From time to time, at my full time day job, I have to work a shift that necessitates that I work until 8pm. Obviously, no one would consider this to be an ideal shift, but I have found that there are some benefits to working these hours. When I work this time span, I start at 11am. This means that, in theory, I could sleep in and enjoy a longer morning before heading into my workload for the day. I have kids, though. So, this naturally lends itself to chaos and an early wake time regardless.
Last week, I had a late day and had the opportunity to spend time with my daughter. My son was at school and my wife decided to go on a walk with her friend. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she chose to play with baby dolls and make shadow puppets. We had a great time, and there was a lot of laughter and smiles from both of us. It was so fun, and she led the play time as if she had been planning exactly what she would do if she had alone time with Daddy. Everything was calculated, and the game rules she made were well thought out. I could tell she was in her girly element.
At the end of this play time, Mommy came home and it was time for me to go to work. My little girl hugged my neck and kissed me goodbye. It was a tender moment and I loved the look in her eyes as she focused her attention on me.
To understand the reason why this day was significant, it is important to understand how my daughter has behaved lately. She has experienced behavioral issues and general disobedience. Part of the problem is the fact that she is 3, but there were times that it went beyond a typical 3 year old general disobedience. There has been something missing, and my wife and I have been frustrated because of it.
Before you make assumptions, I want to clear the air and say that I regularly play with my kids, and make it a point to show them a great time (I also discipline them as needed). I can probably admit that I tend to spend a larger quantity of time with my son because of his age and certain things that we do together, but not so much that there is favoritism shown.
This impromptu playdate with my girl brought about a realization in me that I had been hypothesizing for a little while. Her behavior was kind, sweet, and loving for most of the day after I left for work. She obeyed more, and even kept her focus (for the most part).
I realized that she needed me to “fill her tank” from time to time. The times when I have taken her on dates, or focused my attention on her alone has always made a significant difference in her day. Often, she runs on empty, and I have the power and the spiritual obligation to fill her with life and call out the girl she was made to be. I am her closest male connection to God here on Earth. I know that sounds extreme, but I take personal responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of my family, and I am the leader when it comes to helping my kids understand God and His faithfulness in their lives. I don’t take that lightly.
So, it has come to my attention that I need to take more time to fill the spiritual and emotional tanks of my children (also my wife, but that is another blog post for another day). I thank God that I did not wait until they were older to find this out.
My daughter needs me, and I need her. God is growing me through loving her in her own unique way. Her behavior is not perfect, but I can see glimpses of change from time to time.
My princess needs her king.
“I have since learned that the most mature believer is the one who is bent over, leaning most heavily on the Lord, and admitting his total inability to do anything without Christ. The greatest Christian is not the one who has achieved the most but rather the one who has received the most.”
― Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith
I sat in front of a couple who were so newly married that their rings still lacked any scuff. They were struggling desperately with issues that were not resolved prior to their marriage.
The wife wrestled with insecurities, anger, and disconnectedness. The husband dealt with denial and an inability to relate to his new bride. He felt as if he was being compared to past boyfriends, despised because of his lack of understanding, and he was frustrated because he felt as if something was being hidden from him. Both of these individuals were broken, and at the end of their ropes.
They said things to each other that could not be taken back, and things had escalated to the point of possible divorce.
As a young pastor, these type of situations make me feel so inadequate. It, however is part of my job, and a calling I have accepted. During these type of conversations and tense moments, I have to pray and trust that God will give me the words to say and hope that some amount of educational memories make their way to my tongue as I speak. This situation was one I have dealt with in the past, but every marital difficulty is like a snowflake. None are exactly the same.
As I inwardly prayed for God to guide my thoughts and speech I looked the wife in the eyes. These eyes were red from weeping, and her mascara was ruined. When I looked into her eyes, I saw pain and a little girl hiding behind a rock. If you know me very well, you know that sometimes God gives me the ability to look into the eyes of someone I am talking to and, I feel, God gives me a mental picture to illustrate what they are feeling. Obviously it is impossible to fully know what the pain feels like, but it helps when knowing what to say to start digging deeper into understanding the core issues. This beautiful lady that sat before me was dealing with deep insecurities, fear, and anger and, as I mentioned I saw a little girl hiding behind a rock. As If she was once hurt and was afraid it would happen again.
At that moment, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask her a question. A question that would be very risky, and, if I was completely off base, would embarrass me and damage my credibility as their pastoral counselor. “How old were you?” I inquired. She stopped crying and looked at me as if I had uttered a gibberish language. “What?” she answered. “I said…how old were you. How old were you when it happened?” Her eyes became wide and the tears began to flow. The crying became more and more intense and finally, after a little recovery, she spoke. “I was 15”.
Internally, I was extremely surprised that I hit the wound. Then, I continued. “Who did it?” The tears came again and she told me that her boyfriend at the time was the culprit.
This lovely young woman was raped. This was the root of her pain. It had caused a domino effect of shame and she felt as if she was irreparably broken because of what happened. The husband also had past issues that needed to be addressed. I explained that these past hurts had to be confronted and we set up a plan to move forward to address the situation.
I wish I could say that this marriage was fully restored because of my eloquent words and deep wisdom. It wasn’t. Eventually the couple went separate ways, and after this break up, the healing began. It took a few years for this woman to find healing and a healthy relationship. She allowed God to work through her, and even though the past is not erased, she found that the brokenness in her heart was less painful.
She was right. Her heart was irreparably broken. God, however, gave her a new heart that is whole.
I thank God for speaking to me that day. This is the second time something like this has happened in this context.
If you feel like you are broken beyond repair, remember that God wants you to be whole. There is hope for the broken. I promise. Help is available whether you believe it right now or not.
Love you all.
When people are passionate about something, they tend to become frustrated when others are not fully immersed in their cause.
Currently, America is fully involved in a public debate about politics, because we are on the verge of electing new leaders into prominent leadership positions throughout the country. This debate stems from ideas that guide our thinking and these ideas are often guided by past experiences and even hurts that we want to eradicate.
Christians that enter this public debate make comments often about “who true Christians should vote for” and, lucky enough, the answer to this always follows who they happen to support. The question of who Jesus would vote for is the proverbial “elephant in the room” and I think it is an important one to explore.
As I read scripture, I think I have figured it out. Jesus would vote for:
- Those who clothe the naked, feed the hungry and are close to the broken-hearted.
- Those who care about the dignity of every human, and who would respect life at every stage.
- One who cares enough about their neighbor to look at them with compassion…
- One who flees from temptation
- A person who sacrifices and serves
- …who is a peacemaker
- …who mourns with those who mourns and rejoices with those who rejoice
- A person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
- Those who are passionate about the persecuted.
- A person who speaks truth when it is hard and even sometimes unpopular
- …whose heart breaks when they see evil running rampant
Ultimately, there is no perfect candidate.
When we look at scripture, we see that Jesus was not concerned with who was governing, or who had the most power in the region. He simply healed, loved, spoke truth, and sacrificed. He knew that no matter who was in charge, His kingdom was what mattered more than anything.
Maybe we need to stop being so concerned with who is going to be president of our land and start being concerned with who is king of our hearts. Voting is important and a duty we should embrace, but our eternal destiny is much more important.
So, who would Jesus vote for? Well…He may accidently forget to go to the voting booth because He would be too busy conquering death and healing the broken. I’m not encouraging you not to vote. Just remember that the way you treat your neighbor is much more essential.
Love you all.
The book of Joshua records an incredible story about God’s people during a time in which the odds were against them. Joshua, who took over for Moses to bring people into the Promised Land, led the Hebrews to Jericho; a massively fortified city that was nearly indestructible. With a very low population of nervous people who believed God could do anything, they were able to make the walls of Jericho fall. Somehow, they won the battle. This didn’t happen because of their might, but because of God’s provision and protection.
In the book of Judges we find one of God’s anointed Judges, Gideon, who many would say lacked confidence and charisma, but still believed God was supremely powerful. God tells Gideon that the vast Midianite army will fall to a militia that Gideon is going to lead. Many scholars say that there were over 100,000 soldiers on the Midianite’s side, and through a series of events, God tells Gideon to send most of his troops home. He sends so many home, in fact, that Gideon is left with 300 people. This is certainly not enough to get the job done.
Fast forward: Gideon’s band of 300 easily destroys their foe.
In the book of Luke, Jesus sends out 72 of His followers to different towns for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. This relatively small group of people expend their energy and resources to make sure the good news of Jesus is spread throughout the land. These followers come back testifying of great victories and entire households being converted to faith in God. Once again, a miracle happens through faith and obedience.
In all of these cases, we see that a relatively small group of people were able to exercise their faith in God and He blessed them with disproportional abundance and victory.
There is an interesting trend that has arisen in Christian culture. Larger churches are attracting people by the hundreds and sometimes even thousands. These megachurches, in many cases, have filled a need for a community who has seen dwindling church participation over the years, and the greatest contribution they have given, in my opinion, is the participation in areas of ministry from people that were once estranged from the church.
Big churches are exciting. Many have great music, excellent preachers, and elaborate programs that keep people busy around the clock. There always seems to be something going on and people get energized when a new initiative or series is introduced.
In this context, it is easy to forget the vital importance of the small church.
The healthy small church provides a needed service to the community that larger churches cannot easily fill. In a lot of instances, Christians will see exciting things happening in a large church and their attraction to the excitement becomes intoxicating.
It’s hard to not be drawn in when these churches create an assembly line of spiritual cheerleaders who market the church every chance they get by their actions, logo wear, insider language, and testimonies of God’s work through the ministry. Big churches are great for the most part, but sometimes people do not see how the smaller church can possibly fit in the local community like a piece of the puzzle.
The healthy small church does great when it comes to getting people involved in ministry, corporate accountability, developing deep life-long relationships, and creating an atmosphere of extended family.
The common misconception is that a small church is the size it is due to failed leadership, or some catastrophic event that split the membership. In some cases this can be true, but in most cases it is not. From my experience as a pastor of a smaller church, I have noticed that there are instances in which people are getting involved in leadership in areas where they would not be able to plug into in a larger setting.
Often, for instance, in music ministry, the larger church looks for those gifted on a professional level. A small church looks for those willing and with the talent and call to participate. A person of average leadership abilities can become a leader in a small church for the purpose of sharpening their skills and growing into their call.
There are unhealthy small churches just like there are unhealthy large ones. As implied, the inverse is also true. Healthy large congregations are ones that are not interested in simply getting bigger, but multiply with purpose through smaller works.
Congregations of all sizes are needed. If you are not a part of a church, consider trying out a small church with passion and a heart for Jesus. You may need what it has to offer. With that said, don’t just look at your “church search” with a consumer mentality of what it can offer you, but truly pray about how you can get plugged into the kingdom of God and use your gifts to serve the world.
Love you all.
Good Morning Friends,
I wanted to personally invite you all to my Friday Update email newsletter. This newletter will keep you up to date with things going on in the life of my family, and the church that I pastor. Usually, I give an update every other Friday, and the content of this email is more personal in nature. I appreciate all of you, and I think you for the support you have given me! There is a new email update coming out today. Sign up now!