I filled out a few brackets for March Madness. In two of my brackets I had Virginia winning it all. Needless to say, I was torn when Texas Tech (a fellow Big 12 team) ended up in the game against them. There is a reason they call it March Madness!!!
It is comical how intense we get about winning. We study the season, see the selections, and we meticulously pick and choose our bracket, with the end goal of winning. (Insert Jesus juke here…)
How would the spiritual landscape of our community change, if we simply studied the landscape, saw the potential, and meticulously chose people around us to lead them to know God and make Him known? “As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8. Jesus has called us to make our brackets and seek the win. He wants us to be winsome, a soul-winner!
So who is around you that you can put into your bracket? Who are you walking in life with that needs to be put on your list and cause you to be hopeful for a win? Here is my challenge to you today: who is in your Final Four? Seriously, draw out a bracket right now of 4 individuals that you know are lost and need to hear the Gospel (trust me, you know 4, it won’t be hard). Then make a goal to intentionally and conversationally share the Gospel with them. Anyone who accepts Christ, move them to the next round and begin to disciple them personally (meet with them, teach them to pray, read the bible, and share their faith). There it is, a new strategy for you to share the Gospel this summer. So go ahead…fill your brackets!!!
Undoubtedly, you saw the viral news this past week that if our government shuts down the southern border, the United States would run out of avocados in 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS!!! As soon as I heard this, the thing that immediately came to mind was the “free shavacado” viral video. (Google it, you’ll thank me.) And while this kind of news is the best subject matter for late night talk show monologues, I want to catch a spiritual insight from it for you today. No politics in this one, just biblical principles.
“Hold on to instruction; don’t let go. Guard it, for it is your life…Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:13, 23
King Solomon understood the fortification necessary to withstand the attacks of those on the outside. He also understood the necessity of fortification to keep certain things out. This is why he compels his children to “guard” the instructions that they have received and to “guard” their hearts. Putting a wall up and closing the border may cause a drop in avocado imports. But let me ask you this – do you think that sin activity would drop in your life if you simply shut down its access? Of course!
I encourage you to guard your hearts against anything that would try to come in and cause you to sin against the Lord. Paul reminded us in many of his letters to “put off” sin and the flesh. God has made a way of escape from every temptation, but I wonder how often we could even avoid temptation by simply shutting down the borders of our heart and guarding the teaching that we have been given by way of the Gospel?
To run out of avocados would be a terrible tragedy, I mean think about the guacamole folks! But even more tragic would be to let sin into our hearts because we simply didn’t try our best to keep it out.
I am hopeful that this will be an uplifting post today. Weeks like this one are often hard. April 2nd, 2007 was the day that my Pappa went to be with the Lord. It has been twelve years. I will always know how long it has been because just two months before he passed, he held his great-grandson, Dre, in his arms for the first time. Dre is my boy, and he is now twelve years old.
I vividly remember that evening in 2007. My wife and I had just stopped in at Granny and Pappa’s house. Hospice has been called in and all the family made visits on that day. It was cold and snowy that week. His funeral is one of the last times I recall it snowing in Oklahoma in April. We left their house in Slick and had almost made it to the Turnpike gate at Stroud when my dad called me to tell me that Pappa had passed. My hero had taken a step into glory to be with his hero.
My greatest memories of my childhood revolve around that man, a 1970s flatbed Ford with 4 on the floor, and cows, lots of cows. A man with the gift of gab (he could and would literally talk to anyone), I think that may be where my son gets it from. Oh, how I loved his stories. He loved his grandkids and did everything he could to spend time with us. My cousin, Ashlee, and I still reminisce about the trips we took with Granny and Pappa.
One of my Pappa’s favorite places to eat was Joseph’s Steakhouse in Drumright, OK. I had lunch there today and just sat by myself and reminisced on the amazing man that he was. He was a man’s man. A decorated war vet. Loved working cattle. Ordered steak nearly everywhere he went. He could rock a cowboy hat, pearl snap shirt, slacks, and boots like no one else I know. But he held all the inward qualities of a real man that I pray I can pass to my children and grandchildren just like he did. Pappa was fair. He was firm. He worked hard. He spoiled us out of love and care. He always stood for right and held tight convictions. He loved my Granny dearly. And above all, he loved Jesus. His best qualities are the outline of the man I strive to be.
Well, Spring began in Oklahoma two weeks ago. And in true Oklahoma fashion, you wouldn’t know it by the freeze warning we had this last weekend. But with Spring comes some great things – Opening Day (let’s go Rangers!), perfect golf weather, March Madness, turkey season, sunshine, and the annual act of spring cleaning.
I don’t know about you, but this Monday morning I felt that incredible urge to clean. Ok, so that is a bit weird, and I probably should have my head checked, but this is my reality for the moment. I have spent a good portion of the morning cleaning out my inbox, unsubscribing from newsletters and promo emails (sorry Golf Digest and Expedia), and trudging through the ridiculous amount of spam-y emails for stuff I never signed up for. At this rate, I will most likely spend my lunch hour cleaning house, and then after work I will proceed to rummaging through all of our stuff in the garage and extra bedroom.
Soon enough, we will be having a garage sale to pass on all of our stuff for a small price. In the act of Spring cleaning, it is comical to find all the junk that we haven’t used in a while. It is even more hysterical to ask the question, “why do we have this?” I’m looking at you mannequin head…don’t ask! But it brings to light some deeper spiritual truths that I want to share with you on this abnormally productive Monday.
We all have junk that we have held on to for too long.“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19. This was a reminder from the prophet Isaiah concerning the Hebrew children that walked out of Egypt. So many things from our past try to pull us backward and try to draw us back in time. In the same way that the crowd determined that things were better while they were in slavery in Egypt, we often cling to things of the past because we feel as though they are necessary for us to live. But God wants to remind you that He is doing a new thing. Cast off the old and step in to the new.
Value is found in ownership, not in existence. I love the current Geico commercial in which the gecko is selling some of his belongings in a yard sale. When asked for a much lower price on one of his chairs, he gives a rebuttal to explain the value of the chair. We all have things that seem priceless to us, but may seem negotiable to the world around us. The same is true of us and our Lord, Jesus Christ. “Now this is what the Lord says— the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine…Because you are precious in my sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life.” Isaiah 43:1,4. We are found valuable, priceless, by the one who redeemed us and called us His own.
We have something that someone else needs. I have always been greatly amused at what people will purchase at a garage sale. Then again, I have come home from a day of shopping some yard sales and thought to myself “why did I but that again?” I can’t explain the awkward need I have to buy any chair that I see. You can ask Lindsay, there are times it gets out of control. I have a problem, knowing is half the battle, I will seek counseling as long as the office has a comfy chair to sit in. And back to the task at hand – it seems that someone always has something that someone else needs. The same is true of your life, your experiences, your walk with Christ, your insight from the Lord, even simply your presence. I’m not even sure why it surprises or amazes me anymore that myself or someone I know is going through something or needing counsel in a matter and all of a sudden the Lord has placed someone in our lives that has experience or speak directly to the matter.
So what is it that you have to offer folks in the “yard sale of life?” Is it a testimony of God’s goodness, faithfulness, or simply His grace? Maybe it is wisdom for a certain situation? Could it be that someone has a basic need of your presence, your countenance (love that old KJV word), or possibly your gift or talent? While you are spending some time doing some physical AND spiritual Spring cleaning in these coming weeks, make sure to remember that you have something that someone else has been searching for. Share it and enjoy the incredible warmth that Spring can bring.
Within the last few years, I have battled with depression and anxiety. This is a far more common diagnosis in modern times, especially with the ability to medicate it in most cases. I have been one of those cases, and it has helped tremendously (you will never hear this pastor tell you that medication is not an option). While medication is helpful and coping mechanisms are useful, something that I have noticed recently is that these things simply blow a soft and momentary wind on the spark within us. You know that spark, don’t you? That spark of joy, of exhilaration, of life and purpose and meaning.
One of the greatest tools that I have found in fighting through depression/anxiety is reigniting the passions within me. For me, I feel like my soul sets aflame when I write or do anything involved with music. The embers begin to glow when I join in on a pick-up game or when I have a golf club in my hand. The match is struck when there is laughter, a good conversation over a cup of coffee, or simply sitting in the presence of the ones I dearly love.
“So I commend having fun, because there is nothing better for man under the sun except to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the years of his days that God gives him under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
Will we have trials, dark days, depression in this life? Absolutely!!! But God wants us to find those things that will reignite us towards giving Him glory and towards fulfilling His will for our life. What thing is it that fans the flames in your life? Might I suggest blocking out some time for that very thing? The wisest man of all time, King Solomon, says you can.
“Destitute of the Fire of God, nothing else counts; possessing Fire, nothing else matters.” – Samuel Chadwick
Moses at the burning bush. The Hebrew children following the pillar of fire. Moses again on Mount Sinai receiving the commandments. The prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace. All of these were in the will of God when they were near the fire. John the Baptist declared that Christ would baptize us with fire. Paul reminded the Corinthians that each man’s work would be revealed by fire. And in the great description of the victorious Jesus in Revelation, it tells us that his eyes were as fire.
I have always enjoyed fire (probably a pyromaniac, but haven’t acted on that in criminal ways). I love fire. The manliness that is tied to it. There is something satisfying about creating something so powerful. There is something empowering in using that fire to produce something else, like food or metal. Fire has an incredible ability to draw us into relationship. Some of the greatest memories I have involve sitting around a campfire or being snuggled up in front of the fireplace with my wife and sons, and the dogs laying right at our feet.
This love of fire and the instances that we find in scripture concerning fire have led me to this – my blog. I want this space to be one of encouragement in the will of God for your life. A place of seeing the power and deliverance of the Lord. A platform to talk about God-honoring manliness. A setting for building relationships. And a place for those who are seeking to catch a glimpse into the eyes of Jesus and find the warmth and life giving power of the fire they see in them.