3 Rules for My Son.

The three-color system makes sense to an adult especially if it mimics a traffic light. “Green” means go, or good, “yellow” is cautious, or warning and “red” is most definitely stop. I wish my son’s teacher’s system was this simple but alas it’s a six-color coded system.

Last year, the teacher at my son’s school implemented a color-coded behavior chart. If you’re a parent then you are probably familiar with this kind of positive behavior reinforcement. The three-color system makes sense to an adult especially if it mimics a traffic light. “Green” means go, or good, “yellow” is cautious, or warning and “red” is most definitely stop. I wish my son’s teacher’s system was this simple but alas it’s a six-color coded system.

Purple

Blue

Green

Yellow

Orange

Red

As I think about this system, it’s effortless to get to Red. It seems nearly impossible to get to Purple. Of course on day 1, everyone starts on a level playing field. Everybody is green. You only have 2 steps to get to Purple and 3 steps to get to Red. There was a time that it seemed every day was a Yellow, Orange, and even a Red day. I would arrive at the school to pick him up and he would walk towards me with his head low. The teacher was right behind him. While speaking with her about his behavior, I would be looking at the folder to see yellow, orange, orange, yellow, yellow, red, yellow, orange. It seemed hopeless. My son was becoming the repeat offender. The type of individual that when caught misbehaving it was much easier to punish than a person that wasn’t an offender. If you watch football or hockey, you know them as the dirty players that when they make even a questionable hit you as the fan want them banned for life. 

My wife and I came to a point where we didn’t know what to do. We wanted our son to do well, but he was starting to be a problem to his teacher and by association his class because of the distractions he was creating. After reading a few different articles and praying over the situation, it dawned on me to no longer care about the results of his day and instead to love him and lay out our expectations for him.

I would tell him and demonstrate to him each day my love for him whether the results of his work would be Purple, Green, Orange, or Red. I also laid out three simple rules that he was to follow:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… (Colossians 3:23 ESV)

I was never a straight-A student and my parents never got on my back for being a straight-A student. We can put a lot of stress on people to be perfect, and often we fail. But if our work can be good, and our attitude is to be excellent at it to work for the Lord, then our results will be different. Mike Rowe once said, “never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19 ESV)

My son is exactly like me. Once I dig into whatever work I’m doing I have a one-track mind. There is no multi-tasking. If I’m not looking at you I’m not listening to you. It’s a gift and a curse. My son can be knee-deep in LEGOs, spelling, or playing with cars and it takes the Jaws of Life of the mind to break him out of his trance. 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

My son is friendly. My wife shared a story with me about an older kid that had the same pair of shoes that he did. My mother blessed the kids with new shoes for the school year and so he picked out the new Jordan Retro 4s in gray. I tried sliding in a pair for me and she said no way. But my son was ecstatic when he saw the older kid and said “Mommy! That kid has the same shoes as me! I want to go up and show him!” My wife looked at him like he was crazy. The kid was probably in 3rd or 4th grade and didn’t want my son to possibly experience the pain of being called a loser as older kids tend to not want to be around little kids. Against her judgment though, she let him go. He ran. She watched the interaction. He turned and ran back to her with this substantial grin on his face. The older kid called him cool. 

I laid out these 3 rules; work hard, listen the first time, and be a good friend so that he can focus on the freedom found in boundaries. Often, when we’re told this is the reward and you can’t do X, Y, Z, we get stuck on what we can’t do. But if we can find freedom in what we can do it often leads to more prosperity. If you read through the book of Proverbs it often says “Blessed is the person that does X…” often followed by “a fool does Y.” The blessed life comes from the freedoms and the permissions of what we can do. 

And while though my son never hit purple, the teacher had tremendous blessings on his name for the turn around that he achieved. But it all started with one thing. I expressly, and intentionally, poured out my love to him.

We Should Take the Sabbath More Seriously

On a typical Sunday, I (theoretically) get to sleep in more than any other day of the week. Add to that that we moved to a new house that is a two-minute drive from our church. I say it’s a theory because it doesn’t really matter what time I go to bed… my body says it’s time to get up at 6:30 am. We have been, for a lack of a better word, busy with stuff. So on the one day of the week where there is nothing planned except to gather with other believers at our church I decided to make the executive decision to skip church so our family can just rest. So how did that turn out?

I did the laundry.

I cleaned.

The kids cleaned.

My wife cleaned.

We both did dishes at different times of the day.

I folded the clothes.

She cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

She went grocery shopping.

We all did anything and everything except the reason for not going to church. Rest just didn’t happen. And now here I sit on a dreary, raining Monday morning still tired.

God, in his ways, may have been speaking to me directly yesterday and this morning. Since we wouldn’t be in church, I still needed to post for our church’s social media account and I went to the Bible app for inspiration and strange enough it was Psalm 23. That famous passage that declares “He makes me lie down” (v. 2). Then, later in the evening as I’m “wasting time” with video games we get a black-out. That was 10pm which is what I’ve designated as bedtime for me. “The powers at be” are like nah fam, we’re shutting off the power. Then this morning, I’m looking at the rain and my devotional from HeReadsTruth is Zechariah 10:1-12, “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain…”

IMG_0763

From Jared Kennedy at HeReadsTruth: Zechariah’s prophecy is a reminder that God can make even dry ground lush again.

Call it a coincidence, call it God speaking, call it what you want… we should take the Sabbath more seriously.

What is the Sabbath? A day of rest AND worship set aside by God. Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Take time this week to join me and let’s rest.

Read This If You Want to Know God’s Plan For Your Life

We’ve made this idea way too important and stupidly complicated.

I have discovered the “secret” to God’s plan for your life. No, this isn’t going to be a corny joke about Drake’s song.

giphy-2

And no, this isn’t a click-bait title. In fact, I’m going to tell you the answer right now instead of making you wait and have to read the entire thing before seeing what the answer is. Because we all know articles like that and they are the absolute worst.

giphy

So are you ready?

Here it is.

God’s purpose for your life is to give God glory.

You’re probably totally disappointed in that answer. But it is true.

giphy-3.gif

So here’s my evidence.

Genesis 12:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 10:31

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

God has, is, and will always be a God of blessing. Since the beginning, Genesis 1, God blesses what He created. This has been His plan all along. And in Genesis 12 He says to Abram, who becomes Abraham, “I will bless you.” Which is the nice part that everybody wants. But it’s not the full picture. God continues and says “so that you will be a blessing.” And then God reinforces this idea by stating “IN YOU all the families of the earth shall be blessed (emphasis mine).” While God is speaking this specifically to Abraham, the truth that we can pull from is that as part of this family under Christ we are to also bless others. We see this theme pop up all over the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 9:11 ““You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (ESV‬‬). God enriches people to be generous. 1 Peter 3:9 says don’t get revenge but instead bless. Other references are James 1:27, Romans 12:13, Galatians 6:2, and Luke 6:38.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

There is freedom in our abilities to bless others. Do you find it perplexing that when we are presented an opportunity, we ask is this what God wants for me especially after it had been something we had been praying for? We pray for our daily needs as Jesus says in Matthew 6. But then when we what we are praying for falls into our lap, we pray again and wait for a sign that this IS from God. I wonder if this distinctly a western Christian thing. Here is what usually happens:

Us: “God, I need a job. Please bless me with a job opportunity…”

Job: “Hi, we want to hire you.”

Us: “Okay I’ll give you a response soon.”

Also us: “Everyone, be praying for me, I don’t know if this is God’s will.”

giphy-4.gif

Do you see how crazy that sounds? As if God did not already have His hand in that? For us, we are not going to know every little detail of where God wants us to be. And it is not something that we need to be stressing over. We are given freedom in choices and in those choices we are to give glory to God. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

So there you go. I’m not going to end this with some beautifully worded soliloquy. I want to spell it out plainly.

God’s plan for your life is to be a blessing to others at every juncture of your life for His glory.

Teams.

The story about teams is an incomplete story.

My teams did not do well this year.

I gave up on the Pittsburgh Pirates. My Steelers we’re doing really well, but then the powers to be just decided to bring a bad juju (pun intended) over the whole place. And the Penguins are starting to flash signs of brilliance, but man it’s been a rough ride to this point. I used to be at an emotional place where if any of these teams lost, it ruined my whole day. It’s sad, but it’s true.

But when my team wins, man, I’m on cloud 9. You can’t tell me nothing! I feel like a king and that nothing can go wrong. Especially now that I’m living in Cincinnati. When the Steelers beat the Bengals… well I can’t describe it in words, but a picture says a thousand words…

vincemcmahon

But there’s a small problem that comes with teams…

It’s the negative side to teams that we call tribalism. Tribalism is the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group (Dictionary.com). Tribalism puts race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, or any other describing factor above the individual. If I am black then I must view the world this way. If I am white then I must view the world that way. If I am a woman then I must view it in another way. And if I am any other descriptor then I must view it in that particular way. But I can not hold a certain view of the world if it does not align with my tribe.

Our bias is our inability to admit faults. One of our team players does something, typically wrong, and we turn a blind eye. When someone on the opposing team does that same thing or something close to it, we point it out and make a big deal of it. And we see it often in this new age of politics that we’re in. With the government currently being shut down and no compromise in sight, it leaves federal workers with no work and ultimately no pay. So you hear individuals on one side of the aisle say “well what about when Obama shut down the government over healthcare?” That’s what we refer to as whataboutism.

And at the root of all of these problems is pride. Pride was the reason for the fall of Satan (Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14) and pride was what Satan used to bring down Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). The sin of pride, or the love of self, is the antithesis of Christianity. Jesus said in Matthew 22 (and Mark 12, and Luke 10, and for the division in the Church in John 13) that you should love God and love your neighbor. There is no place for different teams in the Kingdom of God. Teams compete, they do not work together. This idea of love God and love others has been present since Abraham in Genesis 12. The emphasis is mine. “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

I took a Lyft home from the car dealership. During the ride, I got to talking about life with the driver. I asked if he worked elsewhere before driving with Lyft. He said he worked in a sales position but that his boss was a real jerk. He said, “I’m too good for this, I’m going to go elsewhere where I can be in charge of my situation, and if anyone is going to to be a jerk it’ll be me.” I asked him if he’s lived in Cincinnati and he said no that he lived in Florida. “My wife and I got divorced. We were married for 12 years and things were ok. But I wanted better than ok.” Pride doesn’t always come in the form of “LOOK AT ME! I AM THE BEST!” Often it’s self-serving.

Bless me, God. Bless my team.

It’s wrong because it’s incomplete.

The Real Problem of John Gray

What I do know is that I relate to his current situation and I extend him grace and prayers just like I have been extended grace and prayers through the same choice that I made.

I hate doing this. But I need to address it to get to my main point. I don’t know what’s going on with Pastor John Gray and his wife. There are lots of speculation that you could look up and research. And you’re going to find some nasty stuff written about a guy that did a heartbreaking thing to his family. I believe that he’s a genuine guy though I don’t know him personally. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt on his outward integrity that he’s shown through the years. I can’t see into his heart so he could have gotten caught up, or he could be a terrible, evil person. What I do know is that I relate to his current situation and I extend him grace and prayers just like I have been extended grace and prayers through the same choices that I made.

With all that said, the issue I want to address is that he bought his wife a Lamborghini. I can’t tell you how much it costs except that it’s a lot. I can’t afford one and probably never will be able to afford one but we need to talk about the self-righteousness of it all. I want this blog post to be specifically laid out for my fellow Christ believers. If you’re an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, or anything else, this post isn’t for you. This is laid out for my fellow Christians. You can continue reading or you can stop but the message isn’t for you. It’s an internal, personal conviction that I want to share to other Christians to think differently about the John Gray situation. I wish you all the best, I’ll write to you on the next one. Much love.

I was talking with my wife about the situation because John spoke at our church’s 40th-anniversary celebration. I mentioned to her that he bought a Lamborghini for his wife, and how I said it was a bad look. She semi-agreed though gave me push back because he said the money came from his book deals, TV shows, and other sources of income not tied to the church giving. You would think by being in ministry and having a “lavish” lifestyle are incongruent, and at first thought, I would agree 100%. These two ideas are incompatible. I started to rebut my wife about John and I stopped. I was immediately convicted.

We left our jobs to do missions in the inner city and due to the nature of missions, we have to raise our own support. That means we have to meet with people that we know and love and meet people that we don’t know but want to love on as they walk with us on our journey. Missions come with an image that the individual or family must take a vow of poverty and wear potato sacks for the rest of their lives. If need be for a car, I would have to search for the beat-up pinto as a badge of honor. But I know God doesn’t want us to struggle. He wants us to be wise in our spending, not lavish, but smart. And we’re trying our best to strive for wisdom in how to spend the donations and support that people give. We sit and pray and decide what the most pressing needs for the ministry and the family are. And it’s Satan that puts the temptation in our ear to treat ourselves. Instead of what need to do.

It was a megachurch pastor that bought a multi-million dollar home. It was another megachurch pastor that asked for a multi-million dollar private jet. And it’s John Gray, a megachurch pastor, that purchased his wife a Lamborghini. And it’s so easy to pick on these individuals and say “see, it’s all these fake Christians that want to use this book of fairy tales so they can get rich off the backs of good-hearted people.” I’ve said this myself, and for that, I repent. We say these things because we know million dollar homes make our purchase of a $1000 iPhone more justified. Million dollar jets become the vice for us buying $200 shoes. And Lamborghinis make our unneeded spending Starbucks and Target right.

The disposable income that we have can change the world. Think to yourself this past week the number of times you went out for fast food when you could have easily made a sandwich at home. Think to yourself the last time you went to a coffee shop when in reality you walk past a perfectly good-working coffee pot that goes unused each morning. Did you really need that new pair of jeans when you have five pairs of pants that go unworn day in and day out sitting at the bottom of your drawers?

Honestly, I’m talking about myself, as last week I went to Chipotle when I could have made any type of sandwich in our kitchen. I didn’t need those two Monster energy drinks when I have coffee and tea at home. And I definitely need a new pair of pants as there are literally five different pants that I haven’t worn because “I don’t like them.”

Just airing this all out there as my conviction. Every day I’m trying to kill myself…

Kill my self-righteousness.

I Don’t Plan on Reading the Bible This Year

Is it as good as Charles Dickens, or Ernest Hemingway?

It’s the beginning of the new year and as per usual I’ve been enjoying reading everyone’s plan for their resolutions to make this year better than the last. I write this from the comfy chair of the gym that I work part time at. All new faces of people that weren’t here last year quickly buzz themselves into the doors with a new look on life. I’m definitely not going to judge them on their resolutions either. Though most resolutions last 3 months, I say better 3 months than 0 months.

It’s difficult to keep these resolutions or new habits. It’s like the saying goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Whether it’s eating healthy instead of junk food, or reading a book and not binging the same episode of The Office for the umpteenth time, or working out and not fitness…fitting this…whole cake in my mouth we tend to be creatures of our old habits that we resort back to.

So that’s why I don’t plan on reading the Bible this year, and you shouldn’t either. The Bible is a wonderful book filled with amazing stories of whimsy and wonder. Battle scenes that would rival the best scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Stories of strong men that killed 300 some people with a jaw bone. Hollywood should seriously think about picking this thing up and putting together some awesome films with it instead of the same recycled comic book hero film or a remake of a movie from the 80s and 90s… seriously though how many remakes do we really need?

If the Bible truly is the inerrant… the infallible… the inspired word of God, shouldn’t we do more than just read this thing? If God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than any sword, that splits the joints and marrow that judges our thoughts and motives (my paraphrase of Hebrews 4) shouldn’t it be taken more seriously than if it were a novel by George R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, or Stephen King? If we are to read this collection of books and letters by some 66 different authors over thousands of years that all points to the Christ. His sacrifice for all humanity in the greatest story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. Then my, yours, and everyone’s actions and behaviors in their life should be one beggar pointing to another beggar where the bread is.

This should be more than a read through to make a mark on a checklist in our own lives. The study of these sacred writings should bring about immediate change. Freedom in obedience that defeats the temptation of our sins. The application of our study should AND can bring about the beautiful mirror image of the kingdom of heaven here on earth. But, if it is just another reading and nothing more…

Well quite frankly, I’d rather watch the movie instead.

This is the Most Important Day for the Rest of our Lives.

Happy Mid Term Elections Eve Day! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited since Christmas Eve’s Day 2018. Tomorrow, all across this great country people will be heading out to the polls to cast their ballot to see what direction this country heads. Republicans look to keep majorities in the House and Senate to push through their agendas, while Democrats look to take control so that they can do things their way.

If you’re the type of person that enjoys harming themselves like I do, you’ve been watching all the news cycles and panelist discussions staking the claim that “THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES!”

But in fact, Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 is not “THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES!” Whatever day is “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November” every two years will theoretically be “THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES!”

What if I deny myself and say “you know what, you’re right,” will that bring us closer together relationally?

This morning my wife said to me “babe, I love you and today I’m going to get up early, get the kids dressed, and take them into school.” Wow I thought, she must reaaaaaaaally love me. And she does but it’s also my birthday. But it brought me closer to her relationally.

One call of the Christ-follower according to Romans 12:10 is to “be  devoted to one another in love, Honor one another above yourselves (NIV).” Another translation, HCSB, says outdo one another. What if every relationship we had with each other we attempted to one-up each other in the area of respect? It’s door opening for each other. At work, I would usually get to the office at the same time as this other guy and our building had double doors, so if he got to the door first he would open it for me, but then upon entering was another set of doors that I would then open for him. If I was truly selfish, I would take the door from him but then say “screw off” and not hold the second door for him. It’s a way for us to move closer.

So on the night of Tuesday, November 6th, 2018, prepare yourself. After all the votes are tallied you’ll see your side may win or, your side may lose. But what’s important is how we relate to each other the next day. For it’s November 7th, that is the most important day for the rest of our lives.