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Dancing Father Hug

May 24, 2012 1 comment

I don’t think for a moment that I have it all together as a father. As is the case with every guy, I am figuring it out as I go and sometimes that is not a good thing. I make mistakes on a weekly basis and as a result my daughter inevitably carries with her frustrations, pains, and wounds of different kinds, each with it’s own cause.

My church has helped me see that there is hope for dads like me who have so much love in their heart for their children but are painfully aware of the times they fail to live up to the enormity of the call.
For years they have made freedom ministry for adults a key point of focus and are now starting to invite kids of different ages to participate. This post however is not about that. It is about how we as dads can participate in helping our kids experience a certain level of freedom through our interactions with them. I want to illustrate my point by relating a personal story that happened a few months ago.

Every year Gateway Church puts on a Father/Daughter dinner and dance. It is an even that my daughter looks forward to all year. We take a few dance lessons leading up to that night. She picks out a new dress, I wear my suit and we get to spend the night with 100+ other dad’s and their girls. Dinner is always great. I get some kind of beef. Megan gets chicken strips and fries which are sometimes better than the beef, so I sneak a bite or two.

Megan loves music and dancing. Every year before we walk in she makes a point to tell me that “as long as the DJ is playing music, we will be dancing.” So we are always the last two on the dance floor which was again the case this year.

After dinner is when this story takes a turn for the miraculous. The first miracle is that I neither passed out nor had a heart attack on the dance floor. The second miracle was something that happened in Megan’s heart. It happened while she danced.

The music thumped so we danced fast, did the “Push” (which we learned in one of our lessons), a little Cupid Shuffle, we rocked The Wobble and when it slowed down I took advantage of every opportunity to hold her close and slow dance. It was a bit cliche and could have been an image right off of the cover of a Hallmark card but about half way through the night she began to stand on my feet as we went around in circles. Her height put her head right at my chest, just under my chin and she would rest it there often. Her arms wrapped around me in a warm bear-hug. I followed suit and as we danced I whispered small phrases about how important she was, what a beautiful young lady she had turned out to be and how proud I was to be her dad. Heartfelt words that every little girl wants to hear he daddy tell her. While these words washed over her I began to feel tears soak through my shirt and her stomach started to quiver against mine. I tightened my grip around her and gave her a safe, assuring kiss on the head, allowing her to get out whatever was coming to the surface. A subtle weep turned into a full sob and then into what some women call an “ugly cry”. But nothing was ugly about this one.

We stayed like that for what seemed like ages but it could have only lasted a minute, maybe two. When she stepped off of my shoes and back onto the dance floor I got on my knees in front of her and gave her one more hug and walked her into the hallway and to the ladies room where she went to “freshen-up”.

As I stood there waiting for her I realized that what we had just experienced was what Freedom Ministry calls a “Father Hug”. It is a moment in which someone receives the healing power of God’s love through another person. Usually adults receive them from someone other than their real dad to heal wounds they have carried for years from their fathers. That night however, Megan was able to experience one as it was intended to be, from her real earthly father and the impact it had on her was obvious.

I take absolutely zero credit for it. I was only the conduit God used that night to bless her. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know what it was he dealt with and healed. What I do know is that freedom and healing can and should happen not just at church with the help of a pastor, but in our homes.

Part of my role as a father is to represent God in my home and demonstrate to my wife and daughter what He is like and treat them with the same grace and tenderness He would. The enormity of that responsibility is all together too much for my mind to handle and I constantly wonder how that is even possible.

Here is the message of hope: Even in my failures and times of weakness, there are moments like our “Dancing Father Hug” that remind me that God is really the one who does it as long as I am ready and willing to let him work through me.


This is My Story, This is My Song

January 18, 2012 11 comments

While sitting at my desk this morning I looked at my calendar and realized that today is my 3rd Birthday. January 18, 2009 was the day I became a Christian and more specifically, the day I stopped running from God and gave Him control of my life.

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to have a definitive salvation experience. I don’t believe it is necessary to remember the date, time and where you where when it happened but I do think everyone should be able to say without a doubt that they have received the gift of grace Jesus offers you and be able to articulate the ways in which it has changed your life. Sharing such a story is what Christians call a testimony. A testimony is not so much a statement of beliefs but rather a declaration of God’s faithfulness, how we came to accept Jesus as Lord and the tangible results exhibited in our lives as a result of forgiveness and grace given by Him. This is my testimony.

I was born and raised in an LDS home and Mormonism was the only religious system I would really experience for the first nineteen years of my life when I would spend 2 years on a LDS mission in Spain which is predominantly Catholic. As a result of this, I grew up really only knowing what Mormonism teaches, and even then I only knew what LDS leaders wanted me to know. The works-based aspect of the religion makes life as a Mormon not easy by any stretch of the imagination. To some, this is a badge of honor but to others like me, it is more like wearing weights around our ankles…it makes it hard to run the good race and fight the good fight. When you are leaden down with a littanany of “to-do’s” it is hard to find time and energy to work on a true relationship of Jesus.

There is so much I could say about my 30 years as a Mormon but let me fast-forward to 2007. It was in this year that my exhaustion got to the point where I basically gave up on the Mormon system. No matter what I did, it was never good enough and at no point did I feel close to God. In fact, it was just the opposite, God felt more distant every day. It was not until just a few months ago that I realized this was due to pride. Every work performed as a Latter-day Saint was done in an attempt to earn my own salvation, which is presumptuous to say the least. James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” I was distancing myself from God because of this attitude of pride that had been imbedded in me from birth. I perceived the space between Him and me to be so big that I began to doubt His very existence.

Needless to say, I was tired, distant, lost and miserable. It was in that state of mind that my LDS Bishop approached me. In no uncertain terms, he made it very clear that unless I got my act together and started to tow the company line, I would not be able to baptize my daughter that following year when she turned 8. This got me to look back at my life as a Mormon and ask the serious question of, “if I had to do it all over again, would I?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” If that was the case for me, why on earth would I put my daughter into that same position?

In December of 2007 I walked out of the local LDS church building and never went back.

I would be lying if I said that decision made things better. In truth, it made things worse. I became Agnostic in my beliefs on God and I searched in just about every place I could think of for peace and truth. It was a very hard year. I must say here that if it were not for some outspoken Christian friends, neighbors and acquaintances that God put in my life, I would have continued down that path.

One of these people sent me a video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which opened my eyes to not only the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible but also a side of Mormonism I had not seen before or at least did not dare question. It was pivotal in both my desire to read and learn more about the Bible and Christianity as well as my quest to learn everything I could about Mormonism, good and bad.

For the next 6 months I ate, slept and breathed Mormonism. I read everything I could get my hands on supporting and disagreeing with doctrine and history. My mind was blown away. I could not believe so many teachings and historical facts were withheld from me. I felt hurt, angry, sad and vengeful. I had come to understand that for 30 years I had been lied to directly and indirectly. I had not been entrusted with facts that were questionable because no one respected me enough to present information and let me make my own informed decision. As a result of the hurt, I lashed out. I’m not proud of that but none the less, it happened. I created a blog (not this one) where I posted all of the disparaging or “non faith promoting” things I found. I was abrasive and at times purposefully antagonistic which in turn hurt a lot of people and burned some bridges I would love to re-build today.

Why do I bother writing about this? Because I firmly believe that it is an integral part of my story. I look back at some of those old blog posts and at my heart in this period of time and can see how spiteful I was.

Let me move on to January 18, 2009. By this time I had been going to church with Amy who was amazingly supportive in this difficult stage. After visiting a few churches for a number of months, we had settled in at Gateway Church where we are still to this day. I woke up that Sunday morning with this pulling in my heart. I don’t know how else to say it but I felt compelled to go to church even though we had already gone Saturday. I woke Amy and told her I needed to go to church and went alone. I arrived just before the 10:45 service and sat in the back row. Worship started and God stated to work on my heart as well. I had been running from Him for a few months now but He met me right where I was. The second song that day was “Beautiful” sung by Kari Jobe. The words could not have been more perfect for my situation. Having spent years in pride and self-reliance I broke as I sang and confessed these words to God.

Here, before Your altar, I am letting go of all I am
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that’s of myself
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful, O, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful, O, Lord, You’re beautiful to me

Here, in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
O, I would be poured out ‘til nothing’s left
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Holy, holy, holy, You are

I remember this day so vividly that even as I write this I can see, feel and sense it all over again. While singing, it was as if God stood right before me, put His hands on my shoulders and spoke clearly into my heart. “If you will lay down your life, your pride and your reliance on your own works, I will take care of you. I want to be your source. I want to be who you come to first. I know all the junk in your past and I still love you and want you to be my son. I have great plans for you if you will follow Me.” Without hesitation, I said YES! Who could resist such a promise from such a great God. I did just what the song said and laid all my baggage at the altar and in brokenness cried till I had nothing left. I gave my life to Jesus.

To this day I am still surprised at how much joy I felt. What a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized that Jesus took everything I gave him and in return gave me peace and assurance of my right standing before God. Because of that moment, I no longer have to question my eternal destiny. I know that I will be with God because when He looks at me, He sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

It has been 3 years and the Christian journey is a wild one. I have had trials and I have had great successes. Through it all, I have had peace and joy. No matter the circumstance I know that God is for me. That He is faithful to fulfill His promise to me despite my failures.

As I have walked in this new life filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come alive. I have new eyes and ears to hear His voice more clearly. What a difference that has made.

My heart used to be calloused and hard as a rock. Now I am filled with compassion, forgiveness and empathy toward others. I see this manifested as I read through my old blog about Mormonism in comparison to this one. I no longer feel bitter or angry toward the LDS church or those who follow that religious system. Instead, my heart breaks for them. Many are in the same situation I found myself in with no real hope.

God has redeemed my time in the LDS church and I now spend as much of my time as possible educating others about the teachings of Mormonism from a Christian point of view. It is my hope that other Christians will feel equipped enough to reach out to their LDS friends and family around them just as someone did for me.

Celebrating Jesus as Judge

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

When someone says to you, “Jesus will be your Judge.” what kind of image does it bring to mind?

I think the answer can depend on your religious background. If you grew up in a more legalistic environment, you probably see God pointing his finger down at you and pronouncing condemnation in one way or another. On the other hand, if you had a grace-filled home, you may see Him pardoning you. I think that if all you see is one of these two options then you are missing something deeper.

Before I get to the more profound meaning in Jesus being our Judge I first want to point out that while everyone knows and can quote John 3:16 rarely do they continue on to verse 17 which says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This truth that God does not want to condemn anyone is reiterated again in John 5:24 when Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
If you are part of the group that sees Jesus as a finger-pointing, vindictive judge then I pray that you will read the rest of this post with an open mind and heart because what He has to offer us is so much better.

I think I have said this before but I want to say it again. “I love the Old Testament!”

I do. I love finding Old Testament principles and patterns that point to and are fulfilled by Jesus. It makes the Word come alive and gives me a hunger for more. A few weeks ago I found a pattern that I have been thinking about ever since, not sure how to convey it to people. I feel this attempt to do so will be wholly inadequate but I pray that God uses my weakness to speak life into your heart.

In the Old Testament, there is what I call the pattern or principle of the Judges. Here is how it works:

Judges 2:10-19
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

This passage perfectly explains the idea but you can find this pattern related in the narrative time and time again.
Here is what God said to me as I read this:

“Doug, I have what I call the pattern of the Judges. Whenever my people distance themselves from me I do what is necessary to get them back. Sometimes that means letting them become captive and oppressed by their enemies and mine. But I wait and watch for the moment when they turn to me and cry out for help. When they do, I rescue them. I raise up a judge and I work through that person to bring them back to safety and prosperity. I had to do this time and time again because as soon as my judge died, my people would forget me again and worship other gods. I am faithful even whey they are not so again I wait and rescue them when they cry out to me.

Doug, understand this. I don’t have to raise up another to rescue my people because the pattern of the Judges has been fulfilled. Two Thousand years ago I raised up the last and perfect Judge. A Judge that will free my people from every type of bondage imaginable. This Judge will live for eternity so my people never have to fall back into wickedness and rebellion. He will forever stand as a sign of the patience, mercy, grace and love I have for my sons and daughters. He is the answer to all the cries for help and freedom.
Jesus is your Judge.”

All of this was spoken to my heart in a fraction of a second like only God can do and it only becomes more amazing as I write it down.

Today is December 24th or Christmas Eve. That means that tomorrow we celebrate the Birth of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. It is my hope and prayer that as we do so, this truth becomes part of the conversation. That Joy fills out hearts as it sinks in and God begins to expand our understanding of the significance of having Jesus be our Judge.

Honoring a Dishonoring Parent

December 10, 2011 4 comments

In the spirit of full disclosure and before you move on to the next paragraph you should know that what follows is not coming from wise personal counsel bases on my own lesson learned. It instead comes from what God has shone me in what I believe is the answer to a question I, and many of you, have had to ask ourselves countless times. In writing this I am not speaking down from a pulpit, but lying flat on the floor.

This is actually a blog I would rather not write because doing so places me in a position of greater accountability and compels me to do what I can to improve the relationship I have with my parents…which I admit is something I often don’t care to do. Divorce and abuse of different kinds and even my fairly recent commitment to Christ has caused a number of fractures in my family to the point where I have not spoken to most of them in the past 6 months or longer. In reality I have no place to write about restoration in that context but I hope that my full disclosure will help you know that if your can relate to many of these things than you are not alone.

Anyone who has darkened the door of a church has heard the verse, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

This brings to mind great memories for those who had a good family life and strong, positive parental influence in their lives. They smile and don’t give this commandment another thought. For them giving honor is almost second nature. Please know that I do not think negatively towards those who fall into this category in any way. You are much needed as mentors and support for those in the next group.

The other group of people who are the focus of my writing feel immense pain and confusion at the mention of this passage of scripture. For them, their family is broken and in many ways, their parents were less than admirable and even abusive. They ask the question, “How can I honor a parent who dis-honors me?” or “How do I give honor to the dad (or mom) who spent years abusing me?” For them, answers are hard to come by.
I put myself in this questioning group of damaged souls.

I don’t know what the typical “Pastor answer” is to these questions but let me share with you what God pointed out to me while reading 1 Samuel in my car during lunch this week.

1 Samuel is where we find the story of Saul and David. If you remember, Saul was made king by God through Samuel, the Prophet at the time. Saul did things that were serious infringements in God’s sight and he was rejected as King. This is where David comes into the picture. At God’s direction Samuel goes to the house of Jesse where David is anointed as King but he does not take up this mantle yet. Instead he goes into the service of Saul and becomes well know after he kills Goliath. David looked up to Saul as a father but it was at this point that Saul began to become jealous of him because of the favor God had given him. This is where we pick-up the story.

Saul’s jealousy quickly turned into disdain and hate. It was not long before he began to express those feelings physically. In fact, it got so bad that he repeatedly tried to kill David. Realizing that he was in serious trouble, David left. Saul pursued him, not satisfied until he completed the dark plan his mind had conceived and incubated for so many years.

While my experience is not that extreme I know some can relate to this type of danger at the hands of their parents. Either way I think it is obvious that Saul’s actions do not in themselves merit honor or respect. Most would even say David had significant reason to protect himself with force, which he had multiple opportunities to do. But instead, this is what he said.

“Saul, my lord the king. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed. Father, now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

At this, Saul shows contrition and momentary repentance and promises to leave David alone. That quickly changes and again, he is following David. Once more, David had the chance to put an end to it by taking Saul’s life but does not, and Saul repeats his apology. Seeing the pattern, David puts more distance between himself and Saul. They lived the rest of their lives separated from one another.

Despite all that Saul had tried to do to him, David mourned bitterly when he heard that Saul had been killed in battle. He had always had God-like love for Saul.

“Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan.”

You know how in Acts it says that David was a man after God’s own heart?

I think that is the point. David was put into the care of a man who he looked to as a father but treated him with contempt and abuse. I can only imagine how that must have hurt him to see Saul throw a spear at him. I know many of us have had verbal, spiritual and even physical spears thrown at us from our parents. Perhaps the way we start to honor our parents in this situation is by first not wishing that harm will come to them and making a point to not be the source of such harm. Maybe it is even confronting them in love like David did to tell them that as their child what they did or said was wrong and hurtful but despite it all you wish them the best. For those cases where their contrition only lasts a short while and the abusive action continues, it is justifiable to do these things and followed by separation for an amount of time determined by God, which may be until death.

I don’t pretend for a moment that any of this is easy or that there are most certainly other considerations that may come into play that I have not addressed. But I can say with 100% clarity that there are more answers in scripture for our daily problems and questions than we could ever use. If any of this rings true to you, please go and read 1 Samuel starting in chapter 15 through 2 Samuel chapter 1 while asking God to continue to expand the idea of honoring our parents through this story. I pray He will show you much more than I did here and give you direction on how to begin the process of showing honor to those who dishonor you.

Porn-Again Christian by Mark Driscoll – A Review

September 19, 2011 1 comment

Porn-Again Christian…the title tells you just about everything you need to know about the content of this small but effective e-book produced by Mark Driscoll, founding Pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle.

“Sure, the naked people you like looking at are hot…but so is hell.”

If you are at all familiar with Driscoll, you know that he does not shy away from truth and rarely holds back in how he presents it. In the case of this book, which takes head-on the issues and biblical teaching around pornography, masturbation and prostitution, I think his blunt approach is exactly what is needed. Part of his approach is due to his church demographic which is full of 20-30 year old men, many who are not married, and women of the same age with a high percentage of abuse in their past. He preaches old-school morals and gender roles to a sexually experienced, modern social group…and it works.

In the book he does a good job correcting a lot of misguided thought about women who are involved in making pornography. Many men rationalize their habit by saying the women want to be there, are having fun and are getting paid. Mark tells the story of a women he knows who was in the industry primarily because she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child which distorted her view of herself and lead her into a life of increased levels of promiscuity. The prostitution, magazine pictures and pornographic movies are a reminder of a past life that thankfully ended when she met Jesus. But Mark says something that really made me think.

“…I couldn’t help but wonder if there were men from my church out renting her videos to take home and masturbate to without knowing that she would be sitting in church next to them and singing songs to Jesus the following Sunday.”

A point Driscoll wants to make clear is that lust is an issue of the heart.

“Sexual sins are not “out there” in the media, strip club, or gal with lowrise jeans and hi-rise thong. Truly, the problem is “in you.” It is from the sinfulness of your heart that lust and sin proceed like sewage from a culvert. This is the painful, unvarnished truth.”

“Sinful sexual practices includes the sins of the mind where men amass a harem rivaling Solomon’s but only in their imaginations.”

One of the things I appreciate most in this book is the consistent discussion about how a man’s involvement with porn influences everyone around him, especially his wife. His counsel for men is to draw closer to their wives and to commit their eyes to her alone.

“The act of lusting after the unclothed body of a woman is not a sin. The issue is which woman’s unclothed body you are lusting after. If she is your bride, then you are simply making the Song of Songs sing again to God’s glory and your joy. If she is not your bride, then you are simply sinning.”

“Eve may or may not have been beautiful, but to Adam she was glorious because she was all he had ever known. Practically, he had no standard of beauty to compare his bride to-she was his only standard of beauty.”

“Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts full you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” If a man fills his mind with images of other women’s breasts, he will never be satisfied with his wife’s and thereby diminish her confidence and his marriage.”

Mark also outlines the prevalence of masturbation in today’s society but you might be surprised to read that he does not condemn it in all situations. There is a practical question/answer section where he responds to the most common questions he is asked on the topic.

He gives the following stats relating to men who admit to masturbating once a week or more from the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior and Sex in America:

Single Men – 48%
Married Men – 44%
Divorced Men – 64%

I found it interesting that the percentage between single and married men was not that different. That tells me that men carry this iniquity with them into marriage and must be in-part to blame for the high divorce rates we see in our nation. After all, without complete fidelity and trust in a marriage it will be hard for it to survive. Jesus made it clear that every married man who watches pornography is committing adultery. (Matt 5:27-28)

One of the more powerful parts of the book is a transcript of an interview between James Dobson and serial killer Ted Bundy only hours before he was executed. Bundy makes the link between his progressions from soft-porn to harder versions until even those would not satisfy his need, making the comparison to a drug, and his transition into real-life physical violence. He also says that all of the men he was in prison with had similar experiences with porn. Bundy made telling statements of warning that first, there are others like him out there and second, that if we are not careful our children will be exposed to the same “drug” that led him down his path to death.

To close the book, Mark hands the pen to Justin Holcomb for a sobering description of prostitution and sex trafficking. This is pointed to men in the military who are tempted, while deployed, to pay for sex. It is however something we should all be aware of. Over the last 12 pages, Justin goes into great detail describing the sex trade industry, how large it really is, how girls and women are forced into it and how profitable it is for those involved (except the women).

The goal of the entire book is to get us men to wake up to our own issues and deal with them through the empowering grace of God. In addition to that, Mark and Justin want men to look at women not as objects or tools to be used but rather as beautiful creations of God who should be valued, honored and protected. I could not agree more.

At the end of the book is a call to action:

“Prostitution and sex trafficking are not women’s problems or up to them to solve. Men are the perpetrators and women are the victims. Men are the problem. Sex trafficking is a men’s issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Men are not only perpetrators or possible offenders, but also empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers. Don’t remain silent.”

This is a book that every man should read even if you have never had an issue with lust, pornography or masturbation. Parents, please read it first before you give it to your children because some of the content may not be appropriate for your child depending on age and maturity level.

You can download Porn-Again Christian here for free.

To find out how you can get involved in the fight against sex trafficking please visit the following organizations.

The A21 Campaign

Sower of Seeds – Project Red Light Rescue

 

 

When God Resists Us

September 14, 2011 2 comments

A key point in my journey out of Mormonism and into Christianity was the distance I felt between God and myself. I spent the first 30 years of my life in the LDS system of works but only felt farther away from God as the years passed. It got to the point where I doubted the very existence of God because it seemed that no matter what I did, I could not see or feel him in my life. When I came to that point, I walked away from Mormonism and organized religion with little hope of establishing a relationship with God.

I could never figure out why, even when I was doing all of those good things, I did not feel close to God. That is, until now. God has been working with me on the issue of pride and He showed me something the other day that I think I need to share.

Pride is what was keeping me from the relationship with God that I so badly wanted. Let me see if I can explain. Any religious system that tells you that you can either earn your salvation or keep it by your own actions is a religion based on pride. That statement may step on a few toes but hear me out.

The Bible clearly teaches that it is only by grace that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 is just one example of this. Since grace cannot be earned (Romans 11:6) than any attempt to do so is rejecting God’s gift to us and insisting that we pay for it even though the price is so astronomical that we would never be able to do so in a million years.

So here is the point, all of the righteous acts I do, as a Mormon or Christian, with the heart motive to earn or keep God’s grace and my place in Heaven actually puts distance between me and God.

James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

When I read that a few days ago I pictured a dad playing with his child. When the child begins to think they can control the situation and even overpower the dad, he placed his hand on the kid’s forehead. At first he is still close but every time he struggled or worked to get closer, the dad slowly pushed him a small distance away. When the child began to push-back and even swing in vain to reach the father, he is pushed back even more until he is a full arms-length away and flailing his arms. The more he tries, the more he is resisted and kept at a distance.

Eventually, the child tires from the struggle, stops trying so hard and even collapses on the ground with no fight left in him. He has finally submitted to the power and authority of his father. It is at this point that the dad picks him up, gives a hug and demonstrates his willingness to forgive and show grace.

How many of us have played the part of that child, trying to establish our will or ability over the Father’s? How long have we struggled with our own attempts to draw nearer to Him but only on our terms? How many of us take credit for what God has done in and through us? I know I am guilty of all of these and pride is their root.

I got tired of pushing against God and in my pride thinking that I could possibly do enough to be declared righteous in His site. All those works I did as a Mormon could not begin to get me closer to God because they were born of a prideful heart that he resisted. It was not until I humbled myself and acknowledged my absolute brokenness and the futility of trying to “work-off” my sin debt that God drew me into his presence and gave me the grace I so desperately needed. Since that time, I have fostered a relationship with my Father through a lot of those same things I did before but my motive has changed.

“You’re the God of this family!”

August 22, 2010 3 comments

“He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.” (Acts 16:34)

Sometimes, the circumstances in my life seem surreal and last night, God reminded me just how blessed I really am.

I had been saved for about 3 months when I heard about a special service that was going to be held at Gateway Church called “Beyond the Veil”.  Having grown up LDS and intimately familiar with the happenings within the Mormon temples, the idea of breaking down the steps in Old Testament temple worship and then looking at how they were literally fulfilled in the final hours of Christ’s life peaked my interest.  It was a night I don’t think I will ever forget because I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice for me.  It became so very personal.

Fast forward to last night…the once-a-year “Beyond the Veil” service was happening again.  I had anxiously waited months for this night to arrive.  I sat in my chair, so expectant that I could not keep still.  The desire to worship my King was building up inside of me and I had to let it out.

One of the things I love about Gateway is their desire to hear and follow God.  They always expect Him to do “a new thing”

Isaiah 42:9 – See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

As the service started, there was something noticeably different; the worship band was not on the platform as usual.  With his mic in hand, Zach Neese begins to tell us about a vision he and the other leader had in preparation for the night.  They saw a group of people worshiping God and scattered in the group were some with instruments.  With no clear leader to focus on…they all were able to focus entirely on God and direct their worship to the only one worthy of it.  Throughout the crowd, Zach had placed his group of worship leaders just as he had seen them so we too could focus all our praise on God.

For me, that change was significant but welcome.  I had never really noticed how much I look at and focus on those who are leading worship until they were not there anymore.  With the band all around, we all became worship leaders and there was a sense of added freedom to express myself.  There were times when I knelt, laid face down on the floor or danced without any apprehension.  My only care was that my Father would have no doubt that I love Him.  I have always enjoyed worship but nights like this make it that much more special.

God spoke to me early and often and I tried to write down everything I could.  There was a moment…more profound than all the rest.  It is what moves me to type today and is the essence of the opening verse from Acts.  Also with me last night was my wife and 8 year old daughter.  About 2 hours into the service (that actually went 3 hours), we were singing “God of this city” by Chris Tomlin.  As we made our way through the song, I changed the words to “You’re the God of this family.”  As I did that, I looked to either side of me and saw my wife on my right, and then my daughter on my left.  Both had their hands held high, declaring their belief in God and proclaiming that “there is no one like our God”.

At that moment, I was overcome with gratitude.  To have my family at my side, all of us equally yoked and wanting more of God seemed too great to fully comprehend.  It hit me so hard that I had to sit down, put my head in my hands, and pour out a sacrifice of thanksgiving from the deepest parts of my soul.  It seemed so little to offer for such a remarkable blessing.  He had taken me and my family out of certain death and gave us certain life, affecting generations to come.

God has worked in our family so much in the past two years and it is easy to see when I look back.  After pouring out my heart, I stood, spread my hands over my family, and as the leader of my home I proclaimed the words of the song that came next…

”For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done In this city [Family]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here”

Categories: Family, Freedom, Salvation, Worship