Today in the GREAT State of Texas, I met 3 warriors. I would like to tell you about them…
The 1st Warrior, wow what a warrior he is! At the age of 15 & 16 & 17, he made a series of bad decisions. Drugs, Alcohol, Rebellion, and Anger caused him to lose his freedom and spend time in the the Juvenile Courts, “Juvy” Detention, and then as the Judge said to him, “Big Boy Jail”. So he joined the Army, then became an Army Ranger and served in US Special Operations for over 10 years. In his post military career, went back into a life of mischief, then Christ changed his life. Now he Pastors one of the nations largest Prison Ministries, and completely has an ETERNAL lease on his call. He said to me today, “I am ADDICTED to Prison Ministry!” He went from fighting the law, to fighting for freedom, to taking it to the enemy of our souls! As of today, I get to call him friend!
The 2nd Warrior, wow what a warrior he will be! This warrior is young, and still finding his way. At age 15 & 16 & 17, he made a series of decisions that didn’t land in jail behind metal bars, but has landed him behind bars of an emotional and spiritual nature. He is plagued with rejection, insecurity, fear, and loneliness. He is surrounded by people that desire to see the King work in him and through him, but haunted by a past of mediocrity and lack of excellence. He feels like he doesn’t measure up in many avenues of his life, yet he hears all the time that he is Kings, and that there is a plan that will be great, if he will simply stay on His path. He is going from “How will I make it, to I hope I make it, to I know the King is not giving up on me – I WILL MAKE IT! This warrior is finding his identity, and you will know him soon enough!
The 3rd Warrior, wow he doesn’t feel like a warrior most days, because he feels like inside the armor he wears, there is just child. Scared, humbled, confused, paralyzed by fear, called by God, overcoming the noise of his own mind, ready for the calling and the passions to line up, hoping, yearning, grasping for constant truth, longing for a relationships that surpass the surface of life, and so many other self afflicted wounds. Yet with all of it, he has a confidence, still that the King has called him and desires to fulfill that call. This warrior, is me.
Today, I realize that warriors come in all shapes and sizes, in all stages of life. Warriors believe they are never out of the fight. You see the warrior keeps on fighting and never gives up. The warrior never surrenders. The warrior doesn’t leave their brother behind. The warrior carries the warrior that is wounded, broken, on his last breath. The warrior gives quickly and receives only what he has to in order to live another day. The warrior is not afraid to stoop to a place of humility and service, and not afraid to give their life for another. The warrior doesn’t keep a record of wrong, but lives his life in love. The warrior fights for the heart of the King, because the King is LOVE. The warrior is powerful, because the warrior’s King is LOVE! The warriors greatness is not in his own ability, but in the GREATNESS of the KING!
You see the 2nd and 3rd Warrior, want to be like the 1st Warrior, fiercely fighting for the King.
The 2nd Warrior is on his way to being like Warrior #1, as he fights for the King.
The 3rd Warrior is simply try to stay in the fight for the King.
But here is the real TRUTH…
All three of us are SIMPLY the King’s Sons!!!
The King loves His Sons, and simply wants the Sons to keep their eyes on Him!
Because, the King is Worthy!
Because the Sons lead the way to the King!
Because the King gave His life for them!
Because the King is Love!
So how about it WARRIOR – SON… Never Give Up, Never Surrender, Never Quit! You are more than an overcomer!
This morning I got my morning routine going. Alarm, Shower-n-Shave, make my lunch, and then breakfast!
Most of the routine was “normal”. Then I started making my lunch…
Lunch, normally is a salad. I have (in my opinion) mastered the art of salad making. A handful of Spinach, some diced Tomatoes, a stick of Celery, 5 small Red & Orange Peppers, 1/3 of Cucumber, a couple slices of Smoked Ham, a dusting of Parmesan Cheese, a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a splash of Balsamic Vinegar. Then 4 or 5 sprinkles of crushed Red Pepper!
A salad made in Heaven, well Tennessee…LOL!
I typically chop and dice everything on a plate. Put my Spinach in the square Rubbermaid bowl, then combine the contents of the plate into the bowl. As I was chopping the Red & Orange Peppers – around an already full plate of other diced veggies – I put a little too much pressure on the edge of the plate. 2/3 of the content of the plate…right to the floor!
I didn’t cuss, I didn’t erupt, I didn’t even gasp. I paused, gathered the “tossed” salad into a pile, put it down the disposal, washed the kitchen floor, and started again, putting each ingredient into the bowl, so as not to repeat my blunder!
2nd attempt – SUCCESSFUL! I cannot wait for lunch today!
As I sat to eat my breakfast, I began to replay the mornings mishap, and I asked God, “Why?” As I sat in silence, the scriptures began to speak to me…
1 Peter 5:6&7 (NIV), “6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Just like my tossed salad this morning, I want to encourage you to “TOSS” your anxiety on Jesus, because he CARES for YOU!!!!
The word “CAST” in 1 Peter 5:7, literally and figuratively means to throw upon, toss to, give away quickly – I think you get the picture!
Give Him your anxiety today!
Give Him the mishaps today!
Give Him the “I can’t believe that just happened to me” moments today!
Give Him all of you today!
He cares for YOU!
So, go make yourself a salad, put all the things in it, and enjoy the masterpiece you created. And the Master will enjoy caring for you today!
Are you a catalyst? Do you change your surroundings or do they change you.
Let’s do a science experiment today. Take a pot, any size and boil some water in it. First take some sliced carrots and put them in the water, 11 minutes later, what happens – the carrots get soft. Next take same boiling water and put some eggs in there for 11 minutes. What happens – the eggs get hard. In both scenarios the surroundings changed the product.
Now take some boiling water and put some coffee grounds in for 11 minutes. Amazing what you find, the water is completely changed – taste, color, and smell. The product completely changed its surroundings! Sounds like a catalyst to me!
Webster’s Dictionary says, “Catalyst: something or someone that causes events to happen with itself being changed.”
Kathy Lee Clifford once talked about the lasting impact that her late husband and NFL Great Frank Gifford had left on people. She said, “Frank’s world got smaller, as his God got bigger!” She then went on to talk about a trip that she and her husband went on the Holy Land. They visited the spot where David defeated the giant Goliath. For Christmas that year, graduation, and birthdays – Frank gave people stones. A picture of faith that represented to Frank of making your mark, having purpose, and being whom God made you to be!
Many of us are looking for the next place to leave our mark. To make a difference. To be the next greatest in the field that we find ourselves in. I want to challenge you to something a little more meaningful than money, position, sport, or title. Something deeper than all of that stuff that you cannot take with you when you die.
I had a mentor/coach tell me once, “Dan, you are going to the wrong thing – people will be mad at you. You will do the right thing, people will be mad at you. You will do nothing at all, people will be mad at you. So you should just go ahead and do the right thing after all!” You are going to leave a mark, a good one or a bad one. The important part is are you going to make your mark for yourself or for the Kingdom of Heaven!
Acts. 13:36 (NLT) says this, “…after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died…”
We all end up in the same spot when it is all said and done, standing before God, facing the music as to how we “Made our Mark”. So, the question of the hour is will we live for us or will we live for the One who died for us? One you answer that question. I just know that I want to live for the One who died for me and saved me and changed me!
Don’t settle for letting life soften or harden you, but take “the will of God for your generation” – and change it!
I remember so vividly the months preceding my mom’s marriage to the man that I call dad today.
He put a ring on my mom’s finger, and a beautiful one at that. Then, he took me to the mall and bought me my very first and only pair of Air Jordan’s! I am talking about the Red, Black, and White ones…the originals! Not only was it my first and only pair of Air Jordan’s, it was my first pair of “real” athletic shoes. I thought I was in heaven, it was simply to good to be true. He put a ring on mom’s finger, and pair of good looking shoes on my feet!
To be honest, no other gift Dad has ever given…(new water heater in Memphis, a couple of car repairs over the years, money in the cards – wired – or otherwise)…have ever matched that gift! Sure the monetary value was greater than the shoes, but the life changing example of what he did, has never been matched. You see, he adopted me. He loved me as his own. He cared, and cried, and fought, and loved – ME! And he didn’t have to…HE CHOSE TO!!!!!
Brad Paisely has an old hit that he wrote called, “He Didn’t Have to Be” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjO1F6oCab8). That song encapsulates the story of my story with my dad! All that to be said, I love my biological father. He was as good of a dad that he could be. I look like him, I have some of his traits, and love him. But the dad that didn’t have to be, I am marked my him in a way that is intangible. He showed me Christ the way he loved. He should be integrity by the way he lived his life. He should be what a student of the Bible is all about. He taught me to love sports, simply my being a band major that never played an inning, quarter, half…yet he showed up to every one of my games. He showed me what tenacity is all about, he never gave up – on anything – that I ever saw. He showed me what a servant is, for he is the true definition of what servant is all about!
He is the perfect example of the scripture, James 1:17(NLT), “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
Now the catch for me, to pass on all of this to my three kids, whom I Love and Cherish with all my heart! I get to me their dad. I love being their dad. I Love You Isaiah, Bella, and Ian, I am better for you – because of you!!!!
Thanks to my Heavenly Father for being the giver of the greatest gift ever – His Son Jesus Christ!
Thank you Jesus for giving your life, so that I can live my life for you!
Thanks Mom, for knowing how to pick a GREAT Dad for Phil, Nate, and myself!
Thank you Jen, for being my soul mate in this journey of life, marriage, ministry, and PARENTING!
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.”
“Changing the frame doesn’t change the picture it changes the way you look at the picture.” Author Paul Scanlon
I am afraid that way to often, we look at the picture(s) of our life through the frame of self, pain, hurt, sin, humanness, etc… Way more often than we look through the frame of God’s amazing love for us, His forgiveness, His signature on the masterpiece of our life, and His plan for us. Perhaps the frames we use have burdened the plan of His call for our life. Thus making the burden way to heavy for us to carry, way to obsolete to be relevant in this time, perhaps even too ugly for the beauty that He has created all around us.
The thoughts of my heart and soul, are now shifting to visual of His ultimate enjoyment in seeing you and I be more like Him, than the striving to be sin free. I am becoming more and more aware that as Christ Followers we are not to be works-based, but we are to truly be MASTERPIECES! And we are that, not because of anything that we do, but because of what He has already done… Look at what Scripture tells us in Ephesians. 2:8-10…
“8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Think of the art gallery of your life, and the frames that you use to set them up to challenge yourself and other people. You and I have some really beautiful paintings and then some pretty rough paintings. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t keep in His gallery just the good paintings, but the rough paintings too! All of them – MASTERPIECES! And then He frames in the context of the fact that we are His MASTERPIECES, not junk for the rubbish pile!
Today, be free to know that you do not earn the title Masterpiece. You were given that title! You are not working to earn anything from God! You are His and there is nothing that you can do or change for God to stop thinking of you as His Masterpiece!
Be who God intended you to be!
Know that our heavenly Father looks at you and is pleased with what He sees!
Have you ever looked at the life of someone that you used to know very well, but grew out of touch due to time or location? Today I was going back over some old photos and videos from my Youth Ministry days, and found some very fond emotions tucked away as I watched these priceless gems!
Some of my former students are now engaged, married, some have their own kids, some are in the ministry, some are making a big difference in the world. The sad fact was that some had just floundered, some I have no idea where they are at, some have even chosen a life of despair and agony – choosing not to follow after the things of God – instead for the worldly distractions that leave emptiness and lost-ness.
This got me to thinking about what my life has become. What do others feel or see when they see an old photo or video of some crazy thing I did in my younger years? My hope is that they say to themselves, “WOW, he sure has become a great husband, father, coach, leader, etc…” I know not all see that, but I hope that is truly what is happening – regardless! But then, I realize that the most important person thinking about me – are not the people from my past, they are not even the people in my present. I dare say that the most important people thinking about me – are not even those that I share the same last name or that I call family.
The most important person in my life that is thinking about me is Jesus! He cares about me and thinks about more than I could possibly fathom. And He does for you as well! Here are some of the things that He thinks about regarding you and I…
Is. 43:4, “I Love You!” – He Loves Us!
Is. 43:1, “I call you by name, you are mine!” – He wants to have relationship with Us!
John 1:12, “To those that believe, have the right to be called son and daughters.” – We are family to Him!
Is. 43:4, “You are precious…” – We have great worth and are desirable to Him!
Romans 5:8, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – He gave His life for us!
Well, here’s to all the students that braved mission trips, summer camps, holiday outings, Tuesday or Wednesday night services, silly games, story of things long forgotten, on and on. When I think of you I smile, I cry, I laugh, I marvel, I wonder what I did to be so fortunate to have known you…
But regardless of what I think, He thinks so much more highly of you and loves you so much more than I could ever fathom!