The Dance of Life

If I close my eyes, I can picture riding shot-gun in my grandfather’s single cab Chevy pickup truck and listening to him sing (off key and loudly) to his favorite country music station. You could always tell when grandpa really liked the song. He rolled the windows down, drove a little slower and sang even louder. 

I remember one specific time when a song by Garth Brooks came on the radio, called “The Dance.” I remember at the end of the chorus, where it says, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance,” that my grandpa shared something in that moment that was so simple, but something that would forever impact me.

Grandpa shared: “Nothing you will ever face in this life is worth missing out on – it is all meant to be, Nick, it all will teach you something you need to know.”

The windows rolled back up a moment later as we pulled up to the ice cream shop and got our favorite ice-cream…mint chip.

“Lord of the Dance” is a hymn written by songwriter, Sydney Carter in 1963. It follows the idea of a traditional English carol which tells the gospel story in the first person voice of Jesus of Nazareth, portraying Jesus’ life and mission as a dance. Jesus commanded those who love, who obey Him, to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. 1 John 2:6 says: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Jesus has made it clear for His people, that in the dance we call life, that anyone who claims to be intimate with God, ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived. The song, “Lord of the Dance,” has a profound refrain that is repeated throughout the song that says: “Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the dance, said He. And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be. And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.”

Now I cannot know the true intent with this songwriter when he wrote this song. Nor do I believe that Garth Brooks is a great spiritual influence. However, both of these songs have pointed me back to my daily pursuit of God. For very experience that our sovereign and holy Lord brings us to, is by His perfect design. We must respond in obedience to Him and make choices that bring Him glory. When we do, we can learn and grow as we walk – or dance – as Jesus did.

We cannot say “I know God,” and not abide in Him, and not pursue a growing relationship with Him. We will not dance through this life well, or in any way God the Father purposed, if we are not truly abiding in Him. So how do we do this? Through a consistent time in the Word of God, through being connected to other growing Christians, and by being faithful to a local church family where the Word of God is taught in a way that glorifies the Lord and stirs us towards a deeper walk with God. 

Everyone is out there dancing the best they can through this life. Jesus danced it perfectly and has called us to follow Him. We must be people so consumed with the goodness of God, and so devoted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that we walk as Jesus walked, allowing us to live a life worth following as we make much of God. 

There are some really poor examples out there. You don’t have to add to that number. You can purpose to grow spiritually and in community and dance in such way that the people see your dance – your faith and walk in the Lord, that they praise your Heavenly Father. Dance like this, in this life, and see then how your obedience to the Great Commission, in the spirit of the Great Commandment, brings joy to your life and to the lives of those God has placed within your reach.

(Adapted – originally written for the Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – February 2019)

The Sadness of Silence

The third Monday in the month of January is considered by many as BLUE MONDAY: THE MOST DEPRESSING DAY OF THE YEAR. The good news is, if you are reading this, then you made it through this day. It hasn’t always been known as this, so perhaps it has come to be known as this because all the holiday festivities are over. Perhaps you started a new year with lots of goals and dreams and by now, reality has set in. Or, perhaps we are all ready for Spring and tired of the gloom and cold of winter at this point. Because depression is real and grips many, then noting a day like this is important, and addressing depression isn’t something to be silent about.  

Another significant day, or anniversary, worth noting happened this last week on January 22. Shawn Carney wrote: “46 years ago today, seven men who call themselves “supreme” silenced the voice of the American people, initiating the greatest human rights atrocity in U.S. history. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision dehumanized the unborn and led to 60 million children being killed by abortion since 1973. Despite 46 years of legalization, abortion is ending at the grassroots level. Not because of robed, ivory tower Supreme Court justices, but because families are living their pro-life convictions in communities across the country.”

This brings us to today. The issue of abortion can anger and shame and pain anyone bold enough to discuss this epidemic. I have been told, more than once, that because I am a man, that I have zero right to even talk about abortion – let alone encourage people to pursue God’s heart for the value of human life. However, that is exactly what feeds any sadness within my heart and mind this time of year: the sheer volume of silence from many regarding abortion.

Perhaps like me, they have been shamed about holding to Biblical truth regarding the sanctity of life. Perhaps for others, the issues of abortion is so raw and real in their lives personally that they look forward to a day when it is no longer present in their minds.

Despite the past silence of God’s Holy Bride and those who shepherd it, I am seeing a great change happening with the way others think about the value of human life. I see it regarding immigrants and refugees. I see it regarding racial oppression and the marginalized of society. And, I am seeing a change in many, as they seek to bring their lives under the authority of God’s Holy Word regarding abortion, too.

Yet, some still say that a little baby isn’t as valuable as an adult or someone who’s already born. The Bible says that each person has tremendous value. In fact, the Bible says that we are GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” A masterpiece is a prized possession, the best of the best, and the Bible says: YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. So, although not everyone understands how valuable a life is, I believe that God is changing this among His church and I believe that as Disciples of Christ, we should be champions for His redemptive work within the pro abundant life movement as well. 

It can change when we find ourselves looking at all the differences in the world around us, and when we stop believing the lies of Satan and begin to embrace the truth that pre-born baby has value worth protecting – just like the value of the life of the immigrant and refugee, and to those experiencing racial inequality and injustice.

I urge you friends: investigate how science agrees with Scripture about the value of a pre-born baby.

The moment a baby is conceived, their features, their gender, and their hair and eye color are determined at the conception. Just three weeks after that – so just a little longer than the Christmas break you were on – in just three weeks, a baby in its mother’s tummy, their brain and spinal cord begin forming and their heart begins to beat in 22 days. Within 6-7 weeks, arms and legs and organs like the kidneys begin to form. By 7-1/2 weeks a baby in a mother’s tummy has distinct fingers and can even hiccup. By 8 weeks nearly all the organs in the body have formed, and just need to mature and fully grow. At this age, the baby is very active and can been seen during an ultrasound – one of the services we provide at Life Choices for free – they can be seen waving their arms and kicking. And just 10 weeks after a baby is conceived, the baby begins to form their fingerprints.

Take a moment and look at the palm of your hands. See those finger prints? Each one is different. Each one is special and the fingerprints you have right now started to form when you were a tiny baby in your mother’s belly. 

The Bible and science agree. You are a masterpiece. You are special and unique and you have great value. Embrace that truth. Also, embrace an attitude of love towards others and point to living alternatives. Many groups are standing for life and work hard every day to bring great grace and respect to those who are considering abortion or who have had an abortion. Connect those wresting with this choice to those type of living alternatives and support those places.  Stand for truth. Speak this truth in love. Depend on the Holy Spirit for conviction. Let your convictions be rooted in Scripture and live out this truth. Reflecting God’s heart and His truth is what we can do to bring change as we live out His message of life and redemption.

We cannot stay silent. We must, in great grace and truth, speak to the holiness and the sanctity of human life. Simply posting an image on social media is not enough. We must learn the Biblical foundation for the holiness of life and live by God’s truth. We must also understand how science teaches us, that from the moment of conception, we already have the very things that make us human and unique.

Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death.  Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’ For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.” Proverbs 24:11-12

(Adapted. Original article published in the Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – January 26, 2019)

admitting our wrongs

I received a brief message from a trusted friend that said: “I was reading Isaiah 30:15 and was led to pray for you. Blessings on this day my friend.” Not knowing this verse by heart, I went to it. What I was anticipating in that moment was an encouraging verse that might affirm me in a positive way. What I got was this: “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing…

One thing that I have learned to do is that when God speaks, I should listen. And, with this trusted friend, who is also a ministry leader in our community, in knowing that I can trust his heart, I wanted be open to how the Lord might working through him to speak to me.

Regardless, I can I honestly say that I’d rather someone else admit to me all of their wrongs, while keeping mine a special, little secret. And more than likely, you are a lot like me when it comes to admitting to others your shortcomings, your struggles and those things that seem to keep you from an abundant life in Christ. It is easy for us to have misconceptions about ourselves. We are remind in James 4:1 that there is war within us, and that we have a significant part to play in our behavior. While we have to accept the things that we cannot change, we must still take action with the things that we can. Admitting to our wrongs, whether that is a behavior or our words, it is something we can do. Blaming others takes no courage at all. Admitting our wrongs is courageous.

If one admits their specific wrongs, I have found that they will probably have to face at least four different aspects in that experience. The first is fear. Fear in the fact that this admission might cause others to leave you because of what has happened. The second involves anxiety and stress, or some form of that. This happens over the reality of the loss of “what was” and the pressure to deal with what is left. The third aspect could be depression. As a result of being left and losing things, one may face depression at the loneliness of their current circumstances. And yet, there is also a fourth aspect: love. Yes, when we admit our wrongs we will encounter loss and loneliness, and others may leave or have to leave, but we can also experience love – the love of the Father, and the love of our true friends – a love that takes us towards restoration.

In looking at the context of Isaiah 30, you would see that in the first 17 verses the people of God are being warned not to make an alliance with another group of people. And verse 18 through 33 reveal that the longing of God is to be gracious to His people, while remaining holy and just. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says: “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.” The spiritual reality is that when we abide in the love of God, and not fear or stress, and when we have taken a real look at ourselves, we can more freely admit to what we have done to ourselves, to the Lord and perhaps, to others. We can do this because of the gracious posture God has towards His beloved, while keeping His purpose for our lives close to the heart which is our holiness and purity in this life.

And when you do, when we are courageous to admit our wrongs, what we actually loose is that sense of isolation, we loose that desire to do wrong, we can also loose our unwillingness to forgive, and we can address our false pride and those misconceptions we have created for ourselves and bought into throughout time. The great news in all of this is that in exchange for our wrongs we can receive healing (James 5:16); we can experience freedom (Psalm 107:13); and, we can get real help and support (1 John 1:9).

And just like you, I desire to be courageous and to abide in the loving restoration of the Father.

May we then purpose to be, a mighty movement of the Lord that is so consumed with Him and His promises for our lives that we live honestly and authentically in all that we do. And may His church, may those who call themselves Disciples of Christ, may they be known for, not what they can do themselves, but, for what the Lord has done in and through us!

Saying “NO,” so we can say “YES!”

Whether we like to admit it or not, we say “yes” (or some form of yes) far more than we need to or really want to. We find ourselves often saying “yes” to a variety of requests and even to people we barely know.

This often pushes us to live with schedules that we cannot keep and finances or resources that end up being stretched beyond their limits. We lose sight of what really matters by living such a full life that there is zero space in the margins.

Sometimes all of this happens because we don’t want to miss out on an experience/opportunity or because the “pleasing others” aspect of our thinking is waging war against our minds and hearts. If we are open and honest there are probably a multitude of other reasons as well.

But, it occurred to me recently, in a simple but profound way, what we are actually doing when we say “yes” to something we shouldn’t. What happens? We miss out on the fullness of joy that is found in actually saying “yes” to the things that really matter. 


My son said to me: “Daddy, will you watch Batman with me?” Well, I guess my “yes” got this precious boy all different shades of happy. And friends, that’s the profound lesson I learned, and am learning again, through this simplest of interactions with my son.

My yes to this request meant I had to first say no to a few others things: getting a jump on some laundry while it was still cool in our house, or preparing a family breakfast because it was my day off, or even ___________, just fill in that blank. Some of it may be good things even, things that if I had said “yes” to, even in that moment, it wouldn’t have been wrong. But if I said yes to both, I would have been divided in focus at best and perhaps, all my good intentions would be water down or less genuine.

That’s what I mean by saying that we might be “missing out on the fullness of joy that is found in actually saying ‘yes’ to the things that really matter.” All of our responses that are filled with good intentions, maybe even high hopes, can still take us away from the joy and fullness that is found in really making them a real yes – a very present in the moment, genuine yes!

What might happen in your life today if you are more aware about what you are saying “yes” to? What might happen when you choose to say no, so that you can say yes to something else?

Anything! 

We can experience true and lasting joy in all that we purpose to do when make each yes with clarity, perspective and with a focused commitment to personal integrity.

So what can you say “no” to this day in order to give that “yes” response to your friends, to your kids, to your spouse, to your neighbor, to your boss or even to a stranger? 

Jesus is our model. He is our example for everything. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus put people first. We see in Scriptures how people matter most – as we are His beloved, His creation. And, Jesus even taught in Matthew 5 what the goal of our actions, of our intentions even, should be when we seek to give a yes or no response, and how much that matters to God.

The fullness of joy that I felt in saying “no” to those other things that I could have been doing when my son asked me to join him led to one of those awesome and loving “dad moments” for sure, but an additional truth emerges when we are focused on what we say yes or no to…

True, we can experience that deeper sense of joy and connection when we are making those right yes choices, but more than that – MORE THAN THAT – we have an opportunity each and every time to reflect the very heart of Jesus.

So what can you, or should you, say “no” to this day to be able to say “yes” to someone or something that God has placed within your reach, for that moment, to experience a real joy and to fully reflect the heart of God through that experience and encounter?

Lord, I pray for my friends and family. Help them this day to be so aware of your working in their lives that they can be fully present in each experience and with every person they encounter. Give them patience to endure the hard stuff, wisdom to know how to respond, and a boldness that is saturated in Your hearts desires for them. I pray that I too, would be more open to the opportunities you are placing within my reach and that I would follow Your example and live a life that points people to You and the hope I have because of You. Amen

The Healing Move of God

In the Gospel of Matthew, just before Jesus performs that great miracle of feeding thousands of people – literally, thousands and thousands of people – we get a quick and yet beautiful encounter between Jesus and those who had gathered and needed to be healed. In Matthew 14:14 it clearly says: “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”

As evidenced throughout Scripture, our loving and gracious God has promised that He will respond to us when we faithfully come to Him. And in Matthew 14, God moved in the lives of those who those who gathered. He didn’t just heal some of the sick who had gathered, or the ones who perhaps were more deserving, but rather, moved by compassion for all He saw, Jesus healed the sick – every one of them. No matter who you are, no matter your past and no matter what the future holds for you, God desires to move in your life and bring forth His healing.

So perhaps you are on the shoreline, gathered and wanting God to move in your life and heal you.

In faith, you can seek the Lord and cry out to Him. You can seek to experience His healing, His transformation and His redemption. The Lord desires to compassionately move in our lives. To move us from death, to life. From darkness, to light. From defeat, to victory. From shame, to grace and from fear to faith. To move you from places of sorrow to great joy. To heal us of all of our bondage and to move us to a place of real freedom. Your loving Heavenly Father desires to heal you and move in your life.

All who gathered in Matthew 14 who were sick needed to be healed. Max Lucado writes: “Surely, among the many thousands, there were a few people unworthy of good health. Undoubtedly there were those in the multitude who would use their newfound health to hurt others. Jesus released tongues that would someday curse. He gave sight to eyes that would lust. He healed hands that would kill. Each time Jesus healed, he had to overlook the future and the past, something, He still does.”

Filled with great compassion, while knowing your past and with knowing your future, God will move and heal you. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. He will heal you according to His perfect will. Not so that you can claim some kind of self-promoting victory, but so that He can be glorified and that others will see His movement and healing in your life, and be pointed to Him and His mighty and gracious working because its all about His Kingdom, here and now, being displayed powerfully throughout our lives.

30106-cm-Restore-health-heal-wounds-social.500w.tn.png

So may we no longer wait for a move of the Lord, but may we daily be His movement of healed, of restored and of grace-filled Christ followers who live by faith and who, with great joy, live out a genuine and authentic life of worship. May we live out a holy pursuit of Him that passionately demonstrates the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ in our lives, in our homes, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, in our city, and throughout the places we call home.

Draw close to the Father, set aside your agenda, and let Him heal you and move in your life and the life of His bride, the church.

(Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” on June 24, 2017)

Moved by Compassion – Moved to Action

As I write this article, many are focused on what is happening with our nation’s tallest dam in Oroville, CA. More than 100,000 people (some news agencies reporting even 200,000) were told to evacuate from areas near the Oroville Dam in Northern California. Officials feared that an emergency spillway could fail, sending huge amounts of water into the Feather River, and other waterways which would have a profound and devastating impact on multiple communities.

Compassion_FuneralCall

With the first evacuation ordered, people had to get out of town. The roadways were a mess. My heart was heavy thinking about many great friends who were in the throws of this impending danger. We were staying in communication with them, watching and praying.

And, then I noticed something. I noticed not once or twice but over and over again an outpouring of compassion from the greater surrounding areas as people opened their homes to those who had to flee theirs. I saw people begin to network with places housing people (like churches) to bring in additional items like blankets or clothes that those who left in such a hurry needed.

For a moment people were not fighting about politics and they weren’t debating about executive orders. They weren’t marching and protesting either. An entire region of people no longer focused on what divides them, but rather, focused on what they can do to love and serve one another. What one valued or believed to be “true” was not the focus – but rather, the person in need was the focus of their attention.

Have we lost sight of what Jesus said about loving our neighbors? Or even, loving our enemies? Do we hide behind the “submit” button of our social media outlets only to tell off those we disagree with? Have we lost how to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment? Does it take tragedy to awaken the people of God to be the people of God who are on mission with Him in our every day lives?

I do not know what will continue to happen with this situation in Northern California but I do know that we, as Disciples of Christ today, need to focus on three things. First, repentance. Have you failed to genuinely love your ‘neighbor’ and be a true conduit of God’s grace and redemption just because they differ so much from you? If so, then seek forgiveness – both of God and of man. Second, restoration. For each of us this will look differently – and I believe that is on purpose – but whatever it is that moves you to respond with compassion, then use that as your fuel to restore the brokenness found in failure. Live a life that will connect others with God’s heart to redeem and restore all things unto Himself. And third, respond. Do something. Don’t just post something on social media. Don’t just call your neighbor to tell them what you think. Go and serve. As you go and meet the need, do so in the mighty name of Jesus. We do this, in love and in grace, so that God will be glorified and that those who see our actions and efforts, will praise our Heavenly Father.

With more weather expected in the Northern California region, the need for great compassion will continue. And yet regardless of what happens there, we need to respond to loving others and pointing them to Jesus in each opportunity that God has placed within our reach.

(Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” on Feb. 18, 2017 – Adapted)

Priorities.

We live in a day marked by pressure in almost every arena of our lives. There are family pressures, world problems, economic problems, personal problems, and the problems of friends and loved ones. In the midst of such pressures, there is one thing that will determine the course of your life: YOUR PRIORITIES.

Let me ask you a question: what matters most to you? Not just for this day, but in regards to the legacy you are building – what will your life show about your priorities?

Our priorities determine our future because they speak to how you spend your time, with whom you spend your time, and how you make decisions. Your priorities keep you from being battered around by the waves of pressure and help you to steer a clear course toward the proper destination.

I have heard it said, that “if you want a deeper relationship with Jesus, feast on Him until you loose your appetite for anything else this world offers.” Priorities—godly priorities—are so vital and a genuine thirst for the Lord should be your chief aim, your greatest priority in every season of your life.

Psalm 63 reveals the priority of a man of God under pressure and it shows us that David’s priority was to seek the Lord. Seeking after God should be our most important priority. No matter what pressures come into your life, you will be able to handle them properly if you maintain this one priority above all else. God must saturate every area of your life. He must be at the center of every decision you make.

He must be the Lord of every relationship you have. You manage your money by considering what His Word says about it. There is no area of your life, be it your business, your family, your education, or whatever, where God is not an integral part. There is no division between sacred and secular; all of life is related to God.

And so here is David in Psalm 63, his kingdom is in a huge mess, he is on the run while seeking to protect his people. It would be understandable if God were temporarily squeezed out of the picture. But David is “following hard after God,” as the King James Version puts verse 8 of Psalm 63. God was at the center of David’s present and his future. There no area was off limits to God and there should be none in our lives as well if we truly will thirst for the Lord in all our ways.

Writers & Bloggers, Ryan & Selena Frederick of FIERCE MARRIAGE believe “that a Christ-centered marriage takes a fierce tenacity that never gives up and never gives in.” They have shared a simple reminder of how we can keep our priorities clear and simple each week. They said “keep it clear and simple: First is Jesus, second is your spouse, third is your kids and family, and fourth is everyone (everything) else.” This practical advise is a good reminder for us to consider on a regular basis – especially as you begin to plan out each week. Seeking God, following hard after the Lord has to be our very first pursuit and planned action each day.

So how is it with you and God? Take some time to review this past week or even this past month and ask yourself, “Did my schedule reflect that seeking God was my number one priority?” You say: “Well, that’s my priority, but I’ve been under a lot of pressure!”

Pressure is what reveals your true priorities. When the pressure is on, everything but the essential gets set aside.

The Holy Spirit is telling us through Psalm 63 that “A THIRST FOR GOD IS ESSENTIAL!” If it’s not essential for you, then you’ve got to join David, the man after God’s heart, in making it so and you can do this by turning to the Lord, soaking up His truth from the Word of God, and by surrendering yourself fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

(Adapted. Originally written for Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – July 2016)