Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: March 2021

Dayhorses and Dreams

I was afraid of the dark when I was a young boy. Who am I kidding? I’m still not too fond of the dark.

I was really afraid; monsters under my bed, someone peeking in the window. I was even afraid to reach down and pull the covers up! My dad would come do it for me.

I would tell my dad that I was afraid of nightmares, and so he would tell me to have dayhorses. He did. Now you know where my corn was plucked.

What dad was essentially telling me was to spend my waking hours dreaming of positive things, so that I could only dream at night.

Scripture teaches us the wonderful principle of keeping our mind thinking and engaging on the better things. Paul, writing to the Philippians, says, “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8,9.

Fix your thoughts, think about.

Today I’ve been having nightmares. I’ve been allowing my mind to take me in all kinds of wrong directions. There are good reasons. We all have good reasons to be worried, fearful, overwhelmed, doubtful.

That’s where I’ve been for the past few days. For all the good reasons, I’ve allowed myself to have nightmares instead of dayhorses.

There’s a better reason to ignore good reasons for worry and depression. The better reason is the peace of God that comes with fixing my thoughts on what to think about.

Have you ever seen Cool Hand Luke? Its an old film about a guy who ends up in prison; a chain gang in old Louisiana. The warden’s philosophy is that if someone does wrong, put them into a hot box without food and water until they “get their mind right.” Strother Martin says to Paul Newman, “you gotta get your mind right, Luke.”

This is the way the enemy of our soul works. We listen to the wrong voices and find ourselves with “stinking thinking.” If I can spend more time in the hot box, I’ll “get my mind right.” This is contrary to the pathway to peace.

Self loathing, self destructive thoughts… and actions, ironically do nothing to improve one’s self! Our minds have to be transformed, (Romans 12); sometimes, multiple times per day. Its the dream should focus on; the dayhorses, not the nightmares.

Do You Remember Fotomat?

Before the digital age, there was fotomat. The customer pulled up to the small booth, handed over the film to be developed, and could return to pick it up…in about two weeks. Then one hour processing came along, and put Fotomat out of business.

Fifty years ago, we were accustomed to waiting on things. Even the advent of the microwave oven didn’t speed things up so much.

Charlie Brown cartoons were only available to be viewed once per year. There was no 24 hour cartoon channel, or “on demand.”

There were these things called “letters.” People would write words on a piece of paper, put them in an envelope, and mail them. 2-3 days later, the addressee would receive the news.

Long distance phone calls were for the rich. Of course, no one had a mobile phone, except for TV spies who had a “car phone.”

Fifty years ago, we had to wait.

This may sound like a complaint, but its not. After all, this is a digital blog! Someone has said that the digital world is the biggest thing since Guttenberg’s press. I agree. It is BIG, and it will only get bigger.

I believe what the Bible reads. In Revelation, the story is recounted how that two witnesses will be slain in the street, and the whole world will see it – and send gifts to one another. In a previous generation, this would be nearly impossible; but now, we see headlines in action. We can do many things immediately.

What we cannot do, no matter how hard we try, and advanced our technology gets, is hurry God along. One of the unfortunate consequences of immediate access, is that we can attempt to hurry God along; “on demand” “one hour or less” “same day shipping.”

The disciples were overwhelmed with grief when Jesus went into the garden to pray. They were sleeping – overwhelmed – with sorrow. Jesus took time to pray.

Read that aloud. Jesus took time to pray.

This was not an unusual practice for Jesus, nor was it a fire-alarm response. Jesus always took time to pray. Jesus took time to pray when He was experiencing wonderful ministry campaigns. Jesus took time to pray when He found out that His cousin was murdered. Jesus took time to pray at earlier hours and late at night.

Prayer is the language of heaven. In this season (lent) and every season, let’s “approach the throne room of grace to find help in the time of need.” Let’s not hurry. Let us pray.

The Very Unpopular Idea

Have you ever had a good idea? Its like “somebody oughta…” The ideas we get can then take shape, form, and with initiative, become reality.

Then there’s the bad ideas.

My older brother Jeff could always talk me into doing bad ideas. Here’s one: we were both mad scientists. We’d mix stuff together to see what would happen. One day, my brother mixed some stuff in the sink, and then said, “hey Darius, come smell this.” I did. I lost my breath. I thought I was dying.

My brother had mixed chlorine with ammonia. Bad idea.

There have, no doubt, been many bad ideas in history. What makes an idea bad is whether or not it benefits the good of others.

So, imagine Jesus saying, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24. He even ups the ante by saying that anyone who doesn’t hate his own life, and the life of this natural family isn’t worthy of being His disciple.

No Novel Peace Prize for you, Jesus.

What Jesus should have said was, believe in yourself, live your best life now, and follow your dreams. This is a much better idea, because it benefits the good of others. I mean, who wants to hang around someone who is self actualized and has an impressive portfolio, both personal and professional?

Why would Jesus say such terrible words? Didn’t He come to make the world a better place? In a word, no.

Jesus came to tear down the structures of man attempting to make things better. This kind of thinking; self actualization, is the tower of babel at best and the advancing of the kingdom of darkness at worst.

Jesus didn’t beg his followers to hang around when the heat was on. As a matter of fact, when the many turned away, He asked the twelve, “are you going to leave as well?” If Jesus would have begged the twelve to stay, it would have cut the legs away from “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Jesus was telling them then that He was heading toward an undeserved death on an undeserved torturous death…and was inviting the twelve to come along. Bonhoffer said that Jesus bid us “come and die.”

This “bad idea” led those who remained with Jesus to high adventure. They discovered the joy of suffering, the blessing of ministry, and the comfort of deep fellowship. The bad of idea of self denial has become the bliss of millions.

Hebrews 11 says that they all died in faith, and looked for a city to come.

That’s not so bad afterall.

The Power of One

The phrase “the power of one” became en vogue in the early 21st century. Its a truism. One person can really make a difference.

There’s another aspect of the power of one.

One person made all the difference, and that difference is an exclusive one. Jesus, the one and only begotten son of God, made this statement in John 14: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

That’s the power of one.

This is the message of God to mankind from the dawn of creation. There is only one God. He created all that ever was and ever will be. Through mankind’s sin, He promised a way to destroy the power of sin, and that was by sending His one and only begotten son to die an undeserved death for our (the human race’s) sin.

This is the gospel. There is no getting around it. The saving power for humans is only through the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Paul and Silas were in jail in the first century. They went to jail for telling this very story; that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. This account is found in Acts 16.

While in jail, the prison guard on duty attempted to kill himself because of the potential jail break. Paul assured him that no one had escaped. The jailer asked a question; perhaps even motivated by self preservation over eternal matters: “what must I do to be saved?” Paul gave him a straight forward answer to the question, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Here’s the question: what must I do to be saved?

Here’s the straight forward, no holes barred, answer: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Then a promise is made that would include his entire household!

In modern times, the question is often not answered at all, or deflected, or completely lost in a myriad of “whataboutisms.”

Here’s the truth: many have been abused by those claiming to be God’s followers and His voice; Jesus is still the only way to God. Many have been forced into conversion statements and rejection of culture that has nothing to do with following Jesus; Jesus is still the only way to God. Many have been completely sincere in their path; even doing good for humanity, but not putting faith exclusively in the finished work of Jesus Christ; Jesus is still the only way to God.

There is no exhaustive list of alternative paths to God. There is, on the other hand, an exhaustive list of truth – Jesus Christ, the one and only provision – the one who paid the price for our sin, once and for all; He is the only way to God.

That’s the power of one.

Would You Take a Spanking for Someone?

When my children were growing up, they picked up a poor habit that they vicariously adopted from my wife and I. Here’s the horrible habit: when one of their siblings were getting a spanking, they would sit outside the door and listen. Faith and I never “taught” them to do this, but I confess, I did it when I was growing up.

Its like slowing down at an accident.

Its bad, but we can’t seem to turn away.

What I never did, nor my children did, was to volunteer to stand in for their sibling. “Dad, I know that she did this, but go ahead and give me the spanking.” Never happened.

Now before you get overly concerned about spanking, this is not about the right / wrong of spanking. I will cover that in another time. Suffice to say, there’s a difference between spanking and beating; between correction and abuse.

Today we are more concerned about justice than we ever have been. I think that is good. People that do wrong to others should face certain justice, and society should shore up our attitude towards crime and justice.

Additionally, our efforts for justice are also carrying a missing tone; the community, not lashing out and rising up, but mourning and realizing that “it could have been me.” There are those that feel that some are innocent and others are guilty. Perhaps this is true for certain crimes and injustices, but we all should bear the burden of responsibility.

Isaiah 53 has many benefits for humanity: “by His stripes we are healed.” The same scripture that promises us healing, accuses us of wrong doing. The prophet points out that it is OUR weakness that he carried, OUR sorrows that weighed upon Him, OUR rebellion that caused Him to be pierced, OUR punishment due was upon Him, ALL of us like sheep have wandered…

In other words, no one is innocent; not even one. Romans 3.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8, there is an extraordinary work of healing activity going on. Matthew observes over and over in his gospel these words, “that it might be fulfilled.” Matthew observes after that great day of healing and deliverance, “that it might be fulfilled” Isaiah 53:4 “…He took our sickness and removed our diseases.”

This was before Jesus died on the cross. He was “carrying” them to the cross.

He took our place.

There is wonderful peace and joy when we realize that God isn’t looking for us to show him how good we are. He isn’t looking for us to show others how good we are, or how well we are. He most certainly isn’t looking for us to try and take care of it ourselves, because “He carried our griefs and our sorrows.” By His stripes, the ones that should have been put upon me, we are healed.

Let us go and do likewise.

Getting Smeared

When I was a boy, we played games like red rover, tag in several variations, baseball in the streets, and a game that we can’t say anymore, but it includes the word “smear.” The basic idea was to really hurt the kid with the ball. Very few rules were involved; just hurt the guy with the ball…if there was no ball, just hurt the guy.

Smearing also is a word used in politics and newspapers. The general idea is to totally ruin someone’s reputation.

Now think about the word “anointed.” If you’re not a church person, you may not be familiar with the word; maybe “christen” is more familiar. To christen brings visions of a ship going out to sea for the first time, with a good looking woman smashing a champagne bottle against the study bow. Perhaps we think of a king or queen being coronated, and the regalia that accompanies the event. Babies being touched ever so sweetly on their heads by a priest; getting christened.

Few of us think of anointing being smashed, smeared, rubbed in; but that indeed is what the word “anointing” means in the Bible. We can see a visual of this when we think of having stiff joints, or muscle pain; we “rub in” some Ben Gay in the hope of a deep and penetrating affect.

When Jesus came to the earth, He set aside His royal claims. Philippians 2 says in one translation that “…he stooped so low.” Many Bible scholars call this the “kenosis” theory; that Jesus emptied himself of His heavenly glory to become a man.

In any event, He not only became a man, but worked His work in the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke 4 describes the Son of Man in detail, as it regards to Him relying upon the Holy Spirit to do “the anointed” work of God.

Jesus testifies about, reading from Isaiah 61 in Luke 4 by reading “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me…”

And what was He anointed to do? To sit around in royal robes, enjoying the servitude of the mortals? Not at all; Jesus got His hands dirty; dirty with lepers, liars, cheaters, prostitutes, religious and non religious. He preached, taught, fed, cried, loved, healed, liberated, and loved the worst of humanity, (which is everyone).

Jesus did all of His anointed work through the power of the Holy Spirit. He got smeared into the mess of humanity.

How much more do we need that today, in our lives?

Lend, Lint, Lent…

When I was growing up, lint was something that you pulled out of the dryer, or a good friend’s last name. Our church and family really had no idea what it meant.

Lent isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible, and so for many Christians, that is the deal breaker. I would imagine that most of those same people celebrate birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day, and have an extra hot dog on July 4.

Lent is a period of reflection and self denial for 40 days. That, most certainly, is in the Bible. 40 is one of those “God’s favorite numbers.” You see it in the flood on the earth, the times Moses went into seclusion with the Lord on the mountain, and most famously, our Lord Jesus was tempted of the devil for 40 days.

In all of the gospels except John, the temptation passage is mentioned. Looking to the Luke passage, we understand that: 1. The Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, 2. It was primarily for the purpose of facing the tempter, 3. Jesus overcame temptation three ways, and 4. Jesus returned home, and entered his earthly ministry with a stronger anointing of the Holy Spirit.

We aren’t Jesus, and so it is understood that we all have sinned, and we need forgiveness of sin/s. This passage highlights the importance of seclusion self denial, and Spirit-empowerment.

Like Jesus, we should be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go into seclusion – may 40 days before Passover? In any respect, our journey with the Lord – following Jesus, is going to be a costly one. Setting aside pleasures for 40 days is a small thing in the light of eternity.

Secondly, we must stop avoiding facing the tempter. The Bible doesn’t tell us to avoid the devil and temptation, rather it teaches us to stand up and resist the devil; that’s what makes him flee.

Thirdly, like Jesus, the enemy will attack our mind, will, and emotions. He will attack the reliability of God’s word, (what He’s been doing since the beginning). He will even try to destroy your life – even tempt you to kill yourself.

James teaches us that when we endure temptation that we are blessed! The promise is the crown of life.

Lastly, when we’ve set aside time to seclude and deny ourselves, face the devil head on, we can live a more victorious Christ centered life. Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit. You and I can overcome as well!

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