Run It Back!

“Run It Back!” was the phrase we would hear on hot days at high school football practice.   Whether it was a drill we were doing or plays we were learning it meant that we didn’t do it right so we would do it again until we got it right.  We would practice the same drill over and over again until, for that day, we learned something.

High school football teaches you a lot about life.  Now I feel like my life is on an unending loop with my children.  I tell them the same basic things over and over again.  I even find myself quoting my high school football coaches in the process.  It’s simple stuff like cleaning a room without putting all the clothes under the bed or loading the dishwasher the right way.   The more they do it wrong the more I have to tell them to “Run it back.” This is how we learn.  We do it over and over and over again.

God teaches us the same way in our faith.   He shows us great spiritual truths about life or He gives us a spiritual breakthrough and if we grow we get to keep moving forward but if we don’t ‘get it’ then we have to run it back.

The Gospels can be almost comical when we look at the lives of the disciples.  They always have to “run it back.”  They seem very thick skulled and constantly frustrating Jesus with their lack of understanding.

They weren’t dense; they were just like we are.  Seeing yet not believing.

One particular example is in Mark 6 where Jesus fed 5000 people.   The people were hungry and Jesus told the disciples to go get them something to eat.  They were dumbfounded and completely clueless to how to accomplish this feat.   Jesus would then perform a miracle and feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Just 2 chapters later in Mark 8, again Jesus is with a group of 4000 people with no way to feed them.  So what does He do?  He basically repeats the drill with His disciples.  Unfortunately they have the same boneheaded answer, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

They had witnessed Him feed 5000 people and have 12 baskets left over but now with 4000 people in front of Him they had no clue how these people would be fed.   Boneheads!

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 7.59.12 AM.pngThese boneheads are just like me.  God shows me something and teaches me something about life and about His Kingdom and then I forget. 

The lessons for me that are the hardest to learn are the lessons of FAITH.

He took care of my child last time she was sick, surely He can do it now.
He got me through the last time I was anxious, surely He can do it now.
He met every need last time I was in a pinch; surely He can do it now.

God is constantly having me “run it back” when it comes to lessons of faith. 

It’s crazy because just like the disciples I have clearly recorded examples of where God has come through in my life.  He’s answered my prayers.  He’s been with me.  He’s come through.  I even keep a prayer journal with answer prayers to remember how God has come through.

Yet, here I go again. When the test comes I look at Jesus like those disciples.  I come to Jesus and say, “what are we going to do?”

Jesus is always gentle and He gets me through each trial teaching me the same lesson over and over again.  I think in heaven there must be a sigh and an eye roll of the angels and they say, “run it back.”  Rick sill isn’t getting it.

What about you?

Can you identify some areas in your life where maybe you keep coming to the same test?

What is it you need to learn?

What is keeping you from getting to the next drill?

When A Prophet Gets Political

In the Bible prophets were those who spoke a message from God to people.  Most of the time these prophets and their messages were unpopular.

Today the voices of Pastors and Prophets have been diluted to the point that they have little power. It seems that many of God’s prophets have aligned themselves with politicians.  When this happens their message becomes diluted and weak.  The last couple of presidential cycles have exposed a lot of people that used to be my heroes.  Many of the ‘men of God’ that I looked up have cashed in their prophetic voices for political points.

In America it’s sometimes tricky to know when and when not to be involved in the political process.

Pastors are called to be the voices of truth in the culture.   When something is wrong we speak up no matter whom the politician who may be in office.

We pray for leaders.
We encourage leaders.
We also rebuke leaders when the need calls for it.

Mark Chapter 6 gives us a picture of one of God’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.   It’s a hard chapter to read because in the chapter a wicked King named Herod would behead John.

I think there are some particularly interesting things we learn about what John did.

His primary job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  He did this with one message he preached that was essentially one word: “Repent.”

Repent is a Bible word that means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. He called the religious and political leaders of the day snakes and told them to repent.

No matter who was in front of him he preached the same message.

If you were rich, “repent.”
If you were poor, “repent.”
If you were old, “repent.”
If you were young, “repent,” and so the message went.

I think we can learn some things about the role of a prophet that have been lost on today’s preachers and prophets.

  • Prophets have a clear message. Speaking the message is the most important job of the prophet.  John was called, “a voice.”  A prophets job is to tell the truth.  They are truth tellers.
  • Prophets stay on message. The prophet did not change the message based on the audience.   John confronted King Herod not only with the message of repentance but the personal message of what Herod needed to repent of.   Sexual sin with his sister-in-law.  This very direct confrontation would land John in jail. Eventually he would lose his head.  The pressure he faced being in front of a king would have swayed most ‘prophetic voices’ of our day.  Maybe they would have said things like, “we are not electing a Pastor but a President.”  Wrong is wrong and the prophet always says so.  Voices from God should always say what God says.
  • Prophets pay a price. Being true to the message is almost always costly and even deadly to the prophet. Do a little study of the Old Testament prophets and you will find that they were not glamorous people but usually men that had incredibly difficult lives calling people to do what they did not want to do.  Most of them would die trying. Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 8.02.51 AM.png

Pastor and Preachers are the prophets of our day.   It would do most of us well to stay on the point of the message of the Gospel.  We are kind when we can be kind but we always tell the truth even when it can damage us personally.

The mighty Twitter prophets clamor for follows and likes.  They seem to be more interested in fighting with each other than standing on the promises.

We speak out against injustice, murder, sexual immorality, lies, slander and the like no matter who is in office.  Our message is the same message of John and of Jesus….Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Refusing Help

Sometimes I watch the Dr. Phil show.   It’s mind blowing to me how Dr. Phil can confront people with cold hard facts in an overwhelming way and they still deny the facts he’s presenting to them.  I was watching a clip from his show recently where he was confronting a lady who thought she was married to a man overseas but in reality she was being scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Doctor Phil and this woman’s family laid out all the facts and showed her evidence after evidence of how she was in fact being duped and used.  She held on to her fantasy because perhaps the truth was too painful.

This is an extreme example but I think we all don’t like to be confronted with areas of our life that are toxic. Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 7.57.40 AM.png

In the Book of Mark Chapter 5 Jesus came to a village and set a man free of the bondage he was in. The man had been full of demons for years.  Jesus cast many demons out of this man and the whole village was in shock.

When this miracle took place instead of getting excited about it the people of the village asked Jesus to leave.  The people were afraid.  Jesus came to help these people and to set them free.  He came to offer them salvation but they would end up begging Him not to stay.

The great irony is that they were kicking out of their city the only one who could help them.
They thought they were ok but they weren’t.
They thought they didn’t need help but they did.

Have you ever been guilty of pushing someone away who was there to help?
Have you refused the good advice someone was giving you because you didn’t want to hear it?
Have you gotten angry with a friend or family member because they told you a hard truth about yourself that you did not want to deal with?

I know I have!

My wife has a way of telling me things I don’t want to hear about myself.  I usually get defensive but upon further reflection she is almost always right. The truth hurts.  I think there have been times when we have all said or done something to push the person away who is sent to help.

Why?
Why do we do that?

We do it because change is hard.
We do it because it exposes our motives.
We do it because sin is fun.
We do it because we want to stay the ruler of our own kingdom of self. 
We do it because we don’t want to admit we are wrong.
We do it because it may hurt our pocketbook.
Pride.  

Are you doing this now?

If Jesus came to your house today would you want Him to stay or leave?

It sounds simple enough but the reality is that when Jesus comes things change.  They always change.  The closer you get to Jesus the more your life will change.

He is a great big light that exposes what is in the dark of your heart.
He is the doctor that tells you that you have the cancer of sin and it must be cut out.
He is the one who pulls back the rug of your life and exposes all the dirt that is underneath.
He is the Dentist you have been avoiding that has to do a root canal to fix the problem.

Today, if Jesus came to you exposing all the junk that is inside of you would you want it fixed?

He offers to fix you but in order to fix you, you must come clean about your sin and repent. There is no other way to let Him fix you.

People hated Jesus. They wanted Him to leave their city.  Ultimately they wanted Him dead.   We never like our sin and wicked self exposed.  So much so, that we would be willing to kill an innocent man to keep it a secret.

This almost sounds silly but this is what millions of people do everyday.  They are confronted with truth and rather than live in the light of the truth they simply ignore the truth or just deny it.

You can ignore truth. You can ask Jesus to leave.  You have the freedom to make those choices.

But you can never make bad choices and have good long term results.

Eventually your sin will find you out.  Eventually you will reap the bitter fruit you planted.  Eventually you will have to pay for your sins.

It’s better to invite Jesus to have control now then for you to end your life separated from God.

Do not ask Jesus to leave.  Today, let Him come and do His work in your life.  Let Him deal with your ‘demons.’  Let Him expose your sin.  Let Him love and forgive you.  It will require some pain and change but in the end it will mean the difference in life and death.

A few steps:

  1. Listen when people you love tell you that you have a problem.
  2. Read your bible and identify what needs to change in your life.
  3. Confess your sin and repent.
  4. Get help.  Go to church. Find a small group.   See a counselor.  Get in a recovery program like this one https://www.christplace.com/chance2/
  5. Follow Jesus.   Make time each day to seek Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible.

 

 

A Different Kind of Family

What does family mean to you?

To me, family is a word that represents closeness.  Usually when we talk about family we are talking about our blood relatives, father, mother, brothers and sisters.  These constitute the closest relatives that we can have.

Families are the people that know you better than most and love you anyway.

Families are the people who show up in your life when everyone else may be leaving.

Families are the ones whom you have shared much of life and childhood with.

Families are the people who shaped you when you were a child.

Families are the people you look like and have mannerisms like.

Families are the people you go home to at holidays.

Families are the people who are sit with you when you are in the hospital.

Families are the people who give you money if you have an emergency.

Families are the people you build a future with.

Families are typically the closest group of people you have on earth.

Growing up in my home were Dad, Mom and my two older brothers.   These people I dearly love and they are my family.  God has blessed me with a spectacular earthy family of my own.  I have a wife and five children.

Not all families love. Not all families are great.

I have often heard it said that blood is thicker than water.   There are some who believe blood relationship is closer than any other earthly bond.

Jesus didn’t seem to think that blood relationships defined family.

Jesus made it clear that there was a deeper family.

When he was preaching, teaching and healing his earthly family (mom and brothers) came to Him. It seems that they wanted to shut Him up.  When asked if He would see His family Jesus gave a peculiar answer.  He said, “Who are my mothers and brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, he said, “here are my mother and brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Jesus was making a point. Blood relatives are important but real family is found in the kingdom of God.

Belief is a stronger than blood.

The Kingdom is more important than kin.

This is a hard lesson that Jesus was teaching.  Jesus would make it clear that to put faith in Him would sometimes cause a huge rift in families.  It would cause a major divide.   Not everyone would trust Him.  Not everyone would follow Him.  Jesus would not apologize when He said that he would set mother against daughter and father against son.

The Kingdom of God is more important than the Kinship of man.

But to follow Jesus and be at odds with your family does not leave you without a family.  Jesus was making the point that there is a greater family.  It’s a family of something deeper than blood, belief.  It is a family of faith.

Blood, but not our blood unites the Church, the family of God.   The blood of Jesus unites us.  We hold to a common core belief that rules all other beliefs.  It’s the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.  He died for the sins of the world.

While we still have physical families we have a spiritual family and if our earthly family does not line up with our spiritual family (the church) then we must go with our spiritual family.

The strongest and most complete picture of family is when your earthly family and your spiritual family align.  My greatest prayer for my wife and children is that their first and most important relationship will be with Jesus.   When they are following Jesus and I am following Jesus we align our lives in every way.

If you did not grow up in a home with a close earthly family, God did not leave you without a family. When you follow Jesus you become part of a big family.  The Church becomes your brother and sisters.  You find a place of love and acceptance.

The church is the family of God and the hope of the world.

 

I See You

How do you see people?
Do you see people as they are or as they could be?

Have you ever had someone believe that you could be somebody or do something that you didn’t think you could be or do?

…Maybe they called out a particular gift they saw in you.
…Maybe they asked you to do a job you did not think you were capable of doing.

When people have called me out in positive ways it has always resulted in growth in my life.  If I did not believe in myself then I would borrow their belief in me.

Jesus had a unique way of seeing people.

In the book of Mark chapter 2 Jesus is beginning His ministry and He calls a guy out named Levi. The Bible says that Jesus “saw Levi…sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

Jesus SAW Levi in a way that other religious leaders would never have seen him.  Levi was a tax collector.  In those days a tax collector was a despised thief of his own people. He would have been picked last for any potential role as a spiritual leader.  He would’ve been seen as the worst kind of sinner.

But Jesus SAW him differently.

Like new parents watching their child, Jesus saw, not who he was, but who he could be.  Jesus made a huge ask of him.  Jesus essentially asked him to completely change his life.  Jesus was saying, “leave the tax collecting business…leave everything and follow me.”

Levi would go on to be a world-changing disciple of Jesus Christ and would write the book of Matthew in the New Testament.

Jesus sees you differently than anyone else sees you.  He loves you more than your mama.

At some point in time we get stuck with a label of who we are.

Slow.  Fat.  Dumb. Lazy.  Angry.  Loser.  Just Like Your Mom/Dad.  Not popular.  Ugly.  Pretty.  Skinny.  Smart.  Black. White.

There seems to come a time in our lives when we’ve been told enough who others think we are and we start believing their voices.  The people that tell us who we are have great impact for good or for evil in our lives.

Be really careful whom you listen to.
Be reminded today of how Jesus sees you.
He knows you better than anyone and He loves you.
He knows the deepest darkest part of you and He still offers love and forgiveness.
Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 7.34.02 AM.pngHe calls you to be who you can be and not who you are.

The call is the same today as it was in the time of Levi.  If you want to be whom Jesus is calling you out to be there are two words that will make all the difference, “Follow Me.”

When you say yes to follow Jesus you are saying “No” to the other voices in your life who are telling you what and who you should be.

You get to choose the voice you will follow.

Today my prayer for you is that you will be able to see how much Jesus loves you. My prayer is that you will also see others, not as their label or their outside, but as Jesus might see them.

Speak life into others! There are some pretty bright lights in this world that may just need an encourager to flip their switch on.

 

When Life Is Overwhelming

As I get older my life becomes more and more about responsibility.   I have a job where a number of people depend on me.  I have 5 children and sometimes the perfect storm can happen when life can just feel downright overwhelming.

That’s where I find myself this morning.  My 4th child, Joy has pneumonia and she’s been in the hospital for 6 days. If you’ve ever stayed the night in the hospital it’s a super expensive hotel room that provides the most awful nights sleep.  My wife has been there 4 nights in a row.

When one child is sick that doesn’t mean the other 4 cease to have needs.   Here’s a little rundown of the frustrating week we’ve had.

It all started with Joy getting a virus.  Joy passed the stomach virus on to Charyl.   A few days later Joy’s cold worked its way into her lungs and Joy was hospitalized with pneumonia and low O2.  This led to Charyl and I missing our 14thwedding anniversary date because we were in the hospital with Joy.  Next, we missed our baby, Mary Charlotte’s, second birthday party because Joy was in the hospital.  The next morning Mary Charlotte woke up with the stomach bug and threw up all over big brother Ty.   Because of Mary Charlotte now being sick both Charyl and I would miss Ty’s (Our oldest child) 5th grade graduation and end of the year festivities.  From here things went from bad to worse for Joy.  Her O2 numbers were not going up quickly enough so she was transferred to ICU at Scottish Rite by ambulance.  Around this time I picked up some of Joy’s bacteria and decided to develop bronchitis.   To the doctor I went to get a Z-pack.   The drama continues as Ty then received the blessing of the all night stomach bug from Mary Charlotte.   It gets better!   Grandma (my mom) who came to help with all this chaos now received the gift of the stomach bug.

Joy is still in the hospital. If the dog died this week then we would complete our country music song of a life.  Good luck Duke.

Sometimes these kinds of weeks happen when you have a lot of children.  Sometimes life is just hard.   Life is suffering.  I know there are so many people out there whose daily reality is worse than my overwhelming times.

God gives Grace.

When these things happen I always feel like God is making me sit still.

I hate sitting still.
I like to do things.
I need to move.

When life is overwhelming sometimes you have no option but to sit in a hospital room and wait.

Wait and think.  Wait and Pray.   Wait and trust.

It’s hard to see far into the future when you have an immediate issue in front of you.  But when life puts you in time out you need to think.  You need to pray.

Think about your blessings.

In the midst of trials to get your mind out of the gutter you need to think about the blessings of God.

Thank you Lord that I have children to love and take care of.
Thank you Lord that I have an amazing wife who takes such good care of all of us.   Thank you Lord for your church that reaches out to help.
Thank you Lord for sending Charyl’s mom and sister to help her at the hospital and provide the support and encouragement that Joy and Charyl have needed.

So many people have checked on Joy, helped with children, brought us dinner and prayed for us.

What do people do who do not have a church family?

Thank you Lord that we live in a place where our children can get good health care.  Many children in the world don’t have hospitals like we do.
Thank you Lord for nurses and doctors that care about helping my child get well.
Thank you Lord that my mom is here from Florida to help with the other 4 children. There is always so much to be grateful for.

If we keep our eyes on our circumstances we will be overwhelmed and consumed.  But if we keep our eyes on Jesus we have hope.  We have hope that there’s a better tomorrow, even if today stinks.

If you take the time to be grateful in the midst of feeling overwhelmed it brings a calm to your soul.  It’s God reminding you that He is good.

A pastor friend in Florida has been praying for my family and for Joy.  He sent me this text: “Hold to His promise to you in Lamentations 3:21-23 ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness”

Think about the faithfulness of God.

Remembering what I have to be thankful for and dwelling on the faithfulness of God helps me when going through overwhelming times as a parent.   Knowing deep in my heart and soul that He doesn’t leave me and He doesn’t forsake me.  If I will lean into Him, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.  I can be content and even joyful in every situation.

When you have a sick kid and you can’t help them, the beast of fear starts rising up in your heart. You are keenly aware of your lack of ability to help your child.   The only answer to fear is faith.  Fear yells at you with all the things that could go wrong.  Fear brings up the worst-case scenario first.

Faith reminds you that you have been here before and God’s brought you through.
Faith reminds you that God is in control of every breath.
Faith reminds you that God loves your child more than you do.
Faith reminds you that no matter what happens God’s in control of it all and His word is true, “He works all things to the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Faith and hope working together are powerful forces.

Who knows when this season of sickness will end?  We may be in for another difficult week.Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 7.29.08 AM.png

I pray we will honor God in the storm.  I am also praying that He will stand up and calm the storm.   He knows best.

 

Is The Gillette Ad The Best A Man Can Get?

A recent commercial put out by Gillette has received a lot of both positive and negative feedback.  I am kind of shocked by how many people see the commercial in a negative light.

I actually like the commercial…most of it.  Here’s why.

The commercial starts out with a question: “Is this a best a man can get?”

Good question…thought provoking.   From that point the commercial shows examples of how classic cultural manhood can be bad.

Bullying

Objectifying women

Patronizing women in the workplace

I would totally agree that these are all examples of what I would define as “toxic masculinity.”

The next portion of the commercial is what I dislike.

The commercial shows two little boys wrestling in the yard and then has all the men saying, “Boys will be boys” from a undesirable perspective, as if wrestling or fighting for young men is a bad or toxic thing.   Young men need to learn how to fight in a positive way.  Fighting is one area that really defines manhood and separates it from womanhood.  Men fight. We must teach them what to fight for. Fighting and standing up for the right thing is what makes men valuable to society.  Many times young boys wrestling and fighting is a character building activity.  I loved fighting and wresting with my friends growing up.  Young boys learn through competition to be strong.  It fosters their willingness to be courageous as men and to fight for the right things.  So to some extent boys will be boys and this is not a bad thing.

Back to what I like…

The ad then states, “We believe in the best in men.”

The commercial then defines what Gillette would see as the best in men:

Men holding other men accountable…yes.

Men standing up to other guys who are objectifying women…awesome, yes!

Men standing up when others are bullied…yes.

Older men helping younger men resolve conflict in a positive way…yes.

Dads calling out their young girls to be strong…yes!

What I like the Most:

At the end of the commercial there is this line, “The Boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.” 

This is a powerful line and oh so true.  As a dad and a pastor this is a great reminder to me that there are young men looking at my example of what it means to be a man.   I need to be a good example.

Why do many conservative voices seem to have a problem with this ad?

I believe many conservative men take issue with this ad because of how it starts.  It starts with the cultural movement against manhood. Two catchphrases are used that are turn offs for many men, “Me Too” and “Toxic Masculinity.”  Any average man (not even a good man but an average man) would agree that men should not abuse or take advantage of women.  The ‘Me Too’ movement has been important in exposing predatory men but its primary torchbearers seem to be liberal women who espouse hatred to men in general or anything that is classically defined as manly.  The movement seemed to start out as a positive one but then morphed into making good men feel guilty by association.

While the commercial does a pretty good job of showing forms of toxic masculinity, the phrase itself has felt like any semblance of what has been considered masculinity in the past is a bad thing.  The phrase ‘Toxic Masculinity’ has been appropriated to feel like if anything is masculine it’s somehow evil, again, guilt by association.

The bottom line is that good and Godly men are needed now more than ever.

Good men stand up against evil.

Good men take responsibility for their family.

Good men make other men better.

Good men serve others.

Good men bear the burdens of those who are week.

A truly good man will lay down his life for his friend.

Jesus was the only truly good man.  He is the example.