December 28, 2010

Brides and Grooms

I was just asked to perform a wedding for some friends of mine. Believe it or not, it is one of the many convenient services offered by Average Joe. I've officiated many weddings. (sounds like a sporting event, huh?) This is part of what someone in my profession is often asked to do.

And just for the record, I've never seen an ugly bride. Now I've seen some rather "plain" people show up for rehearsals, (Okay, I know...which is Average Joe? Pot or kettle?) but never an ugly bride. There is just something about the white dress, the sappy music, and the gravity of the event that creates a unique mixture that can transform the most ordinary young woman into a walking work of art.

However, in view of this, there is another fact of which I am absolutely certain. When the bride begins her journey down the aisle, there is nobody in the room who sees this woman the way her groom does. Oh, we can appreciate her beauty or notice her transformation from the ordinary to the extraordinary, but only a groom knows the overwhelming joy of seeing his bride from the heart.

Now, if you are waiting for one of my sloppy stories that is both graphic and sentimental, you're out of luck. I am simply making a point about perspective and the ability to truly "see" and drink in what is rare and exquisite. I've always found it interesting that the Kingdom of God is called the "bride of Christ." But in view of this, I kind of get it...

... Jesus said to Nicodemus, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (italics mine)

In other words, "Nicodemus, you can't see my Bride as I see Her. You do not possess the heart to do so. So, let me renew your life by giving you a heart that's fit to see the beauty of my Bride, so that you'll love her too."

The Bride of Jesus, the church, is too beautiful to be seen by the ordinary and uninspired. You see, these people see His Bride as just another woman who is out to rob them of their strength, time, and money. They see her as a nagging taskmaster who seeks to trap them in a relationship that is one-sided and unrealistic.

And the reason they can't see her beauty is because they can't see her with their hearts. His Bride has to be seen from the perspective of a heart that has been reprieved by the Father, reclaimed by the Son, and renewed by the Spirit.

Rebirth must take place before we can SEE the kingdom as does our Lord. We can only see the Bride in all her glory when we can see her through a heart like that of Jesus, her bridegroom.

And the only way we can have a heart like this is through the renewal that comes by being born again.

December 15, 2010


‘Tis the Season…

Every year at this time, we become inundated with movies and television shows about Christmas. If you are a child and watch these shows, you will be convinced that evil people are lurking everywhere just waiting on their opportunity to “steal” Christmas.

Really, isn’t that the plot to every show? Christmas is in danger of not coming…but wait, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, The Great Pumpkin, The Easter Bunny and Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick all team up to defeat the hideous Chieftain Underlords of “Christmas Haters Local Union 221!” How many times can Christmas be saved?

And then we sing songs…

From The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: “we’ll tell scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago…” (Sorry dude, that’s Halloween)

Then we sing a song about a snow man that dies at the end of the song. (It’s the "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today" of the Holiday Season)

And don’t you know that Mary just got baby Jesus to sleep and was ready for a latte and a bubble bath when The Little Drummer Boy showed up? (I actually had a grown up ask me where to find the story of the little drummer boy in the Bible…seriously)

And then there’s Ebenezer Scrooge. The name alone boils the blood of every eggnog-swillin’, colored-light-hangin’, hall-deckin’, tinsel-lovin’ Clark Griswold in the world. Who wouldn’t dislike a miserable old soul, who’s not only on a downward spiral to despair, but is furious that he can’t take everyone on the journey with him? And while there is little in my life that parallels his, I agree with him on one point…

Christmas has lost its focus.

Every year we attempt to make Christmas bigger and better than last year. Every year we take the holiday season to the next level on the absurdity scale. Every year we are challenged by retailers to thoughtlessly do more spending on things with less meaning. And since most of us lost the ability to think for ourselves sometime during the Clinton administration, we just foolishly allow ourselves to be sucked in.

Wake up everyone! NEWSFLASH: Christmas is about a baby.

Its about a baby who was God. That’s right, the same God who created everything we see and know, stepped out of heaven, emptied himself of his glory, and became part of His creation. Why, you ask? For the same reason Christmas has become so hideously overdone…we didn’t get it!

We didn’t get it…that a Holy God just wanted the people He loved to be holy too.

We didn’t get it…that we needed the intervention of perfection to cover our disproportionate flaws.

We didn’t get it…that forgiveness was on the tips of our tongues.

We didn’t get it!

So God chose the necessary over the convenient. He sent His Son…to be a baby. He sent His Son…to be an example of His love. He sent His Son…to start a revolution of righteousness. He sent His Son…to become sin on our behalf. He loved us so much that he would become a baby and hope that through His perfection, maybe somebody would “get it.”

You see, instead of trying to “one-up” last year and make Christmas more exciting…maybe we should realize that the story we have to tell about this baby is exciting enough. You see, I don’t get stoked over lights, tinsel, trees, and eggnog. I get stoked when I hear the story of a cold night, a barn, and a God who leapt from the starry midnight sky and landed in the arms of a teenage girl. I get stoked that God came near.

Here's part of the "story of the baby..."

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." (Luke 1:30-32)

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

...and that's enough.

December 13, 2010

Cheer (the detergent)

What many of you may not know about ol' Average Joe is that I do my own laundry. I like my denims and flannels handled a particular way, and my wife doesn't seem to mind that I choose to tackle this responsibility know, one less thing.

I learned to do laundry the hard way. . . I ran out of clean clothes during my first quarter of college. Truth is, I didn't run out of clean clothes; I ran out of clothes that didn't reek. Therefore, I was forced to find a Laundromat.

In the Laundromat, I learned things that were just as educational as any other aspect of my college experience.

-I learned that yellow and blue actually do make green. . . a fact my kindergarten teacher had attempted to explain to me many years earlier.

-I learned that white underwear can take on a non-masculine appearance when washed with a red sportshirt . . . and that there is no acceptable excuse for a man to own pink drawers.

-I learned that a full capacity washing machine in fact did not mean "full capacity" . . . a fact discovered after standing in the drum and packing down my clothes in order to save the fifty cents it would have taken to wash another load.

-I learned that though women wouldn't, men will wear their "fruit of the looms" as long as there is still one shred of elastic remaining.

My cousin, "Big O," (now Dr. Big O) also taught me that detergent is an impressive substance. One day, while waiting for my clothes to tumble to a dizzying dryness, we read the Cheer box.

A box of Cheer contains ingredients to lift dirt from clothes, soften water, protect washing machine parts, reduce wrinkling, and prevent yellowing. Add to this list the fact that it contains whiteners, colorant, and perfume, all for less than a dime an ounce, it is truly a miracle in a box!

You know, we humans have made great progress over the years in the area of hygiene. God took care of the Israelites by giving them laws concerning how to take care of filth (see Leviticus). There was a time when we thought disease was an act of God. Then we came to realize that it was sometimes a product of human ignorance. And, we've been cleaning our act up ever since.

But why haven't the scientists come up with a concoction to clean our hearts and minds as efficiently as they clean our clothes? Where is my box of "Suds for the Soul" that lifts dirt from our lives, softens our hearts, cleanses our minds, protects our inner parts, reduces spiritual yellowing and wrinkling, and makes us sweet and good?

They didn't need to! This ingredient was created long before Cheer. All of the above is accomplished by the blood of Jesus.

By the way, don't try Cheer to cleanse yourselves. . . it tastes awful!

November 30, 2010

O Christmas tree, O Christmas Tree...

Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel. This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. (Jeremiah 10:1-4)

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, of all the trees most lovely...

As a child, I remember hearing a sermon delivered by Brother Paul Crankypants (not his real name). He used the above verse to tell all who would listen that having a Christmas tree in their homes was a form of pagan worship. After all, as the passage states, we cut down the tree, shape it, decorate it with silver and gold, and fasten it to the floor for stability. We put presents underneath ye old tree so that if anyone wants to grab their goodies, they have to "bow" before this idol in order to get them.

There is a greek word to describe this line of thought: baloney! This passage is talking about Asherah poles outside pagan temples, not Christmas trees.

Although we enjoy our Christmas tree, we don't worship it. But I must tell you that there are some who come pretty close. You see, our family has made an expedition every year, for the past 20 years, to a Christmas tree farm. We would drink their hot chocolate, say howdy to some jolly old fat guy with a white beard, maybe pet a cow someone dressed up like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and then would deliberate over a hundred acres of trees that all looked alike in order to find "the perfect one."

With a bow saw (because who would let an Average Joe have an axe?), I would cut the tree down, flag down the guy with the four wheeler, tie it to the bumper and let him drag it back to the pay know, just like our forefathers did. Be that as it may, even though it wasn't a Norman Rockwell moment, it was still our "moment" and we cherished it.

However, this year, tragedy has struck. My Children, Kate and Dupli-Kate (not their real names), decided that a nice artificial pre-lit tree would be better for all concerned...except their mom, Mel Griswold (not her real name), who is heartbroken that the tradition of mass murdering defenseless blue spruces has ended. She protested vehemently, but we finally got her to give in after two boxes of Kleenex and the promise of a really special decorating party where we would all wear Santa hats, drink spiced tea, and watch "The Waltons Homecoming."

So I digress...after some shopping, Mrs. Griswold did find a tree that is life-like and beautiful and it appeared that we were all very happy...until this past Sunday.

As my son "Dupli-Kate" tells it, he and his mother were driving home and she spotted an SUV with a murdered tree strapped to the top. His story goes on that she at first pointed it out, declaring its beauty, attempting to wax nostalgic about bygone days of yore. The next thing he knows, her lip is quivering and the water works start. He then does the only thing he can think to do. He says, "Don't cry mom. When we get home, we'll strap our new (very expensive) artificial tree to the top of the car and drive it around the neighborhood. It'll be like old times."

Just so you know, Average Joe made sure that cooler heads prevailed and the tree was not paraded throughout the neighborhood as has been suggested.

I guess I'm sharing all of this to encourage families to create their own traditions for the holidays. Keep Christ in Christmas, but never forget that He is the creator of joy, love, charity, and mercy. And especially, don't let Scrooges like Brother Paul Crankypants steal your joy!

Instead of debating the accuracy of the birth of the Savior, just get excited about the fact that He was born...born of a virgin...made in the likeness of men...tempted in all things like us, yet without sin. Get stoked over the fact that GOD CAME NEAR because He would rather step down out of heaven, than stay there and lose us forever.

At a time when the word "Christ"-mas is on the lips of mankind, most of whom may not know him, realize that this is your golden opportunity to carry out your calling! Show these people Jesus in the way you love Him, them, and each other. And if sharing silly stories and inviting others into your family traditions help them see a Kind and Benevolent be it!

'tis the season to be jolly...

November 29, 2010

...but not destroyed

There is nothing in life that is more Christ-like than to be a person who brings hope to others. To give hope to someone in despair is one of life's noblest deeds. Being a "hope bearer" is not dependent on wealth, intelligence, or background. It is all about heart.

Strangely enough, we who have come close to losing our own sense of hope can be of great help to others who are watching theirs fade into oblivion. All I usually have to do when I write a message of hope is to sit back and recall my past. What was it that someone said or did for me when my hope was at stake and I felt it silently slipping away? Who or what revived my dying spirit and gently renewed my passion for life again?

From personal experience I can testify that often hope is renewed by a friend's simple spoken word, gentle hugs or caring touches, or most of all, from one insightful line written in a note that reaches beyond our pain and brings up a wonderful surge of optimistic expectation from within us.

Keep in mind that when people believe, think, or feel that all hope has finally vanished, surrender is lurking nearby. They see absolutely no logical reason on earth to get out of bed in the mornings and must spend the days reminding themselves to breathe in and breathe out.

However, since we have been called by God to witness His goodness to the world, surrender is not an option. And a few kind actions or words from us can sustain and encourage the soul until real hope returns to the heart, making it strong enough to beat on its own again.

In my life, I've been handed many seemingly fatal blows to my spirit. But my experiences have also taught me that life is lived in cycles and God works in seasons. God works to remind us that just as Winter appears in everyone's life, His grace and mercy will eventually allow us to bask in another Spring.

May we all be "hope bearers" for there is not greater calling. After all, God really is good...all the time!

"we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

November 25, 2010

Kindness and Cold Water

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." - Aesop

It's Thanksgiving Day. For Average Joe, this thanksgiving is somewhat different. I'm spending it caring for my mother who is very ill. (Just so you know, the Turkey at Baptist Hospital in Nashville gets 4 out of 5 stars...pretty good for hospital food...haven't found any pecan pie yet, but they do have Starbucks coffee)

Throughout the last few days following her unexpected illness, I have been incredibly impressed with her friends and church family who have created a steady stream of visits, calls, and gifts. My stepfather's phone battery was depleted in record time by all of the calls. I am also very appreciative of all the texts, emails, and calls from my own friends and family. I've learned in the last few days how encouraging a phone call, email, or text message from friends back home can be.

Simple kindness has a powerful effect. Solomon wrote, "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." (Proverbs 25:25) As Christians, our responsibility is to be Jesus to the world.

But in a world that is constantly hurting, and knowing that we will have the poor with us always, the sheer number of "weary souls" can be overwhelming to those of us who possess a limited amount of "cold water." We will never be able to heal ALL the hurting, feed ALL the hungry, and encourage ALL the hopeless. But we can be Jesus to people "one cup of water" and "one weary soul" at a time. Jesus said, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

To all my friends, "thanks for the cold water!"

November 16, 2010

One Wish

I was once asked the question, "if you had one wish, would you ask for your hair back?" (being bald is part of Average Joe's charm, by the way) I was taken aback by the question and then answered this one-parter (pun intended), "Although I miss having hair, there are advantages to baldness. I don't need shampoo or a blow dryer and I can drive with the windows down on my car without ever messing up my scalp!"

However, there are times that I wish I had this kind of power. The power to be granted just one stark raving crazy wish. You know, to be able to get back something that you miss. To just wish for it and it would be so. There are many things that I miss.

I miss having a brother and playing basketball with him on those cold days when you can't feel your fingers. And the goal you're playing on has no net, so you have to take one another's word for whether the shot went in or not. Mine's been gone too long. . . I miss being able to run so fast that I could hear the wind whistle by my head. That was long, long ago and it seems the older I am the better I used to be . . . I miss eating chocolate gravy and biscuits at my mother's table on Sunday mornings. She still treats me to this delicacy from time to time, but it just ain't the same.

Compared to these, hair is pretty unimportant.

Honestly, I wouldn't waste my crazy one-time wish on any of the things mentioned above, though they are quite tempting. The reason? Because there is one thing that I miss more than any of these. To me, it's the only desire within me that is as powerful as the power to grant wishes.

Okay, so here it is . . . I wish I could rock my babies just one more time. I miss rocking them. You see, my children are nearly grown, they aren't babies anymore. Every now and then my daughter, who is almost twenty, still sits in my lap and lets me rock her. But as good as this is, it is not the same. I miss rocking them when they had nothing else to do, nowhere else to go, and could think of nothing that they would rather do than be in my arms.

My kids will continue to mature, Lord willing. That's as it should be. And as long as I have a lap, they will always have a place to sit. But I sure miss our intimate moments when they were first wrapped in a blanket and then wrapped again in my arms. . .

. . . I often wonder if God's most overwhelming desire is akin to my own. When He said "be still, and know that I am God," is He saying that he desires special moments when we aren't thinking of other places to be or other things we would rather be doing? In a hectic world where most folks ignore Him, does he look forward to the times when we totally focus on being in His presence? I think so...or at least that's what I want to believe.

Sometime today, I hope you'll make it a point to "be still" by being uninterrupted and wrapped in His presence. And I hope you experience a closeness with him that will leave no doubts that He is not only an all-powerful God, but He is a loving Daddy who cherishes His moments with you.

November 10, 2010

Church and State (of confusion)

I recently received an email asking what my response would be to someone (a friend) who felt that public prayer and prayer in schools is a violation of the Constitution's section on the separation of "church and state."

I usually don't share my political views. Honestly, I consider most politicians like professional wrestlers, entertaining but fake. But since I was asked, I thought I'd share my feelings with everyone...just so you know where The Average Joe stands on the issue.

It seems that people who want to squeeze God out of their lives, feel that us having God in ours is offensive. Usually, they hide behind the "separation of church and state."

The problem is that the constitution says nothing about public prayer or teaching the Bible in schools in the section regarding church and state. Its two major points are: 1) " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States..." and 2) "...congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The section's intent was to prevent a national religion like the Anglican Church in England. It would seem to me that public prayer is a RIGHT under the constitution (free exercise thereof).

Nobody has ever made me pray...they have made me bow my head, they have made me be silent and respectful of others, but the decision to pray is wholly mine. School prayer is the same way.

I'm not sure you could ever say anything to your "friend" that would change his/her mind. We believe in a Benevolent but Fierce God...they don't. We use a book that was written and compiled over the course of 1000's of years as a guide in matters of living and faith...they don't. Even though I have access to many studies on Christian Evidences, I still find that people believe what they want to believe and that the Bible teaches that we are seed sowers... and the job of creating conviction in the hearts of the unbelieving is the work of the Holy Spirit.

However, it seems evident to me with our children killing each other over IPODs, our teachers spending more time disciplining students than teaching them (and the parents of the unruly children feeling that being a jerk is a right under the constitution), the number of teens who are addicted to alcohol, drugs and pornography, and an economy that is in the toilet because of the greed of CEOs (who I'm guessing bowed their heads, but didn't pray), we probably could use a dose of wisdom from a God who knows how to best live our lives, not to mention an opportunity to speak with Him whenever necessary or desired...including in school.

Recently, a group of people were arrested for offering Christian tracts to passersby. Nobody was forced to take one and no laws were being broken. Why were they arrested? They were standing in front of a hotel where a Muslim gathering was taking Detroit! (I hope your friend can speak Arabic, by the way)

And while I'm on the subject, I find it interesting that the same people who detest school prayer, and religion being forced down their throats, will move their entire families to the Middle East, have the women cover their entire body in public because of the misogynistic views of the native religion, and subject their children to public ridicule because of they are Americans...all because the money is right! (OK, Alex...I'll have "A Spine" for 300, please)

Constitutionally, even though a court may disagree, the founding fathers never intended for an education system to be considered as part of the "state." The rotunda in the US Capitol was used for church services by a number of different denominations. In God We Trust is imprinted on our money. God's name permeates the writing of our founding fathers who would be ashamed of what our country has become.

But since we have asked God to leave our homes, schools, and lives...being the gentleman he is, he is obeying our wishes. And people like your friend are the reason why.

I just pray (publicly) that God will be merciful to us all.

November 3, 2010

Pompous Piety...

I have yet to find an American author who could describe people with more clarity, animation, and hilarity than Mark Twain.

On a trip to the Holy Lands (I can't imagine Twain in the Holy Lands), he served as a correspondent to the San Francisco Alta California newspaper. While aboard a ship enroute, he overheard a conversation between the ship's captain and one of the Christian passengers. The passenger wanted to know if the ship would be stopped at sea in order to observe the Sabbath.

As if the legalism inherent in the passenger's question were not enough, Twain's description of the passenger told the story even better. He described the passenger as "a solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg that looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity."

To me, this description is so funny! And so sad. Who on the face of the earth has less reason to be sour, gloomy, and spiritless than one who has built his hopes upon Jesus? Isaiah wrote, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." ( Isaiah 12:3) We stand daily and enjoy the waters of salvation that come from God's never ending flow of blessings. It is not good for the world to see Christians as folks who appear to have been weaned on dill pickles and raised in a freezer!

How could we ever become "solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old icebergs?" Yet, some good hearted and well-meaning Christians do just that! They forget that there is a difference between "being in the world and not of the world" and "being so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good."

How do we remedy this'? Paul wrote, "as you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him," It would be a good idea for every Christian to stop their busy lives just long enough to make a mental visit back to the day they began their journey with Jesus. Remember the excitement and joy of this new relationship? That inexpressible joy is what Paul is talking about in Colossians 2:6. The world will be drawn to our joy, not our piety!

November 1, 2010

Eternal Church Camp...

A long time ago, my daughter figured out that my mother's husband isn't really my father. I think his last name being different from mine was her first clue, and from there she began noticing that I look nothing like him.

After some careful observation, she confronted me about this and displayed a serious interest in the grandpa she had never met. I showed her pictures of my dad and brother and told her as much about them as I could remember and she could comprehend at the time. Without any discussion on the subject, she assumed that they are in heaven.

While putting her to bed one night, she looked me in the eye and asked a very thoughtful question. "If your real daddy is in heaven, what is he doing up there?" The question was simple. She understood what keeps people busy in our world, but what is there to do to pass the time in a place where the only measurement for time is eternity?

You don't work because everything is provided. You don't fix things because everything is made new. You don't worry because there is no crying or pain. So what do you do?

This is a tough question no matter who asks it. But try explaining this deep subject to a six-year old. What goes on in heaven? Well, we are given several glimpses into the throne room of God. The Hebrew writer gives us a peek in Hebrews 12. In this description, he places the saints who have gone on before in the outer part of the throne room. Yet, he doesn't describe what they are doing there other than focusing on the altar of God. Other places in scripture teach us that heaven is a place of joyful assembly. A place where there is unending fellowship, spirit-filled singing, and awesome praise to God. It's like the best spiritual experience you have ever had multiplied and amplified by infinity! So I reckon that's what heaven is like.

But how do your tell a six-year old this. They have yet to have a real spiritual high point, so how do you describe worship. . . like a church service? Church services aren't fun to little ones (and sometimes not-so-little-ones) because it's a place where you have to sit down and be quiet, so I threw that idea out.

So I went with a simpler approach. . . church camp. Olivia would stay with me all week at camp if I'd let her. So I said heaven is like a great camp. There's singing, worship, and fun with friends. And you never have to leave. Unending church camp seemed a good idea to Olivia and she was satisfied to know that my dad and brother are having such a grand time.

Then she asked another question, "What else is your real daddy doing up there?" Without batting an eye, I answered, "waiting to meet you, Pumpkinhead, waiting to meet you."

October 25, 2010

The Average Joe Transference Theory...

The earliest census on record dates back to a piece of clay pottery estimated to be from the year 3800 B.C. The claim is made that it is a Babylonian census. In our own country, the census dates back to 1790. From these censuses we gain interesting information. For example: If the population of the earth were to increase at the present rate indefinitely, by A.D. 3530 the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the known mass of the earth itself; and by A.D. 6826, the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the mass of the known universe.

Kinda' boggles the mind, doesn't it? Consider this: The total population of the world at the time of Julius Caesar was estimated to be approximately 150 million people. The world population will grow by more than 150 million people over the next two years.

Now, to bring it down to a smaller chunk of reality, in the time it takes you to read this article, 200 people will die and 480 people will be born. That's about two minutes' worth of living and dying.

Statisticians estimate that more than sixty-billion people have been born in the history of mankind and that there is no way to estimate how many more will come. And yet, even more mind boggling is the fact that with the multitude of possible combinations and variations of the genetic cells of humans, none of the approximated sixty billion people who have inhabited this globe were exactly alike. Scientists also estimate that this trend can and will continue indefinitely.

There once was a French criminologist named Emile Locard who developed "Locard's Exchange Principle." If you have ever watched a show like CSI or NCIS, you have seen its theory in action, or maybe stretched to the limits of absurdity. Basically, it states that everyone who enters a room will unwittingly leave something behind, as well as take something with them. It may be something as small as a hair or particle from clothing, but theoretically everyone takes something and everyone leaves something. This nearly sixty-year old theory has even been proven by modem technology.

I have my own theory on the subject. (Call it the Average Joe Transference Theory) All of the estimated sixty billion people who have been born, lived and passed on to the next life, have brought something with them, left it here, and took something away in the most spiritual of senses. We impact the lives of others and leave a footprint on the lives of those closest to us that is indelible and undeniable. Most of this "something" cannot be seen, heard or measured in any tangible way. But none the less, it is real and though this "something" cannot be counted, without it literally nothing counts.

Who you are and what you leave behind matters more than you could ever know. Everyday you continue to impact people in ways that could be unknown to you, not to mention the people who are closest to you.

It is better to die a thousand deaths than to live one life that's not worth living.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

October 21, 2010

The Ballistic Golf Club

Have you ever seen a product advertised that you just had to have? It seems to meet a need deep within your psyche. QVC knows this and knows how to relieve you of your money because of it. A few years ago, I found such an item.

While reading the paper, I came across an article about a new golf club called "the Ballistic Driver." It's perfect for the "weekend golfer."

The Ballistic Driver was a new club on the market especially designed for people who have trouble hitting the golf ball. The way it works is, the club head has a .22 caliber load built in. All you have to do in order to drive the golf ball an extraordinary distance, is to lay the club head beside the ball and pull the trigger on the club. This trigger activates a 22 caliber load, similar to a bullet, causing the clubface to shoot out of the head an inch and a half at a high rate of speed. The Ballistic Driver Company guaranteed that the ball will fly "300 yards every time . . . straight as an arrow!"

This club comes complete with a travel case. It is equipped with a safety device to keep it from "going off” in an airport or the trunk of your car.

Those of you who have golfed with me can attest that Ballistic Driver is the club for me! You see, I don’t like golf very much. I play occasionally because I like using terms like "bogey," "birdie," and "eagle" (although I've seldom used the latter two terms in conjunction with my game). I like the camaraderie of being with friends, having a coke while sitting in an electric car, and I like sunshine. Golf would be my true passion. . . if I didn't have to actually swing the club and try to figure out where I'd hit the ball.

And to my point, the Ballistic Driver is perfect for the golfer who isn't really a golfer, like me. It is the club for the person who doesn't want to spend the time and frustration to actually develop the skill necessary to enjoy the game, like me. Just point, shoot and forget the hassle and headache of concentration and consistency. . .

. . . This product got me to thinking. Maybe I can come out with a Ballistic Bible. I'm not sure how it would work, but it would be perfect for the "Weekend Christian." It would be the Bible for the person who loves singing the songs and using words like "saved," "missional," or even "praise-elujah." Maybe there could be a trigger to be pulled when an "amen" or "that’s right" is in order.

It would come with a carrying case as well as a safety device to keep it from "going off' in embarrassing places like the home, office, or a social gathering.

It would be the perfect gift for the Christian who isn't a Christian. It's the Bible for the person who doesn't want to spend the time and "sweat equity" to learn the word. Just point, shoot and forget the hassle and headache of developing a real life that is dedicated to discipleship.

I know, I’m being far too tongue-in-cheek ... but I can’t help but envision the Sham-wow guy pitching this product. I wonder how many I could sell?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

October 14, 2010

Eschew Obfuscation...

Why do some people make things harder than they have to be? I guess I'm just too simple in my lines of thought. I've been called a "big picture" kind of guy. And there is some truth to this allegation. Quite frankly, I don't feel the need to know what makes my heart beat in order to be passionate about the need of it continuing to do so. If this is big picture, then so be it!

I spoke with a young lady last night about her desire to be baptized. She and a couple of friends had come to me saying she wanted to talk about it and asked if I would take a moment for them. For those of you who know me, the world could have been burning down and I would have given her whatever time she needed. Big decision...big commitment...all fueled by simple faith.

All of my life, I've heard discussion concerning what a person needs to "know" in order to begin their walk with the Lord. In all honesty, I've heard some pretty absurd stuff. However, scripture describes this process as a rebirth. (John 3) This implies that a new disciple is much like a newborn baby.

To quote Forrest Gump, "I don't remember much about being born..." When we are born, all we know is what warm is, what dark is, and what full is. That's pretty much it. Try describing a sunset over an oak tree, or the beauty of the Pacific Ocean to the unborn. You will be wasting your time. So why do we attempt to discuss deep Christology, Theology, and Eschatology to the un-reborn? Is that not just as absurd? You see, the un-reborn cannot grasp these lines of thought. Truth is, most of the "born again" consistently struggle with them.

So, what is "warm, dark, and full" to the un-reborn? What should they know in order to pass through the re-birth canal? In Matthew 16, Jesus asks the question, "who do men say that I am?" For those familiar with this passage, you know that the disciples answer, "some say Elijah, some John the Baptist, others one of the prophets." Then comes the re-birth question. The one where the proverbial rubber meets the road..."who do you say that I am?"

Maybe I'm just a big picture kind of guy, but the gospels make it pretty obvious to me that in order to follow Jesus, you don't need special deep need simple faith. The journey begins by answering the question of who you think Jesus to be...the son of God?...the forgiver of my sins?...pretty simple stuff.

I used to have a sign in my office that read "Eschew Obfuscation." Two hundred-dollar words with a simple thought..."avoid making things difficult to understand."

Bottom line, simply answering the question "who do you believe that I am" is the seed of thought that fuels the beginning of our journey with Him...and is probably a good question with which to begin each day.

October 13, 2010

The Lifeguard

Lifeguard…usually a part-time Summer job given to young men and women. I remember being a kid and thinking that being a Lifeguard was the best job in the world. Plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and I could go swimming anytime I wanted. I'm sure that's what the subject of my story thought as well.

He's a lifeguard. And like most other lifeguards, when he took his training, he could almost smell the fresh air, feel the sunshine in his skin, (and let's be honest) he could envision all the pretty girls wanting him to came to their rescue.

Somewhere along the line, something went dreadfully wrong. He got a job guarding the children’s splash pool at the local city park. Day in and day out he sat by a pool that was too shallow to drown a cat and watched little children splash water all over each other. At night, in his dreams, instead of the sounds of pretty girls begging for his attention, he could hear the squealing of playful little children.

One afternoon, he was watching my kids. My wife sat by the pool and watched as well. On this particular day it was a good thing that she was watching. Olivia and Sawyer were fine, but the lifeguard wasn’t.

As Melissa watched the children, she began to wonder when the splash pool would be closing for the summer. So she went over to the lifeguard to ask him. When she got to his chair, he had the bill of his cap pulled down to shade his eyes, his hands were resting on his cheeks and his body was fixed in a posture that made him appear to be totally focused and attentive to the happenings in the pool. There was only one problem; he was asleep!

Imagine what could have happened. Parents had entrusted their children's lives to this fellow and he fell asleep on the job. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he was bored. Maybe this job just wasn't what he had in mind when he became a lifeguard. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. He should have never fallen asleep on the job. . .

Our expectations of Christianity aren't always grounded in realism. Being a Christian doesn't make us healthy, wealthy, or wise. It makes us forgiven and hopefully grateful. And with this blessing comes great responsibility. God entrusts us to reach the world with his life-saving message. We're lifeguards so to speak.

Being a Christian isn't always fun. Sometimes we are called into circumstances we would rather avoid. But who we are, and what we provide for the world, is important. God is counting on us to bring living water to a dying world. Don't fall asleep on the job!

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Luke 22:37-38)

October 11, 2010

Burning Spiritual Calories...

Imagine its Thanksgiving. Due to obligations beyond your control, you have been scheduled by your boss, mother-in-law, and father to show up at three separate dinners during the day.

The first one is scheduled at 11:30 (your normal luncheon time) and is being hosted by your employer. It will be attended by all of your friends at the office...and just like four other people at this party, you're up for that big promotion. Not showing up at the boss's big shindig would be considered an unacceptable snub to you go...and eat...and eat. You compliment the boss's wife on her pecan pie that tastes just like sawdust...and you eat a second helping. You leave in the most cordial manner, excusing yourself to go to your mother-in-law's home for round two of "thanksgivings from the crypt."

You arrive at 3:00. (That's 3pm SHARP because you know how "Mrs. J" feels about tardiness) Your husband abandons you with "Mrs. J" because, even though he hates the Detroit Lions, he'd rather watch them than what is going on in the kitchen. You get to hear about all of her ailments, most of which are not dinnertime conversation, and then you sit down to another traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and all the fixings. You would rather just skip this one, but you know that the price of skipping is too high. The misery of gluttony is nothing to compare with the hurt feelings and the consternation of "Mrs. J." So you eat...and eat...and eat...and thankfully its on to round three.

Finally, it's time to go see your father. This is the part of the day that you have looked forward to since August. There is just something about being home, smelling the smells from the kitchen, recalling the wonderful stories of the past, and visiting a place where you can just "be still" and experience belonging. But there is a problem.

You are so miserable from round one and two that you cannot possibly enjoy round three. You have eaten so much and exercised so little that you feel lethargic, ill, and even a little edgy. Things aren't working out the way you envisioned in August. The smells from the kitchen that would ordinarily fill your soul are making you nauseous. You are so tired that you can barely sit still for the stories about "old times." You are so uncomfortable in your own body that there is no place in the entire homestead to find rest or comfort. You can't figure out why you feel the way you do...the food was impeccable...your father was as engaging as ever...home was never more inviting, but the part of your holiday that you have longed for has become a total bust.

Welcome to the religious experience of millions of Christians. What should be time spent with the Father feasting on his presence, recalling his love and the joy of our relationship, and just being still and knowing him, turns into disillusionment, lethargy, and disappointment. Worship becomes a total bust.

Why? We're "fat on religion." If we ate like the illustration above on a regular basis, and did nothing to work off the calories, we'd be miserable to say the least. Yet we rarely think of what we are doing to ourselves when we spend all of our time feasting on the Word, but doing nothing to work the Word into our world.

We go to Bible School on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. We worship on Sunday mornings and go to Small Groups throughout the week. We are feasting, but what are we doing with all of this spiritual food we are taking in?

James wrote: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. He says that running our mouths will never change the world, but actually being missional in our service to people will.

If you are feeling lethargic in your worship...saturated to excess by your studies...joyless in your journey, it's time to stop getting fat on the word and begin exercising those spiritual muscles. If you'll do this, you'll be surprised at how soon you feel that hunger for God and joy in His presence again.

October 4, 2010

Just Do It...

A quote from “The Forgotten Ways Handbook” by Alan Hirsch: “The dangerous stories of Jesus are alive in his people, and in a very real way, we must actually become the gospel to the people around us. When we look at the phenomenal movements, we find that these groups found a way to translate the grand themes of the gospel into concrete life through the embodiment of Jesus in ways that were profoundly relational and attractive. This embodiment cannot be passed on through books: it is always communicated through life itself, by the leader to the community, from teacher to disciple,and from believer to believer.”

I once had a friend who loved baseball. He could tell you anything you wanted to know about the sport. He kept up with batting averages, player profiles, franchise histories, and team standings. His favorite team was the Reds and would endlessly argue the virtues of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and of course, Charley Hustle-Pete Rose.

I was always envious of his passion and his wealth of knowledge of the sport, that is until I actually "PLAYED" baseball with him. He stunk! He couldn't throw. He couldn't catch. And when I say he couldn't hit, I mean he couldn't even get the bat on the ball.

It was sad to see someone who loved a sport so much be so horrible at it. The reason he was horrible? He spent so much time watching it and talking about it, he never had time to actually "play ball."

I am often concerned about disciples for the same reason. We seem to know a great deal about what Hirsch calls the "dangerous story of Jesus." But when all is said and done, more is said than done. We have not been called by God to pool as much knowledge as possible, although knowing scripture is important. We were called to "go and make disciples." In other words, we are called to "play ball."

I think that we sometimes feel that we can think our way into different actions. We seem to want to learn everything we can about Jesus, hoping this will fuel our passions for His cause. However the great commission tells us the we are to "go and make disciples," meaning we should be people who instead of thinking our way into new actions, are people who act our way into new thinking. The successes and failures we have in real life discipleship are the fuels that cause us to want to serve, learn, and grow.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:14-18

September 29, 2010

Someone to Watch Over Me...

There’s a somebody I’m longin’ to see, I hope that he, turns out to be, someone who’ll watch over me... (Someone to Watch Over Me by George and Ira Gershwin)

Hanging on the wall beside my desk is a photo taken by my daughter for a local artists competition. Even though she won with another photo(said the proud father), the picture on my wall is my favorite. She entitled it, "The Guardian."

It is a picture of a statue mounted above the windows that are front and center of The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The statue is a Medieval Knight, the cross of Christ in one hand, the handle of a sheathed battle sword in the other. He stands at the ready to defend the castle against any and all intruders and exists for one reason only: the protection of the inhabitants of the house.

In 19th Century architecture, warriors, knights, and gargoyles were mounted on the window ledges and gables of many structures. Their purpose was to protect all who entered against evil and the spirits of evil. Biltmore is fully equipped with a variety of these protective statues.

Biltmore was a dream of George Vanderbilt's since childhood. Being a man born into great wealth, he wanted to build a modern castle in the Americas. The home took 7 years to built and in 1895 was completed. The floorspace of Biltmore is 175,000 square feet, the size of 88 average American houses and is the largest home in the United States. It served as a Vanderbilt homestead until 1956.

Its architect, builder, and owner was Vanderbilt himself. Vanderbilt was estimated to have a personal worth of over $200 million, which in today's economy would equal multiple Bill Gates'. Yet with all of his wealth, power and status, even a man of the stature of George Vanderbilt felt the need to build a place equipped with someone to watch over him...

...One of the greatest comforts of Christianity is that we have someone to watch over us.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:15-16

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

The LORD will protect you from all evil;He will keep your soul. Psalm 121:7

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

Every time I look at Olivia's photo and see the stone face of "The Guardian," I remember that I have a guardian who has promised to be with me always, created me in His image, and through His Son showed me that he would rather die than live without me. He truly is "someone to watch over me."

September 23, 2010

God: The Biscuit Maker (Part 3-The Oven)

The final entry of the "biscuit" series...

When I was a child, my mother used to make biscuits from scratch every morning. She would take real flour and sift it into a pile that looked like a little snow covered mountain. Then she would take two fingers and fashion a little cavern at the top. Lard (yes, animal fat), milk (buttermilk on special occasions), salt, and a generous portion of love were all thrown into the flour volcano, each element unmeasured, but always in the right amounts and at the right time.

Following this, Mom would work the dough together with her hands (she never used a spoon). Then she rolled out the dough and cut it into these huge round "cat-head" biscuits. Subjecting the dough to the crucible of the oven created the best biscuits ever!

Today's subject is: The Oven

Raw biscuits anyone? As much as I have glamorized and over-simplified God's work in making disciples by comparing it to my mother making biscuits, this last step is incredibly important to the process. Fire!

Biscuits aren't biscuits until they have been subjected to the precisely the right temperature...for exactly the right amount of time. The fire is what purifies them, solidifies them, and completes them. The fire gives them just the right crustiness while preserving their insides as the softest of textures.

God creates disciples in much the same way.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Christians aren't true disciples until they have gone through the fire. The pressures of life, the disappointments of humanity, and the overwhelming challenge of being able to handle prosperity. God allows us to endure each of precisely the right degree...for exactly the right amount of time. God's crucible purifies us, solidifies us, and completes us. In this process we receive our crustiness, the insight, street smarts, and maturity that keeps us from self destruction. And the fire also preserves the soft texture of our hearts, so that we can serve our world with kindness, compassion, and courage.

And in all of these things He is glorified!

If God truly uses ordinary people and ordinary circumstances to reveal His extraordinary nature, then I honestly believe He was in my childhood home working miracles in our kitchen. I saw God not in the biscuits I consumed, but in a mother's hands that created them with intense purpose, a servant's heart, and unconditional love.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

September 22, 2010

God: The Biscuit Maker (Part 2-Working Together)

As a continuation of the last post...

When I was a child, my mother used to make biscuits from scratch every morning. She would take real flour and sift it into a pile that looked like a little snow covered mountain. Then she would take two fingers and fashion a little cavern at the top. Lard (yes, animal fat), milk (buttermilk on special occasions), salt, and a generous portion of love were all thrown into the flour volcano, each element unmeasured, but always in the right amounts and at the right time.

Following this, Mom would work the dough together with her hands (she never used a spoon). Then she rolled out the dough and cut it into these huge round "cat-head" biscuits. Subjecting the dough to the crucible of the oven created the best biscuits ever!

Today's subject is: Working Together

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NASV)

As long as I live, I'll never forget watching my mother work the dough together with her hands. After the ingredients were added, she'd run her palms through some flour to keep the dough from sticking to her, then she would carefully press, squeeze, and fold the mixture until it was just the right consistency. Then she would force it into a new shape, cut it into discs, or just use her hands to fashion the dough into tiny pieces of heaven.

God does the same thing with us. When you think of the ingredients of biscuits, separately they are truly distasteful. Nobody gets hungry at 10pm and thinks to themselves, "I need some flour...if I just had a little lard, I could make it until breakfast...maybe some baking powder will hit the spot."

Like the ingredients of biscuits, we have individual events in our lives that are distasteful and undesirable on their own. It may be a rebellious child, an unexpected illness, an unfaithful partner, a disloyal friend.

But for some reason, those events shape who we are and in unexpected ways God's hand appears in our lives and works these events together, just like mom worked her dough. He sifts our experiences, folds our heartaches, presses and kneads our shortcomings and disappointments, and like sweet milk, He adds the joys of our lives into the mixture and creates a life that is abundant in Him.

Also, just as Mom never measured her ingredients and just seemed to know the right amounts of everything, God also knows just how much of each difficulty we need and can endure. Not only this, but He also knows when to add sweetness into our existence to keep us from becoming hardened by our circumstances.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13)

The key is submitting to the "working together." The last part of verse 28 is specific that the blessing of God's providence is reserved for those who love Him and are obedient to his call. -JD

September 20, 2010

God: The Biscuit Maker (Part 1-Sifting)

When I was a child, my mother used to make biscuits from scratch every morning. They were incredible little servings of heaven on a plate. These delicacies had everything a growing boy needs to become bigger and stronger than all of the other growing boys his age.

She would take real flour and sift it into a pile that looked like a little snow covered mountain. Then she would take two fingers and fashion a little cavern at the top. Lard (yes, animal fat), milk (buttermilk on special occasions), salt, and a generous portion of love were all thrown into the flour volcano, each element unmeasured, but always in the right amounts and at the right time.

Following this, Mom would work the dough together with her hands (she never used a spoon). Then she rolled out the dough and cut it into these huge round "cat-head" biscuits. Subjecting the dough to the crucible of the oven created the best biscuits ever!

For the next few posts, I'd like to examine God: The Biscuit Maker. How he uses my mother's biscuit making methods to create in us a spirit filled disciple, fit for use in his kingdom.

Today's subject is sifting...

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat..." Luke 22:31

When making biscuits, Mom would place raw (clumpy) flour into a sifter and bang the side of the cannister until a finer, more usable powder would appear. The flour was made usable by being forced through a mesh-type screen at the bottom of the cannister; separated into its smallest elements and then reunited in the "flour mountain."

For Peter, the sifting process was the same. In a span of less than 24 hours, he declared his unwavering loyalty, received an unflattering prophecy, and denied his master with uncharacteristic cowardice. How ashamed he must have been when, the Lord turned and looked at him after his final denial. (Luke 22:61) I can't think of any disciple who endured the emotional and spiritual beating Peter took during that short span of incredible crisis. This very raw fisher/follower was truly broken down into his smallest parts by being forced through a spiritual screen that would destroy his arrogance forever.

Sifting is an uncomfortable and necessary process for every disciple. God still sifts. Through circumstances we never seek and people we never expect, God allows us to be shaken and screened. It may be the loss of a job, the disloyalty of a spouse, the harsh words and anger of a friend, or an unexpected illness. But God allows this world to sift us, because if he didn't, we would think that what we have become in Him is our own doing...much like Peter. If we allow it, God will make us into something incredible. If we do not allow the sifting, we are destined to mediocrity and spiritual emptiness.

"...and you, when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32)

Just remember, Jesus had no plans for Peter to be sifted forever. He knew that His will for Peter would be manifested in powerful and significant ways. Jesus feels the same way about you. If you want to be a disciple of Christ, and have not been sifted, fasten your chinstrap because its coming. If you are going through sifting, remember two things: It is necessary...It is temporary. Like Peter, you will "turn again," and will be better prepared to strengthen your brothers. That's our calling. - JD

September 16, 2010

Free Flowers...Pick Some!

Years ago, in Columbus, Ohio, I saw a garden that was planted beside a busy intersection. In it were all sorts of colorful flowers. In front of the garden was a sign that simply said, “If you like these flowers, pick some!”

I suppose the person responsible for the garden simply wanted to share with others the things that brought simple beauty to their own life. Nothing brings us more joy than sharing the things we love with others.

In the Bible, I find little gardens of beauty planted in some of the busiest places. Some are colored with hope, some courage, and some strength. So today, I want to share with you a garden that has been special to me over the years. It is planted with faith and colored with fearlessness.

. . . “I am God. . . do not be afraid." (Genesis 46:3)

"Stay with me, do not be afraid . . . you are safe." (2 Samuel 22:23)

"Do not be afraid. . . remember the Lord is great and awesome." (Nehemiah 4:14)

"Do not be afraid . . . for I am with you to deliver you." (Jeremiah 1:8)

"Do not be afraid, only believe." (Mark 5:36)

"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid." (Mark 6:50)

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

"Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent." (Acts 18:9)

"Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to death and Hades." (Revelation 1: 17)
. . .

. . . All that’s left to say is: “If you like these flowers, pick some!” - JD

September 15, 2010

Pressed down...shaken together...overflowing

I always enjoy Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” I have my own rest of the story…
…When I was 17, my brother and father were killed suddenly in a household accident. After the funeral, my mother started assessing our finances and realized at the time that we only had fifty-two one dollar bills rolled up in a sock. Checking account was empty, no savings account. Fortunately my mother had a job and we had plenty of food in our pantry and freezer, so we weren’t going to starve.
I remember her telling me about the sock, and that she intended to give five of our fifty-two dollars to the church that Sunday as an act of faith. I thought she was crazy. You might think she was too…
…and now the rest of the story! Mom did as she promised and three days later, there was a knock at our door. Standing in the doorway was a man we had never seen before. He exchanged pleasantries with us and then got down to business. He had come to give us a check for $50,000. He stated that my father had a life insurance policy and it was his regretful pleasure to pay it off to us.
Why is this a big deal? Because mom could never find even one cancelled check made out to this insurance company to pay premiums on the policy.
Was this blind luck, mistaken identity, or just a fluke? You decide. But in my heart, I will always know where that money came from...
...I’m not writing this to say that giving to the church will create a financial windfall for you. However, God blesses those who give in faith in ways that we need most. When we put God first, He showers us with blessings … pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. (Luke 6:38) -JD

August 4, 2010

The Scripture...

Someone once said, "you need a song, a scripture, and a paragraph from a book to sustain your ministry."

My last two posts were about the paragraph and the song. Today's is about the scripture.

Choosing one scripture as your favorite is really difficult. However there is one scripture that I return to repeatedly as a source of hope, strength and encouragement.


But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

In a world gone mad, remembering that Jesus is enough...enough power to sustain us, enough presence to comfort us, enough savior to save very easy to forget. So when I need to know I haven't been forgotten, when I need to re-energize or just catch my breath, I go to this verse and sit at his feet. I don't pray, I don't sing, I don't question...I just sit quietly and know the He is enough. - JD

August 2, 2010

The Song...

Someone once said, "you need a song, a scripture, and a paragraph from a book to sustain your ministry."

So I thought I would share my Song, scripture, and paragraph. The last post was my missional paragraph, today, the song...

This is difficult for me on a couple of levels. I'm not a singer. Really, I'm not! There are songs that we (yes we) sing at my home church that I like the words, they make me reflect, and on occasion cause me to become emotional or set me to thinking spiritual thoughts.

But the song that I think of repeatedly, when I think of songs that have shaped my ministry and calling, is one I've never heard sung at my home church. My missional song is a simple one that I used to hear my mother and grandmother sing in the kitchen while preparing meals together. It's called, "I Love to Tell the Story."

As with most "CofCs," the first and last verses are my favorites...

Verse 1:
I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story,
'twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

Verse 4:
I love to tell the story,
for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting
to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'twill be the old, old story
that I have loved so long.


I know, I know, every preacher, and Christian, should love to tell the story. I guess I have heard so many guys preach sermons involving personal anecdotes, motivational philosophies, etc. (without even mentioning Jesus) that making this a focal point of my ministry is important to me.

Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32). May we all see lifting Jesus up as our highest priority. May we all "love to tell the story." - JD

July 29, 2010

The Paragraph...

I once heard a preacher say, "you need a song, a scripture, and a paragraph from a book to sustain your ministry." I thought about this for a while, because the conservative theologian in me said, "what could possible sustain a ministry besides scripture?" But the more I considered this statement, and the true-disciple style of living of the one who made it, I think he could be right. All of these things can shape our God-view, reveal a little about ourselves, and provide some sort of basis for our philosophies of ministry.

So I thought I would share my Song, scripture, and paragraph. Today, the paragraph...

Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the God of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God.

Jesus asked for everything, but we try to give Him less.

As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there's no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are "lukewarm" are not Christians. The thought of a person calling himself a Christian without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.

For years I gave God leftovers and felt no shame. I simply took my eyes off Scripture and instead compared myself to others. The bones I threw at God had more meat on them then the bones others threw, so I figured I was doing fine.

Hosea 13:6 "When I fed them they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me."

Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one who matters) they're evil. Lets stop calling it a "busy schedule" or "bills" or "forgetfulness". Its called evil.

I'd rather you not say anything than compliments me out of obligation or guilt. Why would we think god is any different? He is saying that no worship is better than apathetic worship. I wonder how many church doors God wants to shut today?

Tim Kizziar said, "Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be failure but if succeeding at things in life that don't really matter"

From Crazy Love by Francis Chan


Okay, so its more than a paragraph. It is an excerpt. But I am challenged by its content. I enjoy Chan's writing and speaking because he is honest and gutsy. Very much like Jeremiah, he is unashamed of his deep devotion to God, and his true concern for God's people.

For me, it all goes back to how God views my commitment, relationship with Him, and my purpose for ministry. If I fail in any of those areas, I fail in all.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. James 5:12
- JD

July 28, 2010

The Calling of Joshua

As the book of Joshua begins, God passes the leadership baton from Moses to Joshua. Then He charges him with words that are both powerful and clear. They are a still a clarion call to all who would lead God's people:

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:6-9

God still calls people to positions of leadership...yet we seem to want to measure leadership by what has worked in business or politics to gain power and influence.

May God's leaders return to this passage and seek the leadership style of Joshua. The timing is just as critical and true biblical leadership is becoming extinct. -JD

July 27, 2010

If I were only Cool...

The problem with being an Average Joe is that your are just that...Average. When I dwell on it, I hate being average. Who in their right mind would choose "Average Joe" over being "Joe Cool!"

I wish I could invent the camera that takes a shot of me and it comes out looking like Keanu Reeves. Or better yet, I actually looked like Keanu Reeves. I wish my clothes fit like they do on the mannequin, but there are no paunchy mannequins at J.C. Penney's, so that's out. I wish my intellect rivaled that of some of the great thinkers and/or theologians in our world, but that's really not me either.

I often catch myself seeing people on TV or the movies who speak well and are good looking and think, "if I were only more like them, I could really do great things." Maybe if I used the latest technology, used younger terminology, or spoke in a more professional tone, I would be cool or at least not so average.

But, for me, here is the real rub. Sometimes I let my "averageness" get in the way of God's calling for me. I'm like the little boy with a speech impediment who eventually thinks that because he has trouble being understood, he has nothing to say. You see, God uses average people as his tools more often than not. Look at the apostles...I'm not even average enough to fit in with them; and they changed the world.

Maybe being an Average Joe isn't so bad. I work hard every day, go home to my family when the day is done. I have kids who are pretty good kids considering, and I am married to a woman who is not only a good wife and good mother, but is genuinely a good person. I love God, even if I do screw up my relationship with him from time to time and I feel I understand his calling for me.

I was recently asked, "if you could go back in time and become anything in the world you want to be, what would you become?" My answer? "Me. But I'd become me alot faster!" I love what I do, I love where I do it, I love who I do it for and I love who I do it with. So if that's not cool, I think I can live with it.

Most folks would say, "if that's the definition of Average, sign me up!"

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6 -JD

July 26, 2010

Average Joe Has a Bad Day

When my children were very young, my wife and I would always make a point to read to them at bedtime. There were several books that we loved to read, and after a few years of listening to bedtime stories, my children could quote the books by heart. For me, there were four books that I loved most. I really like Max Lucado's Just in Case You Ever Wonder...Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree...and Robert Munsch's Love You Forever.

But lately a little boy named Alexander keeps coming to mind. Judith Viorst wrote a book entitled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Its a story of a little boy who encounters circumstances that are clearly worse than most children would ever encounter. Just when one happening is dealt with, another problem occurs. I enjoyed reading the book because it taught my children that no matter how bad things might get, somebody probably has it worse than you...namely Alexander.

Recently, I've felt Alexander's pain. Just when one problem seems solved, another bigger one appears out of thin air. When you deal with people who you actually love and care for as family (and who are messy to begin with) this becomes an even more tricky proposition. You wonder why people are the way they are, and act the way they act.

Today I thought of Alexander and the lesson he taught me and my children. It can always be worse. Better than that, my Lord has taught me that no matter how difficult the road may be, no matter the trials, no matter the temptations; I still have someone on my side who "gets it." With Jesus a good day is a great day, and a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Really Bad Day is still a great day because He'll endure it with me.

And today...right now...for me...that's enough!

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 - JD

July 23, 2010

Gray Christians

I was getting dressed last Sunday morning and was attempting to find a pair of pants that matched the shirt I wanted to wear. I’m not sure why I choose a shirt color first, but I always do...and then try to find pants to match. I looked through my closet, and decided that the only thing I had that would match were gray pants. You know, universal gray, battleship gray, colorless gray, personality-voiding gray.

As you probably know by now, I’m not a fan of gray. Probably because, in my mind, its not really a color. It is just a dull mixture of black and white, light and the absence thereof. (By the way, black and white aren’t even colors) Gray is attention deflecting and non-descript. Gray universally matches nearly everything and nothing simultaneously. Worst of all, its universally accepted.

I’ve never hated gray more than I did a couple of weeks ago. I had a sermon prepared with a video and slides called “The Red Balloon.” When I arrived early Sunday morning, we tested the slides and video as we always do. But on this day, due to some technological mumbo jumbo, my red balloons were a really dark gray on the big screens. Fortunately, the A/V team figured out the problem by doing some of their A/V hocus pocus (which, by the way, always cancels out mumbo jumbo) and the balloons were red again.

Just as gray is non-descript, red is vivid. It is truly indescribable, beautiful and certainly is attention grabbing. When I think of Christianity, I think of these attributes...vivid, beautiful and attention-grabbing. Why else would Jesus say if we lift Him up all men would be drawn to him?

Satan tries to get us to see ourselves and our Lord as gray. You know, colorless, dull, absent of light, non-descript, and worst of all, universally accepted. He distracts our focus from the One who truly makes life vivid and beautiful by painting our heart with the “gray goop of nothingness.”

God has called us to live in the world, but not be of the world (John 17). We are challenged to be a peculiar people (Titus 2). We are told not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2). Being intentional about these callings from God are what paints our lives a vivid red. It makes us stand out enough ito attract attention to something bigger than us. Matthew 5:16 screams... In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Do you want to change the world? Stop being like it. You want to attract attention? Be different when it matters. You want to make a difference? Only love what can love you back. Live a life that is vivid, beautiful, attention grabbing and glorifying to God!

(If you’re wearing gray, sorry. I’ll bet it looks good on you.)

- JD

Just Getting Started

What has passed for Christianity in the eyes of church goers, will never pass for discipleship in the eyes of our Creator. We only have a few years on this spinning ball of dirt...let's make them count by reaching the world for the One who made this ball from nothing. And maybe we will change our own hearts and attitudes in the process. You just never know.

So let's get started...
- JD