Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Good Impression

I'm a huge board game nerd.  I have around one hundred and fifty serious games (not games that can be bought at any department store) in my personal collection.  There are many more games whether owned by friends, new releases or hard to find grail classics that I love to play also.  The whole experience of sitting around a table with friends for hours at a time being immersed together in an interactive themed universe is very enjoyable and to an extent fulfilling for me.  Even when I lose terribly, if the story we told together through our pursuit of strategy created epic moments of teamwork, brilliantly outwitting an opponent or best of all stabbing someone in the back to steal the victory away from them at the last second, (I'm looking at you Jacob.  Yep, I'm still on that TI3 thing.)  then I will remember those evenings with a smile.

All that aside, I've found that board games in general carry a very deep meaning for me beyond just the fun that I derive from playing them.  I figured this out recently when I did what a lot of board gamers do and tried to rate my top ten of all time.  Most of my favorite games have great theme to them along with really sound mechanics as well.  If a game has mechanics that just don't make sense or even worse favor luck too heavily, it usually is just not a very good one.  That aside I could not stop myself from rating this game as my favorite game of all time:

This game is my favorite of all time, and always will be, because of how I came to even know about this game at all.  A couple of men, and one in particular, invited me to play this game a couple of late Saturday nights after our youth group was over.  They showed me kindness by giving me something that very few other men ever gave me, genuine interest in my company and welfare.  They didn't just ask me how I was doing, pray for me at an altar call, and then send me on my way.  Though these guys did this stuff for me also, they gave me their personal time as well.  They invited me into their lives and shared something that they personally thought was fun and asked me to enjoy it with them.  They affirmed me as a person when I didn't think that anybody really even cared that I existed beyond filling a seat in a youth group.  More than just sitting down for an evening of butchering each other's units (as well as the names of many Japanese provinces!  so fun!), this game to me represents one of the first times that I ever felt like I belonged, particularly with other men.  

 The funny thing is, I had no idea how profound those times would be while I was still in the moment.  I did not consider these men to be the coolest people of all time, but they were available.  I did not always like every activity we did together, but they reached out and invited me.  I'm sure when they tried to help me spiritually both sides just left frustrated because I was too immature to really grow at all, yet all these years later I realize that those few weekend nights meant more to me and impacted me more deeply than the hundreds of sermons I've heard preached.  I'm not saying that God has never moved me to repentance and life change through a sermon, because He has, but I don't remember more than one or two of them.  Every single moment that this fatherless soul spent just playing a stupid game until the wee hours with just a couple of guys who cared still matters to me eighteen years later.  Seems like the return on investment and the kind of work the Lord accomplished through authentic brotherly affections was much greater than anything else I've ever known outside of the direct voice of the Lord to my heart.  Though the acceptance of these men did not fill the hole in my heart designed for God alone, it is one of the very few personal images I have of the Father's heart.

To the few of you out there that accepted me just as I was and pulled me in, gave me someplace to belong and made me feel like I mattered to somebody, even though I was incredibly annoying, thank you.  Your time was a more valuable gift than just about anything else I've ever received.                                                                                                                                                                   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm Sorry that I'm Not Sorry At All

How many times have I seen it as a parent?  I speak to my son about a behavior in his life that I don't like and his immediate response is, "I'm sorry."  This response is usually accompanied by a look of fear in his eyes.  Is trouble coming?  What will the consequences be?  This breaks my heart.  As I see more and more of the Father's love for me, I am able to purely love Maz more as well.  I am starting to care less and less about him doing what is right and obedient to me and more about him doing what will be best for his heart in relation to the Lord.  Many times these two things look almost exactly alike.  I am not saying that I am done teaching my son obedience and right living.  I am just done teaching him to obey me for the sake of him respecting me.  I want him to obey me because God says it is right for him to do so and he will be blessed because of it.  I want him to make good choices because he will incur less hurt in his own life this way and have a clearer path to a genuine relationship with the Lord when he is older.

More to the point, I started to realize just how many things in my life I do just because I am afraid of God being angry with me if I mess up.  They are not holy or good actions because they are born of flesh, not faith.  This fear has stunted my growth and choked out the true life that God has designed for me for years.  So many do's and don'ts that have been imposed by a religious institution fuel this.  In the zeal to create right behaviors, hearts have been imprisoned in fear and thus led astray.  Does it really matter if you do the right thing if you do it for the wrong reasons?  I think the parable of the prodigal son suggests otherwise.  

So here's the deal:  I cannot possibly keep every command of the Bible.  I never have and I never will, but God is still passionately in love with me.  So what should I do?  I will work out my own salvation by following the Spirit's guidance in my life.  When God says, "Okay son, it's time to set that aside now."  then I will set it aside.  When he says, "It's time to serve Me in this manner now." then I will.  I will obey in the confidence that He will speak to me and correct what He wants corrected in His time.  (see Is 30:19-22.  Interesting how the people do not cast down their idols until AFTER they hear the voice of their loving teacher guiding them in the path.)

Until then, I will enjoy my life just as it is and trust Him to change my heart.  So, I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry at all.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Nehemiah chapter eight verse ten is the famous one that says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength."

What the heck does that even mean anyway?  I've always just nodded along when this has been preached because it sounds great, but I've never experienced any life changing power from the truth that God must be trying to communicate.  Therefore, (yeah, I just pulled a Paul right there) I must be missing what this is really trying to say.  I've always heard it preached as a get off your butt and do what you are supposed to be doing because the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Amazing how we can turn God's joy into a burden.  That can't be right.

God has been bringing this verse to my mind all night, so I looked it up in the context of the overall outline of the book of Nehemiah and read through the chapter.  So here is my summation:

     God has sent his children back to reclaim Jerusalem after the captivity of 70 years.  Nehemiah led the people to victory over their enemies that tried to defeat them and stop them from building the walls of Jerusalem.  Chapter 8 picks up after the walls are built and the people have gone through a census.  Nehemiah has Ezra stand up and read the law from morning until the afternoon to all of the people that were of sound mind and able to understand it.  Verse 8 says they spent time translating it to everyone to make sure they understood it.  The response of the people to the law was weeping and mourning.  God's immediate response was to tell the people to feast.  To not weep because it was a holy day to him.  He was joyful and wanted His people to be also.  From here it is observed that Ezra and the Levitical priests were having a pow wow and discovered the text about the feast of booths.  They immediately began making ready to construct booths for all the people and proceed to celebrate the festival of booths (which was an observance to remind the people about wandering in the desert and celebrating God giving them the promised land.  Isn't God's timing amazing!)  This was the first time it had been celebrated since the time of Joshua which was many years earlier.  They read the scriptures and feasted for the week of the festival and had a solemn assembly on the eighth day.

This blew me away!  They are just getting settled in the new blessing of being free from slavery and taking possession of God's promise.  They want to start right so they inquire of the Lord on how to set a good foundation for the rebuilding of His community.  The law is read and immediately weeping ensues because the people know they are guilty.  God in His mercy says, "Don't weep!  Let's party!  I'm so glad to have you home!"

The joy of the Lord, His position of being delighted in them was their position of shelter, refuge and security.  The word strength here is better translated stronghold.  One of the definitions even means helmet.  I know my mind is definitely safe and protected when I think about God delighting in me.


From now on I will always hear, "God being delighted in you is your safe place."

I feel invincible right now!

We know that all who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus are constantly be delighted in by the Father.  He loves us so much that He brought us into a place of perpetual safety and shelter:  His arms.  So wonderful!  Also the following chapters were the repentance of the people and the ratification of the covenant with them.  God's joy in His children led them to genuine repentance after He released them from the burdens of the law.  Again, the repentance did not come from the knowledge of the law, but rather from the knowledge of how great God's mercy was to release them from that guilt.  To top it all off God puts His seal on them and claims them again as His people through covenant.

What a wonderful, loving God I serve!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I remember a time a year or two ago when I was invited to go to a large men's conference hosted in a Chicago suburb.  I went because I wanted to honor and try to grow my relationship with the man that invited me, even though I had very little interest in the conference itself.  I've been there, done that, and my life has always remained largely unchanged, thus making those type of events a waste of time to my mind.  I went anyway, because who knows.  Maybe this time it will be different I told myself.

It wasn't.  The whole experience only increased my growing distaste for and lack of ability to trust the institutional church in America.  I really did try to find God while I was there, but I was too busy trying not to throw up in my mouth from all of performance based freedom that was being preached.  If you just try harder, set better limits, and spend more time seeking the Lord for freedom you'll be the strong man that God has called you to be.  (Family Feud "X" popping across the screen right now)

So on the way home from the event, we stopped at an Applebee's with several other guys from the Michiana area who went also.  As the conversations progressed someone suggested we go around the table and share our testimonies.  My heart sank.  I still feel just as bound today as I ever have.  I've not been set free from anything.  What am I supposed to testify about?  I was one of the last people around the table, and when it came to be my turn I just said that I was still struggling with some stuff and didn't think it was appropriate for me to share when I could not pin point what God was doing in my life.  I have always struggled with this when it comes to testimonies.  Why share all the good God has done in my life in the past when I just keep ending up back in the pit of my own sin?

Several of the guys tried to encourage me to share, like they thought I was just being bashful, but I persisted on my pass.  One young man went so far as to tell me that I needed to get on my knees and seek Jesus right away because he thought that if I couldn't pin point something worthy of testifying about that I was not actually saved.

Let's fast forward to a couple of meetings into the new gathering God led me to.  We talked a lot about the book of Galatians one night and it struck home for the first time.  Any time in the past when someone would talk to me about Galatians 5:1 which says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." I always took it as a command to get free from sin in my life.  (Another huge "X" here)

This is where it gets good.  We talked about the enormity of God's love.  We talked about how it is only from God loving us first that we are even capable of responding with any kind of goodness at all.  Only by receiving the FREE GIFT of salvation and the Holy Spirit can we know God.  Only by knowing (experiencing!) Him, by a continual reception of this gift will any of us ever be able to walk by the Spirit.  After all, if any amount of keeping the law could have set us free, then Jesus would not have had to die for us.

The blood covering from Jesus' sacrifice is so complete that every sin ever committed past or future is already forgiven for those who believe in Him and choose to receive His gift.  I have heard it said that sin separates us from God, and while that is true of the unbeliever, Romans tells us that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God.  NOTHING!  It doesn't nothing except sin; it says nothing. His arms are always waiting to welcome us in, especially when we have blown it.  It is then that we most need Him, and He knows this.  Our sin does not scare Him.  Again I say it is only through letting Him fill us with His love that we will ever be able to turn our hearts away from sin.  Sure you may be able to change your behavior for a season, or maybe indefinitely, but God is not after your behavior.  He is after your heart!  If you stop doing whatever sin it is you love to commit, but you still love it and want to do it, have you really been changed?  Are you really free?  It is only after you can do whatever you want to and you choose Jesus anyway because you now see that there really is nothing better than being loved by Him that you are truly free.  You will never get to that point until you let Him love you in spite of the sins that you love.  It has to start with knowing that His love is so great that even on your worst and most sinful day His love for you will not change.  His arms will be just as open and ready to clean us up.  He is not angry with you.  He will not strike you down or turn you away.  The law has been fulfilled through Jesus.  All that is left now is for us to quit believing the deceptions that the enemy gets us to believe to keep us from turning to the only one who can fill us.  Receive the gift that can never be earned, then keep receiving it every day.  Don't ever try to earn it again!

His yoke really is easy and His burden really is light.  Never again will I try to be good enough for Him, because He has all the goodness that is needed for the both of us.  It is now my aim just to be with Him and let Him fill me with His love.  Fear will be progressively cast out, kindness and courage will become more and more of a natural response and hell won't stand a chance.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Life has really felt bad for a very long time.  Last night I went to a gathering of believers my wife told me about that was being led by someone who mentored me in the past.  I was (am) so hungry for an authentic gathering of believers.  Being me, I spent most of the drive up bracing myself for the discomfort of sitting in a room of people that would have to put up with the filthiness of my soul and whatever judgments they might rightly levy.

Lots of cool words from the Lord came forth last night.  Way too many for me to recount, but the two that were for me were much needed.  At one point, the man leading stopped what he was saying and looked right at me and said something like, "You need to stop worrying about how far you have been from God and stop grading yourself.  God says you are an A in His book."

Later on my way out, he pulled me aside again and shared that God told him to tell me that He thinks I am a wonderful father and that I do a great job with my son.

I have been living under so much doubt, but there is just something amazing that happens when your ears get opened to hear what God is saying.  Faith rises from the ashes of that doubt and starts to breath life into destruction.  Nothing seems impossible.  For the first day in years I was actually excited to be alive.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

All in My Head

So if you haven't noticed, when I created this blog I replaced the pursuit of happiness with the body of Christ.  Both clever and meaningful in my own mind.  Unfortunately, my mind is as far as I seem to be able to make this switch.  I know in my mind that there is nothing more important than Christ and dying to myself for His Bride.  I don't do any of the things in my daily life that accomplish this.

I don't share the gospel with the lost.

I don't pour over the scriptures in search of spiritual food and the nourishment of my soul.

I don't visit prisoners, listen to widows tell me stories about the good old days or do their yard work.

I don't spend time with fatherless boys showing them how to be a man.

I rarely even do the dishes for my wife or turn off the tv long enough to play a game with my son.

I do exactly what my stepdad always did.  I come home from an exhausting day at work and fall into a pattern of comforting myself.  Eat, watch tv, play games, listen to music, and basically anything that allows me to live according to how I feel and hide away from truth for one more day.

Not only is this driving me crazy, but I think I'm actually starting to kill myself slowly.  I always thought life would get better as I got older, but entropy is in full effect in my heart.  I care less about everything good just about every day.  I still have huge hurts in my heart that just won't go away.  I am as selfish of a man as there can be.  Everything I do is somehow motivated by escaping pain or comforting myself.  Everything!

When I think about what I could do to change my life, I just get paralyzed inside.  Get rid of your xbox and tv.  Get rid of the internet.  Get a phone that only has talk and text.  Put yourself out there and pursue a job that doesn't make you feel worthless.  Stop taking shortcuts and compromising your integrity at the job you have now.  It all just seems so hard because I think about what I will be left with.  Nothing.

No guaranteed way to feel something good anyway.  It will all be based on others to take care of my feelings, and I don't really trust anyone anymore.  I don't trust God. I don't trust my friends to care for me in any depth, and I don't even trust my wife.  My feelings and perceptions form my reality.  A reality that I know deep down is flawed and broken to the highest degree.  I just don't know how to lay it aside long enough for God to show me who He really is and I am scared that when I do, He just won't do anything.  The quietness of God when I look for Him is the worst feeling I know.  Instead of healing the wounds in my heart, it makes them worse.  I know that God can't be wrong and I must be.  I just can't seem to break past my feelings.

I can only hope that God is still working some unseen plan to set me free from all that blinds me, because if it just comes down to sink or swim, I think I'm going to sink.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stake in the Ground

Life is full of simple choices that have far greater importance than they appear to at first.  It's really been on my heart to do something as a family to get and keep us on the same page.  I've been absolutely astounded at the internal resistance I experience to developing simple disciplines.  So today, as soon as I got home from work and the fam was home from school, we sat down to read two chapters in the Bible and pray together.

I explained to my son what devotions were and why being devoted to God was important.  He tracked as well as a boy his age can as far as I could tell.  When it came time to pray together, Maz got really bashful.  He had this immediate resistance when I told him that we were all going to take turns praying out loud.  I remembered being terrified of saying the wrong thing or somehow messing up when asked to pray when I was younger.  I don't think I got over this until my junior year in high school when I started attending a daily prayer meeting before school.  I don't want my son to live in fear of talking to God. I pray that he doesn't struggle with law and perfectionism the way I have.

So I pushed him.... gently.  

I told him prayer was just talking to God about what was on his heart and that the only thing that mattered was that his prayer came from his heart.  It could be short, the words didn't have to sound good, it just needed to be out loud and from his heart.

My son prayed for a kid at his school that has been mean and bossy to him lately.  He asked God to help this other child be nice to the other kids at school.

I stumbled into a motivation for reading my Bible everyday.  I look forward to many more of these simple moments with both my son and wife over the coming years.

May God have his rightful place of priority in my home.