Monday, April 20, 2015

Life is Good

Haven was 11 days old when Anne hesitantly told me she had something she wanted me to see.  I strained to see a very dim second line on a pregnancy test, and at that moment I realized I was now a father.  The verb father means to procreate and according to that pregnancy test, I had done just that. 

The ability to procreate.  Wow.  The more I read and researched about what fruit she was compared to at each week, the more I was amazed about what goes on behind the scenes to form what I would one day hold as my little girl.  There’s an amazing  video that shows the science behind what happens at conception.  At the moment, when my genetic code combined with Anne’s, everything about Haven was decided.  Hair color, eye color, height, nose shape – the hundreds of traits that would one day have us asking Who does she look like? were all determined in an instant.  
Let me paint a different picture.  Of the 300 million sperm that enter the race, only a few dozen survive the gauntlet and reach the egg.  And of those few dozen, only one actually fertilizes the egg.  So, one out of 300 million.  Your chance of winning the Powerball is 1 in 175,223,510. You do the math.  And that one brave swimmer carries with it a specific message that determines everything about the baby. So when I saw that pregnancy test, this code had already been tirelessly working and carrying out the orders to form a human for 11 days.  My daughter. Incredible.  You can watch it here :
My whole worldview as I knew it had been drastically altered. The question of when life began was no longer ambiguous for me.  Life had been created.  And I was now responsible to do everything as her father to make sure her life was protected from that day forward.  
As a Christian and as a human with a conscience, I always knew abortion was wrong and that I was supposed to be pro-life.  But if I'm being honest, I didn't actually care enough to say something or speak up in controversial settings.  If asked, of course I’d say I’m against abortion, but more often than not, I sat passively in the bleachers and never spoke up for those who had no voice of their own.  Given what I know now and what I feel in my soul, I can no longer be silent.  My hands would be bloodied as each passing day many babies are never given the chance to live.
You see, I had a choice one day.  A choice that will forever be to me, the face of Haven…

Going into marriage our plan was to have Anne work for two years, save up some money and then begin to try and grow our family.  Little did I know that two weeks into our marriage God would gently ask me a simple question: Do you trust me with your family plan? Of course I knew the answer to this question should be yes.  Of course I do, Father. (thought bubble.....)
(We were going to be like them. So happy. So sane with their appropriately-spaced children.)
But would my leading and actions align with this new conviction?  And so I hesitantly presented this dilemma to my new wife…. “Hey you know that two-year plan that we originally had, well I know it’s been two weeks but I feel like God is challenging me with this…” We talked and prayed about it and my wife graciously said she didn't have my same strong convictions, but she trusted that I had heard from God and she would trust my leading as her husband. Side note:  He who finds a good wife, finds a good thing.  Amen.
Because we were using a Natural Family Planning method of birth control, we knew when our chances were high to get pregnant.  Which presented us with a choice because when the rubber met the road, we could stick to our original plan or throw it out the window and follow the Lord.  We decided to stop living by that chart and hold our future in open hands. We look back with joy and thankfulness that we did, because that decision led us down an unknown path that required faith and trust that God knows what is best for my family.  I can happily say now that the choice we made to trust God (He acted immediately) is one of the best decisions I've ever made. Had God not asked me that question in our early days of marriage, or had I made any other choice, we would not have celebrated Haven being with us for six months yesterday. When I think about the reality and the weight of that decision to trust God, I’m moved to tears. The choice to trust God produces life.  John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  Life, whether spiritual or biological, comes from God and therefore it is always good, no matter the situation surrounding that circumstance.

So for me, the argument is not about whether or not an individual should have the choice to have a baby but really about the choice of trusting God and believing that all life is precious and good. Our story is not everyone’s. This is our own journey with the Lord. But there is a question that applies to us all: Do we believe that God is good and if so, is life from God a good gift? One cannot say yes to that question if they do not believe or know God personally. If we don’t trust him as we consider how to plan our family, the choice for them will be downstream where the water is muddy and the current is strong. Where life has already begun.
The battle against abortion is not about pro-life vs pro-choice.  It’s a gospel-centered issue seated in the heavenly realms, waged in war and waiting for those who have been given life to take a stand. If someone is desperately seeking an answer in the midst of a crisis situation, of course he or she will respond to the first lifeline thrown at them. Desperate people respond desperately. What if the first lifeline was an introduction to Christ instead of an introduction to a way to quickly and easily end a pregnancy? What if Christians didn’t condemn from afar but got their hands dirty doing the hard work? How about introducing our friends and neighbors in desperate situations to the Giver of Life before casting judgments from the sidelines? We can introduce them to One who is trustworthy and good;  One who loves and knows them deeply;  One who came to die so that in His death, death would be no more.  We must show the world love because in the quiet waters of love, love never fails.
Haven was God’s idea not mine.  And like any good architect who plans every detail of his work, God thought about every detail, every building block, every genetic pairing that would reveal his image in this perfect, without error, very good gift to us.  God’s idea has a face, a personality and a purpose.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Sexual Impurity

In the 23rd day of the 6 month the Word of the Lord came to me(just being silly here) via the bible application on my smart phone. I downloaded the bible application that allows you to listen to the Word instead of having to read it and I took advantage of this opportunity on my long drive from Dallas to Ft Worth each morning. I started in genesis and progressed through each chapter. At this particular time I was in Deuteronomy and since I had not had my morning coffee, I was asking the Lord for wisdom to understand these books. A lot of the things in there were hard to swallow and I really wanted to know the importance of why God set up the laws the way He did. On this particular morning I was listening to Deuteronomy chapter 23 and these verses stood out to me:

9"When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.
10"If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, 11but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.
12"You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. 13And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. 14Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.

God lines up the divine order in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy showing how things should function socially and communally in order for His people to have favor and a relationship with Him. All these things are a shadow of what’s to be fulfilled in the New Testament. When someone became impure or unclean they were to leave camp for a period of time and not return until they were cleansed. Was it to isolate them to make them feel ashamed and unwanted? "Look Phillips leaving the camp again, must have had another wet dream" No! I don’t think that’s the case but rather for the very reason we see in vs 14 because God would walk among them and cannot be around anything impure and man's seed carries with it the curse inherited from the fall. It’s about Him and His glory.

I’ve been wrestling with the idea of sexual immorality lately and why this particular sin seems to plague many men and women with extreme strongholds and consequences. How you hear devastating stories about failed marriages, pastors falling into child molestation, sex trafficking and the dark stories go on and on… but when caught they always say “I never thought I would be where I am now”….. what happened?

I’ve heard and believe that sexual sin takes you down a path you don’t want to go and keeps you there longer than you want to stay. But why sexual sin vs other types of sin? Well I believe the old testament reference here and our boy Paul answers this question for us in 1 Corinthians 6:

15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

So this issue here is not as much about the sin but where it takes place! God does not walk among the camp like He did in the Old Testament because now as a Saint in Christ His Spirit dwells within us! However He is the same God and cannot be in the presence of what is impure and defiled. I believe, sexual sin done in the body where His Spirit is to dwell within us, is so devastating b/c it removes us from His presence (fellowship not Presence for He is everywhere and David says where can I flee from your presence). Am I saying we lose our salvation? Of course not, but we lose His presence, power and that nearness we need to overcome, “14Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy” God is our deliverer. He lives within us to defeat our enemies before us and we must be filled with the Spirit daily. Is sexual sin so destructive and one of the enemies best weapons because it removes the power we need in order to be delivered from the very thing we are striving to defeat? If you don’t have any money and continue to spend, you will continue to get into more and more debt. The same principle can be applied here. If we overcome sin through Jesus and if sexual sin against our body removes His presence, then do you see how this will quickly become a long dark road?

How did they get to enter back into the camp? By cleansing themselves through the washing of the water.

We’ve had that in baptism but it takes a lifelong process of confession and repentance to walk in victory and freedom. We plea the blood of the cross in humility as our Father accepts us with open arms… Don't hide from confession and repentance under the deception that “you can handle it” outside of the camp…Jesus is your sympathetic High Priest.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Fatherless America

One of the most difficult parts of being a camp counselor were the Saturday afternoons in June that inevitably brought a goodbye to the kids with whom I had just spent two weeks. As one camper, Matt, boarded the bus to return home, he looked back at me and said, "Jason, thanks for changing my life."   I will never forget those words. I didn't do anything spectacular or provide any special treatment.  I was just as much a learner as I was a counselor and leader. I was simply available.   The new group of kids that would cycle through every two weeks for five sessions was another reason to offer all I could in hopes that they would be positively impacted.
Not all the kids who came to camp were blessed with a good family life or secure lifestyle.  Many of the kids during the first session were only able to come because of the generous scholarships the camp offered underprivileged children. Carey, an interesting camper who came from a foster home, was full of surprises.  At the age of eleven, his voice seemed to shake the foundations of our sturdy gym and his energy matched the Energizer Bunny.  Not a day went by that Carey did not get into some mischief or trouble.  Carey tested my patience constantly by challenging my requests.  This erratic behavior Carey was displaying is expected from a child who is not raised in a healthy stable environment with consistent discipline from a father motivated by unconditional love.  Studies have shown that children who grow up in single parent homes, particularly without fathers physically and/or emotionally present, are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, struggle with identity issues and psychiatric problems and are at a dramatically greater risk of suicide as David Brent points out in his study of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. He says that “teens living in single-parent families are not only more likely to commit suicide but also more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, when compared to teens living in intact families.”
Unfortunately these issues do not only affect foster children or kids who grow up in poverty, but permeate all socioeconomic levels and cultures.  I had another camper named Marcel, who was an emotionally neglected teenager from a wealthy, French family. His behavior resembled Carey in that he wanted sought to fight me on everything I asked. Early on, I resolved in my heart that despite his disobedience, I would continue to pursue him so that he knew he was valuable regardless of how hard he tried to push me away.  After many challenges, long conversations, and moments of resistance, I believe Marcel finally felt loved.  He hugged me tightly on the last day of camp and with tears streaming down his face, said he didn’t want to leave.  I wondered how the defiant teenager I had met two weeks ago could be so unraveled about having to leave now.  I looked around and saw parents hugging kids, kids cheerfully explaining everything that happened during their stay at camp and my heart broke for Marcel. Nobody was there to pick him up.  His parents were oceans away and he would return home only to stay with his aunt.  So what had shifted in Marcel’s heart?
In August, I traveled to Uganda with a team to work with those affected by the rebel-led war. We visited one particular village that had been heavily assaulted by the rebels.  They killed many adults and left behind over 400 orphans.  The orphans were either taken in by relatives or now cared for by older siblings. An elder of the village shared with us the need for assistance because they could not care for all of the orphans.  Since the orphans were not receiving direct parental attention, they were beginning to become a problem in the village by stealing and acting destructively. Without proper guidance and left to their own devices, they were making poor choices and heading toward a bleak future.    
What I have observed from being a camp counselor, traveling overseas, and even mentoring a young man from south Dallas who grew up in poverty with a single mom, is that kids are in dire need of love and attention, most of all from their parents. When these basic needs are not met, they will turn to something, or someone, to artificially meet these needs which most often leads to a lifestyle of broken hearts and bad decisions.  I believe the best and most important platform to meet these needs should be within the family unit.  If I, being a complete stranger, am able to make an impact on someone else’s child within such a short amount of time, how much more would the unconditional love of a parent dramatically and positively affect a child?  If my generation lives with this reality in mind, the choices of who we choose to marry and how we choose to parent our children becomes of utmost importance. 
Early in their adolescent years, we have the duty to begin to teach and model for our children the role they will someday have to raise and nurture children responsibly.  Should we continue to live in ignorance or in denial of this issue; the effects of a fatherless America will continue to leave behind a wake of broken relationships, pain, drug and alcohol abuse, and confused identities.  My hope is that we wake up to the gravity of our choices and ability to shape the future through the lives of our kids and embrace this role with ferocious tenacity to win back our youth. 
I recently witnessed the powerful impact of choosing to invest in the life of a child in a short documentary about a family who adopted eight children from around the world.  One of their adopted sons is from Bangalore, India and was born without arms.  He said that being born with such a physical deformity is seen as a curse in India and if he had not been adopted he would have been neglected to the point of death.  Another adopted son, also without arms, has learned to play the cello, guitar, bass and piano with his feet.  In an article in Washington Times, the mother said “Both boys are very sensitive to the needs of the less accepted members of society or those with special needs, primarily because they realize they were given the gift of a second chance; that they are where they are today because someone accepted them unconditionally and believed in them.”  I believe that the gift of family and unconditional acceptance, as demonstrated here, is an empowering life-changing tool that will create world changers with the drive and passion to positively impact future generations. 

Adoption Link 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


 This is a story from Jeremy (same guy from Knowing God and what He does blog) in my small group.  Would stories like these become contagious...

"For about a year now, I've been going to the 6:30am mass on weekdays about twice week at All Saints because it's on the way to work and they have Eucharistic Adoration afterward. I wasn't originally planning to go this morning because I had stayed up too late last night, but I ended up waking up at 5:30am anyway and going to mass almost out of habit.

After Mass, I went to the chapel to pray. My prayer time seemed really dry this morning at first, but I thumbed through the Bible and came across Baruch 4. I read that chapter and verse 30 stood out "he who named you will comfort you." - Baruch 4:30 The verse stood out to me, but I didn't know why. I also glanced at the app on my phone and noticed that tomorrow is the Feast of St. Cecilia. I don't know why it stood out to me either. I normally don't bother to look at the day ahead, but I did this time. I looked at the time (7:40am) and got up to go to work.

 As I was leaving though and walking out to my car, I heard a voice in my head (not out loud) that said "go back to the Holy Water fount."  I paused for a second and thought "I already went to the Holy Water fount on the way into Mass and afterward. There's no reason to go BACK to it ---besides it's 30 feet away."

I started to keep walking to my car, but then decided to turn around go back. It seemed like such a direct command that I didn't want to just disregard it. (even though I figured it was just one of my own random thoughts).
I made the sign of the cross with the Holy Water and then started to walk back out of the church and to my car. As I was walking though, a lady came out of the Eucharistic chapel and for a moment she was walking right next to me. Neither of us said anything, but I felt like I heard the voice again saying to "pray for her." So I started to pray silently "Lord, bless her... I hope she has a great day..." Then the voice was a bit more direct: "Pray for her!"
I felt awkward, but I tried to strike up a conversation by saying "hello." She said "hello" back but didn't say anything else. I thought "well, I tried.. That's all I can do." Finally I turned to her and asked directly if I could pray for her. Then I noticed that her eyes were watering.
I found out she has advanced Melanoma and is going to the doctor's office this afternoon for more tests. She may find out today if they have to remove her leg. I gave her a hug and prayed out loud for her and she broke down crying in my arms. She is a RN herself so she knows a lot about her own condition from treating others for 20 years. She mentioned how she was able to comfort others, but not herself. Her son is my age, 34 but is out of town and not able to be with her today.

I asked her name and she said it was Cecilia. I pointed out that tomorrow is the Feast of St. Cecilia (her patron Saint). She wasn't aware of the Feast day, but knew about St. Cecilia and mentioned that she was named after a church (St. Cecilia's) in the town where she was born. I talked to her about St. Cecilia briefly and how she had been known for praising God with joyful song even during some really dire moments. Cecilia (this lady) mentioned she was a singer and we talked about some of her favorite hymns. I mentioned that God had chosen her name and that he would comfort her. I prayed for her again and then she left. I mentioned I would be praying for her this afternoon at 1:00pm which is when her appoint is scheduled."

Friday, August 3, 2012


The cursor is blinking on and off at me as I stare at a blank page.  I’ve put writing this post off for too long now, despite the fact that I felt the Lord leading me to share this story a while back.  So for that I repent. My procrastination has put me in the middle of this Chik-Fila uproar and has me thinking much about my beliefs and the Kingdom of God.  I honestly caught myself thinking on Wednesday, What would Jesus Do or better known as WWJD.  I know the “blogosphere” has erupted over this issue, everyone trying to voice their opinion, and honestly I have read some good blogs. I, however, do not feel the need to enter into the debate because honestly it feels like a bloody game of red-rover, an us versus them mentality, and Jesus would probably bend over and begin writing in the sand right about now.  So let’s put the attention on Him. He deserves it and He can handle it. 

My intentions are to write this to an audience who would call themselves believers. So if that’s you, please keep reading if that’s not you then you are more than welcome to read as well.  If you’ve rallied behind your belief system with fellow believers due to recent events, I encourage you to continue to support what you believe in on a more consistent basis.  Stand up for what you believe, yes and amen, that is Love God and Love People.  Before you get angry and feel like I am attacking, let me explain how I believe we could make a greater impact in our community and city while sending a more positive message on what it means to be a Christian than just eating chicken.  I’m not saying I am God’s answer to Dallas. I am surely not perfect and have much to improve on and I am convicted that I don’t have more stories to tell like the one I am about to share.  At first I was hesitant to share because I didn’t want it to be about me, so May God be given the Glory.

We see them everywhere. While waiting at a red light. Getting gas. Coming out of the grocery store. Or walking downtown. They’ve been given the identity “homeless” based off of their present reality which is a direct attack against their God given value as created in His image.  We try to avoid making eye contact because we don’t want to feel ashamed for saying no or pretending like we can’t help.  We justify our decision by thinking “they’ll probably just use the money I give them to pay for alcohol or drugs and so I don’t want to enable their behavior.” I’ve thought that, you probably have as well and as reasonable as that sounds, we aren’t responsible for their actions, we are only called to give. 
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So it is my privilege and honor to introduce you to Justin and Allyson and how our paths crossed several months ago.   It was a typical drive home from work.  I would frequently check Google maps from time to time looking for any hint of red, hoping to not get stuck in traffic so that I could hurry home, change and make it to spin class in time.  I exit Webb Chapel off of 635 and try to accelerate in order to make it through the light before it turned red.  It turned red and I got caught waiting.  Out of my driver’s side window I notice a woman who couldn’t be older than I was.  Wavy red hair pulled back in a pony tail, glasses, staring expressionless and holding a sign that said “lost everything.”  I quickly look in my coin stash and pull out what I had and manually rolled down my window in order to engage her in a conversation before the light turned green.   I ask her what happened and she says that she had lost everything in a fire.  I give her the money and say I’m sorry that it isn’t much but she smiles and says thank you anything helps.  At that time the light turns green and in order to prevent everyone from getting angry behind me, I had to say goodbye and drive away.

However, I didn’t leave feeling like I made a difference.  In that short exchange of words, somehow I had seen this young woman not as homeless but through the eyes of Jesus.  I was thinking to myself that I wish I could do more and then I hear that soft loving voice, you can do more.  Then the other voice, you gave her what you had, you’re almost home now and if you turn around you’ll be late and miss your spin class.  So I get home, change into my workout clothes all the while feeling uneasy and trying to distract myself from the calling to do more…but I couldn’t.  Not this time.

I got back in my car and parked across the street from her in the Cinemark 17 parking lot and called her over to me.  She shyly walks across the intersection and meets my eyes.  She recognizes me, smiles and then says hello.  I tell her I want to do more for her, and asked to buy her dinner and place her in a hotel room for the night.  She steps back, puts her hands to her face and starts crying, “Are you serious?” Yes. “Oh my goodness, that means I would get to take a shower.  It’s been so long since I’ve been able to take a shower!” She then tells me she is married and asks if it would be ok for her husband to come too.  I say of course and she goes and gets him from under the overpass.  I meet Justin and escort them to my car.  I ask them what they want to eat and they pick Whataburger across the street. When we pull up at the drive-through window and I ask what they want, Allyson gets the biggest smile on her face and says “Can we get anything we want?” As if I took a kid to a candy store for the first time.  I order their food for them and as we wait in line, I just begin asking them about their life.  A series of unfortunate events happened, involving car wrecks, Justin injuring his back and being unable to work and then the kicker: The fire: that had left them homeless since August with no family to help them out.  I listened to their story and entered their world.  Had that happened to me, I would have had friends and family members to take me in.  They weren’t fortunate to have this blessing so what do you do?  Well, you begin panhandling and “begging” for money so that you can eat.  They told me awful stories of how people would treat them and harass them.  How cops would be called on them and they would be issued tickets. How they can’t find a job because they don’t have clean clothes or a way of looking presentable enough to hire.   How life would be so unbearable at days where it took all that was within her to wake up and stop crying.  But she was still able to say “we have our days but at least we have each other” and see the positive things in life. Wow.

I take them to a hotel and pay for their room.  Afterwards, I walk up to their room and help Allyson carry her bag.  Allyson immediately turns the heater on blast.  At this time, I silently pray, Lord let them see you.  I begin to share why I stopped, why I came back and try to put into words the best I can that Jesus loves them.  Boldness overcomes me and I have a deep desire to leave them with more than just a “fish” but want to enable them to get a job as well.  So I look at Justin and ask him if I can pray for his back.  He says sure and so I place my hand on his back and pray.  I ask him how it feels. He moves around and says a little better but pain and discomfort are still there.  I say ok again.  I pray again and when I ask him this time how he feels his eyes get really big, he looks at his wife and says “oh my gosh, it’s gone!” He starts twisting back and forth. I ask if he was able to do that before and he says no and then bends over to touch his toes! Ha. He keeps saying over and over oh my gosh babe it’s better I can’t believe this and to him it was more than just a physical relief but went so much deeper.  I could see the way he looked at his wife and for the first time I saw hope in his eyes that maybe now I can provide for you.  You can’t imagine the weight and burden he must be carrying to look at his wife everyday and know that he was incapable of providing a safe place for her to live.  And now he has hope.

 I let them eat so that I could go buy them clothes to wear in order to job search the next day.  After an hour or so of shopping I return with the goodies, hoping I got the right sizes.  Justin was out walking, looking for a laundry mat, thankful that he could walk pain free.  Allyson was enjoying tv, thankful that God was near.  I pray for her and leave them with some extra cash and a bible. She hugs me and says thank you so much and I leave with a heart full of joy and love amazed at God’s goodness, thankful that he used a hesitant person like me.  So if you see Justin or Allyson out, please send them my greetings.
If you’re still reading, first of all thank you.  Second, I can imagine something is tugging at your heart as well and you’re wondering what you can do to help and make a difference in someone’s life.  There are many things you can do but my first recommendation would be to develop a lifestyle that knows and walks with Jesus.  Get use to His presence and his leading, being sensitive to his voice.  This story would have been totally different had I continued to ignore that small voice and went to workout instead.  We can muster up the ability to serve people on our own for a season, but it’s much more powerful and effective if we do it out of love for Him and his people.   Next, start taking steps of faith and allow God to dream bigger things within you and then start sharing your stories with others.  I shared this with the lady cutting my hair and the next time she cut my hair she was telling me how it affected her and how she was looking for ways to help others and my story encouraged her to do so.  There is enough negative news broadcasted, I think it’s time we balance that with positive stories of how Jesus really treated people.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Undeserved Grace

Every morning I drive a 30 minute commute from Dallas to Fort Worth and instead of listening to Kidd Kraddick, I have tried to make the most of my time by renewing my mind through worship and listening to the bible on my phone. I started doing this in May 2010 in Genesis and am just now finishing up in Matthew! Well this morning while listening to Matthew chapter 27 I had to pause it and re-read what I thought I had just heard:

38Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." 41So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Now, the reason I had to pause it is because I heard “robbers”, plural not singular, and I know from reading Luke that one of the criminals crucified with Jesus was suppose to be with Him in paradise that same day, so how could he have mocked him…

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

So of course I began to debate with myself searching for truth and what was truly happening here! How can Matthew say both robbers mocked Jesus and then Luke described the insults of only one man?!? How have I not seen this before? Did one get it wrong? Misspell? Are they contradicting each other? A skeptic would love to get his hands on this and tear it apart I thought…

And then the Holy Spirit reminded me of my own journey and how both accounts are true and accurate.

You see, at the age of 11 as I sat in my chair at church, I don’t remember what the pastor preached about or if he was even inviting people up to the front, but I do remember my heart beating in my chest, my body feeling light, knees feeling weak and hearing a clear voice inside my head prompting me to get up out of my chair, walk down the aisle and with tears rolling down my face, confess my need for Jesus and desire to get baptized in front of the congregation. My faith was given to me by God. I don’t know how long God had been calling me unto Himself and on exactly what day you would have considered me “saved.” But I do know if I were to have walked out of church that day and for whatever reason been killed in an accident, I would have been with Him in paradise.

Ok so how does this have anything to do with the difference between the two accounts of the robbers mocking Jesus? Let me explain…

Prior to my salvation I was both separated and an enemy of God. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I denied and mocked Him with my words and lifestyle. Following my salvation and baptism at the age of around 15, I blatantly, although knowing God and truth, ran from Him and rejected Him in my choices and desires and it wouldn’t be until I turned 20 that I got tired of running and surrendered my life whole heartedly to Him.

The beauty of the gospel is I’m getting something free that I don’t deserve! And it’s not based on what I do or do not do but God’s pleasure in Himself and our delight in Him. John Piper states it this way “The gospel is a gospel of grace! And grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.” In no other religion do we see this. God becoming humbled as man and providing us a way to delight with Him forever as we are now, fully knowing even our future sins and denial of Him at that moment. And He still loves us.

So that’s why I know both accounts are true, yet a snap shot of different events at different times. I don’t know if the robber who became a believer mocked Jesus prior to or after Jesus told him that day he would be with Him in paradise. Perhaps as the pain and agony grew more and more intense, he found himself questioning like John the Baptist are you the one or should we expect another or maybe before his confession he joined with the crowd and the other robber mocking Jesus and the kindness of Jesus eventually led him to repentance… But it doesn’t matter when it happened because Jesus has absorbed all past, present and future sins and the truth of knowing this brings me great joy to realize I’m not perfect and God doesn’t delight in me on my “good” days and hide from me on my “bad” days.

Ha the funny thing that as I was writing this God affirmed this by a song that came on my Pandora station, How Deep the Father’s love for us. Check out the following vs:

Behold the Man upon the cross,
my sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
call out among the scoffers.

Jesus came for the sinners not the righteous. He called Peter to Himself and on that same day He knew that Peter would deny Him 3 times in the near future, yet this was one of His closest and most loved allies. This undeserved Grace frees us from shame and guilt and allows us to enjoy Him to the fullest and walk out in Power even when we fail.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Persevere in Patience

Two blogs in a week!? I guess snow/ice days do serve a purpose or maybe I shouldn't be so lazy and write more?.... 3 months later. Ok So I was going to delete this first sentence because obviously I didn’t finish this blog entry when I initially started back in February, but thought it would give it character by leaving it. Now trying to remember what I was going to say….hmmm

Well my faithful readers, those who read to kill a blue jay, already know that I started hunting at a very early age. If you didn't read that post, well now you know hunting and being outdoors was something transcribed into my DNA from my father, his father, his father etc. etc. Don’t worry this doesn’t end badly like it did for the baby duck…

Deer hunting was something I did faithfully every year until I went off to college when my schedule got busier and we lost our lease. So with that said, I had not been deer hunting for about 8 years and I finally got to go this past December! You can imagine the amount of excitement and anticipation I had when invited to go on this hunt. I can’t explain it, but I seriously come alive when outdoors and it was a much needed escape from the city to enjoy some masculine activities.

The morning hunt was designed to let some of the guys who had never been hunting take the first shots. Therefore, I did not have a gun but served as a guide or mentor instead (you can’t imagine how difficult this was for me, but I submitted) and ps ask Justus about his experience ha. I didn't think I would get to officially "hunt" since we could only take 3 does and there were about 4 guys who had never hunted before and they were obviously top on the list. Regardless, I was excited to be in the woods. However, due to prior engagements… Christmas parties, 2 of the 4 had to leave after the morning hunt because the “ladies” needed them there. Whatever. I didn’t mind because that meant I would get to hunt that evening!

So after an afternoon of shooting targets, competition and blowing things, up it was now time to return to the woods. I chose not to take a gun, instead I wanted to challenge myself and go bow hunting since I had never tried it before. I positioned myself in a tripod about 20 yards from the feeder at approximately 3:30 pm, just in time for the sun to start its descent and remain in my eyes the remainder of the evening. Now I need to preface some things about myself in order for this to bear any weight or fruit. I’m not the most patient person. In fact when I was a child, in the period of time when my mom would fill up my bottle and place it in the microwave to warm it up, I would already be screaming “I want my bobble and I want it now!!” Geez kid chill and suck on the pacifier. In fact it was the lack of patience for my campers one summer that brought me to the end of my rope and the Word of God which eventually led to my spiritual awakening. So let’s just say I’ve come a long way but definitely prone to do things myself or get irritated if things don’t happen in the time frame that I think they should. I.e. traffic and I fight a lot.

Anyways back to the hunt… 15 minutes go by, nothing. 30 minutes go by, I hear something behind me and I get excited but it’s just a dumb squirrel. One hour passes still nothing, much of this time my vision is limited because I’m trying to avoid looking out straight and risk any permanent eye damage from the bright sun. Confession, smart phones had not been invented when I went hunting growing up and so every now and then when I got bored I would pull out my phone and check facebook or something haha. I repent… 2 hours of not seeing one deer surpasses, my phone’s almost dead and I am now fidgety and antsy as can be. BUT then… I look over to my left and about 200 yards out I see 3 deer grazing in the field. I look down at my watch and realize I maybe have 30 minutes of daylight left. At the rate they were walking and the direction they were heading, there was no way they’d make it to close enough to me before the sun had set. If I had a gun that would be fine, but I had a bow and arrow and last I checked I wasn’t Robin Hood and William Wallace uses a sword so basically I needed to be closer. I quickly decided to try and sneak my way to get into position where I could possibly take a shot. I scurry through the woods last of Mohican style (crouching) and pop out, legs burning, panting, about 50 yards from where they were. At this point I am close enough to see them clearly, and to my disappointment they are very small bucks, probably just hitting puberty.

I watched them graze for several minutes before deciding I needed to get back to the stand and fetch my flash light before it got too dark. I walked slowly back through the woods hoping that tomorrow morning my luck might be better. As I come out to the clearing on the other side, I abruptly stop in my tracks because I spotted deer at the feeder. They are looking right at me so if I move they’d run away. Finally after what seemed like a long stare down, they slowing lose interest in me and continue eating the corn. I however was stuck in a spot about 80 yards too far to do anything about it. There were about 3 nice size bucks along with their girlfriends and I had to watch them from a distance as the sun slowly set behind the hills.

During that time God really started to speak to me about patience and how if I would have only waited 5-15 more minutes, He would have brought them to me. Instead I was distracted by something in the distance and decided to act on my own free will. I then started to think about all the times I had been impatient and tried to make things happen on my own and the consequences from those decisions. And I was really struck with conviction from my lack of trust in God at times and how it was fleshed out in impatience.

How many of us have tried to walk in the will of God, remaining steadfast in His calling, only to be distracted or led astray because too much time had passed and we gave into the lie that He forgot about us? Is this not similar to what happened to Abraham when he took matters into his own hands and slept with his servant Hagar? So we see Abraham’s impatience or lack of trust in God led to the law and slavery to the law or a self righteous mentality, a will of our own, through the covenant at Mount Sinai (see Galatians 4:21-31). However, it was through the covenant with Abraham and the seed in Sarah that the promise was given and that is where we find our freedom, God’s blessing and joy… Patience represents God’s promises, blessings and His mercy in our lives.

Persevere in Patience. He is good, He does not forsake, He who calls you is faithful and He will surely do it. Do not give up, do not waiver, He will not forget you. If you’re waiting on a spouse, do not settle. If you’re praying for a family member, do not give up. If you’re struggling with finances, don’t stop giving. If you’re trying to have a child, don’t lose faith. If you’re seeking healing, keep on fighting. I know it’s hard and it may seem like eternity but He is always there. I do not say this in vain but as someone who has repeatedly learned the hard way and His way is better. If His eyes are on the sparrow how much more are they on us who are called according to His purpose? Walk in faith, cling to His promises and set your eyes on Him and be assured that during the process time is not being wasted but you’re becoming more like Him. … “because we know that suffering produces perseverance” Romans 5:1-5 and “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2.