you slaves, because a Master doesn’t confide in his slave. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
Let’s get off the island of isolation! Warm weather or cold weather––the island life of isolation is lonely and NO place for you!
If you think about it, the Lone Ranger is a misnamed hero. He’s brave, morally pure, and strong, but he never fights his battles alone. Tonto is always there as a loyal partner and companion. Take it a step further; how sad it would be if the Lone Ranger really was a one-man operation. The world’s most famous cowboy might never have made it through the first episode! In fact, every great movie hero has a sidekick or partner; Batman has Robin, Calvin has Hobbs, and whoever heard of C3P0 without R2D2?
The Bible also has some famous duos. Moses relied on Aaron, David’s best friend was Jonathan, and Ruth was the best daughter-in-law Naomi could have ever hoped to have. However, things get a little tricky when we get to Jesus.
Jesus never had a sidekick. He had 12 – twelve disciples, three of whom he favored. He was their leader—they called him rabbi and Lord, but then He called them FRIEND. So, does that make Jesus a lone ranger? Not at all. Jesus in fact did some great things for his friends and their… sadness, anger, despair, and low self-esteem…
Turns Sadness to Joy – Ps. 68:5&6, “5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. 6 God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”
Jesus turns Anger to Love – Matt. 5: 43-48 (MSG), 43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Jesus turns Despair to Praise – Psalm 43 (MSG), 1-2 Clear my name, God; stick up for me against these loveless, immoral people. Get me out of here, away from these lying degenerates. I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me? Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands over these outrageous people? 3-4 Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, So I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence, To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God, Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God. 5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”
Jesus turns a Low Self-Esteem to Promotion – Luke 9:23-25 (MSG), “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
Ps. 147:10&11 (MSG), “He’s not impressed with horsepower; the size of our muscles means little to him. Those who fear God get God’s attention; they can depend on his strength.”
Jer. 29:11-14 (MSG), “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. 13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. I’ll turn things around for you.”
1 Peter 5:4-6 (MSG), “4-5 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for — God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people. 6 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”
SO, whether you feel yourself as a lonely inhabitant on the island of Isolation, or a Lone Ranger with a Tonto, let the eternal relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit give you the encouragement and the strength to triumph over your greatest pains and fears. When discouragement comes your way, cast your cares on the One who saw Jesus through His darkest times.
1 Peter 5:7-11 (NLT), “7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to him forever! Amen.”
Genesis 28:15 (NLT), “What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
Well as of last night, the 2019 High School Baseball season is over for our Varsity Team. It should be a sick day for Baseball Coaches and Players (a holiday for moms – no more baseball unifomr laundry turn around in less than 8 hours), the disbelief that the season is over, the thought of what am I going to do from 2:30 to 5:00 everyday, the “wish I should have could haves” to simply keep playing another day. But the stark reality is the older I get, the more I realize all things come to an end…sorta…
Last night I watched 3 seniors play High School Baseball for the last time, and there friend – who was the manager, was there for their whole Sr. Year. I watched a young man that accepted a role that he had never done before, performed sacrifice bunt after bunt – yet again, the way he had done so many times, and he did it well! I watched a young man sit in the dugout for 7 innings, with an injury, support and love on his team that he had played as a starter for the last 3 seasons. And then I watched a young man that has been an incredible hitter for years, not get a hit in his last game, but left his heart and soul on the pitchers mound – a complete game win (12-4) with 9 Strikeouts and 133 pitches. Yet, it ain’t over for these 3…boys, it ain’t over…It is only just beginning!
Then there was the 4 coaches, in which fortunately I get to be one of them… An evening of last barbs to each other, confirming or questioning each other for the best move for the team, the final handshake and hug of the 2019 season, and the promise to be back and be better and be there for each other for the 2020 season. Then there was the coaches photo to simply obligize a grandmother of one of our seniors…
Those 4 seniors, us 4 coaches, you in your life – will all see seasons come to a close. But remember there are always seasons that are about to start. People to do life with, Places to visit, and Tasks to accomplish…seasons that are new and exciting, adventures filled with the unknown, and people that will bring value to your life. Seasons that will bring new expressions of purpose, meaning, and dedication. Seasons that will stretch you and prove valuable as you learn and grow. Seasons that will exercise your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual mechanics. Seasons that will prove to be fundamental as you round the bases for the next season after that, and the one after that, and the one after that…
Sometimes in those transitions of seasons, the game of life can feel like it has left you all alone. Sometimes, those same times can you leave you feeling ill prepared for what is next. Sometimes, the yearning and the desire to go back in time, because it is known and comfortable – is so very overwhelming. Sometimes the next season will have a new set of doubt, fear, and pain that you will have to play with. But, I want to challenge you today, every season you loved, started with many of the same emotions and realities, but you and I played through those sets of doubt, fear, and pain. And we made it through that season, to the next.
Well, I leave with you this…from my favorite playbook ever…the Bible…
“For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!” Isaiah 43:19 (The Living Bible)
God knows your season. God promises that He will make a road through the wilderness (doubt, fear, and pain) for you. In this next season, God will make “base path” for you to round the bases and make it HOME!
Class of 2019 – Here’s to a new season! May the next season, be more adventure filled than this last one! Thank You #2, #3, and #6!
Coach JD, Al, and Sandy – not a group of guys that I would have wanted to do this season with, than you! Here’s to eyes open, what did he just say, XXL, and so many other one liners that will pass by – can’t wait for next years set…
This morning a good friend asked me this question, “Did you have a game last night, or just practice?” Now before I hit publish and make this available to the whole world, I will make sure my friends knows that I am writing this, and will say thank you for the moment that allowed this thought to live out loud. Thank you my dear friend!
Just Practice… can mean – “Just stop your belly aching and go practice what you have been taught!”
Just Practice… can mean – “Just another day at the office.” or “Living the dream…” or “Man, do I have to go to practice?”
Just Practice… can mean – “I really want to have a game. Practice is so boring and monotonous. Game time is where I shine.”
Today, I want to propose this thought to you…
Have you heard the adage “You will play like you practice.” I heard this as a high school athlete, I hated it. Friday nights under the lights were different from practice afternoons. What people saw under the lights was the best, my best, our teams best. They seemed to be the best of times!
Now, I love practice the most. They are the best of times. That is where we get better. That is where we work on things, to get better. That is where we forge relationships, and learn how to forge through the fires of adversity. Practice is where I truly deal with the Doubt, the Fear, and the Pain! Games are where I reap the rewards of the Doubt, the Fear, and the Pain overcome through practice!
Well, now as a Dad, Pastor, Leader, and Coach, I live by and preach a different setiment… “Don’t wait to play hard when everyone is watching, play hard when the only ones that are watching are your teammates and coaches. Then you will give your everything, your best in practice, and then on the field!” You will know no other way!
So the question of the day…
How are you playing today? Is your life different in private compared to public? Are you playing for who is watching, or are you practicing to get better?
Let me leave you with a quote from Coach Warren Belin who got it from St. Jerome…
“Good, better, best – never let it rest until your good is Better
This morning in my reading my Bible, I was captivated by a verse (yet again) that I have read so many times throughout the years.
Judges 16:22, “But before long, his hair began to grow back.”
A little verse that stands out, like the whisper of a dear friend. You will miss if you do not pay attention to it. Let me explain…
Samson was a man that God had chosen to be a leader of the nation of Israel in Biblical Times. Before he was even born, God spoke to his mother to tell her that he was going to be a man that was dedicated to God and that he would rescue all of Israel. Samson was going quite the man, quite the leader, quite the emotional mess – almost ruining the plan of God for his own life.
Samson was quite the strong man, he once killed 1,000 men that had ganged up on him, with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey carcass. He once snapped the ropes that were tied around his arms, like burnt rope. Once, his hair was woven into a loom, as he was attacked – he pulled his hair from the loom – without losing his hair. This dude was STRONG!
If you read his story in the Bible (Judges 13 – 16), you will find that the source of his strength was rooted (pun intended) in his hair. Now, I don’t understand why. Perhaps Samson was the original Patriarch of the Duck Dynasty Family, don’t know… But this is the way God intended it to be. This begs the idea that we think of why we possess certain gifts and abilities, and maybe people are looking at you and I and asking the question, “Why do they have the ability or gifts for that?” The only answer is that God placed them down deep in us. We move on…
Well once Samson’s enemies found out the source of his strength was his hair, they captured him and shaved his head. They did more to him, but you will have to read that for yourself (Judges 16:17-31). He found himself imprisoned, blind, humbled, and weak.
Then we hit this verse. Judges 16:22, “But before long, his hair began to grow back.” As his hair began to grow back, his strength began to come back. Today, I wonder if your “hair” has been cut off. I wonder if you find yourself in a place where you are imprisoned, blind, humbled, and weak. Your gifts and abilities seem like they have wasted away. You are a shell of the man or woman that you were once.
Guess what, “LET YOUR HAIR GROW BACK!” Samson was an emotional mess. I have been there, have you? You start on a trajectory that is right, it from the Lord, it is something that you know God spoke in your heart. Then somewhere along the way, you seem to start messing it all up. Maybe, someone else starts messing it up. Bottom line, it begins to get messed up. Look at this verse, “…his hair began to grow back.”
It is never to late to get back on right track. Listen to what the Lord has spoken to you. Never forget what he said! Remember, your hair will grow back!
You will make it if you listen to what God says about you…and you let your hair grow back!
Your strength will come back if you rest in the knowledge of who God called you to be, not what you feel others are saying about you!
Your gifts and abilities will once again make room for you, if you use them not for your achievement, your purpose, your plan, or your success – but His!
You will be again what you always dreamed of being!
You will be what God placed in your heart and soul to be!
I will never forget the day… Toby and I had been playing basketball in the Auditorium. It was a hot and humid Nebraska summer day. From that day forward, I vowed to never play basketball, or any other sport for that matter, without being able to take a shower after – or at least change clothes. The church had a Coke machine, and the Diet Coke (20 oz.) bottle was screaming from the bowels of the machine to be ingested by my thirsty and sweating body. The only problem, I had no cash or coins. So, I went to “King” Art as I called him, asking if I wrote him a check for $1.00 to the church, could he give me 4 quarters for a Diet Coke. He kindly obliged, and I was one happy Master’s Commission student.
The problem with the story was that I had miscalculated my dates to cover the check. And to this day, the only check or draft I have ever bounced, was to my church for $1.00.
Talk about being bankrupt, I was as poor as a church mouse with nothing to show for it, other than a bubbly stomach that produced 2 or 3 belches. A momentary pleasure and a story that I have thought of for the last 22 years. It brings a smile to my face now, however then I was embarrassed and ashamed, and had nothing to show for this hilarious moment.
Today, 22 years later, I find myself bankrupt again, bankrupt in a different way. I am back at my home church. “King” Art is no longer the money man. The basketball hoops are long gone. And many of the men that God used to shape my early Faith Walk are either gone or their memories are a shell of what they used to be. And I am bankrupt almost – unemployed and displaced. The feelings of hopelessness and inadequacies feel my heart and emotions. I have to constantly tell myself that my emotions lie to me and that what I feel or see in me, is not what my Heavenly Father sees in me.
Bankrupt is such a painful feeling. Bankrupt means that you used to have some “cash”. Perhaps once might have been able to afford some luxuries… maybe even a $1.00 Diet Coke without the fear of bouncing a check, LOL! Like Job in the Bible, you were doing good, and then…
Now before you sense the urge to get super spiritual on me, let me assure you that I have the right people pouring into my life. The word of God is speaking as loud as it ever has. To steal a quote from Cory D, who stole it from Jeanne M., “There are times that I am sure, Jesus may even be bored with my prayer time!” But I will say, “Nonetheless, I am still praying!”
Still in the midst of these bankrupt feelings, I sense the still small voice of peace from my heavenly Father saying, “Son, I got you!”
Now this really cool picture came to me today. My feet dangling over an edge of something. The water was spraying my feet, but not actually engulfing them. I got nervous because I began to sense, then to see, thus actually feel the water rising – ready to engulf my toes then ankles and so on. As the nervous energy began to turn to anxiety, I realized I was looking at myself from a distance. ‘Oh my goodness’, I wasn’t sitting at the edge of the water. I wasn’t at the edge at all, or even on a boat side, or even sitting at the shore line of a mighty ocean. I was actually sitting in the hand of the Creator of the universe. I was sitting in the safest place that there is to be. I was in the hands of the Almighty. I had the soft calloused hands of the one who actually holds the waters, the land, the universe in His palms. I am here, safe and sound with no worries except that which my soul tricks my spirit into believing. The false “bank statements of worry and doubt” – telling me the lies of bankruptcy.
Now, as I sit here – some days wallowing in the pity of “bankruptcy”, I yearn for an escape. An escape from the walls of the basement I literally reside in. An escape from the constant tension of telling my family ‘Not now’ or ‘No’. An escape from the quilt of a grocery item that is not a necessity for the family. An escape from the lies that haunt my mind in quiet, in the car, early in the morning or late at night. I just want an escape. But today, I learn from a man that I hardly know, but trusted him for a conversation with the fragile walls of my story and current place in life. I learned as he spoke what I know now was the kind and gentle words of the Holy Spirit, my soul is not desiring escape – I forget too easily that I am in His hands, not a terrible situation. I am truly desiring peace in my soul. My bankrupt emotions, need not a refreshing Diet Coke, they need an encounter, they need communion with an Almighty Heavenly Father that knows, understands, and is willing to speak –as I listen.
Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule your hearts.”
Now this verse has the undertones of living at peace with “one another”. But I know this to be truth, if you are not at peace with Christ, then with yourself, you will not be at peace with others. And if you’re not at peace with others, you will begin to live your life in bankruptcy.
You see at the beginning of this little essay on Bankruptcy, I spoke of a bounced $1.00 check. The truth of the matter is, in life, true bankruptcy comes when you feel alone, when you sense that there is no one there with you – loneliness is the most devastating bankruptcy there is.
Being in this transition for the last 7 months, I have learned that the thing I miss the most about having a position within the walls of the church – are actually the people that you learn to love, the people you do ministry with, the people that you end up living life with. They begin to know you and the deepest things, sometimes the darkest things, always the silly jokes and the places that they can poke fun of all in the name of LOVE! Without them, you begin to feel as if you have nothing to lean on, no one to carry you in your weakness, no one to carry the load and burden.
King David penned it this way…
Psalms 62:1-2 (NLT), “1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken!”
The Message says it this way, “God, the one and only – I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.”
So, guess what? “What?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked, ‘You are NOT bankrupt, and neither am I!’
Why? Because you and I have the rock. Yes, for the moment, things may seem a little bleak. The water seems like it is rising. There is not a job on the horizon. Friends may see to be less than numerous. The future is just a thought, a dream, perhaps a fantasy of mirages. But, take heart, you and I are in a good place. Broke only leads to a great inheritance. Before you go and get all “He’s in the Prosperity Gospel!” Nope, I am into the Gospel that gives some great promises…
Psalms 51:17(NLT), “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God!”
Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG), “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
Lamentations 3:32-33 (MSG), “His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way…”
Psalms 86:11 (NIV), “Teach me your ways Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness: give me an undivided heart, so that I may honor you.”
Funny thing is, I don’t drink Diet Coke anymore, yet it has left a mark on me from all those years ago. I laughed a few weeks ago, as I wrote a check to the church for a tithe of 2 weeks of work God had provided for me. I chuckled as I remembered the story. I thought of King Art. I felt the bubbles in my tummy. I smiled, because I was writing a check to my church…I AM NOT BANKRUPT after all!