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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.


Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

February 4, 2012 3 comments

I recently share the story about how I became a Christian. If you have not read it yet…click here.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting for a few minutes with a pastor that I have immense respect for. We talked about different things going on in my life and what I wanted to focus on this year to take my walk with God to a deeper level. As we conversed and prayed they would stop to speak life and encouragement to places that have been longing for hope. It can’t remember ever having a conversation like it and I feel extremely blessed to have someone like this pastor to walk beside me.

One of the things that came out of this meeting was the conclusion that it would be helpful if I did a 21 day “Daniel Fast” to seek God’s will concerning a decision I need to make. If you have never heard of a “Daniel Fast” or are not sure what it is let me take a minute to explain. In chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Daniel, it speaks of two separate occasions where he chose not to eat meats and other things, each for a different reason and a different amount of time. In Christian circles it traditionally means to abstain from meats and sweets for three weeks but liberty is given to each person to fast from different things depending on how God directs them.

I started a traditional, no meats or sweets, fast the other day and began reading through the book of Daniel at the same time. I read through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two and then the well known story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (which were actually their slave names not their real names). Each of those stories ends with Nebuchadnezzar giving praise to the One True God that Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) believed in because of the miracles he witnessed on their behalf.

It took a few times for King Nebuchadnezzar to understand that “no other god can save in this way” (3:29) but it finally sunk in. Chapter 4 made me smile as I read it because in it he is telling the world about his conversion story.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man and not a very nice one either. Think back to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He wanted to be worshiped as a god and became furious when those three men refused to do so and threw them into a fire to burn alive. And that is just one of the stories about him. I think upon further study, one could find some similarities in the conversion stories of Nebuchadnezzar and Paul.

Chapter four starts by his addressing all the people in the world and he says:
“It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

He then goes on to tell a story…

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.”

Only Daniel was able to interpret those dreams which were not all favorable toward Nebuchadnezzar and prophesied that he would be separated from his kingdom but ultimately restored to it once he renounced his sin and acknowledged loyalty to God.
It turns out that about 1 year later the separation Daniel told him about happened. After he was sufficiently humbled, he explains, “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”

My favorite part of the story comes in the last few verses.

“At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

What an amazing testimony of the power of God’s love for us. Nebuchadnezzar had no real desire for God but He desired a relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. After trying to get his attention in other ways, He took from him what seemed to be the most important thing, his power and kingdom. This was not done out of spite or hate but out of love. Once relationship had been established, He restored all that was removed from Nebuchadnezzar and more.

I know I can relate to this story. In the months leading up to my surrender to God I too lost many things I looked to as my source of significance, identity, provision and security. I did not think I needed God but I have come to understand otherwise.

I echo Nebuchadnezzar’s praise and exaltation of the King of heaven because not only has God saved me from my sins, He has restored to me things I lost, or perhaps never really had, because I now know that He is really the source of my significance, identity, provision and security.

As a side note to the story, I think this is a great example of how Christians should share their testimony. It is a simple story format that explains how they were before they knew Jesus, what happened to bring them to a relationship with Him and then how that relationship has changed their life. Such a story would give glory and honor to God while helping those who hear it see and understand the merits of living life as a Christian that is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you have never shared your conversion story with someone, give this a try. Everyone loves a good story.

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.

The Power of Collective Faith

June 24, 2011 1 comment

I was mowing the lawn yesterday and thinking about a story found in Matthew 9 (also in Luke 5) about a man who was paralyzed. His friends, 4 of them according to the Mark 2 account, physically carry him on a stretcher to a house where Jesus is teaching. When they arrived, it was evident that they could not get him through the crowd so they climbed on the roof, hoisted the man up, then tore a hole in the roof and proceeded to lower him in front of Jesus. The story goes on to say that Jesus noticed their faith and then forgave the man’s sin, healing him physically moments later.

What kept rolling around in my head was that all three accounts of this story specifically mention that it was the collective faith that Jesus saw. It was not just that of the paralytic, it was “their” faith, that of the men carrying the stretcher, which Jesus took into account.

I could almost see these men, clutching each corner of the bed, sharing stories about how Jesus can heal. As they walked, who knows how far they had to go, they were praying for him and quoting prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Ever increasing their collective faith and the anticipation of the miraculous.

The principle of multiplication is powerful and has the ability to bring about transformation.

Who around you needs your portion of faith?

Who can you be praying for so their eyes may be opened to the power of Jesus to heal both spiritual and physical sickness?

Who do you know that may be in a place spiritually to where they need to be carried with words of encouragement or stories of what God has done in your life, until they can see Jesus for themselves?

Are you willing to walk with them until they do?

Do you have some people around you that are willing and able to do the same for you?

Did God Ever Really Want To Speak To Us Through Prophets?

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Everyone knows that the Old Testament is full of examples of God speaking through prophets.  But what if God never intended to work that way?

I understand and believe in the omniscience of God and that ultimately he knows what is going to happen in the future because he stands outside of time.   With that said, I cannot help but think that he would prefer to deal with us in a different way.  The fall in the Garden of Eden is an example of that.  Although he knew they would, God never wanted Adam and Eve to sin and be cast out.

I see the use of prophets to communicate with His chosen people as another example.

We will pick-up the biblical narrative up in Exodus.  God has led the Israelites out of Egypt and has brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai.  God meets with Moses and tells him to prepare the people to come to the mountain and personally hear his voice.  He wants to speak directly to His people and have a relationship with them.  Unfortunately, they rejected that offer.

Exodus 20: 18-21 – When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”  Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

At the point in which God reached out to them, they put a man (Moses) between themselves and the LORD.  Because He still wanted to be in communication with the Israelites, he set up the tabernacle and continued to work through Moses and subsequent prophets.

I can’t help but think that the Israelites missed a huge opportunity here to have a life changing encounter with Yahweh.  Instead, they left it up to someone else and within a few days were worshiping a golden calf and had to wonder in the desert for 40 years.

Are we relying on someone else to hear God for us?  Do we prefer to receive a word from another man as opposed to revelation direct from God?

We need to take responsibility for our personal relationship with God.  Looking to a pastor, prophet, spouse or mentor to hear for us is a type of idolatry and is sin.  God desires to speak directly to us.  He wants to share his heart with us in an intimate way.  This cannot be done if a man stands between us.